Robert Tokarz, the fan who won the chance to join us at the Press Conference during Historicon in Fredericksburg, sent us his impressions of this experience. We want to share with you all this.
"On June 19 Matrix announced on their Facebook page that they would host their annual press conference at Historicon. In this announcement they offered a competition to the fans with the prize being a flight, accommodations, access to the press conference, pass to Historicon and a seat at the annual gala dinner. Having been to a couple of Historicon's when it was held in Valley Forge, PA and being a huge fan of Matrix games it was easy to click "like", the only thing required to enter the competition.
As with most competitions I enter, I quickly forgot because I never win these things. I was shocked to get the e-mail stating I had won. So excited was I that I quickly ran back to my computer and opened Facebook to remember exactly what it was I had won. It then became a very long two week waiting period for the day to come.
Since I live in Trenton, New Jersey, it was far more convenient for me to just hop on an Amtrak train down to Fredericksburg, Virginia. They happily accommodated me by placing me on a 4:03 am train. Of course I didn't care, all I could think about was all the amazing people I would be meeting. Gary Grigsby, Joel Billings (both iconic creators of the monster games War in the Pacific and War in the East), Mark Walker (Lock n' Load games), Mike Mykytyn (Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations) and Dr. Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the Moon), plus a first look at some of the new games in production.
I was met at the train station by one of the staff of the Matrix/Slitherine team (Filippo) and taken to the hotel where I began to meet the crew. Everyone was extremely friendly and made me feel like I was also one of the team. After checking in we had a little breakfast where I met one of the press members (Brian Rubin) where we had a great discussion on gaming and life in general.
While waiting for the festivities to kick off I got a chance to sit down with the Wargamer to have a great discussion on gaming and what influences people to play wargames. It was an enlightening discussion and made me realize some things, including American biases in wargaming. I concluded that it can't be helped; we are a product of our school systems and media.
Finally it was time for the big event, and this is an understatement. I really had no idea what to expect. It started with a nice lunch with everyone grouped together. I was able to meet the current designer of the Close Combat series, Steve McClaire, and discuss his history with the game series.
I was also sitting with Brian Rubin from Space Game Junkie website and podcast. I have forever longingly eyed Distant Worlds and we were able to talk in depth on this game and he helped tip me over the edge and dive into this great 4x space game, yeah I bought it.
After lunch we all moved up to the conference room for the press event. After introductions and a word on the current state of Matrix/Slitherine games I was brought up before everyone and given a seal featuring King Edward III with the signature of everyone at Matrix/Slitherine on the back. I was completely surprised at this and very honored by this gift. One day it will hang in my game room, once I gain it back from my beautiful 5 yr old daughter.
Then the parade of games began. Germany at War, the iOS blitz of war games, bought a new generation I-pad in preparation for this, Field of Glory, Battle Academy 2, Panzer Corps, Commander: the Great War, Gary Grigsby: World at War and Warhammer 40K Armgeddon just to name a few. I have the majority of these games for the PC already and I am looking forward to being able to take them with me on the IPad.
Discussions then led to individual PC releases. First up was Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager. Although Buzz was not able to attend the conference, it didn't completely take away from the presentation of the game. Buzz had made 2 videos that were shown, and it's apparent that he has taken a great interest in making sure that this will be a great game. I'm not yet sure that this may necessarily be my "cup of tea" but I can say a lot of love has been poured into this, and if simulations are your thing...be very excited.
Next up was the Fury Software presentation of Strategic Command 3. This is still very early in its development but once again I was able to sense a strong amount of excitement from the developer, Huber Cater. It really appears that they have taken a lot of the players requests to heart and are hoping to include significant changes to an already great series.
Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations was presented next. If you happen to be a technogeek, like myself, prepare yourself for a game that is just oozing data and statistics. I could be wrong, but it appears that a database is stored in this game straight from IHS Jane's 360. Harpoon fans will rejoice I am sure. This game just looks great. Being a former Navy guy myself I'm very excited about the release of this project. The following day I had the opportunity to talk to Mike about this game in more detail. It once again was very obvious how passionate he is about this game. Being a former sub hunter he assured me that there was going to be plenty of this in the game.
Western Civilization presented Brother against Brother next. I was completely knocked out of my chair with this one. It looks fantastic. The detail in this game is phenomenal. The wargaming community is definitely short on turn based tactical Civil War computer games and I really believe that this will be a big step in providing that for us. One of the exciting aspects in the game is that the individual leader will have varying combat values. Since they plan on making several battles, when we talked the next day I asked if these values would change for the leaders depending on which particular battle was being presented and I was told "yes", which I was happy to hear.
We were then presented with what's next for the Close Combat series. Once again a very nice looking game. One detail that I find particularly exciting was that the first game using the 3D engine would follow the 1st Division from Tunisia to Sicily and then Normandy. I really like this idea. I hope that they do this for other great divisions in later games in this series.
Last, but certainly not least, Norb Software presented Scourge of War and the next steps for this series. The one point that I took away from this is they understand the need to make a more user friendly interface and figure out some way to lessen the steep learning curve for this game. This is a game I continually eye and one day I'm sure I will finally take the plunge.
We all broke up and met down in the bar for a little cocktail hour before the dinner. What a fantastic time that was. I was able to speak off line with Norb for a bit about Scourge of War and then I had an in depth discussion with Philippe Thibault about the AGE engine. I have every game he has released with this engine and it was a great honor to spend so much time with him. What a great down to earth guy. We talked about many different topics both at this event and the following day. I asked if he thought the current engine could be used for a World War 2 game and he thought that it would but was not very interested in diving into that territory due to the large abundance of games dealing with this topic. He then asked me what era I might be interested in and after mentioning the 30 years war he completely agreed. So who knows, maybe that's up next after Civil War 2.
Dinner was absolutely fabulous. There was a Civil War re-enactor that was fantastic. He was very deep into character and a lot of fun to watch. He was so knowledgeable about so many different things of that era and presented those facts in a very entertaining way. The dinner was followed up with a Civil War trivia quiz where I learned that I don't know nearly as much as I thought I did about the Civil War. By the end of the dinner, I was exhausted and back to my room to sleep off the day's events and prepare for the next day.
As if all that was not enough, the next day would prove to be even more spectacular. After a wonderful "American" breakfast we all hopped in a minibus and were off to the convention center. We were then treated to even more new games.
It started off with a presentation of Pandora: First Contact. This game had not been on my radar until this presentation. This game looks stunning. I cannot wait for this to come out. If you like Civ, which is what it reminds me a lot of, you will probably like this game. You can design your own units, there are satellite scans to help defeat fog of war, drop units into distant areas, employ EMP pulses, nuclear weapons and multiplayer will be an option. I'm very excited about this game.
Next up was Gary Grigsby and Joel Billings, another pair of people I was honored to have met. They presented War in the West and talked a little about their next steps. I have all of their games as well and look forward to this release as well as their next steps which include West 1940, West Mediterranean 41-43, War in Europe and a return to tactical World War 2, ala Steel Panthers. I must say I was very excited about that and hope they make the tactical game sooner rather than later.
Mark Walker then presented Heroes of Stalingrad. I'd like to mention here how funny Mark is. His presentation was very entertaining, not just for the gaming portions. Once again I'm faced with another day 1 purchase. I have not had the chance to play any of his board games yet, but I do have them on my 'to do' list.
Finally, Philippe was up to present Civil War 2. I hadn't thought making a second game would really be worth it because I enjoy Civil War so much. I could not have been more wrong. There are a great number of additions that will make this an even better game.
That was all for the presentations. I did get a chance to speak to Gary and Joel one on one for a bit which was really nice. They were even kind enough to sign my War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition game manual. I then hung out at the Matrix booth and "pretended" to work for them.
I also was able to sit down with Erik Rutins for some lunch and just chat about ourselves, Matrix, and gaming. He asked for my opinions on things and what I would love to see in a game. It was a great time. It was everything I had hoped for and more. They all made me feel so welcome, and I felt like I made a lot of new friends over those two days.
Once again thanks to Matrix Games, you all made this a wonderful experience and I hope that all of your fans get a chance to have the opportunity that I had.
A Fan for Life,
Rob and JD