Dying Hard At Cold Wars ’17 – A Convention AAR

As odd as it may seem, the faint voices of Alan Rickman, Bruce Willis and even Worf, Son of Mogh filled the halls of Cold Wars 2017, the Historical Miniature Gaming Society’s (HMGS) winter convention held in Lancaster, PA. Why? Because this year the convention theme was “A Good Day to Die Hard!” Think the 300 Spartans, the Alamo, Custer at Little Bighorn or the defense of Helm’s Deep, all the places where history has recorded magnificent last stands and forlorn hopes. Fortunately, while the miniature soldiers present took a beating, all players survived unscathed. So with that in mind, let’s pack our kit and force march through a blow by blow description of the 16 – 19 March campaign.

Gamers and Gaming

According to database manager Paul Trani, about 2000 + badges were distributed, though that number might drop just a tad as numbers, cash and what not are reconciled. He suspects attendance of around 1900 or so, and that’s pretty exceptional for one of HMGS junior cons. Likewise events honcho Dan Murawski estimates that around 300 games were hosted, and though there were some cancellations, there were also several additions as well, despite the recent Nor-Easter in the area. As I noted last week, when it comes to a tabletopper and his cons, all Mother Nature can do is whimper.

Be it known however, that the 300 number does not include tournament games, the number of which is impossible to determine given the round robin elimination process used. Of these NASAMW (North American Society of Ancient and Medieval Wargamers, sorta the US-Canadian version of the UKs Society of Ancients) sponsored five events to include DBA, DBM, DBMM, l’Art de la Guerre and Warrior (the NASAMW version of Phil Barker’s WRG rules). Other tourneys include Triumph (ancients), Warhammer Historical (armies of antiquity), SAGA, Wargods, Bolt Action, Epic Armageddon, Warhammer 40K, Frostgrave, Blood Bowl and (of course) Flames of War, the ubiquitous 800 pound gorilla of the tournament world covering World War II.

There were plenty of games for all, and one of them was mine. I hosted a replication of the 1855 Crimean War battle of the Tractir Bridge (or Tchernaya River), the last ditch Russian attempt to relieve the siege of Sevastopol. The battle was notable for the number of British not there, the loyal opposition to the Tsar being Marshal Pellisier’s Franco-Sardinian-Ottoman army. As usual the game was in the lockable Marietta Room, and I was actually able to set up far earlier than anticipated due to several Gamemaster cancellations. Alas, sometimes life gets in the way and here work, surgery and an unexpected deployment to Korea were the villains. The situation did, however, enable me to pick up some extra players, so I had a full table. Overall, the game proceeded so close to history it was creepy. The game started with the 6:00 am turn and ended with the 10:00 am turn, just as happened in 1855. The Allies won again this time around and the casualty count also very closely mimicked history, to include national proportions. Must have looked decent as I won my third PELA award (Pour Encourager les Autres – to encourage the others), but most likely a reflection that even HMGS can get desperate sometimes.

Far, far more deserving of his PELA was Alan Isabelle and the several recreations of “Eylau – Nightmare in the Snow” he offered beginning Friday evening. The game covered the 1807 blizzard based battle between Napoleon and the Russians, a spat so gruesome that it is said the Emperor stopped the issue of white uniforms for his infantry given how bloody they looked. The reality is likely the French finding a suitable manmade substitute for indigo (British blockade and all that), but it sounds good. Lord knows Alan’s game looked good – no, looked fantastic. Using a custom made map adorned in white and 5000 10 mm figures, the serried ranks of bayonets visuals were superb. Be it known that a similar effort by Alan and party on Austerlitz (1805) took home Best of Show at Historicon 16, and it had to be a contender this time around as well. The rules used were Eagles at War and with 12 players a session, a lot of folks had a winter blast.

Basic Training

There did not seem to be as many lectures this time around, but as usual Heather Blush set up a marvelous Hobby University to cater to the needs of conscript and Grognard alike. Seriously, I don’t think anyone realizes the wide breadth of this program and the necessary effort she puts into it to make it work, so I’d like to correct that oversight right now. Don’t think we have the subject covered? Check the 20 sessions HU hosted this time around (great job again, folks):

  • Painting for Complete Beginners (3 sessions)
  • Painting Metallics
  • Terrain Painting
  • Prepping and Priming
  • Winter is Coming – Snow Effects (2 sessions)
  • Dark Skin Tones
  • Weathering
  • Color Mixing
  • Painting Horses (Bays)
  • Painting the Armies of Gaul
  • Basing Variations
  • Airbrushing Basics
  • Painting Horses (Chestnuts)
  • Painting Faces and Eyes
  • Army Shield Painting
  • Cheating with Washes
  • Painting Samurai Armies
  • Painting the Royal Scots Greys
  • Painting WWII Infantry
  • Salvaging the Ruined Mini

The Sutler’s Wagon

Moving on, if there is a rival to gaming at HMGS cons, it has to be shopping. There are two places to shop, the first being the Flea Market called Walley’s Basement. Its sorta a hit or miss proposition, to be honest, and this year was a miss, so all my shekels disappeared at the Dealer’s Hall AKA Tennis Barn of the Lancaster Host Resort. This year 70 separate vendors showed up, of which many were long time veterans, but also several new firms as well. I pretty much hit the jackpot this time around so here is a look at what Santa brought me for Christmas in March.

Obviously I always go by a few stands and pick up what I consider staples. This includes terrain from Doug Kline and the lads at Battlefield Terrain Concepts, and also Viking Forge ACW limbers and horses. ACW limbers were based on a French design that eventually saw service by just about everybody until 1914, so it can be used for any country you wish. There was also a new Osprey book out covering 17th Century Dutch armies, but given the room I don’t have, I decided to wait until the Kindle edition pops up.

New or specialty items are where I and a lot of others broke the bank. Old Glory Miniatures finished up their Blue Moon 15 mm Mexican War line adding all the unique units such as the Jalesco lancers and what not, while I picked up two cardboard counter games from two relatively new and small firms. One was a Compass Games operational offering on the Franco-Prussian War, another on four Napoleonic battles in Spain by the French firm Pratzen Editions. I also picked up some nifty laser based gaming accessories from a new firm called Army Painter, after seeing some in use at my Tractir Bridge game. Hopefully the boss will allow me to do a more in depth review of these products next week, but needless to say I’m happy.

Finally, I always search out deep sales and wait until Sunday morning to shop them. The reason why is that often the vendor will cut a better deal if he truly wants to get rid of the stuff and not have to pack it up and bring it home. Such was the case for Outland Hobbies of PA and all the Freikorps miniatures they had in stock, with a 50% discount to boot. By Sunday, however, there was still a bunch left and given it is an older line, I made a cheaper offer to take everything he had. Did I know exactly what was there? No. Did I know if I gamed the eras represented? No. Did I . . . well, what the Hell, it was on sale and as my significant other says, “you won’t believe how much money I saved us!” What I do know is that those five bags were damn heavy.

Historicon Comes Home!

Now the piece de resistance, yes, you heard right, Historicon has a new home. Actually, it’s an old home, or maybe a new old home, or an old new home, or something like that. Anyway, per the HMGS Membership Meeting, the Board announced that Historicon will move back to the Lancaster Host for 2018. Evidently after the contemplated move to New Jersey fell through, the Board was able to negotiate with the Host’s new owners for a special rate provided all three conventions were held there in 2018. The Host has fallen on hard times recently, and there is still a lot to fix, WiFi and staffing for a start. Yet you can see a lot of things, some little and some not, being squared away by new management. Given the reduced attendance that has plagued the convention since its move to Fredericksburg, VA, size should not be an issue, but should the move back grow attendance, who knows?

Well, I for one remember Historicon 17 is coming up this July down south in Fredericksburg. I’ve already registered to host two games, so the planning cycle begins. The theme will be Tank Warfare – the Beginning and given that Blue Moon does have a World War I line . . . who knows?


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