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Subject: I was walking through Historicon when . . . rss

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Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
Pennsylvania
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I was walking through the HMGS Historicon miniature wargaming convention dealer area in my usual state of bliss (picture an area the size of a tennis barn--in fact, it is a tennis barn--completely filled with dealers offering lead figures, painted and unpainted, terrain, rules, reference books, maps, miniature buildings, paint, brushes, boardgames, and just about anything else you can imagine for wargamers).

As I ambled, a tiny miniature scene caught my eye and I stopped to look at a pristine green-flocked board, 3 by 2 feet, covered with little contoured hills, woods, a tiny walled farm reminiscent of La Haye Sainte, tiny stone wall sections, a hedge, and in the middle of it all, some very small Napoleonic soldiers standing proudly in lines and columns--infantry, cavalry, a couple of guns and a general, all based and ready to go.

I nodded at the pleasant lady behind the table and complimented her on the pretty scene, figuring it was some sort of vendor's display and not looking too closely at the figures.

After orbiting the dealer area for another hour, I found myself back at the miniature battlefield where I overheard a browser in conversation with a man behind the counter who turned out to be Gunner Bearden, USCG, Retired. As I shamelessly eavesdropped (this happens all the time at cons, where we all try to pick up every shred of information we can), I learned that contrary to my initial impression, the tiny battlefield was not a convention display, but a product: La Petit Armee, a complete Napoleonic system ready to play out of the box.

The sum of "$80.00" got my attention and I did a double take--this couldn't be the price, I thought. I was right: one painted, based, flocked army (choose from Austrians, Russians, Prussians, or Anglo-Portuguese, and their opponent of course, the French) cost (at that time) $80.

That's when I looked more closely at the figures and realized, with a start, what they were: several sprues' worth of plastic RISK figures done up in historical colors and organized into units. Amazingly enough, with flock and tiny 10mm scale Signifer flags, they looked darned good. Considering what painted figures go for at these cons, $80 wasn't a bad price.

The total package, flocked masonite panels totaling six square feet for the board, six hills, two forests, two villages (different buildings in each), two different farms, planted fields, walls, hedges, a bridge, felt strips for roads, streams and rivers, rules, markers, rulers, dice, casualty caps and an ingenious storage system to hold it all, was going for $250.

I smiled a polite regretful smile and strolled on. Then I began to talk to myself. "You've got a huge backlog of unpainted lead waiting for you." "You haven't even begun acquisition of Napoleonics yet." "You wanted to teach the kids Napoleonics, and your oldest is starting college. By the time you get Napoleonics painted, they'll all be grown, gone, and probably married, and you'll never game with 'em again."

Then and there, I'll be danged if my eyes didn't start welling up and for the next ten minutes I just stood in a corner thinking, MY KIDS WILL SOON BE GROWN AND GONE. I felt like an idiot and quickly prepared my "allergy defense" if anyone asked what was the matter with me.

After recovering my aplomb, my mind began presenting splendid rationalizations for the purchase of a LPA set: "It's really a pretty good value." "The rules look like a good playable system." "The stuff looks really nice." "You could use the terrain for other periods." "You can get one to start, and paint your own RISK figures to expand the army for cheap." "YOU CAN PLAY IT WITH THE KIDS BEFORE THEY'RE ALL GONE."

I had been very cautious with my spending wad for the con, and it started smoking in my pocket. Off I went for a closer look at LPA. After a little more study and some Q&A with Gunner, I said: "Okay. I'll take one."

And Gunner said: "I just sold my last set, except for the display, and I'll be using it for a demo all weekend."

So I ordered one, Anglo-Portuguese and, of course, French. Along with an extra board set to double the field size from 3 x 2 to 4 x 3 feet. At my request, Gunner provided the rule set in advance so I could learn the system. Over the next few months, until my set was painted and delivered, I used Lego blocks for troop stands and had a high old time on the living room carpet.

Eventually, megalomania took hold and I ordered a second set, this time with some custom units (like Lancers) and another double board set. Although the starter provides a nice number of troops, the 3 x 2 board does not provide much depth for shaken units to retreat before they disappear nor for the employment of reserves or hidden units, so a larger board area allows the system to truly shine.

The cost has risen since that glorious debut, but LPA proved to be a good investment offering in return many hours of fun and a great introduction to miniatures for new players, both kids and adults.

Plus, it prompted me to appreciate more fully the last couple years having the kids at home. Priceless.
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David Schubert
United States
Port Republic
Virginia
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Great story. It mirrors my experience too - walked thru the dealers' area at historicon, stumbled upon LPA booth. Debated the purchase. Glad I made the purchase.
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Team Ski
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Dover
Delaware
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I really liked the game when I saw it, but $365 was a bit steep for me. The game is absolutely beautiful though. Maybe next year.....

....Or if they sold a kit version of the game....

-Ski
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