Adventurers on the High Seas: Academy Demo Day

This past weekend I had the opportunity to work alongside my friends to introduce Blood & Plunder to a new community. Longtime Firelock supporter Preston assembled a demo-day at local store ‘The Adventurer’s Academy’ in York, Pennsylvania for a few newcomers to the game. In a show of support, I rallied my regular Thursday gamers, and like a horde of grog-addled sailors with the 7-year-itch, we descended on the shop and started press-ganging recruiting anyone who showed so much as a passing interest in our assortment of terrain, sailors, and beautiful ships.

The Venue

The Pennsylvania-Maryland border is a hotbed for Firelock gaming. The region between the state capitols of Harrisburg and Annapolis is home to 3 prolific quartermasters (myself, Preston, and Glen of ‘Tales of the Sail’) and the HMGS conventions of Historicon, Fall-In, and Cold Wars. This region has hosted some of the largest Firelock tournaments anywhere – including several grueling ‘Iron Man’ challenges at the HMGS conventions, the ‘destination’ tournament at the Calvert Maritime, and the enormous ‘Plunder of Easter Island’ tournament at Critical Hit Games in Abingdon.

A shot of the gaming space, with the giant fireplace. This pic was taken shortly after lockdown ended; there’s no longer a mask requirement in the shop at this time – photo courtesy of The Adventurers’ Academy

With Abingdon being located about 20 minutes outside of Baltimore, the crew has often found itself searching for a more central location to game in. Somewhere in the York/Lancaster region of Pennsylvania. So when we stopped in to ‘The Adventurer’s Academy‘ and learned that they were interested in adding a historical game to their usual lineup of GW and WotC offerings, we jumped at the chance.

It certainly helps that the store is one of the most beautiful shops I’ve ever been in. And I don’t mean game stores – I mean shops. The entire interior is hardwood, including much of the shelving and all of the long gaming tables. No folding tables here! The walls maintain a tavern aesthetic, decorated with hand-drawn maps from the store’s massive D&D community. One wall of the gaming space is dominated by an artificial fireplace. The space is downright cozy, and always looks warm and inviting. They burn game-themed candles, and stock classy RPG accessories, like dice boxes from Wyrmwood. If B&P doesn’t do well here, I can almost guarantee that the upcoming ‘Under the Black Sail‘ pirate RPG from Firelock will be a smash hit.

The Demos

It’s no secret to folks in the area that demos are my favorite way to engage with B&P. I love to teach the game, and have gotten a system down that gets people in, and gets them rolling dice in less than 5 minutes, and usually has them running their own turns by the third hand of cards. Demos are meant to be quick and engaging. The first time that I demoed with B&P was actually at one of the HMGS events, where I hung out with the crew from The Phalanx Consortium in their booth for 2 days, and sold nearly everything they had brought in from Firelock.

We dominated the area at the front of the gaming space, with a huge crowd congregated around 4 ongoing demos

Being that we were at a game store, we had time to play out full length games. Usually we stopped around Turn 3 to ask if the players wanted to continue. It’s always awesome when they tell you that they want to finish out the battle. We had two newbies playing a small Bark-vs-Bark sea battle under Adam’s tutelage, while Preston demoed a small game on his beautiful 2×2 scenic board.

Nearly finished – still needs a resin pour over the water. This whole thing is magnetized – it packs away almost totally flat, with all the terrain in a single container. I wish I’d grabbed more photos.

I’ve got to give a huge shoutout to the Thursday night guys though. I invited them out just hoping that we would be there to be “butts in seats” and show that the game already has a healthy community. Instead, Ray and I gave up our seats to run a demo between a dad and some kids. Dan got one very quick game in, and then pit his poor Tartana against a youngster at the helm of Brad’s Fluyt. Like I said, we had 4 demos running, with almost a dozen new faces gathered around the tables either playing or watching.

This was supposed to be Stede Bonnet’s crew, before it was pressed into service for a demo. Rules like Motivated and Indomitable do not a good beginner list make. thanks Ray for the awesome photo of my Sloop

It was also fun to realize that one of the gentlemen we’d been in touch with about demoing the game, was an acquaintance from my local Renaissance Faire. He made the jump from patron to player, and is now employed on site, which means that all the garishly costumed people have become a blur – fat chance of him recognizing me out of kit. But I remember him best for his awesome portrayal of one Hector Barbosa, hanging around with Henry Morgan and generally adding to the mayhem of any good Faire.

The Future

Unfortunately, without product in the shop, we weren’t able to get minis into the hands of the fresh faces. I bought my usual run of paint and hobby supplies to support the store, since they have very thoughtfully resisted charging table fees (support your FLGS, people!)

Off camera there is another sea demo in progress, run by Dan from the Thursday crew. Ray is giving out some sagely wisdom to the new captain handling his Sloop.

Once the dust settled though, Preston and I were able to talk to the manager and learn that the store has been in contact with Firelock and is in the process of setting up an order. With any luck, they’ll have a few of the new plastic starters and kits on the shelves in near future. Until then, it’s our hope to keep a visible, thriving community in the area. The owner says that eight people is the target number for a game to start growing organically within a community – here in the region, we’ve got almost 20, with half of them being close locals, and not counting the new faces we demoed to on Sunday.

This sea battle went back and forth for most of our time-slot, pitting a gunboat Sloop against a heavy boarding list. more of Ray’s camera work here

It can be tough to get people out of their houses and gaming in public – especially after the pandemic. If you find yourself in the area though, please don’t hesitate to set up a game at ‘The Adventurers’ Academy’. It’s a great shop, with a great staff, great community, and we’re hoping to get them carrying a great game.

You can check out the Mid-Atlantic Firelock community on their facebook page HERE

You can find The Adventurer’s Academy facebook page HERE

Once again, I’d like to extend heartfelt thanks to the folks behind the amazing shop. Table space is always a premium, and they made sure there was room for us. The store regulars were all friendly, everything (and everyone) was clean and pleasant – it was a great experience. So, thank you guys & gals of ‘The Adventurers’ Academy’ for hosting us.

Photo courtesy of ‘The Adventurers’ Academy

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