Daily Archives: March 24, 2017

Al Hayden, saying goodbye.


I received word on Facebook, which was later confirmed, that my friend Al Hayden took his own life this week. Words simply fail me. It was an emotionally devastating moment to come home from Cold Wars, wondering why Al had missed a convention local to him, to discover he was in the process of deciding to end it all.

I admit I blinked back tears when I got word from Scott Muldoon late Tuesday night.  Facebook Instant Messenger is not the best medium to convey the news that a mutual friend had passed on, especially by suicide, but what can you do, it’s the modern age.  Maybe the modern age is what did Al in, I don’t know.  His health hadn’t been very good in the last three years.  He seemed depressed.  I know his father had passed on, and his finances were, erm, in disarray more often then not.  Maybe he had taken a good hard look at his future prospects and decided to check out.  Who can say?  I think Al would have preferred to have lived in simpler times.  His abundant imagination was more at home in a world of Big Steam Powered robots and zeppelins than in the modern world.

Al playing Sergeant Slaughter in Bun Bun Land in 2004 (wearing the Pith Helmet)

I know that the advent of Obamacare hit Al pretty hard, he posted many snarky comments on Facebook about losing medical coverage and  how expensive it had all gotten for him.  Maybe he was simply out of options.  We’ll never really know.  I have no idea if he left a note.

What I do know is that the world is a much poorer place without Al Hayden in it.  We live in a world where everyone is on edge, trying to one-up the next guy, to get over on them, to show off and have the last word at someone else’s expense.  That wasn’t Al Hayden.  He was content to smile, nod and let  you make a fool of yourself.  He was a kind, funny and sensitive man.  Not to mention incredibly talented, endlessly patient, wickedly humorous and bitingly sardonic.  I’ll miss him.  I can hardly recall putting on a game in the early 00s without Al participating in it somehow, if it was a PA convention.  Victorian Racing Contraptions, Psychotic Bunny-Murdering Galactic police, Cowboys and Zombies, Big Stompy Steam Robots.. Al was usually “all in” and suggesting ways to make the game better.   Al was a kindred spirit, a great collaborator and a close friend.

Al, I’ll never understand why you choose to do what you did this week. I really wish I had been around more for you,man, I really do. Go with God and may He bless you and keep you in His hand.

Cold Wars 2017, a minor pilgrimage


the Mighty Susquehanna!

The Mighty Susquehanna!!! (we shout this every time)

Hurray!  Once again the sun dawns on a trip to an exotic faraway location where I can play toy soldiers all weekend long.  As happens this time in March, The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society held their annual SPRING convention, namely, Cold Wars, last weekend.  The “exotic faraway location” being, of course, Lancaster PA, a location about as faraway and exotic as day old Wonder bread, but hey, we like it, so there.

Note that Friday was Saint Patrick’s Day, which I celebrated by my standard boycotting of feeling obligated to wear green.  As I’ve said many times, the Irish have given much to America.. so much beyond buffoonery, drunkenness and stuff like this.  I prefer to have a little dignity about a Saint’s Day.

Gar and I had our mutual acts together and the van packed the night before, so we aimed at being on the road at 7:30, with a predictable, actual start of 8:30.  Sigh, that’s entropy for  you.  Journey was uneventful, but longer than usual because THIS time, we stopped for breakfast.

mmmm.. coffee

New Oxford Family Diner.  They made a decent egg white omelette, and the coffee was passable.

Our arrival was 1230ish, even with petal to the metal (legally of course). I really had had ambitions to TRY to get into a Frostgrave event this weekend, it didn’t pan out. I did, however, get a chance to see some splendid Frostgrave scenery for the ongoing tournament in the tournament area.

Click to Enlarge Frostgrave Photos

I also had a notion of getting in an event during the day Friday but that didn’t pan out.. the siren song of the Exhibitor Hall and Flea Market delayed my steps. I was happy to bump into a flea market guy selling bulk 28mm individual figures from a few historical periods– Romans, Gauls, Germans and Vikings, etc. I picked up a bunch of 28mm Vikings (for Viking Looters and SAGA).  I’m not sure what manufacturer this was; I didn’t ask too many questions.  Also, on Friday, I picked up more Copplestone KISS KISS BANG BANG figures for a game I’m designing called SPY RUN.  Wait’ll ya see, wait’ll ya see.

So I wandered around for a bit, talked with friends, and say some great games being run.  Nothing that knocked my socks off, but that’s okay, a lot of people were having a good time.


Homemade ironclad miniatures– using air dried modeling clay!


Now, that’s OLD school.


Big ships, pirates.. yep, Brian Whitaker is around.

Later on we foolishly risked losing our parking spot to go out and get dinner, my son being no great fan of Hall Pig (we were at the ass end of beyond, anyway, and Sherpas ain’t cheap). I have to say, normally, I’m no great fan of chain restaurants in a neighborhood where there are tons upon tons of locally owned and operated family joints, but there was something about a Cracker Barrel, mashed potatoes, roast beef, and coffee, near a fireplace.  It was in such stark contrast to the outside I got positively drowsy.  So I was still in a good mood when I attempted to come BACK to the Host and park.  I’ll be the guy to bring this up; what idiot left the front right parking lot (diagonal from the Lampeter half snowed in for the entire weekend??? The convention lost about 20 parking spots, maybe more, due to there being gigantic drifts piled up from snow removal.  Don’t they use snow blowers in Lancaster?   It was a lousy job of snow removal, and it impacted us.

Might as well bring it up since people who didn’t show up will wonder.  How is the Host these days?   Well, kind of a mixed bag.  I didn’t stay there (more on that miserable experience later) so I can’t comment on the state of the rooms that got rennovated.  The physical plant appears to be operating, but there were still signs of wear all over the place that badly needed fixing and attention.  Basic stuff, like the railing to the handicapped entrance ramp only held up by one post stuck into crumbling concrete.  If someone ever puts their weight on it, they’re in for a nasty fall.  The hotel appeared to be operating normally otherwise– no overflowing toilets, the heating and a/c worked.. the wireless was just an gigantic joke.  I tried periscoping and/or Facebook Live from the show, and it just kept dropping connections.

Conventions at the Lancaster Host.. they are not for sissies.

Live Action Dripcam footage on Instagram


Caesar Vs. Pluck

Once back, I got a spot in Jeff Wasileski’s Caesar Vs. Pluck game.  This is an adaption of Howard Whitehouse’s older Science vs. Pluck for the Roman era.  Yours truly played the Imperial Heir Domitian, younger brother of Titus and son of Vespasian.  Jeff’s games call for much playing of roles and skullduggery as a rule.  As I had played Domitian before in 2013, the last time Jeff ran a a game of CVP, I took the role of Domitian again.  This was a great scenario.  Barbarians (The Ruritani and Schwetti?) have taken over a local Imperial city on the coast, and have been despoiling it for a couple of weeks.  Domitian, spoiled brat that he is, yearns for some glory to get out of his older brother’s shadow.  Well, he got some glory in spades, as it were. Like last time, Domitian has been entrusted with military command, and a couple of decent veteran soldiers to make sure he doesn’t mess everything up.  The command is split into land and sea.  Domitian plans to land a naval force, offloading some Romans and wiping out pirate reinforcements, while a veteran legion drives the barbs to the sea.  That was the theory anyway.  Jeff loves games with factions and we played it to the hilt.

Romans on the attack

Pirates getting a lot more than they bargained for

Flaming naptha pirates come to grief.

Landing force seems overwhelmed

Meanwhile the field army was in trouble!

I played Domitian exactly like one SHOULD play Domitian– ambitious, angry, trying to prove himself (he’s very young in this time period). I have to say, the Romans killed like champions in this scenario. I dropped off the landing barges on the beach and went in for the Ram on the nearest Pirate galley with my Liburnian. We didn’t sink it but we did damage it, and then my gladiator cohort boarded it and turned the crew into chutney. Just like that. THEN, the gladiators rowed the ship over to the local hijacked grain ship, thinking they could liberate that too… mistake! The hatches to the hold burst open and 25 pirates swarmed out– the good kind. Against 9 gladiators. The gladiators held a line and marched right at them. Oddly, the pirates took some casualties, broke their morale, and they dove over the side. I mean, ALL of them. And the grain ship was ours. So we rowed back around to the where the galleys were still engaged in with Greek Fire shooting ships. We tried to sink one from a distance but lost patience and rammed the hell out of it, sinking it instantly. With that, the pirate naval forces were gone, decimated.

Gladiators solve problems.

We landed some boat crews and soldiers. They supported the land forces that were expanding a toehold on the beach. And, as soon as the Gladiators supported the flanks, the beach side barb forces were crumbling right and left and running for it. The land side forces initially did NOT do nearly as well, also playing their roles to the hilt and were non-cooperative. The Barb cavalry was pretty vicious, in fact. Eventually, things started to stabilize, and a line was formed.

Romans capture the signal tower on the hill

I feel like if we had played a few more turns, the naval force would have fought all the way to the land force. Everything around the naval force had taken to the hills. Rome clearly had a smashing victory by any measure, especially when a cave of pirate loot was discovered, destined for the coffers of the Roman treasury. THAT’s a victory. Now, I’m not sure I played Domitian exactly how I’d like to think was accurately. Domitian wasn’t exactly a killing machine in real life, but I played it as best I could– petty, backstabbing, and tyrannical. GREAT game, and Jeff and his son Nick won a PELA for it. Well deserved.

I took a ton of pictures of Caesar vs. Pluck.  If you want to see a screenshow, click on the Roman Eagle:

The Wasileskis basking in the glory of their well deserved award.

After we finished there we went to the hotel and finally checked in. Word of warning, do NOT bother with the tiny Red Roof motel on the Host side of Route 30. OMG.. it redefines the term “Spartan”, given that the Spartans enjoyed cold baths, hard sleeping surfaces, and occasionally dealing with angry Persians. This motel is 1 star at best; only because they won’t let you rate it lower. Sigh. It was cheap. Next time I’ll pay more and be able to sleep.

The next day..

Since the Red Roof dump we were staying in deigned not to serve any kind of breakfast, we did Panera, and then went back to the convention.  Even on Saturday, it was a hard slog finding a parking spot, but we managed way out at the end of the expansion lot they built where the Congressional used to be.   I suppose that’s good news (no parking should equal high attendance, usually, but I think you can blame a lot of no parking in this instance on inadequate snow removal).

There were still some great games on Saturday, though I thought the space wasn’t filled up by any means.


7TV Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha

Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha, a setting for 7TV

Once again, I did a run on the dealer’s room since I had a ticket for a 7TV game run by a gentleman named  Keith Frye at 2:00 PM. I’ve wanted to play 7TV for a long time now.  The system is kind of/sort of set up as a roleplaying game of a television show from mythical 60s or 70s spy shows.  So every game will have a kind of ridiculous retro style to it that I find very entertaining.  The mechanics aren’t very complicated… mostly rolling against skill checks, which is really just a way of validating “doing crazy stuff”.  And crazy stuff there was!!!  This was a great crew of players, many of whom I have played with in similarly silly games run by other GMs.  The plot wasn’t hugely complicated.. or was it?  The action took place on a giant petroleum platform called the Fafnir Alpha.  There were spies, corporate troubleshooters, regular shooters, strikers, spies, super criminals, and a giant alien blob creature.  One predictable side got in a predictable gunfight with another predictable side, and while they were hung up with that, I tried (as Archer, yes, that guy) to intercept some kind of briefcase and get off the platform.  Since it seemed clear that I wasn’t going to get to the helicopter in time to do that, I had Lana shoot the pilot dead, which lead to a series of unfortunate and somewhat hilarious results: 1) there was now no way off of the platform for, well, anyone; 2) the briefcase was still on the platform; and 3) the faceless super-villain made a heroic leap for the diving (uncontrolled) helicopter and managed to control it before it hit the drink!  What a great time!

I have a ton of photographs of this game, if you want to see them in a flickr slideshow, go here.

I’m blanking on what we did for dinner, but again, it wasn’t hall pig.  I know I made a quick run to the dealer’s room to get some pre-dreadnought 1:2400 ships from Viking Forge, then got back in time to play SAIL POWER at 8:00


Jolly Jack Tars.. or the Dutch equivalent

Sail Power aka, another excuse to spank Scott Landis

I played this game at FALL IN, and had a great time–  it was a combat-centric game set in the age of sail,in roughly 15mm scale.  The sailing and combat mechanics are a little fiddly, but once you get the hang of it, perfectly understandable.

This game was very different from the one I played at FALL-IN! Even though I was sailing a giant Indiaman, with tons more cannons than the single gunboat I was sailing in last game, I fired nary a shot. This was ostensibly because the scenario was more nuanced than “just shaddup and try to sink Scott Landis”. Scott was indeed present, but managed to escape justice and hot shot by scampering away and engaging in some chicanery with the Spaniards and local merchants. Next time, next time. I actually enjoyed THIS game more than the last one– my goal, as the Dutch player, was to bring a suitable bribe to the Spanish governor in the fort at the center of the table and have him commit to the ongoing war with the English on our side. The British want the same things, of course, but I got there first, with a large suitcase of bribes (3,000 gold and a chimpanzee). I played the diplomatic thing to the hilt, rendering honors going into a Spanish port, running in the guns when at the dock, etc. Sure, it’s fun to smash your opponents to flinders sometimes, but it’s also fun to bribe Spanish governors in SAIL POWER’s meta game, of sorts. Garrett and I (and Scott Landis) all had a great time.

Yes, I have tons of pictures of this game, too. You can see a slide show here.

It was cool to see Eric G.’s ROAD WARRIOR game on Saturday night, but I was involved in Sail Power and couldn’t play.  The 28mm stuff is very impressive but tends to make for a very crowded and slow race IMO.

Speaking of Garrett, and we weren’t, what was HE doing all this time? Killing big stompy mechs, that’s what. Garrett has become quite a fan of Battletech in the past two years, and he’s not bad at it.

Click on the picture to see his slideshow, and here’s Garrett’s review of Cold Wars 2017:

Cold wars 2017 was a blast, great fun the whole time. My father and I arrived on Friday, I partook in a game of battletech (a favorite of mine), kicked some butts, and took some names. Many fun moments were had that game, such as my mech falling, getting back up only to be knocked over by an enemy who fell over as well. The next day, I played battletech most of the day, the game was pretty eventful, with great plays by everyone involved. The GM(s) running battletech gave out a miniature for every kill you got in the game, in total I received 11 of them. Saturday ended with a game of Sailpower, a large boat game with a fantastic rule set. Sailpower was a great time, the people running it were fun and the game was great,t a nice mix of trading, fighting, exploring, and strategy. Finally on the last day, my dad and I checked out the dealer’s hall and the flea market, we found some cool things we could use for games. Cold wars 2017 was great I had a fun time there playing games and socializing.

Sunday was largely predictable.. nothing in the Flea, no last minute purchase in the dealer’s area, so we saddled up, got some breakfast and then we bolted for lands South.

Homeward Brave Soldiers, homeward! Farewell, Oh Mighty Susquehanna!

Observations and Whatnot: Cold Wars 2017 was a great time for me personally– I played in the kind of games that I love to play in, played enough games to keep me amused but not flat out exhausted, got enough rest and nutrition to not feel like dropping dead on the way home and just generally had a great time. That is not to say that I think CW17 was particularly well attended (I know it’s corny to say “it looked light” but it really did, and that was probably because of the recent snow). The new owners of the Host have (mostly) fixed the roof and I hear hot water was present without renting a rent-a-plant. I can’t vouch for the room redecorating, I stayed in a horrid motel down the road a bit (my one star Yelp review is HERE). I do think there are many features of the ‘rennovated’ hotel that don’t look like they have changed at all. Word is that Lancaster will host all three conventions in 2018, so here we all are back again!

In any event, this was one fun Cold Wars, despite the snow, despite the awful motel, despite a leaky roof.. I had a fantastic time and so did Garrett.