Saturday, February 4th saw this year’s installment of FlintCon, a local gaming convention in Flint, MI. Given how much time Flint has spent in the news for terrible reasons since 2014, we wanted to take a little bit of time to talk about cool and good stuff that is happening there.
Organized by a dedicated team headed up by Rod Cain, FlintCon is a single-day gaming convention held in the gymnasium of the St. Paul Lutheran school in Flint. There’s plenty of space, with nearly 20 large gaming tables and room set aside for floor games like Red Baron (which sees players moving around big WW1 model aircraft on 3-foot tall flight stands). And of course the entire outer edge of the venue is the flea market!
Gaming at FlintCon is organized into three 4-hour sessions (morning, afternoon, and evening), thankfully with an hour between them to talk trash and get food – with pizza, pulled-pork BBQ, Koegel hot dogs, and all sorts of snacks catered in by the organizers. There was a dizzying array of different games on offer, including the inevitable Napoleonics, WW2 games, ACW games, naval games, and some more esoteric stuff like the War for Greek Independence, Mechwarrior battles, and a Star Wars Legion scenario. As a smaller local affair there’s no event registration prior to the day, just a sign-up sheet on each table and a first-come, first-served policy. The mix of players to tables seemed to be pretty good, and I saw neither empty tables nor loads of people idle.
Michael O “Mugginns” Games
I’ve been going to FlintCon since the beginning – I’m not sure which year it was, but it’s been a while. I usually run a historical game – in the past it’s been Congo, Bolt Action, Gunfighter’s Ball, and lots of Sharp Practice. This year I decided to run one game of Sharp Practice, working on some themes and rules I wanted to use for a campaign I’m writing.
I setup the night before, always, because I bring a bunch of stuff to sell at the Flea Market and I get anxious with people looking over my shoulder when I’m setting up stuff. I always make sure to sticker price stuff and I have a little flyer with my name and my PayPal, Cashapp, etc. A little effort helps make sure you get your stuff sold! I managed to sell some sci-fi and historical minis I’m not going to be using going forward.
I had originally planned to run two sessions of ACW Sharp Practice, but I decided to cancel the second session and play in a Ilor’s Chain of Command game. Running two games can be rough, especially in a large gym with lots of people who are shout-talking. I lose my voice very easily and just even from running one game I could barely talk before I went to bed.
My game went pretty well. The only issue I think I had was the Confederates decided to move all their line troops toward the boat as quickly as possible, trying to use their skirmishers as a screen. I had hoped they would use one line formation to try to block a bit and hammer the Union formations. I also think I should have had the Union formations at two groups, not three each. They got stopped up on terrain and it was a bit intimidating for the Confederates.
I still have troubles with players not understanding Command Initiative (leader level) vs number of actions that units can do. I think I need to use beads or something to help show players what each leader can do. It doesn’t help that early on in the game, when players are learning the rules, the extra CI usually doesn’t do anything. The Confederates lost a ton of troops to formed fire, especially when the 2nd North Carolina Battalion unleashed a crashing volley.
In the end the Union troops stopped the Confederates from getting their spy to the steamboat – it was a fun game and I think I know what changes I can make.
I played in llor’s Chain of Command game second session and I loved it. I was mega-scared to start because I was playing on the team of very green newbie South African infantry with no tanks vs a German tank platoon. Our goal was to get three trucks off the board – they had been caught up in a rear attack from the Germans and we needed to save the resources they had. We could use our leaders to order the trucks off but if they were near German tanks they wouldn’t move.
I was worried because we only had infantry and one 2lber AT gun – not really much to hurt the tanks. We did have a Boys team that pinged a tank pretty well but immediately got annihilated. I commanded that team and the AT gun team and somehow managed to stay on the board the entire game. The AT gun destroyed two tanks in the last two turns and blew up a number of drivers and main guns. It really did a ton of work.
We somehow managed a minor victory by pulling off one truck – the Germans stole another and barely managed to blow up the last one right before it got off the board. By blowing up two out of their five tanks it just barely put us over the top. I had a ton of fun.
When mugginns cajoled me into volunteering to run games, I knew I’d be running my perpetual favorite, Chain of Command. But this time I decided to be a crazy person and run two different scenarios. That meant that between the morning and afternoon sessions I would need to completely pack away one table and set up another.
For the morning session I ran an action set during Operation Husky, the allied invasion of Sicily. This scenario pits American GIs of the 1st Infantry Division against Italian defenders (along with some unreliable German armor in support). This is a scenario I’ve run at a number of different conventions (the first time at FlintCon 2020, just before the pandemic hit) and I have the set-up, running, and tear-down of it pretty routine at this point. I was full up at 6 players, with only one having any prior experience with Chain of Command
As an aside, I love teaching Chain to new players. There’s something cool about seeing people grasping the rules as they play, seeing the light come on, and seeing them really start to take charge. I usually start by laying out a couple of options (and the ramifications of those options) and letting the players decide what they want to do, but it usually doesn’t take long before they’re off and running on their own. This game was no different, and I feel like by the end of it the players on both sides were working well together to advance on their objectives.
Unfortunately for the Americans, a lucky hit from an Italian Cannone da 47/32 anti-tank gun brewed up their lead Sherman in a fiery explosion, leading to a loss of 4 points of Force Morale in a single go. We all collectively decided that the relatively inexperienced Americans blamed the explosion on the German Pz IV that they had misidentified as a “Tiger Tank,” leading to panic spreading among the men. That’s a great thing about Chain of Command – and Too Fat Lardies games in general – they do a great job of giving you a narrative to go along with your game.
For the second session, I switched gears and went with a North Africa scenario. I have written previously about asymmetric scenarios, and this one is a doozie. I originally wrote it as part of a “pint-sized campaign” that published in the 2019 Lard Annual. That series of linked battles deals with the 15th Panzer Division’s headlong crush through the 5th South African Infantry Brigade during Operation Crusader, a single day engagement that happened to fall on the Lutheran calendar’s day of remembrance for the dead – Totensonntag. It sees a South African force comprised almost entirely of infantry trying to hold out against a German force comprised almost entirely of tanks. But each side’s objectives are complicated by the presence of support vehicles (which the South Africans are trying to evacuate and the Germans are trying to capture).
The scenario I ran at FlintCon was the opening battle of that mini-campaign, and it’s a ton of fun to run because the set-up is unique and different every time. You see, the terrain over which the battle took place is ridiculously flat, open desert where the bedrock is as little as 9 inches below the surface. But all of the accounts of the battle talk about how confused and chaotic it was due to all of the smoke and dust churned up by moving (or burning) vehicles. Representing this on the tabletop is a hoot, and leads to a really interesting scenario because the “terrain” changes as the game goes on. It’s also easy to set up, which is important because I also needed to scarf down some pizza between sessions!
I was stoked when mugginns decided to jump in and play, and he did a stalwart job on the South African side. Particularly, he took control of the single 2-lb anti-tank gun that the allied force had available to them and made a couple of key shots. This was another case where a little bit of hand-holding of new players up-front was followed by people really getting into the nitty-gritty, with the South African team using some pretty nuanced order-of-operation play to do some pretty devious (and effective!) stuff with their 2″ mortar. Likewise, the German team used the radio-control rules to the fullest and by the end of the game were taking full advantage of the “terrain” rules to move their tanks to create dust plumes to obscure their more vulnerable transport vehicle. The end of the game was a nail-biter, with the Germans using an interrupt to blast the South African limbered 25-lb gun just before it drove off the table to safety. Even still, the final VP score was 4-3 in favor of the South Africans (who also ended up with a slight Force Morale edge of 5-3), a narrow victory for the Allies!
I had originally planned to leave my evening session open and I was really looking forward to playing in mugginns‘ ACW ironclads game. Alas, events conspired to prevent him from staying for the last session. Probably for the best, because I actually had to ditch out a little early too! So instead, I sat in as a spectator/kibbitzer/trouble-maker on a Star Wars Legion game. I have friends that play Legion but had never played it myself. The gentleman running the game did a great job explaining how the game worked, how to decipher all of the various arcane symbols on the unit cards, how activation and command-and-control were handled, and a bunch of nuances of what leaders can do.
My historicals and Infinity back-logs are already things of shame, I don’t need to add another game to that! This is doubly true because at some point during the day, mugginns convinced me to buy a big box full of Senegalese Tirailleurs and French tanks from him! I suspect sorcery was involved. But god damn if Legion doesn’t have loads of elements I like (C&C difficulties, unit morale in the form of suppression, extremely easy and effective movement rules, etc) and also looks super cool on the table. I must resist! Unfortunately, I suspect that at some point my resistance will go the way of Alderaan beneath the Death Star.
Mugginns: I had a great time and my love for historical games was thoroughly rejuvenated. I’m running events at AdeptiCon and I’m super excited to throw down my ACW guys and also try to get into some Chain of Command. I’m also looking hard at writing a list for my Slovak troops for CoC.
I did purchase a few items at the Flea Market that I couldn’t pass up. Always have to enlarge my Osprey shelf if possible so I was glad to pick up that book for $3, and these Thoroughbred Ironclads are masterpiece minis at a great price.
Ilor: Yeah, I bought stuff I couldn’t pass up at the Flea Market too <shakes fist at mugginns>
I too had a great time, and it was nice to catch up with people I only get to see once or twice a year, some of whom I had not seen since the before-times. I’m already thinking about new scenarios to run for next year’s convention! Events like these are great because you get to connect with a community that shares your passion for history and wargaming. A massive shout out to Rod and crew for putting this event together, their work is greatly appreciated and I thought the event was a huge success!
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