I attended Cold Wars this past weekend in nearby Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Cold Wars is one of the three flagship miniature wargaming conventions presented by the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society‘s East Chapter. This was my fifth Cold Wars, and, as usual, it was fun to catch up with old friends in the gaming hobby and to see the array of visually appealing wargaming terrain layouts. I missed several friends who could not make it for a variety of reasons. For personal reasons, I did not serve as a gamemaster this year (not enough time to properly prepare, and I have been focusing on my historical books versus my wargaming activities).
Some random observations and thoughts:
* Attendance seemed fairly strong this year, despite a rather nasty snowstorm on Friday afternoon that dumped over six inches of fresh powder on south-central Pennsylvania and turned U.S. Route 30 (and the hotel’s parking lot) into a vast skating rink. A few gamemasters and several players had to cancel, as they could not make it into town. Virtually all the dealers were there, as they had arrived on Thursday before the storm hit.
* Rich Hasenauer’s Regimental Fire & Fury is nearing completion. He hosted another great 15mm ACW game on Saturday night, presenting an interesting scenario based upon the Battle of Kernstown. RNFF is gaining in popularity at conventions and has a cadre of devoted followers. However, not having the rules yet in print limits the overall acceptance, and there are way too many versions of the rules floating around the Internet. Still, Rich is to be commended for his efforts, and we at the American Civil War Gaming Society look forward to his finished product. Tony Figlia, who often co-hosts the RNFF games with Rich, is a great gamemaster who keeps things entertaining for the players.
* Jim Kopchak of the Northern Ohio Gaming Society (NOWS) debuted his new rules, Civil War Commander, which are a new regimental-level set. Jim is an old pal from when I lived in Cleveland (he used to drive out to Lake County and play Johnny Reb 3 with Doug Rogers and me). Jim’s new rules should be in print and for sale before too long. He showed me a proof copy, and they look easy to understand. I will keep the readers of Charge! blog updated on his progress. Jim’s game was a nice depiction of the 1862 Battle of Corinth. He scratchbuilt a number of fences and abatis for the layout.
* I played in a Mexican-American War scenario, the Battle of Cerro Gordo, presented by Jon Coulter of Old Dominion GameWorks of Virginia, publishers of the American BattleLines rules set (which can be used for the Civil War as well). I was Santa Anna, and we had a blast. The Mexicans held their own and denied the miniature Winfield Scott’s advance on Mexico City. The Mexicans did not take a single casualty for the entire first hour of the game, while the Americans by then had three regiments wrecked and two more routed. Once Gideon Pillow’s division arrived and unlimbered its artillery, Mexican casualties started evening out, but, by then, it was far too late for the Americans to seize the Mexican camp and open the road to the capital city.
* Doug Kline’s Battlefield Terrain Concepts was quite busy during my two-hour book signing session (I only sold one copy – disappointing, but I understood. Gamers prefer to spend hard-earned cash on wargaming supplies and figures. I have MUCH better success selling my books at bookstores, museums, and ACW gift shops in Gettysburg, as well as on amazon.com). Doug’s hot new product was cast resin tree bases (about an inch and a half in diameter), which sold really well. They look quite good when flocked and finished, with the tree attached! Doug’s new terrain tips booklet (published by the Johnny Reb Gaming Society), This is Good Ground, also sold well. This new digitally printed booklet offers lots of color photos of Doug’s layouts, as well as many of his “secrets” for a marvelous looking gaming table layout.
* Sash & Saber’s 40mm figures are outstanding! If I had to start over, I would buy them and get hooked. My friend and fellow JR3 gamemaster, James Mattes of Maryland, has started collecting and painting 40mm figures and plans to run a major JR3 game with them at one of East’s conventions later this year.
* Speaking of JR3, the only Johnny Reb 3 game on the schedule this year was a 15mm four-player game of the Battle of Overall Creek presented by gamemaster John Breslin. Unfortunately, this game was cancelled, so, for the first time in memory, there were NO Johnny Reb games at an East convention. I plan to run at least one game at Historicon, and perhaps we will see games from some combination of James Mattes, Curt Daniels, John Breslin, Larry Morris, Bob Grosse, Doug Kline, and/or P.J. O’Neill (all are leading JR gamemasters who have graciously presented their talents in past East cons).
* John Michael Priest (a Maryland high school teacher and the author of interesting books on Antietam, South Mountain, and Gettysburg) was back at Cold Wars with his 54mm skirmish level wargaming rules, Fix Bayonets!. Both of his Battle of Carthage sessions were well attended. John’s games always remind me of my youth of playing with toy soldiers, as he uses commercially ready-to-play soldiers from Britains, Marx recasts, and an array of other figure manufacturers. His rules are incredibly simple and uncomplicated, yet are great for a fun afternoon’s entertainment.
* I spent so little this year – $15 admission for a “day tripper” wristband, $6 for a pair of painted 10 mm farm buildings, $2 for a nice McElfresh color map of the Chancellorsville battlefield (I used his maps of Gettysburg and Antietam as a major source for the maps in my wargaming scenario books), $2 for a large pack of 3/4″ x 3/4″ metal bases from Outland Games’ bargain bin, and $8 for food and beverage for the day, plus a quarter tank of gasoline for the round trip from my home in York over to nearby Lancaster. I just didn’t see much else that really tempted me. I have been spending more on Civil War music and books lately than on wargaming.
What were your impressions of Cold Wars this year compared with previous years? Please leave your comments and thoughts!