Category Archives: Cold Wars

Cold Wars 2018, fighting in the rubble of the Host

So another Cold Wars has come and gone, and 2018’s is in the rear view mirror. I left Friday morning and arrived at the Host around 2, which is puzzling, since I stopped nowhere.  As always, the rituals and observations must be strictly observed:

the mighty.

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I’m going to gush here, so even though I suspect she’s heard it before, I’m going to say it now and say it loud: Congratulations to Paul Trani and Heather Blush for solving our registration throughput problems.  Take it from me, who is not often complimentary.  I pre-registered, for the first time EVER, for a convention.   I walked in what I think will be the new lobby (where the front half of the Limerock room was), walked over to one of three kiosks, entered my name, and hit a PRINT BADGE button.  Literally I was in Cold Wars in a shorter period of time than it takes to type this sentence.  That’s real progress and it solves real problems.

I’ll have some observations about other Cold Wars procedural issues later on in this ramble, but I’ll go through my own narrative first.

Friday Highlights

I arrived later than I would have liked but it wasn’t too late to not nose around a bit.  My most immediate scheduled activity was a painting class taught by Dorothy Catapano.  I’m SO glad I took this.  I am gradually building up a force of 54mm Napoleonic figures for my own purposes and Dorothy was teaching a class on painting large scale figures.  I’m an indifferent to competent painter usually, but I learned quite a bit in this two part course.

It may not seem like it from this photo but we made some progress!!

I took a quick (well, not that quick, due to its location) pass at the Dealer’s Hall Friday afternoon, not buying anything memorable.  Since the new layout of the old Tennis Barn facility is radically redone, there is no ramp at the balcony end any more, so it was a long weary trudge down to and back up from the Exhibitor’s Area.

The new layout for the Tennis Barn.  The balcony end is on the right in this picture and is now sealed off.  The building can be entered at the far end (left, above).  So quite a walk now..

I’m certainly hoping that eventually there will be a parking lot down here.  Just saying.  Walking DOWNhill was no problem but I saw more than one oldster with the same kind of arthritic knees I have looking at the walk back UPhill with some dismay.

Hungarian shoes 20% off today, comrade!

I really regretted giving up my parking sport, which by Cold Wars past standards, was terrible.  By 2018 standards, I was lucky to find anything at all.  I had to register for my hotel, though, and grab a quick bite.  It all took too long, and I ended up getting back well after the 7pm start time for my Friday night game.  I walked in to see a line forming on the stairs up to the Showroom, and like any good Soviet from the 70s, I simply got in line.  “Psst.. what are we in line for?”  “Night time flea market.” “Whaaaat?  That’s crazy talk!”.

No, no it wasn’t. Due to half of the Lampeter being used up, we had to use the showroom for the Wally’s Basement flea market. Tsk tsk..

Here’s a first: Flea Market at night. #coldwars2018

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The move to the showroom was driven by a lack of suitable alternatives, but it wasn’t a particularly good replacement.  Lighting is so terrible in the showroom that I often saw people using their phones as flashlights to view items better.  I found exactly nothing I wanted and didn’t have the patience to give it another pass through.  I was getting a headache from all that squinting I was doing.

Fortunately I had an alternative to the game I missed.  As in Alternative Armies.. Flintloque.  GM Mark Fastosio has adapted Flintloque figures to run using Osprey’s Dragon Rampant rules.  The scenario was complex but the execution simple enough.  If you’ve read the Sharpe’s Rifles series, you’ll probably recognize the players well enough.  The French (elves) are bringing an artillery train through a small valley that has two passes to get into it and a series of flat hills around it.  There are a few stands of trees here and there for cover, but otherwise this is a bleak landscape.  Sharke’s chosen Orcs start the game in a copse of trees in the center, and they react accordingly when the main force deploys coming down both sides of the hill into the valley.

Sharke’s Chosen Orcs at start

As soon as the French committed to a course of action, so did Sharke, running for the high ground between the two advancing columns. Probably a mistake. Ya think? Well, they did kill like champions, for a while.

Whoah!  Lookit all dem Frenchies!!

Vive La Toadies!

Um.. we’re supposed to stop that, si?

I played Major Blas Vivar (from one of the Novels).  Well, not him, but his little brother, who is kind of identical sort of.  I called him Little Joey Vivar.  The Vivar brothers are Spanish (e.g. Dark Elves) military officers in charge of small detachments of infantry and guerillas.  We bravely advanced towards the enemy and then discovered the unique quality of Dark Elves– they suck as soldiers.  On both flanks, we were decimated in any standup fight (or really any fight).  We tried our best, but Dark Elves tend to scamper and dissolve in a fight.  What we did have were wizards, three left.  I did manage to cause a few retreats (at least) and a few casualties on the French side using Lightning Bolt spells.

Run for the hills, boys, we’re completely boned!

I like Dragon Rampant as a rules system; I have never played the core Flintloque rules to compare it to but Mark thinks it’s a great improvement, so I believe him.  I had a great time, even if we were “ahem” underperforming somewhat.  Numbers tell in a situation like this, and the Frenchies had them and we didn’t.  So it goes.  Note: I took many pictures of this game but didn’t post them all, you can see more by viewing this Flickr Slideshow.

A few choice observations on the long, long FREEZING walk to my car at 1 in the morning:

(I was staying at the Quality Inn down the road, a nice enough place, old and worn but clean enough and affordable– and free breakfast).

Saturday observations

I had an early start game on Saturday.  This was Buck Surdu’s game called Duke Morrison and the Great Zeppelin Raid at 0900.  The description had two winning features for me– zeppelins and GASLIGHT.  GASLIGHT is a venerable skirmish wargaming system written by Surdu and Chris Palmer.  In a nutshell, it supports game narratives on a smaller scale, mostly pulp and VSF, without a lot of hard statistics.  The player plays the part of a “lead” or hero in a cinematic style game, plus usually a sidekick and/or assistant leader, and the rest of your faction/group are (ahem) straight from central casting as spear carriers.  Easy cannon fodder.  Your core character can do a lot, your secondary character almost as much, but the rest of the mob are a mixed bag.

The Setting

The setting was fabulous.  This was a laser cut kit of a rigid airship that was sold for a brief time about two years ago– not for cheap, either.  I was impressed, it’s lovely to look at and a great setting that supports the three dimensional aspect of a skirmish game– lots of great places to run, jump, duck for cover, and leap down from above.    The setup was a standard multifactional game, Nazis and Gangsters versus rocketeers, sailors, scientists and beat cops.  You know, like they do.  I played the Nazi She-wolves of the SS, Zeppelin Truppen, and the real hero of the game, Carl “Slasher” Dooley, the one man murder machine, who eschewed firearms for a straight razor to cut elaborate scrolled “S’s” in his victim’s sternums.   Carl bravely fought against the forces of militarism, slicing three sailors and an NCO into chutney without firing a shot.

My Nazi She-wolves, with apologies to Ms. Doris Wishman

The end of the scientist

The main deck became a charnel house of DEATH!!!!

To keep this post moving along, suffice to say that many parties boarded or attempt to board the zeppelin with the intention of collecting various macguffins to claim victory with, before the auto timer went off and the boarding shuttle full of loot descended on autopilot.  My Zeppelin Truppen died off to a man pretty early, but the thugs under Slasher Dolan performed very well, nabbing a mcguffin (the only “bad guys” to keep one all game) and moving it to a part of the ship where it would be difficult to retrieve.  Slasher proved to be exceptional as a scrapper– until he met his demise in a fusilade of bullets.  The only somewhat intact group I had left were the she-wolves, who approached under cover as much as they could, springing on the aircar at the last possible second and going hand to hand in the last possible second.  A big fight ensued, leaving the last of my she-wolves dead as well as my gangster second in command, Dewey Oxburger.  However, the “good” guys were down to their last man.  My two last goons (from central casting) sauntered over, looked over the parapet and fired a single shot each below at the last guy in the aircar, neatly putting one through his eyes.  So in the last possible second, the good guys experienced a huge reversal and we won.  These are the situations I game for.  We all laughed loud and long at that outcome.  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

I took a huge amount of pictures (some of them might be repeats) which you can see here in this Flickr Slideshow.  However, you might wish to Check out this Slideshow for the REAL TRUTH.

Directly after the game I had session 2 of large figures to finish up with, and then I was free for the rest of the convention.  I did some desultory shopping but found some things I needed.. mostly little scenery bits and bobs, some Frostgrave figs, some terrain and a couple more nautical things from Sea Dog Studios.  I went back to the room for a bit– mostly to get late lunch or early dinner– I was kind of on a one meal a day regime here at the con, so kind of hungry at this point.

Honestly, I meant to get back to the convention that night and weasel into another game, I really did.  Nancy Ott was running one that I wanted to get into, but frankly, I just didn’t want to hassle with the parking.  There was so little of it available that no matter what you did you ended up walking a long, LONG way in the cold wind, and that was starting to bother my knees.  So I puttered about with some new purchases in the room and watched a new series on Netflix instead.

Now, that’s the meat of the convention, right there, here’s the logistics part.  I want to state this categorically– I had a decent, not great time, and it wasn’t remotely the fault of HMGS, the planning, or even the execution.  The Host did its best, but this was not a hotel that I consider ready for OUR convention.  For once, when they said “We’re sinking money into improvements“, they really meant that.  It’s very clear they are doing.. just that.  BUT they are also trying to make a buck and operate at the same time, while renovating, and that has an impact on a convention of a certain size.  Here’s what I had a problem with:

      1. The parking was miserable.. much worse than the worst it’s been.  Why?  Because most of the spots were taken up by rollaway dumpsters, parked construction equipment and CONEX containers.
      2. It was nice to experience the Host’s new fitness plan for all us aging, overweight gamers by forcing us to go up and down the hill to the far side of the tennis barn, but that kind of limited me to only two real visits.. (see above for pictures).   I wouldn’t mind making the same trip when it was just a smidge warmer.
      3. Man, rubble was everywhere, in giant slag heaps.  This wasn’t too awful but it contributed to the tight parking problem and general feeling like we were now in a game of FALLOUT set in the ruins of the Lancaster Host….
      4. Lastly, the flea market, which is a huge attraction, is almost unworkable in the space we had available to us.  I couldn’t see a thing for sale unless I had a flashlight.  No, I’m not kidding– I really didn’t want to go bother going back to any additional sessions.


I want to make this very clear– everything that caused a problem, WAS NOT THE FAULT OF THE BOD, CONVENTION PLANNERS, or HMGS.  The Host is going through some badly needed renovation.  We all knew this was needed.  The floor plans have changed radically in places– it appears the new lobby may be in the tournament area and the business area (near the Paradise Room) is now walled off for some reason.  That’s just two things, there are more.   So we may need to suck it up, buttercup for a convention or two.  Given what they had to work with, I am very impressed with the job Heather and company have managed.  The registration system is incredibly great.  The money spent on banners and signs and dividers– which members used to scoff at, contributed to organization and flow.  The staff was its usually courteous and helpful self.  In general, I liked the convention.  I didn’t see a huge amount of games that interested me personally, but I did see some– there was just a lot of same-old, same-old about it all.

I’ll close here with a deep appreciation of the Sissyphian efforts put in by this convention staff.  They did a great job and should be appreciated for it.  I hope conditions at the Host continue to improve over the Summer so Historicon executes with no hiccups.

(note: I didnt’ take the normal catalogue of games in progress pictures, as I’m guessing that kind of thing is getting stale.  I did take some of the games I was in and the facilities and such.. which can be viewed here on Flickr).


Cold Wars 2018, Guidebook App (the last?)

Yes, Virginia, there is a Guidebook app for Cold Wars 2018.  Alas, this is the last “Standard Plan” app I can make for HMGS, as has discontinued this plan, which allowed smaller conventions like ours to make use of a great convention app for free (essentially).  I have no quibbles for this decision.  The Guidebook company has been thoroughly professional, and has supported me for each of the dozen-0dd guides I’ve created using their system, even though we never got a nickel out of me during that time and even in it’s stripped-down feature lean state that comes with the Standard Plan, Guidebook was(is) a fantastically useful tool for conventioneers.

I’m not going to get into the features of Guidebook in this post.  I have written several blog posts since 2011 on how to use Guidebook and really just focus on feature changes of note now.  You should probably have an inkling of how to use it by now, but if you need to view screenshots, my post for Cold Wars 2017 is still pretty accurate and has pictures. Here’s what you really need for Cold Wars 2018:

The Cold Wars 2018 LANDING page.  This is the place to actually download Guidebook app (the engine to read guides– either in Android, IoS or Windows smart phone implementations).

The Cold Wars 2018 Web Guidebook This is a webpage that acts like a guidebook by itself.  Plug this URL into your smartphone, and view it as a webpage if you don’t want to download the main Guidebook app itself.

This is the QR Code.  Scan this with your QR reader and it will take you to the specific Cold Wars 2018 guide for this convention.

That’s about it.  I’m pretty sure there’s an interest  on the board to continue with guidebook in some fashion, but I won’t comment on it beyond that.

The only thing left for this guidebook is tournaments, which is usually the last, slowest thing I get to do to support a convention– it’s kind of painful to extract the event data from a long formatted word document.

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.

Guidebook App for Cold Wars 2017

Cold Wars 17: It’s a Good Day to Die

Herewith is the scoop on the 15th Guidebook I’ve made for HMGS Conventions, Cold Wars 2017.  First of all thanks to Dan Murawski (events), Heather Blush (Hobby U) and Scott Landis (Vendors) for supplying 98 % of the data needed to make this guidebook.  It is a pleasure working with these people.

Anything new with Guidebook?  Not this time.  Most of the large scale changes with the Guidebook interface happened around the time of Fall IN last year, so if you learned Guidebook with that app, it’s the same thing this time.  I’m just going to hit the high points here as MOST of the people using Guidebook should be familiar with it by now (one can only hope, right?).

Features (these pictures were taken on a Lenovo laptop and an Ipad Air– screen geometry will be more condensed with a smartphone)

Main page isn’t any different.. you’ll note the spiffy visual tie in with the convention theme in the headline there.

Main page is where you’ll find the hotel street address and phone number, the theme information and a brief overview of the guide.

Schedule Page is roughly the same as always. Use the date links above to switch days. Select your event by double clicking, then it will bring up details on the event, including table number and room, duration, scale, GM, historical period, rules and the narrative of the game.

One note– you can ADD games to your personal schedule on the APP ITSELF.. this is NOT the same thing as actually registering for events. So don’t confuse them.

Map Pages:
show individual room maps and table layouts. Look at the table designation and then the corresponding table map. If you can’t figure out the acronyms in the schedule I added a graphic to use as a key.

Exhibitors Listing is the same as always. Take a moment to read the descriptions along with the Table Location. This list tracks the following data: Name of the Vendor, Table Number, a short description of the vendor’s products and the website for the vendor (if they have one).

I added some social media hooks (the free ones anyway). The Facebook link allows you to post directly to the Facebook page for HMGS directly from the guidebook app:

I think the Twitter app will post to twitter (you’ll have to log in the first time) with a hashtag of #ColdWars17 (if memory serves).

So there are the highlights for this convention. You can get the guidebook at the same locations as usual.

The Landing Page is here:

Just click the picture to go there. Scroll down from the spiffy visual reference to the COLD WARS 17 theme, and you’ll see links to the Guidebook Downloads for IOS, Android, and on the Web via a windows or smartphone.

And here’s the direct QR code:

So there you have it, Guidebook for COLD WARS 2017.  The only thing not included is Tournaments, which I will add in the next few days.  I may do a few happy to glad fixes right up to the convention itself.. If I do, Guidebook will tell you to update it when you open the app up.  Just open the app connected to the internet and it will download the changes I made itself.

Enjoy the convention and I will see you there.


EDIT 3/2: Fixed the problem with adding events to your personal schedule.  Had to turn CHECK IN back on as an option.

ARF Supplemental: A Blast From The Past

So to continue with a revisit down memory lane, some background: in 2002 and 2003, Bob Giglio and I put together a game called “Amish Rake Fight” (or ARF) which I modestly can claim was well received. Those games certainly were talked about for a decade or so. In 2014, I wrote a long blog post that sort of recapped the concept, the planning and the execution of the two Amish Rake Fight games, and the discussions that took place about a third one “some day”. I did this because human memory is faulty, and the older we get, the less we are going to remember, and I wanted to get something of the great games of my past down on paper, or more appropriately, electrons. Surprisingly, since he is a very talented historical GM with well deserved reputation for being serious about the history and serious about the details, my Co-GM for ARF, Bob Giglio, was more than happy to pitch in clarifications on minor points here and there, and provide a surprising background of digital evidence. Which brings us to this post, which should be considered supplemental to the 2014 one.

First we have a map, and a danged fine one. This is a 2016 sketch by Bob G, based on a 14 year old game (and some photographic evidence). Not bad at all.

Map Sketch © Bob Giglio 2016

(Click on the map to blow it up a bit).  After giving the special rules for ASF weapons (Amish Science Fiction) a re-read, it became clear how the East battle field events transpired.  As I recall, there was a “Meek” stationed at the Stone Foot bridge (Center North) and at least one more in a fording spot in the river.  Surprisingly they performed excellent service, stopping a rampaging gang of bikers in both spots while their less meek brethren circled around behind the bikers and whooped ass with scythes and rakes!

In addition to the sketch map, Bob provided to me (last night) a compendium of background material we came up with to expand a decent skirmish set (Bootleggers, from RLBPS).  We will not present the core Bootleggers rules because they are copyrighted by RLBPS, but the additional ASF stuff is fair game, and some of it is hilarious.  The ASF stuff was a community effort between Bob Giglio, Chris Johnson and myself.  The Handouts were penned by Bob.

Appendix 1: Amish Science Fiction Weapons, an unauthorized supplement to Bootleggers

Appendix 2: ARF Handout 1 © Bob Giglio 2002

Appendix 3: ARF Handout 2 © Bob Giglio 2002

Appendix 4: A rather nice writeup of our then current convention in the local press.
© Lancaster online 2002.

The ARF game is mentioned in some detail, and both Bob and I are quoted.  It was the reporter who wrote this article that the Board Member who was in charge of promotions took such pains to keep away from us, up to and including begging me to take my Amish hat off while I was running the game, so she “wouldn’t get the wrong idea about historical wargamers being disrespectful”.   I suspected if had had the time, he would have tried to forcibly shave off my somewhat authentic looking Amish chin whiskers while he was at it.

That’s about all I have.. If you are interested you can read the original article in full.  It was a fun time and a celebration of the silly side of historical wargaming.



Cold Wars 2016: I’m out of order? You’re out of order!

I attended Cold Wars 2016 with my son Garrett last weekend, and generally had a pretty good time.  Generally.  I’m on staff for the other two shows of the year, Fall-IN! and HISTORICON, so I generally just go to CW as a tourist these days, and I don’t stay at the Host, as it’s usually full up by the time I’m planning on going to this show.  This makes for a short stay, as I can’t justify staying at a hotel for more than an evening.  Dutifully, we got on the road early for once on Friday and ended up getting to the show in decent time.  Cold Wars 2016 certainly wasn’t attended in record numbers, but enough people were there that parking was problematic on Friday morning at 10 AM, which is a good sign.  We both did something I had never done before this show, and that’s attend a Hobby University class on modifying and kit-bashing Matchbox cars for Post-Apocalyptic Car Combat games taught by Joey McGuire.  Mr. McGuire pooh-poohed my interest in his class, saying he felt I had already taken my class, since I have painted about 60 cars for White Line Fever.  Nonsense, there’s always something new to learn, and I learned something new here.  Actually, a few things, but first and best was a much better method of painting rust than I had used previously:
Start with flat black on all the shiny and metal parts.
Then go with a Burnt Umber dry brush, then with a Shadow’s Flesh dry brush, then actual orangey rust color. Then highlight with a darker silver.  the result is multilayered and subtle, far more subtle than the cars I’ve been doing.

Paint combination for Rust

And here are the results. I took the pickup, Garrett made a retro-cannon out of his “Nashlike” deco car

Killer Low-ridin’ Pickup truck
Gar made an up-armored “Stretch Nash rambler” with two Gatling guns on a rack up top.

I really enjoyed Joey’s class (which also taught me the benefits of Zip Kicker) and would recommend it to anyone. Special thanks to Lon Weiss from Brigade Games for providing packs of add on weapons and armor for this class.

Gar has become a big fan of Battletech (the FASA product, now owned and supported by Catalyst Gaming Labs). So he looked at the schedule and decided to go sit in on the Battletech Grinder games in the Cornwall Room all weekend.

The Grinder, apparently, is a Battletech competition where you play, get killed, and come back as a different, hopefully stronger, mech. Garrett ended up with a Battlemaster at the end but only had it for a couple of turns before they ended the Grinder. So it goes.  Thanks to the guy running this event (which was more than one table, it was a room of Battletech, btw), and thanks to MOST of Gar’s opponents for being nice to the newbie.  The less said about the loud-mouthed kid who complained bitterly about every roll of the die that went against him, the better.

I got into a pre-Dreadnought game Friday night.  I wanted to try out FROSTGRAVE but couldn’t get in to the Friday night game, it being full up.  So I went with a back up plan, and I’m glad I did.  I got a ticket to the Deadly Warfare games playtest of “Black Smoke and Blue Seas” or something like that.  More on this later, since I spent some time relieving myself of money in exchange for hobby items Friday until “go time”.

The dealer’s room was the dealer’s room.. we can’t expect the giant vendors of bygone days and should be grateful for the ones who show up in force, or the old standbys that are still making a showing, albeit in a greatly reduced footprint.

It's a picture from 2015, sorry

I got a copy of the Pre-Dreadnought rules (Black Smoke, Blue Water) we were about to play for the playtest, and starter fleet for Manila Bay.   I also picked up a cigar box battle mat for a medieval/fantasy city, probably for running Frostgrave on.  I got some nice pieces for Road Warrior/White Line Fever in a leftover parts bin at Hobby House, the new Cultists expansion for Frostgrave and the spell cards, because, well, they’re nifty looking and pretty handy.. besides, I wanted to thank Brigade Games for sponsoring Hobby University by throwing some coin his way.  I was going to get troop cards for BLUCHER, but, sadly, they were sold out when I went back for them.   I looked over the flea market as well, but didn’t find much of what I came there to buy.  I was looking for AQMF Martian stuff (which hasn’t taken a nose dive in price like I thought it might), as well as 15mm SF and some other bits and bobs.  Sigh.

Events: Given that I was only there from Friday morning-ish until late Saturday night, I didn’t see everything.  However, I did like most of what I saw.  The ballroom wasn’t jammed on Friday, which  usually has people complaining about the empty tables, but every game I saw didn’t lack for players (YMMV).

Friday night around 6PM I participated in the playtest game of BLACK SMOKE, BLUE WATER.  This is a game of Pre-Dreadnought era ship combat, with some important caveats; this game setting assumes about a twenty year leap forward in technology, so it adds some elements that would be missing in a straight up historical period game, such as air operations, submarines and etc.  The game played well.  I thought the combat in a multiplayer game really slowed down somewhat when the ranged narrowed and many options (based on calibers of weapon) opened up.  The designers welcomed feedback and got some good gouge from the players.

The game scenario was Manila Bay (the same fleets I had bought that morning).  The American fleet is entering the board just clearing Cavite island which has a battery that can shoot out 36 inches. Not having any operational need to land on Cavited, we just cheerfully ignored it and steamed onward, keeping more than 36″ out of range.  I ran the Olympia and the Baltimore.  For much of the fight we were the chief American ships engaging the Spaniards, but it was still a one sided contest (not in the Spaniard’s favor).  I felt bad for the Spaniards.. their Torpedo Boat force were pretty close to Cavite at the onset, but when it was clear we weren’t going near the place, they had to spend most of the game running in flank to engage the Americans, only really coming close in the last few turns.  The Spanish Admiral was quite aggressive, unlike his historical counterpart, and gave almost as good as he got.  In game terms, the Olympia was the best ship on the board (and that bears up with the historical battle).  Having guns of over 7″ was a big advantage in certain situations and that contributed to the American fleet sinking a Spanish battle cruiser.  We called the game after a certain point and discussed the mechanics.  For a small slide show of the engagement, please click on the picture below.

It was a fun game experience, and I do like the rules.  I find the combat to be a little drawn out, but what can I say, they are correct in modeling all that gunfire, such as it is.. each of the ships of the era had a veritable battery of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary gun types of various sizes and calibers.  They were effective in their roles, up to a point.  My torpedo (the only one that hit of the six that were shot) was what ended the one Spanish ship that sank, and that also seems to reflect history.. the ship guns weren’t huge and they weren’t very accurate.   It just seemed to be a remarkably bloodless engagement compared to the actual historical Manila Bay.

Some great games were going on in the Distelfink Friday night and Saturday day…

Jon Paul Cosgrove’s excellent “Zombies attacking a Prison that is suspiciously like the one he worked at” game had some amazing scenery.

zombies and prison

zombies and prison

There was a Russian Revolution/Civil War game going in the back, not sure who ran it but it looked like tons of fun.. and was a beauty to behold.

Oh and there was THIS THING, which was playing Saturday, I think:

Invasion of the Pasta People? Maybe?

Whatever! Looks like it was a blast to play.. and it certainly was colorful.

Jim McWee was running a zombies overrunning a town game that I think he has run before. Sure was nice and colorful!

There was even a naval game based on the Destroyermen series going on in the corner:

courtesy of Leo Walsh

The best part as always was seeing old friends again and jawing with some familiar faces we don’t see but a few times a year (if we are lucky):

(Bob and Cleo at the table next to me)

One game I wanted to capture in pictures was a double blind game of MIDWAY based upon the classic Avalon Hill game of the same name being played in the Distelfink.  It was fantastic.  Fortunately the guy who writes DE NERDIBUS got a few pictures of it and I include the link below.

Saturday morning Gar and I got in to the one game we both played together, which was S161: Frostgrave – Cold Harbor, run by Jon Lundberg.  I had a really fun time playing this.  I had a Chronomancer and small gang (including a polar bear!).  We slipped in to the city from the South side, hardly killed anyone (except for a rampaging killer snowman) and was altogether too polite — not a lot of blood was spilled.  Still, I got 4 treasures off the board, which is a respectable showing, I think.  Click the picture above to see a very small album of pictures from the first Frostgrave game I played Saturday Morning, if you have an interest.

(or try this link)

I did one more run on the dealer’s room Saturday but the stuff I was going back for had sold out.  So it goes.  I ended up taking a nap in a chair in the lobby, and checking in with Garrett, who was joyously stomping other big stompy mechas. as you can see here:


He played until quite late in the evening, and it was a slugfest. Garrett’s comment about his day immediately brought up that age old stereotype. “Dad, the guy next to me was your age, almost. I’ve never smelled an adult that smelled that bad in my life.. do people not shower here or something? It could have gagged a maggot“. He didn’t understand why I was laughing until I hiccupped… (to clarify, the man he was referring to IS NOT PICTURED)

Apparently the Membership meeting went off while I was pre-dreadnoughting the night before. Here’s what I got from Otto Schmidt, who did attend:

I attended the membership meeting at Cold Wars on Friday night at 7 pm.

The following items were announced

Three hotel chains are in negotiations to buy the host, two are national changes one is a regional chain. THE HOST sales rep says that all of them will NOT tear the host down but will repair and restore it bit by bit, one section at a time. The guest rooms will need the majority of the work, but the meeting rooms will need not much more than some new carpets and cosmetic changes. The heating and air conditioning plant will be replace and some electrical work done and the bathrooms repaired. This was reported by the Bod who said that the impact on us would be, if we stayed, that the hotel would lose 60 rooms at a time as they were reconditioned, but that could be taken up by surrounding hotels. They did say that the room rate then would, according to the host, go up to $149 USD a night.

The BOD also said they were looking at other venues including YORK convention center and Lancaster Convention Center, both of whom had been rejected previously and Dave Waxtel is investigating a location in Somerset County NJ. No name was mentioned.

I had a report from the owner of the Continental hotel who is heavily involved with the local hotel organization that the host is in receivership (or soon will be) to the bank. This was not said at the meeting.

The Bod announced that Fall in 2016 will be at the host and Cold Wars 2017 will be there also. After that it would be as negotiations with the host and new owners progressed.

The BOD said they were looking at a cost saving measure of buying tables for the convention. They said their largest expense each year was $60,000 USD for table and chair rental. They were investigating buying these (folding chairs) and it would cost about $25,000 USD total. The original plan, (pre-auction) was to store these at The Lancaster Host and let the Host Use them for other events and the host would pay us a fee when this was done and that the cost of the purchase would then be amortized over about four years. This plan was put in abeyance after the auction kerfuffle, because it was realized that if we did that the tables and chairs would be seized if a foreclosure was processed, and it did not mater if we owned them.

If a bank or agency does this, the release of them would not take place till all creditors with outstanding charges against the hotel were satisfied, and any assets or possessions on site would be part of “inventory” and so sold off.

No discussion was made of the chairs and table rentals for Historicon in Fredericksburg and the rental cost was not broken out for that, nor was it said if the tables and chairs allegedly stored at the host (if it came to pass) would be trucked down to Virginia) nor the cost of haulage and dunnage for that.

Nominations of officers were made. The Bod will publish them in the newsletter. ”

(this is repeated on TMP and elsewhere, quotations Otto Schmidt)

There was some other reports about someone attending Salut in the UK (Dave Waxtel) and as to whether he was paying for it or the Board. Dave is. There was a lot of discussion (on TMP or elsewhere) as to whether a Salut “diorama game” convention will work in a US market (most Americans think not). There was some discussion about paying clubs or GMs to run large set piece games by helping them with their construction expenses. “This is paying GMs to run games” was mentioned from the floor. There was some contention– I could point out HMGS has paid GMs in the past and has the leeway to do it on a per show basis.. just ask anyone who has paid for “Uncle Duke” in the past.

As for the comments about the Host. Hmmm. I fully expected 2016 to be the last year I would be going to a Cold Wars game at the Host. I’m astounded that chains are interested in this property, but apparently it is fulfilling a requirement for mid-income to low-income convention gatherings that no other property around can fill, and there’s a real economic need for a property called the Host. Still.. there’s SO MUCH work to do to fix this place up..

The temporary physical plant, now taking up several parking places.. this keeps the place in hot water.. most of the time.

Downstairs toilets were broken most of Saturday– with big yellow “do not cross” police tape covering the doors. One of the urinals UPstairs broke, too (pictured). So at one point, there were only three urinals and 5 stalls for the entire Lancaster host facility (working).

Everywhere, everywhere.. there’s signs of decay and crumbling. The kitschy cool sixties rock exterior is crumbling off the building in several places. The railing up the side of the handicapped ramp to the lobby is now floating in mid air in all but two places.. The roof.. well, you know about the roof.

Saturday night I resolved to get into another game of Frostgrave, as I like the rules a lot. I really wanted to attend S244: Frostgrave: Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City. I was the last alternate to get in. Jeff Hiley’s terrain was simply fantastic. He won an award for it in the middle of the game! I played a Summoner for this game, and managed to nab 4 treasures.. but only got two off board by end game. We were doing the good versus evil thing, which suited me. This was my favorite game of the convention by a country mile; this is not to say I didn’t love the other games too, I just got into the setting so much with Jeff Hiley’s terrain efforts it was hard to come to any other conclusion.

Jeff getting an award.

We got into a big fight with some do-gooders at the choke points on the ramp. I think I was up against a Thaumaturgist at least. Sadly the only spell I had much of a shot with was LEAP, which did work most of the time, and Summon Demon, which was ineffectual most of the game. The rest of my spells were just too blinkin’ hard.

There’s a nice slide show of the Second Frostgrave game Saturday night below, if you have an interest. Just click on the picture.

(Or try this link)

As it was 11PM at this point, Gar and I had to bail out and head home.. it was an easy trip but we were already pretty tired so didn’t want to press our luck.

Sadly we had to miss Eric’s Road Warrior game, but it’s just as well, I prefer the HO sized one.

So that was our COLD WARS 2016. For me, it was the Frostgrave Cold Wars. I’m quite taken with that game and am painting up some warbands. The decrepit surroundings didn’t make the convention run less efficiently (though there were and are the usually carping about things that never seem to change, like long lines). I definitely gamed more and enjoyed myself more than I usually do at conventions. Thanks to all the crew who helped me get Guidebook done for this convention– Theresa, Paul, Scott, Scott, Heather etc. (see previous post on that subject. I did try a few new things this year, like taking pictures and uploading them to the guidebook. Not sure who can see these or if they are shared to the general guidebook user base or not. In any event, Guidebook was its usual useful self. The CD of Cold Wars really could care less about it, but the attendees do, so I’ll keep doing it despite official indifference.

Finally, if I could sum it up, I’d say this was a convention of interesting games and some good times.  My son came with me and I encouraged him to go off and find his own groove.. he hung out with guys his own age (or older) all weekend and had a terrific time.  I played in some great games, and saw some great games being played.  It was more of a game playing convention than a shopping con for me.

So as the sun set swiftly in the West, we drove home, tired and all conventioned-out. See everyone at HISTORICON!!!

(SLIDE SHOW of all Cold Wars 2016 pictures I took over the weekend)
(or try this link)

De Nerdibus: Cold War pictures (including the Midway double blind game)

Xin’s Lair: Cold Wars 2016 Frostgrave Game

Strangely, a Sad Farewell to the Host

A dump.  Seedy. Dirty. Falling Apart.  Run Down... These, and many other creative appellations have been thrown at the Lancaster Host Resort over the years.  The site of so many conventions from both The Historical Miniature Gaming Society and the World Boardgame Championships has not exactly been well loved in the last decade.  The venue we all “loved to hate” has hosted HMGS conventions for 24 years.  I started attending HMGS conventions just prior to the move from the Penn-Harris, so I’ve been to almost the entire run of shows held at the Host.  For much of that time, I’ve worked as a volunteer and for some of that time, as a convention director.  So I’ve grown accustomed to the odd layout of the host, which is oddly spread out and not very handicapped friendly.

As has been released online and in public, the Lancaster Host Property, Buildings and land is up for auction, Dec 14, closing Dec 16.

There is no reason to suspect there won’t be anyone interested in this property.  The property has changed ownership before but never quite like this– before, ownership passed from one entity to another, both of which being interested in running a hotel.  It could be very different this time.  Essentially, this is a bargain basement opportunity for land that could conceivably be worth ten million dollars in the right circumstances.

Funny, I don’t remember it looking like this. Ever.

 Reading the description in the auction listing above, the land and the five buildings on the land are going up for sale on 14 December.  Bidding will cease on the 16th.  Then we’ll have some inkling of what will happen to the Host.  Will future conventions be held there?  I would tend to doubt it, at least beyond the upcoming Cold Wars in March of 2016.  I’m not a property lawyer and really have no idea of what the status of the contracts held by the HMGS and the Host in common would be when ownership passes to a new owner.  Is the new owner obliged to rent the facility to us at all?  Or will they assume the legal penalties of breaking a contract?  When you purchase a property at auction, are you assuming the previous holder’s liabilities as well as his assets?  I honestly don’t know.  Chime in if you have experience in this field.. I certainly don’t.

Man, I don’t remember ANY room at the Host looking that good.  Must be the lighting

Speculating is one thing, sure.  I think what we can assume WILL happen is that the day we have (as an organization) been collectively dreading has finally come to pass.  There is no more blood in the turnip.  If the extremely run down buildings on the Host site avoid the wrecking ball until Fall-IN! 2016, I think we’ll be very lucky indeed.  Personally, I doubt it.  The cost of modernizing the physical plant surely must far exceed the potential value of the property as an investment.  If the weight of existing contract penalties convinces the new owners to stay in business at least for COLD WARS 2016 and even FALL-IN! 2016, I think we can predict a minimum effort at service at best.. as the new owners struggle to eke out a few sheckels of profit with a minimum of investment.  That’s a level of service we’ve been used to in the last few years, so it won’t be very different.

Ultimately, the site will see the wrecking ball, sooner or later, and probably sooner would be my guess.  The strange thing is that I have given the site a lot of grief over the years.. leaky roofs, mold, flaking paint and disgusting bathrooms (by Saturday)… still, as a place, it was our place, and I made a lot of friendships in that place.  I can’t help getting just the slightest hint of misty-eyed contemplating the end of this long, long era, so soon upon the heels of the demise of the Game Parlor in Chantilly, VA.   Change is inevitable, and much of what we once took for granted will be missed in the upcoming years.  I suspect, more than I could guess, I’ll end up missing elements of the Host.  There are very few facilities on the East Coast that had that magic sweet spot of facility space, hotels, parking, eateries, things to do, and great attitude that the Host had in its heyday.  I know for a fact that the present board of directors is at work looking for a new location, but none of the candidates I have heard vetted have the right specific combination of factors that made the Host a success for 24 years– or much of 24 years.

It’s a little ridiculous for me to drive all the way up to Lancaster to be there when that wrecking ball swings (whenever), but part of me really wants to be there.

Cold Wars 2015, the very chilly Cold Wars AAR

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

F-275, S-276. S-303, F-201, S-200, S-199.

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.

A real Aerosan

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.

Gratuitous Balcony of the HMGS Cold Wars Vendor Hall Area, this one shot by myself, in March of 2015.  Click for more details.

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.

Getting close to total victory here. The Brit overshoots his target and doesn’t drop bombs; I get him in a deflection shot that carries over in the next turn, where he has to roll a total of 3 reds and 2 blue column damage. So long!

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.

The Big Steamboat Game resurfaces. I’ve never played it– the GM gives the places away if you don’t show up on time, so the one time I tried I didn’t get in. Sure looks impressive! Click here to see more games on the flickr site. I should have taken more pictures, but ehhh they will show up in other AARs.

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..

BOOTH BABES! Well, more precisely, Booze Babes, handing out samples of a rather chemically enhanced Apple flavored Crown Royal concoction. Poor girls! I should have warned them what two comely maidens in tight costumes, free booze and come-hither looks might do to this crowd, of THESE KIND OF GUYS…

I will credit them with this– They tried their best to both understand and pretend that we were interesting chaps. The string of 19 year old men following them around like puppies was totally understandable.. the occasional 40 year old man.. well, that was just sad and uncomfortable.

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.


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.

Starting from the back of the pack, just left of center on the cycle. I was surprisingly effective– the bike can drive between wrecks easily and I made my sustain roll almost every turn.

Weaving between the wrecks (bottom center)

That’s the hippy team (Nancy Ott, driver) in the bottom center. They were on the side of all natural 420 goodness.

Nobody was standing on cars, actually– this is just a good representative shot.

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.

Click below to listen to the 100th rendition of the CHEESE STANDS ALONE by Jim Stanton, the winner of Cold Wars Road Warrior Invitational!

Road Warrior: Jim Stanton, driver of the Truck, comments:

Click below for their rendition of ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE

Road Warrior: The Otts (the Hippies) comment:

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.

Retro: The Great Amish Rake Fight Games, 2002-2003

Another in a series of visits down memory lane to the world of Retro gaming.

The subject of this post was a game that many have referenced in public over the years but few actually saw.  That’s because it was only played twice in public and once for practice at Bob Giglio’ s house.   Namely: the Great Amish Rake Fight.  This is a semi-legendary game (if I do say so, myself) that gets bandied about now and then with a “remember when” twinkle in everybody’s eye.  My name is associated with it, to be sure, as I was one of the two people who ran it and one of the small group of dedicated ninnies who built it and contributed to it– and I think I’m as good of a reference as any.

Your Humble Narrator, suited up as referee at the first running of the Great Amish Rake Fight Game (Cold Wars 2002).  The very real beard is visual proof of the lengths I used to go to for a sight gag.  I actually shaved it off at this con!

Please note: Bob Giglio, co-GM of ARF, has kindly provided some material, corrections and most importantly PHOTOGRAPHS of the 2002 event.  Photographs provided by Bob, and where direct quotes apply, they are cited.

The Great Amish Rake Fight game, or ARF, as it has been referenced from 2003 onward, has its origins in an email conversation held  between Del Stover, Bob Giglio, and other members of the HMGS Marketing Outreach program.  If I’m recalling things correctly, someone, I think it was Del, mentioned that there wasn’t any historical battle sites local to Lancaster PA’s HOST facility that he could properly leverage to get a historical crowd to come running to see.  Or something like that.  In my own wise-assed way, I interjected, saying words to the effect of “nonsense.. I have been making Amish Military units for the great Amish Rake Fight game, haven’t you heard of that?”  Big laughs all around.   I had pulled the name from an old USENET group from the dawn of the Internet that had (at the time) very little to do with gaming.

The thing is, I actually had been slowly building militarized Amish units (squad sized), for a game that I ran a lot of back in the day, THE RULES WITH NO NAME.  This is an excellent Western skirmish rules set that used to be free for the download, but has since become a commercial product, so I won’t provide a download link.  My idea (then) was to create an “Amish versus Outlaws” game, where some bad guys were riding into town with the intention of looting it blind, and the normally pacifistic Amish were driven to extremis to protect themselves.  My thoughts where give the Amish player some form of hero figure plus 1-4 scut troops of various abilities to follow him around and engage with the Outlaws.  The Hero figure could either be a young Amish fighter armed with a rake, or a churn, or a buggy whip, axe, shovel, anything handy.  Or he might be an Elder, whose job is to “Shame” the outlaw with an effect akin to stunning him.  I had some great buildings that would have worked in a Western setting, and I was working on some ideas for Amish secret weapons to counter the technological advantage the outlaws had (guns).  That was about where this game was when I mentioned it in the meeting.  Bob Giglio loved the idea.  I mentioned some of my ideas, he immediately ran with it and we started collaborating on the spot.  There was a lot of polite tittering from those we mentioned the concept to and repeated “yeah, rights”, which only firmed our resolve to make the game happen.    Over the next few months, Bob and I, joined by Neil Brennan and Chris Johnson, worked on the figures, the terrain and the rules.   I already had about 40 Amish painted up.  Bob added some special figures he had done (and painted much better than my meager efforts).    Terrain was simple, a ground cloth covering a 6 x 10 area with a road (representing Route 30) and some ERTL farm buildings and other structures to represent a portion of the Amish town.

28mm AMISH FIGURES (It’s easier than you think)

The Amish figures proved to be easier to pull off than I had imagined.  I started with a big bag of Old Glory’s 25mm Western range, namely the WAGON TRAIN SETTLERS.  There are some very useful conversion figures inside– men with small carbines and buggy whips and such.   I recall Joel Gregory had cast some useful farm implements (butter churns, shovels, etc., but ironically no rakes).  He graciously donated to the project and I replaced rifles for shovels, etc.  I also used the many female figures in the bag, as well.  One showed a severe woman stirring something in a bucket on the ground with a long pole.  I dubbed that figure “Vat Women”, and painted them up with a severed head in the bucket, as if she was rendering it down for something.  Honestly, I can’t recall what she did in game terms other than look cool.

WP 17: Old glory Wagon Train Settlers

Old Glory’s WG-17 bag of figures was (and is) a hell of a bargain; even after the price has gone up I believe I managed to convert the entire bag of 30 figures into either useful Amish Line troops, weapons crews or something very decorative and Amish looking.  Conversion notes– I bent the hat brims to something resembling flat.  Where the hat had a rounded crown I filed it flat.  I painted the hat straw colored with a narrow black ring around it.  Shirts were uniformly pale blue denim.  Pants black or blue.  Coats Black.  I removed all rifles and added farming implements.  I left the buggy whip in the buggy whip figure’s hands– that’s one implement an Amish man WOULD have..  Women’s dresses were grey, black or blue.  Very easy to pull off.   All figures were mounted on pennies.

To this, I added single Dixon Old West Range figures from the “Mexican peon” range and Stagecoach and Townsfolk ranges.  I bought a lot of WG76, WG77, and WG78, as all of these are using in-scale farming implements as part of the original sculpt.  Conversion was not as easy as the OG Settlers– I had to file and flatten the sombreros, file down the sandals a little to so the toes aren’t as pronounced and paint the formerly bare feet as boots.   I did add a few macabre touches, like drilling the off hand of one of the peons and adding a head modeled as if it were recently severed and being held by him.  A little hard core for Amish, but hey, the whole POINT of this game is parody, so why not.

Just a few candidates for conversion from Dixon miniatures Old West line:

WG 76

(remove rifle)
WG 79

WG 92

Bob Giglio contributed several figures from Westwind’s Gothic Horror Range, none of which I can find pictures of at this stage.  They were mostly the Bohemian Villagers or something like that.  They looked like Amish people.. kinda.. if you squint a little.  The Amish never went in for the lacy shirt look, but they did have agricultural tools.  Bob also provided some Boers from the Old Glory Boer range that definitely fit, though it was hard to find Boers without guns.   Great wagons.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. This picture depicts the Amish figs post-conversion. Most of these are converted Old Glory Settlers except these: the Amish male waving a machete is an ex-Mexican Peon, as is the Amish directly to the right of the Meek standing at the end of the bridge.  Partially obscured is a Westwind figure to the left. Yes, the Amish had standards, see below. CLICK PICTURE to enlarge

Amish Flags used as Unit Standards


Civilian automobiles were a mix of  diecast modern vehicles that were kinda, sorta in 1:64 scale (nominal for 25mm).   We had several State Police cars, using the Pennsylvania State Police logo.  We also had a police copter.   There were several cars parked as props in front of the large barn where the game starts off; in addition there were some construction equipment that I picked up from a toy set that seemed sized right.  The big surprise was the ubiquitous Amish buggies.    If you’re a scratch builder and have gamed in the 19th century, then you probably know of the pencil sharpener covered wagons.  There’s also one modeled along the lines of a Amish buggy.  I thought this was a dubious choice, but you know, once Bob had painted up a mess of these, they really looked great and roughly in scale, if somewhat smallish.

Voila, Cheap Amish Buggies, available in bulk at any sleazy souvenir stand in Amish Land

I made the ubiquitous little orange triangle signs for the back of each buggy and even tried to make “Scythes” to make them killer buggies, but the latter looked terrible, so we gave up on that idea.


Terrain was pretty easy.  I was collecting a lot of ERTL farmville sets back in those days, which are nominally scaled for 1:64.  I had two big barns, and we had diverse smaller buildings from craft store holiday sets and such that worked in that scale, as well as one scratchbuilt Amish Stripper palace that offered “Lapp Dances”.  Yeah, parody can be fairly broad at times.   Bob built us a good looking Route 30 for one end of the map, and Bob also built some streams, roads and hills to break up the terrain a little– and he did it effortlessly.  It was a real pleasure to collaborate with Bob in this way.  We’d discuss the problem of terrain and ZIP! he’d go to some part of his basement, find the right thing, or build it from scratch, no muss, no fuss.

Bob adds:
(with the exception of the barns) The terrain was all done by me, including the first ever Lapp’s with the sign that said “We have Lap Dances”, well before MBA had created one. 😉

See the map:

The Great Amish Rake Fight games, terrain

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection.  Here’s a shot of Amish in action near the Amish Market. Some of the local thugs are approaching on the lower right. You can see one of the painted pencil sharpener buggies and some of the Christmas Village buildings we used for structures. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Route 30 terrain, built by Bob. Plus some of the signs I made and the diecast cars.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. More fun on Route 30

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Roadhouse, with a custom billboard. State motorcycle cops on the right.

Here’s some Road Signs I made up using a color printer, a laminating machiine and some wooden bits


Rules… What can I say?  Bob G. and I are two very different GMs.  Bob is a very procedure oriented GM, who likes the details, and likes to have this resolved before the game starts, preferably by playtesting.  He is not adverse to using a published set of rules.  I’m more of a “GM for effect” kind of GM, and have been known to make something up for the sheer dramatic hell of it on the spot.  Once or twice.  With that said, ARF was going to be a game where the mechanics really weren’t THAT important.  I knew that going in to the project.  Most of the fun was going to be had with the theme and the setting and the way we were riffing on a non-violent race of people being secretly capable of violence and possessing weapons of mass destruction.   I mean, with that premise, who cares how far someone moves and someone shoots, as long as they do it consistently?  I pushed for THE RULES WITH NO NAME early on, but didn’t really care if Bob was pushing for something else, so we went with THE BOOTLEGGERS, a gangster rule set Bob was very familiar with and had run huge games at HMGS events in the past with.  Being a game that could handle fire and movement and relatively modern weaponry, I was game.  We had to modify it a bunch for the Amish secret weapons.  Oh?  What were those?

The Amish Secret Weapons

 If there was something (besides the figures and terrain) that really “made” ARF .. ARF, it was the secret weapons.  These were a collection of Amish inspired weaponry that had a definitive impact on the game, but could be codified using the Bootleggers rules.  To be honest, I forget a lot of them, but the rule was they had to be goofy, there had to be a model representing the item, and it had to be modified “Amish stuff”.. e.g. Agricultural implements.  There’s not a lot of pictures of this event, but the ones I remember are:

The Pie Flinger: This was a device (taken from an Ertl farm toy) that was manned by the female Amish figures.  The presumption was that it fired a hot sticky pie into the onrushing hordes of progress, automatic style.

The Poopn’flinger:  I can’t remember what the backstory was on this thing, but it featured an outhouse-catapult kind of arrangement.  So it would “Fire” poop..

Bob adds:
The Poop-a-Flinga was the creation of Chris Johnson’s fertile(?) mind. It was an outhouse with a large Y-branch in front of it (for the slingshot base) with two long rubber bands stretching into the door of the outhouse, from which the “projectile” would be fired. I think it was on wheels or something, so it could pivot accordingly, to “acquire” a target. Very creative, to say the least — good show Chris!

Der Super Kow:  This was a cow (also manned by a female figure) that was fed a mash of beans and oats.  If an enemy gets within a certain distance, the crew bonks der Kow on the nose, and lights a fire near the tale.. KA BOOM!  Natural flame thrower.  Pretty much a one shot weapon.

The Harrower of Death: This was the weapon of the Mennonites in Black, an allied faction working with the Amish.   It was somewhat verboten in terms of Amish-tech, as it had a steam engine.  The model was another useful pencil sharpener model familiar to VSF/Steampunk miniatures enthusiasts:

This had a big harrower from ERTL’s “Farm Country” set attached fore and aft, the idea being it would drive into crowds and rip them apart. Yeah, pretty bloody for such a peaceable people.

Bob adds:

Also remember, one of the “abilities” we gave the Amish, with a nod to “Children of the Corn”, was that they could go into any cornfield and take a turn to “teleport” to any other cornfield on the board (with a chance of a mishap, naturally).

Last, and by far not the least:

The Amish Cow-ta-pault:  This was, simply put, a giant medieval catapult that fired a live, irate cow into oncoming vehicles.  The cowtapult stole the show, as we will see later on.

Force Composition:

The Amish were divided into roughly 6 groups of ten skirmishers each with a “special” .. either an Amish Self-Immolator (Amish Guy with  a giant fertilizer bomb) or a Meek (remember the “elder” figure that could freeze enemies with a “Shaming?”  That’s a Meek).   The individual female figures mostly were used as Weapon Crews on the secret weapons.   Oh, yeah.. we had a John Book character (From WITNESS).  He was like an Amish Super-fighter.

What about “the Bad Guys”?

Hey, it you have half a brain you’re probably figuring out we were pretty subjectively sympathetic to the Amish in this game design.  YET, we had to have an opposition of sorts– one that was consistent and logical and with 21st century technology, meaning small arms, police weapons, maybe a SWAT team here  and there.  As far as I can recall there was a hodgepodge of groups on the “Forces of Progress” side:

A Gang of Gamer types, from a nearby historical miniatures gaming convention going on that weekend (ARF shamelessly breached the Fourth Wall all game long).  Melee weapons at best.. I think all they did was drive up to the fight and get their butts kicked.

A Board of Development e.g., the BoD (with cunningly altered names) from said convention, who want to buy up Amish-land and build a giant, NEW convention center for holding gaming conventions in, right on that spot, so they are here to check up on their investment. I think some of them had saps and pistols.

Two gangs of Biker Thugs, 10 each, approaching from the direction of Route 30.  Armed with melee weapons and pistols.

Some Union Goons that are being paid off by the Board of Directors to persuade the local Amish to get out of the way of the construction equipment.  Melee weapons and some pistols.

A Grader and a Bulldozer to destroy Amish Buildings.. which is how the “Bad Guys” counted victory points

Local Pennsylvania Cops, armed with shotguns and pistols.  They arrive very late.

A SWAT Team for air dropping into the melee from the chopper (only it never happened, as I will narrate presently)


So, we got to this point where we had all this keen stuff.. and couldn’t explain why people would be fighting with one another.  Hmmm….  I was going with the Secret Weapons being the driver.. that some tourists had taken pictures of the secret weapons project in a barn and an altercation had taken place, and mayhem ensued from there.  The thinly disguised HMGS BoD was thrown in by Bob and Neil, which I thought was funny, albeit perhaps a tad overdone for reasons that had more to do with HMGS politics at that time then good natured ribbing, but once we were playing most of that was forgotten.   Anyway, it turned out to be a good plot driver, since the BoD is now there to oversee the demolition and laying the foundations for their new convention center (some issues never go away, eh?) while the Amish just want to defend their age-old way of life.. classic cinematic moralizing, I loved it.    It made it pretty easy to target the bad guys and to define a “victory condition” of sorts– The Amish start with all buildings intact and so many VPs.. if the bad guys demolish a building, VPs go down, etc etc etc.  Such things didn’t matter much to me, then and now.  I was awarding victory based on a sense of style, myself.

PEL Listing 2002 Game

2002 Title: AMISH RAKE FIGHT (ARF) – The Battle of Lancaster!
Hosts: Brother Robert Giglio & Brother Walter O’Hara (NOVAG)
Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)
Scale/Period: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man) / Modern (i.e., 2001 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)Rules: “Hold Still, Brother, While I Must Smite Thee” (adapted Bootlegger rules by Steve Barber Models – Modified)
Time & Game Length: Sat. Noon, 4 hrs
8 Players
Special Requirements: Adults only; must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event! Intoxicating beverages will facilitate admission to game!!
Game Description:The local Brothers of the Staw Hats & Highwater Pants have had enough of taunts, slights, and insults, and are walking amok! Armed to the teeth with all sorts of farming implements, join them in their righteous fight against local youths, yahoos, and tourists. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that “War is Heck”. This will be a war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists (US style) – “Thee be careful amongst deem English!” [PC Advisory: It’s a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it!] Line up and grab your rakes, pards, it will be (I promise you) an event not to be missed.
Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.


Most of my recollections are of 2002.  I’m pretty sure in 2003, the bad guys won.  If memory serves we ran this Friday night.  We had a full crew, though could have made room for 1-2 more. I remember we were located in the Distelfink ballroom at the Lancaster Host, location of Cold Wars 2002.    We were right up front next to the front doors, and I showed up wearing an Amish Hat and beard, and a Hawaiian shirt.  Bob G. wasn’t into the costume thing and showed up in classic Hawaiian.  I bought a shoo-fly pie to award to the winner.    Bob explained the rules to players not familiar with the Bootleggers rules, and we started.  It went pretty smoothly.

Almost immediately I was tapped on the elbow.  It was Del Stover, at that point working in outreach and ‘marketing’ for HMGS East (as we were known in that bygone era).   Del was escorting a reporter from the local newspaper around, he said, and he was wondering if I would take OFF my Amish hat.  “To the devil with you!” I started to say, and then he said “I”m begging you.”  Well, dammit.  If you put it that way.. I’d been “Meeked”.  ARF Player John Camarano, however, had no such compunctions and happily put on the hat until the reporter left.   On a humorous note, the reporter was looking at the PEL and spied “The Amish Rake Fight” was set to run that night, while she was there.  “What’s that??” She asked.  “Oh, nothing, nothing…” squeaked Del, not wishing to create an incident that would create fear and loathing for HMGS in the local Amish community.   “Here, let me take you to this fine Napoleonics game…”  “NO.. I want to see the Amish Rake Fight, that sounds CUTE!” said the reporter.  So not only did they show up, they featured us in their article rather prominently, much to Del’s consternation (at the time.. he has since said he should not have worried so much).  Quote “Hell, *I* should have worn the damned hat!”  That was then, this is now.. it’s funny how people take things.  Almost everyone walking by laughed uproariously at this concept, but  I well remember the look of shock and horror from one historically-leaning GM that wasn’t a fan of “silly” games.. he must have been driven bonkers at the prospect of an Amish Skirmish game!  Seems funny now.

As mentioned already, the game scenario was fairly complex with many factions. Essentially, some tourists have stumbled on a dark secret of the Amish and were taking pictures. The Elders objected, a scuffle ensued, and to the amazement of the onlookers, the Amish grabbed farming implements and proceed to open up a can of whup-ass on the tourists. Only one got away to raise the hue and cry at the local biker bar– Zinks Route 30 Tavern. Big Paul and his surly crew thought they’d have a little fun and “get some payback” so his group of bikers lurched into motion under the guidance of John Camarano (our esteemed NOVAG presidente).

Meanwhile, a group of nefarious “corporate board members” were on 
their way with some “Union Enforcers” to “break up this mess.. 

YHN taking the lead as GM; this was before the notorious hat incident.  Bob G. is in the right rear corner of this photo.  To my right are the lead Amish Players, John Camarano and Cleo Hanlon

The little Amish Roadside market was a scene of carnage and  destruction… the board barrelled down the road in their trucks,  intent on pushing their weight around. A “meek”, a class of Amish ‘fighter’ that does not physically attack but has a ‘fleeting sense of shame’ effect that makes the opposing player drop his weapons and apologize (which we make the player do, publicly and loudly) stepped out into the road, but was callously ridden down by Ricky Retardo the driver.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Bob resolves a fine point of game mechanics with some Amish players

As in the playtest, this caused the  ultimate demise of the truck, which lost control after encountering an Amish Self-immolater (a sort of “suicide bomber” equipped with a fertilizer bomb) crashed into the market.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. Route 30 minutes before the sacrifice of an Amish Self-Immolater. You can just make him out to the right of the grey wagon in the center, holding the barrel. A fuel truck was inbound, and the explosion would crater Route 30.  You can see a mixture of Amish and modern vehicles in this shot. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

While the occupants sat there, stunned, the Amish descended on them with scythes, rakes,  clubs and buggy whips. It wasn’t pretty.

The Amish Battlefield. The Big Barn, with the Amish rolling out secret weapons, and the terrified tourists in the front lot running. Click HERE for a larger view

Meanwhile, back up at the main barn, the battle had indeed been joined. Big Paul and his goons made a foot sortie across the bridge, and got stopped by a meek (BTW, John Camarano did a magnificient job of grovelling when he failed his morale check). The third, and smallest, Amish faction was in the process of doing a human “Frogger” game while running across Route 30. The last buggy got “clipped” by a speeding car but emerged only shaken. Unfortunately, one of the two Amish Self-immolaters got ridden down at that moment, by a fuel 
truck of all things. The ensuing blast caused a crater in Route 30,  stopping traffic in both directions. A group of ‘gamers’ from a local gaming convention, just back from eating at a local all-you-can-eat, were attracted to the noise and pursued the third group of Amish. 

Cleo Hanlon, NOVAG newsletter editor and later HMGS Newsletter editor, and best Amish player. She spectacularly took out a State police chopper with a cow flung from a cowtapault.

Cleo Hanlon (one of our newsletter editors from NOVAG– she had  bought a bonnet to play the game with, which I thought to be a superb touch) wheeled out the giant Cowtapault. She was defending the big barn area. Her first launch hit a tree. Her second smacked into the side of one of the approaching vehicles. Another bounced in the lane. Her LAST shot, though, hit the side of a Pennsylvania State Trooper police helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing.  Our howls of glee could be heard from one end of the Distlefink to 
the other.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Action Mid Game. This shows the entire battlefield with all buildings. The BoD have arrived upper left.  CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Brother Dave ran the last attack group, which contained the Harrower  of Death and the Mennonite in Black. He engaged the Union enforcers at the base of the hill in an unequal contest, but held his own. Coincidentally, he was also running John Book, who manfully rammed the oncoming pickup with a “borrowed” corvette, took some wounds, and  wisely beat feet out of the melee.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Dave Bullis (L), Amish Player, Brian and Kathy Higbee. (R) Not sure what side Brian played.

In the end, it was decided to give the victory to the Amish, who had successfully defended their lands and way of life (for a while). It  was no contest, we awarded the shoofly to Cleo. Best Yorkist player:  John Camarano, who displayed childlike glee with the windup monster truck the goons were running.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Close to endgame, 2002. Here come the State Cops, run by Dewey. Just prior to the Cowtapault Coup.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. This was Endgame 2002. I’m on the left helping Sister Cleo set up her cowtapault, Bob helps the State Cop player on the right.

PEL Listing, 2003 Game

2003  Game Title: ARF2 (AMISH RAKE FIGHT) – The Wrath of Lapp!Game Hosts/GMs: Brother Robert Giglio, Brother Walter O’Hara, and Brother Cornelius Brennan (NOVAG)Sponsor/Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)Game Description:It’s back…by very popular demand…ARF! When the smoke finally cleared from last spring, the Lancaster Valley stood safe from greedy, unscrupulous developers. Now a new threat looms, as the Lancaster tourism craze hits a new low, and the truce the local Brothers of the Staw Hats and Highwater Pants signed with the Board of Development (BoD) isn’t worth the cow patty it was written on. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that ‘War is Heck,’ just “thee be careful amongst deem English!”[PC Advisory: It’s a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it! Special Requirements: Adults only – must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event. Recommended – players with Amish clothing – to facilitate enjoyment of game!] Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.Scale: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man)

Rules: “O Brother, Hold Still While I Must Smite Thee” (Home Rules modified from – Bootlegger Rules by Steve Barber Models)

Period: Modern (i.e., 2003 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)

Players: 8

Game Time & Length: Saturday Noon, 4 hrs

For Cold Wars 03, we wanted to create a sequel of sorts, where the Amish marched on the host and we had a giant altercation in the Host Lobby between gamers, golfers and Amish people.  It didn’t work out.  We could have made the terrain easily enough but there just aren’t that many golfing and gamer figures out there, and it would have been difficult to kit-bash this.  So we ran the basic game described again one more time, with different players.  In this game, the bad guys (spearheaded by Tim Mullen if memory serves) were VERY aggressive and managed to destroy three Amish Buildings, which made them the clear winners.   I never took any pictures of this game, either.

Bob recollects:

We also had players in costume for that one. If you recall, two guys dressed in overalls, straw hats, and barefoot, etc., came down the stairs and we just laughed, as they were two of our players. Also, and most importantly, the 2003 game saw an Amish family come by, look at the game (and have a long chat with Neil Brennan), and smiled very, Very wide (and wickedly), as they “got it”, and laughed at the “fun” aspect of it. That for me, was priceless!

I remember those guys!  They were brothers from the Central PA area and they really knew the Amish lifestyle.  I haven’t seen them in ten years.   They used to be convention regulars.

The never run 2004 game

Our concept for this was that the Amish were going to “take the war” to the Board of Development (at the Lancaster Host of course), so the next day they show up, and wail on first a pack of golfers, and then on the big gang of golfers, goons and gamers at the hotel.  I was a bit daunted by the idea of terrain for this, but in retrospect, I think we could have managed a hotel lobby and a big of golf course easily enough.  The figures for golfers and gamers would have been a challenge.

Bob recalls:

Since I did the bulk of the terrain for these, and since the idea was to have the Amish “assault the Lancaster Host” during the time one of the conventions was being run, I would have had to have a decent model of part of the Host in 28mm. Not to mention all the gamer figs, golf carts, etc.

Now, unknownest to you, I found the gamer figs at one of the GenCons/Origins I attended. They were all from the Knights of the Dinner Table range in miniature. This range was perfect, and had gamers in all body types, from pointy nosed to very wide bellies, and even in a wheelchair. Just what I needed and priceless! However, they were very expensive (about $3 USD or more per figure). I also found a golfcart that fit perfectly, but never went back for more (I think these were in the toy section of WalMart, Target or Toys R Us way back).

To this I can add the fact that I had also found pencil sharpener golf carts that were a bit large, but would have fit as background objects.   I still see the problem of golfers and gamer miniatures being a limiting factor.   Since we didn’t want to just reprise 02 and 03 for a third year in a row, the game ran out of steam until such time as we have a new story to tell.


So that is my Great Amish Rake Fight narrative.  In retrospect, this was one of my best games, ever, even if it only ran a couple of times– why?  Because it kind of took the mindset that “history games have to be serious” and blew a big, noisy raspberry at it.  In fact, the folks at the Society of Daisy presented us with a medal for our efforts at adding a little levity into wargaming.  This was “The Daisy Medal”, which I am a proud recipient of.    I wish I had more photographs of this game, I really do.  I was quite pleased with it,  but as usual for those days was more busy running things then trying to create a giant ARF archive– so a lot of data has been lost.  The only web-gallery that had pictures went belly up years ago, and now all I can extract from the wayback machine are the three big pictures you see here.   If any gamer out there ever took pictures of these two games, please consider sharing them with me.  I’ll give you credit. As for other artifacts, I had the rule changes to Bootleggers riding in my email account for a long time but I can’t find it any more .   Shrug!  it’s the journey, not the destination.


Many years later, maybe 2009 or so, I was wandering the Exhibitor’s Hall at a HMGS convention, when I bumped into Howard Whitehouse.  We exchanged pleasantries and noticed that the the exhibitor vending a Seven Years War miniatures line right in front of us surely looked … Amish!  I made a pointed observation (to Howard) that it’s puzzling how a non-violent people would play with so-called “war toys”.  “Excuse me,” a voice drawled next to my elbow, “But I’ve never heard of metal figures hurting anybody!”  It turned out to be the Amish figure manufacturer… and he WAS Amish, not Mennonite, from a relaxed order that allowed for him to go out amongst us English.  Howard blithely mentioned ARF in passing and my association with it to the guy.  He blinked, swiveled and asked: “You’re Walt O’Hara, then?  You put on the Amish Rake Fight?” “Y-y-yes.. but let me point out, it was fairly sympathetic to the Amish, actually, and I…” He cut me off.  “We’ve heard of YOU.. we thought it was HILARIOUS!!!” he clapped my back and gave me his email address(!) to send pictures and a write up to.  That was a funny encounter.  The ONE GROUP I thought wouldn’t EVER find out about the Amish Rake Fight would be the Amish themselves.  But they have ears everywhere…. everywhere….

You be careful among them English!

.(2016 Update: Bob provided a bunch of supplemental material to this post, which can be viewed HERE.)

The Cold Wars 2013 GM Awards


From the HMGS Academy of Historical GamingThe Historical Miniatures Gaming Society congratulates the Game Master (GM) awardees selected by their peer GM’s for Cold Wars 2013.

The HMGS Game Master  Awards program is intended to recognize GMs for convention events which encourage others, and exemplify the highest qualities of the Historical Miniatures Gaming hobby.  Thanks to ALL of our dedicated GMs for their personal contribution and selfless efforts at Cold Wars 2013.

1. Best of Show:  Joe Swartz and NOWS for their Boudica series‐ “Destruction of IX Hispania,” “Fort Verulamium,” and “Battle of Watling Street”(28mm Ancients).

2. Best “Warrior Women” Theme Event: Pete Panzeri and Bob Kerstetter for their Queen Elizabeth I series‐ “Elizabeth at Sea: Stop the Armada July 1588,”“Elizabeth I at War: The Longest Day, 1588,” and “Elizabeth I at War: A Bridge Too Far 1588.”

3. ‘Pour Encourager Les Autres’ (PELA) Awards:
Selected from all historical miniatures events throughout the Convention:

  • “Advance to Longueval,14 July 1916” by Phillip Gibbons, Joe Brimer, Ron Bingham, and Battle Barn of Williamsburg (25mm WWI).
  •  “Clash in the Fulda Gap: 1985 What If” by Chris von Fahnestock and Claudius von Fahnestock (1/285 micro Modern).
  •  “The Realm of Logres‐ An Arthurian Adventure” by Will Nesbitt and Andy Birtle (25mm Fantasy).
  •  “Buccaneer Wars” by Matt Pierce, Brian Whitaker, and WAGS (28mm Age of Piracy).
  •  “Raisin River, 22nd January 1813” by Bob Lehman (54mm War of 1812).
  •  “Further Adventures of the League of Pear Shaped Gentlemen” by Thomas
  • Harris, Frank Chadwick, and the Band of Gamers (25mm Colonial).
  •  “Joan of Arc and the Battle of Jargeau” by John Spiess and Erin Spiess (28mm Medieval).
  •  “A Not So Quiet Day on the Eastern Front: World War II” by Bob Burnham and WAGS (15mm WWII).
  •  “Raze Rohan” by Brad Ireland (28mm Fantasy).
  •  “Mayhem in Another Village” by Mark Young, Matt Pierce, and WAGS (28mm Modern).
  •  “Siege of Vienna 1683” by Troy Turner and Bill Miller (15mm Pike and Shot).
  •  “Let the Westphalians Play!” by John Snead and Triangle Simulation Society (28mm Napoleonic).
  •  “Mount Badon‐ c.500 A.D.” by John McBride and David McBride (15mm Dark Ages).
  •  “The Noose Tightens, Maryland 1813” by Scott Landis and Rogues (15mm War of 1812).

6. HMGS Legion of Honor Battle Stars: A “Recognition Award” selected for achievement by members of the HMGS Legion of Honor:

7. GM Award Judging Teams are veteran GM’s led by previous award winners, all of whom devote their personal convention time as volunteers. GM Judges for Cold Wars 2013 included Don Manser, Bill Rutherford, Tim Broome, Bob Henderson, Cliff Brunken, Frank Luberti, Rich Fisher, Michael Fijalka, Frank Sciulli, Joe Swartz, Phil Gibbons, Glenn Kidd, Russ Lockwood, Christin Sciulli, and Brian Cusick.

We apologize for any inaccurate data or oversights and strongly encourage all GMs to volunteer and support the program.  Club groups and award winners are especially welcome as judging teams. To sign‐up to help with our next convention, please email the Awards Committee Chair at:

Winner’s Galley

“Further Adventures of the League of Pear Shaped Gentlemen” by Thomas Harris, Frank Chadwick, and the Band of Gamers (25mm Colonial).

“Joan of Arc and the Battle of Jargeau” by John Spiess and Erin Spiess (28mm Medieval).

“Raisin River, 22nd January 1813” by Bob Lehman (54mm War of 1812).

“The Battle of Bushy Run 1763” by Cliff Brunken and Del-Val Gamers.

“Mayhem in Another Village” by Mark Young, Matt Pierce, and WAGS

“Siege of Vienna 1683” by Troy Turner and Bill Miller (15mm Pike and Shot).

“The Noose Tightens, Maryland 1813” by Scott Landis and Rogues (15mm War of 1812). Not holding the bag this time, Scott!

“Mount Badon- c.500 A.D.” by John McBride and David McBride (15mm Dark Ages).

“Let the Westphalians Play!” by John Snead and Triangle Simulation Society (28mm Napoleonic).

“Advance to Longueval,14 July 1916” by Phillip Gibbons, Joe Brimer, Ron Bingham, and Battle Barn of Williamsburg (25mm WWI).

Best of Show: Joe Swartz and NOWS for their Boudica series- “Destruction of IX Hispania,” “Fort Verulamium,” and “Battle of Watling Street”(28mm Ancients).

“Battle of Shubra Khit (Napoleon in Egypt)” by David Kasper and NOWS (28mm Napoleonic)

“Buccaneer Wars” by Matt Pierce, Brian Whitaker, and WAGS (28mm Age of Piracy).

Clash in the Fulda Gap:1985 What If” by Chris von Fahnestock and Claudius von Fahnestock (1/285 micro Modern).

The Realm of Logres- An Arthurian Adventure” by Will Nesbitt and Andy Birtle (25mm Fantasy)

“Raze Rohan” by Brad Ireland (28mm Fantasy)

A Not So Quiet Day on the Eastern Front: World War II” by Bob Burnham and WAGS (15mm WWII)

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Cold Wars 2013 weekend

(Note this will feature several “Audio Moments” recorded from an App called Audioboo. The audioboo app uses Flash so your browser should be flash enabled to see features of this post.  I am aware that pictures taken on an Ipad and hosted on often display upside down, and am trying to figure out a fix.).

Cold Wars is the Spring event of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, a four day show held at the Lancaster Host, Lancaster PA.   I heard a good comment at the show: ” It’s always Winter when I driver up to Cold Wars and Spring when I drive back“. It sure seemed that way to me on Thursday on the way up– snow on the ground when I left, and 50 degrees when I returned.  I had to economize a little bit going up to the show and take my wife’s Subaru.  Economics has a big impact on show attendance, and the price for a gallon of gas on the East Coast is nothing to sneeze at these days– I’d rather drive a car with 30+ mpg than that giant van of mine.

Audio Moment on Thursday

I work staff on HMGS shows, and I have for more than a decade, including a stint as a Cold Wars director in the distant past. So upon arrival I helped with set up and installation, until we were at the point where we were ready to open the doors and take money.  Standard Thursday chores.

Audio Moment Thursday night:

I have no idea of what pre-registration numbers were for Cold Wars 2013, but the registration area (The Wheatland Room at the Host) was fairly mobbed Thursday night. HMGS uses a registration system that for better or worse uses a cloud system to store and process data remotely. The only drawback is the obvious one: when you can’t get on the Internet, you can’t perform the most basic functions to register people for conventions. You guessed it, the hotel couldn’t connect us to the Internet Thursday night and we were a half hour delayed getting set up. The process of registering someone for a convention, selling them t-shirts, etc. is multi-stepped and complex; I was a little nervous jumping in after an absence of a considerable amount of time, but for once it wasn’t an issue, I picked up on it on the first try. I guess I’m getting used to it. It was a drag for the people waiting in line, but again, not much HMGS could have done about it, the internet connection was pretty miserable throughout the hotel for the weekend and that impacted how we run the show.

Registration Hijinks. As always HMGS is blessed with a crowd of great people who make this essential process go as smoothly as it can, given the technology at hand. I have no idea who that mug in the picture is.. what an introvert.

I was not crazy about my schedule, which you may here me whining about here and there in the audio snippets. I usually work morning shifts and have the afternoon free to game and shop with. For some reason I was on the PM shift throughout, so had to get gamng in where I could.

Computers finally up and running, we get the machinery in motion for another show.

Thursday has been a non-event in the past; now people arrive earlier and take advantage of the extra time to schedule and play events in the evening after registration. There were a few regularly scheduled gaming events, including a tournament for Thursday evening.

It cannot be denied that the pastel pink “Woman Warriors” shirt was a hit. HMGS sold out of it entirely in the lower sizes. Are we confronting our feminine side at long last?

I wanted to get together a Cosmic Encounters game but had no takers. So it goes. One has to be realistic about these things, to quote Logan Nine Fingers. I did end up in a typical destination for Thursday and had a beer with some friends. Or two. As you can see.

Audio Moment:


Friday’s schedule was from 1230 to 6PM; not much opportunity to do anything in the shopping line (the dealer hall opened at noon, Wally’s Basement at 2PM). So I had a (meatless, for Lent) breakfast, which can be a challenge in Lancaster, and did a quick run through of the dealer’s room, figuring 20 minutes would be better than nothing. I picked up exactly what I wanted, which was a SLAVE ONE ship and another A-wing from the Star Wars miniature game which I had  a specific need for.

Friday Games:

Great dungeon terrain in the Paradise room.

Yes, this impressed the heck out of me.

Space Station Acipiter, using 1930s Buck Rogers flat miniatures

Working on the desk was a real chore. The internet was intermittent which caused severe problems with registration. When your organization relies on the Cloud computing concept, and the connection to the cloud goes South, well, you make the connection. No reg system, doing everything by hand and then updating the reg and POS systems later when the internet comes back. 3 x the labor.

Audio moment, Friday

The Wally’s Basement for Friday was truncated, but very packed. The first session opened up to the usual stampede of customers, as you can see from this action packed footage.

I actually got a break to run down and do a pass through.. and found a homemade casemate ironclad (made of wood) for my 15mm boat game, Big Danged Boats. Very reasonable!

I’m not any judge of these things, really, but I do know that conventions where the lines don’t stop until the end of shift usually indicate a good attendance.  Not finding an spot easily in the parking lot is a good indication, too.  I noticed both of those things.

After shift, I grabbed a not-quick vegetarian dinner at the restaurant at the Host.

Hint: it was covered with cheesey goo and involved onions.

F-144 Caesar vs. Pluck: Bellum Ruritanicum 72 AD

Friday night’s game started at 1900, and was run by Jeff Wasileski, one of the better GMs out there. Jeff’s scenario used SCIENCE VERSUS PLUCK with a Roman patina. This is a set of rules that encourages player repartee first and charts and tables last. We all played roles.. I ended up taking Domitian, the second son of the Emperor Vespasian, who is touring Ruritanicum right about the time of a giant revolt. Howard, the author of the rules, was also there playing the Auger, and later on the role of Domitia, the newly wedded bride of Domitian.

SLIDESHOW: F-144 Caesar versus Pluck
F-144 Caesar versus Pluck

This game was a ton of fun, maybe the best thing I’ve played in a while. With Howard Whitehouse as the Auger, Steve Winter playing the ambitious yet unlucky Governor caught in a veritable avalanche of Ruritani, and an assorted list of other players who got in to the spirit of things, this game was a blast. I played Domitian as an upperclass bloody-minded twit with a speech impediment. He kept sending notes to other players with crude pictures of slave galleys on them, and arrows pointing to the oar banks and YOU scrawled over it. We had fun. The results really weren’t very important, but the experience was. A fun time!

More Friday Games:

The Giant Castle Siege game to our left. It looked really spiff. And it won an award!

More siege..

Ladder party

Yay! I won an award!

Check it!

Nancy Ott running some cool Spartan/Greek thang!

Tomb Raiding!


S-379 Rebellion on Planet 4021

Since I once again had to work Saturday, my original plans for gaming were flushed down the toy-toy and I had to shop for something to play in the AM. And I found a great one. I played a game called S-379 Rebellion on Planet 4021, which was an opportunity to play Tomorrow’s War (Ambush Alley games) for the first time, even though I got it for Christmas (thanks, Honey!). I like 15mm Science Fiction and am always looking for a good rules set. Tomorrow’s War is essentially another game called Force on Force but with a SF overlay. I liked it in general, but found the tech level differences caused a severe impact on what my units could do. As we were native insurgents with a lower tech level, we were rolling 1D6 a lot to conduct combat actions. The invading earth people were another tech level and they rolled 1d8s a lot. That’s a difference of my 3.5 average versus a 4.0 average, and a little bit means a lot. Our side (the rebels) had some early success but the only way to keep from being annihilated was to keep a steady stream of replacements moving into combat. We learned that we couldn’t’ gain initiative easily unless the other side rolled badly, and if we fired second we usually got killed. So we tried not to fire if we could. Oddly enough, I had to leave a little earlier than other players but it turns out we did win!

A slideshow of S-379 Rebellion on Planet 4021:

S-379 Rebellion on Planet 4021

Now I’m eager to paint up some 15mm SF. Get behind me, Satan!

Audio Moment, Saturday Morning

Flush with success I went back to the reg area for my day shift, to discover that once again, we didn’t have Internet. At all. As in throughout most of the hotel. This was pretty bad. We had to go cash only for almost all of the shift; customers were understanding but it was a real drag from the perspective of trying to capture all that data.


Saturday afternoons usually are pretty slow but the added fun of all that manual entry just made it constantly busy. I was ready for my one and only trip to the dealer area (of more than twenty minutes) during the convention. I didn’t see a lot of NEW stuff, per se, but I did buy some stuff I wanted to pick up, like some SF buildings from Blue Moon, some more 15mm renn period figures, An A-Wing, some 54mm bulk lead from Iron Wind metals. I don’t know how I resisted it, but I avoided picking up the biker panties arrayed around the military Video booth with such clever bon mots as “It won’t lick itself“. It took every ounce of my resistance.

I went out for something more nourishing than the giant buffet of meat swimming in gravy, and found a salad place in the next complex over. Very reasonable and healthy food. That’s a keeper.


I got back in time to play in Howard Whitehouse’s evening game. Since I got there ten minutes late, I was stuck in a subsidiary role as a local town sheriff. MAD DOGS WITH GUNS is Howard’s latest epic from Pulp Adventure press. Very reminiscent of DASHING ADVENTURES, it’s more like a framework for RPG/skirmish that a serious rule set. Even Howard says so. Well, I went for it with both barrels. As a descendent of MANY serious Irish boozers from Law Enforcement, that’s how I played him.. like a relative or two. That part was fun. Sadly, some of the players were playing like the young men they were, and made it too much about shooting and killing, rather than playing their parts. So it was far more bloody than it needed to be. Still, I had a great time, playing with friends like Joey McGuire and Dennis Cunningham. Dennis Cunningham and I were local law enforcement, trying to ride heard on two different mob bootleggers, and in the pay of each one. Things did not go well, and frankly the Town cops got exterminated with extreme prejudice. So it goes. You have to be realistic about these things. 😀

Another fun Slide Show, this time of Mad Dogs with Guns:

nizzocles's Story

And that was my Saturday.. we played until 11 or so but I got killed out of the game. I tried to get into some board games going on but there was nothing going on quick and snappy. Oh well.
I had a beer or two with Dennis and jawed a bit, and then took a few pictures, during the c0urse of which I had a chair collapse and rip my leg up.  Not the most dignified approach.

we can rebuild him

Audio Moment, Saturday Evening

Assorted Saturday Games Slideshow:

nizzocles's C7 album on Photobucket


Sunday is always a tough sell for many people, as everyone is interested in packing up and leaving. I helped around the reg area and packed up stuff for the Pod. Then got released to do a little bit of shopping (bought nothing) before hitting the road.

In general, Cold Wars 2013 was a pretty good convention. I had a great time and it was just the getaway I needed this time of year. Numbers seemed high, but I really have no idea how it went. I liked the theme a lot and was kind of disappointed there weren’t more thematic games of note. More people used Guidebook this convention than any previous one, based on the metrics we got back and I attribute that to speedy assistance from Bob Van Der Kamp and the Cold Wars webmaster, where I got all my data from. As always, I’d like to thank my fellow staffers for laughing in the face of adversity, and working their asses off to make a great show. I enjoy working with you all every convention and will continue to do so until they don’t need me any more. Great job, Frank and Michelle, keep up the good work for next year.

And.. homeward:

In conclusion:

A blog post about a convention should not dwell on the high points. In the interests of objectivity and fair play, I present the TOP FIVE WORST THINGS ABOUT COLD WARS 2013, viewable here:

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Ancient Convention Post COLD WARS 1998

I was trying to find something on the old website that was once the cat’s meow when it came to wargaming. You know, in the early days of the internet. What should I behold but an old (very old) convention report I posted dated back to 1998! From Cold Wars! This was in the days before Facebook, before blogging, before Consimworld (I think, or it had just gotten started). There was a LISTSERV mailing list where guys gassed about gaming and conventions and the latest boardgames and miniatures. Long before a blog with “point of singularity” in it existed, I was submitting convention reports. Sometimes I amaze myself.

(I include Jerry Lannigan’s snippet as a historical curiosity item)

Two things stand out. My writing style has improved a little, but is still roughly the same. And I was doing a lot more straight historical stuff in 1998. I’ve become such a hippy since then! Oh well, I like what I like, that’s not the point.. jump into the time capsule with me as we transport to:

COLD WARS 1998!!

From: “Walt O’Hara”
Subject: CONS: What I did during my Cold Wars Vacation… (Longish)

Despite the grumping of my beloved (“Grumble, leaving me… in my delicate condition… to fend for myself for a couple of days, when I’m carrying YOUR CHILD…”), I pointed my intrepid pickup North and headed for COLD WARS 98 last week, with a strange mixed feeling of elation and disassociation. CW was the first time I’ve gone to an out of state con without my family in tow since I’ve been married. On the pro side, I managed to burn the candle at both ends nicely– staying up to game until 2AM on both Fri and Sat nights. On the con side, I missed them.
Well, for a few minutes at least. I went to Lapps and had chicken pot pie Sat night in their honor (instead of overpriced junk food, the standard fare for the rest of the con).

Friday, I got involved in a hellacious game of ACW Ironclad action done in 15mm!!! scale. Roughly speaking, we simulated Mobile Bay. I commanded two cottonclads what did their best to uphold Southron honor by ramming, repeatedly, the Cumberland and the Baltimore until we were
blown to flinders. The North won handily, being given the victory condition to pass the huge fort and exit off the board. If we could have engaged ships a turn earlier than we did, we would have sunk the Cumberland. I had her on the ropes, having de-stacked her, shot her armoured side to pieces, and sent much of the crew to bluebelly heaven. One of the guys on my side played the Stonewall Jackson, nice model, but he didn’t manage a broadside ram and ended up bouncing off
and getting shot to piece in a broadside. The spar torpedo boat did it’s thing, unfortunately those Cumberland class ships are pretty dang tough. The fireraft was a total waste of time… it slid along between the Baltimore and the Cumberland and only set some cordage on fire. The rules were semi-homemade by the vendor of the ships models (no I can’t remember who it is, but I have a flier somewhere).

(modern day note: That was Joel from Merrimack Shipyards, before it was a dept. of Old Glory)

That night, I played a Franco Prussian skirmish game, using Foundry figures and homemade rules. The scenario was to recover French orders from a downed baloon in no-man’s land. Scale was mano-a-mano and the game system broke actions down to move, aim, fire, reload, recover,
etc. Very elegantly done. A total Prussian victory! Too of my Choimans lade down covering fire while my other two made a dash for a balloon. Unfortunately, due to a random event, I encountered the local priest rummaging around in the balloon, trying to recover the orders in a fit of Gallic patriotism. Due to the card based activation rules, we couldn’t act until our cards came up, causing most of the Choimans on my side to hare off after the priest, who always seemed to
have his card drawn first. The French probably were bewildered. Of course, it was permissible to shoot the good father, but it being a Friday in Lent, and me being a devout Catholic, I tried to get my team to use gentler methods. A great game… I skeeved a copy of the guy’s home rules and drew a drawing of the status cards he used for each figure. I’d like to run this myself, it’s wonderful for any era that uses single shot weapons.

After that, I went to the bar, met some old acquaintances I usually see two (now three counting Fall-in) times a year, and hung out.. I only had been in the dealer’s area for a grand total of 15 minutes at that point, so I still had a wad of red-hot simoleons burning a hole in my pocket… got back to the Ramada (next door, cheaper than the Host) at 2, started to draft an article for John K’s CONSIM CONNECTIONS… and the prose style shows!

The next day, I sleazed my way into a demo game of Pinnacle Entertainment’s GREAT RAIL WARS. I vaguely know Shane Hensley by sight, having seen him at a couple dozen cons pimping Pinnacle
Entertainment products (THE LAST CRUSADE card game, FIELDS OF HONOR miniature rules), and he was gracious enough to give me his spot. Now, I’ve been pretty vociferous and verbal and violently opposed to their 35!mm (okay, maybe not that big) Western figures, since they
don’t match a passle of the stuff I own (Guernsey, Foundry, Pass O’ the North and Dixie), but I have to admit that RAIL WARS is a hoot! I played the voodoo leader of a group of undead cowboys and a cannon crew (JUST LIKE REAL LIFE!). I got gang shagged by more experienced
players, being shot to death? by giant homicidal robots and ugly bat things. Sure, the game is aimed at that disposable income teen market, but it has legs of its own. I gave Hensley, the designer, a little grief about the figures looking great but being too big to use
in my Wild West skirmish games… he shrugged, and said “what do you expect? We have to gear the game to a certain market– the same people that spend a ton of cash on Games Workshop stuff.” He’s
right… whatever works!

Spent that afternoon, in the spirit of laissez faire capitalism, converting my hard earned currency into a huge pile of cheapjack oddities that I might or might not use again.


Two cool (overpriced) books of top down drawings of Interwar period aircraft– for a project I have in mind to create Rise of the Luftwaffe aircraft cards of odd planes.

Two issues of Vae Victus: Rivoli and Rocroi… the Rocroi ish having a very cool galley miniatures rule set that I can ALMOST translate without the help of the good Dr. Fluck, they are so simple. The Rivoli ish had rules for fighting the Easter Rising in the Eire in 1916.. that looks interesting, too. Naturally, the games are a visual feast.

four issues of the Wargamer, at 99 cents each…

1 copy of 3W’s EAST FRONT BATTLES I: BLIZKRIEG IN THE SOUTH. Hey, I like Vance’s stuff… this is one of the few cool games from 3W. Only 7 bucks new.

The Foundry’s new ZOMBIE COWBOYS! I’ve decided, DEADLANDS or no, I’m gonna write that “Weird West” module for THE RULES WITH NO NAME. The Undead cowboys (more the size of what I have at the moment) made up my mind.

A cool Jingal Gun set from the same manufacturer– from the Taiping Rebellion line, for the “Coolie Wars” scenario for TRWNN I’m working on, as well as a Daredevils project.

I ordered (mail delivery) several figures from the Taiping Rebellion line, for a game of Daredevils I will be running soon. It involves evil criminal Chinese masterminds and their human pawns, dashing, 30ish heroes, etc…

Some assorted Pass of the North stuff: A Mexican MG crew, a banjo player, etc.

I hit the motherlode at the Ral Partha booth.. They had their old Spies and Roaring 20s line out in the “fifty cents a figure” bucket. I found some COOL looking dudes for the Daredevils game.

Some old copies of the General that had variants for games I own: EIA, B-17, Circus Maximus…

Some 54mm Zouaves for Dave Markley, who couldn’t attend.

Another copy of the Winter War variant for Rise of the Luftwaffe that was published in C3I. Anyone wanna trade it for the Malta variant?

A book on Napoleon’s Navy for a project I’m working on called THAT BOARDING PARTY GAME.

Assorted other crap that I may or may not recall at the moment.

Then I ran out and had the only real meal of the entire weekend, chicken pot pie at Lapps next door… I love that place, industrial pudding and all. Must be the chicken corn soup.

That night, I played 54mm Gettysburg… again as the Rebels (being a diehard Northerner and abolitionist, this was a rare experience for me). I wanted to see what it’s like to play in large scale… and it’s a hoot! My squads were the sacrificial lambs that were SUPPOSED
to hold off the Union advance through town in time for reinforcements to show. Well, I tried… but there was just too dang many of them! We still won handily, defeating the Union victory conditions with ease. I was delighted to see a game of THE RULES WITH NO NAME going
on behind me, in BIG plastic 54mm cowboys. Went over to talk to the GM, we compared notes.

After that, hung out in the bar and played THE THREE STOOGES CARD GAME over a few (you guessed it) beers, headed to my room around 1 to continue my efforts at prose… a sad failure, I fell asleep promptly.

The next day, being Sunday, I made a quick circuit of the dealers rooms again, and headed for an OGRE minis game I signed up for halfheartedly, since it was raining cats and dogs. Turned out I had the times wrong, and they had been playing for a while.. that was okay by me, I kibitzed a while and then headed out.

Overall, a great convention. The Ancients tourney went well from what I heard. The big standout games were Pete Panzeri’s Alamo games, done in 28mm with figures supplied by Old Glory. I have to hand it to Pete, *I* surely wouldn’t have painted the thousand or so figures involved. Other standout events were The Battle of Gorganzola (Rennaissance era) friday night, and Brian Whitakker’s HUUUUGE Wild West game (also Fri).

Lots of ACW, but on smaller scales now… Brother against Brother being a big hit. Not as much Napoleonics as cons gone by. Mexican-American war games are on the rise from what I could see.

The dealer’s room is now the dealer’s ROOMS.. an interesting switch.. They partioned off the Distelfink ballroom into the flea market (during the day) and game room (at night) with spillover vendors on the right. All the big players were there– Old Glory, the Foundry, TCS terrain,
Elite, Ral Partha… I was looking at t-shirts from Loych systems (the guys who make those cool UNIT HISTORY tshirts… you know, Afrika Corps tour, 1941-1943?), when I was surprised to see my good friend, Larry the Gun-Toting Psycho (a man unafraid to wear an SS regimental shirt anywhere) standing next to me, making a transaction. He had come up with his newborn son Kurt, *just* to spend three hours visiting the vendors area. That’s hardcore, but it does stress how
accessible all the stuff is that you usually only see in magazines.

So after a rainsoaked (and largely uneventful) ride home (helped out by a book on tape), I was back from my wanderings, a wiser, poorer and exhausted man.

Walt O’Hara
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From: (MltryHstrn)
Subject: Cold Wars 98: After Action Report

Good day To All!
Just back from the trenches, fields, and fortifications which covered the
tables of the Expo Centetr at the Lancaster Host resort this weekend. Once
again, the guys at HMGS created a great environment for the membership. A first
impression is that there were gaming opportunities enough for even the most
compulsive gamer and that the vast majority of folks went home quite happy.

Personally, although little new material was out which tempted one to part with
big bucks, there was much to recommend the dealers’ areas otherwise. First,
they opened a bit later (10AM) and closed a bit later as well (6PM). This
initially took a bit of getting used to but I believe allowed ther dealers to
have breakfast and attend to things in the venue in a more relaxed way. On
the other hand, I do not know how this might have inconvenienced any dealer
planning to run or participate in a game in the early evening. This
particularly becomes apparent when several people who went out to dinner around
6:30 reported one hour waits in most of the local restaurants.

The gaming – about 90% of it – took place in the Expo Center which is actually
a rather large indoor tennis facility which is adapted to the needs of the
gamers. Plenty of tables were available -but there was a dearth of chairs by
six o’clock on Saturday night. The lighting was great but the heat left a
great deal to be wanted. You see, in the US indoor tennis facilities generally
are heated to only about 55 to 60 degrees fahrenheit based on the cavernous
space and the premise that tennis players are running around and keeping warm.
Both evenings I wound up putting on my jacket over my flannel shirt. I noted
that others needed to do the same.

The gaming seemed of a very high quality and several were visual treats. Most
noteworthy was a daylong 25mm Alamo game, a 25mm Rorke’s Drift game, and a
25mm Battle of Reichenbach game. But, in general, most people who ran games
took pride in the appearance of their game. Certainly the five games in which I
participated were all well presented and, more importantly, a whole lot of fun.

Jim McGaughey deserves a lot of thanks for running two different scenarios of
his Kompanie Kommander game. Both games took place as the Germans broke through
the American lines in the Ardennes. The similarity occurred in that both games
funneled the Germans through village and town choke points. Jim’s system makes
a player think like a company commander and in the second game I had the
pleasure of being promoted to Battalion commander of a kampfgruppe assaulting a
pair of villages. (You get a totally diferent perspective of a battle from the
perspective of “up” the command chain. Everybody bugging you for
reinforcements, artillery support, advice, etc – my consistent answer –
‘Everything’s fine – stay aggressive!’)

On Saturday, Joe Swierc hosted a nice little Battleground game called “Nowy
Targ”. The terrain was well conceived and the figures obviously done to a
very high standard. My problem with the game was th fact that although it was
playtested so that, indeed, it worked the mechanics of the game take very
long to process through. As I moved the other four guys just around, etc so
that the actual involvement time was fairly low. However, that aside, Joe’s
effort left me with an overal positive impression. BTW – this action was a 1939
Polish Campaign scenario.

The Old Dominion Wargamers ran a “round the clock” micro armor game called
Mein Panzers. My friend and I attended one game on Saturday afternoon. It is
fast moving and a nice alternative to larger scale games such as Spearhead.
This game uses tanks and other figures on a one-to-one basis.

Lastly, George Garifo put on a game called Preussens Gloria which was a
glorious reenactment of the Battle of Leuthen. The kick was that we (the
Prussians) had the game in hand – the Austrian cavalry had routed and their
artillery reduced to one medium battery- but we lost. How? Let’s just say that
it had something to do with Frederick leading a charge, being shot off his
horse seriously wounded, and being captured by the Austrians. Oh, well…. But
many thanks to George for it was a pleasure to play using Warfare in the Age of

I don’t know about anybody else but I had a super time My thanks again to the
HMGS folks who ran this. And, guys, you shouldn’t be so humble – put your names
on the events listing!
Jerry Lannigan

Cold Wars 12 Friday-Sunday: The Treachery of the Ralgard

When we last left our intrepid correspondent, he was starting his Friday shift at the HMGS Cold Wars 2012 Registration area.  First off, a few words on the general state of things viz a viz Registration.  There’s nobody out there that’s a huge fan of the HMGS registration process, and that includes your humble narrator.  Still, the decision was made, the (ruinous) price was paid, and we are doing our best to make it work for us.  When I first started working with it (HISTORICON 2010, if I’m remember it rightly), I thought it was horrendous, poorly designed, glacially slow and and incredibly inefficient for the basic task of quickly moving people through a registration line.  At Cold Wars 2012, I have to admit, it was better– I didn’t feel lost at all and managed to get through most reg tasks quickly.  It still isn’t horrendously intuitive and requires way too many clicks to get basic tasks done, but is getting better.  I must commend Paul Trani for the diligent effort he puts into making this software somewhat workable.  It’s a hard task and a bit of a raw deal for him– he is cast in the role of defending a software I’m not even sure he likes all that much, but he cheerfully is doing his best to make it workable.  Well done, sir.
Friday saw tremendous crowds.  I worked from 0930 to 1430 and it was almost non-stop.  For the most part, everyone was happy to be there and very civil.  There was the typical “can I get in for free just to shop” banter from time to time. I got a very intense young gentleman at the front desk virtually demanding that I give him a free badge.  When I told him we didn’t have a free badge, he got a little melodramatic.  “I’m sure it’s not YOUR decision, your just enforcing policy.. but I want to speak to someone RIGHT NOW who made that policy.  Right now.  I’m going home to blog about your stupid decision…”  Mollifying him in polite fashion, I steered him over to Michelle, stating.. “Heavens, we wouldn’t wish to be blogged about.  There you go, sir.  That lady there. she’s on the board of directors, and she’s as gentle as a lamb.. that’s someone with authority to speak to you, for sure”.   Michelle stuck to her guns, he wasn’t happy, and he departed, shaking his fist, exclaiming “I’ll blog about this! You’ll be sooorrrrrryyyy (evil cackle)” POOF! (sound effect as he dashes out, whirling his cape around himself and twirling his mustachios).   You get this kind of thing from time to time.  The argument is made that “we should just let shoppers in for free, to help out dealers, and in this economy why wouldn’t we make it easier on folks who are struggling to get by to have access to vendors,” etc…  (this is what the young blogging man brought up as a criticism of the day badge policy).  In response to that, I would point out that A) if times are that tough, what in the world are you doing spending your rent money at a convention, anyway?  If 20 bucks is a make or break threshold for you, maybe it’s time to start thinking about a cheaper, stay at home hobby, like going to the library, or something.  I don’t mean to sound heartless when I say that, I certainly am not, but I am concerned with anyone who has to make a choice between eating and painting lead..  that’s someone who needs to prioritize.  and B) People want an organization putting on a convention to “support small vendors by making it easy to go shopping at their booths”, but never seem to want to support the organization that uses its own money, time, effort and considerable expense to rent the facility, draw up the layout and plan the convention.  If you think HMGS is making oodles of cash on these events, you need to make a hard reality check and review the financials.  I’ve been a convention director, and I have a little experience here, so I’m being a realist, not a cheerleader for HMGS.  Income to put on these shows come from two sources: vendor booths and general admissions.  If you raise the price too high, less people will show up.  If you raise the price for vendor tables too high, less vendors will show up.  It’s a balancing act.  One thing’s for certain, there’s no show if we can’t pay for it, and everyone loses.  Not a bad thing to kick in a measly 20 bucks for, I hope?

Anyway, the rest of the shift went fairly easily, except for a net outage that nobody was very patient with.  We tried to implement a paper backup solution, which was just okay.  Fortunately it didn’t last that long, so maybe only a dozen transactions total will have to be keyed in.

Friday, I did a Flea Market and Dealer’s Room run after my shift.  I was hitting JOHN CARTER that night, and didn’t have time for a game, but I had time to shop.  I got a great deal directly from Richard Borg for COMMAND AND COLORS: NAPOLEONICS The Spanish Army Expansion.   I also got a pin vice and a few other assorted tiny things from Jeff and Monica Hobbe’s booth before heading up to see JOHN CARTER.

(for a review on John Carter, the movie, see the previous post. Aside from taking up a big chunk of my Friday evening, it didn’t have much to do with Cold Wars).

Had to go directly to work the next day and it was another grinder.  You are probably less interested in the volunteering bit than I am, so I’ll just say it went well.  I did a little more shopping and caught a few games.  Sadly, I couldn’t get in to the one I wanted to, because it started at 2 and ended at 8, when I was scheduled to start my game.  I did take a few pictures of dubious quality here and there with an Ipad2.  My camera is broken so I had to use what was on hand. Sorry about the fuzziness, the Host isn’t particularly well lit.

From the Battletech room.

The Battletech room had a nice range of activities for beginners and experienced players.

One of Ben “the Iron Man” Fornshell’s many tiny format games that he ran over the weekend.

Ben Fornshell and Del Stover put on, no kidding, something like 19 games at COLD WARS 2012. Before you start counting your fingers, realize that they were mostly 1 hour games designed to be changed out or run on the same set of terrain tables. Genius! I complimented them on their insane dedication to GMing in the bar Saturday night. They were pretty modest about the whole thing, and went into their idea of modular terrain tables that are designed for small, short discrete wargames for less than four players. They are getting it down to an art.

Shucks, it was nothing!

Cog Wars, run by Brian Whitaker, demonstrating that there’s never enough time or money to do all the historical periods and scales one would like.

Giant multiplayer Tralfalgar

Spraying terrain with liquid from an atomizer. That’s a first.

Rollerball, a game I’d like to play but have yet to enjoy, usually from mundane scheduling conflicts.

Scenes from the HAWKS room. They had the usual Paradise Room space and were pimping their new BARRAGE convention (which has moved, apparently) to anyone who would listen.

That’s about it for usable pictures. I strongly advise visiting Richard Mataka’s websiteto view his Cold Wars gallery when you get a chance (and when it is complete). Richard gets a press badge to HMGS events for the express purpose of photographing miniatures events, so you might as well check it out– you kind of paid for part of it. In any event he took 600 or so pictures so pretty much everything you could imagine is in there. Or will be.

I did another run through the dealer’s room with a lot more leisure time on my hands this time. I bought some quickset glue and DullCoate, got an obscenely good show special on the boardgame STRIKE OF THE EAGLE from Academy games, picked up some Old Glory 15mm ancients (Windsword distributors), Some resin boats from Merrimac/Old Glory and Foxhole Terrain, various miniatures from Splintered Light and Rebel Minis, and maybe my favorite discovery of the convention, these neat little plastic tanks with a very steampunky look from a new vendor, Proxie Models. They are clean, dirt cheap, and 100% made in the USA. SUPPORT THIS VENDOR!!! He’s working on expanding the line and will take suggestions.

Convention food was no better or worse than always, so I wolfed a meal down on top of my setup for the 2000 hrs. game I was running, THE BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME. This was scheduled for 8 PM on table D-25 in the Distelfink. I arrived to discover that the fellows playing on the surrounding tables (D 26, D 15 and D 16) had essentially dismantled D 25 without asking anyone and added the tables to their setups. Worse, they were games that were in full swing and difficult to interrupt to reconstitute my space. I was pretty angry about this, it was a blatant discourtesy, but you can’t dwell on it– I’m not going to be a bigger jerk than these guys and destroy their games out of pique. Fortunately the Events guy, Bob Van Der Kamp, gave me a great solution that worked out just fine– I set up in the lobby area. This set me back timewise, and kind of ruffled my feathers a bit. I was off my game a little, but did my best. Fortunately my errant players who signed up for the game found me and I picked up a couple of walkups.

Which Brings us to…


I had four players, Jeff Ewing, Jim Arnold, a guy named George, Harry Kogelshatz and another player whose name I did not record. As someone had to play the Dwarves to balance things, I picked up the Dwarf fleet. I prefer to either run it or play it, but we had to make do.

The map above represents the basic dispositions at start and the general route of sailing. The wind was coming from the general direction of the bottom right corner and blowing upward and slightly to the right, which favored almost nobody except for maybe the Elves, and hindered the Ralgard movement something fierce.

The Scenario: The Western Coalition, led by the Humans, is allied with a somewhat reluctant Dwarf fleet and even more reluctant Elf fleet. They are attempting to colonize a very lightly held island that is very rich in iron and nickel ores in the Darnok cluster. Even though the Dragon Lords do not have a colony there, they will not stand for the impudence of these younger races and sail to meet them in the lee of the Fist of God, a local (very active) volcano. Along with them come their client race, the Shroud Mages, and surprisingly, a mercenary fleet of Ralgard ships towing their signature huge Jarak Balloon battery. The Humans have a largish convoy of troop and provisioning ships that are going to be the bulk of the invasion force. The Coalition Fleet’s victory condition is to get them past a point on the board. The Dragon Lord Force is there to block victory.

View from the Ralgard perspective at onset of battle

The Dragon Lord Admiral commands the Ralgard Mercenaries to take station on his starboard flank. They bridle a bit under his imperious treatment.

Humans sail for the center passage between many rocky islands, perhaps unwisely as it turned out, as this would be the convergent point for three hostile fleets.

The Elves were lagging behind the Humans and did not contribute to the battle in any substantive fashion. They had too much ground (water) to cover to get to the fracas.

Meanwhile, the Iron Dwarf Admiral was hampered by the weight of his iron fleet, furiously churning sea water in an attempt to catch up with the swiftly sprinting Human fleet. It is one thing to have some of the most powerful ships on the table, but not much use if you can’t come to grips with the enemy.

The Troop Convoy of the Western Coalition

The Eagle (battleship) of the Human Fleet took station to block the swiftly advancing Dragon Lords. Bringing his mighty port broadside into play, he would show the Dragon Lords that these upstart races know how to fight.

The frigate screens suffered terrible loss on all sides, as their plucky crews attempted to disable and stem the advance of the opposing forces.

Somewhat typically, the Dragon Lords allow the hired hands and subject races (Ralgard and Shroud Mages) the chance to gain a little glory early as they maneuver their forces for the “Hammer Blow”. The Ralgard, in particular, object to being used as speed bumps, but move in to engage at a distance with the Dwarves. The Dwarven admiral, seeing the opportunity, slips a squadron of frigates in to tail the Ralgard squadron and rake from behind.

The results are inconsequential.. those Ralgard fleets are TOUGH. When the Ralgard returned fire from their Battleship, the end frigate blew up in a critical hit that really rattled the Ralgard squadron (to say nothing of the Dwarves).

The Dwarven Admiral was finally in a position to affect the battle; he took advantage of Dwarven strengths and positioned his airship to broadside into the Ralgard fleet, bringing down a frigate, while the bulk of his fleet remained untouched behind a rocky outcrop.

The Dragon Lord Admiral again urges the Ralgard mercenary admiral to step up his attack, this time in words less charitable and increased use of the phrase “beheaded”. The Ralgard is a bit fed up at this point.

Help arrives from the Elves at last, but it is too little and too late. The Humans are greatly beleaguered in the center, facing a Whirlpool Spell by the Shroud Mages, and losing frigates right and left. The Eagle, which had masked the convoy, is now shot up and gradually taking on water.

The Dragon Lord “crosses the T” of the Human Fleet, but doesn’t have the fire power to do much but continue battering the Eagle and destroy a few frigates. To add to the chaos, the Volcano belches out a Steam plume right on the tail end of the Dragon Lord fleet, sending an entire cruiser to the bottom!

At this stage, the long suffering Ralgard fleet had had enough. They savagely turn on their Dragon Lord employers, launching broadside after broadside into the Dragon Lord capital ships!!! The Dwarves, who have engaged the Ralgard on the starboard flank, are speechless. The Dwarven admiral chews his beard in puzzlement. The Human Admiral, much beset on the Eagle, cheers at this assistance from an unexpected quarter!!

The Dragon Lord Admiral cannot contain his fury, and he signals to the captain of the Dragon Carrier, keeping station on his port quarter: “Launch all Nogdras! LAUNCH! REND THEM TO PIECES!!!!”

With the Dragon Lord Cruiser squadron shattered and drifting (or at the bottom of the ocean), the two capital ships and some frigates are the soul remnant of this once proud fleet. The Ralgard launch into their weakened one-time employers with a vengeance. The Nogdra dragons launch at the Jarak Balloon, creating a swirling melee of Ralgard Airmen and Nagdra Dragons 100 feet above the battle.

At last, the noble Iron Dwarves meet their detestable cousins, the Lizard-eating Shroud Mages, in battle. It is only a skirmish between the Shroud Mage battleship and the Dwarven War Zeppelin, but the demands of honor have been met.

The Nogdra dragon launch is ineffectual as one of them gets shot to pieces in Defensive Fire.

At this stage of the battle we had gone more than four hours and were chugging through the fifth hour. It was still not decisive.. The Humans had lost much in defending themselves and were losing the Eagle to the constant battering. Due to the Ralgard defection, the Western coalition suddenly had a very powerful ally in place that was blocking the Dragon Lords spoiler attacks. The Shroud Mages were very effective and almost unscathed. The Dragon Lords had borne the brunt of the fighting in the center and were now chewed up pretty bad. The Ralgard had only lost a couple of frigates and one cruiser, and then only after hard fighting. The Iron Dwarves had lost some frigates but for the most part their capital ships had held firm in the face of a pounding from the Ralgard. The Elves were (suspiciously) untouched, and arriving in time to shout victory.

DECISION: This had to go to the Western Coalition fleet and particularly the Humans, who managed to get their convoy past the choke point by the end of the battle. It wasn’t a decisive victory in retrospect; the Humans could manage a landing but would not have had the capital ships to protect their settlement had they decided to make a fight for it.

OBSERVATIONS: I was a little angry and rattled about having to drop back and punt over setup after my tables got stolen, so setup was rushed and frankly I could have done a better job of GMing. My instructions about combat confused people and we had to constantly describe the combat process, which was a surprise because I don’t consider Uncharted Seas too heinous to pick up. I’ll try to be more clear the next time I run a Uncharted Seas game, which will probably be Historicon 2012. Thanks to Harry Kogelshatz for helping out on a few key points. Thanks to all the players, too, this was a great game!

SUNDAY: well, not much to say here. I did a final run around the dealer room, picked up a few items from Harmony House, a couple of Ironclads from Thoroughbred Figures and a new copy of Shipbase III in the flea market (only to discover it had 5.25 and 3.5 inch diskettes!! YARGH!), and not much else. I said my goodbyes to everyone, pointed my car Southward and bid Cold Wars Adieu until 2013.

A very decent COLD WARS 2012, I thought. It went by far too quickly for me. I didn’t get in all the gaming I wanted to, and it seems like I did more drinking and BSing with people than gaming this time, but some conventions are just like that. Thanks to Frank and Michelle for putting so much work into Cold Wars 2012, and thanks to all their staff, especially Bob Van Der Kamp, the events wallah. He helped me get my stuff together to make the GUIDEBOOK thing happen. And for the first time since I started doing guidebooks, we had it out well in advance of the convention. Good job, sir!

In closing….

“Poor soul. He was just overwrought.”

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COLD WARS 2012 Thursday: He Man Woman-Haters club

And it’s yet another fun HMGS Convention recap!  This time for COLD WARS 2012, which is ongoing as I type this.  Thursday, I drove up around 1040, and ended up here at 1330.   The drive has become a non-event if you time it right, and is actually pretty pleasant.  I listened to CAESAR: LIFE OF A COLOSSUS on the ride up.

Lots of activity ensues, frantically setting up for the opening of registration area that night.  Slight respite, which we use to change, shower and get a chicken salad sandwich before the Staff Meeting.

Frank P’s operation is still running well.  The most interesting elements of the Pre-Staff was the announcement that Staff Members have to be HMGS Members (no big deal) and the “Free GM Badge” will have be extended only to members from now on.  I support both initiatives.

We opened the doors around 1900, and worked feverishly until 2100.  It was a mob scene, hardly enough room to swing a dead cat, if that’s your idea of a good time.  Right in the middle of the pandemonium, Mike Lorenzo dropped off my new (used) Fleet of 1:1200 NAVWAR galleys I purchased from Norbert Brunhofer (a moving sale).  They look great.

After the frenetic two hours, I desired a beer greatly, and this libation was easily found about forty steps to the left, where I ran into John Drye and Dudley Garidel.  A couple of lies and chicken nuggets later, I was at Frank Chadwick’s palatial suite for his so-called He-Man Woman Hater’s Party.  As far as I know, Mr. Chadwick likes women; this was a joke on the reaction to the theme for COLD WARS 13 theme, WOMEN WARRIORS.

SPAM, Irish Whiskey, and Graham Crackers. That’s a party, right there!

There was even a woman present!

Well, kinda.

The format was the same as an ancient Greek Symposium.. wine was imbibed, topics were discussed, and we ooohed and ahhed over some SPACE:1889 figures:

I had to stumble to my room after an hour or so of this activity.. and sadly, my vision was blurring so bad (from the SPAM, not from the Whiskey) that my attempts to crash-paint my Jarek War Balloon for my Ralgard fleet (for Saturday Night!) ended up with the paint brush on the floor me fast asleep. I did wake up and get it done in the morning, though, before doing my morning shift in registration.

And that is my COLD WARS by mid-Day Friday! So far, it’s been a huuuuuge mob scene. Registration has tapered off by mid-day, but business has been brisk. I will either see JOHN CARTER or get in a game tonight! More to come.

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Cold Wars Plans

I’m heading up Thursday for HMGS‘ COLD WARS convention event, in Lancaster PA.  Having entered the entire gaming event list and edited it in Guidebook, I am more familiar than most with the schedule.  There’s a few games that stand out at me.  I have to work around my schedule, so anything Thursday evening is out except maybe the 8PM start games or some open gaming.  I may bring up some Ironclads for B&P ironclads (ad hoc) or maybe the gladiators for Thursday night.

Friday, I’ll be working in the morning as a volunteer and plan on going to see JOHN CARTER OF MARS that evening.  So once I’m done with my shift I’ll either visit the vendors and flea or I will get in a day game.  I like WAR OF THE WORLDS 1898 by Bob Beattie or maybe the GRAF SPEE AND THE GERMAN PACIFIC SQUADRON game, probably the earlier one, because I don’t want to cut the movie too close.

I’ll be working in the morning on Saturday but plan on either doing some shopping or being in a game during the day. It will have to be a quick one, though. I am running a game at 2000 hrs., the BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME:

A Game Event

For a description, check out about midway down The Williamsburg Muster AAR post I did in early February.

The only difference will be that I will have the Ralgard fleet online for this battle, although perhaps not the giant war balloon. We’ll see.

Sunday will probably be another dash to the flea, a once-around at the vendors and then to home. Hope to see you all at COLD WARS 2012, I’ll be easy to find in some volunteer capacity, probably the front desk area in the Wheatland room (right hand side, as you enter the hotel).

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