Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cold Wars 2015 report

We're going to need a bigger... everything.

For Cold Wars this year, I figured I would be flying solo, so I opted to make it a one-day affair. Drive up early, sell things at the Wally's Basement flea market, play a couple games, then head home late. I was able to pull it off, but man, I might be getting a little old to do that much more. Was wiped by the end of then night, and the drive home was a challenge. So back to springing for the hotel room next time, methinks.

The con itself was a mixed bag. Well, that's not really true. For me, the con was great. I sold a bunch of toys, which paid for not only my attendance but with some leftover to buy yet more minis. I played in two great games that were a lot of fun and pretty much exactly what I am looking for in a convention game. I chatted with a bunch of cool folks. I bought a bunch of things I wanted. All winners.

But the con itself was, well, suffering. Fresh off the heels of what looks like the last snowstorm of the year here out east, the parking lot was a hell of ice and slush and cars at all angles and the like. Wally's basement was run in a more haphazard fashion. I noticed a distinct lack of a lot of the huge eye candy showcase games, which are always popular. There were empty tables in the game halls, the dealers room, and even in Wally's, which is always packed. I overheard one of the major dealers saying their sales were down by half, and that was towards the end of the day on Saturday. Ouch. I don't think Historicon will suffer as a result, but I wonder what Fall In will look like come later this year.

Anyways. I come to praise Cold Wars, not to bury it. Let's get on with the it.

My first game of the day:
S-334 - Monster Madness: Hydras, Harpies, & Hellhounds, Oh My!
Sat. 3:00 PM, 2 hrs, 8 players
GM: Katherine Rockstroh
Fantasy 28mm, Rules: Homebrew
You the citizens have demanded it, so the king has decreed it: the THIRD royal monster hunt! The goal: to slay the mightiest monsters ever to terrorize the kingdom. The prize: a new estate & the princess’s hand in marriage. All are welcome to attend; friendly rivalry is encouraged in this fast-paced challenge.
Young aspiring monster hunters welcome with an accompanying grizzled veteran hunter.
You'll notice that last line above. I entirely missed it when I was signing up. Not a big deal, mind you. As with the Hunger Games event from last Fall In, I am a-OK gaming with the younger set. I just didn't expect to be sitting down to this one, and, for the most part, being older than any other two or three gamers put together. Even the GMs were in their late teens. (This was a definite rarity at the HMGS events; I feel like I am on the younger side of the average age of attendees, and I am not young. At all.) No shade though, the GMs ran things wonderfully.

Seated around the table, our teammates were the players opposite us. This allowed the GMs to have each of us activate at the same time, which was pretty ingenious. Essentially, when a model touched a terrain piece, it spawned a monster, which you would get victory points for eliminating. And everyone had a vested interest in either winning the princess's hand in marriage or claiming the monster-infested grounds for their own.

I played Sir Bret, the handsome knight. My teammate was my twin brother, a knight in his own regard. In addition to my footmen, I also had some adoring peasants following me around, who I regularly sent to investigate and root out monsters, which invariably had an appetite for serfs.

Each player had a main character, a second-in-command sort, and a handful of other figs to... not worry about too much. The rules were simple and easy, with color-coded dice (red, blue, and gold) that were easy for even those math-challenged among us to count swiftly.

The game actually played like a Gauntlet-style video game, in a good way. Monsters were spawned. Easier beasts were quickly dispatched, while more fearsome creatures went on to rampage on their own. You'll notice I said above that you got victory points for eliminating the monsters. This, invariably, lead to rampant killstealing and similar shenanigans. It was glorious. The winner was a young druid who had her army of beasts (all of which she personally named) romping around the board swooping in for the kills.

The monster decks for each of the spawning area types. Made for smooth an easy management.

 A fearless footman finds a fearsome bulette hiding in the woods.

The majority of the figs were from Warhammer, the Dungeons & Dragons collectible minis line, Reaper Bones, and other iconic high fantasy sorts.

Not challenged enough, my serfs also spawn a purple worm behind us. Target-rich environment. 

The captain of the guard uncovers an umber hulk (or as she deemed it, 'an ugly cockroach..') 

Ways to challenge my humble cameraphone: photographing a jabberwock in the fronds.

Again, let me reiterate this game was a lot of fun. I would love to recreate it for the locals, and in a couple years can even get our kids involved. The GMs kept the pace moving, so turns moved along promptly. The victory point count definitely lead to some energetic rivalry. Great times.

Random games I passed while wandering the halls:

I mentioned above there weren't many large showpiece games, but this one definitely caught a lot of attention, recreating a World War II raid on a German airstrip. Apparently Doctor Jones was spotted escorting a mysterious crate off the field midway through the game.

I didn't get any details on this game, but the terrain was definitely evocative.

Another large game spotted was a Wild West game set on the three decks of a paddleboat. A homebrew construction of balsa, dollhouse parts, and other odds and ends the decks could even sit on top of each other for the full effect. Very keen.

My second game of the day:
S-278 - Just Another Wasteland Mystery 
Sat. 8:00 PM, 3 hrs, 6 players
GM: Joseph McGuire
Sponsor: World's End Publishing
SciFi 28mm, Rules: This Is Not a Test
The small shantytown of Pernicious Hope has gone quiet. Scouts report no movement from within. The town could have been sacked by an unknown attacker or abandoned by its occupants. Rumor suggest that the town’s leader found something interesting out in the wastes, but what is was is unknown. Perhaps this item's presence is tied to the town's fate? Can your warband solve the mystery?

I had been looking forward to trying out these rules since I first heard about them a while back, and they were the first thing I went for during registration. The rules are due out soon, but I always learn best by trying a game out, and everyone who played in our group was suitably impressed.

 Many handmade shanties and wrecks of vehicles past.

The rules were pretty straightforward. Activation is a little funny, but once everyone got the hang of it, it was no sweat, even with six of us roughing it out.

(And of course I botched my initial activation, but I just pretended I meant to do that so I could stay back and watch who does what first. Heh.)

There's a lot of great detail packed into the board, here. 

I grabbed the Fairfax Tribe, who happen to be featured in this batrep. Amusingly, I found myself sitting next to Joe C. from Dragonbait Miniatures, who I'd met at another con before. (Side note: they're prepping their next offerings, so keep your eyes open.) He was running Mad Max and some of his cronies.

Sneaking into the ruins near the inimitable Johnny Atomic!

Large Oak covers the rest of the tribe as they cautiously advance. 

An interesting twist turned up on the second round: in addition to investigating the abandoned township, Tall Hat decided the fearsome Rock Worms would be a mighty prize to bring home, if their corpses could be harvested. It was of course perfectly fine to let the other survivors do the dirty work of killing them first, naturally. Tall Hat's no dope.

(The book will include a bestiary of awful post-apocalyptic creatures to flesh out the world, just the thing to add to scenarios to take them from good to great.)

Max and his troubleshooters have a worm problem. 

Not pictured: on the far end of the board, the Peacekeepers unleashed the grenade launcher to impressive effect, causing everyone else to subtly start spreading out their models, heh.

In the campaign rules, you can loot the corpses of the fallen. Every gamer's dream. 

Did I mention how spiff the terrain was? 

One fo the things I liked about the rules was how they lent themselves to a natural role-playing angle. For example: shooting. You determine which models are shot by your characters for an activation, and only after that do you resolve the shots themselves. So there's no 'take out one guy, move to the next.' If you want to make sure someone stays down, you end up pouring some extra lead into them, just in case they get lucky. But you don't really know if it works until it's too late to do anything else about it. 

Along those lines: you declare your actions before resolving them, so if something goes south, you'll be left trying to cover for it.


Preparing flanking fire. 

Actual quote: "Who vomits first?" Rock worms are not pleasant dinner company.

After the game, we all received a prize of a filthy mutant. Which lead to a brief discussion over the merits of the various filthy mutants. Big win.

If you're interested in the game, you can follow the news on the Facebook group, and read up more on the website.

After that was saying goodbyes, packing up, and hauling myself back to Maryland.

For more Cold Wars reports, check out Mr. Surdu, Mr. Nizz, and the fine folks at HAWKs, who always had a nice crowd in there playing.


  1. Nice report. Do you think that the weather could of had an impact. A local show a few years back December had similar problems with some snowy weather resulting only about 60% of the proposed traders/demos turning up.

    I love the look and sounds of this is not a test. Looking forward to picking some figures up at some point and perhaps the rulebook.

    1. The weather was definitely a factor, but the discussion about lower attendance and the location the con is held at have been going on for a while.

  2. Splendid pictures, very immersive!

  3. UPDATE: O My Ruritania is here with the Friday report:

  4. Thanks for the write up and great pictures. I was a pleasure to host. Look for more craziness at Historicon.

  5. Thanks for posting all the pics. This was the very first wargame convention I'd ever attended, and I was very lost and overwhelmed for much of it. I agree with your comment "I feel like I am on the younger side of the average age of attendees, and I am not young. At all." I'm quite old too but felt young in comparison to most of the grey beards. And parking sucked (thanks for not towing me, Golden Corral!). But all that said, the sheer number of different minis on display was inspiring, and I can't wait until Fall In!

    1. Always great to hear from first-timers.

      I take it Historicon is too far for you, then? It's really the flagship of the HMGS cons.

  6. Tiny Basement, I would say my first time walking into the dealer's hall many years ago was kin to a religious experiences. When I first started going I was really stressed to as there are a lot of tiny nuances to learn. Now I do not know what I would do without out my three wargaming "vacations" a year.