Tricon '96 was held on November 2nd and 3nd in historic Concord, Massachusetts in the Masonic Hall just off of Concord center and adjacent to the National Park Historic Battleground. The convention was billed as a "specialized" mini-convention for those interested in 18th century warfare and issues and was publicized and supported by the Seven Years War Association and two local firms (North Road Diagnostic and Wee Bee Publishing) whose owners are strongly involved in the local wargaming community.
It was immediately apparent on arrival that this was not the usual kind of convention. Although a small venue area, the Masonic Hall had been reorganized and "prepped" well in advance, and the layout of gaming areas and the scheduling of events (there were NO sessions overlapping each other throughout the day) showed that the organizers wanted to ensure that everyone would be able to observe/participate in as many different activities as possible, without being chained to a long drawn out session that took the whole day up. Registration was quick and cordial and coffee and snacks were available from the opening gun (a mandatory for those of us with caffeine induced euphoria syndrome). All the volunteer "staff" were knowledgeable and, more importantly, genuinely interested in making sure you got the information you wanted and even made sure you were introduced to others who were going to participate or run the session(s) you were going to be involved with. This attention to detail sent a strong message to attendees that were not "local folks" and helped set the friendly, enjoyable atmosphere that pervaded the entire day.
The convention committee deliberately set up a schedule that featured the traditional wargame demonstrations but also inserted guest lectures on 18th century topics and special theme videos which were shown continuously throughout the day. This allowed the attendees a chance to sample several different aspects of the period at their own pace. One omission (which I am told will be rectified for Tricon 97) was the lack of a display area for accouterments and weapons from some of the excellent private collections that are around or for the presence of one of the many fine reenactment groups whose special interest in the details of life in their chosen period often offers many interesting insights into what the "military" was all about during the period. Groups interested should contact the convention organizers immediately - what could be better than an encampment on Lexington Green or along the Battle Road?
The dealer area was small and the number of dealers present reflected the fact that this was a “first time” effort, but here again, Tricon 97 promises to have a larger dealer presence. Indeed, based on the turnout and level of interest demonstrated, I have to believe that many more businesses would be interested in showing the flag and getting exposure to their 18th century lines and products. There were no sell/swap tables available due to space limitations (although I did notice some ongoing capitalist activities on the fringes), and if there is sufficient interest for this activity the organizers will probably make space available at future events.
As for the games and lectures themselves, I have to say that they were "top notch" across the board. One advantage of the focused nature of this convention is that generally the individuals who come have some real interest and have made commitments to figures, terrain, rules etc. and so are able to provide knowledgeable and interesting set-ups and situations. In my own experience, this is not always the case at the larger "generic" wargames conventions. Here, the level of game experience was more focused on sharing the enjoyment rather than trying to get several novices to understand some particular order of operations or unusual game feature. Time was available to enjoy the experience and the camaraderie - an important feature. The lectures featured noted author Brent Nosworthy on Frederick's Contribution to the Art of War; well known Jacobite exponent (and SYWA guru on highland trivia) Mark Mocarski on The Jacobite Army: 1745-46; restoration expert Jeffrey Miller on The Fort at No 4 During the French & Indian Wars (1744-1763), and wargames author William Keyser on Napoleonic Warfare Simulations. Altogether a wide range of topics which were presented to audiences who had ample time for questions and comparing source information.
Among the many fine games on display it appeared to me that all the hosts wisely picked scenarios or constructed set-ups that allowed for an enjoyable hour to two of contact, but were able to be over and done within that time frame (no monster refights of Prague that never got past turn three!!!). Of note were the finely painted and displayed 15mm armies of Ralph Gero and Greg Symko who each put on a Volley and Bayonet game using reduced basic unit frontages, but lots of close action (where do all those 6's disappear to?); John Costea's totally enjoyable and massive recreation of Clive in India in 15mm (again using V&B - but with lots of "hordes" of irregular infantry and cavalry, not to mention what seemed to be 25 or more elephants carrying everything form the CinC to the field harem); Jim Dirmaier's hand crafted 15mm fortress model with replaceable breaches, tunnels and bomb craters using Festung Krieg/La Guerre du Roi variants (probably the outstanding display of the convention); and Fred Hubig's reenactment of Kolin using several hundreds of 30mm figures in the Grand Manner of gaming.
These were only some of the highlights from my visit, and only a partial list of the periods and areas on display. The full list covered most aspects of 18th century gaming (did I mention the several excellent skirmish-level games in 25mm?) and provided a full day of activity. The second day concentrated on a tour of the Lexington/Concord historical sites hosted by Mark Nichipor. Mark is a member of the National Parks Service as well as a cap and ball musket aficionado and dedicated wargamer, so he was able to tie together many of the aspects of the operations in the area and relate them directly to table top practices and situations. We hope that Mark will make himself available next time as well as Tricon 97 focuses it spyglass on the Bunker Hill battlefield area and the Frigate Constitution and Constitution Museum in Boston harbor!!!!
I would strongly urge those of you with an 18th century interest to consider attending Tricon 97 this October and plan on bringing along your own particular interests and sharing them with others of the same ilk.