Cold Wars 2020: the Show, the People, the Aftermath


Playing at War in the Time of Plague

Yes, I’m aware of a certain irony here.

As doubtless a few of you know already, the HMGS Cold Wars 2020 show was held last weekend. Cold Wars 2020 was, allegedly, the last HMGS show to be held at the facility that was once the Lancaster Host Resort and is now the Wyndham Lancaster Resort Hotel. As an organization, HMGS has a long and storied past there. I can’t say I’m going to miss it that much. The thing is, the owners have certainly spent big, big dollars renovating the Host into a rather passable hotel.. one that acknowledges the ADA, for instance, and one where they anticipate their members being able to see what they are doing without squinting (in most places). More on that later, because we can all agree the renovations aren’t the real story behind Cold Wars 2020, can’t we?

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The Mighty.

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Approaching the show with some justifiable trepidation.

For point of reference.. last week started relatively normally. My wife, two adult children and her mom were in the Carolinas while I toiled at work, dog sitting at night. I was informed that I would have to “give up Cold Wars because the dogs need someone to take care of them while we are on vacation”. Hmm.. Well, when the laughter died down we started looking for a pet sitter. I had hoped to be up a day before the show but I took what I could get. As I drove up to the show the whole world knew about the Coronavirus outbreak. I certainly knew. I kept to myself, didn’t hug strangers and washed my hands often. By the first day, the situation was changing swiftly. Shortages were (and still are) everywhere on basic items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Stores have been denuded of certain items. Finally the state governments were lowering the boom on large gatherings. We expected to be shut down, but the governor was using discretionary language at least on Thursday and Friday. So, with safeguards in place, the show went on. More like with a wimper than a bang. On Friday, it became very evident that attendance was low. Not disastrously low, but very low. I thought the show was going to tank, for sure, setting up the cancellation board Friday night.

This was just Friday. This is what we started with. It got worse.

I posted the picture above to the HMGS page on Facebook Friday and actually caught a little grief for this from a former luminary (nothing serious, btw, just an offhand comment). My point being “how is telling the truth going to harm the show?” Lots of people stayed away. That’s truth. It’s hard to make them the bad guy for taking precautions for their health.

I volunteered for events which was kind of like volunteering for a long nap. We rarely had more than two people in line the entire time. All through the day we’d have dudes informing us of this or that cancellation. There were a ton of those. How can I blame anyone for that, though? Most gamers are in the prime target group of the Covid 19 virus.. older, not the best of health, some of them immuno-compromised.

This is what we STARTED Friday with. Very slim pickings.. this resembles the end of a normal day rather than a regular convention.

Despite the doom and gloom scenarios playing out all over the place, there WERE games being run. Even games that I would have loved to play in. I got a ticket for The “Thompson Trophy Air Races” but sadly this was cancelled. Bummer, man. I was looking forward to that one. As both of the games I picked for Friday were cancelled, I played in Buck Surdu’s WARS OF OZZ game. I found myself enjoying this quite a bit. Not for being particularly Oz-like. We were essentially doing a playtest for an imminent set of rules from the talented Mr. Surdu that he is finishing for Old Glory, who is on the verge of producing them. I’ve always like the four kingdoms of Oz and read the books in the series well into my middle school years, even the Ruth Plumly Thompson ones. I kept imagining the same things that drove this design. I’ve often thought the Winkies mixing it up with the ** Quadlings would make for a fun miniatures game. The rules that Buck created were very fun, in a Lace Wars kind of mindset. Essentially the game is about formations, fire combat, melee, and morale. There’s certainly more to it, but the chrome is there to support and amplify the basic combat mechanics for movement, formations and fire combat. Things I liked: every formation has a leader that governs how it will handle either ‘movement, formation or fire combat” differently. You determine the leader’s characteristics with three dice rolls: the First Name, the Last Name, and an adjective that explains the bonus the leader gets. So there were at least three “Dirty Dicks” in the game– mine was Dirty Dick the Obstreperous or something like that. He got to charge into combat whenever he got shot at. Yikes. I loved the morale rules which were very clean. Fighting and movement were both very simple affairs based on number of bases in the unit. ** note: my Oz lore roll was very low. Swap Gillikins for Quadlings throughout. Sorry.

The Winkies (left) smash into the Munchkin line right of Center
My Munchkin force deploys to cover the left. We did an adequate job fending off the Quadlings and Winkies, but we had a wall to hide our artillery behind. The units to my right eventually caved.
The Quadlings marching into the attack. The figure line from Old Glory appears to be small 28mm, roughly Napoleonic in visual theme. I like the idea of this project. I think I might support it.
Onward, Brave Munchkins! I had two militia units (that fought well) but the yeoman’s work was done by the Guards (in the back, with the Grenadier hats). I like the short stature and big hats of the Munchkins, they have some character.
Don’t shoot until you see the Green of their faces, boys. My Munchkin line deployed on the left. We eventually fell back on the village in order to get the Quadling troops to deploy in line and get shot to pieces at range. It was reasonably effective, but the Quadling commander ended up moving troops around out of extreme range to deploy elsewhere.
Later in the game, we are falling back under fire (see the casualty markers). We did kill a few of their units, but he had more soldiers than I did, which was a challenge.
Designer Buck Surdu moving the Winkies into attack on the Munchkin center. I helped a bit by sniping at his right flank during the attack. He ended up losing two units to long range fire, some of it with my assistance.
Fortunately the Winkies (center) had pole arms, not muskets. That way they had to walk a long way under fire, and they suffered for it.
More Melee loving Winkies pouring it on. The center of the line is buckling all over. Not long now!

Friday night conclusion: I enjoyed the Ozzz game. The mechanics can fit on a Single page, double sided. That’s elegant. Even though the side I was on got our butts kicked royally, I didn’t mind. It was a fun game and I like the system.

Even though the Distelfink (now named the Lancaster Ballroom) looked desolated, that was mostly because the Lampeter had taken the games normally scheduled for the Distelfink. Tournaments were in the ShowRoom, much to their grumbling. Flea Market was in the last two rows of the Distelfink. It was a weird layout but I thought it worked. I remember visiting the flea in the Showroom last year and getting a headache from all the squinting we had to do to see stuff in the dark.

Believe it or not, this was the LEAST desolate the Distelfink looked all weekend!

Some more Friday games:

Bill Molyneux put on a stunning 54mm Sudan game in the HAWKs room. Well done sir!
One thing I like about Bill is he’s always cheerful and an iron man as a GM! I think he won an award, if memory serves.
More Sudan.
Yes, Eric, it is a pretty award.
Battletech, still going strong 30 years later.
It was a target rich environment for empty tables… let’s just say that.
Steve, Art, Jeff and Todd from the TNGG group doing a little gap filling with a card game.
Bill Acheson running Mansions of Madness in The Hawks room.

By Saturday, the world was definitely becoming a scarier place out there in the big wide COVID 19 infected reality. I woke up thinking CW2020 was going to be the worst failure in the show’s history, and was shocked to see attendance was going up. It’s true, many people cancelled games, maybe the most I’ve ever seen. That’s okay. Nobody wanted anyone to risk their health. AND many people who were at risk because of age, or a health condition, did not attend. The ones that did attend were becoming cautious. There was a dynamic going on in the show that was very interesting to watch.. social distancing was already setting in. Less hugging. No touching. A fist bump or elbow bump instead of a handshake. All with the usual gallows humor that wargamers favor. Oddly enough the early counts were encouraging. I thought we might be lucky to have 800 people. It was closer to (and maybe just a little over) 1000 attendees. Most of them on Saturday for a day trip. Not good numbers for Cold Wars, but not the disaster it felt like early Friday, either. The show came under fire on social media here and there, and perhaps that’s justified criticism. Still, precautions were made, discipline was kept and social distancing did occur.

According to Mr. Holder, the Tournaments situation “sucked”, due to the inadequate lighting. Many things were improvised.
More tournaments

The Lampeter, in contrast to the Distelfink, was jumping for most of the weekend. A lot of scheduled games were run there.

The Quiet Schlegel generals his troops.
Is that.. is that.. Sven Forkbeard at the end of the table?
Wonderful Arnhem bridge seetup
Jeff Wasileski’s excellent Lost Island of Croatan game terrain.
More terrain from a master builder and improviser. We were delighted to have Jeff at ScrumCon this year, running A Dead Man in Deptford. Twice!
I’ve been following Shawn Reis’ efforts with the Hammer’s Slammers game on the Facebook SF terrain group among others. It’s great to see it all together in one place. Pity I didn’t get a chance to play.
It’s the little things that count
Yes, this is what you think it is. Castle Wolfenstein in miniatures.

one dynamic that was evident. Less games on the schedule, even with fewer attendees, games were getting played. Some people had to beg for a seat, like I did for the two games I got into. Most games were full, which is an unexpected benefit of the viral outbreak. Saturday night, I got into a Test of Honor game from a young lawyer fella from New York city. Sharp guy, and he had some absolutely wonderful terrain pieces. I enjoyed this game, as well, but kept getting my butt kicked. Oddly enough our side won on points. It was a freaking slaughterfest. I say that respectfully.

In the end, I was down a lot of units. My opponent was pretty good and knew how to take advantage of newbie mistakes, and I made a few of them. I was pleased to pull off some extra VPs y killing his last samurai late in the game. We only won by three points… so maybe I contributed something. It was a great time. A little frustrating at times because the dice were not with me all evening, but I enjoyed the game for all of that. I was off to bed early that night, and up really early to get out the door. I stopped at the Dealer’s Hall on the way out. I actually did some decent shopping while there.. I got a lot of Crooked Dice figures, the New Wacky Races game, A Rolling tank from Gaddis Enterprises, Some Dwarves, and a few other things. I was pleased.

Sadly, the real world intruded as soon as I hit the Weis Market, searching for Whoopie pies for my family.

And thus, homeward, with the spoils of Lancaster in my truck!
Traditions must be kept up. If the sound isn’t playing, try this link on Insta

Image and Video Files

Here are the raw photos and video for this post. I didn’t post all of it, for space reasons. Feel free to use anything, but acknowledgement would be a nice thing.

I bumped into Greg from LWTV while I was up there. I’m glad he made time to make a report.
Of course, I was tinkering, and made my OWN montage…

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