Cold Wars 2015 happened, at the Lancaster Host hotel in Lancaster, PA, the weekend of 6-8 March 2015.
Cold Wars traditionally runs from Thursday to Sunday, and though I usually go up on Thursday, the Winter blizzard that dumped on Northern VA that day precluded that notion. Snow was EVERYWHERE and affected EVERYTHING, but fortunately the skies cleared up by Sunday. Friday was a very chilly first day.
Friday morning the worst of the anticipated nightmare journey through hills of slush and snow actually was in Northern VA. As you can see below, the trip to Lancaster was no headache.
THE VENUE: The Lancaster Host is a venue that HMGS has used for decades now. The site is old, worn down, the roof leaks, and there are definitely a lot of elements that could be more optimal about using this facility. On the plus side it’s not an arm and a leg (comparatively speaking) and the management is always willing to negotiate some items and let us have a surprising amount of items for free, so that’s a plus. I am always surprised to find it still standing, year after year.. I keep hearing rumors that the site is sold and the owners want to tear down the hotel and builds something new. That event never seems to transpire, for all of the dire warnings, so we work with what we have, year in and year out.
CHECKIN: I had a rare opportunity to actually be a customer on the other side of the computer screen for Cold Wars, and went through registration on Friday morning with zero difficulty. No lines, no wait, and the biggest delay was saying hi to everyone. Paul Trani explained that the Host has installed a reserved high speed line to support a series of training events in the Showroom upstairs, and they made it available to us (for registration only, not for casual use) for no extra cost.
ATTENDANCE: The convention was surprisingly well attended after the recent heavy snowstorm. There were the typical light spots in the program and empty tables everyone always complains about, but many games were well attended– some were a little shy of capacity from time to time but that’s to be expected. My one big indicator that attendance was decent was the parking lot. I had to park the Subaru in the boonies the first day, and had to park illegally after going out and comping back again after dinner.
Several events were cancelled (list below) probably due to weather
EVENTS: The convention program did not vary overmuch from Cold Wars in the last few years– The Flames of War tournament moved up to the Showroom (and, conicidentally, they raised 600 dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project!). The WWPD (What Would Patton Do?) podcast team moved their live broadcast up to the Showroom to broadcast from there. The WWPD team gave away about 2000 dollars worth of Battlefront and Warlord merchandise to the audience, so if you showed up you pretty much got something! Not being a big fan of Flames of War, I had not really connected with these guys much, but I’m still very impressed with their operation now. I had opportunity to meet Jon Baber from WWPD and he clued me in about the expansion of the WWPD Network (not just a single ‘cast anymore by a long shot) and the creation of the WWPD network app. Very impressive stuff. I have always thought HMGS should do more with podcasts that are complimentary to both parties– I could easily see Meeples and Miniatures showing up (if Neil lived stateside) and possibly the D6 Generation. Who knows? All it takes is someone asking.
I only had about half of Friday and all of Saturday for this convention (initially, anyway, my plans did change), so I had resolved to play more and make the most of my time. The Guidebook app was very helpful here.. my method is basically to check off every possible game I had an interest in, then scanning “My Schedule” as it notified me of games starting on the hour then finding one that had an opening by walking up to the table and asking.
AEROSAN RACING: The very first thing I did after registration was get into a game of Aerosan Racing run by John Lunberg (F-319). Description: “Take either a Finnish or Russian Aerosan and Win! Your opponents and the natural/supernatural world are out to stop you!” I had seen this event before and really wanted to play it, but the GM has been running it usually when I was tied up working for staff duties.
The Aerosani was primarily a Russian invention– think of it as an Air Boat on skis with a machine gun, really useful for recon purposes during the Winter War. John Lunberg constructed a 28mm course for the miniature Aerosani that was stocked with both natural obstacles, winter-themed beasts and even supernatural foes such as Animated Snowmen. The concept was to drive around the course and be the first guy across the “Finnish Line”. The rules were simple enough, but had a unique feature– if your max speed per turn exceeded current visibility, you could drive off at speed in an odd direction. This happened to just about everyone in the game at some point. I had resolved to go balls to the wall for the entire game and to shoot anyone in my way.. which turned out to be a strategy that made for good comedy, but it didn’t win races. I like John’s approach towards resolving rules problems– “Is it funny? Then I’ll allow it”.. with that in mind, I present my game AAR in the same spirit:
After the Aerosani defeat (I came in second from last, as I said, my reckless behavior was good for comedy but not good for “winning”), I checked out the dealer hall quickly and didn’t buy much of anything except some Road Warrior heavy weapons from Stan Johansen Miniatures. They were shooing us out of there.
VENDORS: I have to say, I wish the Exhibitor Hall had had more to choose from. I passed right by the guys with the display cases of the the same stuff they had back when I first started coming to conventions years ago, and went to the vendors that had new things (like Alien Dungeon) or things I was rediscovering (like Stan) or had a broad range appeal (like Old Glory/Blue Moon). The rest.. ehhh… I only can do so much. I feel like shopping has become somewhat pro forma these days. I’m not even a bona fide member of the Cult of the New, really. I’m just not seeing a lot of vendor support for the lines I like. I’m not even a manufacturer versus retailer snob. Sure, I wish more producers would show up to these things but I don’t mind getting them from a store. Age of Glory does a fantastic job of servicing the hobby, for instance. So does On Military Matters and Brigade Games. How? Stock rotation, pure and simple. Nobody is getting energized about anything looking at the same old same old three times a year.
My plan was to check in to the hotel grab fast food, and then catch Jeff Wasilewski’s excellent Pride and Prejudice/Sharp’s Rifles versus Zombies thing at 7. Sadly I made the mistake of sitting on the edge of my bed. My eyes shut for a second, and entropy took over. When I woke up, it was 730 already. Sigh!
No worries, I got into a game of SENTINELS OF THE MULTIVERSE with Steve, Art and Todd.
I played in local guy and fellow Novagi Steve Robinson’s Marine Assault game on Saturday morning. This was great fun, but not my most shining moment as a strategist. I believe in moving all-out in an assault situation. The guy who cowers on the beach becomes the target. Unfortunately, I probably should have been more cautious in my approach, as I leapt over the sea wall only to encounter the fire of three heavy machine guns as a result. I’m embarassed to say my entire squad was chopped to pieces in one turn. Oh well, that left me the tracks to run, and I had some fun with them. I should have known better than to go up against some youngsters.. they are lethal dice rollers, every time.
Here’s the SLIDESHOW, not in any order.
Steve won an award for best in show during that time slot! Good for you, Steve!
CANVAS EAGLES: From there, I played in a quick game of Canvas Eagles called “Bomb Off!” The scenario was a tad contrived– both sides sending Bombers over no-mans-land at the same time- but it did lead to some interesting possibilities.
The GM was youngish, but a smart guy who knew his systems pretty well. I waxed rhapsodic about the BLUE MAX system (from which CANVAS EAGLES is derived) and had to laugh when one of the players commented on the Wings of War miniatures and map being used with Canvas Eagles– “Hey, whatever works, right? Canvas Eagles is free, the planes are kind of affordable.. I’m not going to spend money on 1:144 scale stuff“. That sounds like something I might have said 20 years ago, too! Normally I don’t much like games that require logging movement– it’s really just an audit trail in case someone challenges you about something you did wrong. So usually they are never even looked at unless someone is bound and determined to derail the game as they figure out where to correct your moves for you. Still, CE is easy enough, and as the GM points out, free.
There were a lot of good games being run all over– I thought the attendance was far better than anticipated and I don’t know of anyone who set up and packed up for reasons of no players, though I’m not saying it didn’t happen.
FOOD (AT HOST): I gulped down a rather pathetic Chicken Salad from the Host food vendors for dinner. I’m losing patience with the Host Catering– the food is the same or worse as ever, there’s zero innovation there and higher prices. I’d rather not leave the Host during a convention as the parking can be hideous at certain times. However, I don’t feel like staying for overpriced unhealthy food, either. I ate at the Salad Bar at Ruby Tuesdays, Panera bread for an egg white sandwich on Sunday, and the Waffle House Saturday. I just can’t get excited about the same old greasy calorie jammed food from the Host any more. Besides, it was Lent, dammit!
I had a couple of beers with Dan Murawski and Del Stover Saturday night before going to the Road Warrior Invitational game. We witnessed something pretty new at HMGS Conventions..
Apple flavored Crown Royal tastes like cough medicine, anyway.
So I’m not sure where I got this wrong, but I was under the impression that the Road Warrior Invitational STARTED at midnight, and I was impressed with myself for showing up a half hour early. Nope, it ENDS at midnight (or is meant to) and I was about an hour late! No matter, I grabbed a motorcycle and joined in the mayhem.
ROAD WARRIOR INVITATIONAL!
This is a great game that is kind of convincing me that it’s my favorite pastime at conventions these days. Eric Goodlander has converted a pack of post-apocalyptic matchbox and hot wheels vehicles to recreate the famous end sequence of the eponymous movie. This game is a blast, plain and simple. I was a bad guy last time and a good guy this time and I have been on the winning side both times.
I took a metric shit ton of Road Warrior game pictures, actually, and it’s too painful to insert all of them– here’s the slideshow
This is not so much a game as the social hour. Various players engage in bad jokes, one-upsmanship and schoolboy (and girl) antics. There might have been a few adult beverages present. Jim Stanton was in fine voice and bellowed out “THE CHEESE STANDS ALOOOOOOOOONE” at the start of every turn. I didn’t catch this, but apparently there was some form of bounty on his head, which nobody could claim as the good guys won, again.
The game wasn’t much in doubt after a certain point where the bad guys who were left were not in a position to catch up. So a good guy victory, which of course Mr. Stanton took credit for. There was much beer-fueled commentary and badinage afterwards.
Very fortunately John Montrie let me crash on an empty bed in his room, so I didn’t have to drive home directly. The next morning, I hit the dealer’s room early, and ended up buying an armored tank deal from Alien Dungeon for ALL QUIET ON THE MARTIAN FRONT. I plan on fielding a mixed American/Canadian force so I can add some cool UK vehicles. I also bought some Blue Moon 15mm infantry for my soldiers.
And from there, homeward.. after breakfast– I wasn’t going to suffer through the Host’s version of a breakfast buffet, so I went farther afield.
A sad postscript as I dropped into to Jenny’s Diner on the way home:
So it goes! In any event, I got home, safe and a little exhausted, the way one does at these things. I had a very good time. Cold Wars 2015 was better attended than I would have guessed (considering the snow) and I think people had a good time at it. Aside from the general observations about food and vendors, I think I noticed the disproportionate number of youngsters there, which was very encouraging. As for myself, I showed up wanting to play games, and I got in FOUR of them so I feel pretty good about the convention. Well done, Frank Preziosi and crew.