I really had a blast at HMGS Cold Wars this past Saturday. It's been either 15 or 20 years since I had been to one of these events. A lot is the same, and a lot has changed. While a lot of gaming conventions have really diversified and become more mainstream because of the rise of "geek culture", Cold Wars (and I am assuming all historical miniatures gaming conventions) remains firmly rooted in grognardville. It really looked like a gathering of Gary Gygax clones at times. However, I saw a lot of younger faces a newer games too. It was a great mix of old a new blood.
If you've never been to a convention like this, there are generally 3 types of games going on: Scenarios, demonstrations and tournaments. The scenario games are designed for people that are familiar with the game system being used to show up and play. The game master usually provides the terrain and miniatures. In general these games are large, multi-player events with elaborate terrain. The demonstration games are very similar, except that they are designed for players that have not played the system before. Very often they allow people to just walk up and play, and are generally shorter in duration. The last type are the tournaments, where groups of player gather to compete against one another. I think that most Warhammer and WarmaHordes players are familiar with this sort of game. There's usually a good mix of all 3 types of games at these conventions.
The other main attraction is the dealer room and swap meet. These are a great way to pick up some hard to find rules and miniatures, and to get an up close look at products before you buy them. The swap meet also offers a chance to get some really good deals.
So whats the same? 15mm Ancients, American Civil War and Napoleonics are still very popular with the older crowd. I don't have much experience with ACW and Napoleonics, so I'm not sure which rules were being used, but I saw DBA, DBM, Field of Glory, Warhammer, and Warrior being used for ancients and medievals. There were tons of amazing scenario games using less popular and rulesets, timeperiods and scales. I spent most of the day just wandering around and looking at what was going on.
What's new? Well new to me at least. Lot's of WWII gaming. Bolt Action and Flames of War were probably the 2 biggest games at the convention. The 25' long table for the Pegasus Bridge Bolt Action scenario was the true definition of Epic.
The other big game this year was SAGA, the 28mm Dark Age skirmish game. I haven't tried this one yet, but it really interests me. Armies range in size of between 16 and 70 figures roughly, and there lots of high quality miniatures available, some in plastic making it a very affordable game, even though the books are a little pricey.
The other major new theme I noticed was the broad acceptance of Sci-Fi and Fantasy games. I saw Star Wars X-Wing miniatures and Battletech being played along with 40k, Warhammer Fantasy, Fanticide, Malifaux and many others.
On a person note, I was able to pick up some bargains. I got the tanks and artillery to complete my Bolt Action Desert Rats army. I swore I wasn't going to pick up any more fantasy, but I found a great deal on some orc boar riders and 2 shamen. I resisted the $30 chimera for my Imperial Guard, but ended up taking home a box of Schaeffer's Last Chancers because I love the figures and they were a bargain. I didn't get any of the DBA armies I was looking for, mostly because there were not any dealers there that had quality 15mm medievals. It seems that in the internet age, many of the major European based companies are not coming to the US conventions. On there other hand there were vast amounts of 28mm figs available for that same timeperiod, mostly because of the popularity of SAGA.
This convention has really fired my interest in the hobby again, so I'll be writing more about wargaming and miniatures in the future.