After parking our car on a parking lot looking suspicously like the 2nd Battle of Ypres after a vivid German bombardment (so better parking arrangements than last year, which were crap, but still somewhat improvised) we were greeted by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp crews and the smell of hamburgers. As a matter of fact the entire Hangar 29 smelled of hamburgers. I like hamburgers, but it would have been a bit of a bane for vegetarians, I suspect.
The hall is big. Really BIG. And the second hall as well. This makes for pleasant walking around without having to elbow your way through the throng all the time. In fact, the only real busy area was the Bring-and-Buy and its many temptations and this was the only area I avoided after my first attempt to pass through it. The lights were fine in most places allthough there were some dark patches in the second hall.
My first stop (after picking up some books at Caliver Books) was the Chain of Command demo by the great and outspoken Richard Clark of Too Fat Lardies fame. Being a great admirer of his rulesets as well as his demo style I as anxious to try out his new WW2 rules set. No pun in the title this time (until you abbreviate it, but who would want to do that, right? Right.)
Chain (note the absence of abbreviations) is a fast playing and interesting game with a lot of attention for Command and Control that makes for challenging play and hard choices. Our British desert rats tried to dislodge some platoons of Evil Nazis from their position. Unfortunately the Evil Nazis had a lot of Evil firepower and even managed to blow up our Rolls Royce armoured car with their second antitank rifle shot (quote by mr Clarke: "THIS NEVER HAPPENS!!"). One can tell Rolls Royce has fallen into Arab clutches and is not what it used to be....
So we had to abandon our misson eventually due to a lot of dead and disgruntled Britons. Still, we will win the war in the end.
Below mr Clarke at work explaining the Nazis how the rules work (a little too well, I'm afraid).
Below we see Jur chatting with Sidney Roundwood of Roundwood's world who I would have loved to have spoken but unfortunately we missed each other for the rest of the busy and crowded day.
My next stop, after picking up some Warlord Games German paratroopers (for some WW2 ruleset someone managed to sell to me along the way) was the Samurai demogame by Karwanseray. I was really looking forward to it, having seen the terrain and the rules in WSS 67.
Regular readers know me as a great admirer and lover of good demos and this one was as near to perfection as I haver ever seen and played. The terrain -made by Christy Beall, who I must have continually embarassed by my praise for her work- was top class, modular and with interiors included. The figures were extremely well painted and the rules were, after not even a 3-minutes explanation, simple, fast and straightforward.
The concept -written by Guy Bowers as I understand- was as simple as it was creative. Each player plays a ninja on a mission of stealth and murder. Missions are divided at random. Mine was to retrieve an ancestral sword from the castle tower. A tower crawling with ashigaru and samurai, to be exact. Owww....
As a ninja you had to sneak across the table because villagers and soldiers would sound the alarm as soon as they saw you. One of my fellow ninjas got cornered by a Blind Swordmaster like this but luckily managed to kill him, proving that swordfighting is an impractical form of self defence for blind people and preventing at least one cheesy Rutger Hauer film from being made in that universe...
Above and below Guy and Arvid explain the rules while players and audience gather round.
Some wargamers-to-be awed by the impressive table and lovely figures.
Below Joop and yours truly are evaluating the game to determine who really deserved to be called the winner. Was it Joop, who merely walked into the castle gates, killed an unsuspecting messenger and snuck off or was it this stalwart blogger who had to sneak into a castle climbing over the castle walls, kill two ashigaru, evade a raging samurai, climb to the top floor of the tower and climb down on a rope, pursued by said raging samurai only to escape at the last moment one turn after Joop had strolled off the table. You tell me, dear reader... ;)
The referee team stretching their creative ..... things....
I spent most of the day playing and talking to people so I did not see half of what there was to be seen. Some quick snapshots of the 3-dimensional Warmachine Table and the BRILLIANT WW1 dogfight game are a few of the impressions I have taken with me. Doubtlessly dozens of other people will supplement my pathetically imcomplete report of this lovely day.
Before returning home we reclined in the bar to fondle the loot and enjoy the Belgian beer and hamburgers (I already smelled like one, so I gathered I might as well eat one).
Here's the loot I took home with me. Tomorrow's War Alien rulest, War and Conquest because Arvid has told me so many good things about this rather undeservedly obscured ruleset and some WW2 Germans for this WW2 ruleset someone managed to flog me. Oh and of course some Ninjas and Japanese villagers that were my only real impulse buy (honest!) about 25 seconds after completing the Karwansaray demo.
Many, many thanks to all the people of the Tin Soldiers, who apparently enlist their entire families to make this day possible, and of course to the people of Too Fat Lardies, Karwansaray and all the other traders and players that made this day possible.
See you all next year!