Monday, April 2, 2012

2012 Pour l' Merite Award Goes To Der Alte Fritz

Jeff K. won the 2011 Seven Years' War Association Pour l' Merite Award for his outstanding naval presentation. The winner is given the duty to select the next winner. Here are Jeff's remarks and his choice for 2012.

To the Association:

First of all , allow me to express my thanks to all those who contributed time and effort to make this year's convention so excellent, especially director Randy Frye. This weekend is always one of the highlights of my year, and I am already looking forward to the 2013 convention with joyful anticipation.

It has been traditional for the gamemaster(s) who are chosen for the Mitchell Cup to have the honor (and responsibility) of selecting the winner for the succeeding year. There was apparently some confusion at this year's convention, and the presentation was never properly made. I have been informed by our esteemed convention director that I may render my decision in this forum.

Over the course of forty-plus years of playing, designing, and presenting games, I have given the art of gamemastering much consideration (probably much more than I should have, given that it is just a leisure pastime). It seems to me that there are several elements which must coincide and reinforce each other in order for the presentation of a miniature wargame to become a memorable aesthetic experience for the participants and the observers.

1. The Miniatures. Several aspects . . . the design and sculpting of the figures, the paint work, and the arrangement and decoration of the bases . . . must vividly depict the military forces of the given nation and era.

2.  The Terrain. The selection of the terrain elements should evoke the specific time and geographic locale, and be crafted into a convincing stage on which the game's narrative can be played out.

3. The Rules and Scenario. These must provide the opportunity for the players to make decisions and enjoy (or suffer) the consequences of those decisions. The mechanics should facilitate play without burdening the players, and the scenario should provide enough historical background to allow them to become engrossed in the situation being portrayed.

4. The Gamemaster. This is key. He must guide the events without dominating them, maintain the flow of the game, and allow his good humour and love of the game and the historical period to infect his players.

The selection of games this year was outstanding, even for a gathering like this where the bar is set very high, and all of them achieved success in these areas, to varying degrees; some of them brilliantly so. Who could fail to be impressed by the finely crafted scenarios of Dean West, the enthusiasm of Chris Engle's Matrix gamers, the spectacle of Bill Protz's big battalions, the exotic and colorful East Indian clashes of Jurgen Olk, or Mike Harris' stunning terrain?

Occasionally, an event "hits on all cylinders", so to speak, and achieves a level of artistry and memorability that makes them stand out even among such distinguished presentations. This year, for me, that event was the "Sons of Liberty" game run by Jim Purky.

Closing Remarks From Bill P.
Congratulations Jim! As a player in the game I certainly observed all Jeff mentions. Let me add my personal observation that all players had a good time and by this I especially mean enjoying the beautiful ensemble of miniatures, terrain and rules accentuated by happy smiles and a lot of companionable fun. I especially remember the good natured laughing and fun that occurred when Curt B., one of the American players, cheerfully decided to escape with barnyard animals and later return to reclaim a lost cannon. Jim, you naturally thought this was good fun. Everyone did. I still smile about it all.

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