GaryCon is an absolutely awesome convention, and it captures the spirit of the 1970s GenCon the way nothing else has for me since. It’s not just that it’s a small gaming convention, but that the same judge will run D&D and a historical miniatures battle at different times during the convention. In fact, most of the gaming I’ve done at GaryCon has been historical miniatures.
I wanted to get to GaryCon Wednesday, so I left Huron, SD on Tuesday and stayed in the Twin Cities. Wednesday I headed down with my friend Todd, who I met through his Star Wars d20 game a few years back. On the way through Wisconsin we stopped and picked up Bill Hoyt. Bill was one of Dave Arneson’s original BLACKMOOR players, one of Prof. M.A.R. (Phil) Barkers’ original “Empire of the Petal Throne” players, and a long-time historical wargamer on the Twin Cities scene. I hadn’t seen Bill in a dog’s age, and it was great to have the several-hour drive to Lake Geneva to catch up.
It also allowed me to double check something I suspected but was not sure of: There was NO “Raise Dead” or “Resurrection” in BLACKMOOR. If your character died, they were DEAD.
We got in a bit before six into Lake Geneva and checked in. The resort is a nice place, the staff is friendly, and the gaming spaces are great. Also, this year the resort added some salads to the menu, for which I was EXTREMELY grateful. The resort does a wonderful job of serving gamers… they even come to your game table and take food and drink orders, and deliver them while you play! That made the salads doubly welcome; I’m as fond of greezy meat* as the next gamer, but at my age, after three or four days I’d kill for some roughage.
*a Larry Elmore-ism from his “Snarfquest” comic
I met a ton of people I’d only met online, caught up with people I hadn’t seen in too long, and in general had a whale of a good time socializing when I wasn’t gaming. And after a year of telling people “I’ll let you buy me a beer at GaryCon” they all caught up to me on Wednesday night. I lost count at six pints, but I know I had more. (REAL pints, that is, not those silly 16 ounce things used in America.)
My first scheduled event was reffing “Battle on the Ice,” a historical CHAINMAIL battle. I’ll discuss that more later, but right now it’s the venue I want to talk about.
Somehow, Paul Stormberg arranged to have miniatures gaming at a sand table at Gary’s old house in Lake Geneva. I got there early just to look around. Now, by the time I met Gary, he’d started doing shoe repair, and the sand table was moved out of his basement and into Don Kaye’s garage.
Paul let me in by the outside basement entrance, labeled “Wargamer’s Room” in Gary’s handwriting. I’d never come in that way before. Once I stepped in, though, the sense of déjà vu, combined with the fact that I hadn’t remembered things 100% accurately, almost knocked me over. I’d never seen the sand table down there but Paul’s got a nice one… and the shelves full of figures reminded me so much of Don’s garage it hurt.
Then we wandered upstairs into the kitchen… and across the kitchen, past the dining room doorway to this little spare bedroom… the same room, 40 years ago, that Gary used as his “office.” THAT was a heavy emotional hit. I could see the room exactly as it was; there were the shelves on the wall, the day bed was over to the right, there was a chair by the window… Gary’s desk was right there, with the filing cabinets next to it.
I’m not ashamed to say that being there after all this time brought tears to my eyes. I can’t thank Paul enough for arranging all this, and I especially can’t thank the current owners of the house enough for letting us in… and for being AMAZINGLY hospitable! We weren’t just allowed in, we were treated like honored guests.
Next time, we’ll get into the actual games of GaryCon VI.