Category Archives: HMGS East

Cold Wars 2018, fighting in the rubble of the Host

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

the mighty.

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

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

Friday Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

Hungarian shoes 20% off today, comrade!

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

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

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

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

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

Sharke’s Chosen Orcs at start

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

Whoah!  Lookit all dem Frenchies!!

Vive La Toadies!

Um.. we’re supposed to stop that, si?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday observations

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

The Setting

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

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

The end of the scientist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Yes, there is a Guidebook for Fall-IN! 2017

Main Screen (Guidebook on Web) Fall IN! 2017



To all the good folks attending Fall-IN! 2017, I have to apologize.  I haven’t been Johnny on the Spot with Fall-IN! 2017’s Guidebook app.  There’s a good reason, but you probably don’t care.  Oh what the heck, I’ll tell you.  About a year ago at the end of October, a ten ton tree dropped on Casa O’Hara. The damage was devastating.  My family has endured a long year of rebuilding, being temporarily homeless, and living in a tiny rental as the contractors did their thing.  We are (right now, this week) hitting the end of the tunnel at last.  The contractors are finalizing the work on my house and we are moving back in starting this weekend.  I don’t claim to be the smartest guy in the world, but I’m clever enough to figure out this isn’t the time to go to Fall IN!.  I like being married!  Anyway, all that work (and the recent departure of a beloved family pet just last week) has been a distraction from Guidebook building duty.  Mea Culpa. 


I have not left you all in the lurch.  I wouldn’t do that. I have taken the
data Dan Murawski and Jeff Kimmel sent me and updated and published the
guidebook app as of last night.

It doesn’t display the usual tender loving care I usually put into these
things; Missing are the room maps, Tournaments, Hobby University, and
Speakers (if there are any), social media stuff.  Included are: the events schedule
(with room locations and table numbers), The Vendor Hall map and
vendor listing.

That is about all I have time for, sorry. I don’t consider the omissions
crippling. Unless you are a rank newbie, you can navigate the Host
blindfolded by now. If you ARE a rank newbie, ASK someone. Wargamers are a
generous group and will help you find your table.

The table number will tell you where the room is: D-35 is “Distelfink table 35”.
Usually I spell that out but I don’t have the time.

I don’t have time for a lot of screenshots.  If you have downloaded Guidebook before, the instructions are the same as last HISTORICON.  The user interface is about identical.


The Fall IN! 2017 Guidebook Landing Page will provide you with the download links directly for FALL IN! 2017’s Guidebook, for both Android and IOS, plus instructions of how to implement GB on phones with web browsers. You should be able to download both kind of clients there.

Fall-IN! 2017 GUIDEBOOK on WEB will provide you with interaction with the app on a website (use this with your smartphone web browser if you don’t have a client installed)

Make me a hobby sweat lodge: HISTORICON 2017

And so HISTORICON, the big Summer show of the Historical Miniature Wargame Society (HMGS) was upon us on July 12. After working a half day, I drove down to Fredericksburg in my ancient Dodge Dakota pickup (painted primer black, you can imagine how fun this was in temps nearing 100 F).  My options were few, the van being in the shop.

Yes, the inevitable happened while driving a primer black vehicle in 103 degrees.

After suitable recovery time in air conditioning, I ventured over to the Convention center to do something approaching being helpful:

As can happen on the first night, we had our share of crowds– the pre-registration line, of all things, was moving glacially. Eventually everyone got sorted with a minimum of grumbling and people set to doing what the do here, setting up their games or playing pickup games here and there.  Here I am, walking around the Exhibit Hall A the night before the convention started.

There not being much in the way of dinner options at that time of night, I went to COOKOUT, a local chain I’ve discovered, and had the solitary dining through the car window experience.

Cookout.  Highly recommended– try the mocha milkshake.

I came back and commiserated with a few disgruntled people (not Southerners) who didn’t want (and didn’t vote for) Historicon to move to the Lancaster Host, a venue most of us think is on its last legs, promised renovations or not.  To expand on a theme introduced by Michael M. (who is a respectable fellow and wouldn’t want his last name revealed), Historicon leaving Fredericksburg to go back to the Lancaster Host is roughly like dumping your successful second marriage to move back in with your crazy ex-wife– you know, the one that half your friends loathe and half just tolerate.  AND you move back into that fourth floor walk-up she’s been living in since getting out of school, only now the plumbing and electricity are shot and the elevator hasn’t worked for years.  You find yourselves reminiscing about the old romantic days together, but you’re both nervous.  That twinge you feel? That’s a reminder of that time she stabbed you when she went off her anti-psychotics.  It’s only a matter of time…

Here I am, digressing again.

Thursday the convention really began in earnest.  I worked the events desk as a volunteer until 1 PM. Business was a-boomin.  The problem with Historicon in Fredericksburg is there are never enough events for the Fredericksburg space.  We ended up pretty much running out of most of them (as in giving tickets out to them) by 2 PM and had Friday’s games out by 4PM. It’s heartening that the big draw for these things still seems to be getting into a decent game. The Fredericksburg Conference Center, for all its flaws (and it has some, to be sure) is at least big enough to hold every game submitted and then some.  While we’re discussing convention interface, the Guidebook app was very handy this time around.  I expanded the social media options and added lists for staff and seminars.  It really worked like a charm.  Dan Murowski told me the board has approved expanding Guidebook with pay options, so watch out for Fall IN!

The Awards Desk gets better every year.

I did a high speed pass by of the Dealer’s area before running out for more COOKOUT libations. I bought some Pico Armor (I’m remaking the swordfish planes from Taranto) and new Frostgrave stuff.  The “big new thing” was a couple of big new things.  There was a Samurai warfare boxed starter set.. I can’t recall what it’s called but you get two starter armies in the box.  Nice!  The other big thing seems to be gangster games– the pump being primed by the release of MAD DOGS WITH GUNS and THE CHICAGO WAY.  In terms of games being played, I’d have to say that TEAM YANKEE is really catching on with the same folks who like FLAMES OF WAR so much.  I wanted to get in two games a day at H’con, but really ended up doing 1 a day.  My intentions are always good but I was kind of exhausted.  I ended up getting in to Jeff Hiley’s T-574 Frostgrave: Treasures of the Forbidden City game Thursday night and had the time of my life.  Great terrain, and a great crowd.  I’ve broken out an AAR into its own post following this one.

Visit this link for an AAR of Frostgrave

Flickr Slideshow of all the Frostgrave pics

I hung out late and kibitzed and chatted with the TNGG crowd in the lobby, then collapsed, woke up to a free breakfast, and went back to it.  The vast bulk of games seemed to be running Friday from what I could see.  Lines were long and competition fierce to get tickets.

(yeah, I know, these are Thursday tickets, but still…)

There were a lot of good games Friday.  I did jump right in to Ed Watts’ game called F-486 Conan, What is Best in Life? This game was run using the Matakishi Tea House CROM rules I reviewed on here a while ago. I really like the rule set which I wanted to get in to at least one game of before running it myself.  The game had been going on since noon and I showed up late, so I ended up basically running all the roles in Central Casting– the guard commander, the jail house sergeant, the attack dogs, the “other” guard commander.  This was my first experience with a larger group of players and a couple of things grew immediately clear about CROM.  It’s fun, it’s easy to pick up, but requires to player to make intelligent decisions about how to commit dice from dice pools.  That’s what the game is about, at the core.  If you’re a heroic character (like Conan, Bran Mak Moran, Red Sonja, etc) you will have a huge advantage.  If you are a spear carrier, your game experience is destined to be being part of a  human wave that gets chopped up by the heroes.  Recommendation: don’t play spear carriers.  It’s a great game for all of that.

The moment in the CROM game when my “Captain of the Crimson Cloaks” encounters Conan, Belit, and some red haired giant guy. All heroes. They made chutney out of my poor command. Click to see a slideshow of more pictures.

I was quite tired,  having very little sleep the previous two nights and having to be at the events desk early, so after getting three squads of units slaughtered trying to stop three heroic characters (and consuming some rather grody snack bar coffee), I made apologies and went back to the hotel to sit down for a second, then THIS happened.  I was just going to sit down for a few seconds and wait it out.. yess.. just a second or two...

You see, I was going to run back and join in F-402 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum  but had just barely missed being caught in the deluge.  So I sat on the couch in my room, waiting out the gale, my eyes closed, and  traveled in time to 8:30 PM.  So guess what?  No game for me that evening.  Too bad.. I like Jeff and Nick Wasileski’s games quite a bit– they have an absurd level of detail and fanatical regard for historical accuracy.  They say.  I drank some beers with friends and yacked for a bit, and took some pictures:

DAK and Dragons.  You have to look this one up.. 

Dystopian Wars

A strangely familiar looking Chariot Game

Free Chick-Fil-A?  My day is made.  Good things are going to happen NOW.

The Wargame Lending Library made it’s debut and it was surprisingly popular

Bugs, Mr. Rico!

The Martians are coming!

Great End of WW2 setup, center of Exhibit hall A

Epic Pirate Game

7TV setting up

More 7TV

I took a LOT more, but that will make this post three times longer than it needs to be, so see the slideshow here.    My general observations are that the events I saw demonstrated a superb skill in creating terrain and replicating set pieces from source materials, be they history books, comic books or movies.  The ruins of Berlin terrain (you can see some of it above) was almost as good as looking at old black and white newsreels after WW2.  Standouts where the giant 8 hour pirate game that took up a big chunk of space (and a big chunk of Saturday), the 7TV game about Amelia Earhardt, the Frostgrave port city (already mentioned) and the gigantic Team Yankee game in the center of the hall.  One thing that I appreciate is that people seem very interested in the smaller concept rules rather than jumping from one full bore expensive gaming obsession to another.  For instance, three years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that someone would be running a game about Hyborea as a skirmish game– yet this Historicon had two games of CROM.I was introduced to 7TV at Cold Wars– now it’s an accepted rules set for campy lightly themed SF games. All good things.  People are starting to discover you really don’t need to have a giant library of expensive stuff to have a great time wargaming these days.   Crom and Frostgrave, for instance, can take advantage of the same kind of figures, and you probably have a lot of them already if you used to play D&D.  Historical games?  The same, only more so.  It’s a good trend.

Hobby University setting up

So, Saturday… even more people, even earlier working the events desk.  We had a brisk trade at the events desk, as Saturday was also very active.  We had our fair share of SNAFUs (double bookings, moving games, explaining deleted games, missing tables, misprinted tickets) which we tried to deal with courteously.

There were once again, some fine games running in the Exhibit Hall

A most excellent Russo Japanese naval game that was ending as I walked  up!

The RFCM demo team was here in force, showing off revised Men of Company B, I expect.

Part of the epic Team Yankee game in Exhibit Hall A.  More pics in the slideshow

I have a ton of Frostgrave snaps in a follow up, but thought I’d point this out

Just one of the many pictures of BEN FRANKLIN’S WAR, a visual treat.

What the heck, I know Jeff. the camera loves him.

And even more.

A personal favorite– AWFUL GREEN THINGS FROM OUTER SPACE as a miniature game

I hope this runs at FALL IN! I’d love to play it.

I had a quick run through of the Flea Market and the Dealer’s hall before my 3 PM game, Steve Braun’s Seas of Tekumel.   I didn’t buy much, except a light up temple for FROSTGRAVE and some Pico Armor and some old GW troops from Chort, and some laser cut terrain pieces.  Kind of a slim shopping experience.

Seas of Tekumel was a reprise of the same game, by the same name, from last Historicon.  I once again played the intrepid Xenophobics, the H’luss.  I like playing the H’luss– even if we don’t have the larger crews that the other ships were boasting, we did have the advantage of having the only submersible on the board, an advantage I took advantage of, replaying last year’s nasty trick with less dramatic results.   I took more pictures than this, so click on this one to see more.

The H’Luss submersible raises underneath a giant frigate to strand the crew on shore. Ha ha ha! I can’t believed they fell for it this year!

I wrote another post on this as a follow up; go HERE to see it.  My plans were to sit in at yet another game of CROM at 7:30 but this time plans got in the way.  I ended up hanging out in the lobby of Homewood suites and playing board games with some fellers.  HERE is a slideshow of all my Tekumel pictures.

Sunday was like most Sundays at game conventions– breakfast, lots of coffee,  a spin around the dealer’s and a spin around the flea.  Not much to add.

That was my HMGS Historicon Convention, and it was a great time.  The weather was quite oppressive at times, and it was a chore to walk across a parking lot in the middle of the day– like being in an Indian Sweat lodge.  That part I won’t miss, but like every convention, it was the people who made the difference.  I love these cons.

Obligatory pathos-laden final image:

Farewell, Fredericksburg! Farewell! (Or at least until the next BoD brings us back).

Bow your heads. Dr. Kauderer has exited the building.

I learned today that Dr. Howard Todd Kauderer had passed away. I have no words for this. I knew he had been ill. Yet, he was very active in social media, here and there, ran for the Board of Directors of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society fairly recently, and was always, always, a steadfast volunteer on virtually every convention I’ve attended for the past decade. It’s like he just left the room a few minutes ago or something.

Guys like Todd are the salt of the earth. They aren’t drama queens. They are courteous, and thoughtful, and they work like mules so other people can benefit. Without complaint. I’m not exaggerating, here. Todd usually worked registration at conventions, working long shifts (supervising), and usually a longer shift than a lot of people (who were also working like donkeys, I might add).  When the last dollar was counted and the bank drop made, then he would go have fun for himself.  This was a routine.

It would be disingenuous to say we were close, or even buddies. Todd was one of that tribe of people I only get to see 3 times a year. Yet, he was a very pleasant, kindly man to talk to, even if we ran in different social circles.

Todd welcoming his granddaughter into the world (from Facebook)

Todd, thank you for the gift of your hard work, the gift of your intelligence, and your steadfast decency over the years. May God bless you and hold you in His hand.  At the heart of it, our mutual hobby is all about people, and we should never forget the efforts of people who make the world just a little bit better by the application of patience and understanding.!/Obituary

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:

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 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.

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!

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.




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: (HMGS Facebook Group)

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

ARF Supplemental: A Blast From The Past

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

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

Map Sketch © Bob Giglio 2016

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

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

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

Appendix 2: ARF Handout 1 © Bob Giglio 2002

Appendix 3: ARF Handout 2 © Bob Giglio 2002

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

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

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



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:

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.

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

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

Paint combination for Rust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's a picture from 2015, sorry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zombies and prison

zombies and prison

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

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

Invasion of the Pasta People? Maybe?

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

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

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

courtesy of Leo Walsh

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

(Bob and Cleo at the table next to me)

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

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

(or try this link)

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


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

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

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

The following items were announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff getting an award.

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

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

(Or try this link)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xin’s Lair: Cold Wars 2016 Frostgrave Game

Strangely, a Sad Farewell to the Host

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Condray, gone too soon

Pat Condray, raconteur, toy soldier enthusiast, and apparently a yachtsman.

Pat Condray, raconteur, toy soldier enthusiast, and apparently a yachtsman.

I just received the word from Brett Abbott, Pat’s son-in-law.

Pat Condray has passed away.

“I am afraid Pat passed away earlier this morning. Not sure of arrangements yet, will update later. Thanks to all for the thoughts and prayers, this hobby meant a lot to Pat and he loved the people in it.”

Tragic news, tragic news.. this has been a bad year span for the founders and shakers of the American miniatures wargaming scene.   First Craig Taylor, then Donald Featherstone, then Bob Coggins, then Jay Hadley & John Hill (almost simultaneously) .  Now Pat Condray has joined the choir invisible.

It was kind of a shockingly, stupidly abrupt way to go.  Pat was in great shape for his age and exercised regularly.  Yesterday, he decided to go for a bicycle ride near his home in Florida.  A local resident named Pok Sun Morgan was driving his Chevy Equinox down the same road Pat was biking down the right side of. Morgan sideswiped Pat on his bike and he was thrown a long way.  Sadly, Pat wasn’t wearing a helmet.  I’m not sure if that would have saved him or not, but it surely couldn’t have hurt.   The damage was severe, and Pat was airlifted to a local hospital in a coma.   As you can see, he didn’t make it.

What can you say about Pat?  Where do you start?  For all the pride he took in being argumentative and a “Well Known Poison Pen” (a nickname he took perverse pride in and used as his signature), he was at the core, a kind-hearted man of keen intelligence and wit.  He was fiercely dedicated to the hobby of Toy Soldiers and the art of wargaming.  His historical passions were the Spanish Civil War and the War of Spanish Succession, a hobby that he grew into a small and successful business, the Historical Products Company.   I owned several of his SCW figures in 20mm even now, and still break out “Viva El Christo Rey!” from time to time.

A strange memorial to be sure. Part of a phony deck of “trading cards” I made up to lampoon the 2006 Board of Directors elections.

As for the hobby in general, his antecedents go much farther back than the much discussed “Wally’s Basement Crowd” (a tribute to the late, great Wally Simon, many years gone).  Pat was an early participant in the Toy Soldier Society and active participant in the creation of HMGS as an organization.  He helped create the early HISTORICONs and MINICON convention programs (MiniCon became Cold Wars), working with Jay Hadley and Bob Coggins, and was president of HMGS at least once.  Even years after the average former Board of Directors member had burnt out and faded away, Pat retained a scrupulous eye on the day to day efforts of the Society he helped found– pouring over BoD Meeting minutes, the projected Budget and convention reports, often bringing them back up in minute detail during membership meetings, which he hardly ever missed.  He likened himself to the chapter historian, in a sense.  He would retain a version of events from a dozen years ago and come up with his own grandiloquent turn of phrase for it years afterward– a Board Of Directors became “The Gang of Four” in anecdotes years later.  An effort to remove someone from the board of directors would be called a “Putsch”.    He loved to prose away at issues, using his own argot as much as possible.   Being somewhat prickly online, he often came off as a curmudgeonly crank, but he was never that way in person.

My favorite memories of Pat were the Spanish Civil War games he ran at NOVAG‘s small conventions held at the Elk’s Lodge and Masonic Halls in Northern VA.  These were transformative for me.  I had always loved the Spanish Civil War period but the hobby was all over the Big Three in those days (The American Civil War, Napoleonics and WW2 of course).  It was cool and refreshing to see someone dabble in this obscure little conflict that I felt like I was the only person who knew anything about.   And .. here was an entire line of miniatures devoted to it!  It did open my eyes to a world of possibilities about historical wargaming with miniatures, and led to my participation in HMGS, and wargaming conventions.   So you can blame Pat about that!

So, yeah, at the end of it all, what CAN you say?  Pat, I really wish you had worn your damned helmet.  God bless and keep you, rest in peace and I’ll say a prayer for your repose and for your family in your time of grief.  You will be missed very much.

Farewell to a stalwart: the passing of Jay Hadley

Jay Hadley

Jay (center) doing one thing he loved to do, working a flea market table, talking to people.  Circa 2006, Photograph from the author’s collection

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be writing about another notable hobby passing quite so soon after John Hill.   We’re living in an age where the stalwarts of a hobby are starting to pass at an alarming rate.  Far too alarming.

Quite by accident, I discovered Mr. Jay Hadley passed from the cares of the mortal world on the 11th of this month, almost at the same time John Hill did.  The cause of death appears to be lung cancer (according to one source)  but might have been lymphoid leukemia Stage IV (according to another).  If you have a moment, you might say a prayer for his family.

There’s so much that can be said about Jay.  He was a figure with a profound impact on the miniatures wargaming hobby, going back a very long way, to the early 70s at least or even earlier, with his involvement with the Military Figure Collectors of America (MFCA). which had threw one of the first miniatures wargames events on the East Coast (The”Wargame Convention”).   He was very active in the Toy Soldiers Collector Societies (and their spinoff groups) before there was such a thing as “organized hobby wargaming” conventions (or HMGS for that matter).   Jay was one of the early adopters of HMGS, although not a “Wally’s Basement” member.   Jay worked hard to develop SOPs and procedures and was responsible for the foundation of much of how we operate conventions today– especially as a nonprofit.  His early work with ORIGINS (1980) and ATLANTICON is a subject I’m not remotely equipped to comment on– I went to a few of them but I certainly didn’t know who did what and when.. I’ve asked Pat Condray to fill in the details for me.  Jay was a past president of HMGS (elected, 1998)  and was an early promoter of the concept that some day, we would outgrow the Host facility and require a bigger site to run a convention in.

Jay’s passion for historical subjects often coincided with his professional success as a fund raiser and marketing wallah for many institutions, primarily in the field of health care.  He was active with the United Way, Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Cooper University Hospital, The Battleship New Jersey alliance and the National World War II memorial committee.   There are many other professional highlights and organizations he served on or chaired, if you want that level of detail, I suggest visiting his LinkedIn page.

Indeed, it was in those areas– fundraising, building relationships, and deal making, that Jay best showed his phenomenal strength and skill in handling people.  Jay was always comfortable in politicking– negotiating and understanding the little nuances of what made people tick.  Jay possessed considerable charm– when I was a Cold Wars director in the Mid-00s, he was invaluable as a source of advice or a way of dealing with a stumbling block.  “Who do I talk to at the hotel to get “X”?  “Easy, that’s ____, remember to ask how her daughter is doing at school”.  It’s the little things, he would say.  And he was right, for the most part.    I think Jay Hadley was born after his time– I have always pictured him in some turn of the century saloon, his straw hat pushed back on his head and thumbs in his vest pockets, cheerfully buying drinks for a pack of galoots, trying to get the vote out for his candidate.  He had that kind of energy about him.

For all of the “I’m just a goombah from New Jersey” brio he consciously projected (in booming voice), he did work tirelessly for the hobby, driving hours on his own time and his own dime to check if the site was making upgrades, or to talk to the Table vendors, or whatever.  Jay deeply cared about HMGS and miniatures gaming, and he put in many a long hour towards making the convention program a success.

With all that said, Jay could be caustic and he could be polarizing.  There is much that could be mentioned about the politics within Society in the 90s and 00s, many of us were there and many of us have strong opinions, some of them not charitable.  Jay jumped in with both feet and was an enthusiastic participant in the issues of moment back then, and he had his hands in almost everything.  I’m not going to comment beyond that, because I choose to remember the good things– and in point of fact, the “bad things” seem pretty trivial with the passage of time.

Jay was a dedicated hobbyist, tireless promoter, shameless gossip and excellent negotiator.  He was also a bit of a rascal.  Yet he helped make HMGS what it is today– and despite anyone’s axe to grind, that fact cannot be denied.  As for me, I liked him immensely and counted him a good friend.  If I wanted to hear the backstory on something, I inevitably talked to Jay.  The last time I saw him was 2 or maybe 3 conventions ago.  He was still a game bird for a long, rambling discussion but the fire had gone out of him a little bit– he didn’t mention it but the sickness must have already taken hold.  He was tired– the scandal of the moment (whatever it was) was of little interest to him any more.

So, Farewell, Jay Hadley.  Thanks for all you did.   For in the end, what can we do, but cherish the living, and honor the dead?

Aequa lege necessitas sortitur insignes et imos…

Road Trip Fall-IN! 2014! and *last* Guidebook Update

We're offff on the rooooad to LANCAS-TER P-A!

We’re offff on the rooooad to LANCAS-TER P-A!

A little road trip Audio for Fall-IN! 2014:


I just added NINE updates for the last update for Fall IN 2014.
These were events 428-436. Two by Steve Gelhard, Four by Carlos Cardozo,
One by Mark Yingling and Two by Dave Yingling.

To update, open the Guidebook in a wireless zone, and just accept the update.  It does the rest for you.

This is the last Guidebook Update. Please open Guidebook in a Wirless zone and let it upload the changes for you. Enjoy! See you at the convention. I’m already there!

PS: If you have NO idea what Guidebook is, GO HERE.

Guidebook for FALL IN! 2014.. available

This is just a quick note to inform everyone that the GUIDEBOOK app for FALL-IN! 2014 is up and running (and has been). The events are accurate as of the published PEL listing. I will add more before the convention.

Welcome to FALL IN!  There's an app for that.

Welcome to FALL IN! There’s an app for that.

I’m also waiting for (patiently) TOURNAMENT LISTINGS from Scott Holder, the DEALER ROOM MAP and VENDOR LIST from the vendor coordinator, and the ROOM LAYOUT MAPS from Dan Murawski. These will be there for the convention. Don’t stress it quite yet. New Things: Well, you probably know about Guidebook Messages which were of limited utility at the last con (though it’s a good way of broadcasting a message to every attendee who has guidebook). I’ve added a new track called “Demo Games” which is yellow, and it will display along with a red “Games” track. So, red=Games (as usual), red/yellow=demo games, blue=tournaments, green for hobby university events. I’ve also added a track for Kid-Friendly games to make them easier to find.

the red marks indicate a purple SEMINAR event and a red/yellow DEMO event.

Get the guide the same way you get it every year.. visit the FALL IN 2014 guidebook landing page. If you have guidebook, just search for guides, and select FALL IN 2014. If you need the app itself, go to Google Play, Itunes App Store or run it in your browser. THEN search for FALL IN and install this year’s app.

Front Page (on an Ipad AIr) for the Guidebook for Fall IN 2014

If you have questions or problems, get in touch with me via email. See you at FALL IN!

Games with a KID-FRIENDLY banner have some mention in their description that children are allowed or encouraged. This usually means WITH A SUPERVISING ADULT.  A game is not a babysitting service.

Games with a KID-FRIENDLY banner have some mention in their description that children are allowed or encouraged. This usually means WITH A SUPERVISING ADULT. A game is not a babysitting service.

This banner means the game is a DEMONSTRATION GAME of a commercial game or ruleset.

This banner means the game is a DEMONSTRATION GAME of a commercial game or ruleset.

Note that the schedule will have some of these events in multiple tracks.. an event could certainly be a demo, kid-friendly and a game.


Guidebook App QR Code
This code will direct your users to the Guidebook app listing in the App Store (for iOS devices) or the Play Store (for Androids). If your user has a Blackberry or Windows phone, it will take them directly to our mobile web version of guidebook app at Once users have downloaded Guidebook App or are within the mobile website, they can search for your guide to download or view it.

This code is specific for THE FALL-IN! Guide. Users who scan this code using the scanner *in the Guidebook App* will begin downloading your guide. Once the guide has been successfully downloaded the guide will be opened. If you use this option, searching for the guide isn’t required.

Fall-IN! 2013, Post 2: the convention I went to

I apologize for this being late; I didn’t end up taking a lot of pictures and was with my son for this one, so much of the usual activities, including late night imbibing, will not be present. Sorry!

My son Garrett and I went up to Fall-IN! 2013 on Thursday evening and checked in with no difficulty. The registration lines were longish during the two hours of operation, but not impossible. Everything was the typical chaos of the first day of a convention with people running about setting up boxes of t-shirts, making sure the computers worked, using and training the staff to use them. There were problems with the new registration system; I believe that they were connected to bandwidth being pretty terrible at the Host.

Garrett and I did a little ship maintenance Thursday night as we would be running Big Danged Boats, my newish 15mm fantasy naval rules, the next day. Fortunately, the ships weren’t too smashed up from being in storage and everything looked pretty good. I even added a couple of new factions to the game– O.R.C., the Micro-Vikings, and the Empire of Stahlheim.

Unlike my usual performance at a miniatures convention, I was responsible and didn’t stay up late ANY night I was there, and only had one beer the entire con. Shocking! Odin, look away! The Men of the North are not as they once were.

Friday was pretty frenetic. Had a nice long breakfast with my my friends Steve, Art, Todd and Drew, and wasn’t looking at my watch to assiduously. I was going to hit the dealer’s area for a few items in advance of Friday night’s game but that didn’t happen. Since I had redone my ship charts to make them tinier than the one page affairs I was using, I ended up making a run to Staples to get them printed out in color (since color is important for conveying damage taken).

Setting up for Big Danged Boats was a bit of a fiasco. Somebody was using my table when I showed up at it. Turns out THREE of us were scheduled to use the same tables at the exact same time, and I had to skeeve the next table down, which displaced another guy, causing all kinds of havoc. being able to read the map in the program would have helped; I even had difficulty making out table number in Guidebook, so I’ll have to break the graphic up to Distelfink North and Distelfink South for next show. The sad truth was that there wasn’t a decent map of the Distelfink table layout, nor were the tables numbered anywhere I could see. That would have helped a lot!

Ran BDB, I won’t belabor you with a description of that game, click below if you want to read my two events that I ran.

Click me to read the Big Danged Boats Recap, Friday Night.

I ran it Friday night and was so exhausted after putting it away, I kind of fell asleep in my chair when I got back to our room.

There were some great games being run all around the con, but a lot of empty tables on Friday. I even saw that little room behind the Hopewell being totally dark on Friday. I hope this isn’t indicative of a waning interest in running games. There were plenty of empty tables in the Distelfink on Friday as well– not as a vagary of scheduling, but for long periods of time.

My son Garrett has developed into something of a Battletech fanboy, he got into three games over the weekend and loved it. He is now seriously jonesing for the Catalyst Games Battletech starter set. Nobody had one in the vendor hall; apparently it’s due for a re-release soon. That would account for the inflated prices of the current one on Ebay.

Finally had a chance to visit the dealer area briefly on Saturday, and I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. We did not fill up the Exhibitor’s Hall. I’m certain this is just a fact of economic life; shows are expensive propositions for the smaller vendors and bigger retail store operations, and there has to be a payoff they can measure or they won’t come. The economy still being in the dumper, it doesn’t surprise me that there was some empty space in the back of the hall. What did seem fairly glum was the lack of innovation in the vendor community– and I can only speak for myself here. The really off-beat stuff that I use to make games with is usually found in Vendor halls. My game “The Magi” uses 54mm Wizard figures, predominantly manufactured in the 1990s– when was the last time a company made affordable 54mm fantasy figures? I totally get that a vendor would have to be nuts to cater to every taste, but if you’re not into the flavor of the week, you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to shopping for miniatures at a show. With that said, there’s definitely some vendors out there making some great things that I am coveting. Like Alien Dungeon, for instance…

ALL QUIET ON THE MARTIAN FRONT. Hey boys, if you ever need a reviewer on this stuff, contact me!!

It was good to see On Military Matters back, I had heard they weren’t doing shows any more at HISTORICON. Guess that was BS. Other players were conspicuously absent, such The War Store, Thoroughbred Miniatures, etc.

Jeff Wasileski’s awesome “Steampunk Roman” game was being held when I was running THE BIG DIABOLICAL DUKEROO. Too bad, so sad! It looked excellent.

So 1400 loomed on the clock and we made yet another dash to the Staples and printed out yet another batch of charts, frantically. Please. No lectures about preparedness. That’s how I roll.

The Magi is a lot easier to set up than Big Danged Boats; The rules fit on an index card and the spell index is one piece of paper you don’t need constantly. We pulled it off and it played all the way through; no need to reprise that here, as I covered that in Part 1. See below.

Click me to read the Magi Recap, Saturday Night.

After wolfing down a light repast from inside the hotel…

It’s little cherry eyes follow you around the lobby… SHUDDER!

… I really wanted to (finally) get in a game where somebody ELSE was the GM and I can just have fun playing. I couldn’t find the RAMMING SPEED game (who knew what the table numbers were? not me!) but I definitely didn’t have a problem finding the “Street Riots in Ancient Rome” game, GM’d by Cy Taylor and friends. This was shockingly great. I didn’t have a ticket (duh) and had to take a Roman mob role. Roman mobs, in these rules, tend to be speed bumps for factions who are better armed. Thus, my game was a long series of “Go out in the streets. Meet a better healed and armed faction. Have them start a fight. Die. Go back to the slums. Restart” That is, until I noticed that the Forum and Temple of Jupiter was mostly untended. So I raided the temple, looted the state treasury, and my mob moved South to start an Olive Oil business. That’s a happy ending.

My Roman Mob cheerfully making off with the Roman State Treasury to start an Oyster Farm in Capri. Click to see a Slide Show of this great game

I had a great time, but only played one scenario. I did want to keep half an eye on Little G and also see how the Toys for Tots auction did.

Santa Moe came by and admonished us to give…. til it hurt.

The “Wednesday Night Painting Group” from Erie, PA (I think) ran the Toys for Tots auctions and activities. This was handled very well and the undisputed totals follow:

“Total raised for Toys for Tots: $5,562 USD (New Record)
Total number of auction items: 61 (New Record)
Percentage of vendors who said “yes” when asked to donate to the Raffle: 100% (We have never had a dealer say “no”. They are fantastic!)
Money raised by John Newman alone: $1,834 USD
Tickets sold for the Raffle: $1530
Amount raised for Toys for Tots by the Wednesday Night Painting Group (WNPG): $25 USDK+”

Not bad at all!

So I poked my nose into a few other games running Saturday, just to kibbitz. There were some fun things happening, but I didn’t want to start a new game after 9 PM.

Nothing defines haute couture more than a derby hat and a utilikilt. Gamers are just fashion sluts; let’s face it.

After packing up and hanging out with G for a bit in the room, I felt a strange lassitude. Rather than go down to the lobby bar and sip beers with my fellow blowhards and yack all night in loud voices, I guess “too much Fall-IN!” had caught up with me at last. This fellow sums it up rather nicely…

Poor soul. He’s just overwrought.

So I found myself untangling from the gentle caresses of Lethe Sunday morning with a plan. We were going to pack our crap and get out in time to really have a good look at the dealer’s hall and Flea Market. And so we did. Still couldn’t find the Battle tech starter set for Gar, but I bought a few boats from Joel G., some nifty buildings for my War against the Cthonians project, and some various other bits and bobs here and there. I only purchased things that supported EXISTING projects, and for that I deserve a commendation, thank you very much.

And with that, we were in dire need of coffee and a breakfast, which we found just a few miles down the road at Jenny’s Diner.

It was bigger than my head. No, I didn’t finish it.

Too Much Fall-IN! Until next year.

Let’s go home, dad…


And that was our Fall-IN!.

Observations, and this comes from the constructive part of me, I’m not just slagging. Events were pretty jacked on Friday. Tables not marked. Map not readable. NOBODY around to resolve issues. Angry GMs, puzzled gamers. I can’t really comment on the lines that many were complaining about as I didn’t see them. The food at the hotel was much the same as it ever was, I wish the menu would change up. Attendance SEEMED light, but that might be misleading; I do know I never had a problem parking, not even one time. And that hardly ever happens, even at FALL IN.

I worked the GUIDEBOOK app before the convention (and during). For the very first time, we actually used so much of the FREE package that offers us that we just about ran out of downloads the weekend of FALL-IN. As in we were 5 downloads away from doing that. I’m not saying everybody’s sold on the idea quite yet, but it’s clear we’re making some headway. I attribute this to the Guidebook being ready right about the time of the first PEL, and generally updated as we got closer to the convention. Good idea (on Dan’s part) to push to make that happen early. It really made a difference.

With all that said, a weekend at a gaming convention usually beats a weekend NOT spent at one, MOST OF THE TIME. So I’m glad I attended, and I know I’m glad I took my son with me. He had a blast with the Battletech guys. Passing the torch, you know..

Thanks to Dan and all the Convention staff, particularly Paul Trani, Heather Blush, Scott Landis, Christin Sciulli, Cliff Brunkin, J.T. Thomas and every single one of the poor saps who had to work a registration desk computer with a long line of irate gamers getting angrier and angrier with them. Sometimes we forget that these shows wouldn’t happen without these volunteers. I appreciate them quite a bit.

See you all at Cold Wars 2014.