Category Archives: convention

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.

So I went to Fall-IN! 2016…


Last week was FALL-IN! the Fall show of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. My son Gar and I both attended.  I apologize for the late posting, but well, you know, there was that National electing the Moron in Chief thing we did directly after…

Fair Warning: This is my convention post for Fall-IN!, much like the other convention reports I’ve been writing for almost two decades. One thing I try not to do (lately) is to indulge in some of the HMGS political stuff you see more frequently on Yahoogroups and TMP. However, I will be voicing an opinion about the society’s future choices in the post below, and I acknowledge up front some people have no interest in HMGS at all. To make it easy on you, if you don’t want to read anything about HMGS convention policy, avoid the green sections.   Thanks

For those of you NOT in the know, two weeks before Fall-IN!, this happened:

So this fallen oak has had more than just a huge impact on my house, it’s had one on my plans as well.  I cancelled plans to attend Fall IN! and took a week off to concentrate on the backbreaking labor of clearing out my house for the reconstruction crew.   After a week of hard work, I still had no intention of attending, but Audrey didn’t have a problem with a weekend trip, reasoning (correctly) that there wasn’t much the teams could accomplish on a weekend.  It was nice to take a small break from this task and both Gar and I jumped a the chance.

Road Trip!

The earliest I could go was after work on Friday, so that meant an arrival by 9 PM or so.   So most of what we did was pretty brainless– hanging out in the bar and catching up with Otto, Cleo, Bob, Todd and many others wandering in and out.

Where ALL HMGS business is conducted ultimately..

In the midst of typical bar discussion, a member of the BoD dropped in to pimp the proposed move of Historicon beyond 2017 to the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ.   I kept getting “EDISON NJ” based on the comments going around and there IS a facility there.  Just not the one we’re moving to (Yes, HISTORICON is moving, more on that later).

(Kevin Kelly interjects that “We are talking about the facility in Somerset NJ – not the NJ EXPO in Edison where NJCON is held. The Edison facility is too small and does not allow adult beverages. Not sure why it came up with ‘Somerset’ as a search term. BING lists the Somerset facility only in the first page of results.”)  I was using Google, which brings up Edison for some reason.  Keep in mind when I describe driving times for ME PERSONALLY from Northern VA), this changes almost nothing.

Here’s a good listing for the facility in Somerset: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46826-d1418764-Reviews-Garden_State_Convention_Center-Somerset_New_Jersey.html

I don’t have the economic case that the board member was passing out to justify the move handy, but it was reasonably well thought out and indicated that the Society (HMGS) would save money by going there, and that is the justification for the move– apparently Historicon isn’t turning a profit (or sufficient profit) in Fredericksburg and the BoD (or more accurately, the members that live North of DC) has no faith that the condition can be reversed. I did take the time to talk with the guy– his reasoning was well thought out– the BoD isn’t interested in supporting Fredericksburg for the long haul, that is VERY clear, and he did campaign on doing exactly what he is trying to do, which is move Historicon regardless of what the people who like going there think. What can I say, people voted for him, therefore, it’s the will of the majority!

(Note Bene: after googling Garden State Exhibit center, my results (and the Yelp reference, which I deleted)  might be for a related facility 20 miles away from what I am citing– see Dr. Anderson’s comments, below)

After looking at the travel involved, my resolution to “go where the show goes” is being tested. Driving to Somerset, NJ isn’t like driving to Lancaster (or Fredericksburg). Even the reviews of the conference center on hotels.com state that the traffic is very congested in this area, so you will need to research the best time to arrive. Plotting the trip on Google Maps resulted in “4 hours 31 minutes” (4 hours 5 minutes revised address) , but that’s the best possible result.  it will likely be a lot longer of a trip, closer to six hours.  Maybe more.  I know, I know, this is revenge of the Northerners for their current drive to Northern Virginia, I get it.  I won’t know for sure how long this will be until I try it, and if the convention moves (and you can consider that almost a certainty, see below), I mean to go at least one time, so I can see for myself.  If it sucks too hard, I can always spend the same amount of time and money going to Origins– I haven’t been in years!

Now, having given this alternative site to Historicon (I hope) an objective look from my personal perspective, did we HAVE to move Historicon 2018?  My take is: not really.  The facts that we know are we don’t have ANY convention site in play after 2017, for ANY of our shows, per the email of Kevin Kelly on 3 NOV 16.  “We have been evaluating 2018 contract offers from both the Fredericksburg Convention Center in Virginia and the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey (hereafter “Somerset”) for Historicon 2018. These are the only two venues that have offered HMGS an executable cost feasible contract for any of the 2018 conventions.  The Lancaster Host’s new management has declined to offer us any 2018 contracts at this time, and are not expected to do so until after the results of Fall-In 2016 are reviewed.”

Take a second to soak that in– our venue for two conventions a year for almost 20 years isn’t exactly eager to extend us a quote until the results of Fall IN! 2016 are in.  Sure, we’re “evaluating the 2018 contract for Fredericksburg”, but does anyone NOT think they would be eager for us to return?  Thus, and as I asked the BOD member and asked in the Historicon recap– WHY ARE WE MAKING MOVING HISTORICON THE PRIORITY?  Why aren’t finding alternates for two shows that are clearly now in jeopardy the higher priority??? That makes NO sense. I may have a thought on the reason why– what I hear is that the new owners of the Lancaster Host are the exact same entities that own the Garden State conference center.  Could it be that someone has already offered them Fall IN! and Cold Wars shows in the off season at the Host in perpetuity, to make the Garden State facility more palatable financially?  Who would have that kind of influence?  Ahem, possibly, someone who has some sort of vested interest in that corporation?  Well, that’s only speculation, but if we do have a BoD member who has an existing business relationship with a venue we are in in the middle of contract negotiations with, SOME people might regard that as shady– at least conflict of interest.  That would be a bad thing for certain– if HMGS offers the facility a guarantee, and a show tanks, then the it’s not the facility that loses out, is it?  Can we get a definitive statement that no BoD member has a previous business relationship with this corporate entity?  I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, and would be reassuring.  The State of Maryland, where we are incorporated for 501-C3 purposes, takes a dim view of Conflict of Interest.  Just saying.

This is rambling on a bit, I’ll pick it up in a second green section later.

So! after crawling into a bed with a mattress that (no kidding!) felt like concrete with a sheet on top, I nodded off.

We breezed through actual registration and buying a flea market table.  I bumped into Bill Alderman, and old, old friend.  He is the alpha male behind “Big Board Games” which is converting classics into new versions– and is selling a new version of CIRCVS MAXIMVS from Avalon Hill/Battleline.  It’s very spiff.

Saturday day was spent visiting the dealer’s area (I didn’t buy much; see the tree event above for an idea about why) — I was delighted to see the “Badlands” Battlefield in a Box terrain show up again at the Gale Force 9 booth.  This is my favorite series from that vendor– impressive dark desert buttes and plateaus that can be turned into islands for Big Danged Boats, buttes for White Line Fever, and Frostgrave terrain.  I also picked up some sailpower boats and some used 15mm galleys in the flea market.

Later, we did a first for us– instead of gaming, we tried selling stuff in the Flea Market.  It was a learning experience.  I took the 2-5 slot, and had mixed results.  Small stuff sells.  Miniatures sell.  Boardgames? They don’t sell.  I ended up taking two boxes  home and 3 boxes there, so that’s a plus.  I’ll do it again.  One thing about the flea market experience, you get to see some sweet chapeaus.

So, yeah, what can I say about the Flea Market experience?  It kind of dragged on and was a slow way to make a buck on my old stuff.  I guess it beats Ebay.  We’ll have to work on presentation next year.  Perhaps, silly hats?  All I know is I was glad to pack up at 4:40.  That last hour dragged.

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I dozed off, and woke up to find all these tiny dudes bowling under a tree where I woke up…

We got a chance to look at a lot of games, but not play in many.  There were some fun games being run, admittedly most of my first choices had already played when I had the actual free time to play one.  Sigh.  Such are the demands of commerce.

Saturday evening I had a game to get to, so we went and consumed large amounts of charred dead animal flesh in the hotel restaurant.  Well, I did… Garrett ordered tortellini, gobbled it up, then stared at me accusingly while I wasn’t even a third of the way done with my steak.  I sighed, divided it in half and flipped him half, making sure to keep my hands away from his mouth.. the gnashing and chewing noises were truly hideous.


No, it’s not Lord of the Flies.. it’s Hall Pig!

Well, if you know me, or have read this blog before even a little, you know I really enjoy naval warfare miniature games, particularly in odd periods that are pre-World War II.  So I signed up for SAIL POWER, a 15mm sailing game that I had observed earlier.. great setup by these guys!  Large 15mm forts, islands, and tons of reasonably period authentic ships. Since 15mm is my scale for most naval games (see Big Danged Boats), I was all in for this, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There, above, is your intrepid sea dog of a narrator, next to “Sen”, one of a team of dedicated GMs running this event ALL WEEKEND LONG.  They deserve the iron man trophy!  Great setup.. what a fantastic game!  (click the picture to go to the FLICKR Slideshow, btw).

I had such a good time at this game, it really made my weekend.  Thanks to the folks at Sea Dog Game Studios for putting on so many events.  The highlight for me was being played like a cheap flute by one Scott Landis.   He lured me in with some sh*t talk, I responded in kind, charged at him like a bull in a china shop, and suddenly my crew was playing “Shakin’ Hands with Jesus” as we dodged mortar fire from the hidden position on the island!  WOW! that thing was seriously overpowered.  The game emphasizes (roughly) real world sailing models, slightly reversed.  The models are exquisite.  IF you have enough space (and this game definitely requires such), the eye candy factor is beautiful.  You can find the Sail Power guys easily enough, they are on Facebook and other places.

I’m not sure if you have to be on Facebook to see this, but here is a webcast I made playing the game live…

We did the normal late Saturday night stuff, drinking beers and playing games.  Dan Murawski introduced me to KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES, a cool computer/paper hybrid game about defusing bombs where one guy describes what he is seeing on the computer and the other guy(s) work the problem with the (paper) bomb defusing handbook.  Great idea for a game, surprisingly tense and fun to play.  Here’s a little screencast of that game experience I posted to Facebook, if you have an account.

I bought a copy on Steam, myself!

talking about convention locations and the Host etc.

The Host is, surprisingly, a beehive of renovation work and construction.   There were crews all over the place, particularly in the top floors.  The roof is patched and the external plant is about to be pulled out after they finish testing hot and cold water and air conditioning tests in a few weeks.  Looks like all the stained ceiling tiles are gone, at least where I looked.  There was no unpleasant musty smells and the water worked.  On the down side, my bed was harder than a slab of concrete.


Say goodbye to this in a few weeks…

As I said, apparently the new owners are the same people who own the (what a coincidence!) proposed location for Historicon; this is clearly a crew that has some money to put into making the hotel portion prosper.  I’m not sure what their ultimate plans are for the entire site, whether they will continue with the gold course or pave that over, I do know the front end of the hotel will look radically different (which might impact the Lampeter Room at least).  I poked my head into the model room on the fourth floor that will indicate what the rooms will look like post-construction, all very swank.  There is a risk that the owners might evaluate us based on the results of the past show and decide “nah, we don’t need HMGS as a customer“.. I rather doubt that– especially if the Board is literally offering up two shows (and you can bet they are) in a non-seasonal time slot, so we can use the anointed New Jersey location for the Summer show.  As it turns out, they are now more than willing to do business with us.. shocker!

(amended: 11/12 — the BoD released that Historicon 2018 will be held in NJ.  No Surprise there.  It’s a done deal, we knew that already.  Interesting side note, and also no surprise, the folks who now own the Host (AND Somerset) are “pleased with our convention” and extending us a bid.  Knock me over with a feather!).

Do I think this is a good plan?  Do I have any verification this is what’s actually going to happen?  Well, it’s my blog so I’ll say so whether you want to hear it or not.  Nope.  Abandoning the South is a very bad idea.  Most Virginians and North Carolinians and Tennesseans are willing to drive to PA, and probably will continue to, but Somerset is an awfully long haul for most of them.  I have spoken with a few (less die hard) attendees from the DC area and points South, and I think it’s going to have to be a radically better show than it currently is to draw them into that traffic and sacrifice two days in transit.  Sure, people from North complain about the same commute in reverse,  I understand that. They just shouldn’t be assuming the Southerners won’t complain and vote with their feet, just like the Northerners did.  When I said words to the effect of “Wow, are you kidding?  Goodbye Historicon!” to the BoD guy I was talking to, my reply was something like “Well, if you’re not going to support the organization, we don’t need you”.  Okay.  Well, he might have a point.  A possible counterpoint might be.. how about moving ONE show to the Fredericksburg VA Convention center– one that isn’t part of a business that anybody on the BoD has any involvement with, and make it the Winter/early Spring show, e.g., Cold Wars?   No risk of snow, the location is good for a lot of people (maybe not from New Jersey, I admit).  When I brought that up, they said “we’re working on an alternate location between DC and Baltimore”.  I wonder where that could be?  I know the area reasonably well, I don’t know of a venue that could house a HMGS convention, but I admit I haven’t been looking.   Maybe it’s time to create a HMGS Mid-Atlantic, and concentrate on throwing a Winter show down in Virginia, and not worry about having each and every show aim to be really large?  If the Virginians and members further South are so problematic, just cut them loose.  Ah well, it’s just gassing.. nothing will get done as usual.

Sunday, we got packed out and did one last run at the Exhibitor Hall, where I dropped by the Sail Power booth and bought three ships and tons of resin cast guns. Great vendor! They sell secondary casts that aren’t “perfect” at a steep discount. I hope they show up at Cold Wars, I’ll throw more business their way.


“Over the Mighty Susquehannnnnnnnnna!” (we say that every time crossing it..)
And with that, we nosed our car into traffic, and headed home. It was a good Fall-IN! Many thanks to the staff, Dan Murawski, Brenda Zartman, and everyone else who hewed wood and carried water for the show. We had a great time.=


Farewell! Farewell!

Event Counts by Category, Fall-IN! 2016


As often happens once a HMGS convention concludes, self-styled experts will claim a certain genre is overtaking historical game entries, it’s a general sign of decline of HMGS and et cetera, blah, blah.  Those of us who have been attending for years have seen the same old argument restated every year,  sometimes posting outrage at the large number of “alt games” at a convention while many attendees are still en route home.  Well, about that… As I have done for 12 previous conventions, I have created a Guidebook App module for Fall-IN! 2016.  In order to make that happen, I have to take data from many sources– tournaments, Hobby U, seminars, etc.  The most important source is what I build the schedule with, the Events sent to me from the Events Coordinator.  So I get to see the raw data from the registration database every convention.

Once all of that is put in spreadsheet form, it’s remarkably easy to sort the data by period, use the COUNTA function, and get totals by period.  There’s nothing particularly slick about my methodology, but I have confidence in it because almost everyone uses the categories established by HMGS as part of the event registration process, although this can be overwritten, and then a judgement call is needed.

So here’s the count, with a couple of caveats– I’m making a judgement about what is historical and what ain’t, and I agree, you might interpret this differently from me.  I am counting fun skirmish game categories like Westerns, Chariot Races, Gladiator fights and Pirate fighting as “historical”, since they take place in a defined historical period.  This year, I also include 2 “Other” games as historical, since they are roughly Napoleonic Age of Sail games, and I also include 3 games that label themselves as “Victorian Alternative Naval” as historical, since they use historical ships in “What If” scenarios.  I rolled up a couple of other periods and put “Pulp” in the “Non Historical” period (since I consider “pulp” mostly a kind of borderline fantasy period springing out of VSF).  I’m only counting non-tournament events.  Most importantly, this data is a snapshot as of last weekend.

So there you are.  Again.  Historical Games ROUTED Non-Historical Games, without question.  In very broad terms, non-historical alt style games are barely 17% of total.

What periods walked away with it? The classic 3, of course: World War 2 (75), Napoleonic (29) and American Civil War (23). That old devil Science Fiction (which I rolled up four flavors of Post-Apocalyptic games into, Zombies mostly) returned a 24, and Fantasy 18.  Surprising?  Hardly.  Many of those 75 WW2 games are rulesets that are commercial successes and very recognizable.. like Bolt Action.  There just seem to be far fewer F&SF household names at HMGS conventions– those players go to other conventions, it would seem.

So there you have it! Another convention, another year without the sky falling in.  HMGS shows are still firmly historical, by a wide margin.

Guidebook App for HISTORICON 2016 released


First of all, sorry this is so late.  I’ve had some serious commitments in my non-hobby world lately, including a son graduating from high school!

As I have done for almost every HMGS convention since 2011, I have prepared a Guidebook mobile app for the upcoming HISTORICON convention, to be held at the Fredericskburg Convention Center, Fredericksburg, VA next week. Now, normally I have this out about a month in advance, sorry about that.. there’s still plenty of time to download your copy.

Functionality changes: Guidebook has been tinkering with features and services in the last year, and some of the features we used to enjoy, like colored icons for tracks, are gone because they have been elevated to the paid level– and there’s not much chance HMGS will pay for the upgrade. However, I have helped the process somewhat by using the following rule of thumb: GAMES (non-tournament) in the schedule are just listed by their titles. TOURNAMENTS have a single capital T, space, then the Game Rules (example: “T DBA..”) before the event title. SEMINARS have “SEM” in front of their titles, and HOBBY UNIVERSITY events start with a HU (Number).

If you search for the Cold Wars 2016 Guidebook post, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how guidebook will work for HISTORICON 2016. It still has a photo albums, social media hooks, news, and other things. The only new (Free) feature I’m trying this time is the Speakers Module.. this replicates the SEM data I have in the main Schedule track. I wasn’t sure Guidebook was going to call that a pay feature too (groan) so i replicated the data on purpose. I’m glad they broke out Speakers as a new function, that’s a great addition.

HOW TO GET IT

Here’s the DOWNLOAD PAGE:
https://guidebook.com/g/historicon2016/

Here’s the ONLINE PREVIEW:
https://guidebook.com/guide/73277/

And if you have a QR Reader, read this one now:

If you have questions, email me, I’ll be glad to help.

See you at HISTORICON 2016 next week!!

Social Media settings for this Guidebook:

Twitter tags: #HISTORICON2016, #HMGS_Inc, #Historicon, #Miniature_Wargames

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/23036244526/ (HMGS Facebook Group)

Be sure to post your photographs to the photo album, that’s how we share the experience with others!

A visit to the Weekend, 2016


The Weekend is Otto Schmidt’s concept about a nearly self sustaining, low impact miniatures convention with almost zero staff (beyond Otto it seems), an emphasis on amiability and sociability, and no politics.  Otto has been running the Weekend as sole alpha male for quite a while now and I’ve been making a point about attending the last couple of years.  The site is the Continental Inn, which is directly across the street from the Lancaster Host.  This is a nice, family owned hotel.. maybe not the most modern hotel in town, but then again few buildings on that Route 30 strip have been built earlier than the last ten years.  One night was under 100 bucks with the convention rate– I defy any Lancaster hotel to charge less than 100 dollars a night these days.

The Mighty Susquehannnnnnaaaa!!!

So Garrett and I showed up much later on Saturday than intended, mostly through our own idiocy. It happens.  My schedule indicated two games I wanted to play in– Pete Frechtling’s Leonardo Plus game, and a big Steampunk game in the evening.  We were to suffer two disappointments along those lines– Pete’s game was already started, and the evening steampunk game started four hours early.

However, Pete was just finishing up when we arrived and we got to see his great setup.

Yep, that’s a spectacle and a half. I like Leonardo Plus.

Sadly, the real lesson is to show up early for this thing, or show up the night before. The Weekend runs Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is just for having breakfast, jabbering and leaving. Much like any miniatures convention. I hope the boardgaming element of the Weekend grows somewhat, the venue is plenty spacious and can handle more people– it’s not big enough for WBC or a HMGS convention, and that’s just fine. I like small conventions like the Weekend and Guns of August.

Some Mustangs and Messerschmidt being run on Saturday

A fun Steam punk “Saurian Safari” style game Saturday night

Fortunately, Eric Turner was there to run a game pitting Italian Colonialists versus the Dervish late in the 19th century. I was surprised to see Garrett wanted to play and he jumped in as one of my Italian co-captains. We tried to play an aggressive game but the game came up a little short as we didn’t achieve victory conditions in time. So it goes, we enjoyed playing the game, and it illustrates it really doesn’t matter WHAT you play as long as you are with the right people.

(that’s not me disparaging the subject matter, it was a lot of fun)

I actually Periscoped this one for a while, not that we had that many viewers, but that’s the kind of thing I want to do more of.

Anyway, yeah, we lost, but we had a great time trash talking with our friends.

As traditionally ends every Weekend, there was MST3K (Military Science Theater 3000). The film was some Soviet era science fiction thing dubbed and redubbed by various countries over the years. Journey to the Prehistoric Planet, I think.

This was an easy film to make fun of, and nod off to. 🙂

So that was our weekend. We had a great time, and on the way back we found a cool little Open House event at the York Airport.

https://goo.gl/photos/gQ1jtJJXgxxqpVu88 <– a little video Google made automatically from phone pictures. Nice!

More Photographs HERE <– the rest of my FLICKR set on the Weekend

Phil Gardocki’s blog post on the Weekend

Lancaster Host: the end of the end, we mean it this time.


Bad news from the Lancaster Host, site of many HMGS and WBC game conventions over the years.  The Lancaster Online just reported a major water main break, causing the ceiling on three floors to break, 2000 residents and crew to be evacuated, and most importantly, the local fire chief has condemned the facility.  Details from the Lancaster Online.News Link

What does it mean?  Very likely the end of our relationship with the Host.  HMGS had a contract with the Host for Fall IN this Fall, but I’d say the Host just effectively cancelled most contracts.  It’s a shame, really.  The Host was a smelly dump, but it was our smelly dump.. As comfortable as an old shoe.

Farewell, Host, you served us well over the years.


 From the HMGS Board of Directors

It’s important to show the other side of the story, always.  I have to hand it to this Board, they have been on top of rumor control and quick to reach out to individual bloggers (such as your humble servant) in an effort to quell the occasional bout of mass hysteria.  When I get that kind of communication, I feel duty bound to post it– it doesn’t cost anything to see the other side of the coin, eh?

As you may have heard a plumbing line ruptured in the Host on Saturday.  Assorted on line accounts can be found here:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-host-condemned-after-major-water-main-break-collapses-ceilings/article_b84f5ff2-252f-11e6-88fb-ffb8c2d14621.html

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/05/lancaster_host_resort_closed_b.html

http://fox43.com/2016/05/29/hundreds-evacuated-from-lancaster-host-resort-after-ceiling-collapse/

In spite of the overblown news reports the HOST has power and water restored Monday.

We spoke with Host management Tuesday and can add the following details:

The Host is currently open for business but with certain areas inaccessible due to flooding and water damage.

The Host had two [2] water pipes break; one on the 400 level and one on the 600 level which caused some of the drop ceiling to come down in the hallways.

Both a plumbing company and a restoration company are on site making repairs.
The Host is planning to reopen the affected areas by  Monday 6/6 at the latest.

We  will update you if there is any new information, especially as regards to Fall IN 2016, and the possibly accelerated remodeling.

Kevin Kelley
For HMGS Board of Directors

With that said, has my opinion changed much?  Not really.  I sincerely feel as if every show we throw at the Host is basically rehearsing for a disaster of these proportions.  Fortunately this was a local dancing event and not one of our shows– that would be a severe financial hit, albeit not cataclysmic, to be objective.  If we had to evacuate everyone from the show, and possibly even refund a lot of the admissions, it would certainly hurt the bottom line, but worse, it would erode any confidence in the holding company that operates the Host currently.  As it is, they operate the place on the barest of shoestring budgets– no investment is evident, beyond sustenance level patchwork measures like renting a portable physical plant to keep the place heated and air conditioned (and parked in the parking lot), or brand new shiny blue tarps to cover the multitudinous leaks over the Lampeter ballroom.  Last convention, we heard a lot of positive stuff at the membership meeting about the company investing money into the hotel.  This just doesn’t seem to have come to pass, beyond emergency repairs.

All that griping aside, I’m a realist.  There just isn’t a competing space anywhere in the “sweet spot” (Central PA).  EVERY alternative the board has looked at seems to have a problem with it that could lead to even worse griping if we move the cons there.  Believe it or not there are metrics for what the BoD is looking for, and they have been forthcoming about what they are– a certain amount of space, adequate parking, attached hotels, easy access to transportation hubs like 95, nearby airports, lots of places to go to eat and even something to do if you bring your family with you.   Lancaster isn’t the perfect option, but it had one thing going for it– it was very cheap compared to other venues, and it hit ENOUGH of those metrics to keep a significant amount of people content for many years.  I’m not sure what we can do going forward.  We might just have to compromise on something major– cost/space/parking/geography, something, to find a new venue.

The Status of the Lancaster Host, and HMGS’s commitments to future events


Given that Otto’s membership synopsis in my last Cold Wars AAR (for 2016) may have presented some unintentional inaccuracies or at least reporting bias, I have received a statement from HMGS about the current state of the Lancaster Host, HMGS’s business dealings with the Host, and what the HMGS BoD expects to be their way forward in event that the Host cannot fulfill their contracts. Here it is in full.

Walt:

This is an update to the Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center (the “Host”) auction and ensuing proceedings. This is the same information that Scott Landis briefed to the attendees at the Friday night Cold Wars membership meeting and is provided for those of you who were unable to attend. (edit: I was not there — Walt)

What we know:

After the auction ended with no buyers meeting the minimum sale price, several potential buyers have continued to negotiate with the Host owners over the last few months. Two of these are nationally known hotel chains who plan to keep the Host in operation as a hotel. They have been examining the Host financial records and inspecting the building facilities. Some of the more observant of you may have noticed one such group over the weekend at Cold Wars.

We have been informed by Host management that the potential buyers all plan to renovate the building piecemeal starting with the HVAC and other essential internal systems. Rooms will also be updated and modernized. If this occurs, we will lose a percentage of rooms as the room upgrade will occur in phases. However, we are not filling the hotel now as many attendees stay elsewhere due to the conditions at the Host. The Host has essentially waived the room night requirement since many of their rooms are not usable. (Edit: This matches observations by Jim McWee, who observed that some of the rooms at the far end of the Host appeared cannibalized, with no door locks and broken windows. — Walt) Host management believes the sale will take place within the next two months. For HMGS, the timing is very important since we would need ample time to plan Fall-In!, whether it is at the Host or elsewhere. Should a buyer sink considerable capital into the Host the new owner may also elect to not honor the existing contracts as part of the terms of sale. We expect them to want to renegotiate our contracts to recoup some of their expenses.

Options and Alternatives:

At this point, the Host has not cancelled any future contracts, so Fall-In! 2016 and Cold Wars 2017 will go on as planned unless the Host or the new management cancels our existing contracts or cannot provide a usable facility. As you know, HMGS, Inc. cannot initiate a cancellation of either convention without incurring a substantial monetary penalty. We found alternate venues for Cold Wars 2016 and had cost feasible proposals in hand in December. We were prepared to move Cold Wars 2016 if necessary.

The Board has decided to pursue an alternate site for Fall-In! 2017 with proposals due for review at Historicon this summer. By then, we expect the Host’s future to be known and any work that has gone into considering alternate sites will expedite selection of a site for Cold Wars 17 and Fall-In! 16 should it be necessary.

Our Goal:

Our goal is to continue to run our conventions, whether at the Host, or another location. Event and vendor registration is open for Historicon 2016. We will continue to update to membership as soon as any new relevant information is received.

Respectfully,
On behalf of the HMGS Board of Directors

Kevin Kelley
HMGS, Inc. Director of Communications

I’ve heard much discussion about the future of the Host at Cold Wars. Apparently there is a significant requirement for meeting space for smaller conventions (of which HMGS is just one of several) in the Lancaster area. To give you an idea, concurrent with the Cold Wars 2016 convention was a quilting convention being held at several motels up and down the 30 corridor. The quilting convention was using meeting rooms at the Continental and other hotels further down Route 30. Clearly, the developers interested in the Host as a property see this as a business need they could make profitable. That’s good, but I’m not comfortable helping to pay a huge cost increase to help cover the renovations– they might raise the rates somewhat but only so far– the entire reason there is a need for smaller low-cost meeting space is that it is, by definition, low-cost. As one of the Host’s most reliable and faithful customers for the last 2 decades, I think we should have more bargaining power than this.

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:

25807517041_4077e9b58e

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

Guidebook for Cold Wars 2016 is released


app for that

In a real crash program of data entry, I have managed to put together a Guidebook guide for Cold Wars 2016.  Thanks to Paul Trani, Theresa Presizosi, Scott Holder, and Scott Landis for their assorted (timely) inputs.

Guidebook has changed a bit over the years we have been using it for HMGS conventions.  I’m going to go over the basic screens now and show some of the new(ish) features.

A couple caveats up front.

First of all, we don’t have TRACKS any more.  That’s a pay feature and HMGS is too cheap to buy it.. so no more color coded dots and collections of categories of events.  I liked the color coding but even I am not sure if it’s worth the extra $$ Guidebook is asking to activate tracks, and I’m fairly bullish about Guidebook.  Secondly, I got a lot of the data for this guidebook pretty late (VERY late), so I didn’t have time to add little banners for “Event” “Tournament” “Hobby U” etc.. you’ll just have to figure it out yourselves this time, sorry.

Screenshots were taken on an Ipad Air, the smart phone menu will look different.

And now, the grand tour– if you don’t want to bother, scroll to the bottom of this post and all the download links will be there.

CW16 Guidebook Main Screen

This is the main screen (above).  The layout is a little nicer than before, and they have streamlined a lot of the “basic convention information” into a single screen.  The menu items are on the left in this shot because of the tablet I’m using (an Ipad Air).

Going from the top of the menu, down, here is Exhibitors– aka Vendors.  In the main listing I

CW16 guidebook individual exhibitor listing

This is an individual exhibitor (see above).  In this case Eureka.  The listing will mention location (table number on the vendor hall map, posted in maps), as well as some description and a website.  If the vendor has any sales or promotions for the show, this is the place to put it.  Note the “Add to T0-Do” link on the bottom. This places the listing on your to-do list (menu item) so it can be a note to yourself to visit this vendor in the exhibitors hall.

Next thing down is the speaker’s list (below) and an individual speaker (below that).

CW16 guidebook speaker's list

and detailed speaker listing.. There’s that handsome devil.

CW16 guidebook individual speaker

This is basically what GB used to refer to as “an extra custom list” and it used to cost big money, so I’m glad it’s free.  We can break out speakers into their own category this way.   Note that you can add a SEMINAR to your “to-do” list, as well.

Going down the list “Contacts” is just a small list for listing people on the convention staff. I haven’t populated it beyond Frank P, I might get to it before the show but I doubt it.

Inbox (next item down) is back from previous years.  This is simply a way for me (or convention management) to send an email to all Guidebook users at once.  I haven’t sent out a test message yet so there’s nothing to look at, I didn’t bother with a screen shot.

Photos:

Photo album is kind of new, and blessedly FREE.  Here’s how it works.. you take a picture(s) or two of a game you are in, or of something interesting.  You can upload it in Guidebook so that it appears in the universal show album.  Not sure what the capacity of this thing is as I haven’t tested it.  Here’s me uploading a picture in three easy steps:

one

selecting a picture or taking a new one

two

writing a caption

three

image in guidebook image catalogue

Images can be a really fun way of sharing not just YOUR game but all the games you played with your mates out to everyone going to the convention.

Schedule:

This looks pretty much like it has looked and works more or less the same way as in past guidebooks. Here’s a few screenshots breaking it down to a couple of individual events.

schedule page for a day

individual schedule item, Hobby U
A Hobby University event– note that Hobby U, Games and Tournaments will all look pretty much the same in the current schedule. I use a T- in front of Tournament event titles and the mortar board to represent Hobby U events.

individual schedule item, Game
A regular game event in the schedule.

MAPS are about the same as always with one nice feature. See the little blue arrows bottom right? That’s a zoom out arrow. Watch what it does:

before:

Map, not zoomed out

after:

 

Map, blue button removes menu for easier viewing

TO DO LIST basically is a reminder list you build by clicking on “Add to my to-do list” for various vendors, speakers etc.   You can also add items to it as “Add item”. I didn’t bother with a screenshot. No, WAIT, it turns out I did:

to do list

MY SCHEDULE is the schedule that YOU build by checking off schedule items in SCHEDULE. You can also set reminders to your self for Guidebook to nag you before an event occurs. This works as it has before, no major changes.

ATTENDEES works as it has before, this is NOT A REGISTRATION SYSTEM. It’s a checking in system, to tell OTHER GUIDEBOOK USERS “Hey, I’m here at the convention”.

GENERAL INFORMATION is all that stuff on the main page.. Google Maps, convention prices, schedule, directions etc.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS are back for this guidebook, in the form of Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter:
Twitter connection screen

I’ve plugged in these hashtags: #ColdWars16, #HMGS, #CW2016, and this account: @HMGS_Inc, since Cold Wars doesn’t seem to have a Twitter account.

Facebook:
Facebook Connection screen

This connects to the HMGS page on Facebook, like last year.

With all that said, here is where you go to get your GUIDEBOOK
https://guidebook.com/g/CW2016/

Here is the link to view it online. The screen layout is very similar to my Ipad Screenshots
https://guidebook.com/guide/53323/

Fall-IN! 2015: More like a Whimper than a Bang!


Once again, another fun Convention Recap by yours truly. In this instance, Fall-IN! 2015, from the warm, yet leaky embrace of the Lancaster Host resort, Lancaster PA.

The Host went all out on the roof repair for our benefit!


Thursday’s child has far to go,

I didn’t have a game to run (though now I wish I had). So I checked in and started to deal with an immediate problem with Guidebook for FALL IN! 2015. I had made a last minute insertion update with the data given to me by Events. I had to format the data several times because it kept not accepting it… Now I think there was something going on with the servers right when I sent that because after it worked, we were missing something along the lines of 200 events. I worked through the problem with Guidebook and extracted the delta from the original data, then inserted the delta, which (finally) fixed the problem. I apologize for anyone who was inconvenienced by GB, I assure you, this is the first time I’ve had any problems in 12 conventions of using it, so we’ll just have to do it right for Cold Wars 2015.

I didn’t do a lot of convention stuff Thursday night, didn’t even stay up late in the bar, as it was virtually empty of life. The crowds were just starting to arrive but the place wasn’t packed. I attended the CD’s meeting and tried to stay out of the way, even though I had volunteered if they were short handed. Dan appeared to be short staff on Thursday but all kinds of people jumped in to help with the rush.

So not much in the way of gaming Thursday but I did get a chance to see the awesome set up for SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A BIGGER STICK! by Michale Konwinski and crew. If you didn’t see it, this was that gigantic pulp city in the upstairs lobby. Michael and crew were setting up most of Thursday night, where I managed to do a little quick run through..

(An Ipad isn’t the best camera platform for filming miniatures, so bear with me)

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Friday I had no plans so I just wandered about and did some shopping. I have got my hands on the raw materials for a game so jaw-droopingly sacrilegious it will offend nearly everyone. More details as they firm up. In the meantime, here’s some clues:

This gave me a chance to jaw with Otto Schmidt, who is a favorite collaborator, and use a range of figures from Sergeant Major that I’ve passed by a few years running with the idea that “there’s a game in here somewhere, it’s just not talking to me yet”… it was fun to get the gears turning on this one.

I did game one official game on Friday. This was “GET THE STONEWALL”, a hypothetical ironclad game (as most ACW Ironclads tend to be). Rule were Sail and Steam navies (from Bay Area yards) which I had tried in the past and most emphatically did not like. However, THIS game went swimmingly, and I’m not saying that because the Union side (which I was on) won. It really did move much faster and more streamlined from the last time I played it, which was Historicon 2015.

Passaic (front right) and Patapsco (bottom) encounter the Jackson (center left) trailing a few other ash n’ trash like CSS David class torpedoes. The Passaic renders good service here, smashing the steering on the Jackson and sending him swinging the wide arc around and effectively out of the fight.

Later in the same fight. The Jackson is still turning to face us (background). The other union ships are fighting behind the island top left and not doing very well. The Stonewall did get engines fired up and in motion (bottom right) but once again we rendered good service by taking out their long gun early in the fight. The GM keeps this fact hidden from me (as he should) and we had to play it safe, not coming in close to the Stonewall and keeping him bracketed at a distance, shooting him to pieces.

I captained the USS Passaic and Patapsco monitors. I smashed the steering on the CSS Jackson early in the game, effectively taking her out of the fight until very late in the game. I didn’t know this, of course. As we neared the Stonewall on dock, it was trying to frantically load munitions and get steam up. Again, all unknowing, I blew up Stonewall’s big gun, leaving her toothless for long range fights. She was still dangerous, so I kept my distance and kept her under fire, and that’s where the GM called it a Union victory. My union colleague lost a ship, as the Rebs converged upon him. Not what I would have done, but hey, there it is.   GM ruled it a Union victory as we achieved our major objective (or would have in a few more turns of pounding the Stonewall).  Even though we lost an ironclad.   I got a prize– the USS Keokuk for my part in the battle.

HERE is an animated slide show of GET THE STONEWALL in MP4 format, with a little accompaniment by Swamp Candy.

There were a lot of great games at FALL IN! 2015, though really I couldn’t grasp if any period or rules dominated.  FROSTGRAVE (by Osprey) is a big new thing, and reminds me of a snowy Mordheim in some respects.  I only saw a few games of it being run but, wow, the terrain was excellent on the ones I did see.  Historically? probably  it was mostly Napoleonics but it didn’t seem as if there were more than usual in evidence.   Lots and lots of pulp games were in evidence, which is probably going to get someone’s panties in a wad somewhere, but there it is.   Here’s a nice screen show of a sampling of games at the convention:

Click for Slide Show of miscellaneous games run on Friday and Saturday at Fall IN! 2015. Mostly Distelfink and the surrounding small club rooms.

Friday, during the day, the Distelfink was a wasteland, there were many open tables.  They got full up at night, though.  That’s about the extent of any gauge of attendance or participation I did.  I don’t think any game I saw was exactly hurting for people but many didn’t have the full compliment either.

My personal favorite historical spectacle was Bill Moreno (from Good Ground)’s 10mm ‘ Battle of Fredericksburg layout, which deserved whatever prize thingy it go.  He gets much respect from me.  See for yourselves, it looks like a Currier and Ives engraving:

I have NO IDEA what attendance records were.  Dan Murawski seemed to think we were going to go over 2000, which would have been pretty amazing for any Fall IN! show. I’m not sure it happened, though.   I hope it does– Fall IN! continues to grow as our Yankee brethren forfend to attend a convention in Fredericksburg (if you take TMP dross seriously)– so Historicon’s loss is Fall IN’s gain, although as usual it’s hard to quantify ANY statement about who actually comes to shows and why they stay away from others.

The bald guy in the center had the highest pitched giggle I've ever seen come out of a man in my life.

The New York State/Erie folk who arrange Toys for Tots donations and raffles for FALL IN! were once more back on the job, doing a good job.   Seemed a little quiet this year, however, I missed Santa Moe.

I admire what Uncle Moe and his sizable crew do for Toys for Tots.. giving the lie to the perception that all gamers are immature selfish bastards with bad BO and poor social skills.  I mean, we do occasionally do something nice for charity, despite the BO and bad social skills, right?  That has to count for something!

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

I found myself not much interested (again) in staying up late and drinking in the bar, since it was somewhat devoid of a crowd.  So I went to bed and got up in time to weasel my way into Brian DeWitt’s epic portrayal of the Persian victory at Artemisium.  What’s that?  You always heard it as being a GREEK victory?  Well, so it might have been, were it not for our right flank and some profoundly bad luck.  Brian’s a great designer and a good “systems man” in his approach.  I liked this rule set, which he claims is not ready for prime time, but it seemed pretty well defined to me.

Click to see the slideshow/MP4 of this epic LOSS (grumble grumble) by the valiant Greek navy.

Having lost Western Civilization in the morning, I cast about to see the rest of the world, doing a run on the flea market and not accomplishing much. I did get a copy of Samurai Battles (brand new) for 20 bucks from the designer. Not bad at all. I also got a few assorted bits here and there, nothing special. I also went to the vendor hall and picked up a cigar box game mat, for my 3D rocket man game (more on that in the near future).

To be honest, it was a lot of same-old, same-old. No hot new products this year.

My firm intention was to play in yet another ironclad game in the afternoon but I was feeling pretty dog tired, even though I had eaten reasonably well and not stayed up massively late as I am used to at these conventions. I’m not sure what it was but it did make me feel a little pekid. My intention was to sleep for a half an hour.. HA!!

After a decent meal (at the host, where I ate most of them), I knocked about a bit and waited for Eric’s ROAD WARRIOR INVITATIONAL to get started.  He was going big this year, or going home..

Now, I thought the vehicles showed amazing creativity and ingenuity… but wow, I don’t like that crowded track.  There’s no room to get around each other, and soon something like this happens:

And we had to give the tail end charlies Pity Pushes to have them keep up with the race! Pity Pushes– ME. I nearly took out the truck with a motorcycle, single handed!! and now I’m getting a pity push? The shame is great!

Oddly enough, many drunken hoarse renditions of the phrase WITNESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMEEEEEEEEEE! was not enough to get the truck over the finish line without being stopped by the forces of Bad.  Humbling, ain’t it?

And so to bed.

But the child who is born on the Sabbath day,
Is lucky and happy and good and gay.  (in the old sense of the word).

Sunday was the usual last pass on the Flea Market (found a few neat 15mm Khurasan figures) and the dealer room (not much of anything except some Stan Johansen Road Warrior stuff).   After the usual goodbyes, I was nosing my van into traffic for the long ride home, where, I am happy to say, someone was glad to see me.

That was my Fall-IN! 2015.  Not a bad convention, not the greatest one I was ever at, but it all went smoothly with no headaches.  Good work, Dan and crew!! you make it look easy.  That’s all for now, I’ll see you all at COLD WARS 2016!

HISTORICON 2015: Sand Fleas in Fredericksburg!


It’s time for one of my favorite things to write, a convention narrative.  From Wednesday 15 July to Sunday 19 July, I attended HISTORICON 2015, at the Fredericksburg Convention Center.  I was on staff for the convention (working the events board), I stayed at the Homewood Suites, and I ran one game Saturday night.

Traffic?  Well, there wasn’t, much. 

I had half a day on Wednesday but had the car packed the night before, so I hit the road directly after changing and arrived in Fredericksburg from the DC area in about an hour.  Traffic was dense but steady– if I had been any later, I would have taken the Western route– out 66 to 29 South through Warrenton, then 17 directly to the Center.  As it turned out, I was willing to gamble since I left at 1300, and it paid off in time.

The usual first day hubbub was in evidence, people hanging up tags and stuffing flyers into program books and setting up the registration system.  Controlled Chaos really.  After a while it becomes second nature.  The CD did try to set up convention registration in the long hall next to the side ballrooms.  Jury’s out on that idea.  I think it might have worked best by the hallway near the windows on the far side of the hall, as the hall is wider there, but I understand you will want reg to be in the central part of your convention so you can control events better.   I thought the hall was  a little bit of a squeeze as a result.  Gamers ain’t svelte, as a rule.

The Typical Challenges and a new biting phenomenon

There was the typical challenges associated with the facility.   It does get loud on Saturday and Friday and Thursday peak hours.   The carpeting helps a lot.  So does the vertical drapes that break up the space around the main room.  We arrived expecting that. The HVAC handled Wednesday and Thursday’s environmental conditions fine; however by Friday midday the heat index was well over 100 degrees F– hot enough to make you instantly feel like an un-wrung sponge and gasping for breath once you walked outside. Not healthy environmental conditions!. Inside the hall the HVAC did its best but it was, well, “muggy” in the Exhibitor’s Hall to be certain.  One new nuisance appeared to be a biting fly that was annoying the hell out of people during games.  I’m not sure what form of insect life it was but I had small welts on my legs.  Very annoying, I think it was a sand-flea. On the plus side, that was my favorite hotel experience I’ve had at Fredericksburg. I was parked close enough to walk to the hall every day. The complimentary food didn’t suck and it was in abundance. I wish the other hotels would follow their example.

Bug Disclaimer statement: I experienced several instances of a small, annoying flying and biting insect specifically on Friday. Other people did, too. Many people did not experience any bites and are surprised I brought this up. I am not sure what the insect was; I’m not an entomologist, nor do I play one on television.

Thursday: Events, Food and a Chariot Race.

Thursday was a brisk start..  I was at the events desk for the entire show, so spent much of the time handing out tickets and resolving table problems.

Sugah don’t melt in my mowf.

Here we are improvising tickets.

Historicon 2015 had many great games but most of the ones I saw were sell-outs. Why? Because there clearly were not enough of them being run. There are plenty of attendees that wanted to get into 2 or more games a day, but it wasn’t going to happen. Pickings were slim. So if you want more historical games (or any games for that matter) people are going to have to step up (either in Fredericksburg or Lancaster, by the way). I can afford to lecture since I did run one, he said smugly.

I gulped down a free manager’s special (dinner) and hurried over to the main hall to play in a chariot race.  This was a fun game (totally full up), done in 54mm scale and using Brian Dewitt’s chariot racing rules. I’ve played in games using those rules before and I enjoy them– much easier than Circus Maximus.

CLICK ME TO SEE THE PHOTOGRAPHIC SLIDE SHOW!

I like Chariot games– and I’ve been in a few over the years. Experience teaches me to to let the blowhards who like to crash into each other get out in front while they attack each other, and carefully inhabit a slot in the middle of the pack waiting for the aggressive ones to die. That didn’t happen quickly enough so by the end of the second lap I was taking risks to pull out in front or I would fall too far behind. That worked,kind of, but I had been pretty battered by attacks and when I tried to go into that final curve, my chariot flipped on me. Withing half a lap of the finish line. That’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Here’s a little thing I put together using some stills and a little footage left from a Periscope session. I used “Jockey full of bourbon” by Tom Waits as the music (the first time) but Vimeo had copyright problems so there’s some godawful royalty free electronica on there now.

I hung out with some friends later and played some board games, notably Letters from Whitechapel (the new version from FFG). Whitechapel is a fun little guessing game with attractive components. The players are constables trying to catch Jack the Ripper in Victorian London. Jack uses hidden movement, from sector to sector, as the constables call out the sector numbers to see if he’s there. We came close a couple of times but Jack solidly kicked all of our asses.

Games were pretty good at HISTORICON 2015, but nothing that I considered a huge standout. There was some very pretty terrain setups here or there, but I saw a lot of GMs cutting corners, too.

Seriously? An out of the box game of Space Hulk?

There were also GMs who spent a year or more making a setup, as you can see here:

I enjoyed the games I got into, for the most part. If there was any standout theme, I’d say “Air combat games”.. seemed like there were a ton of them being played. Mostly Check your Six.

Here’s a slideshow of other sights seen around Historicon 2015:

CLICK ME to see more

The next day I worked the Events desk as normal, and then got into a game of BLOCKADE RUNNERS run by Gary Coyle. Gary is an excellent gamesmaster and I have played in his Roman Seas games before and had a great time with them. Blockade Runners was a Charleston Harbor scenario during the last full year of the Civil War. As the Union, you’re trying to stop blockade runners from entering the harbor. As a Confederate, you’re there to engage the Union fleet and prevent their conditions from happening. I had two Passaic ironclads, the other two Union players had Passaic ironclads and the New Ironsides. We were up against a number of Pametto State style casement ironclads armed with a mix of guns and spar torpedoes. There was an inshore squadron of David style and Spar torpedo armed small boats that really didn’t see action. We pulled off a very narrow Union victory by sinking two Blockade Runners. We were unable to do much lasting damage to the casemates, though Palmetto state was pretty battered by the end of the game. On the plus side not much damage was done to the Union side either. Much as I like Gary’s games I wasn’t enchanted with the rules, Steam and Sail Navies. Combat resolution was slow, very chart heavy and I never really “grokked it”. Perhaps a good system for a game in someone’s basement but not for a big convention game.

(Naturally, click on the picture above for a small slide show on Blockade Runners)

Afterward I went out for dinner, to a local place I hadn’t tried yet, Tito’s Diner. One must try new things. It wasn’t a raging success. Any diner should be able to master a basic Reuben, and mine had plastic in it.

Saturday was another brisk day, as people queued up to get tickets. Except for MY game, which was being held at 10PM.. was I insane? Should I have scheduled it at 9PM?

I shouldn’t have worried…

I did some shopping both in the dealer hall and the flea market. I also popped out for a few supplies for the evening’s festivities.

Wait.. to LEGALLY clarify.. I kept these back at the room for after-game toasting.. that’s right..

RIDE THAT FURY ROAD!! S-450, GM Walt O’Hara

I’ve been working on a Road Warrior style game off and on since Cold Wars. It came together rather easily, using Eric’s Road Warrior rules as a base and doing a lot of tinkering. This game was a dry run for the Game Camp I’ll be running in August, and I have to say it was a great success. People had a great time, the rules were simple enough and though some of the stats need tweaking, the basic ideas are easy enough to grasp and run with. I loved the way the game built its own narrative.. the hippies with the cloud of pot smoke behind their VW Van, the Fighting Griswolds, Herbie the Hate Bug, the not-so homicidal Postman and his SLOW postal truck, the Bikers, the explosions.. simple fun! That’s a win.

To see a slideshow, click on the picture below

Explosions! Machine Guns! Oil Slicks! Pot Smoke! Dubious Sushi! This game had it all!

I ended up getting to bed at 3AM, despite my best efforts to get some sleep at this convention.

Sunday was spent in some desultory shopping before hitting the road North. Traffic back home was worse than traffic there. It’s all in the timing.

So, in conclusion– a good convention!

Highlights were:

  • Getting some of my gaming camp families to drop by in advance and take a tour.  Paul Delaney was kind enough to extend free passes to any family that wanted to attend in advance of the camp and many people responded they were coming.. only one did that I know of, but that’s okay.
  • I really enjoyed playing Chariots and running the Ride that Fury Road game. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing my friends again.
  • Shopping — I got some Saxons from Footsore Miniatures (one of the standout vendors, kind of a new guy on the block).  Also some Fairy Swordfish in 1:600 scale (for my Raid on Taranto game) from PicoArmor as well as the Hind Commander game, which intrigues the heck out of me.  Nothing jumped out in the Flea Market but I did get more (painted) Saxons and laser artillery bits for my Future Tank game.
  • I noticed there were representatives from the Dayton Convention Center and York Convention Center touring the convention to get an idea of the scope of the thing. Comments from the Dayton guy: “It’s soo.. sooo HUGE! I had no idea!”
  • The Guidebook app continues to be useful and the recent metadata they publish is really starting to be helpful in a meaningful way. Here’s a snap of some of the stats being collected (in the free version):

    There was also a big hook to Twitter and Facebook at this convention and the hashtag #Historicon2015 was used liberally. It really helped spread the word, I think.

So that was my Historicon, I’d give it a decent B+. Thanks to all the staff and leadership for working tirelessly as unpaid volunteers to put on a great show, and thanks for reading.

Last Changes/Updates to the HISTORICON 2015 guidebook app


Various Guidebook Formats

Various Guidebook Formats

HISTORICON 2015 convention goers.. I’m making the last changes to the GUIDEBOOK app for HISTORICON 2015. So here are a few notes for you.

Dudley Garidel got the final vendor count and maps to me, they are now included. I’ve added one more event since PEL.  There’s one BIG map image to show how the tables fit together, then I broke the big map into 3 smaller ones, front, middle and back.

I enabled three new features for HISTORICON 2015. Twitter feed, Notepad and TMP News feed. What the heck, why not, they are free!

1) A News feed uses a RSS feed to transmit news items to the Guidebook. Since HMGS doesn’t keep up a RSS feed, I used the miniatures page, which is as close as we come. It’s not very relevant to a specific show, but what the heck, it might provide interesting reading.

2) Notepad is just that– a place for the user to keep notes.. like ” I need to vist PicoArmor and buy Hind D helicopters”.. etc. etc.

3) Twitter feed. Again, there ISN’T a Twitter account for Historicon (that I could find), so I’ll do some tweeting about it during the show using my account (@TheLastBrunch) and the hashtag HISTORICON2015. I encourage EVERYONE who uses twitter to use #historicon2015 during the show!!

If you need a reminder about how to get the GUIDEBOOK app and the specific HISTORICON 2015 guide, visit the landing page.

HERE is the guide on the web

The Weekend: Gaming on the Mellow Side


I’ve been meaning to catch Otto Schmidt’s THE WEEKEND for a long time now. It’s been tough, as June is a busy month usually with high school age kids.  Now that one is in college and the other is in his last year, I thought I’d spread my wings a little and manage a day trip.  Background: the Weekend is held late June, and appears to be a 3 day affair, so it is about as much of a commitment as any small convention in terms of time.  As I recall, this was started by Otto Schmidt as an alternative for HISTORICON when the latter was slated to go to a much more expensive venue in Baltimore, MD (this did not transpire, for many reasons).  Otto wanted the Weekend to be a gathering of old friends who wanted to blab, gossip, game and hang out.  It is held at the Continental Inn off of Route 30 pretty much right across the street from the Lancaster Host, site of Fall-IN! and Cold Wars.

The Inn is an old building, family owned and operated.  It has seen some hard usage but is not what I would call “a dump” by any means.  The hotel has a major meeting space downstairs and other, smaller rooms here and there in the upper and lower lobby floors.  Frankly, I would have killed for a space like this back in the TriadCon days.  If we’d only known.   It’s not perfect– the handicapped facilities are about as non-existent as they are at the Host if not worse (no elevators in critical areas; no handicapped bathroom stalls) but you can always drive around back to the lower level to unload things, which is a plus.

There is a MST3K (Military Science Theater 3000) set up for this con but I wasn’t there for that.  No vendors that I could see, and a desultory bring-n-buy style flea market.  That was about the normal convention “stuff” present.


An exquisite Age of Reason battle in 15mm, created by Bill Grey, the Author of Age of Eagles. Click the picture to see more.

I got there a little after noon (due to traffic and helping get my son ready for camp).  Literally, I spent much of my time there BSing and catching up with friends, so I’d say Otto’s goals for this convention are certainly being met.  It was great seeing many people I haven’t seen in a month of Sundays, including Dennis Largess, Rich Low, Andy Turlington, Bill Grey, Bob Leibl, Cleo Hanlon, and Pete Frechtling.  And Otto of course, but I talk to him on the phone frequently.

Mr. Tracy Johnson ran AFTER THE HOLOCAUST, the old rare SPI game on a giant splodey map with army men. It had a great look to it. For other pictures, click on the picture above

When I got there there was an ACW game going on in the corner, and two being set up, an AFTER THE HOLOCAUST (SPI) game being rendered in miniature form by Tracy Johnson, a two player game set in 1714 being run by Bill Gray,  and an I Leonardo game run by Pete Frechtling.

I definitely wanted to play the I Leonardo game, by temperament and experience.  I’ve played in Pete Frechtling’s skewed version of the Italian Wars (with Leonardo Da Vinci tanks, helicopters, gliders and etc.).  So with your kind forbearance, I will sketch things out as best I can, providing something of an “After the Battle” report of sorts.

The basic set up was the Imperials holding a bastion with supplies on one side of a canal that opened up into a river.  There was only one established bridge over the river (made of stone) and it was being defended by a force of two commands of Imperials, with two Leonardo style tanks each (not the conical tanks, the flat ones).  The Imperials also had a ship loaded with mixed troops and cannon to defend the water entrance with.   On the far side of the canal were the Allies– British (red striped tank), Swiss (green striped tank) and French (blue striped tank).  Each Ally had one “castle” style Leonardo tank, painted as I have noted, plus a wild mixture of artillery, infantry and a little cavalry.  I took the French (blue striped) command on the far right of the line.  I had the tank as mentioned, a grenadier, Leonardo himself, some engineers, some cavalry units, some foot knights, and a bridging unit (important!).   The Swiss to my left were in the center.  They had more artillery than I and some ruins to hide in.  They kept a hot fire going against the forces that would venture clear enough to be shot at in the center of the line opposite us.  At the far left was the British and the Allies’ two ships.  The ships also (important!) had a bridging unit.   The idea being they would sail into the canal, beach, and construct the bridge from their ship to the opposing side.

I didn’t spend a lot of time tracking the naval conflict, but it was protracted and savage.

The English engaged such targets of opportunity as were available across the canal.  With the canal there to impede movement the battle became kind of a long ranged slugging match over the canal as both sides attempted to bombard each other.  The big guns on the Imperial side were their two flat rectangular tanks, and a flame thrower style vehicle that was somewhat hindered by being in the midst of a pack of infantry.

We were in a stalemate for the first few turns.. The French being the closest to the existing bridge (played by your humble correspondent) we were going to have to swarm over it somehow and take the bridge.. Unfortunately the Imperials had placed one of their two precious tanks to cover that very narrow defile, and they were aggressively defending with everything at their disposal, including a land rocket that misfired and went fizzing off in a random direction (panicking my troops but causing no damage).   My plan was to make a big demonstration and hoo-hah at the center bridge and focus the defenders there, while building my bridge train on the far right of the battlefield.

 
Now that’s a satisfying reaction! More smoke clouds please.

The Swiss did their best to support me, and were game to swarm over the center bridge as well, but we had to move the vehicles out of the way to accomplish this.  They had the advantage of some ruins to disperse into and set up artillery and other fun Leonardo style weapons (including a machine gun) to plaster the Imperial bridge defenders with.  I had a single artillery piece on my front which did some service fighting the opposing tank unit.  About midway through the game I steamed over the bridge and tried for a ram on the opposing tank.  Yes, I know this sounds decidedly risky but sometimes  you have to push things to win things.  The ram did not accomplish much, nor did the follow on fire into his sides at point blank range.  It wasn’t a bad idea, really, I just rolled pretty badly throughout the game.  I followed it up with a fusilade of infantry attacks which DID cause problems… the French grenadier tossed a grenade into the mix and it actually exploded more or less correctly, starting a fire and killing several of the crew.

Here we come, you knaves! Take that, and that, and that…

Meanwhile the bridge building gang on the right had succeeded at their task and the first independent bridgehead over the canal had happened.  The opposing player realized this and moved half-armored knights into the gap to engage with me.   On the left, the Imperials attempted to move all their infantry down the road, lost their general to gunfire, and moved their secret weapons out to engage the Allied Ships, which had bested the Imperial and were heading up the channel.  The flaming water borne holocaust the Imperial player was loudly fantasizing over (repeatedly) did not transpire, and thus the left flank was able to create a bridgehead over the canal as well.

Victory is nigh!!!

Although we were slated to play until 10PM, I was being frantically called from the home front, over a matter of shoes for my son’s camp.  Timing came together wonderfully, as Peter declared the game a victory for the Allies at the end of the turn where the second bridgehead had taken place.  This makes sense.  Although the center bridge was very much in dispute, I could still push men over the the entangled two tanks and even though the defenders had a larger group of infantry there, it was so narrow between the buildings he would never have the chance to use them effectively.  I actually welcomed such a push of the pike.    The much referenced “secret weapon” (flamethrower) amounted to almost nothing and the two Imperial tanks were heavily damaged.  The French tank (mine) had suffered damage but was still firing and reloading.  I was expecting casualties on the right flank as our crossing attempts had triggered some ambuscades from hidden troops.  Still, I could see the tide of battle was changing rapidly in our favor, and who was I to contest the GM’s view of things, anyway?  My thoughts on the I, Leonardo game system was that it seems remarkably bloodless.  Most of the Imperial arsenal was taking a heavy pound throughout the game and we really didn’t kill much of anything– we disabled a lot, and killed some crews.. but that’s about it.  I would like to redo the charts to this one some day.. just pondering.  I like the system itself just fine, but it’s really for a history geek audience who pretty much know the subject already.

For an amusing SLIDESHOW of the I LEONARDO BATTLE, click here.

As mentioned, I had to depart earlier than planned to solve a problem at home but I was glad I had an opportunity (at long last) to visit THE WEEKEND.

Major Guidebook Update for HISTORICON 2015


Hey HMGS Convention Attendees, we have a MAJOR Guidebook Update for you.

Hey Historicon! There’s an app for that!

First of all, I tried floating events early without room numbers.  That was a bad idea, as updating them (later) WITH the numbers nuked most of what I had done before, causing me to reenter data for tournaments and seminars!  Woo hoo! I love entering data twice.

So I’m making a business decision– we don’t post events (that is, regular games) until the events guy irons out what the table numbers are and where they are at.. it’s too painful to bounce back if the earlier input crashes on you.  If that means we post Guidebook a little closer to the event, so be it.

So, what do we have?

  • TOURNAMENTS (again)
  • SEMINARS (again)
  • HOBBY UNIVERSITY (first time)
  • GAMES (again)
  • Maps!

What am I missing?  The map of the Exhibitor Hall and Exhibitor List.

And then we will be done, unless we get new games between now and the convention itself.

How to get it

Go to the Guidebook Landing Page which is HERE and follow directions.

To Preview the Guide

Go to the Preview Page which is here

Historicals versus Non-Historical Count

New feature: I thought I’d do an actual count by period.  The reality of Non-Historical versus Historical by counting the actual numbers, not by hand waving*:


Source: Events Spreadsheet extracted on 6/18/2015, Historicon 2015

So the reality is 20% non-historical games at Historicon.  And I’m grouping in anything that could remotely be considered fantasy and SF together.  There are the numbers.

Events by Rules mentioned in PEL


You may have to click to see original size. There were a lot of rule sets.

This was all over the map.. there were a lot of rule sets being used.  Where it was possible I combined version and flavors and variants into the parent.

In any event, there’s the true facts, and a big, big, big guidebook update.  See you at HISTORICON 2015.

* Note on the period count above– it excludes all tournaments, which probably should be entered under fantasy in some respects.  Did I say that out loud?  I’m trying not to snark…

Balticon 49: A short visit Saturday


Gar and I headed up to Balticon at the venerable Hunt Valley Inn last weekend, for a day visit.  We were a little stymied when we discovered the indie film festival was on Sunday and we went on a Saturday.  Call it faulty memory– maybe we DID go up on Sunday last  year? (yes we did; should have read the online program first)  Oh well, we didn’t let that dim the luster.

Impressions: For starters, B49 seemed very lightly attended.  It wasn’t the standard cheek by jowl situation in the Salon areas, and the usual mob of costumery seemed greatly diminished.  I like Science Fiction conventions quite a bit, but I’ve never been one of the faithful– meaning, I don’t wear costumes, I don’t “filk”, I don’t wear a lot of buttons.  So SF Con Fandom isn’t really my thing– I’m not part of that culture.   I read books, and I like SF authors, and like to hear them talk, and I buy books.  So that’s what I come to a convention for– and maybe see indie films and play some games.   In that respect, we were only partially successful, but that’s fine.

There were two writer GOH’s I wanted to see, Chuck Gannon and Jack McDevitt, but I missed both.  I did buy a book of each of theirs however.  FireFall by Gannon and the reissue of The Hercules Text from McDevitt.

The Con Suite was a big disappointment.  The munchies budget was clearly halved.  No WiFi signal in the Con Suite, which was very annoying.  Still, it’s a nice place to collect and plan our precious hours, so we mapped out our day.  I went to the Dealer’s area and bought some books from vendors who I don’t normally see on Amazon.  I also made a point of buying three books from the late great C.J. Henderson, whom I liked and will miss.  C.J.’ s wife and family incurred lots of expense in the final stages of his illness so every little bit helps.    I also sat in on his memorial service at the convention.  I certainly hope C.J.’s work remains in print and someone (not necessarily his wife) continues selling his titles.

I didn’t hit every panel talk I wanted to– I went to a Pulp discussion that was notionally about C.J.’s work but ranged far and wide, and was very engaging.  I enjoyed it.  I followed that up with dropping in to see a little of the anime film Princess Mononoke but as I  A) had seen this film multiple times and B) was falling asleep in the back, much to my son’s embarrassment, I nipped out to the next talk, which was on the Ancient Art of Celestial Navigation and Land-Finding, as practiced by Polynesians.   This was very interesting indeed.    The professor (a public scholar from the Smithsonian Institution Museum of the Native Americas) was a great speaker and projected his enthusiasm for the subject to his rapt audience.  A very fortuitous find.  After that, we were hungry, so we went to Wegman’s to get the buffet and make use of the WiFi.

Since we were at sixes and sevens not being able to make the Film Festival unless we spent the night, so I suggested we try Mr. John Montrie’s RPG session about Victorian Horror using Howard Whitehouse’s Dashing Adventure rules.  Garrett readily agreed and this activity proved to be the high point of the day.  We were using minimal rules/maximum storytelling approaches to the game– Howard’s rules are very forgiving.   The scenario was pretty cut and dried– we were a team of trouble makers sent to a mansion to investigate the recent ghost sightings reported there.  I played “Biggles” the Pilot, and I played him increasingly skeptical of the events transpiring at the castle.  We played it all the way through to the end, and part of my prediction (that the former owner of the estate was somehow caught up in the hauntings) would come true.  Even if there was a leprechaun.   It was a very satisfying conclusion,and thus we drove homeward, it being elevenish.

Despite a low attendance and a bad con suite, I enjoyed myself and so did Garrett.  We tried something new (RPG games at a convention) and got a decent return for our buck.  There were rumors of Balticon moving into the inner harbor next year– not sure what to make of them.  The only convention I’ve been associated with that tried to go to the Inner Harbor (convention center) ended up losing 30K plus.  I hope the planners have thought of everything.  I’d still be inclined only to do a day trip under those circumstances, and maybe only once, if the parking is too astronomical.  As it tends to be.

So that was my Balticon 49.. kind of a shade of what it once was, but still enjoyable.