Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cold Wars 2008


This past weekend was a great time. I got to attend Cold Wars, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

This gaming convention is one of the oldest in the country, this being its 25th year. I haven't been going since the first one, but pretty close. I began attending the HMGS conventions (which now include Cold Wars in March, Historicon in July, and Fall In in November) sometime around 1985, and have been going ever since.

The convention is a great time for me. First, it is a sort of vacation for me from all the responsibilities of life. I get to go and hang out with friends and indulge my hobby almost completely, if just for a weekend. This includes gaming, talking about gaming, hosting games, playing games, shopping for games, and buying games.

Miniatures, of course, are the focus of these conventions - appropriate as they are sponsored by the Historical Miniature Gaming Society. These conventions were once almost purely historical miniatures, but over the years more and more non-historical games have crept in. For me, and my friends (both in and out of ODMS), these conventions have always been about playing games together in the evening. These evening games have long been, as often as not, card and board games, rather than miniatures games.

This year was no exception. Having gotten to the convention on Thursday afternoon, I spent Thursday Evening playing a couple of games of Memoir 44, followed up by a long game of the new Struggle for Rome (a Settlers of Catan-based historical game). The Memoir games were with Chris - we played the scenario Ste. Mère-Église a couple of times. Good scenario. The first game, Chris clobbered me. This is pretty true-to-form for this scenario, as the Allies have a win-ratio over the Axis of approx 593 to 367 (according to the Days of Wonder scenario ranking page). The second run-through of the game, we were joined by a friend of the Designer, Richard Borg, who was at the show. This fellow, who was quite friendly and helpful, gave me key information and tactical tips when I was using my German Armor against Chris, and it lead me to victory. Groovy. Without the assistance, I never would have won.

Friday was a busy day. First, there was the traditional breakfast at the Lancaster Host Resort - the hotel that has hosted Cold Wars and Historicon for many-a-year (since it left the Penn-Harris in Camp Hill, PA). We used to eat breakfast at the Lapps restaurant next door, but have been in the Hotel for a long time. Then, there was some shopping in the flea market, which officially opened at Noon - no, wait, there was a screw up (typical) - One o'clock. This gave me just enough time to buy used copies of Heroquest and Medina. Then I had to rush off to the New Holland room.

At 2:00pm on Friday, I was hosting a game of The Sword and the Flame. The game was called the "Heights of Jasani", and is based on a scenario that is due for publication (hopefully soon) from a to-be-announced publisher (just as soon as we find a cartographer to finish up the maps for the scenarios...). The game was excellent, and featured six really fine players - five of them being long-time veterans of TSATF (including Tom Anderson, Nigel Clarke, Rick Norton, and Steve Winter - all of the ColonialWars group). All of the gamers were gentlemen. I have been running TSATF games like this with Chris Borucki (I am his co-GM) at the HMGS conventions since 1999. Almost every one of our games have been quite successful with good gamers and good games. The scenarios aren't always balanced, and sometimes (doh! - Historicon 2007 comes to mind) I try some knuckle-headed new rules that don't always work - but the games almost always turn out to be quite fun anyway.

Friday night was no less excellent than Thursday night. More board games, including more Memoir 44 - this time with me losing to Odin Bazely. I played the French Resistance and got trounced. I really like this game. So much so, that I purchased the Eastern Front expansion, and the Terrain Pack expansion at the convention. Cool - now I can do loads more maps and scenarios (there are something like 1200 - yes, one thousand and two hundred - scenarios posted on the Days of Wonder web page).

Saturday came. More breakfast. This time, I loaded up on some rather explosive combinations of food - more about that later. The day was spent shopping and also catching up on some homework(!) - grad school is never off limits. The evening drew nigh, and I wandered down to the Dealers hall with Jon Krigbaum. We walked around (what a wonderful thing the dealers hall is at an HMGS convention) for about an hour, and all of a sudden a storm blew through and knocked out the power at the hotel convention center. We were in the dark! Thousands of product-starved gamers, and a few measly dealers who had nothing to stop the hordes but their own measly bodies. Luckily the forces of justice prevailed, and there wasn't a riot. Good thing too, cause we were guarding the treasures to be found at the Miniatures of Chesepeake booth, run by fellow ODMS member Carl Sciscio. Chris, Odin and I left and went to get some Chinese food for dinner, and afterwards realized that the power still was not turned on, so we journeyed to the nearby town of New Holland (named for the room that the Colonial Gamers inhabit at the convention), to visit one of the best game stores I have ever been in - Six Feet Under Games. Wow, what a cool place.

After a while (the group couldn't take the nasty effusions that were bubbling out of me from my explosive breakfast), we returned to the hotel. I voided my defiled bowels, which left a stain in that corner of Pennsylvania, and we left for the open gaming area.

During the day Chris played in a singles tournament of Warhammer Ancient Battles. He did well in his first game - against a Crusades army - but fared quite poorly against some really tough Norman Armies in his second and third games. We got to the dealers hall just ahead of my own noxious cloud, and proceeded to play some games of Battlelore - wow, what a game! I played first Odin and then Chris in Battlelore - we played the battle of Agincourt, and I got to be (lucky me - this is a wet dream for me and I bet those guys didn't even know - one of my favorite battles, and me playing my favorite side) the English. We few, we happy few! Well, I lost and then I won. This was too much for Chris, who had already been slaughtered by Normans. Too much was too much, and he took a break as we progressed to more refined gaming fare.

We next played (Jim Russell joining Jon Krigbaum, Odin Bazely and myself) Family Business. Dead Gangsters Everywhere! Dead, Dead, they're all Dead!!

Finally, late Saturday night, Chris rejoined us and we played (oh boy) a five player round of Web of Power. This was awesome, with me and Chris tying for first place.

A great convention. I shopped for some new miniatures (but didn't buy any). I played lots of great miniature and board games. I bought some classic used gaming stuff. I hung out with the best friends a gamer ever had, and it was a really fun time. Mission Accomplished.

ps- I know I didn't mention the Pirate theme that the convention had this year. Suffice it to say that after about 10 minutes of watching paunchy balding white guys dressed in bad pirate costumes and hosting bad pirate skirmish games all the while ranting "arrgh" and "shiver me timbers" and "that it be, Jim me lad!" was too much for me, and I pretended it wasn't happening.

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