On Saturday February 9th I attend a local game convention called FlintCon. I saw it mentioned a year or more ago on TMP, but kinda forgot about it until Fall In! while I was playing Triumph and met Larry and Brian, who are also from Michigan. They invited me to come play Triumph at FlintCon, and told me about the Facebook page for the con. I found the page and joined the group, and that kept it on my radar as the event organizer kept posts about games and GMs flowing. Since the con was about 90 minutes from my house and on a Saturday, it was perfect. Even better, my daughter had the day free and was able to join me! As I mentioned in my Fall In! 2018 post, she was supposed to attend that convention with me but due to school was unable. So we were both pretty excited. Her because she would get my undivided attention for a day, and me to share my love of gaming.
We got up pretty early on the appointed day, got ready and had a quick breakfast. We were both up too late the night before, so we were slow and quiet. Stepping outside, we were awoken to a very cold morning. It was zero or less, and a cold car got us shivering before it warmed up. We had a nice, uneventful drive and chatted about anything and everything. I shared some funny moments from previous cons, and we looked over the events for the day to pick our games. The con had three sessions, but I had to work that night, and she had homework to do, so we were only staying for two sessions.
Here was the day’s list of games:
2nd Session (2PM-6PM):
Darkest Africa with Gold Digger Jones – Glen Cooley
Battle of Hastings in 28mm Triumph! (Sponsored by The Washington Grand Company) –Brian Peruski
Napoleonic Battle in the Spanish Peninsula 28mm Black Powder (sponsored by Rider Hobby Shop) – Jon Carroll
Championship Formula Racing – Jack Beckman
Dawn Attack at Sharpsburg 1/72 (ACW 101 Tod’s New Rules!) – Tod Kershner
Isandlwana Zulu War using The Man Who Would Be King rules – Michael David Wedding
Mekong Delta Cambodia – Michael Harris
Flint and Feather – Michael Ovsenik
WWII Russian Front – John Thull
Vanguard Fantasy Skirmish (sponsored by Mantic Games) – Richard Hall
Dust (Demo Games) – Chris Kempf
Gunfighter’s Ball – 54mm Larry Campbell
WWI Trench Warfare – Ray Brammer
Age of Sigmar Monster Hunt (sponsored by Hobby Knockout Podcast) – Daniel Odoms / Matt Koltonow
The Battle of Kadesh 1274 BC – Chris Maes
3rd Session (7PM-11PM):
Blue Max – Rod Cain
Gutshot – Gary Kaluzny
Looking over the games, the ACW games stood out. Just that week my daughter had been complaining that they had started the American Civil War period in her Advanced Placement U.S. History class, but still hadn’t got to the actual war. She wanted to play an ACW game and since one was with the Fire & Fury rules we marked that one. There was also a Battle of Hastings game in 28mm for Triumph, and since I have the Triumph rules and minis to play it at home we decided to give that a try as well. There were lots of good options, and plenty of eras to try.
At this con you just sign up for the games you want at the start of the session. Lucky for us, the ACW game had two slots left when we got there. We signed in, and took a quick walk to look at all the stuff for sale. And boy, was there a lot. From boxes of OOP Games Workshop models, to painted 28mm pirate ships, to loads of books, I could have spent a fortune. Lucky or unlucky for me, it was time to game so I didn’t buy anything at first.
The game we played was the Battle of Perryville using the Brigade Fire & Fury rules. Lowell was the game master and brought his 2mm minis and a felt game map. The terrain was drawn on in colors with brown roads and ravines, blue rivers and streams, and green contour marks. Hills were created with another layer of felt. 2mm minis are TINY. Little strips of bumps. All laid out the map looked incredible. There were four entire corps on the map and it looked like a 3D map from an Osprey or other ACW book. There were long tweezers for removing casualties and moving the tiny colored markers used to mark First Fire, Disordered, Silenced Gun, Breakthrough, Spent and Worn. The brigades were on a heavy cloth that acted as move trays.
We ended up commanding on the Union side. From the pregame banter I sort of figured this whole group knew each other and played together regularly. We had two guys on our side that knew the rules and could help us along. Unfortunately I don’t remember the gentleman’s name that stayed the whole game (the other guy apparently got miffed at something or somebody and left). He was very nice, and even deferred to my daughter to do all of the dice rolling for the game. Thank you sir, that was very kind. We picked up the game fairly quickly. He walked us through determining maneuver and musketry and charges every time. The repeated “+1 for attached leader, -1 for green troops” or whatever each brigade had helped us figure it out. Unfortunately in this scenario, many of the Union troops sat out the battle or were green troops. The Confederates didn’t get all of their troops in either, but had far fewer green troops.
With so many troops to move and shoot and charge, I think we got in 3 turns over 3 hours. The Union left was stuck in pretty good, and with a little luck could have finished off the Rebels in front of them. Unfortunately the troops in the center were broken and fleeing. We had a cavalry unit chasing off the Rebel horse soldiers, and a whole corps watching the show…
Even though we ended losing by casualties, the game was a lot of fun. Seeing whole brigades maneuver and clash, pushing forward and falling back was great. I enjoyed the rules enough that I ran to an ATM after for cash to buy both Regimental and Brigade Fire & Fury from Lowell and to arrange to purchase the two scenario books at the next con.
After a quick lunch we jumped into the Battle of Hastings. The board was gorgeous, a long open field rolling up a rather steep hill boxed in by wooded areas at each end. The troops were all laid out and looked splendid. The Normans were split into three commands and the Saxon shield wall stretched along the crest of the hill. As we were the first, and for a bit the only, to sign up we had our choice of commands. We looked over the board from both sides, and while staring down the hill from the Saxon vantage point, my daughter said “Let’s take the Normans, that side will be harder.” Proud dad moment. Going for the challenge! What a girl!
She took the Norman center with William, I took the right flank with Eustice of Bologna, or Useless of Baloney as he became known. Another fellow showed up to play the left flank under Bishop Odo’s command. A son of either Larry or Brian took the Saxon right flank, and Larry commanded the other two Saxon commands. Brian acted as game master.
With that shield wall, and all those Dane axes up there, we wondered how we could pull this off. Charging in was sure to get our knights slaughtered. Brian gave us a hint to use our skirmishers and javelin cavalry to try and pull units out of the line to defeat piecemeal. My daughter and I did exactly that. Pushing our light troops up the hill, we made first contact. The left flank moved the skirmishers to outflank the entire Saxon line through the trees.
For several turns we would draw a couple units out of the line, only to have them retreat back into the shield wall. Then, it happened. Larry rolled ones on his command dice and left several units hanging out alone. Time to act! We charged the lone units with our knights and smashed a couple of the units. We did this a couple more times, but with two lines of troops, Larry was able to fill the gaps. We lost a coule stands, but killed off more Saxons. Then, Eustice was Useless and died… Without a commander, I was unable to get my troops into battle, and could barely keep my army on the board. But, my daughter kept pounding on the center, even killing Harald!
The Saxon right flank got into trouble by losing their commander also. They were slowly melting away to attrition and fighting a diminished Norman force. While that side was heavily stuck in, I was able to stall the left flank as they tried wrapping around to flank the center. And then the Saxon right failed, and melted away. We were up 3 commands to 2 and needed to break the center. Which, after one more round of close pressed combat, actually happened! My daughter broke the center and we pulled off a close victory. It was a brutal fight and four of six commanders died in the fighting. All in all it was a great game. Every time I play Triumph I like it more. It is simple to learn, but so complex to play. Thanks to Brian and Larry and the other players.
We had a fantastic day. We played two great games, had three hours to chat, and I picked up a few items of new shiny stuff. My haul for the day was a like new copy of How to Paint Citadel Miniatures, both Regimental and Brigade Fire and Fury rules, a 28mm StuG III G and Opel Blitz truck models for my son’s Bolt Action army. There was tons more I wanted to buy, but after my lack of control at Fall In! I tried to be good.
Thanks to Rod Cain and everyone who organized the event. Special thanks to Lowell and Brian for making my daughter’s first con a rousing success. If you have a small, local on near you, go check it out. You might be surprised at how great it is!
Willie and Georg stood at attention with another pair of soldats. Each private held his rifle level in front of him, ready for inspection. The duty sergeant stepped from soldat to soldat checking the cleanliness and condition of their weapons. The sea air was quick to cause rust to form, and the soldats were kept busy cleaning their rifles. Oberfeldwebel Brotz checked each rifle carefully before handing it back. Experienced and well-liked by the men, Brotz was a tough survivor of the savagery of the Eastern Front. Half his face bore white creasing scars, remnants of terrible burns. His left eye was milky, the pupil hidden behind more scarring. His good eye roamed over Willie, then over his rifle. Handing it back, Brotz finished the inspection and stepped in front of the little group.
“Shoulder,” he paused for the briefest of moments, “Arms!”
The four soldats twisted and elevated their rifles, bringing them to rest against their left shoulders.
“At ease.” He ordered, and added, “Come close my sons.”
The four soldats gathered in a semi-circle in front of Brotz. They looked at their sergeant with a seriousness he noticed.
“I know you have heard the rumors. They are not rumors. Someone, or something, has slain your comrades.” He looked each man in the eye, holding their gaze for a moment before he continued. “Fifth Kompanie took losses, yes, it is true. We are not Fifth Kompanie. You will do your duty for the Fatherland. And you will do it in a manner that will make our Fuhrer proud. We are German soldiers. We do not cower in barracks because our comrades die. No. We walk our patrols. And we guard our comrades. And we watch for sneaky Kommandos, and filthy French saboteurs, and whatever killed our brothers. Do your duty, my sons, and you will keep your honor. Report when your patrol is complete. That is all.”
The soldats headed off, towards the gate that led to the beach. Brotz watched them until they were out of sight. Four times tonight he had made the same speech. Three times the four soldiers had returned. He rubbed his temples and hoped these four would return safely as well. For all his bravery and experience, he had no advice for whatever was out there. Nothing to offer young soldats.
Walking to the commander’s office, he stepped in and sat with a sigh.
“Must we keep sending out patrols?”
“Yes, Oberfeldwebel. We must. I receive orders, and we obey. Those orders state we must keep up our patrols. We must be ready when the Allies come to take back France. If we cower in our camps and strong points, would we be German soldiers?”
“And what of the deaths? I’ve seen the wounds. No man did that. Something is out there. How can we fight what we don’t know?”
“The same way we fight what we do know Tomas, with rifle and bayonet.”
“And if that isn’t enough? What then?”
“Then God has damned us for this war, and Hell has come to take us all.” Oberleutnant Saller stood, and walked to the window. “And if that is true, no mortal weapon will protect us.” He looked back at Brotz, “But if Hell isn’t here, the British and Americans are surely coming. So we must continue our patrols. Keep sending them Oberfeldwebel. Do your duty to the Fatherland.”
Walking the short distance to the beach, Willie and Georg followed the other pair through the deep minefield protecting the forward strongpoint. When they reached the wet sand, Willie and Georg turned left, heading west when the other pair went east. They had three miles of sand and shingle to walk. Besides commando raiders, they weren’t even sure what they were supposed to look for. Would they really see an invasion fleet before anyone else? The observers were much higher on the bluffs using fine Zeiss optics. What about the massive radar arrays? And what about Goering’s flyboys? Surely a pilot thousands of feet in the sky could see further than two soldats trudging through loose wet sand.
Still they walked. It is an infantryman’s lot to walk. He went everywhere on his feet, even in garrison. Mile after mile they walked. Day after day. Several times a month their kompanie was assigned to the forward posts. They followed an ingrained pattern as they patrolled. Walk. Stop. Scan the channel with borrowed binoculars. Walk. If the tide was out they might check the many obstacles installed to discourage the Allies from coming to France. They checked some of the hundreds of mines attached to logs planted in the sand. They noted where the obstacles had been shifted by the endless tides. Every day the fatigue kompanie would be out here maintaining or adding to the obstacle belt. In some places the obstacles were impressive. Multiple belts of wood and steel. Various types of mines designed to kill men and machines. In other places the obstacles were sparse, or completely nonexistent. West of their patrol the beaches seemed more ready to accept vacationers than to stop any invasion. The scanned and checked and mapped.
But mostly they walked.
“What is that Willie?” George asked, pointing to a line of prints in the wet sand. The tracks seemed to go into the water and return. A double line from bluff to water’s edge. Entering the water and returning, or leaving the water and returning. Either way, the soldats unslung their rifles and worked the bolt to load a round. Looking about they scanned for threats, and found themselves alone.
“Look closer Willie” Georg hissed. “What type of shoes?”
Willie knelt to look closer, leaning as close as he could to see what was there in the fading light of the summer evening. He looked, but he couldn’t understand what he was looking at.
“Well?” German boots French shoes? What is it Willie?”
“Bare. I can see the toes plainly.”
“Who goes into the water with bare feet?”
“Who goes into the water at all, Georg?”
“It can’t be more than 6 or 7 degrees. No one would.”
“Should we follow the tracks?”
“Yes Willie, I think we should. Maybe it’s just some crazy Frenchman bathing in the Channel.”
“And no one has seen this before?”
“I guess not. Even better, maybe it is a French woman.” Georg smiled at his friend. “A pretty French woman.”
Willie shook his head. “And she is still walking around naked? You are an idiot Georg.” He laughed, and stood up.
He began to follow the tracks towards the high bluff that rose from the sand and shingle beach.
“Where are we?” Georg asked.
Looking up at the steep bluff, Willie shook his head. “I don’t know. Past Vierville.”
“What is atop this bluff, there isn’t a town past Vierville is there?”
“Not until Grandcamp, I don’t think. It is just farmland. Georg, how did someone climb the bluff?” Willie asked, craning his head to look up.
“Follow the tracks Willie and we can find out.”
Out of the sand, the tracks were lost. The shingle and stone made them impossible to follow. They picked their way through the difficult terrain until they stood at the base of the bluff, in a shallow fold that created a less steep ravine.
“It looks easier here,” Georg said, looking over the narrow gap.
“Just to see what is on top. So we know where we are. Old Brotz will want to know.”
Both soldats slung their rifles to free up both hands and started up the ravine. Less steep was just in comparison to the bluffs themselves. The climb was arduous; they were scrambling and grabbing at anything to pull themselves up. At times, they were on hands and knees, clinging to the ground.
Reaching the top they hauled themselves over the lip if the cliff face and lay in the tall grass gasping for breath.
“See anything?” Georg asked, without sitting up.
“I haven’t looked. I can’t even breathe yet” Willie replied.
“I see the sky. And some clouds. ”
Laughing led to coughing, and the two soldats laughed at themselves and the exertion of their climb.
“Next time talk me out of climbing anywhere, Willie, okay?”
“Next time you suggest a climb I’ll just punch you Georg.”
Sitting up, Georg looked around. The grasses at the edge of the bluff were higher than they could see over while sitting. Uneasily standing on tired legs, he looked over the grasses and across a field of wheat. A trail was etched through the green stalks. Faint, but clear. It led off into the distance, towards a far tree line or hedgerow.
“The sky is so peaceful Georg.” Willie said, climbing to his feet. “But we should figure this out and finish our patrol. I don’t want to be out here more than we have to.”
“Yes, Georg, I am. I am scared of French partisans. I’m scared of whatever killed those men. And the dogs. And whatever was in the church yard that night. Yes, Georg, I am scared. France hates us.”
Scanning the field and the distant trees in the failing light Georg walked a few meters along the trail. “We should see what lies beyond those trees.”
“If we follow this to the trees, it might be too dark to follow it back.”
“We need to find out. We have torches to light the trail.”
“I don’t know. Anything could be behind those trees. A farmhouse or village. A road. Who knows? And the torches? How long does yours last? 15 minutes?”
“I can’t really tell where we are. How can we report a trail ‘somewhere on the beach’?”
“We can’t. Either we follow the trail and find our way back from up here, or we go down to the beach and mark this spot to show someone tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow sounds good.”
“We should follow the trail.”
“What if it’s a trap? Or worse.”
“What if we find something? Something important.”
“Like what? A secret American base? There is nothing here. Please, Georg, let’s go!”
“We need to…”
“We need to go back. Georg, I don’t like this.” Willie interrupted.
“Just to the trees. Okay Willie? We will go to the trees then we will go back.”
“Just to the trees?”
“Just to the trees.”
“Fine. But if something happens, I’m shooting you Georg.”
“Suit yourself, but two rifles are better than one!” Georg laughed and started down the faint trail, the light fading and darkness growing.
Single file, the two soldats followed the trail. Halfway to the trees Georg looked back at his companion and asked “What is worse?”
“You said it might be a trap, or ‘worse’. What is worse that a trap in this place?”
“Beerwolf. Roggenmuhme. Nachtkrapp. I don’t know…”
Laughing Georg stopped and turned to face his friend. “Willie! Those are stories to scare children!”
“Are they Georg? Myths come from reality. And what was it that was in the churchyard that night? What was it? Are you saying that wasn’t real?”
“No. That was… I don’t know what that was. But Roggenmuhme? Fairy tales. Myths. Not real.” Georg turned and continued along the trail.
“A Nachzehrer could have killed those men.”
Georg didn’t look back. “A Nachzehrer? Think one came all the way from the Fatherland to kill Germans in France?”
“And there aren’t blood drinkers in France?”
“In their myths? Probably. For real? You are not serious, are you?”
“You don’t fear enough Georg.”
“And you are afraid of shadows Willie.”
Something near their feet crashed through the wheat, away from them. Both soldats jumped in surprise at the noise.
“As are you Georg,” Willie sighed, lowering his rifle.
Clamping his hand on his friend’s shoulder, Georg looked towards the trees. “You are a German soldier, Willie, not a nursery child. There are no beerwolves, or vampires, or other beasts that drink blood. You are a silly, superstitious fool. “
Georg started back along the trail. Occasionally a small creature would scurry away from them, rustling in the wheat. Each time the noise startled them. Even Georg was nervous and tense. Behind them, out over the Channel, the sun dropped below the horizon. The last light of day was almost gone.
Georg felt a distant dread creep into his chest. His confident pace slowed. That night in the churchyard was pure terror. This was similar, but somehow different. He shook his head and continued.
He went another twenty paces when a mist rose from the wheat. A thick, heavy fog hugged the ground and filled the field in a moment. With the sun gone from the sky the heat of the day fled. A chill flooded the area, a chill even Georg couldn’t deny.
“Let’s go Georg,” Willie urged, “we can report this to Brotz. He will know what to do.
The fog obscured the trees, shrouding the wheat and blurring the horizon. Clouds drifted in, hiding the first stars and the sliver of moon rising in the distance.
Looking towards the trees, Georg now felt that same dread they had felt in the churchyard. It was an ageless horror, atavistic and primal that belied description. Nightmares long forgotten surged into remembrance. Every second they spent in the churchyard flooded their minds. Hearts racing, neither could deny the supernatural.
Nameless horrors and forgotten fears surged to life. The stress of war, the church yard, and now this all conspired to break them down. No man could stand before darkness he couldn’t explain or fight.
Taking a step back, Georg turned to his friend. “Yes, we can’t see the trail now anyways, we should go.”
“I know. Let’s go my friend.”
An hour later Georg and Willie ended their patrol, trudging up a path through short grass. They passed an aged sign leaning at an angle away from the path. The lettering was faded and barely legible. Even without reading the sign, the meaning was clear. A skull and crossbones filled much of the board. Underneath were painted the words “Achtung! Minen!” A step off this narrow path could be deadly.
The pair walked slowly up the sandy path. Fatigue stole their desire to make small talk. Even the mystery of the bare feet in the sand and the trail across the field seemed less important as time passed. What stuck with them was the dread, the fear, the distant terror that seemed to be following them where ever they went. First the churchyard. Now the wheat field. But back in their platoon barracks the fear seemed distant and juvenile even.
“Go report to Brotz, Willie,” Georg said as they approached the top of the draw.
“What are you doing?”
“Going to bed.”
“No, we report together. Then you can sleep.”
“We can’t tell about the dread, about that…”
“I know Georg. No one would understand.”
“My heart turned to ice. I want to run and run.”
“Yes. That fear. It’s horrible. Like all the happiness in the world has gone. Everything is dark.”
Reaching the crest, they passed another pair of soldiers manning a machine gun nest.
Nodding to their comrades, they passed through another, larger minefield. White cloth marked the trail through this field, long strips staked into the ground across the belt. Stepping over a low tangle of wire they reentered the strong point. Heading to the command bunker they passed a mortar pit, three more soldiers lounging around their weapon. Tired and holding onto his rifle sling with both hands, Willie didn’t even wave. Georg lifted his hand, but stared straight ahead.
Ducking, they stepped down and entered a bunker, their long day nearly over.
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