Cold Wars: I made a conscious decision to break out gaming events I ran or played in from the rest of this Cold Wars narrative, because I’d rather have a series of small posts instead of one big long rambling stream of consciousness narrative that people would never read. So the last two days of posts have been “the games he played” and this post will wrap things up about the convention in general.
I visited COLD WARS 2010 on Wednesday last week. Cold Wars is the Spring convention of the hobby society I belong to, named HMGS East. HMGS East is a society founded with the goal of teaching history through the play of miniature wargames, and we put on three big conventions a year– HISTORICON, COLD WARS and FALL-IN! This Spring we added an unprecedented extra day on to the Cold Wars show, which I found hard to get used to for some reason. Our convention director was Mr. Frank Preziosi, a very capable and pleasant chap. He was seconded by his wife Michelle on registrar, Paul Trani on dealer-wrangling, Mr. Bob van der Kamp on events, and Mr. Dudley Garidel as Volunteer Staff Wallah. I was volunteering for this Cold Wars, and got assigned to work on the events board and Gamemaster support issues, which is easy duty compared to the registration area. In the years since I ‘retired’ from running Cold Wars, I have worked staff on events desk, and I find I like doing this job– you get to meet virtually everyone in the convention, and I like helping people fix little problems, so it is a nice fit for me.
We were open, briefly, on Wednesday night, until 9PM. We solved a few table problems and that was about it– no tickets to hand out. Not much else to do, so I actually went to bed early (for a convention). Thursday, I again worked the morning shift on the events desk until about noon. It was quite brisk, actually. I didn’t get much of a look at the dealer’s area that day, but did get into a game of Steve Jackson‘s OGRE MINIATURES that afternoon, recounted here. This was a four player game which came out being something of a draw or even marginal victory for the Vatican player. A game that was both silly and nostalgic all at once.
I grabbed a quick din-din and jumped into Mr. Jim McWee’s Zombie game. He was running a post-apocalyptic zombie infestation game based on Mr. Pete English’s home brew rule set and the novel World War Z by Max Brooks. What can I say? Life’s tough in Zombieland. We played teams of zombie hunters trying to loot the town of all useful items. The zombies had different ideas. Our team was broken up into two groups– Team A and Team B. I was in team a. We decided early on to cooperate with each other, so when I activated a Zombie (or “Zed”) nest in the vacant lot, they didn’t stop, but ran for a small cottage on the outside perimeter. Not much to see here. The Zombies were sort of thin in the street, so I mentioned to my teammate that maybe we should dash across the street.
Whoops! Should have measured. His group was about half an inch short of the door. Guess who got the very next activation card? Do you have to ask?
The very NEXT activation was the Zombies, and they swarmed out and all over him. One of his people was horrifically eaten right in front of our eyes. “Wow, that sucks… BYE!” I said, and went quietly out the back door, over the hedge and up the road a bit. The rest of the game was like this. We didn’t really succeed in looting the town, but we got SOME stuff, and my group lost nobody. So that’s kind of a win in the Zombie Apocalypse.
After zombies, I hung out with a few folks and chatted with them about many things, he state of HMGS being a primary topic. Then I hit the hay gratefully and came too about 900 the next day. I had the afternoon shift on Friday, which was simple enough. So I had a nice long breakfast, and managed to hit the flea market (where I found absolutely nothing) and the dealer’s area. Again, not much found there either. I bought the Thaniras elves faction for Uncharted Seas, at last. I also bought some smaller ships for the Human Fleet which needs a little jazzing up. I worked until 8PM that
night, and sleezed my way into an Ironclads game called GET THE LOUISIANA, which is recounted HERE. I had a lot of fun with this game, and I appreciate the work the GM put into it. I even got the prize for being the first captain to lose a ship (har, har, very funny!).
Not a lot of the typical boozey hanging out that night; I had to be awake early for the membership meeting the next day.
Might as well say it here. The topic of HMGS East moving HISTORICON, our biggest and most prominent show, from the Host facility at Lancaster, PA to the Baltimore Convention Center (BCC) in Baltimore, MD has been talked to death here there and everywhere. When the two BoD members that seemed most active in the decision to move approached me for my opinion, I gave it to them. They did what they did, which is (apparently, from the testimony given) commit the HMGS Society to a costly venue using a poorly worded contract as our agreement. Our risk was and still is VERY high. I had been to the BCC back in September 2009, where I reported on the event here in a fair and objective fashion, identifying answers for the issues I could find– parking, safety, food, etc. I had promised the individuals responsible for the move that I would give it a fair shot. By Fall-In 2009, it was apparent that the BCC move was verging on being a costly and terrible fiasco. One board member stepped down from his office. Another was not reelected. I have avoided a long series of nasty and critical posts on this subject there, although I couldn’t resist a little dig with the Oh, Baltimore! the Trading Game post back in December. Gradually, it became clear that the BCC thing had the earmarks of a first class disaster, and there were many questions put forward about the particulars– WHY was this signed? Who did this? What is the level of risk? Mr. Orest Swystun had been out front on the the Miniatures Page and Yahoo groups about holding an informational session right after the membership meeting. So I wanted to catch this.
The membership meeting was very pro forma and resolved reasonably quickly. We nominated a bunch of new candidates. I nominated Otto Schmidt. He declined. After the meeting, we went to the “informational session” in the Top Flight room, chaired by Orest Swystun. Unfortunately it was a big letdown. I had submitted a series of prepared questions that might have stirred a response that was “off script” for the board of directors. Orest had received these and had promised to answer them after vetting them through an attorney. He never got around to reading them. Instead, the meeting was more of a pep rally for Valley Forge than an expiation of sins for the BCC. That all changed when Mr. Michael Montemorano got up to speak, informally recounting any informal advice given as an attorney to the BoD over the Baltimore issue. This portion of the meeting was quite informative, and brought to light many interesting items– notably just who signed what, and when, and why… which had been suspected by everyone of course. To everyone’s credit, the 300 pound gorilla in the room was never mentioned by name (having left earlier, muttering) but the strong inference was present.
So who’s to blame for the BCC fiasco? There’s plenty of it to go around. A certain individual who signed contracts without authorization or approval of the BoD, that much is clear. A certain board that should have deposed him years earlier, but didn’t. Lack of regulation, lack of oversight, lack of paying attention to the details. It’s all there for everyone to share. I have resolved not to flagellate individuals over this issue in this blog, for a lot of reasons– primarily, attacking people isn’t going to help, and right now HMGS needs all the help it can get. Things are that serious. Talk to Orest Swystun about it, I urge you, if you haven’t been paying attention. I think a lot of members just want their three conventions a year and walk away whistling with their hands in their pockets when the hard stuff comes up. NOW is the time to pay attention, because if you don’t, we may lose those three conventions. You have been warned.
In any event, some explanations were given, in a sort of weak and crippled way, and I bailed on the meeting as I had to get my shift going. I worked until four o’clock or so. It was brisk but uneventful for me, but not elsewhere. Down in the Exhibition Hall (the tennis barn), the vendors appear to have been seething. Part of HISTORICON’s move to a new venue will be a large increase in vendor rates– 295% in some instances. I’ve spoken to a few vendors about this in a nonchalant fashion, and they appear angry but resigned to me. Baxter Key (of Wargames West, and as canny a vendor who ever breathed oxygen) explained it to me this way: “Look, I did the math. I’ll have to reconfigure and limit what I can bring, but I can make it work. I just had to crunch the numbers, measure a new layout carefully, and now I know I can do it. It’s all in the numbers“. Other vendors were not so blase. Apparently, one vendor was so incensed at the price hike that he had had some shirts made up proclaiming Historicon to be Extorticon. Allegedly, he was quietly told to pack them up and put them away, or he’d be asked to leave. I didn’t see this happen, but I did see one of the shirts, so I have no reason to say it didn’t. I will say it’s a shame it had to come to such a pass, as the dealer is a solid guy who has supported our conventions for years, and he would be greatly missed (by me in particular, as I am a steady customer). Still, it’s HMGS’s venue and as hosts, they may invoke the ‘weapons’ clause if they feel offended. It’s just not something I would recommend to improve the board’s standing with the membership.
I’m not going to get into board meetings, or what was gossiped about, or who shot John, beyond what I have seen and can report on. I do know that feelings are running very high at the moment, and there is a lot of anger and not a lot of trust. I don’t want this new blog to become part of the gigantic bitch-fest that is The Miniatures Page Convention or Club threads, or even the Yahoogroup for HMGS sometimes. I thoroughly support the current Board of Directors of HMGS East and do not envy their current task of trying to rebuild the society from the ground up. I think they’ve been forthcoming, as best as they can under the circumstances, and I have at least learned the answers to some of my questions, even if I had to hammer away at it to get it done. So all the best to them and I wish them success. A lot of us older guys have a big chunk of our adult lives tied up in service to this organization and involvement in this hobby,and we don’t want it to vanish overnight. The BoD isn’t perfect and they will make mistakes, but at least they stepped up to the plate and volunteered to run for the job, which is more than I did. So I’m giving them some slack and I hope others do as well.
Slideshow for the whole weekend:
With all that spouted on, Meetings and shift being over, I had to run and pick up some accouterments for my pick up game of UNCHARTED SEAS by Spartan Games that evening (Saturday). Uncharted Seas is a fantasy naval battle game that I’ve become quite taken with (you might have noticed a post or two on the subject if you read this blog regularly). I had spent the morning membership meeting with my computer on, making up ship charts in MS Excel. Now I had to print them out, get some dice and pencils (hey, I told you I had packed in a rush, right?) at Jeff and Monica’s Harmony House Hobbies vendors (I really recommend them to any gamer, board or miniatures based– they have that little something you absolutely need to get that game ready at the last second). I also picked up some rock formations for table top terrain. I have a Monday Knight productions Sea Terrain mat, but one of those by itself without any breaks in line of sight makes for a boring game. Adding rocks to hide behind is key to giving a scenario some subtlety and maneuver. The game went over very well indeed. I was full up for players and really enjoyed playing and running it. More details are here.
We played the game through to a reasonable conclusion. Al Heydon won by a huge margin, due to his lucky shot that immolated a Battleship, a Cruiser, and several frigates of the Human Imperial fleet. Al had brought up a cruiser and three WarCroc frigates from the Orc fleet and had executed a linked attack. He rolled well- enough 4s,5s, and 6s to get on the Critical Hit table, and he rolled snake eyes on that– so BOOOOM!!!! It’s kind of hard to beat that point spread, even with almost all of Al’s ships being sunk by the end of the game. After Uncharted Seas, Steve Gibson, Art, Christopher and Jeff stayed and we all played the DOMINION card game together. I found it to be fun and interesting, but I wasn’t singing hosannas about it either. I like the “constructable” aspect of the game, and the element of luck involved. Still, of the games published in the last year, I’m still far and away a fan of Small World.
After they packed up and head out to the hotel, I hung out downstairs where some unnamed individuals were cracking a keg. Sitting around and BSing with fellow attendees is maybe the best part of coming to a convention, and that’s what we did– gossiping like schoolgirls one second, telling dirty jokes the next, and mutual gamer gross-out yarns. Oh yes, Pete English had us all beat in that category, by far and away. Always a pleasure, sir.
Woke up rather fusty the next day, a bit groggy from going to bed at 3 AM. Hey, I had to do it ONE night of the con, right? Had a nice breakfast (late) and checked out, packed the car, and made one last dash at the dealer room. I didn’t buy anything. So it goes. And then homeward.
Summary: Everyone ends these things with their nose in the air and proclaiming “Attendance was light”… it didn’t feel that way to me, but I did leave the lot a few times and had no problem finding a parking space upon returning, and that’s a bad sign. One thing I noticed (being at the events desk) was that I felt like there was a HUGE number of cancellations this year, and maybe not so many events run as previous years. I don’t know if this is certain, I haven’t done any analysis to back it up. I don’t know the attendance numbers or have access to our financial results for this convention, but I assume business was brisk enough to find us in the black this time.
I want to thank Frank, Michelle, Dave, Dudley, and all the rest of the staff members and leads for their hard work, due diligence and cheerful disposition in making COLD WARS 2010 happen. I had a fantastic time, and it is directly attributable to your efforts.
Other Cold Wars 2010 Posts on this blog: