A tabletop war game convention in Jacksonville, FL
By: Vaughn Reynolds
We all have stressful weeks. And no matter where the source is, it still causes you to be tense, edgy and irritable. At least that’s how I react.
Sometimes we don’t even realize how stressed we are until we do something that we love so deeply it makes us cry.
That’s what happened to me at a convention this weekend.
To backtrack a little and give context, I work with Wargamer, a Polish game publishing company that makes By Fire & Sword. I have teamed up with their owner’s personal friend here in the U.S. to become the North American Distributor for their product lines. It turns out people don’t like to wait for a product to take a slow boat from China… or Poland.
This past weekend I drove 5 hours from my home, up the length of Florida, to attend RapierCon 2015 to represent By Fire & Sword.
I hadn’t been to a real game convention in quite some years. I hadn’t quite realized just how much I missed it.
We kicked things off with a nice breakfast. $15 was worth the food and the service.
So, the best way to kick off an early morning at a con is with hotel breakfast. Fortunately, the breakfast at this place rocked, even though it was $15. I may have been bothered about the price tag in the past, but the excellent and over-the-top service combined with the fresh made omelettes totally made up for it.
This also made up for the fact that I got into bed around 12:38 AM and got up at 7 AM. I know it’s a decent amount of sleep compared to some, but I had a terribly long week at work and would have loved to sleep in until 10.
Over the years I have been to conventions of all sizes; from very small college campus conventions all the way up to GenCon, the biggest game convention in the world! Although sadly my last attendance to GenCon was in 2002.
RapierCon is a particularly small convention compared to what most people would imagine. It was about 200 patrons, although the level of dedication to the craft of miniatures war games and tabletop games was so high I hadn’t really noticed the low population.
Tomasz (Thomas), my By Fire and Sword partner in crime, was the one running the demos all weekend for the game while I manned the booth to sell product. It was a good setup and I had a lot of time to talk the business of games with my longtime friend Brian Dalrymple, the owner of Adventure Game Store. (Side note: Adventure Game Store is my gamer Cheer’s. I have gamed with them and visited their store for 20 years.)
Here Tomasz is demoing a skirmish between Poland and Transylvanian cavalry.
Here is a 17th Century farm which can be used as a defensive position or just some sweet ambience. (The rooftops are removable to place units inside.)
Did I mention I hadn’t been to a real gamer convention in a while? Well, I had also never been to a historical miniatures event before, so I was a bit skeptical. I had heard stories of the old, dusty crowd that play these games.
Well, the stories were a bit off. Yes, the patronage was not a horde of 13-year olds like you find at anime conventions or the early adulthood crowd you find at electronic gaming conventions, but none of these people were dusty.
Enthusiastic, passionate, intelligent, well-traveled. These are the traits of the patrons I met at this convention.
One patron turned out to be prior Army and had studied linguistics; guess which language she had studied? Yup, Polish. We found this out after we had given her our pitch on the product and she asked “how much” in Polish. Tomasz got the biggest grin on his face and we all had a great laugh about it. Her Polish is very good and she was exuberant as we showed her all of the little known gems of Polish history in the By Fire and Sword rulebook.
Sundays are usually the buying day for conventions after people have spent the weekend ‘shopping’ the different vendors to settle on what they really want to invest in. While we had some patrons waiting until Sunday to commit to which army they wanted to go with, a funnier phenomenon occurred.
In By Fire and Sword the base size of an army is called a skirmish and the largest army is called a division. A skirmish filled to max capacity with units is called a regiment. So, from smallest to biggest: skirmish, regiment, division.
The skirmish sets are designed as a one-purchase entry to a badass army so you can dive right into the action. The skirmish sets we have are:
Between Friday and Saturday a couple people had picked up skirmish sets, added on their custom dice, grabbed their army order tokens and some even got their faction casualty markers. But by the time Sunday got into gear people started to realize other members of their gaming club had purchased up to regiment-sized armies and some were looking into division level! It became a competition, because no one wanted to be the only one in there gaming club unable to play above skirmish level!
That’s why I found this convention and it’s patrons so intriguing. Their dedication to the history and craft was immense, but their competitive nature is even more of a motivation! For scale, here is a full table setup for another historical game (I apologize for not remembering the exact details, but it gives you a sense of the length they will go to building armies and the map to play on.)
We didn’t just make sales at this convention, we made friends. And in my first few conversations with people on Saturday the level of excitement was so high it brought tears to my eyes—TWICE! I realized again just how awesome the friendliness and unabashed nerdiness the gaming community has and I was filled with joy.
I hope you have similar experiences to this when you go to gaming events, no matter if they are a couple friends and family sitting around a dinner table playing Scrabble or thousands of people sweating over hardcore strategy at a major convention.
Love, honor, and companionship are what make gaming so much fun. Game on friends.