It's the most wonderful time of the year...
March means Cold Wars and Cold Wars means the "Guys Weekend" where we escape our brow beating lives for a couple of days and live it up a little.
Of course, the big story of the weekend wasn't any special game or new release, rather the Ice Station Zebra occurring outside. The regular flurry of cancellations due to "real life" had already come in hot and heavy (again, it's not unusual), but the snow-ice-rain-snow-DEEP FREEZE combination made things treacherous for the GMs and normal attendees, much less the dealers towing a big-ass trailer with all their wares inside.
But before I could depart, I had to see a woman about a dog.
I had previously mentioned that my wife had "volunteered" us for a short-term fostering of a rescue dog. The week commitment had stretched to over a month, and with two young kids, two cats, now THREE dogs, and full time jobs, our extra guest was the straw breaking the family's back. She was scheduled for her "forever home" Tuesday, but there was no way my wife could handle everything solo.
So, after getting my eldest, Maja, on the bus, and little Millie off to daycare, I needed to drive Lala the dog to McAdoo to meet with a rescue volunteer who could keep her over the weekend before she was spayed and went to her new home.
See the parking lot in the picture above? Outside of I-81 and US30, that was the best pavement I saw as I navigated the back roads from Lebanon down to Lancaster. Driving through giant lakes of standing water at points was much preferred to the alternative, "Reverse Potholes" three or four inch high shelves of ice between the clear tire ruts in the road.
I somehow made it down only a half-hour longer than usual and found a near-empty registration line. Of course, the lone person in front of me had no idea what they were doing, and as the line started to swell behind me, a second person opened to speed up the process. They had the very popular pink con shirts again, and to guarantee I brought something home for the girls, I snagged up two smalls, which created the only snafu in the process. Someone had entered the wrong prices in the system, and it took a minute or to generated the ten dollar refund.
After running into my friend Brian, we hit the bar for a few moments of libations, plotted our course and wandered about.
|Jurassic Luftwaffe vs RAF vs USAF, just like in the history books!|
|I absolutely love the mountains!|
Friday afternoon was simply dead for games. Let's be honest, everything picks up after dinner on Friday, but Distelfink was desolate. It appeared the flea market stole a few feet from tournament section, so I didn't experience the usual jostling.
Although the picture doesn't show it well, the dealer's hall had large swaths of emptiness Friday afternoon.
At 1:00pm vendor were still arriving and trying to set up their stands, and a few wouldn't be filled until Saturday. Certain sections that would be dedicated to a sales booth were now display tables for Architects of War and Warlord, and in all my trips to the hall, I never saw anyone playing with them.
Perhaps it was the hellish drive in, icy loading ramp, and sense of dread that no one would show up, but I sense a lot of negative responses from the dealers, when, cash in hand, I wanted to buy something. It seemed like I was being a hassle to them, and although I didn't do the smart thing and pre-order everything for "pick-up at Cold Wars," there wasn't a line of customers behind me. Some of my shopping lists went unfilled and other parts went untouched.
|Cowboys and Mexicans|
|Mars in 25mm|
|Baltimore Election Riot of 1856|
|Karbala Gap, Iraq 2003|
In the afternoon, Brian and I jumped in the "what if" battle of St. Pierre et Miquelon using the Doctor Who Miniatures rules. The DW rules are very story based. Nazis, Americans, and French (Vichy, Free, and Gendarmes) were scurrying around the estate looking for the administrator of the colony and a woman with very "interesting" talents.
While the skirmish between the French forces was merely missed shots, a few ill-fated hit and run attempts with the cars, and a miss thrown Free French grenade into its own forces, the Americans and Nazi had a whiz-bang throwdown through the multiple building and floors of the escape. While the action cards did not necessarily fit this type of encounter, by the end of the game we were fully embracing the thematic elements with willful abandon. The Vichy and Nazis escaped off the island with the woman, but mechanical problems on their u-boat doomed them to a watery grave.
|My Stormtroopers, errrr, French, could not hit anything.|
|The Other Side of Mars|
|French Foreign Legion|
By the time Dr Who was over, I managed to get ahold of my friend Steve. He had been the victim of an unfortunately scheduled business meeting in Center City Philly Friday afternoon, but was braving traffic to get to Lancaster ASAP. We decided to give up our parking spots in the Siberian wastes of the overflow lot and drive over to the Continental Inn to check in.
This was the first time I experienced new traffic light in front of the host, and it brought me to giggles. The Golden Corral seems nice too, but within the twenty minutes we drove to the Continental, check-in, and agreed to meet Steve there, it swelled from ten cars in the parking lot to a scene more fitting a third world relief effort after an earthquake. We eventually found the only empty restaurant in all of Lancaster, the Bob Evans near the end of the outlet strip. It was quick and friendly service, and most importantly, great food. A run to the Wawa at the other end of 30 for "after hour supplies" and we were back at the Host with my car right next to the front door.
|Post Apocalyptic Shanty Town (|
Upon our return, we jumped into the only Gnome-related game left on the schedule (outside the joust). It was a fun Treasure hunting scenario... with tanks. I'll post pics and details about that on a separate "gnome only" post later.
After the game, we ran into the actual "Gnome Guy" Jim Stanton, rocking an air boot and a bedazzled cane. Soon we migrated to the bar upstairs, and my trio partook in what I hope will be a Cold Wars tradition, the downing of the Mad Elfs.
And were up by 7am to start Saturday (pics and story coming soon!)
Site: The Host is what The Host is, although the parking lot would make a great set for a live-action version of Frozen. No new horror stories from anyone staying there, although there are a LOT of empty rooms not available for rent, due to a need to rehabilitate/remodel them. On-site food was passable, as always, although I do have to say that the staff seemed much friendlier and accommodating than cons past.
Lodging: Thanks to the people who blazed a trail in the snow so we could traverse back and forth from the Continental and the Host. Room was clean, staff friendly, parking lot decently plowed, and the complimentary omelet may have saved Steve's life.
Events: Lacking, thanks to the weather. There were alot of AWI/Napoleonic/Civil War games that had full tables and nice presentation, but they weren't eye-catching. To be honest, they were far more than felt and lichen, but they all looked the same. The con theme (1865: The Beginning of the End of the End of the Civil War for the First Time) had few noticeable events outside of smaller rooms. Everything I did was in the beer-and-pretzel skirmish side of things and was perfect to kickstart some wargaming this Spring.
Dealers: Missing dealers and grumpy dealers produced the exact opposite of normal spending, where I spend 80% there and 20% at the flea market. Outside of some the last remaining Teddy Bear Cowboys, and Brigade Games Chupacabras for every member of the family. I might have also been discouraged by a lack of Zap-a-Gap or even Superglue (the GF9 stuff doesn't meet my needs) and some sticker shock for some of the rule books ($42.00 cover price for DBA 3.0? My daughter's five and wrote a book for school with more pages in it.)
Flea Market: The few seemed to be the same people recycling the same stuff. A few buildings, a few minis, and some more Pegasus palm trees (for $5). I did have a few friends who grabbed tables this time and they did make a killing in the first ten minutes.