Sunday, July 31, 2016

Search For The Holy Grail-The Best Napoleonic Rules, Part 4

Continuing with Part 4 of this series, the rules Black Powder by Rick Priestley are today's subject. Admittably a big fan of Hail Caesar, the Ancients/Medieval rules with the same philosophy as Black Powder, I was looking forward to testing Black Powder out on a Napoleonic tabletop.

Black Powder

Disclaimer: After reading many opinions of these rules, it seems like gamers either love Black Powder or they hate it. I tried to approach the rules with an open mind.....and was pleasantly surprised.

Black Powder is, what I consider, a modern set of Napoleonic rules. Many aspects of horse and musket warfare are streamlined and abstracted in favor of playability. I think that it is safe to say, after reading the authors' comments throughout the book, that these rules are primarily intended to be a gentlemen's game rather than a strict simulation. The rules are also not intended primarily for tournament play (although there are point lists for those inclined) but for historical scenarios. Black Powder also covers a wide range of time, from the early 18th century to the dawn of the 20th century. Therefore there are many generic aspects to the rules.  The "special rules" are intended to add the necessary flavor for a particular period. For many gamers, the rules are too generic.....but I think that can be a strength of  Black Powder. Both the Seven Years War and the Franco-Prussian War can be played with Black Powder, and both periods do have some similarities, but there are many other differences that these "special rules" address. The rules give a gamer a foundational set of rules, but the authors allow the gamer to research period tactics and apply many "special rules" in order to flesh out a particular battle. For me particularly, I love this approach; the research and building of a scenario is a large part of the gaming experience.  I approached Black Powder with the question of whether the rules did contain enough period flavor to give a truly Napoleonic feel to a game.

The system itself is very smooth and straight-forward (and not a lot of charts to constantly look up), especially when compared to "old school" rules like Empire or From Valmy to Waterloo. The turn sequence is simple enough:  Blue team issues commands and moves, Blue team fires, Blue team
conducts melee. Then it's up to the other side (Red team) to repeat the process. Easy.

As for commands and movement, I admire the ease of the system yet appreciate the gaming challenges when things do not go as planned.  In Black Powder, the gamer first announces what he wants to do with a unit, group of units, or entire brigade. At this point, the brigade commander rolls a 2d6 and compares it to his individual command rating. A roll equal to or one lower than the rating allows one move, a roll 2 less than the rating allows two moves, and a roll 3 or more less than the rating allows up to 3 moves. Sometimes, the unit(s) does what the commander intends and sometimes it doesn't. There are modifiers to this roll as well, such as command distance, etc. The closer a unit comes to an enemy unit, there is the option to allow for battalion commander "initiative" and make one move for which a brigade commander roll is not required. I like that. Rolled boxcars force a "blunder" roll in which the unit (s) behave in a wildly unintended manner. I'm not convinced of the historical accuracy of the procedure, but it really gives a rollicking good game. By the way, if a player forgets to announce the intended action for the unit, a "blunder" roll is required..........did I mention that it's a "gentleman's game?" 

In Black Powder, units are classified as Tiny, Small, Standard, or Large. Specific numbers of figures per unit are not critical, although rough numbers for each size classification are given. Unit frontages are more important and these recommendations are also covered. As for unit statistics, each one has musketry, melee, morale ratings, stamina, and special rules. For musketry and melee, these ratings equal the number of dice thrown. (Yes, these rules do have a "bucket load of dice" mentality.) The morale rating is not the number of dice thrown, but the rolls required on the dice used for saving throws. The stamina rating details the number of "hits" that dictate a Shaken status (which contains negative modifiers).

For example, a typical French line battalion would be described in the following way:

1/42nd Ligne    Melee (6)    Fire (3)   Morale (4)    Stamina (3)     Reliable (in column or mixed order)

Reliable is a special rule which means that this particular unit has a bonus applied to its command roll for movement when it is in an Attack Column with or without skirmishers deployed. Makes sense from a historical concept (French Napoleonic infantry).

So how does combat work for this unit?

In a nutshell, the above unit would roll 6d6 in melee and hit on rolls of 4-6. If firing, the unit would roll 3d6 and hit on rolls of 4-6. When hit itself, if this unit was hit 2 times either in melee or by fire, the unit would then roll 2 saving dice and require a 4-6 score (morale rating) to eliminate the hits. If the unit suffers 3 or more hits (that were not saved) than the unit becomes Shaken as per the Stamina rating. Attached leaders may attempt to rally if attached (requires a successful command roll and, essentially, removes a "hit").

Dice rolls for hits can also be modified against the standard roll of 4-6 needed for a hit. For example, a charging unit receives a +1 bonus for charging and would hit on a 3-6. Morale rolls can be modified as well.

The rules lay all of this out very clearly with many examples of melee, musketry, artillery, and skirmish fire. Whether you agree or disagree with the mechanisms contained in the rules, everything is discussed in detail. The book itself is very well written and beautifully illustrated / photographed.

After playing out the Maida scenario with Black Powder, I had mixed feelings toward the rules. Overall, it was a very enjoyable game. Playing the French, I was frustrated with the inability to conduct a flanking maneuver around the British right flank. I just couldn't seem to roll well once the units were outside nominal command range. This in itself, limits the "nipply little battalion" syndrome that many rules allow. To succeed with Black Powder, you truly have to be very organized with command rolls and maneuvers.  I ended up focusing my main assault on the center of the British line but, due to special rules, the British infantry included bonuses for first volleys and ripped my attacking columns up. Uh.....this sounds like the historical result for Maida....I thought that this was merely a game with added chrome. The bottom line is that, despite the ease of play and simple mechanics, Black Powder can give a reasonably historical game that is loads of fun. After looking back on our game, it was truly enjoyable and very quick (total time for this small battle was a little over an hour).

Now, I will say that the basic rules do not contain many of the period details that I normally enjoy. For example, the procedure for units forming square versus cavalry are a bit too streamlined and do take away from the normal "rock, paper, and scissors" aspect of Napoleonic gaming. Another aspect of the game concerns casualties; I really needed to view "hits" as reduction in morale steps for a unit rather than actual figures hit.....I'm sure that was the author intended, but I needed to change my way of thinking. Skirmishers seem a bit too powerful (although detached skirmish companies actually do what they were intended for). Combat results also seemed to depend a bit too much on the "luck" factor; let's face it, Black Powder does base many results on the multitude of die rolls that a gamer will be faced with. I do think that the "luck" factor is a bit too powerful in these rules, but I can see why many gamers love this approach......although this philosophy takes away some certainty in combat results, it does add fun.

Here is the dirty little secret that Black Powder is considered a "toolkit" for gamers. I have seen many gamers publishing their own "house rules" to layer more detail onto the basic rules. Taking this account, anyone can add a myriad of details to Black Powder to create whatever type of game he wants. Are the vanilla rules fine for an enjoyable evening of gaming? Absolutely. Can more "special rules" and "house rules" be added for a more detailed Napoleonic experience.....Absolutely.

So, in summary, I rated Black Powder in terms of playability a 9 out of 10. I found the rules refreshingly simple to play and very entertaining.  I am typically a "simulation" guy who likes a lot of detail in my games........after adding the "special rules" that I felt were appropriate, I simply had a great time gaming Maida.

I rated the rules in terms of historical accuracy/realism a 6 out of 10. This was a little tougher for me than the Playability rating. A gamer can literally add as much or as little chrome as preferred. A deep knowledge of the period is not critical, but does allow one to create a scenario that comes close to mirroring history.  For me, the emphasis on the die rolls (the "luck factor") is a bit too heavy to qualify as a historical simulation.......but, if you have the patience, unit statistics and the use of "special rules" will bring a scenario closer. Black Powder, in the eyes of many, really is more of a game with flavor rather than a simulation. And that's ok with me.

The Total rating for Black Powder is 7.5 out of 10. Rick Priestley's Black Powder offer a helluva good time.....

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Search for the Holy Grail- The Best Napoleonic Rules, Part 3

Here is Part 3 of my continuing search for the best Napoleonic rules. All of the rules that I have analyzed so far are battalion-level rules with no simultaneous movement. I replayed the common scenario of the battle of Maida in 1806, which is a small divisional-sized game. Instead of focusing on several different AAR's covering the battle, I wanted to focus on the mechanics of each individual rules set and compare them to each other in areas of Playability and Realism/Historical Accuracy.

Carnage and Glory 2

Carnage and Glory 2 is a computer-moderated set of rules that one can use to simulate any Napoleonic battle, large or small. Besides the Napoleonic period, there are separate programs for the following periods: Seven Years War (and American Revolution), the American Civil War, Franco- Prussian War, the Age of Marlborough, and the English Civil War (and Thirty Years War). Carnage and Glory 2 can be used with virtually any scale of figures, any ground scale, and any basing style (although there are recommendations for basing presented in the rules). As for the written rules themselves, they can be easily printed out as part of the software and are easy to navigate and understand. The basic concept of Carnage and Glory 2 is that each unit and commander has a unit identification number and its unit data (ie number of men, training, experience, melee factor, fire factor, skirmishers, etc) is stored in the software. A chain of command is also input, so that orders of battle are easily stored and ready for table-top play. Files of specific army lists and battle scenarios can be stored for use over and over again. When the game is played, unit actions such as formation changes, charges, and firing are input as the computer keeps track of everything, including fatigue and ammunition. The ability to focus on tactical decisions and allow the computer to keep track of minute details is not only impressive, it is refreshing.

Each unit has an identification label that corresponds to specific data stored in the computer for that unit

In my games, I use 15mm figures with a ground scale of 50 paces (approximately 37 yards) per inch. Each turn corresponds to 15 minutes of historical time. There is also the capability of using an order transmission section for more detailed command and control.  Although the time scale for a turn remains constant, the ground scale will change proportionally with figure scale. This and everything else a player needs to know about the game is all covered extensively in the rules.

Our games typically consist of 4 or 5 players controlling a couple of divisions (and even a corps or more) each, with a couple of us taking turns running the computer for the other side. Although the detail and the flow of the games are outstanding, the information flow to one GM controlling data input can slow the game down unless the GM keeps the game rolling. In our gaming group, we have a ton of experience running the computer and turns flow very efficiently and, dare I say it, very fast.

Coming back to our divisional-sized game of Maida, it was a perfect pick-up scenario for CG2. We completed 8 turns in an hour and a half, less than half of the time that From Valmy To Waterloo took. Movement distances were practically memorized, so there were no charts that had to be checked and rechecked. Being a two-player game, we each ran the computer while the other made his moves and conducted firing and melee. In fairness, our game of Le Feu Sacre also took an hour and a half, mostly due to that system's streamlined and efficient mechanics. 

Even more impressive than the efficiency and realism of the game itself was the post-battle analysis, in which the computer computes the effects of casualties, pursuit, and the return of walking wounded. This is ideal for a campaign and allows a player to link several games together with the computer keeping track of casualties and changes in morale/experience (Spoiler alert: the system's author, Nigel Marsh, is readying the release of a highly anticipated campaign system).

Our test game was an impressive demonstration of CG2's capability. Players were free to move units and make decisions while the software did all of the heavy lifting. I rated CG2 a 9 out of 10 for playability. The data input shuffle can be a negative point with an inexperienced GM or group of players. This was a small scenario. For a large game, the data input becomes proportionally more cumbersome and challenging. Solitaire suitability is  also more of a challenge due to having to run back and forth to the computer for every data input (although it is convenient to leave the table set up and have the computer save all the data played thus far--really pretty cool).

I rated CG2 an 8.5 out of 10 for realism/accuracy.  Movement, musketry, morale, and melee seemed spot on. Add to that the ability to compute casualties, victory conditions, the effects of weather, and even heat exhaustion, and CG2 produces a very realistic simulation.  In contrast to FVTW though, artillery batteries are incredibly strong and, if properly supported, seem almost a bit too powerful (this might be my own bias, but I have read and heard similar conclusions from others). Also, again in contrast to FVTW, units were able to maneuver freely around the table with no regard to the distance from a leader. Although great for a competitive game, it seems a bit too free and easy. I am familiar with the "nippy little battalion" syndrome, in which opponents send an isolated unit way out on a flank attack just to cause chaos, with no regard to how far it has isolated itself from its parent brigade. This can happen in CG2, but at least the support and rally modifiers encourage proper deployment distance between units. Personally, I'd like to see a bit more command and control built into the system.

Total score for Carnage and Glory 2 is 8.75 out of 10.  Not only does CG2 provide an outstanding game (and detailed simulation), but it is dutifully supported by the author and myriad veterans on the Carnage and Glory 2 yahoo group. Carnage and Glory 2 is a great gaming experience, especially with an experienced group of like-minded players.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Search For The Holy Grail--The Best Napoleonic Rules, Part 2

As a continuation of the search for the best Napoleonic rules, here is Part 2. I replayed the scenario of the battle of Maida in 1806, which is a small divisional-sized game. Instead of focusing on several different AAR's covering the battle, I wanted to focus on the mechanics of each individual rules set and compare them to each other in areas of Playability and Realism/Historical Accuracy.

Le Feu Sacre (3rd Edition)

LFS is a popular rules system produced by the infamous Too Fat Lardies from the UK. It has a 50:1 figure scale in mind and a ground scale of 1"= 50 yards. The turn is card-based (like many TFL games) and represents approximately 15 minutes of historical time. The rules are designed for corps-sized actions but can be modified for larger battles. The intent is, for up to a corps on each side, that each 15 minute turn should equal 15 minutes of playing time. The rules are thorough but not overly complex and, with optional rules added, cover most characteristics of Napoleonic warfare.

In order to streamline and quicken the game, many aspects of combat are abstracted. For example, there is no specific musketry phase (although artillery and skirmishing fire are addressed individually). Combat is intended to be quick and decisive (and is considered to be a combination of close ranged musketry as well as melee), while using Kriegspiel-type charts. In this respect, the emphasis is on a fast game versus prolonged musketry slugfests between opposing formations. The turn sequence, once a division commander's card is drawn, concerns spotting formations on blinds, grand-tactical as well as tactical movement, artillery fire and skirmishing, and combat.

Command and control is an interesting concept within the rules. It is pip-based with each tactical action costing 1 or 2 pips. There are unit, regiment, and brigade-sized moves. Command distance is also part of the system.

LFS may not be for everyone, due to the abstraction of combat, but is a well-researched set of rules that many gamers are embracing, especially in the UK. One potential drawback that I sense from reading the rules is that there is no system for determining victory or a morale determination for formations above the unit level (brigade, division, etc).

I was a bit torn with my feelings toward Le Feu Sacre. On one hand, the rules, mechanisms, and various modifiers seemed very well-researched. I especially liked the system of blinds for spotting troops, the emphasis on command and control, and the streamlined combat mechanism. The concepts of Zones of Control and Pinning are very intriguing. The game that I played certainly moved very quickly. A final result was reached in an hour and a half. I can certainly see how a larger battle can be fought to a conclusion within 2-3 hours. On the other hand, even though the final results seemed valid, I had a hard time getting over the omission of a musketry phase. Skirmishing, when it did happen, seemed very ineffective. Lastly, the command pip system was interesting but felt a bit inflexible. I truly felt like I was playing a Napoleonic version of DBA (which is a fine system if you Iike it, but too abstract for me personally).  It seemed a bit unrealistic for 2 brigades on an attack order to be frozen in place most of the game due to an average commander's lack of command pips. That could also be due to my incompetence as a player with these rules. Of course, this also dramatically speeds up the game. As a counter argument, from a purely gaming aspect, the proper planning of how to utilize these scarce command pips presents a nice challenge and really forces each player to plan ahead. The experience was almost an extension of chess, which was enjoyable as such, but I would not label the tactical phase of the turn a "simulation."  In summary, it all worked effortlessly, but again felt rather mechanical. I feel that a larger game would bring out Le Feu Sacre's grand-tactical strengths more; it really was written for corps-sized actions.

I rated Le Feu Sacre a 7 out of 10 in Playability. The rules were certainly straight-forward and not overly complex. There is some tactical abstraction due to the scope of the game. Some players will love it, as it really demands tactical skill to master it. I personally would prefer a bit more tactical detail in a battalion-level game (a musketry phase, for example), but that's just my humble opinion.

As far as Realism/Historical Accuracy, I felt that the game portrayed a valid result. I cannot argue at all with the research into the game itself. Nothing seemed invalid or inaccurate. There are rules for passage of lines, emergency squares, firefights, etc. This is just what a person would expect from a well-researched set of rules. There are definitely some very interesting concepts in Le Feu Sacre. My concern, totally biased as it is, is more focused on the playing of the game and the overall experience, not the results that come from playing these rules. I rated Le Feu Sacre a 7.5 out of 10 in this area. It is certainly not as detailed as rules like Empire or From Valmy To Waterloo, but it can definitely give a historical result. I would like to see the command pip system tweaked, and a higher formation (brigade or division) morale system. An end of game Victory determination would also help out considerably. House rules could fix all of these details though.

The Total score for Le Feu Sacre is a 7.25 out of 10. I felt that LFS was a very solid set of rules and would be more than suitable for a larger battle. If a player doesn't mind abstraction in key areas of the game, these rules offer a compelling, historically-based, game that is both challenging and fast playing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Search For The Holy Grail--The Best Napoleonic Rules, Part 1

Which Napoleonic rules system is the best ?

Being a total rules geek, I played out 5 popular and well-weathered Napoleonic rules sets in order to rate and compare them to each other. This entry, Part 1, covers the first of the games played, with the rules From Valmy To Waterloo.

Besides FVTW, subsequent blog posts will cover Carnage and Glory 2, Le Feu Sacre, Black Powder, and General de Brigade (Deluxe Edition).

A warning:  all of the opinions and ratings are purely my own and not to be construed as an all-out attempt to insult any other gamer's favorite rules set. (Besides, I had fun with each and every one of them !)

When we discuss Napoleonic wargaming with miniatures, players around the world have extremely strong opinions on how they view warfare of the period. The search for the "holy grail" of Napoleonic rules is never-ending. I am no different than any other historical miniatures enthusiast. I began my search over 20 years ago with the ever-popular Empire and continued to dabble in many other rules systems over the years. It's safe to say, after experimenting with grand-tactical scales (Napoleon's Battles, Age of Eagles, etc), that I personally prefer battalion scaled games versus brigade or larger games. That's just my preference; I refuse to judge anyone else who prefers a larger or smaller scale. I realize that's the spirit of wargaming.....besides the artful side of painting and terrain, and the competitiveness of the game, we all yearn to experience a wargame that mirrors as close as possible how we each envision a Napoleonic battle to be like. Unfortunately, the disconnect happens because those days are dead and gone; we only have paintings and historical accounts to go by.

So......I have attempted to play out a simple scenario with various rules sets and to complete an analysis of each. I graded each rules system objectively based on 1. Playability and 2. Realism/ Historical Accuracy.  I limited the rules sets according to a couple parameters; first, they all were required to have a battalion as the basic unit, and none of the systems could have simultaneous movement. This entire experiment is still flawed due to my own inherent and individual bias and my limited knowledge of what it was really like to be alive on a battlefield in the years 1792-1815. was a lot of fun. I also experienced a few surprises along the way.

I decided to simulate the battle of Maida in southern Italy in 1806. The opposing forces were division-sized and within 1,000 soldiers of each other. The terrain was relatively flat and clear. Historically, the British held their ground and punished unimaginative and headlong charges of the French with disciplined musketry and artillery fire. After the French were repulsed, the British pursued and scattered the French forces under Reynier. The battle was only slightly larger than a skirmish but the victory was huge for the allies. For the first time since Napoleon became Emperor, a French force was soundly beaten in the field. Napoleon shrugged off Reynier's loss as " merely having  a bad plan." In reality, the battle not only demonstrated the discipline of British infantry, the victory also had an incredible effect on national morale.

As for the wargame, the French have a numerical advantage, but the quality ranges from conscripts to veterans. The French also had an advantage in light infantry, skirmishing capability, and a unit of light cavalry. The British troop quality was slightly higher overall and the British had a 10-6 advantage in artillery pieces. Leadership was roughly equal on both sides, with French General de Division Reynier slightly downgraded with respect to historical results. In summary, Maida is an excellent scenario to experiment with; the forces are roughly equal in capability.

The scenario is detailed in an earlier blog post (search under the label "Napoleonic Wars"). For each of the rules discussed, I won't go into a full-blown AAR of each of the games, but attempt to focus on the mechanics of each rules set.

From Valmy To Waterloo

FVTW has a reputation for historical realism and a corresponding focus on complexity. After studying the rules extensively, the playbook does simplify play....a bit. It takes a long time to master (and fully digest) these rules. I have always been impressed with the sheer amount of detail that William Keyser put into these rules. Ah....but are they playable?  The answer is yes, but there are some drawbacks. FVTW was a 1990s evolution of Empire and is admirable in many ways. But due to the complexity of the rules, it is difficult to find an opponent these days.  Let's see how it compares to other rules systems.

In FVTW, there is a tremendous focus on command/control, extensive tactical detail, and brigade/division morale. Each turn consists of various phases and corresponds to 15 minute time periods. Command definition is very restrictive and command distance at the divisional level is very rigid, with units finding themselves outside of this distance severely hampered with respect to maneuverability. The underlying philosophy behind the rules is to force players to constantly think about command and control. To ignore command distance is to see your plan unravel completely. The final results of our game definitely upheld this underlying philosophy. On a unit level, there are many modifiers and characteristics that make each unit unique as far as maneuverability, firing value, and melee value. I personally like this approach, but it necessitates a complex chart to illustrate each order of battle. As for the turn itself, there are many phases: initiative, order activation, measure command spans, charge moves, regular moves, fire, charge reaction (further broken down into clear terrain, woods fighting, and built up areas), melee, morale (unit, brigade, and division checks) and leader replacement. It is all very thorough (which I appreciate) but very ponderous (which I don't like). Almost nothing is abstracted, except for skirmishing, which is covered by a Fire Discipline test. As for scale, FVTW has a 60:1 figure scale and a 1" = 33 meter ground scale ( there is another option for this, but I used the primary single rank basing scale).

FVTW was successful in that the game played like a historical account. But it was clunky and slow in parts. The 7 turns played took 3 hours and 30 minutes and I found myself referring constantly to the rule book for clarification. Batteries seemed especially fragile in this game. Charging infantry had both advantages of mass and formed-vs-open order and melees were initiated in both instances (the French overran another battery on the British left late in the game). It's pretty universal that infantry will beat artillery if they close to melee. The problem is that, even with cannister losses in both charges, the infantry still easily closed into melee. Something seemed out of whack here. It seems that if the infantry would lose either the mass or the formed vs open order modifier, that would make it more realistic. Maybe that's what the author intended, but I was unable to find it in the rules. At a different point in the game, a multiple-unit melee also seemed awkward and unnecessarily complex. The final result made sense, but the process took a full 10 minutes to figure out. At yet another point in the game, the British commander was killed by a stray bullet (in fairness, an extremely low chance.....but I rolled it anyway). The effect of Sir John Stuart's death was devastating to the British; a domino effect sheared out of control, and in this case, I thought the game shined. I could imagine the British force wavering as word spread of the leader's death spread through the ranks. The only issue was that, because of the nature of the 1806 British, it took forever for a replacement leader to show up......the result, although entertaining and dramatic, paralyzed the British over the remainder of the game. It seemed a bit harsh. A bright spot was the Disorganisation system that modeled unit fatigue and disorder; one woud expect this from an ultra-detailed set of rules like FVTW. Unfortunately, most rules systems do not model this critical characteristic of combat well. Although it is considered the strong point of the rules, a weakness lies in the complexity of FVTW....due to the massive amount of details, there are many grey areas which are not fully explained in the rules (or difficult to find). This slowed the game down and possibly led to inaccurate results that the author did not intend.

I rated FVTW a 5 out of 10 in playability. It was a slow moving game due to the great number of die rolls and chart checks, and it had its share of hiccups. And I am reasonably fluent with the rules. Still, it played like a movie and the dramatic drop in British morale due to Stuart's death was very interesting.

I rated FVTW an 8 out of 10 for historical accuracy/realism. Most of the mechanisms and results made sense and seemed valid. I did subtract a couple of points for the overly fragile nature of artillery versus infantry and the absence of any initiative at all below the division commander level in an out of command situation. I can understand negative modifiers, but I cannot comprehend that a brigade commander, regimental commanders, and battalion commanders could not make any other decision but to run away when the division commander was killed.

Total score for From Valmy To Waterloo was 6.5 out of 10.

Note:  I highly admire the work and research that has gone into this rules set. It was my primary set of rules for many years. As for an educational read on the historical simulation of the Napoleonic Wars, I rate it very, very high.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Historicon 2016 Recap in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Historicon 2016 is just about over now, running from July 14-17 at the Fredericksburg Convention Center located in beautiful Fredericksburg, Virginia. Speaking for myself, I have had a great time ! We are in the middle of a crushing heat wave, but the Convention Center has done a great job keeping all attendees comfortable. Food, drink, and activities are plentiful. I know there are more than a few grumblings from our northern friends over the commute, but as a southerner, this has been an outstanding experience (and only a 2 hour drive). Nearby hotels have been more than adequate and very comfortable.  In addition to the convention, shuttles are provided to check out the nearby battlefields of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Chancellorsville. If you've never been to downtown Fredericksburg, you are missing out on one of America's most charming towns.

As for attendance, I don't have access to actual data, but the convention seems packed ! The parking lot has been consistently full and there is little room for maneuver (especially in the flea market). The vendor hall looked well attended (although some vendors were not impressed - others flirted with record-breaking sales). In particular, my buddy Doug Kline of Battlefield Terrain Concepts has had a tremendous show (congratulations) ! His outstanding terrain is top-flite product (and, I noticed, graced many of the tables throughout the gaming rooms).

Store front for Doug Kline's Battlefield Terrain Concepts, located in the vendor hall

A couple more shots of the vendor hall

As for the games, this year's crop has been very impressive. There have been several noteworthy events with outstanding terrain and extraordinarily-painted figures. The most notable games for me personally were the "Charge of the Light Brigade" game and the "Battle of Bailen, 1808" game utilizing Carnage and Glory 2.

Charge of the Light Brigade, Crimean War

British Light Cavalry on the advance

Russians in square, Crimean War

Bailen, 1808, French vs Spanish using Carnage and Glory 2

Another shot of the Bailen 1808 game

So, in summary, Historicon 2016 has been a great success for me. My son and I had a great time accumulating wargaming treasure (oops...I blew my budget....nothing new though) and the games we participated in were fun, boisterous, and lighthearted. I can't wait until next year !

So, in no particular order, here are some pictures of what I consider the highlights of games being played at Historicon 2016.