My 15mm layout of the fight for Barlow’s Knoll at Gettysburg.
A year or so after I moved to Pennsylvania from the Ohio snowbelt, by myself I drove up to the Poconos to a village called Wind Gap to attend a gaming convention and to present a 15mm wargame of Day 1 Gettysburg assault by Jubal Early’s division and Doles’ Brigade on the Union XI Corps along Rock Creek.
It took much longer to drive there than expected due to massive road reconstruction and repairs, and I was tired by the time I arrived and not feeling well. The con was in a nice little, well-lit American Legion banquet hall, and there were plenty of cars in the parking lot. So far, so good, I thought as I opened the trunk of my new Chevy Malibu and began piling my boxes full of gaming items onto my cart. Halfway into the hall, one of the boxes slipped off the dolly and some of the contents broke. Not a good beginning, I mused.
I propped open the door and tugged my cart up and over the doorstep into the legion hall…
The entire banquet hall was filled with gaming tables, dealer tables, and assorted support efforts. This should be fun, I thought. I was warmly greeted and shown where my table was. My mood lightened as I began planning for a day of pleasant conversation and fellowship as we gamers rehashed the merits of Early as a commander and Barlow’s ill-advised isolated deployment.
As I inspected the damage to my dropped box of gaming materials, I noted that most were repairable. OK, I thought, let’s set this baby up. An hour later, the layout was done, and Bayard Wilkeson’s artillery and Barlow’s Division crowned what would later be known as Barlow’s Knoll (only in miniature of course). As the minutes counted down to game time, there were no gamers stopping by to kibbitz or to prepare to play. 10 minutes, then 15 minutes past game-time, it dawned on me belatedly to check the registration desk to see who had signed up for the game. Zip. Zilch, Nada. No one.
Being the only historical game at an all-fantasy convention (as I later learned as I walked around the hall admiring the orcs and dragons) meant that not a single person in the room cared about whether or not miniature John Gordon could sweep aside Barlow and Ames and take the hill, sweeping the tiny Yankee warriors into little Gettysburg. Oh sure, a few folks stopped by on occasion and complimented the layout, but none had the least knowledge of (or interest in) ACW gaming or Gettysburg history. The convention host was wonderful, however, and he took several nice photos of the layout and encouraged me to play in some of the fantasy games, but by now my stomach was on fire and my mood just as sour. I declined his gracious offer, packed up the troops, and hit the highway.
The trip back was again delayed by construction, and the orange barrels were becoming a nightmare. I finally pulled into my driveway some eight or nine hours after I left, having accomplished very little other than to see some nice scenery in the Poconos, eat a couple gas station hot dogs that I paid for in many ways as the day progressed, and burn through a tank of gasoline. At least I got to meet some nice people and in some small tiny way expose 100 or so fantasy gamers to a gaming genre that does not involve warlocks and wizards.
What was your worst gaming convention experience???