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Fall-In, 2011

Report on this year's Fall-In Wargaming Convention, Pennsylvania, USA

By Bill McIntyre


This year's Fall-In ( wargaming convention hosted at the end of October by the HMGS - Historical Miniatures Gaming Society East - at the Lancaster Host Resort Hotel, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was a well-attended, friendly event with a wide range of games in which to join. Tournaments, games requiring to be pre-booked and all-comer walk-up games, provided a good availability of games for attendees. There were a number of cancelled and no show games that did detract from an otherwise enjoyable three day event.


Checking in on Thursday evening, I met fellow HKSW veteran Bruce Meyer in the bar and we set about solving some of the problems of the universe ably assisted by a Canadian wargamer who kept us up to date on threats made by French separatists to anyone daring to celebrate the 250th anniversary of General Wolfe's glorious victory at The Battle of The Plains of Abraham (Quebec) (13th Sept 1759).


The battle of Fuentes de Onoro


I kicked off Friday morning with Fuentes de Onoro 1811, played under Volley and Bayonet Road to Glory rules. This was followed by the Battle of Coutras ,1587, under Might of Arms rules for pike and shot. Finally, my last arranged game of the day a "what if" scenario for Crecy under Day of Battle rules which included playing cards drawn to determine the order of movement and bonuses that would assist each player in future moves. At first the gamemasters gave all of us a chance to practise the rules with a dry run battle. The intricacies of the rules took some getting used to but eventually we were all playing like champions.


The battle of Coutras

The battle of Crecy - longbows prepare to meet enemy knights


Friday evening I was to have joined the professional raconteurs in the bar but battle fatigue got the better of me. I retired early to recharge for the next day's combat.


On Saturday morning we were blessed with ten inches of snow - within minutes the landscape outside the hotel became a Winter Wonderland to walk in (well, for anyone coming from Florida that is).


Winter Wonderland in Lancaster PA


As I was over-laden with books acquired at the flea market, I made a morning excursion in the snow to the village post office to box them up and send by post so as to avoid struggling through the airport with overweight baggage - I had been given clear enough directions from the hotel concierge - unfortunately they left out one critical piece of information - the post office cannot be seen from the road - it is tucked away behind other buildings. And the snow was no help.


Thus, after a late start to the day, I kicked off with The Angle at Gettysburg, 1863, played under Brother against Brother rules. Ably game mastered by John McConnell and John Wilk of the Northern Virginia Gamers, this was an excellent game. I had booked to follow this with a War of Spanish Succession fictional battle in the afternoon but as this game appeared to be a no show, I resolved to re-fight the Angle at Gettysburg - great fun, lots of losses - the Angle almost taken by the Confederates this second time around.


Confederate forces begin their advance towards the Bloody Angle at Gettysburg

Confederate forces make the long advance towards the Bloody Angle

Union forces defending the Bloody Angle

At this point in the convention I spent some time wandering amidst the games, the flea market stalls, and the dealers area - be warned you can easily spend some serious money on toys, books or terrain for any era. I finished the evening on Saturday by jumping into an ACW game already underway where each move, volley and melée was decided by a laptop computer manned by a gamemaster. The computer kept track of all losses; and the computer-generated events input some interesting historical surprise events such as a commander who had joined a unit to restore its morale suffered a shot in the stomach. Although I had joined three quarters through the game's eventual playing time, I got to do something for which the opportunity only presents itself once in a blue moon: unlimber artillery in the face of a flank charge and unleash cannister at short range - devastating. A second limbered artillery was able to unlimber and add sufficient cannister to eradicate the chargers.


Napoleonic naval engagement

I had to forgo the gaming arranged for Sunday to attend a Colonial reunion dinner in Annapolis. But for those whose travel plans permit there is a good daytime's worth of gaming to be had on the last day of the convention on Sunday.


Roman unit for sale in the dealer hall 

Getting there: I found that there were a good choice of flights into both Philadelphia and Baltimore although Baltimore is a longer drive at 90 miles as opposed to about 65 miles from Philadelphia. If you are travelling alone you do have the burden of renting a car which will sit in the hotel parking lot most of the time - thus best to team up with fellow visitors if you can.


Accommodation: For hotels October is not high season so there are a number of nearby el cheapos such as EconoLodge offering spartan rooms from US49.00 a night plus tax. The Lancaster Host Hotel charged US105.00 a night plus tax - although pricier you do have the convenience of simply walking to you morning wargame and not searching for a parking place. And remember you do have a full golf course attached to the hotel.


The 18th Hole at the Lancaster Host Hotel golf course

Dining: The Lancaster Host provides excellent food and beverage stands throughout the wargaming areas including a roasted whole boar/pig served at lunch-time in the bar area. And the bar is full of characters some of whom were survivors of the Alamo or so they will tell you. (Or maybe they are still there).


HMGS also organize the Cold Wars ( convention held at the Lancaster venue March 8th to 11th 2012, and also hosts the wargaming convention to end all wargaming conventions HISTORICON ( which will be held from 19th to 22nd of July 2012 at the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center, Virginia. I hear through the wargaming telegraph that some members of the Hong Kong Society of Wargamers will be attending HISTORICON. I hope to be

there and I trust that this short field report will encourage others to Fall-In.

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