If you’ve never been to a gaming convention, I highly recommend trying it at least once. Though, after you go once, you’ll probably want to go again. If you live on or near the West Coast, then you should definitely check out GenCon SoCal. It is a great convention that is steadily growing each year. At the convention you can expect to be playing games from early morning to late at night. This year both Axis & Allies boardgame and miniatures tournaments were available to play. There are plenty of other games to play for fun, in tournaments, or discover for the first time. The exhibit area gives you a chance to get those dice from Chessex without having to pay the shipping or check out and demo the latest games. You hould even expect to come home with some free stuff, whether it is a prize from a tournament or a giveaway from the exhibits.

Last year, 2005, I went to GenCon SoCal for David, Roland, and Barry at GenCon SoCal A&A Revised Finals: I'm wearing the gray t-shirt.Roland (standing), Barry (left), and me (left) at GenCon SoCal A&A Revised Finalsthe first time and had a great time playing in the Axis & Allies miniatures tournaments. Consequently, I had won the 100 point constructed tournament. A case of miniatures was great but I was still disappointed that no Axis & Allies boardgame tournaments were being held. This year, 2006, that was changed and I found myself frantically switching between playing miniatures and boardgames.

Greg Smorey, who is known for organizing A&A tournaments at GenCon Indy came out for GenCon SoCal and did a great job with the tournaments. Greg is a great guy and an excellent A&A tournament organizer and A&A judge.

For me, one of the highlights was the opportunity to play Axis & Allies Battle of the Bulge the night before it was released and in a tournament on the day it was released. I made it to the finals and after a very close game, I came in second. Afterwards, however, each participant in the tournament received a free copy of the game.

Big Rollout Axis & Allies MapBig Rollout Axis & Allies Map

The following day, myself and a close friend of mine, Roland, who introduced me to A&A nearly 15 years ago, played in the A&A Revised tournament. First, I’ll have to apologize to our opponent in the first round. We had very very good dice rolls and his rolls were not so good. If it were a home game, we would have started over after the first round. Instead, the game was over before the end of round 2. The next game I left to play A&A miniatures while Roland handily won against his opponent. I finished losing my miniatures match in time to help, more like watch, in the last rounds of the game. Roland and I (more like Roland) made it to the final round but we were outclassed by the mad skills of Barry Dano. Maybe next year Barry.

On the very last day, I played in and won, Barry, the winner (left) and Roland my teammate (right) in the finalsBarry, the winner (left) and Roland my teammate (right) in the finalsthe A&A miniatures 80pt. sealed booster tournament. I had a good draw with a DD Sherman and a VC Firefly, a hero, and a paratrooper. This lethal combination of units managed to take out even the Veteran Tiger.

During the rest of the hours of the convention, I spent my time playing a play by mail Forgotten Realms game and in the Axis & Allies Miniatures League. The League is a great way to get in a lot of games, get a bunch of pieces for prizes, and also daily and overall prizes. The way it works is that you receive 2 boosters and throughout the convention you find other A&A Minis League players and play a match against them. When you finish, you report the results and roll a d20 to determine your prize (the winner rolls twice and chooses between the two numbers). The prize is a single miniature unit which you keep and can add to your collection of pieces that you are allowed to play with for the League. So if you start with some mediocre pieces, you can improve your amry by playing more games. At the end of the day, there are prizes (boosters) for the daily winner and at the end of the convention there is an overall winner. It’s a great way to play even if you already have too many pieces.

At the end of the convention I was exhausted but I had a most excellent time. It was great meeting everyone who I talked to and played against at the convention. If you would like to see some more pictures of the event check out Greg’s GenCon SoCal page .