After 15 years, this was McNeil's last Britcon.
(Britcon 2011: everything stops for the fire alarm!)
Well it's been quite a journey ...
When they ask iconic questions like where were you when Diana died, I will always know I was a Britcon ... (Aston University): it has become part of who we are and what we do.
I was there when the old nationals crashed into a wall in Harrow, I was there when they tried to manage a public meeting to launch a national wargames federation (or to strangle it at birth depending on what you though they were all up to ...), and I was there when the new model Nationals, Britcon, burst into life.
Like tournaments or not, this one has been made to work, and has been made the premier National Wargaming event.
Yes, JD, you succeeded. Congratulations on the job well done.
Britcon this year was therefore a swansong ... lots of players there as guests of the management, there were presentations and there was polishing of helmets. There was a film crew and there was the search for a successor ...
(upstairs with the Armati players: a game you will struggle to see in play at Britcon ...)
Frustrated by last year's inability to make the vestigial wargames show presence work, this year I let Steve and Martin S from Lance and Longbow mind the pitch for me while I played Armati.
I enjoyed the games and banter a lot, but was really playing amongst friends as a shelter from the cheesier tournament play of FoG (which seems to play less gamily as a Doubles game with more points on the table) and in order to have some control over the amount of time I spend playing soldiers (8am to 8pm on the Saturday - and that for just 3 games! - is too much of a good thing ... even if it is a good thing!) ...
Struggling to get something I could cobble together from the over-restrictive theme (goodness! This is the year of themes alright ... why to people organise events then rule half the possible players out by insisting on banning most of the armies people have got? Doh! No wonder some events struggle for support ...)..
I ended up with 'The Goths of Totilla' ... Yes, you know him ... the man who charged into Narses at Tadinae. Well, the eunuch general was scarred of them so I thought they might do me some warlike service, too.
(Glorious Goths at Britcon: some of mine and some of Carl's)
It's a very nice army actually, and spurred me into a bit of painting and tidying.
With the travelling Armati players only playing warm up games on the Friday, we had five scored games over the weekend, and I came out about square (actually a very strong performance for me: I might have won a couple of 'scenario based' Armati events over the years, but these Old School 'bring your own' events often see me at the bottom of the table with no wins at all!).
(the ferocious Moors join in the killing)
My favourite unit of the weekend? Certainly the Moorish Light Cavalry I was almost obliged to take (the only LC available, and necessary to get the benefit of all the light units).
Now,many Armati players will tell you that 'key' javelin armed LC are a liability, and hardly worth the price ... well I christened these the 'ferocious Moors' after the Late Roman unit on the Notitia ('Equites Mauri Feroces') from whom it seemed like they must have been recruited ... They had a very high kill ratio, mostly against HC ... sometimes, yes, with their missiles, sometimes charging into the flank.
However, they did not let me down when I trusted them with a game turning frontal charge. OK, the HC were exhausted from defeating some of my own HC but it isn't a move you see that often in Armati.
I like it when the armies start driving their own narratives ...
(as tough as they come ... FV3 and out of command - but scary enough if you are a Hun!)
Wimps of the weekend must surely go to Craig's Hunnic Heavy Cavalry who pussyfooted around with the Gothic Slave HI ...
FV3 against Craig's FV4 with impetus (who would sweep them away if he won) - so he nurdled up to them just behind their flank to charge them from round the corner in a future turn: not brave enough to charge with the odds all in favour.
Not very Hunnic at all ...
So, what else?
The Apres Ski was excellent and tiring in equal measure ...
(convivial scenes from the Britcon Bar)
The usual suspects won, of course ... the other events, as well as the Armati, or so it seemed ... the 'show' was poor - and boring for the people doing it (except those traders who still cater directly for the tournament audience - otherwise the 'show' is really a whopping great Slitherine banner in the shadow of which everyone else - and so that means fewer and fewer - get to lurk if they are lucky enough to be allowed in) ...
(Meth the Merciful's splendid Sarmatian army)
(Patrick's Carthaginians battling away in the FoG 15mm events)
(Graham's English fluttering in the FoG 25mm)
(some splendidly plausible Flames of War terrain)
You wouldn't know about any of the other games as FoW and FoG are the favoured children of the event and take centre stage (anyone not dancing to that choice of BHGS tunes is tucked away somewhere in the building) ... then again, I did get to present the Society of Ancients Sportsmanship award (the Persian Helmet) so, OK, there was some role in the event for those of us who have supported it since the very beginning.
Nobby from Flames of War takes over from now.
So having congratulated JD on all he has achieved, what are the notes for Nobby?
Well (a) it isn't a Flames of War tournament and it is a 'fix' that FoW has the best placed tables (try shifting the layout around so that the show gives equal prominence to the other games that are in the mix) ...
(b) when JD talked to me about his big project years ago it was to create a sort of UK Historicon (with all that entails) ... he created a tournament games feast, but not the diverse 'convention and show' the Historicon analogy might suggest. There is much more that can be done - so much more.
(c) the game all day format is far less popular than the BHGS insiders think: more people would come of the game pressure (indeed all the regulation) was more relaxed ...
(d) you inherit the project at the point where the wargames show side of Britcon has almost been killed off. It can be resuscitated, but only by a massive change of attitude (you might be just the guy to do that!): see Roll Call (the BHGS are great at competition events that don't host shows ... but their events often clash with 'regular' wargames shows, so you can tell they don't go to them or maybe even understand what makes them tick) ...
Amongst the tanks, Ironsides and Goblins there are still quite a few Ancients events hosted at Britcon ...
Ian Stewart, Shaun Drummond and Neil Howard won the various FoG 15mm categories;
Dave Handley won the FoG 25mm;
Jan Van Embden won the DBMM;
Wayne Richards won the WAB event, and ...
Bill Wilson won the Armati.
Paul Crozier won the best painted army (ancient/medieval) for his Seljuks.
Ian Speed won the Society of Ancients Sportsmanship award
THE PERSIAN HELMET
God bless the good ship Britcon and all who sail in her ...
Good luck, Nobby ... (just ask ...)