I've been to the GMT Weekend at the Warehouse several times. It's a four day game convention hosted by GMT games...duh...at their warehouse. But it had been two years since I was able to attend. It seems like something always came up, usually at work, to prevent me from going. This year I resolved not to let that happen. I already attended Consimworld Expo in June and signed up for BottosCon in November. I reserved my vacation days at work well in advance. The event runs Thursday through Sunday. I usually leave Boise early on Wednesday morning to drive down. It takes about twelve hours so with an early start and the time change I get to Hanford in the early evening. My experience is that Sunday is a pretty sparse day so I usually leave first thing in the morning to drive back home. Still, the trip is well worth it for three full days of wargaming.
The Sequioia Inn is the hotel of choice in Hanford. Acutally, it's pretty much the only hotel in Hanford. As I walked in my friend Ralph from Seattle was sitting in the lobby. He had flown down that afternoon for the con. He was with a couple of other guys getting ready to go to dinner so I invited myself along. We walked over to Chile's and talked serious wargaming over dinner. During the discussion I also learned that Ralph is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. Now I have one more thing that I can use to make fun of him.
I was up early the next morning and heading to GMT for an early start. GMT has to be in one of the oldest, crummiest buildings imaginable. But I am always excited when I get there. It is just amazing for me as a wargamer to walk into a place where everywhere you look, wargames are stacked to the ceiling. This is wargaming central. There are shelves and shelves full, pallets and pallets full, of wargames. It makes me want to just take a deep breath and smell all those fresh maps and counters. And believe me, since Hanford is in the central valley, there isn't anywhere else in town where I want to ever take a deep breath to enjoy the way things smell. I'm a city boy and don't consider farm smells to be "fresh air".
I usually arrange games ahead of time through the Consimworld forums. They were not very active this year, but I did manage to arrange some good games. First up on Thursday morning was a game of Battles of the Bulge: Celles with John Zrimc.
Celles is from Revolution Games, a small publisher that is basically a one man shop. I got to meet Roger Miller, who is Revolution Games, at Consimworld back in June and had some good conversations with him about some of his games. He does some interesting stuff. Celles is a fairly small game. Not a large map. Not a lot of units. It should play in about three hours. It's a chit pull activation game, so even though it is small without a lot of units the game plays differently each time. It also has some very interesting mechanics. All combat is part of movement. I always have thought that this is the right way to do wargames. It doesn't seem right that a unit could move the maximum distance possible and still attack the same way as a unit that started out right next to the defending unit. Attacks also involve other adjacent units beside the activated units so that you can get what the designer calls "wave attacks" where each successive unit adds to the attack that the preceding units started. Pretty cool.
I had one practice game of Celles the week before I left with my friend Dale and managed to pull off a win with the Germans. This time history repeated itself. Although I didn't reach the Meuse River, which is the Holy Grail for all Bulge games, I did grab enough VP towns and had a positive eliminated units count against the Allies which gave me a net five VP and the win. The game was tense right down to the end. I'm not sure John really internalised the end game victory conditions so it might have been a bit of surprise to him. But hey. I started the weekend with a good game and a good win.
After lunch I had a game of Storm Over Normandy scheduled with Nick Markovich. We had played Storm Over Stalingrad at Consimworld Expo in June and Nick had beaten me as the Russians. Then we played Storm Over Dien Bien Phu and Nick beat me as the French (but in my defense, that was my first game of SODBP). So I was looking for revenge. I had played one practice game against Dale (again) the week before so I had a slight advantage as the Germans. The game felt very tense as we had fierce battles around some of the VP areas, Caen in particular. But at the end of the game when we added up VP's the Allies were -16 when they needed to be +30. So it was kind of a blowout. I have only played Storm Over Normandy twice but I have the feeling that it is tough for the Allies to win. The victory conditions are just too demanding IMHO.
At the end of the first day I was feeling pretty good. Two games and two wins. Am I a wargaming stud or what?
Friday I was in a five player game of Sword of Rome. I played the Etruscans/Samnites which I think are the toughest faction to play. Sure enough, at the end of the game I came in tied for last with the Greeks. The game did have a funny vibe. One player got kind of upset when I made a play against him, but hey, it's a wargame! Another player was not very familiar with the rules and when ever he made a move and someone would call him on it (sometimes it was me, sometimes someone else) he would get very upset. So the game was weird in how it played out. It was different from most wargames that I have played. It wasn't as much fun as it should have been because of the tension in the air.
My last day, Saturday, was the most fun of the whole weekend. Of course it started with Gene's usual "State of GMT" talk which is always interesting because he gives previews of games that are coming. This time there were quite a few designers and developers in attendance and Gene gave them all a chance to talk about their current projects. That was really interesting and fun to hear. After that, of course, came the Big Sale, and, of course, I bought way too many games. But hey! I saved a lot of money.
I didn't have any games scheduled ahead of time on Saturday. I wanted to check out some of the demos and playtests. I played a session of The Seven Years War: Frederick's Gamble. I am really interested in this game. It uses the same system as Napoleonic Wars and Wellington, two favorites of mine, for the Seven Years War, which is a period of history I would like to learn more about. The session was run by the designer, Greg Ticer.
Next I did a playtest game of Hitler's Reich, a light (complexity, not subject matter) card game on WWII in Europe hosted by the developer, Fred Schlacter.
Finally in the evening I did a playtest game of Falling Sky. This is a game using the COIN system for the Gallic revolt against Julius Caesar. The session was hosted by Volko Runke, who is the co-designer of the game and the originator of the COIN series. I played the Romans and even though I have played COIN games before, I did the typical beginner mistake and spent the whole game chasing the Gauls all over the board and watching them run away from me every time I got close. I should know better. Again, it was a lot of fun.
Sunday was my travel home day. The drive itself was uneventful, but I did have some excitement. I stopped at McDonalds for lunch and checked my email quickly on my phone. I had hundreds of messages, and as I was watching they just kept coming in, several per second. They were all "email could not be delivered" messages. I was puzzled for about two seconds, then realized that the only explanation was that my email account had been hijacked by a spammer.
The first thing I did when I got home was to change my password. That seemed to shut things off. But in ten hours I had received sixteen thousand "mail not delivered" messages. So who knows how many emails the spammer sent from my account. I created a new account and deleted the old one. I spent most of the next day going to every online account that I have and changing the email address, and the password just to be safe. I didn't realize just how many online accounts you have! Trust me, it's a lot.
I'm not sure how it happened. The hotel had an unsecured wireless network. I did log into my email while I was there. It could have been a man in the middle attack. Or maybe it was something that got in through the Edge browser. I recently switched to Windows 10 and it comes with it. I read later that Norton recommends that you not use Edge because it doesn't have security plug ins yet. I've gone back to Internet Explorer. Or maybe I just got unlucky and clicked on a bad link. Anyway, although it was a nuisance, no really serious damage was done.
The email hack was a small thing in what was otherwise a really fun weekend. I'm looking forward to BottosCon in Novemeber and going back to GMT in the spring.