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Gamers gather to battle

The sound of dice hitting tables is muffled, but continuous.

Some of the game boards have elaborate landscapes, complete with fake waterways, period-accurate structures and foliage. Others are felt mats with strategically placed boxes or foam underneath to create hills.

On top, history is re-imagined—and created—with thousands of detailed miniature soldiers, cannons and battle cruisers.

Historicon, the annual historical miniature-wargaming convention, returned to the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center for its third year Thursday, and will continue through Sunday.

The four-day convention put on by the Historical Miniature Gamers Society had 1,600 people and 60 vendors preregister for the event, and at least 600 more visitors registrations within the event’s first day.

This year’s theme, “Big Wars, Little Soldiers,” not only pays homage to science fiction novelist H.G. Wells, but also celebrates the event’s 30th anniversary, said director Paul Delaney.

“This year’s theme is based on being close to the 100th anniversary of Wells’ ‘Little Wars,’ the first set of really published miniature-game rules” Delaney said, “He wrote the rules so he and his friends could play with their toy men.”

Most of the games at Historicon find their roots in notable battles from various conflicts, though there are fictional variants of real battles or fantastical versions involving the Wicked Witch of the West or spaceships.

Even if a game is based on real events, the outcome may not reflect history.

Peter Panzeri Jr., of Naples, Fla., said his passion for historical games and 30 years of service in the Army were what brought him to miniature gaming, but he had brought fantasy games sponsored by Miniature Building Authority to play with his 9-year-old son.

“It’s mostly a teaching tool, but now it’s fun,” Panzeri said. “It’s a great father–son thing to do.”

Panzeri said the hobby encouraged his son’s interest in history and math because of the real events that inspire scenarios and mathematical skills needed to successfully play.

“His math is now better than mine,” he said with a laugh.

Though most of the society’s members are based in North America, conventions like Historicon bring in visitors—and games—from around the world.

Duncan Macfarlane, who traveled from England to present Wargames Illustrated magazine’s demo game, The Battle of Arklow 1798, said the hobby’s customizable nature makes it easy for beginners to jump in.

“The joys are not just in playing the game. If you like reading, there’s always a lot to read,” he said. “You get that gaming element from playing, and the model and crafting element from customizing your miniatures.”

The convention is frequented by regulars who have attended year after year—Panzeri has attended all but one, while Macfarlane has been to four. However, Delaney said the convention was enjoying more community support with each year.

“It’s a combination of settling down in Fredericksburg, and people being interested because we keep coming back,” he said.

According to figures from previous years, Delaney said the event had brought more than $1 million to the local economy.

Delaney said that miniature gaming’s viability as a teaching tool and family activity is a message he tries to convey.

“I’d really like people to realize,” Delaney said, “that there’s more to this than pushing toys around on a table.”

Dawnthea Price: 540/374-5403

dprice@freelancestar.com

Historicon 2014:

BIG WARS, LITTLE SOLDIERS

The convention continues through Sunday at the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center. One-day passes for Saturday are available at the door for $25; Sunday passes are $15.

Active, reserve or retired members of the military receive a discount rate of $15 with a valid military ID.

Nonplaying spouses and children 14 and younger have free admission.

For a complete list of prices, discounts and convention hours, visit hmgs.site-ym.com on the Web.

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