By Chris Hahn
On the afternoon of April 26, I conducted a very brief and comparatively costly reconnaissance of a wargaming convention staged in my neck of the woods. To paraphrase Julius Caesar — and rather poorly at that: I went, I walked around, and I watched. Oh yeah, I also took a lot of pictures. These two sentences summarize my level of participation at Little Wars 2014. According to the inside cover of the 28-page program, the “Little Wars convention is one of the Midwest’s premier historical miniatures gaming conventions, brought to you by the HMGS-Midwest non-profit organization.” (HMGS stands for Historical Miniatures Gaming Society.) I could not determine exactly when Little Wars started or how long it has been running. I do know that in the past 14 years, I’ve attended 10 of the conventions. (I reported on my 2013 adventure at Little Wars for this very blog. Here.) This annual gathering of like-minded individuals used to be held in Lincolnshire, Illinois, For the past three or four years, the venue has been the Du Page Expo Center, in St. Charles, Illinois, which is approximately 40 miles/64 kilometers west of Chicago. If memory serves, in the 1980s, the convention was held in Rosemont. I did not save any programs from these “ancient” long weekends. In the course of my brief “research,” I did stumble across this link to a newspaper report of the convention. Readers might be interested in taking a look: http://www.dailyherald.com/art
(Photos, and more, below)
Flames of War (FOW) was well represented, with several tournaments (including Middle East and Vietnam settings in addition to the traditional World War II theaters) running throughout the convention. There was even a FOW Junior (under 18) tournament on Sunday. It is unfortunate, but perhaps not completely surprising, that one doesn’t see a similar treatment for other periods. AFVs are probably more attractive/interesting and sturdier than a base of 8 or 12 hoplites arranged in a phalanx formation. Having been introduced to organized wargaming through WWII, my significant lack of interest in this period (and its multiple sub-periods) since 1977 or 1978 is rather curious. If I were to trace my evolution of interest as a wargamer, it would appear that I started in the mid-20th century and worked my way backward. Currently, my overriding interest is Ancients. Unfortunately, and to my personal disappointment, this period (or periods, depending on how you divide the time between 3000 BCE until around 1500) was poorly represented at this year’s convention. True, there was a Saga tournament and there were a couple of Hail Caesar games presented, as I mentioned. But aside from these, there was very little else in the way of barbarian hordes, chariots, elephants, legions, or pike phalanxes. I found no mention of Armati, DBA/DBM, Field of Glory (FOG), or even Impetvs in the list of events/games. I am left to wonder: Is it simply that gamers of the the American Midwest are not interested in examining the engagements of Alexander, Boudicca, Caesar, Porus, or Vercingetorix on the tabletop? The number of dealers and vendors present at this year’s convention was much reduced compared to 2013. According to posts on TMP, the lack of dealers and vendors was the product of a “perfect storm.” Evidently, personal commitments and poor timing (Adepticon was held earlier in the month and in the same geographic region) played a part in the substantial reduction of dealers and vendors. Well, enough of my blathering. On to the pictures!
“Time Traveler’s Quest,” run by Michael Harris, is shown in Pictures 1 and 2. This was an interesting table in that it was divided into quadrants. Each square represented a different (sometimes quite different) time zone. Pictured are two of the four mini-tables. One looked to be Ancient Egypt — with the notable exception of the flying/hovering sailing ship. Another quadrant had a definite Oriental look.
Uncle Duke Seifried made another memorable impression with his “The Alamo Adventure.” Pictures 3, 4, 5, and 23 speak for themselves, I think. The players certainly seemed to be enjoying the battle. Of course, the tabletop was a work of art.
Picture 6 shows off Josh Burick’s excellent “The Battle of El Guettar” FOW (Flames of War) engagement. Over on the tournament tables, it was curious to see that tanks were often grouped fender to fender while engaged in combat. It was more curious to see infantry massed in what appeared to be early-19th century attack columns.
Battles of the ACW (American Civil War) were in evidence at Little Wars this year. I am not absolutely certain, but I believe part of Loren Haberkamp’s “The Battle of Pea Ridge” is displayed in Picture 7. This action was played in 15mm scale using Regimental Fire & Fury.
Regrettably, I am unable to match the large colorful table and exotic troops seen in Pictures 8, 9, and 10 with any description in the program. I think that it might have been some kind of Colonial Mars operation but again, cannot be absolutely sure. My apologies. No. Wait. Further scouring of the program yielded the following nugget: “Further Adventures of the League of Pear Shaped Gentlemen.” This Mars Needs Steam game was umpired by Tom Harris and employed 11 factions vying for something that was not of this world.
I am unable to locate the specific details about the table in Picture 11. However, the landscape and the hovering choppers did remind me of that set-in-early-Vietnam movie starring Mel Gibson and others.
Pictures 12 and 13 show the Joliet Area Gamers at their finest, playing modified Fletcher Pratt naval rules, using the floor as a tabletop. They also used very small models and were happily engrossed in processing what appeared to be an amount of paperwork in order to determine victory at sea.
“Mech Attack 2: The Revenge!” is shown in Pictures 14 and 15. Karl Paulsen hosted this Sci Fi engagement on a giant table where dozens of modern AFVs (hovercraft?) were hunkered down. The highway and elevated rail system were impressive features of the very large table.
Enthusiasts of grand-tactical WW II gaming were more than catered to with Dr. Fratt’s 16-foot table (representing 50 miles of French coastline) recreation of the landings on D-Day. From what I overheard, his house rules are based on Axis & Allies. Following up his Gettysburg spectacle of last year, the good doctor used 3mm (that’s not a typo!) miniatures to represent the various tanks, vehicles, planes, and infantry on both sides of the bocage. Pictures 16, 17, and 18 give the viewer some idea of the scale and scope of this small — but at the same time — very large wargame.
In Picture 19, we travel back to 1815 and to the battle of Quatre Bras specifically, in Terry Callahan’s “Quatre Bras” engagement using Orders to Eagles rules and 6mm figures.
The temporary Napoleonic theme continues with a look at Glenn Drover’s “Borodino” tabletop in Pictures 20 and 21, wherein superbly painted figures marched and fired muskets using Homebrew Commands & Colors. (I was slightly confused by the apparent presence of a British officer on the French side of the field .)
Picture 22 captures the bare bones approach of hobby notable George Knapp. His “Easy Napoleonics” table always seemed to be occupied by eager generals.
As mentioned above, Rich Nelson and Mike Muller hosted an attractive Hail Caesar game at the convention. Pictures 24, 32, 33, and 35 show various stages of the “Battle of Arsuf: Richard vs Saladin.” Laminated unit ID cards were placed behind each 28mm unit for ease of play. Each unit appeared to be arranged on a magnetic tray for ease of movement. At one point in the miniature battle I witnessed, the Knights Hospitallers rolled snake-eyes during a morale check. God was apparently on their side, however, as the consequences of the failed test were not all that serious.
From The Crusades we travel back to Napoleonics in Pictures 25 and 26. Another hobby notable, Todd Fisher (ably assisted by John Read), presented the “Battle of Rivoli.” The rule book — or binder — was so impressive (and a little intimidating in my opinion) that I thought it deserved its own photo. The sculpted terrain was equally impressive.
Axis & Allies gamers were taken care of by Bob Roby, who hosted a weekend’s worth of WW II on a large colored board using plastic pieces, play money, and dice. (Picture 27)
While wandering unsuccessfully around the dealer stands (I was looking for someone who might be selling recent issues of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames and I did linger over the still-in-plastic boxes of Commands & Colors: Ancients and its expansions), I stumbled upon Pico Armor. Stumbled is an appropriate word as these miniatures are all of 3mm in size. Each pack contains quite a few pieces and the price per pack is reasonable, at least in my humble opinion. Refighting Kursk in this scale would not require taking out a second mortgage! Anyway, I took this photo (Picture 28) of a modern era helicopter. I had to use my zoom to get the detail of the vehicle and base. The website is: www.picoarmor.com
For the price of a 28mm model tank used in the Bolt Action game depicted in Pictures 29, 30, 31, and 34, I imagine that it might be possible to field a regiment at one-to-one scale using Pico Armor models. That estimation aside, this desert clash looked quite nice and looked like a lot of fun, too. Aside from the decimated vendor area, for the brief time I was at Little Wars 2014, it looked like there were a lot of gamers present and it looked like a lot of them were having fun. Based on these cursory and subjective observations, I would suggest that the health of the hobby — at least in the Midwest USA — is fairly robust. I am quite sure that additional and better information about Little Wars 2014 will be posted (if it has not already been posted) on the HMGS website, and possibly to the related forums on TMP.