Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Gauntlet Convention AAR

A little while back I attended a small local convention in the Sacramento area called "The Gauntlet."  Here is my convention AAR.  I love blog posts about conventions.  Everyone loves blog posts about wargame conventions. 

I've had a delay in blogging and being online in general due to stuff, so to make up for it I've written and extra long post but DON'T WORRY: the spelling and editing is still atrocious. 

Historicals Only Please

The Gauntlet is billed as a historical only wargame convention and had a slightly different format than the other conventions I'm used to; in that there were themes for given time periods throughout the day, and the wargames played should be devoted to that theme.  In the beginning of each section there was a seminar on the historical theme presented by.. someone.  I forget who.  So the format for the weekend looked like this:

Saturday morning theme: WWII
hour long seminar on something WWIIish
WWII games.

Saturday afternoon till late evening theme: AWI
Hour long seminar on Washington's crossing of the Delaware River.
Games featuring the AWI

Sunday late morning theme: ACW eastern front.
hour long talk on Secret Turning Points of the ACW.
Games featuring ACW. 

In actuality there were games that didn't fit the themes scheduled as well, so it's not like one couldn't play something else.  On Sunday there was a DBA tournament and stuff like that. 

Side Discussion: Why Only Historicals

Given how sparsely these local Sacramento conventions are attended, I really don't see the need to have a historical only convention. I'm primarily a historical gamer who only dabbles in Scfi in the big three (Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars), but my enjoyment of playing a historical wargame and making machine gun and tank noises has never been diminished if the next table over is playing spaceships and all making laser and rocket noises.  Why cut out a section of the war gamer population?

Did I Come Here to be Lectured To?

Opinions about the format?  On the whole I liked it, thought it added a little something extra, though still a work in progress. I wasn't particularly interested in the seminars initially, but thought it was a cool option for anyone who was.  The only time I was super ANNOYED about it was Saturday morning.  I showed up on purpose after the lecture but before the gaming started because I wasn't interested in hearing about WWII.  Trust me, I learned enough about WWII from my years spent playing Flames of War and watching Ken Burns' films.  I've also seen Band of Brothers several times.  (and I've read a few books).  The lecture I think started at 9 and the gaming at 10, so I showed up at 9:45.  Now I don't know if NO ONE showed up to the lecture or if the guy was super late, but just as the WWII gaming was getting started they stopped it all in order for the guy to give his talk.  Now I felt like the seminar was being forced on me, and I was annoyed because I was just warming up my throat to make some cool tank noises, plus I make an awesome machine gun sound.   I had quotes from the movie Fury all ready in my head.  Now only to be delayed. 
So after a little bit I ditched out to go find myself some fresh coffee.  By all accounts the man was nice and informative, I just wasn't interested.

I did attend the lecture for the AWI, mainly because it was timed pretty well with me having dinner and a break in the games.  It was a talk about how the historical events of Washington's crossing the Delaware and initiating the battle of Trenton influenced the design of a board game that he made about those events.   It was pretty good and I thanked the guy afterward.

The Best was the ACW lecture, which was the only lecture I was planning on going to in the first place so it shows that I have good taste.  Also not surprising because I love the ACW.  This lecture was about how small things had big impacts in the ACW but since they are small and unexciting, go unnoticed.  Unlike me, because I am large and always exciting. 

Fun example!: During the Army of the Potomac's reorganization under Hooker before the Chancellorsville campaign,  Dan Butterfield (whom nobody liked) actually got into place a decent intelligence organization for spying on the CSA.  And during the campaign did a lot of work identifying the strengths and commanders of the Confederate Corps, Divisions, and Brigades.  So the Union army got to know the Confederate army really well, almost intimately. (read that last bit in a sexy voice in your head, it's fun). 

This mattered because when Gettysburg rolled around, General Meade of the AOP was able to identify all of Lee's divisions that were deployed and knew that the only missing division belonged to Pickett. Plus had a good idea of how strong the units were.  And since he had a reasonable idea of the strength and locations of his own Corps (having been in command of the AOP for a whole 3 days), he therefore was able to make better decisions and win the 3 day battle.  HISTORY BLOWS YOUR MIND!

Last Bit About the Themes (I Promise)

The most successful theme of the convention was WWII on Saturday morning.  There were multiple WWII miniature wargames going on at once.  I don't know if that's because WWII is that popular or just Saturday mornings.  Or maybe the combination.  The other themes were barely represented.  But perhaps that worked out in the end, because the con was so sparsely attended that not every GM who hosted a game had players to play in it.  There is nothing so lonely than a GM who sets up his game (and all the hours of prep going into it) but have no one come to play, only to watch all the other games get played.  It's even happened to me a couple of hurts even to type about it.  I'm gonna got pet my therapy pony. 

Also if I were being picky, the WWII theme went on for about 2 hours too long and the AWI theme started about 2 hours too late.  There's probably an easy solution in there but I can't seem to place my finger on it...

Let's Get on to the Games Shall We?

Yes, let's.  Saturday morning was What a Tanker!  Hosted by the Mr. R, whom I always enjoy playing in his games.  I thought the set up was particularly nice.

We played this game for HOURS!  It had a really fun system where players could purchase tanks from a pool of victory points whenever their current tank got destroyed or moved off the table.  you also got victory points for killing the enemy and achieving objectives.  The side at the end of the game that had more points won. 

Here you see my Sherman trying to hide from a Tiger...It didn't work out.

Some other WWII games...

This was a pretty awesome Bolt Action game

After a short dinner break and listening to the AWI seminar, I played in the BEST AWI miniature game of the con!  Because it was the only one.  It's kinda like when I tell my only daughter that she's my favorite one.

5 of us gathered to play out a scenario based loosely on Freeman's Farm (I think).  This was hosted by Mr. O and Mr. F.  10 x 6 table using 28mm miniatures and used the rules Rank and File.

The situation: the Brits are marching down the road, 2 thirds on the table with the last third off table.  Just marching along when suddenly..."what is this?  My word... REBELS!"  "Rebels across the river, up to their rebellious shenanigans!  Let's give them what for!"

Brave British on the left, Racey Rebels on the right.

I was on the British side, playing the leading British section and also the overall CiC, because I told everyone I knew what I was doing.  Some suckers will believe anything. 

My Glorious Troops marching in during the beginning of the game.

The game was great fun.  Scenario was something like a meeting engagement with a river running down the middle of the battlefield.  Rank and File gives a pretty good game, and it's a great convention rule set because it's easy to learn and plays fast.  Though I'm always left a little unsatisfied due to it's lack of command and control.

Line up to defend and then assault over the river

This game went late into the evening.  Like close the place down late.  Like the staff of the McCellan Center came in and said "we just wanted you to know that you guys are the last people in the building, so when you leave make sure the door is shut behind you."

Sunday Morning during the ACW theme time I hosted my ACW game.  As seen in my previous post HERE.  I can honestly say that my game was THE best miniature ACW game at the con.  Because it was the only one.  Kinda like when I tell my wife that she's the best wife I've ever had. 
There might of been some ACW board games going on but I didn't see them, maybe off in another room. 

Least that means I got all 5 players for the game that I wanted.  We started playing at 11, took a break for lunch, and ceased playing at 400.  Another hour might of seen a more decisive result of the game.

I know promised a full ARR of the game but who can remember....

So Overall

I enjoyed the con and it was worth blowing a few hubby points in order to attend.  While the turn out was somewhat small, everyone's attitude was large and friendly.  Which is something like a theme of it's own for these local conventions.  But a good way to start out my wargaming year.  The next convention coming up is Conquest Sac, which is in March.  I haven't attended Conquest in a couple years but I remember it being better attended.  I'll have to see if it's possible to attend this year.  

ACWary Continues

And yes, it seems that ACWary will bleed on through February for there is at least one more post featuring ACW content.  Join me for ACWruary!  
I think that actually works better.

Talk to you next time.


  1. Great looking games Stew, and splendid tables!

  2. Stew, you are so funny! Glad you got out for a weekend of gaming and enjoyed yourself. Your ACW game looks fab!

    1. Thanks Jon. I kinda feel like I cheated by posting pics of the same ACW game twice, but what can you expect from a such a bounder like me. Glad you found the humor amusing. πŸ˜†

  3. sounds like a weekend of good quality gaming. Note sure what to make of the lectures, we generally don't have them in the UK, perhaps we should and encourage visitors to stay at the show longer instead of disappearing around noon with their bags of loot :-)

    1. Thanks Norm. Most of our conventions don’t have lectures as part of the format. This was something of a departure. πŸ˜€

  4. Thanks for the summary!

    Lectures seem like an odd component for a convention of this sort, even for a historical only one. Would make more sense at a specialist convention.

    And I did not know that Hubby points could be spent, I thought they were just accrued, but had no further value...

    1. Thanks Laz. Lectures are one thing but let’s talk hubby points. These need to be cashed in. It’s true that the exchange rate is often lopsided with like 3 hubby points equaling .5 wife points but no matter. The trick is to present her with the classic forced choice; option A or option B where in one is clearly more favorable than the other. I usually make her choose between wargaming and some depraved sexual act. She usually chooses wargaming...usually πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ˜€

    2. It’s funny because it’s true. πŸ˜€

  5. Looks like a fun little convention Stew! I'm right there with you on "why historical only", I've brought that very point up at the big cons out east, like Historicon - granted history is right in the name but with continued decline in attendance why not change to "wargames/ing". To no ones surprise grognards fear change and I was told that's what Gen Con is for, keep Historicon how it is. 🀷‍♂️
    Look forward to seeing more ACW!

    1. Thanks Ivor. I believe that the organizers have similar thinking bc there is a convention in July that is for sci-fi themed, but doesn’t exclude historical games. But I’m not a member of the inner circle so what do I know. I’m just a slave to good wargames. πŸ˜€

  6. This was a very interesting and entertaining read as always! Having only gone to Adepticon (but also being a big fan of history), I find the idea of a forced lecture amusing, befuddling, annoying and a number of other emotions! I can definitely see why you tried to skip it and I agree that the convention may need to open up their game choices a bit more to increase attendance. Fantasy and Sci-fi (for better and worse) are where most people's attention lies in wargaming currently. Having grown up and living in Cincinnati for most of my life, I can't imagine that a historical wargaming convention only would draw much more than 50 people in a decent sized city. There was just weren't many stores that supported games like Flames of War in Cincinnati when I lived there. I don't know of any in Chicago but I've never really looked either. Your game looked fantastic (as did that first one, the terrain and mat just really worked well) and I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us :)

    1. Thanks Kuribo! 50 people sounds like the number of attendees this convention had, so the trend is national. I haven’t been to a game store in years so I have no idea what they support. Maybe I should check it out. The lecture was only forced because we were already at the game tables rolling dice when we were told to hold everything and listen. But I did enjoy the other two lectures.
      Thanks for following and leaving comments my friend! πŸ˜€

  7. Enjoyable report. Lectures? Not a bad idea, just as long as the speakers are good and, most importantly, the event is......optional. I understand why people want an historical only convention but like you I’ve played and attended many mixed game conventions and just focussed on what interested me without any problem with what others play. I mean let’s be honest there are historical gamers with strong opinions about how historical some so-called historical rule sets are, where do you draw the line? Don’t, just play and enjoy what you like. We can be a peculiar hobby community at times.

    1. Thanks for the comment TP. Mixed conventions never bothered me either and it only matters bc after the event people bemoan the lack of attendance. The 2 lectures I did hear were good and the guys did know their stuff. πŸ˜€

  8. Everyone does, indeed, love a convention report--particularly one that can manage to convey the good and not so-good-impressions but still in a positive way. Given the time and (often) travel invested in attending a convention, it does elevate the stakes beyond the "lighten up, dude, what's your problem? We're just playing with toy soldiers" defense.

    1. Thanks Ed. I appreciate the sentiment about being positive, I want my blog to be a positive place on the internet. And you’re right; I payed $30 to attend and drove 40 mins so I definitely want the con to be “worth it.” Though so does everyone and to some extent it’s what you make of it. πŸ˜€

  9. Fun report, good looking games, don't like the idea of forced attendance at lectures but would quite fancy optional ones,good luck with your continued ACW whatever!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain, only the one was ‘forced’ but even then it’s not like any one tried to stop me from leaving the room. πŸ˜€

  10. Great report and pics!

    I know that HMGS (or at least, HMGS East) has their "War College," which are seminars and lectures both about the hobby and history, but those are always separate events to the games. Like others have said, it's rather odd that the lectures are included with the games.

    At least you had fun!

    1. Thanks Brian. The lectures were just scheduled before the games started and all in all were pretty good. This con probably isn’t big enough to support a war college format yet. πŸ˜€

  11. I wanted to go to that event but forgot all about it once life happened. Last year we even had about 10 players for a Flames of War tournament. I don't get why the cons here in Sac theme themselves so heavily, its too restrictive and attendance is poor.

    1. Hi Barnes! I don’t know how well this con was advertised but the website was quite poor as well, so I don’t blame you for forgetting. I don’t really mind a small con other than I worry that they’ll disappear. πŸ˜€

  12. Forgot this Con was happening, but I think I was away on honeymoon when it did. Still don't understand why local cons here in Sac feel they should charge so much on entrance fees? Not like big games/minis producers are turning up in the vendors hall to sell discount wares.
    After reading your report though, I'm kinda glad I missed it. Grognards are as bad as Power Gamers in my books and really seem to take all the "fun" out of the hobby.
    Still, sounds like you had fun and those games looked spectacular, especially that ACW one.
    Maybe I'll see if I can earn enough "wife-points" to attend Conquest Sac assuming I don't have family stuff on the calendar.