Tag Archives: Conventions

Cold Wars 2018, Guidebook App (the last?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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

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


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

What we know:

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

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

Options and Alternatives:

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

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

Our Goal:

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

On behalf of the HMGS Board of Directors

Kevin Kelley
HMGS, Inc. Director of Communications

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

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

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

Paint combination for Rust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's a picture from 2015, sorry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zombies and prison

zombies and prison

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

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

Invasion of the Pasta People? Maybe?

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

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

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

courtesy of Leo Walsh

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

(Bob and Cleo at the table next to me)

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

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

(or try this link)

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


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

All our efforts are undone

You may have noticed a recurring theme in my convention reportage over the years. My friend John Camarano and I like to pose him in front of the exposed ass crack of random gamers at conventions. It’s harder to set up than you think. Today, this young man has outdone our good work over the years with a single photo shoot at a Magic: the Gathering convention.

Well played, sir. Well played indeed.

For the entire series, visit his posting on IMGUR.

Guidebook App for Cold Wars 2014 (first draft) uploaded

If you’re familiar with this blog at all, you’ve seen me post on the Guidebook App for mobile devices before, so I will spare you any verbiage extolling its virtues.  Suffice to say that the Guidebook App acts like a mobile version of a convention booklet, and it can ride on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.  I think it’s incredibly handy for attending hobby conventions!   For a good “This is what Guidebook is and how it works for an HMGS convention” post, please read the one I did for HISTORICON 2012.  There’s no reason to retype it at this juncture– if you have used it before, you already know about it, if you haven’t, most of your questions will be answered there.

COLD WARS 2014 (background):  For the last seven conventions or so, HMGS has been providing a free mobile app for our conventions called GUIDEBOOK. Guidebook is an event app that assists a convention attendee in making the most of their time by viewing crucial event information on a mobile device of some kind– iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android or any smartphone that can load a web browser. Guidebook contains the schedule of all gaming events at a HMGS convention– listed by date, time and with the Event Number on your ticket in the Title. The description of the event will have your event’s room and table number as well. Guidebook will supply maps of every room being used at the convention site (with table layouts) including an overview map that shows where all the rooms are in relation to each other. Every guidebook supplies a list of exhibitors with their table/booth number included and an Exhibitor Hall vendor layout diagram. Guidebook can be a very useful method of making the most of your precious time at a HMGS Con– it will even help you build your own personal schedule and alert you when your next event is coming up.

Up until Fall-In! 2013, we put the Guidebook app up for download a week or two before the convention.  For 2013, FI Convention Director Dan Murawski wanted to get Guidebook out on the street “early and often”, and I supported that.  The difference was noticable– normally we have plenty of “free downloads” left by the time of the actual convention, at Fall-IN! 2013 we had exactly 3 left.  Perhaps you’re saying “so what?” but in terms of numbers, that’s about 1/3 of the attendees using a mobile guide for the convention, and that’s a trend I like to think is transformative.  For Cold Wars 2014, I’m also putting it out as early as I can.  The version you can download today (as of: 1/14/2014) will have the following: Event schedule up to the PEL listing, Seminars, and basic convention information (location, theme, hours, etc).  It will NOT have: Maps and Room layouts (these show up late after they are finalized), Exhibitor List (usually the week before the con), Hobby University information, and Tournaments (I have the first cut (I think), but translating it to guidebook is a tedious exercise and you should see it sometime in the next couple of weeks).   As usual, don’t sweat it if your Guidebook App is missing something or has placeholder information in it.. I’ll be updating it when the information gets to me and you have to do exactly nothing beyond going online and opening it up to update it.  Guidebook will tell you when to download updates.

To recap, some elements will be added as we approach the convention– when an update occurs, again, you need do nothing. The next time you open up the COLD WARS 2014 guidebook, it will prompt you with “Your Guidebook has been updated! Download Updates now?” or words to that effect. Download the changes and you will be able to see them immediately– Guidebook takes care of it for you.


(you may skip this first step if you already have the Guidebook App on your mobile device)

To get a copy of the Cold Wars 2014 Guidebook:

Using the QR graphic:

QR Code to download Guidebook to your mobile device.

QR Code to download Guidebook to your mobile device.

Step 1 – Download a QR reader for your device

Step 2 – Get Guidebook by opening your device’s web browser and visiting guidebook.com/getit

or scan the QR code below using your phone’s QR scanner.

If you don’t want to go the QR route, just look for “Guidebook” app on either Itunes or Google Play.

Now that you have Guidebook on your device:

Search for guidebook files.  They are listed by date.  Scroll to March 2014.  Cold Wars should be easy to find.  The Guidebook Icon for CW 2014 looks like this:


CW2104 “Landing Page” (repeats the above information)

That’s about all you need to know to get set up.  Scroll around, look at the schedule, and start building your personal convention schedule for Cold Wars 2014.

Have fun and I’ll see you at the con.  Got any questions?  Ask me on here or on TMP.  Ciao

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 Guidebook.com 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.

Fall-IN! 2013 Guidebook Update (1 Week from Convention)

HMGS Convention attendees, rejoice!  Or at least give a grunt of muted amusement.

Closer to the convention I am adding the items that landed a little later and were in a state of flux.  I just added the tournaments, fixed a few events, the room layout maps and banners for selected events.


Yes, yes, but what happens when I already HAVE Guidebook and already downloaded the Fall In Guide you have already published? What?  WHAAAAT????

Yes, yes, but what happens when I already HAVE Guidebook and already downloaded the Fall In Guide you have already published? What? WHAAAAT????

IF YOU ALREADY HAVE GUIDEBOOK and downloaded the Fall IN! 2013 guidebook, do NOTHING. Just open it connected to WiFi/3G/4G whatever, and it will update itself for you.

If you have NO guidebook app, and no intention of using it, close this blog post.  Thanks.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “Guidebook App”, there are tons of posts in this blog that explain what it is.  Here’s a good recent post I wrote for HISTORICON 2013.  Repeating the verbiage would be a waste of time.  To sum up, it’s a mobile app for multiple platforms that really makes conventions easier.

If you want the APP and the Updates, visit the FALL IN 2013 Guidebook Landing page, and download both there See the relevant buttons.

Banners?  What’s that?

The banner is a custom header that I can add to individual games.  If you are a GM for FALL IN,   I am MORE than willing to add your custom banner to your game.  It will look like this:

Banner for an Old Dominion Gameworks event.  Realy!

Banner for an Old Dominion Gameworks event. Realy!

What are the benefits to this using your own banner? Well, you’ll use something more eye catching than the generic banners I made for every event:

640w x 240h in pixels.  Got that?

a Generic banner

Fun and Games on the Middle Sea, with Custom Big Danged Boats Banner.

Here’s one I did for my own event about Big Danged Boats.

If you want to try this option, let me know by email, I’ll send you the specs, or I can make one for you based on art you send.

Enjoy Guidebook, and I will see you all at FALL IN! next week.  I will make ONE more update before the convention, adding in vendors for the Exhibitor Hall, and any additional events that have come in in the last couple weeks.

Guidebook for HISTORICON 2013 available for download

The HISTORICON 2013 Guidebook app is NOW available for download as of 6:30 this evening. 7/11/13.  Follow instructions below.


There’s directions on how to load it on your phone there.

The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) is holding our annual Summer convention, HISTORICON, on 18-21 July 2013.  You can get in a big chunk of miniatures/SF/Historical tabletop gaming at this convention, and the Guidebook can help.

Just like before every con I make one of these for, this post is a short introduction to Guidebook, how to get it and how to use it for YOUR convention.

The screens are a little different on my Ipad, but the basic functions are the same no matter what platform you are using.  Don’t mind all the Cold Wars 2013 pictures and references, the information is essentially the same– I’m too lazy to take a bunch of pictures again for no good reason.

Front Page of the Ipad layout. The Menu is up the left side.  This is the “General Info” page, with the director’s blurb, address, etc.

First of, what is GUIDEBOOK?  This is an application, or “App” in modern parlance, that resides on a multitude of mobile devices (Ipad, Ipod, Iphone, Android smartphones, Android Tablets, and there’s even a version for browser enabled phones that can access the web).  GUIDEBOOK maintains a master schedule of every thing going on at a convention, Maps where everything is, general information about the convention,  plus maintaining a custom version of your own schedule that keeps a list of all the things you want to do when you go to a convention.. and reminds you when you when it’s time to do it.  Think of it as your, extremely personalized version of the paper program guide that can store on a handy device, beeps you when it’s time to go to the next item on your schedule and keeps a to-do list for you.

This is the Main Schedule page. Note the little color bars on the left hand side of the events? They’re color coded– RED for GAMES, BLUE for Tournaments, GREEN for Seminars, PURPLE for Hobby University, and Black/No Color for Operations

Guidebook is an application for supporting conventions, trade shows and other events by hosting a version of their event schedules, layouts, maps, and special data lists on a variety of portable platforms– notably the Apple IoS products Iphone, Ipod TouchIpad, any Android phone, and any internet enabled phone that can web-browse.  In essence, Guidebook takes the important stuff out of the paper program book you all know and love and puts it on a device you may carry around with you on a regular basis.

Each event on the schedule has a banner associated with it.  This will display on the top of the item you are looking at and everyone can see it.  These individual banners fall in the general groupings of GAMES (run by GMs), TOURNAMENTS, HOBBY UNIVERSITY, SEMINARS (programs) and OPERATIONS (general situational awareness stuff about hours of operations).  Individual look like this:

Any tournament game, including DBA, FoW, FoG, etc.

Press Conferences, Podcast events and Seminars

Nuts and bolts of the Convention.. when areas like the flea market open and close

Hobby University events

Regularly scheduled games

(A selection of event banners)

Directions on how to get and use GUIDEBOOK

The various links associated with these instructions are located on Guidebook’s GET THE APP webpage

Maps Page. Scroll right and left in the blue bar. Every room at the venue we are using is here, laid out for the convention.

Here’s some screenshots of individual event listings in each category

A GAME event
Selecting an event to put on your personal schedule, and the length of the alarm notification

If you have an Ipod Touch, Iphone, or Ipad 1 or 2, visit the Itunes App Store, for the Guidebook app.  Download it. Install it.  It’s free.  Then “Search for events” and located HISTORICON 2013.  Download that guide.   There you go, that’s all you need to do.  Start browsing and bookmarking events you want to go to.

If you have an ANDROID phone, go to the Google Play store or some other outlet for Android OS apps.  Look up GUIDEBOOK. Download the app.  It’s free. Then “Search for events” and located HISTORICON 2013.  Download that guide, and browse away.

Vendor list in the new layout
This is our vendor listing. It’s pretty simple.

If you have an INTERNET CAPABLE, but not Android or IoS phone, you can point your phone’s browser to this web link: http://m.guidebook.com  You will see a less graphical interface but it will contain the same amount of information as the other two platforms (IoS and Android).  Even nicer, when you use a web browser phone, it doesn’t count against our download limit.

I just sent the guidebook in to Guidebook.com, and it is currently being proofread by the Guidebook technical folks for final release and download.


  1. Open it.  Do a “Search for Guidebooks”
  2. Find: HISTORICON 2013.  (they list them chronologically)
  3. Select HISTORICON 2013 for download.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  4. Then open it up.  And enjoy Guidebook Goodness.

Anyway, that should contain everything you want to know for HISTORICON 2013– Gaming Events with maps and table numbers, show hours, location, Exhibitors with table numbers, Tournaments, the works.

IF THE INFORMATION CHANGES, up to and DURING the convention, that will be communicated to me by Bill Rutherford, or some other events person, and I will make the changes on the server, which will be communicated to the users as an update to the Guidebook ready for download.  You don’t have to do anything but hit “yes”.

Have fun, and I hope this is useful for you.  I’ll see you at HISTORICON 2013!


I did not program the actual app GUIDEBOOK software, just prepared the HISTORICON 2013 data module for free use.  I’m not an employee of Guidebook.com and don’t get paid to endorse them.  Use at your own risk.

Ten Years of Convention Reports

Sidebar-3PoS-ConsI’ve been blogging, for better or worse, since late 2004.  During that time, I’ve been a steady attendee of conventions, and most of them have been conventions put on by the Historical Miniature Gaming Society (HMGS), but also some smaller local cons here and there.  I have always done a long or short commentary of the conventions I attend– sometimes a short 1 page post, sometimes multi-part postings with lots of internet media hosting.    After posting the latest Cold Wars AAR, it struck me that I have a sizable collection of posts on the subject of gaming conventions; I have created a history (of sorts) over the years.  Mind you, it’s a very chatty  and gossipy history, with the elements that amused me personally over the years.  I admit it, my sense of humor has ofttimes been described as “quirky” over the years, so fair warning.  In any event, to see all these AARs in one place, there is a collection of blog links on the left hand column of Third Point of Singularity.  See the graphic.

I have to warn you in advance, some of the earliest posts have link and picture references that are no longer online; there’s not much I can do about that.  Many of those pictures are simply lost when the free picture host they were hosted upon went bust.  Also, my writing style has evolved over the years; I notice that they grew fairly wordy there in the middle of the 2000s and now are far more succinct (but feature more media bits.. I’m not sure if that’s an improvement or not).  As always, my opinions are my own, and do not reflect those of any organization or club.

With that said, if you want a sort of window on gaming conventions, and more specifically, HMGS conventions over a ten year period, help yourself.

The Williamsburg Muster 2013

The Williamsburg Muster for 2013 was held last week at the Holiday Inn Patriot in Williamsburg, VA. This is a local favorite of both mine and my son Garrett– it’s not nearly as overwhelming as the HMGS conventions can be, I know about 50% of the attendees already, and the attitude is what I like in a convention; laid back, friendly, uncomplicated and inclusive.

Sadly I never get there the day ahead of time, because I’m usually taking my son who usually has school to attend that week. So I miss all the fun stuff on Friday. We arrived around noon on Saturday after an uneventful drive down 95 and 64. Oddly enough, Gar immediately met someone HE knows (Bob Watt’s son, they are both on HS Rifle team together). They chattered for a few seconds and then Gar said “Can I have my badge? I want to go play something”. This is new. Usually Gar hangs back and doesn’t engage unless I do; I tell him to find something to get into but usually he is plays whatever I find interesting. I don’t mind, but I don’t want to get in the way of what HE thinks is fun, either. All it took was for him to discover a droog of his own age to convince him. So off they went to play GNOME WARS, which Gar took to like a duck to water.

Gar moving his new Gnomish command around

Assaulting the Fort, Gnome Wars

Gar really enjoyed Gnome Wars.. and I think it was largely due to him being involved with gamers in his peer group or younger. I think he feels constrained sometimes playing something that is likely far less fun but he might be too polite to mention it. Here’s a little in-game color commentary on the assault in progress!

Being somewhat feckless at this point, I was looking for a game to get in that was starting relatively soon. I tried Sean Conlon’s Minimech game. This is a more streamlined variant of FASA’s Battletech which scales down to 6mm.

Minimech Slide Show (Below)

Mini Mech at Williamsburg Muster 13

Sean found another guy to play and we chose equal sides– 2 heavies, 2 mediums and 2 lights.  Unlike in Battletech, the abilities of mechs on both sides are generalized; mine behaved exactly like my opponent’s, so it came down to who maneuvered what where and when.  I set up with two mediums and two heavies West of a River in the Urban area you see in the slide show above.  I tried to put my heavies on overwatch and flank with my mediums and lights.  The lights were pretty useful but deployed on the wrong side of the river (East) to do much good initially.  I got into a scrap with my opponent’s single light mech and tried circling around it with one of my lights and engaging him with the other.  He didnt’ take the bake and retreated across the bridge.  On the West bank, my mediums took some damage but kept side slipping around the enemy until we started running out of space.   I lost a mech and that had me down a bit (which is punishing from an initiative perspective– two turns of taking fire back to back can be devastating in this game).   I got a better feel for the mechanics and started taking more chances and taking advantages of the bottle neck that was growing on the Western flank.  You really have to go all out or have some form of combined attack with these mechanics– if you shoot and run, you are risking overheating (indicated by the red triangle markers in the slideshow above), which can blow you up real good.

With so few forces in the mix it’s hard to “walk off” heat build up unless you retreat into cover for a turn, which is what I did quite a bit, since I was at a numerical disadvantage most of the game.  Toward the end, MiniMech really became exciting, as the piles of flaming wrecks channeled movement and possibilities.  My light mechs made the long trek from the other side of the river and caught the enemy from behind, taking out a light mech.  We also did a number on one of his heavies.  We called the game when my opponent got boxed in and said “at this stage, I wouldn’t come out to engage you and I suspect you wouldn’t engage me either, we’re both down too far.  So we called it, giving him the nod for victory as he had more mechs at the end of the day.  MiniMech is a great little game that has all the elements of the pappa game, Battletech, but it’s a lot faster to play and concentrates totally on the fun stuff– fire, movement, and things that get all ‘splodey.  Tip of the hat to Mr. Sean Conlon for making it and running this game.  His website: Rothgar’s Workshop

Big X-Wing miniatures game in the boardgame room. I would have sat in on this if I could be two places at once!

I checked in with Gar and he was already done with Gnome Wars and working on his second game of the day, BATTLETECH.   This really surprised me quite a bit– Battletech isn’t rocket science by a long shot, but it is still dependent on a combat system that is fairly detailed and uses charts extensively. I didn’t think it would be something a young man with short attention span would like. Yet, there it was. He jumped in with both feet and professed to like it a lot. In fact, when I got done with Mini-Mech and told him I was going to go check in to our hotel and get some dinner, he blithely waved his hand and said “get me something from Wendy’s, dad, I want to finish this”. Hmmm.


Garrett pointing to his mech in the fray. I had to explain to him who the “Black Widows” were.

I didn’t see much of his game but he was very excited about it and even asked to look into getting a starter set from Catalyst Games. I said I’d consider it IF he was still interested a month from now. At 90 bucks a box, I can’t afford to have a bigger gaming dilettante than I am in the house.


Looking across the center of the battlefield.

For the evening’s entertainment I got into a generic Roman Civil War game using WAB. This was run by Clifford Creech and Bob Watts. I was the right flank of a Roman Garrison army which was legionaries and auxilia versus a polyglot of legionaries (rebels) in the center, barbarians on the right flank, and auxilia and cavalry on the left flank facing me. I had a thin streak of cavalry which would have had to fight versus a solid cohort of auxilia cavalry. That wouldn’t do. Either I would move my legionaries against his auxilia infantry and archers (not very effective) or I could use infantry offensively against the cavalry. Fortunately, the enemy cavalry advanced only a single rank towards my position. I moved my entire cohort out and then angled sharply right. Seeing the threat, the formation changed to move right and angle into the gap forming in the center. The center was developing into a big, crunchy, legion on legion battle… with my side having the edge in drilled, armored troops.

This is where the battle was being decided, the flanks.. exciting as they might be, were a sideshow. If a cavalry charge into the flank of our center units did some damage, it might actually rout some of us back at a critical moment. So, it was pretty easy to decide what to do.. Charge right in with my leading infantry unit (just barely) and attack the cavalry regiment as it wheeled away from us. That put them to rout, and they fled back into their lines.

And-a ONE

Angle Right.

And-a TWO…


Nothing gigantic for the casualties, and they rallied next turn, but the big gain was that my rapidly dressing front line of infantry was in a position to interdict ANY large cavalry movement before it could commit to trying to change the center. The rest of the battle on the right flank, was pretty much done. Our left flank was a lot of smoke and clamour as the barbarian horde being used by the rebel army had to charge because of their limitations about being in the visual presence of enemies. They charged and pretty much got ground down into a pulp.

Such Cavalry as I had to start with.

There was not much left for me to do and the center was close to done when I left. Once they launched their SUPER SECRET WEAPON on the rebel army’s butt, the battle was pretty much done!

We did take a break for the raffle, I won nothing as usual.

Check your tickets! Anyone but Walt, that is!

Sunday was pretty thin but the Muster does have their flea market on that day, so I like to stay for Sunday. I found an Orc Fleet from Uncharted Seas, painted, at a decent price. I also picked up a giant foam CTHULHU DICE game at full price, but it was silly enough for me to want it.

We decided we wanted to give Leviathans a try.. I had planned on RUNNING it as an event but had been so ill I just really didn’t feel like investing the time doing more than an out of the box effort.


Garrett and I moved some pieces around the board and took some desultory shots at each other.

French Squadron lines up a shot

Okay, I’m probably going to write a much long piece on this, so stand by for that. However, ahem, Catalyst Game Labs… listen up. You have an exciting, visual idea. You have WONDERFUL miniatures. You have EXCELLENT packaging. Your components are top-notch. You have a great, logically consistent Edwardian Science Fiction universe to play in. You’ve really done your homework… except in one area. These rules are incredibly badly written! They reference stuff that isn’t defined.. they have dense, poorly defined graphics where they choose to use them. The descriptive text really really needs work. We were confused.. and had to work through the introductory battle slowly, one step at a time. We had to guess at the designer’s intent several times. There is no one place where all this stuff is on a single piece of paper, which would have helped. I was disappointed in the rules, but not the ships. I’ll try it again, and if need be, write my own ship to ship combat game.

So that’s pretty much the show for me. I like this one… everything’s very laid back and drama free, which can be a refreshing change. The Muster is certainly my favorite semi-local non-HMGS convention at the moment. I’d like to thank all involved for working their tails off to make a great convention for whomever attended. Well done!

Walt and the very cold and wet FALL-IN! 2011


Yay! I woke up, lept out of my feetie pajamas and bound about the house to get ready for FALL IN!, the Autumn historical miniatures convention run by HMGS (the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society). I actually had a plan, positioning stuff for quick launch the night before. For some reason, nothing works on time when you are going to a convention. It’s like I automatically find some way to FALL IN to a temporal distortion field. In this instance, it was news that snow was expected in the Lancaster PA area, where we were holding the con. So that means.. switching cars to a 4WD, driving to Drey’s school, tapping on the window to get the key, driving all the way back, gassing up the car, packing all my stuff OUT of the van INTO the 4WD.. and..

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We’re off at last!


Planned departure: 0900 / Actual departure, closer to 1100

Driving up was non-eventful. I went up 15 to 30 to York/Lancaster, like I always do. No stops, and it took about 2.5 hours. This put me at the convention at a point where there wasn’t any staff working at all. That’s right, the staff room was closed mid-day. Why? Because they couldn’t find anyone to work staff! Being hungry, I went to Panera. Even thought it has NOTHING to do with a convention, I had a moment of Zen on the way back. Hot air balloons. Two of them, quietly gliding over the cobalt grey country sky.

Balloon 1
(I couldn’t zoom in to them, they were far too high)

When I got back from Panera there were people in the staff room after a while. It wasn’t my intention to work staff for this convention, but Jon Paul gave me those puppy dawg eyes and I had to say yes. So don’t let anyone tell you that we work just for the free hotel room, cuz mine was already paid for by me. I signed up for a shift on Saturday, pretty much killing my schedule that I had posted on before, but that was okay by me.

Our Crack Staff
Our crack reg office staff. This was almost all of them since so few volunteered to help this time.

As it was, I had already missed out on two or three “must-see” games anyway. HOWEVER! I did manage to sleeze my way into a fantastic game of CANVAS EAGLES Friday evening.

Unfortunately, SLIDE.COM is going out of business. So my old standby for making viewable slideshows has vanished. However, if you this link below you will see a slideshow of:

Click me!

Click me! for slideshow


You may want to “Reverse Order” this (bottom left) to view in sequence

This was a great event for me. Canvas Eagles is essentially an open source replacement for the older GDW boardgame BLUE MAX. I had never played CE before but had played plenty of games of the older Blue Max game, and the mechanics are very similar– your plane is capable of a range of maneuvers that execute on a hex map, and both sides plot and execute them simultaneously. It’s kind of like the old ACE OF ACES system but in 3D. I had a great time. Since the convention was somewhat under-attended to begin with, the GM was looking for players. He had planned for four zeppelins and only one was on the board, with only one French fighter attacking it. The fighter had done some damage, so I came in on the next turn with a Pfalz fighter. I maneuvered around the zepp to get a tailing condition on the Frenchie, then he pulled a wrong move by accident turning AWAY from the Zeppelin, and then when I sped up to catch him, BANG! ZIP!! I overshot him and got shot to pieces. I went into a spin, everything looked dire. I then recovered and tried to line up on Monsieur Froggie again but by that time German victory conditions had been met– the German zepp was off the board. This was played with impressive huge zeppelin models and 1:72 scale aircraft models. Not exactly to scale but that really doesn’t matter– the concept was conveyed in a visual and exciting fashion. I had to thank the GM for the effort he put into the game– the logistical tale for putting one of those games on must be impressive (See the pictures above to get an idea of what I’m talking about).

I would have stayed for a bit and played again after we achieved victory, but had a pounding sinus headache and I really just wanted to take a few advil. Of course, going anywhere in a convention and not meeting people is pretty much impossible (at least for HMGS cons) so I did spend an hour or two at the bar on the way out. Great evening of gaming..


Saturday dawned with rainy slush pelting down. I quickly popped over to Target and picked up some boots (not to be profligate, I needed new ones) a snow shovel and a window brush., then got to the Host in time for the snow to start falling in earnest.


And falling…


and falling…


And fallllling.

That's some heavy snow

I’ll miss slide.com, they made convention reports easy.

I did a pass-through of the Flea before taking post on station in registration, thanks to Jon Paul’s encouragement. This was a great idea, as I found a guy selling his old 1:1200 Richard Houston/Lyzard’s Grin era per-dreadnought Austrian and Italian ships for The Battle of Lissa. This was a hell of a find, I got most of the Austrian fleet for half price. Thanks, flea market!

The world won’t end quite yet, it still hasn’t sold.

I worked my shift with no big worries. By Saturday mid day there just weren’t many people coming to this convention. The combination of the date (Halloween) and the snow drove away a lot of visitors that were sitting on a fence about making a day trip. We had a few die-hards.


I revisited the Vendor Hall in earnest after my shift to get a little shopping in. I ended up buying enough 1:1200 ships to fill out the Battle of Lissa Austrian fleet from Outland Games of Ohio (the nearest online vendor carrying this line that I could find is Great Endeavors). I also bought a few more Italians and will probably finish out the line once I’m done with all those Austrians. I also bought some bases for the ships, the new Warhammer historical GLADIATOR book, a couple of magazines and some fascinating 1:600 scaled ACW Artillery men (single stands) from a Polish company. My plan is to paint these up as ships’ crew on open cockpit Uncharted Seas hulls.

Unfortunately some vendors I was looking for did not show up– I was looking for Splintered Light and Brookhurst Hobbies. The Vendors were thin on the ground and the hall was relatively unpopulated for HMGS show. I attribute it to the bad weekend and the weather. Likewise the vendors that did show were not full up– the War Store is a must-see for me and they had very little Uncharted Seas and Dystopian Wars items. Sigh. In any event I was happy with what I purchased (in particular, the new gladiator rules from WH, they look very thorough and interesting.. and I have tons of 54mm glads painted up already).

Dealer Hall

I did see some interesting pieces from Tony Reidy’s old company, Wargames Factory: some pre-painted, pre-assembled figures called “Leviathans” or perhaps “Monsters in the Sky”. They were introduced at GENCON and were there for demo purposes only– apparently they are part of a larger boardgame that is imminent. These look very intriguing, like Aeronef on Steroids.

Leviathan 2

Leviathan 1

Leviathan 3

Leviathan 4

If anyone out there knows anything about this range, I’m interested. Please comment on this blog post.

FALL-IN! is not a convention for making big new product line announcements, and to be honest, I didn’t notice many new things, other than the Pumpkin demon and the Corn God from Acheson creations (below). There was a lot of onesies and twosies and cool lines that I like that got updated but I didn’t really go crazy over anything. Of note was a major presence from Architectural Creations, Barb’s Bunker of old, who are really pushing for a convention presence. Their trench lines were things of beauty, but I couldn’t afford them.

The Corn God

Pumpkin God

Things I was contemplating, but decided against buying this time around: Another War Rocket fleet and some British Landing parties for my cutting out party game that I have in mind to do. The latter choice was one of those last minute decisions– I’m going to have to make a major investment in some scenery to make a port and possibly even a 28mm scale ship, so this isn’t a game I can get off without paying the piper for. I guess I’m being naturally cautious in times of economic turmoil. I normally buy an Ironclad or two from Toby but I’m a little backed up on them at the moment and need to paint my way out of the queue.

To summarize my shopping experience.. not as much as at the other two cons, but I am very happy with what I did get. I’m liking the Gladiator rules quite a bit and of course I’m somewhat goofily pleased that I managed to get most of the Battle of Lissa so cheaply.

Games around the convention:

Sunday Game

WW2 aerial

Early WW2

Wild West

Great Retreat from Moscow setup
(I loved this one.. the figures in the center were exquisitely painted, and they stayed stationery throughout the game, while the terrain pieces moved down the board to signify that the figures in the center were moving.. in this case, retreating from Moscow in 1812)

Retreat from Moscow

Retreat from Moscow

WW2 naval

Cog Wars 2


Trafalgar 2

Moe's zombies
Uncle Moe’s Santa and Zombies game…

HOTT in the cold
Dave Kujit’s “HOTT in the Cold” game.

HOTT in the Cold 2

FOW in the Desert
Flames of War in the Desert


Breaking the line at the Coronels

Interesting MedievalA very colorful medieval era game

Saturday NIGHT, I weaseled my way into Rick Stakes’ large scale Pirates versus Spanish Convoy game (S-256). You may recall I played in one of these at HISTORICON, I had such a good time I came back again. I like Rick’s work on his ships (with one or two exceptions they are all handmade), I like his rules and I like the way he runs events with lots of people in them. Each player ran an individual ship. As a latecomer I didn’t have first choice and got “The Hawk” pirate ship. There’s forty plus pictures in this slide show (link below) and I do not have the time to caption every one, so have a look now…

Rick Stakes

Click on Rick Stakes Handsome Visage

S-256: Pirate Raid on Spanish Convoy game GM: Rick Stakes

Rules were written by Mr. Stakes, and they were reasonably clear and made sense, reminding me strongly of the old WS&IM board game. Game In a nutshell: The pirate fleet was allowed to set up anywhere on the board. Three of the pirates, including my HAWK ship in red, set up BEHIND the Spanish convoy as they came on the board. We sailed in on them at the end of the first turn and my Hawk got too close. We were roughly handled on the starboard side, but that is the price one pays for the weather gauge sometimes. A pirate ship doesn’t have the strength to sail in and go yardarm to yardarm.. I learned the hard way that the optimal strategy was to shoot at the rigging, not the hull, and to say off a distance. The Spanish fleet sailed up the starboard side of the battle, clustering together and ramming each other at one point. This proved difficult for the ships on the port side of the cluster, which bore the brunt of pirate damage. There was actually a Spanish ship that didn’t even fire the entire game on the starboard side! The Spaniards handled their ships well and supported each other in crucial moments. The pirates did not do as well, and were pretty much all over the place. The pattern of the battle for me was: Sail in close, fire off popguns. Kill a few spaniards and bring down some rigging. Get shot up pretty bad. Sail out, turn around, and sail back to repeat. I’m happy to say I didn’t sink but one of my piratical brethren did. We also captured a Spanish Felucca– which made us think that we held victory, but Mr. Stakes graciously awarded a narrow Spanish victory, due to the fact that there wasn’t a lot of pirate tonnage in the water to oppose Spanish progress. We all thanked Mr. Stakes and asked him to run it again at Cold Wars.

Brian Whitaker

Later on, I did the typical for a Saturday, visiting the standard hangouts, the lobby bar, and hung out for a while. Thence to look for some guys from the TNGG group to play boardgames with, but alas they were already gone.


I didn’t even hit the flea market Sunday which was disappointing.. time does fly. I visited the Dealer’s room one more time, and packed my bags to say farewell..

And off across the might Susquehanna and home!

On the way home

General observations: attendance… was what it was. I’m reminded of the great snow of 2007. You can’t fight weather and rumors of weather. You just shrug and soldier on as best you can. Needless to say, I was able to park in FRONT of the hotel almost every day for the entire convention, and I think you get my drift about what attendance was like. I think this is the last year we are scheduling FALL-IN! for Halloween, so maybe it will pick up next year. Extras: I did the Guidebook App again this year and it ended up looking good despite very late support from Events. If I left out something near and dear to you, I apologize. It’s only an effort as good as the data that drives it, and I received what I received 10 PM Sunday night and had it done by 240 in the morning the next day. The data needed to be vetted better than it did. Considering all that, it STILL was a useful product, and I ended up using it constantly. In fact, I have yet to open up a FALL-IN! 2011 program book. Facilities: The Host is a shabby as ever, but the staff supported us well and rose to the occasion as they usually do. No complaints. Weather: turned out to be a non-event for the most part. When I park my car at a HMGS convention in the morning, I really DON’T WANT TO LEAVE for the entire day. Everything I want to do I can accomplish on premises. So having a surprise blizzard didn’t faze anyone. To quote Bob Leibl in the bar: “Oh dear. I’m trapped, trapped I say, in a place with adequate food and drink, all my friends and toys to play with all weekend. What shall I do, woe is me..” (picture the heavy sarcasm). So, in summary, I had a great time, with a few fits and starts here and there that tried to be flies in the ointment but couldn’t manage it. Congratulations to Andy and his tiny crew of volunteers for pulling off another great convention, and I hope he enjoys an honorable retirement.

FALL-IN! 2011 Goes MOBILE!!!

picture of Guidebook on various platforms

Guidebook App on various platforms.

Announcing the Guidebook Smartphone App for FALL-IN! 2011!

HMGS is continuing our experiment in delivering critical convention information to individual users using smartphone technology this FALL IN. Working in partnership with Guidebookapp,com, We have created a limited beta of FALL-IN! electronic guides that download to your Iphone, Ipad, Ipod, or any Android phone.

FALL-IN! 2011 Guidebook Features:

— The entire convention schedule, that’s events, lectures, everything, available via a single guidebook app.

— Maps to the convention spaces.

— Vendor/Exhibitor information.

— A scheduler that will allow you to plan your entire time at the convention.. and it will alert you when an event is coming up by sounding an alarm.

— The ability to “Tweet” your current event to Twitter as you are playing it.

This is our first year using this service– we introduced Guidebook at HISTORICON 2011 and achieved 380 downloads from out of our five hundred downloads per convention limit, so we will still use the limited free service until demand exceeds supply. We may expand our downloads for future conventions if we discover that there is a big demand for Guidebook– but first we need to know if you will use it, or if it is indeed worth the effort for you.

BOTTOM LINE: there’s five hundred downloads. First come, first served. But if you download guidebook, HMGS would GREATLY appreciate feedback on how you use it, and what you would like to see added to it.

I (Walt O’Hara) punched in FALL-IN! 2011 and am collecting feedback from users at Hotspur@rocketmail.com. I am interested in what more I could add to the guidebook, as well as if we use up every one of the 500 guidebook downloads. This will give me more data on how to approach COLD WARS 2011. Thanks for your assistance in advance.

Walt O’Hara


The main page for the Guidebook app is here: guidebookapp.com or on it can be viewable on guidebookapp’s mobile site: m.guidebookapp.com

1. Get the app

For Android Phones:

The Guidebook app is available in the Android Marketplace for free.


For Apple Iphones, or Ipods, or Ipads:

The Guidebook app is available in the App Marketplace for free:


2. Install as you would a normal IoS or Android application.

3. Launch the application.

4. After the app is installed, a main menu item will be “Download the Guides”

You will see FALL-IN! 2011 prominently in the front page of downloadable guides. If you are in a spot with wireless or use a 3G/4G data network, it should drop down to your device promptly.

5. Once it’s on your device: You can select Schedule, Maps, Artist’s Row, Twitter, My Schedule, To Do List, Exhibitors, and General Info. That’s about it! Use and enjoy! You can get a rundown on the features here: link

For Blackberry Users: http://m.guidebookapp.com/

For Windows Phone 7 Users: http://m.guidebookapp.com/

Front Desk Madness, or the non-existent “I just want to look around” badge

Front Desk Madness

For illustration purposes only.. most people are perfectly nice.

“I just want to go shopping”…

“I’m not here to game.. I just want to hit the flea market and vendors”

“I don’t need a badge, I’m just here to…”

Having just come back from probably one of the cheapest gaming conventions of any size in the United States of America (HISTORICON 2011), and having worked the desk there, it still amazes me to read the caustic criticism conventions get online for not letting people in for free just to (quote) “just look around”.  On the Miniatures Page, the be-all and end-all for miniature wargaming arguments, there was an after-action thread on HISTORICON which actually took HMGS (who puts on the show) to task for not letting a thread poster in for free, because, presumably, it costs HMGS nothing to let him shop, and the vendors benefit by his free shopping presence.  And by extension, our economy gets stronger, increasing the tax base, more people are back at work and America’s position as a leader of the free world is assured well into the current millennium.  Perhaps I’m drawing the analogy out too far there, but you see the main point of the poster’s argument: I should get in free, because  I won’t cost you anything and  I’ll spend my money and make your vendors and flea market guys happy.

Yes, we had a few of those.  I witnessed one encounter.  One gentleman (whom I thought bore a passing resemblance to the late Satanist Anton Lavey, no sinister connection intended by the comparison), burst into a loud invective when the Front Desk staff attempted to charge him a 25 dollar day pass.

“Twenty Five Dollars.. to walk around and Shop?? REALLY?? TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS!!  I don’t believe this!  We’ll I’m here.  You got me.  But I won’t be back next year! This is my laaaaaast HISTORICON!!”

“I’m sorry, sir, I’ve been working this front desk for fifteen years and we’ve never had a free walk around and shop pass at HISTORICON.  I apologize for the inconvenience”

(snarls and tosses money) “Just… give it to me” (stomps off)

I know this seems improbable, but I’ve experienced far worse.

Let’s examine the notion that a person who walks in and just “shops, doesn’t game, visits the flea market, maybe” actually costs nothing to the people running shows.  The answer is, for anyone who looks at a balance sheet, is usually no.  Every person attending a convention represents a potential cost.  IF the people running the convention are paying a facility cost (the price for renting the physical space and services) then each person attending a show is presumably being charged an entrance fee– a portion of which is intended to contribute toward convention expenses and  facility costs involved.

There are some exceptions– a facility might cost an organization nothing (e.g., donated space).  A facility may be cheap enough so that free admission is seen as an act of good will and good public relations (and easy to write off).  A guest may be in a special category (special guest/targeted PR market/minors/spouses).  Exhibitors might be bearing all the costs of the convention with their fees (this type of event is usually called a trade show, not a convention, and even though many of those charge entrance fees).  And so on. I don’t doubt that free admission convention badges exist, but that does not change the essential calculus.

Someone, somewhere, has to pay for that badge.

In truth, I have never walked into a convention involved in a non-technical, non-professional niche hobby (such as model railroading, stamp collecting, miniature wargaming, comics, movie memorabilia, etc. etc.) for free, just to walk around.  Not ever.  It’s quite possible there are smaller events that are more “clubby” than “general admission” in nature and they might allow people in for free (example, a game event from a gaming club that has already charged dues that covers the gate), but such an event couldn’t be very large.  We all get back to the basic math of someone having to pay for the place.

 HMGS, the organization that I belong to that was running HISTORICON, is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the teaching of military history through the mixed medium of miniature gaming and educational seminars.   Note that Non-profit does not equate to “losing money”.  It is perfectly acceptable for a non-profit to charge for an event to cover the expenses of putting on the event itself.  And it’s not even considered ruthless profiteering if there is a surplus left over after the show to help continue the organization’s loftier goals, as long as the organization continues to pass its financial audits and obeys the law.

Most gaming conventions are established to meet the needs of the community and most gaming conventions are commercial endeavors.  If I were to walk up to the gates of, say, ORIGINS GAME FAIR and ask “I just want to walk around and buy things.. I don’t need a badge” , I fear the laughter would be loud and long, right before they called for security to escort me out.  And their published information testifies to this.. there’s not a “walk around badge” in site.

Doing a quick survey, here’s a few other conventions that would give you a craggy look if you asked them to just let you in to walk around and shop:

Most of these webpages underline or highlight or bold the text covering the basic notions I have been talking about.  You need a badge to get in, and badges cost someone money.  This is not an unrealistic assumption to make, as no business is in the business of losing money, at least at a notional level.  Even a non-profit business.  If one can’t afford the fee, than perhaps it’s time to reassess the cost of being in a hobby.

And yet, this “letting me in for free just to look around pass” perception persists, year after year.  And year after year, it’s the same old arguments.. “Why not a special five dollar I just want to shop badge, then?” And so on.  As far as HMGS is concerned, most people who attend over a day are usually there for a mixture of reasons, and shopping is only one of them.  Walk-ins, first timers, day shoppers and the like are charged something because the costs are spread out over ALL attendees, including vendors, full up weekend attendees and day trippers.  There are many ways of structuring fees and this is perhaps the least onerous of them.  Don’t believe me?  Go get a one day ticket to WBC in a few weeks.

If I were king of the world, maybe there would be a way to let everyone in for free, and to have vendors and exhibitors and flea markets and special guests and such.  Of course, being king of the world makes it easy to ruthlessly intimidate hotels and convention halls to do my bidding, because, you know, I’m King of the World. For the rest of us poor schlubs, we’ll just have to economize the best we can.  And let’s try to understand the bigger picture before we complain next time, eh?  Good gaming!d

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