Friday, June 27, 2014

Rapiercon 2014: Flames of War Tournament

Goodbye 20mm WWII -- We Hardly Knew Ye
Some of you probably noticed that several weeks ago I was posting about leaving 15mm WWII skirmish gaming for 20mm WWII skirmish gaming. I had purchased a platoon of 20mm AB Americans and had begun painting them. Overall, they were nice figures. Surprisingly, I hated painting them! I realized that I would rather be painting 28mm figures, where I can really have fun painting detail on a small number of figures, or painting 15mm or smaller figures, where I don't have to worry about details and can paint with more speed while still feeling good about my work. 20mm just was the worst of all worlds for me.

When we got back to Rapiercon late in the afternoon, we stumbled upon the Flames of War tournament in a corner of the con hotel. I don't play FoW, but was excited to see all the 15mm game tables. They were a great inspiration for my skirmish gaming. Of course, earlier in the day I had taken all my miniatures and games back to our hotel down the road. Now I could have used my Peter Pigs to see how they compared to the various buildings other than my Landmark buildings, which are smaller true 1:100 scale. Oh well. Such is life!

The fellows we spoke with in the FoW room were friendly, happily chatting about the various buildings on the tables and FoW gaming. Jeremy lamented that we didn't play FoW because we probably would have had fun playing (and most likely losing to) most of the fellows there. I knew he was right. It felt like a whole different con in that room.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rapiercon & The Hotel From Heck

Last Friday and Saturday we went to Rapiercon in north Jacksonville, FL. This was our first time to the convention, and it was an "interesting" event to say the least. We arrived at the convention hotel just after lunch. It's no secret that the hotel is under construction, which is why we booked a room down the street at the Hilton Garden Inn.

We Arrive in Heck
While the Hilton was a pleasure to say at for only a few dollars more, complete with cooked-to-order breakfast buffet for the both of us, the convention hotel was an absolute disgrace of a building let alone a hotel. I'm surprised Double Tree (aka Hilton) is even trying to renovate it, though I was told they are dragging their feet on the project. Bottom line, this was the worst hotel I have ever seen outside a third world country. The folks on Tripadvisor are correct in their negative reviews.

After finding a parking space in the parking lot--which is way too small, badly designed, and cluttered with containers and construction equipment--we made our way through the hotel to the con's registration desk on the building's far side. It was an interesting trip to the desk, full of strange (possibly toxic) smells and interesting "under construction" sights of exposed ceilings and walls.

Thankfully, the folks at the con's registration desk were friendly. We picked up materials, paid for Jeremy's con t-shirt, and went into the miniature gaming hall. Since it was about 1pm on Friday, not many people were there yet. Dealers were still setting up. We had registered for a game at 1pm, a WWII bombing game, and saw it set up already.

A panoramic shot of the con on Saturday afternoon. My first attempt at trying out the feature. It came out pretty good for indoors and not knowing how to take the shot.

And It's as Hot as Heck
We walked around a bit, checked out the numerous door prizes, and then checked out the dealers booths. Within a few minutes I had worked up a sweat! I mentioned to a fellow that it seemed a bit warm in the room. He replied that the AC was barely working and that the hotel was "investigating" it (we all knew this was corporate speak for doing nothing). The temperature in the room wound up in the low-to-mid 80s, which was downright unacceptable and uncomfortable. From what I was told, it was the same way last year. As Jeremy commented, it felt better outside--and this is Florida in the summer! I should have known something was wrong when people were bringing electric fans!

Right before our game began, I stopped by a dealer booth. I picked up another copy of Warmaster for $1, 5th Ed Warhammer for $1, Warhammer Ancients for $1, some old codexes for $1, War of the Ring for $5, and a bunch of other free WHFB and 40K rulebooks, expansions, and catalogs. I also bought a boatload of old White Dwarfs for 5 for $1. I never expected to buy GW stuff!

Sweating to the Oldies
Since I literally was dripping with sweat and rushing to get to the game, I was having a hard time thinking through everything. If I had time to really look through the stacks of White Dwarfs, I would have bought even more. Still, I did get a ton of WDs from 1992 onward along with some of the brand new issues each for the price of a stick of gum. All said and done, I spent $23 at the booth. Later, Jeremy got to load the big box of WDs and rules into the car! I also got a bunch of Axis &Allies 15mm armor at 2 for $1 from Cool Stuff, a 3mm sample pack of Modern Early 80s Pico Armor, and the 15mm AP-Team pack from Odzial Osmy. (I'm mail ordering the rest of the line!)

Though I got to the game late, the fellow running the game didn't mind at all. He had been shopping as well, getting some good deals. It's all part of the fun. So let's get to the game!

A Hot Time Over the Arctic
The game was "Goering's Carrier" run by Jerry Boles using the Black Cross/Blue Sky rules. Jerry was a great guy with the right attitude for a convention game. He made it fun and simple for newbies like us, who just wanted to try out something new. We had a blast playing the game, even though the room kept getting hotter and hotter. Jerry just was a swell guy with a good sense of humor. It was the highlight of the con and turned into the only game we played that weekend, though we didn't plan it that way.

The premise was based on an historical battle: British convoy PQ 18, escorted by carrier Avenger, is heading towards Russia with much needed supplies. Taking note of the carrier, Herman Goering orders, "Ignore the convoy, get the carrier."

Jeremy and I played the Germans, while Jerry and another fellow named Bob played the Brits. We had a flight of  He-111 bombers. The Brits had Hawker Hurricanes and flak from their ships. So we had a Jeremy, a Jerry, and two Bob's playing the game--what are the odd of that!?

In the end, we fared worse than the actual Germans did in the real battle. For a while, it looked like we were winning, but a few lucky critical hits on our planes made sawdust out of our plans just as we were getting close to dropping our torpedoes. One bomber had no damage, took one hit, and blew up due to a fuel line hit! Rats!

Last year, I had seen Cool Stuff and Miniature Market blowing out the game on deep discount sales. I knew little about the game and feared it would sit on the shelf untouched like most of the games that I had been buying. Plus, I had Wings of War if I wanted a flying game, though that was sitting unused as well. I liked playing the game so much I checked into buying it online later that evening. Sadly, the only place selling it is the publisher, but it would cost $105 for the base game. That's a bit out of my price range at the moment.

I Got a New Toy!
Literally right before the con I had bought a new camera off of Amazon, finally ditching my 10 year old Lumix. This time I bought an Olympus Stylus SH-50 iHS along with the the fastest and newest SD card on the market, a Samsung Pro SDHC MB-SG16D/AM. The card writes blazing fast and the camera is da' bomb!

These are the very first photos I shot with the camera, so they were a learning experience. All I did was set it to Automatic and let the camera do all the work. I didn't even need macro. The flash never went off once. I was amazed, even considering how poor the lighting was in the con. The photos I took outside are fantastic. Plus full 1080p video was great--I shot some trains later in the evening when we did some train watching up in GA. I think this will take far better photos of miniatures than my old camera.

Ok, enough blathering! Here are the photos.

The British convoy and escort. That's not the USS St. Lo. It's really the Avenger. You just need to squint a bit to see it. :)

Our He-111 bombers heck-bent on the carrier.

"The kid" waiting for me to take my seat after taking the obligatory photo for Mommy.

Jerry did a great job on the planes and bases. We were impressed.

His homemade cards for the planes. He put them in 'hardbacks' so we could write on them using Vis-a-vis markers.

A close-up of some He-111's. We used to die to track how many hexes each plane had moved in a straight line.

The bomber's card.

Each card handles three or four planes. This is the back of the He-111.

Jerry helps Jeremy make a hard decision, while Bob watches as he contemplates which bomber he'll shoot down first. Hey wait a minute! The kid is getting "help" from the enemy!?! LoL.

Bandit! 3 o'clock!

Ah, the end game. As you can see by the graveyard on the left it has been a bloody game. We are each down to one plane a piece. My bomber on the left dropped its torpedoes but missed. Rats! Jeremy has switched ends to watch his bomber try to drop torpedoes. Unfortunately, the Hurricane ruins those plans, blowing the He-111 out of the sky. The escort carrier survived unscathed. Just as in real life, the mission was a total failure that would hurt Germany the rest of the war. Still, we had a great time. I really want this game! Thanks, Jerry, for putting on such a good show and being a gracious host!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Down in Flames: WWII - Guns Blazing

I love card games, which is an understatement. I also love WWII  fighters and bombers, which is why I have a large collection of Wings of War/Glory WWII planes and built many of the models back in the day. When I stumbled on Down in Flames: WWII - Guns Blazing, it immediately grabbed my attention. I was lucky enough to buy a new copy off a fellow for the price of Priority Mail, saving me a ton of money. After all, the game retails for $60, with Cool Stuff selling it for $40. I'm looking forward to trying this out. I'll probably bring it with me to Rapiercon in Jacksonville in a couple weeks.

From DVG's website: "Down In Flames places each player in the cockpit of a fighter as they enter combat against other aircraft. By playing cards, you gain advantageous positions on your targets, fire your guns, and send them down in flames! The game is based on a unique action-reaction card mechanic. Each card can be countered by specific other cards. At the bottom of every card is the list of cards it is allowed to cancel. This makes for exciting card play back and forth between players."

I like that the game has planes and scenarios from the start of the war over France to North Africa and Malta to the Eastern Front to the end of the war. Plenty of variety with top-notch production. The map boards are thick cardboard; I originally thought they were paper.

See Boardgame Geek's Down in Flames page for reviews and more info, check out DVG's website for more info on the game and the Down in Flames series.