After two years without attending a wargame convention I finally made it to GMT weekend in October. I had a blast. I resolved to go back for the next GMT weekend in the spring. But then an opportunity to do something sooner came up. Doing PBEM with Ralph Shelton, a wargaming buddy in Seattle, he mentioned that he and some friends were going to BottosCon in Vancouver and had room in their games for me to join them. What the heck. Why wait? So only three weeks after GMT I was driving to another wargame convention.
I was a little nervous about the drive. It was only three weeks later but the weather in the northwest usually turns sometime in November. I had to cross passes to get over the Blue Mountains and the Cascades. Plus I had to worry about rush hour traffic in both Seattle and Vancouver. I decided on a very early start. I pulled out of my driveway a few minutes before 5 am. There was light rain which meant some foggy areas in eastern Oregon before the sun came out. But when I crossed the Blue Mountains early in the morning there was some blue sky and the roads were clear. I was feeling pretty good about things till midday when I started to climb towards Snoqualmie Pass in Washington. Light rain turned to light snow turned to heavy snow as I got higher. Traffic slowed to forty mph on I90 but I just followed the big trucks and made it over the pass. Seattle was busy but not backed up and I made it through ok.
Signs at the border crossing warned that there was a fifteen minute wait which really turned out to be thirty minutes. The conversation with the Canadian immigration officer went just as I feared it would.
"Is your travel to Canada a business trip or vacation?"
"Where will you be staying?"
"And what will you be doing?"
"Playing in a game convention." Insert really funny look here. I would have taken a picture but cameras are not allowed at immigration checkpoints.
"You mean, like, computer games?"
"No, board games." At this point, the immigration officer looked like she was stumped and couldn't think of anything else to ask me. I was worried that I might be considered too weird to let into the country. I think the only thing that saved me is that I was playing a Rush CD. She let me through.
The convention was held at the Vancouver Sheraton Guildford Hotel (which is actually in Surrey and not Vancouver). It was a block away from a big mall so I parked my car when I arrived and was able to walk to places to eat or buy anything that I needed. I had a quiet evening reading rules.
BottosCon is a three day convention run by the wargaming society in Vancouver. It is organized by Rob Bottos, a wargamer who I had met at a GMT weekend a few years before, hence the name for the convention. He explained that the reason he organized the convention is that when he went to wargame events in the Seattle area, he was always asked "Hey, why don't you Canucks organize your own damn convention?" BottosCon was born.
Friday I started with a game of A Distant Plain with Ralph and his friends James and Les. It was my first time playing the Afghan government. The COIN factions did well and both the Coalition and ANA were close to victory. My Coalition partner James managed to surge out and hold on until a Propaganda card to get the win. After dinner at Red Robin we came back for another COIN game in the evening. There was some interest in trying Cuba Libre but since I didn't know the game I preferred another try at Distant Plain. The group was gracious enough to go along. I wanted to try the warlords. This time the insurgents were doing well and both I and the Taliban player (James again)were close to victory. We played till midnight when the hotel kicked us out so they could close up the game room. Unfortunately we didn't finish. Since one of our players was committed to a different game the next moring and someone else was going to be joining us we didn't get to finish. Oh well.
The next day Les left to play a game of Napoleon's Triumph. I have the game myself but haven't had a chance to play it. The game looks beautiful and I am determined to play it one of these days. Jonathan joined us to take Les's place. A work conflict had prevented him from making it the day before. Our game was Assyrian Wars. It's set in the ancient Middle East but is heavily based on the system in Napoleonic Wars. Since I have played Nappy Wars many times I figured that I could pick up this game quickly. The rest of the group had tried it before but only played one turn. It was a long game and needed the time of a weekend con to give it a good try. It took us about five hours to set up and play through a single turn. At that point we stopped to take stock. Ralph had a bad headache and wanted to take a short break to try to shake it. Jonathan didn't want to resume our game. He had brought Angola and preferred to spend the time playing that. None of us were wildly enthusiastic about Assyrian Wars. The rules were poorly organized for Assyrian Wars for sure but that wasn't insurmountable. The main problem for the others was that it would take too long to play, maybe the full two days left of the con. We decided to bag it. I was disappointed not to finish (second game in a row) but it was ok. I had my choice the day before.
After a late lunch/early dinner I watched an eight player game of Epic Ancients. They were playing the Battle of Zama, which is probably my favorite Epic battle in C&C because of the elephants. You can never tell what is going to happen. In this game Hannibal launched his elephants and when the chaos was over it was about even. Six Roman units had been lost taking down the six elephant units. But the Roman center was badly disorganized and it took many moves to put it back together. By that time attacks on both flanks by the Carthaginians had succeeded and they won a narrow victory.
Later in the evening I played against Don (didn't get his last name). He was an old school hex-and-counter wargamer. When I showed him the games I had he expressed interest in Labyrinth. He scanned the rules and we dove in. He picked up the game surprisingly quickly, although I was still able to get a win as the US. He did say he found the game really interesting and planned to get a copy.
On Sunday I played Rick Smith, a Canadian who lived just across the river in Vancouver. We played Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage and I drew the Carthaginians. It's a classic game and one of my all-time favorites. We played a long game - six hours. It went back and forth. I started with an early surge and thought that after three turns I almost had the game won. But then the Romans rallied. I was still quite a ways ahead when Scipio Africanus showed up so I figured that if I was careful I could win at the end of the game. But Hannibal failed a critical intercept and then an evasion and ended up facing Scipio at a slight disadvantage. That was enough as his army was annhilated and that was the end of Hannibal. Now I was in a desperate position! The game was a nail biter right down to the last turn but the Carthaginians still had the advantage when time ran out so I got the win. It was an exciting game that went back and forth.
Our game was interrupted when Rob called everyone out in the hallway for a group photo. It was actually difficult to get a picture as there were so many attendees. Then there was a drawing for door prizes - GMT had donated a couple of games. When they drew for a copy of Labyrinth the winner was - Don, my opponent from the evening before. I told him afterwards that I wasn't going to play him anymore, since he was obviously way too lucky.
It was a fun weekend. I got to meet a lot of new people and play some good games. There were about ninety attendees in total for the weekend. That's a pretty good turnout. You can see lots more photos that were taken by David Rice, the "official" cameraman. Rather than getting my fix of wargaming, I came home excited about setting up more games. I really appreciated Ralph and his friends letting me join their group. Although wargamers are always friendly at an event like this, it can be tough to find games if everyone has games booked with their friends.
I spent the next day driving back to Boise. This time as I approached the border crossing the sign said it would take forty five minutes. It took...half an hour. Predicted fifteen minutes, it took a half hour. Predicted forty five minutes, it took half an hour. Maybe they should just predict it to take half an hour? Of course my conversation with the US immigration officer was just as awkward as the one I had going into Canada.
There were no problems on the drive back. The traffic in Seattle was ok and the weather going over the mountain passes was fine. The only thing of note occured just after crossing Snoqualmie Pass. I was nearing the I90-I82 junction when I spotted a strange looking vehicle ahead of me. As I got closer I thought that it was...no, it couldn't possibly be. But sure enough when I caught up to it, there was the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. The only time that I had ever seen one was when I was six or seven years old. I had no idea that they still existed. Turns out that there are eight of them and Oscar Meyer hires students to drive them around the country.
Playing games for three days and seeing the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. Who says that I have to grow up?