AvalonCon 95

(August 2nd-6th, Hunt Valley MD)

By Paul Barker

This was my second Avaloncon, this time tacked on to the end of my holiday in the North eastern United States. After a lot of driving and sightseeing Katrina was ready to read, shop and bask by the pool while I dipped in and out of the convention. As before Avaloncon is a large and intense gathering in a good Marriott near Baltimore and is organised by TAHGC who produce the American edition of Diplomacy. DIPCON XXVIII was one of the featured events. There seemed to be about seven or so boards in each of the three rounds, but I wasn’t counting! Colonial Diplomacy had also acquired a fairly strong following, although Fred Davis was pretty scathing about this variant as he pointed out some glitches to me that he disagreed with over the heads of a group of players. As before I found other things to do than play Diplomacy (something I shall have to remedy one day… but there are so many other things to do), but did find time to talk to some of the organisers about DIPCON. I think that I remember one of them saying that agreed draws were only acceptable if they were between four or fewer players. Play seemed pretty intense. 

I entered the We The People tournament again, but came unstuck in the draw against Geoff Barnum who was my nemesis last time. My special pleading is that his Americans had the Declaration of Independence card in the first year, but to be honest the guy has an amazingly effective analytical approach and a particular way of stymying the British that I haven’t worked out an effective counter to. Check out this game if you haven’t already.  

I also tried out the Stonewall Jackson’s Way tournament to explore this system. My play was much better here, but I have learnt a couple of lessons about being the strength of flanking bonuses! It was interesting to see the designer Jo Balkoski move from being the object of veneration by his system’s followers to serving behind the sales counter. In a corner (a large corner) was a demonstration linking all four games in the series and covering a fair old whack of the Eastern Theatre. Thankfully the next one due is the Peninsular Campaign which will not be contiguous with these, thus campaign freaks won’t have to invest in arm extensions to place a counter in the middle of the maps, just a table tennis table or maybe a new house.  

Machiavelli players may be interested to know that Avalon Hill are bringing out the boardgame again. A demonstration was put on using a large map. Other recent games available at the convention included Richard Berg’s Geronimo and a Solitaire ASL offering. I have played the former, but not enough to feel really able to offer a verdict. The production of the latter is rather baffling to me and I can only wonder WHY? – but then ASL does have a large following – there were some 150 or so players in the ASL tournament. Berg also had another monster Gettysburg game on display (published by GMT, I think, but I cannot remember the name). It looked like it could take half a summer to play. 

The most interesting offerings were perhaps the current and forthcoming computer games. Advanced Civilization, Blackbeard, Beyond Squad Leader, 7th Fleet, WS&IM, Third Reich PC and D-Day: America Invades are on the horizon and half were there in pre-release form. Advanced Civilization is the boardgame realised for the computer (not an update of the Microprose game). It looked good. So to (with knobs on) did the Third Reich PC, which I spent some time trying out “blind”, but with just a vague recollection of the boardgame from long long ago to guide me. Both should be out on disc and CD-Rom before too long. So too should D-Day: America Invades which seems to an improved expansion of an older V for Victory game using developments made to that system in Operation Crusader and Stalingrad by Avalon Hill’s partners at Atomic. 

The most worrying aspect was confirmation that Monarch, TAHGC’s parent company, is in difficulty and is probably looking to sell a division. This obviously puts Avalon Hill’s future position in some doubt. Next year’s Avaloncon, however, is booked for July 31st – August 4th at the same venue (and there are heavy penalties to pay if the booking isn’t fulfilled), so hopefully its future is secure. 

If Avaloncon does run next year, you might want to give it a try. Murray Cowles knew that one other player from the UK was there, but that may well have been it. The general standards are very high and make ManorCon feel like a camping expedition: but then maybe I am growing too old for the “hall of residence experience”. Katrina was so taken by the restaurant fare that she would go back there even if the convention didn’t run. I shall let Stephen have any further information when it comes through.

Reprinted from Spring Offensive 37