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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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….
- 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).