Monday, March 19, 2018

Cold Wars 2018 AAR

Ah, March!  Even with the snowflakes still swirling around, the promise of Spring right around the corner and the opportunity to have a weekend at Cold Wars makes hope spring eternal.

Of course, problems arose even before the convention weekend, as I hadn't even gotten around to making reservations at the Continental when news of its purchase and shuttering for renovations by Dutch Wonderland became public.  With everything else going on with my life, I figured I would lessen the imbibing and find a cheap place with a clean bed a few miles away from the Host.  More money for the Dealer's Hall, after all...

Friday morning, I loaded a few figures in the car, kissed my wife goodbye and headed out for a normally uneventful two hour drive to Lancaster.  Of course, the fates along I-81 had other ideas as a half-hour in, I was beset by a snow squall.  Blinding snow and icy conditions forced me to take the next exit where I could pull into a gas station off a divided state road and weather it out for the 20-30 minutes.  Once the squall ended, the plows (and the sun) arrived and within minutes there was little evidence that the storm had actually taken place.  However, unable to make a U-Turn, my normal path through Lebanon was re-routed through Reading with little consequence.

The Host's parking lot was still full of containers of various and sundry materials, making finding a spot unbearable.  By nearly noon of Friday, the overflow lot was getting filled up fast.

The first obvious change was right after I snuck in through the side door, formally relegated to the flea market.   The numerous tournaments were still set up, but the room felt short, thanks to a new (partial) wall on the far side.

Emerging through an opening in the wall, I fond the new registration-land, with no lines!

Even better, preregistrations could be picked up electronically!   I'm a little worried about the lack of ID or confirmation to guarantee someone doesn't abscond with your registration, but I did notice an HMGS email afterward with a QR Code to scan.   We might get into the 21st Century before the 22nd arrives.
I grabbed lunch (where they had no change... puzzling) and with no afternoon flea market and my  2pm cancelled, I wandered down the Trail of Out of Shape Wargamers towards the Expo Hall for the dealers.
The tournament area
Work continues on the hall... and the balcony is back, with two stairwells nearing completion!  Also, the natural lighting is great, but with a few displays in the way, there were a few dark inhospitable reaches for certain booths.  I picked up a number of items off my long term want lists, while leaving some cash for the flea market.  I could always hand over plastic to the dealers on Saturday, plus it's nice to feed them some paper before they need to hit a bank for change.

Late in the afternoon, I wandered over to Golden Corral for a bite and made some lodging provisions with a friend.  No need to lose a parking spot to drive a few miles away for a cheap room, when someone is offering you a bed at the Host for free.  Success!
Blood and Plunder
With that off my mind, I snagged a spot at the final Blood and Plunder demo for the day.   I had a chance to play it at The Weekend last Summer, but this demo included ship movement and combat, plus the fellow running the demos was squared away and completely zoned in to run this demo.

It was a great introduction and sales pitch for the game, although I knew what tactics our side would play, when the young man sitting next to me, politely interrupted the spiel to clarify, "So what you're saying is, we can take our ship and try to crash it into the other guys' ship?"

Between superior maneuvering and more accurate cannon volleys, the young man came up a mere two inches short of his lifelong pirating dream, as the hated Spanish boarded our French vessel and killed us to the man.  Regardless, we all had a blast, plus Firelock Games was nice enough to offer freebies for all the partiicpants.  ViscountEric appreciates cool new dice. 


From there I ran back into my friend Jim and helped set up his Tactica Vikings game.
Tactica Vikings
A few "Guest Stars" leading the Vikings

I didn't think the Power of Christ could convert Vikings on the spot.
Finally, I was in my element: setting up terrain and figures, plotting out the game, and bullshitting around without a care in the world. I took it upon myself to help GM the less active corner of the table, with simple Viking raid on a village that got some advanced warning, and I was content with the world. With the game moving smoothly I took a moment to sit down and crack open a beverage for the first time this weekend.

Then my phone rang.

It was my mother.

And like any man at a convention without wife and kids for some time, I let it go to voice mail.
Hey Hackmaster Fans, Ironwind Metals/Ral Partha still produces the minis. They're pricey, but they look great.  
But when it she called back immediately, I wisely answered and thank goodness I did.  For the three minutes on the phone I heard complete nonsense.  Not the normal conversation we hear when we talk to our moms or mothers in law, but absolute gibberish, save four words interspersed throughout the noises.  "Struck, head, dollar store."
I was not going to get a sip of that beverage.
A few calls to get to her county's 911 plus a few more calls to friends and family, and an ambulance was dispatched and we were going over short-term logistics.   Within an hour I was talking to a nurse at the ER and was provided a sigh of relief.  No stroke, no blockages, just some crazy high blood pressure to prevent her from speaking, but not enough to disorient her from calling me twice... and packing a bag in the five minutes before the paramedics arrived.
Still, I was the closest one to the hospital, so I knew I should check in, less things go from bad to worse.  But I'm a selfish son, and the new "midnight" flea market had just opened up ten minutes prior.  I ventured forth through its new location in the poorly lit, all-black theater, all the while answering call after call and providing updates.   Twenty minutes later I was on the road. 
Elizabethan England
Better news: She was stabilized by the time I got there and soon she was admitted into the ICU as a precaution.  By morning, it was a game of wait and test to ensure there was nothing stranger occuring, but with nothing else I needed to or could do, my wife, my mother, and my sister who was driving down from Boston all told me to go back to the con.
All three drive me crazy, but they're good people.
I got back before noon, scarfed down some food for the first time since my Golden Corral late lunch the day before and ventured back into the dealers hall and flea market for a few more items.
I ran into Jim again, and we set up the big Gnome Wars game in the hotel lobby.
The California Imperial Guard lands in Tsingtao
It was a fabulous games of grim slaughter, pinpoint artillery strikes (I'm pointing at you Captain Six!), brutal hand to hand fighting in the woods, and oddly enough, only one Swiss unit, my California DOT Engineers.   We even had a few first-time wargamer move figures, chuck dice, and talk some friendly trash just like a seasoned veteran.  I hope they come back to play again and again.
British marines storm the German flank.
The Irish used a special power to land troops behind enemy lines, but the Germans persevered, even if only two figure were left on the board afterwards.
The California Imperial DOT Engineers follow all regulations before docking.
The German heavy machine gun waits for the allies emerging from the woods.

The Irish (and a few hapless Engineers) prepare for the assault.

By the time the game wrapped up and we packed everything up, I was beat, and despite another offer of a room (I have good friends), I decided to head back to Wilkes-Barre for a little family time before I was ventured back to deal with the potential discharge of my mother on Sunday.
That all being said, let's cover all the important points.
SITE:  The Lancaster Host is still the Lancaster Host.  With many of the captial improvements and constant renovation, it's better than Lipstick on a Pig, but some of niggling issues of years past were still there.  Food stands unable to break a five, much less a twenty, running out on certain food a few minutes into a meal rush.    Despite the offers, I didn't get to see the new rooms, but those I talked to that stayed raved about their rooms, which breaks even when I compare the online issues I read about.  Just like Fall-In, some of the rooms were hastily put together at the last second to get as many rooms as possible,   I will also say, I saw a lot of hotel management walking around, but not doing anything of obvious import.  Food was passable, and after a full season of overpriced hockey food, the prices were acceptable.  (Sidebar Rant: But why would you charge $9 for a meal and $2 for a drink and not provide your staff with change for over 90 minutes?   Don't they realize all these people are hitting the ATM before arriving and are chock full of $20 bills? /rant)

It goes without saying, if the containers aren't removed from the parking lot, things are going to meltdown at Historicon.
Lodging:  Didn't need to use any, for better or for worse, but I can comment on the Continental.  Numerous dumpsters on the property and curtains torn from the windows.  I wouldn't be too surprised if they re-open before the Summer's out.
More Young Frankenstein
Events: I'm a gnome guy, so that's my focus, but there weren't too many events that piqued my interest.  And unlike some people who demand beautiful figures and terrain to draw in new people (who are already on site).  I saw plenty of people surrounding a table with felt on felt.

And since people complain about no-show GMs, I can relayed an offical/unofficial conversation I overheard regarding some staff's concern about how many cancellations were legit, confirmed family or medical emergencies.  Add the number of teachers we have who had days off taken away for snow days on Friday, and it's completely understandable.  I'm just happy I didn't pick this con to run anything or I'd probably be added to the list.

Also, a big shout-out and congrats to Hobby University, who migrated to the old registration area (and air flow!) for all their classes.  The paint and take is a moment of calm in a sea of insanity.

Dealers:  Perhaps it was the weather, but the walk around to the back of the Expo Center was not the Bataan death march from Fall-In!  I only witnessed one fellow resting along the side of the trail.

The natural and interior lights defintely need to be adjusted, or adjustable.  Or perhaps I just need to see the eye doctor.  I missed MBA and a few others, but it was nice to see new vendors, plus the booth offering a 3-D printed copy of your head for a figure was pretty sweet.
Flea Market:  Some portions of the new flea market made dark section of the Dealers Hall look like the surface of the sun.  Some of the tables by the entrance even resorted to table lamps to light things up.  The other issue with "Wally's Attic" was the flea market vendors lugging their stuff up the stairs.  Some weren't aware of the freight elevator until after they set up (allegedly).  Still, I only bumped into one person between the Friday night  and Saturday afternoon sessions (and it was my fault).  Plenty of cool items to be had and most guys were even more amicable than usual.

My plunder:  Only took a picture of early Friday swag I acquired.   First off, the complimentary backpack/satchel/bag was the greatest and most useful freebie in HMGS Inc history.  Blue Cold Wars Bags were brimming with goodies in the dealer's hall Friday... and not knocking into people.   The cup is pretty sweet as well.

  • Eureka: Mid East Civilians for my Pulp game. 
  • Eureka  Mice Warriors for the kids Mousling Fantasy game (or Song of Blades and Heroes). 
  • Ten Samoan Fita Fita from Recreational Conflict.  
  • Two MDF houses from Dave's Baggage Train.
  • The new Maggie Thatcher Post-Apoc figure from Brigade Games.  I so needed to get a second one for a punk rock paint scheme
  • A much needed quart 'o various bases, although they did not stock 25mm rounds.
  • Flea Market:  A visit to TreeGirl's table.  Good luck on literally a Marathon homework project.
  • Flea Market:  Assorted Old West and Pulp painted figures.  
  • Flea Market:  An old 40k Lascannon for my not-ready-for primetime Gnomish Space Marines
  • Flea Market:  Battletech Dice from the late 90's 
  • Flea Market:  A bunch of old 3M bookcase games, including Point of Law.
  • Flea Market:  A copy of Once Upon a Time
Given most of the tax return went towards a "new" car, I was bit more frugal than I usually am.  Need to put in some OT and offset that for Historicon.  

Historicon is back at the Host in July 12-15 and will probably be a day trip for me.  Event registration for the PEL ends in less than a month!

Fall-In! is also at the Host in November 9-11.  Between its theme, Revolutions and Civil Wars and those that start them, the HAWKS Battle in a Box Contest, I may take another crack at the Samoan Civil War.  

Oh yeah, Mom came home Sunday afternoon, and my sister is staying there for a bit.  Guess the great Era of Leaving Mom to Her Own Devices is probably over.  

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