BADcon – a story of a wargames competition

imageBadcon, held in February of every year, is widely regarded (or so our guests tell us anyway!) as one of the friendliest competitions in the competition calendar. It could be our powers of organisation, it could be us seizing the zeitgeist in terms of the current rules systems or it could just be the appeal of the Burton beer. Regardless, Badcon certainly punches above its weight in terms of its popularity.

The competition dates back to the mid-1990s. Inspired by similar competitions in Derby, Reading, Devizes but most of all Usk, the BAD Wargamers decided to host its own, with a distinctly Ancients theme.

The inaugural year for Badcon was 1996. Held in the Riverside Leisure Centre, in Burton’s attractive floodplains, the competition initially drew 36 teams, and used a sole set of rules, i.e. De Bellus Multitudinous. DBM, as it was affectionately known, was the premier Ancients set of its day, having grown out of the mini-De Bellus Antiquitas (DBA), which itself evolved from the much-maligned WRG 7th Edition Ancients rules. Teams were in pairs, a format that followed the Godendag (Usk) model.

From those small acorns, the Badcon competition grew. In 1998, a new venue was sought; initially this was to have been the Bass Sports & Social Club, but having let the club down at the 11th hour, an alternative venue (in the shape of the prestigious Burton Guild Hall) was found. Awareness of the competition had grown rapidly, because in its third year, there were already 60 teams competing.

In 1999, the venue changed again, this time to Burton’s Victorian Gothic Town Hall, where it has remained ever since. Badcon continued to grow in popularity as one of the UK’s premier DBM competitions, with a peak of 80 teams in 2002. Although it never quite reached those dizzy heights again, it was still exceptionally popular, averaging 55-70 teams a year.

Another important change took place in 2008, with Badcon no longer specialising purely in DBM. In that year it was joined by a new set called Field of Glory (FOG) and (cover your ears, wargames purists) Warhammer 40K. The split in the number of teams in 2008 was: DBM 30 teams; FOG 18 teams; 40K 6 teams.

The competition in 2008 was the last time DBM held prominence. In 2009, the unruly cuckoo in the nest that was FOG drew 46 teams, compared with 12 for DBM (and yes, 40K was dropped). Ever since 2009, FOG has been the dominant competition at Badcon. In 2011, there were just 4 DBM teams, with the appeal of that system further eroded by DBMM (which attracted 10 teams, still well below the FOG numbers of 50 teams).

DBM was dropped the following year, but Badcon was still home to three competitions: FOG, DBMM and yet another new set, FOG Renaissance (FOGR). The split in teams in 2012 was FOG 42, DBMM 10 and FOGR 12. 2012 also saw a new innovation, with our friends from the Alumwell club being invited to put on their own mini-Flames of War competition, initially drawing 11 teams.

A scene from Badcon 2014...Early Navarrese face their Medieval descendants.
A scene from Badcon 2014…Early Navarrese face their Medieval descendants.

Which brings us to 2014, the 19th time Badcon has been held. This year, FOG still ruled the roost with 28 teams entering; followed by FOGR with 18 teams, DBMM with 12 teams and Alumwell’s Wild West competition with 8 entrants. Long may the show continue.

A few worthy factoids:

  • Not content with prizes just for 1ts, 2nd and 3rd, Badcon is renowned for offering a whole host of prizes: the team with Best Sportsmanship; Best Painted Team; Best painted Baggage; and the coveted Booby prize;
  • Burton players rarely do well in their own competition. Naturally this is because we are so sportsmanlike and it would be unseemly to do well in our own competition;
  • The sprint to Spirit Games during the Saturday lunch break has become something of a tradition.

And yes, we still have the best beer of any competition…



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