While the monsoon blew outdoors, inside Monument Hall in historic Concord, Mass., Tricon ‘97 heated up October 25 with more vendors, more space and an expanded slate of distinguished speakers.
The flavor of this year’s Tricon was set early Saturday as the approximately 100 attendees were greeted at the front door of the expanded venue by officers and men of His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot. (Believe me, there’s nothing more impressive than a grenadier with musket coming to attention as you pass by!) Replete in Rev.War uniforms and kit they stood guard at the entrance adding appropriate period color and even attracting a few curious tourists fresh off the tour bus!
Vendors supported Tricon in force this year with no less than nine of them arrayed around the perimeter of the hall. Hawking their wares were Two Tin Soldiers, carrying Old Glory, Musket Miniatures, Osprey and other books; Outland Games, representing Guernsey Foundry, Wargames Foundry and Minifigs; and Dayton Painting Consortium, with RSM and Musket Miniatures. All three also offered painted figures for sale. Also on hand were Imperialist Enterprises with its 25mm line of Marlburian figures; Editions Brokaw offering 15mm Marlburian and SYW figures, flags and booklets; TCS with Leo Walsh’s fine line of wargaming terrain items; and Clash of Arms Games carrying boxed board games and rules sets. If books were your interest, you needed to look no farther than to John Durant’s comprehensive collection of used 18th and early 19th century titles (or at least the ones George Z. left for the rest of us!) and the impressive array of period books, rules and magazines offered by On Military Matters, a perennial fixture at Historicon. Industry vendors also provided enough figures and gift certificates to ensure that every game at Tricon had at least one table prize awarded.
The heart of the con was, of course, the games and they were among the finest and most imaginative I’ve seen at any convention (am I prejudiced?...Nahh!). They spanned the 18th century, and represented the Great Northern War, Age of Marlborough, French & Indian War, Jacobite Rebellion, SYW in Europe, SYW in India, AWI, Napoleon in Egypt and Napoleon in Italy. Author William Keyser playtested a new 18th century variant of his popular Valmy to Waterloo Napoleonic rules (appropriately titled From Marlborough to Frederick) and ran a 1796 Franco-Austrian encounter in Italy using V to W. Jim Dirmaier returned with his impressive hand-crafted 15mm Vauban fortress game and Leo Murphy fielded mercenary troops in a colorful 25mm confrontation between Swedes and Poles in The Battle of Kissov (loved those winged hussars, Leo).
Among the notable sights in Monument Hall was John Costea’s period headgear as he directed his Clive In India opus throughout the day. It looked something like a bejeweled popover and almost overshadowed the elephants, platform guns, rocketeers, armed rabble and more elephants on his double-wide table top. Meantime, across the room a bewigged member of the 10th Foot pushed American units in Mark Nichipor’s Guilford Courthouse game, wearing -- appropriately enough for a blackguard who would switch sides -- his coat turned inside out!
If skirmish gaming is your cup of tea, you had nothing to complain about at Tricon ‘97. Jeff Guerin and "Bloody" Bob Olson offered a 25mm French & Indian War epic complete with a scratch built palisaded fort and a river that meandered across two gaming tables! Earl Richards’ early morning alternative to a strong cup of Joe was his convention-opening Bloody Tomahawks FIW skirmish scenario featuring handsome terrain pieces including a redoubt and log buildings around which swirled savage no-quarter mayhem. Phil Hammond created an autumnal battleground for Rogers’ Rangers in his Retreat from St. Francis game, while The Courier’s Dick Bryan brought Deadwood to the Deerslayer with his FIW variant of the Desperado gunfight rules set, proving that a good set of rules has legs no matter how you stretch the period.
Nautical games were also well represented this year, perhaps encouraged by the launch of the Admiral Byng Award for the best presented naval game of the convention. Byron Angel play-tested his new age of sail rules with a hypothetical meeting engagement by the British and French colonial squadrons in the English Channel, and Rodney Fernald ran a similar engagement, this time on the other side of the Atlantic, using French and British ships on station at Louisberg. Leo Walsh took a more beer and pretzels tack with his A Prize Is A Prize game, inspired by the Patrick O’Brian novels, while Tom Ballou took home the Admiral Byng for his refight of Admirals Pocock and D’Ache’s SYW clash off India.
The Pour le Merite Award for the best presented game, which included a $50 Guernsey Foundry gift certificate, went to Mark Mocarski for his presentation of the Battle of Falkirk. Mark placed the game in context with a riveting one-hour lecture on the events that preceded the battle. Tricked out in highland bonnet and broadsword and kilt, he detailed the Highland and Government armies’ moves and countermoves which led to the largest battle of the Jacobite Rebellion. Describing in dramatic detail the Government cavalry charge that opened the battle, he closed the lecture and adjourned to the table top where 800 25mm figures were laid out in the positions occupied by their historical counterparts. With a boom box skirling bagpipe music, Falkirk was refought on terrain boards that intricately reproduced the difficult terrain of the original battlefield. Nicely done!
Pour le Merite honorable mentions went to Earl Richards for Bloody Tomahawks; Jim Dirmaier for Into the Breach!; Dick Bryant for Action on the Frenchkill, Bob Olson and Jeff Guerin for Redcoats’ Revenge; and the irrepressible John Costea for Clive in India II.
The Pour Encourager les Autres Award for the most inspirational game went to Mark Nichipor for his Battle of Guilford Courthouse. As usual, this game was run with Mark’s fine attention to detail. The terrain was lovely, the figures well painted, and by God he even got Frying Pan & Blanket to knock out some custom-made 20mm British guardsmen in historically accurate round hats for him! But most impressive was his unique mechanism for recreating the redcoats’ historical challenge to break through three successive lines of American defenders: as the British finished off one group of rebels Mark would call a break without warning, move terrain boards, set up another line of defenders and set the dazed Brits in motion again. It was, well ... inspired!
This year, prizes were also awarded for the best painted wargames armies. Greg Symko walked away with a unit of fresh-from-the-mold Guernsey Foundry SYW hussars for having the best 25mm army. The Great Northern War Swedes and Russians in his Holowczyn game were excellent. Ralph Gero received an Old Glory gift certificate for the exquisite 15mm French, British and Allies in his Battle of Minden game.
This year’s lecture series featured two new speakers. Dr. David Switzer presented a slide lecture on his underwater excavation of a Rev. War privateer found in Penobscot Bay, offering fascinating details on ordinance and lifestyle to a rapt audience of nautical aficionados. His colleague, Dr. David Starbuck, offered his observations on Fort William Henry, of Last of the Mohicans fame, with slides from his summer 1997 excavation there. Brent Nosworthy, noted author of Anatomy of Victory and With Musket Cannon and Sword, returned to discuss the psychological basis of 18th century tactics. In part, he described how there was a moment before a charge struck home when one side or the other would falter, and how it was at that moment that Prussian cavalry was ordered to draw swords and stand in their stirrups, creating an overwhelming psychological edge -- fascinating! Equally interesting was Robert Mulligan’s talk on the British Uniform Book of 1742. Robert has access to George Washington’s copy, which has lain in a vault unopened for 200 years, and showed slides of its hand-colored plates -- probably the most accurate representation of the various uniform facing colors you’ll ever see!
On Sunday, Tricon ended on a high note when about 20 attendees and family members joined Mark Nichipor at Charleston Naval Shipyard for the start of his battlefield tour of the Bunker Hill fight. Now, you probably know that 99.9 percent of the battlefield is buried under the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. Nevertheless, once Mark began speaking the urban landscape melted away and we were struggling up the grassy slopes with Lord Howe and his grenadiers, or lining the rail fence with John Stark and his New Hampshire farmers -- honest, it was that real! The tour lasted about two and a half hours under sunny skies, with plenty of time for questions, ending up at the Bunker Hill monument atop Breed’s Hill. This is the second year I’ve gone on one of these tours with Mark, and I have to say that from a wargamer’s perspective they are outstanding. He is close to being the AWI equivalent of Prof. Christopher Duffy! (And he does look snappy in that Smokey the Bear outfit!)
Along for the tour, as well as the previous day’s games and lectures, was Jim Purky, the man behind the Seven Years War Association and Editor of SYWA Journal and the new Revolutionary War Journal. Jim and his wife flew in from the Midwest to join us for the weekend and he seemed genuinely impressed by our efforts. The SYWA has been a generous sponsor since Tricon’s inception and it was great to have Jim attend and to get his feedback on the con. He swears he’ll drive out next year with figures and terrain to put on a game!
It has to be acknowledged that Tricon could not have taken place without considerable support from members of the Northern Conspiracy. Mike Coppinger, John Costea, Tom DiGiuseppe, Ralph Gero, Jeff Guerin, Phil Hammond, Leo Murphy, Mark Nichipor, Bob Olson, Greg Symko, Allen Wright, and George Zanni did yeoman service as members of the convention committee while Paul McCarthy ably manned our registration desk Saturday. Mike and Bob Rogers deserve three loud "Huzzahs!" for their exceptional work setting things up and breaking them down on Saturday (as one wag put it, by the end of the day Mike looked as if he’d been kept as the Barbie Twins’ love slave for the week!). They earned high praise for their assistance from vendors and gamemasters alike. Also, thanks to all those previously mentioned who went the extra distance to run one or more games as well as to those conspirators who participated as Tricon attendees. If I’ve forgotten anyone it’s because of the Alzheimer’s and mental fatigue -- please forgive me!
The Tricon committee hopes to meet after Thanksgiving to conduct an after-action debriefing and consider what direction we should take in the future. We’ll keep you posted through the Cypher!