Since I have been having more trouble this year getting wargames lined up in Boise, I really wanted to go to GMT weekend this spring. I blocked out the days at work several months in advance. I did not want to miss it this year.
This was the fifth time that I attended so I have the routine down. I got everything ready the night before. I woke up very early and was pulling out of the driveway at 5:30 am. The important thing about an early start is getting through Sacramento before the traffic gets bad. Ok, that would mean leaving fifty years ago. I mean before it gets REALLY bad. This time I had an early start and the weather was good. I made minimal stops, and I was through Sacramento before 2 pm and to the hotel in Hanford by 4:00. I only had two gas stops and one pee break. Also, Oregon just raised its speed limit from 55 to 70. Since about 120 miles are through Oregon, that improved the time by about half an hour. Eleven and a half hours is about the best time that I can do.
My first game on Thursday morning was Celles: Battles from the Bulge with John Z. This was a rematch of our game at the last GMT weekend. I won that one playing as the Germans. He wanted to try the Allies again. We played about half way through and broke for lunch. At that point we called the game as we both had games arranged for the afternoon and I was way behind. So John got his revenge against me.
I'd like to get in some more plays of Celles. The "rolling attacks" is a unique and interesting mechanic. There is also infiltration, which so far I have not learned how to use. I'm not even sure who is favored yet (if anyone) so it definitely needs more plays. You can play it in one sitting so it fits with a lot of my gaming buddies and their time constraints.
My game in the afternoon was Tigers in the Mist, an old (published 1999) GMT game on the Battle of the Bulge. I had only played it once against Dale, a week before, as a warm up for GMT weekend. This time I was playing Ray Freeman, the designer of the game, so I was looking forward to getting schooled. The best way to learn how to play a new game is to play against an experienced player. I took the Americans so Ray would have the initiative. I held out for a while but eventually he blew through my lines and was able to race to the Meuse. But I enjoyed the game and am looking forward to playing it again. It's a fun game of moderate complexity. It's area impulse, which I like, and uses an interesting twist on the impulse mechanic. Probably the only drawback is that the map is way too small. It would be nice to figure out a way to get it blown up.
Next day was playtest day. I had lined up two games of Colonial Twilight, a game on the GMT P500 list that I was helping to playtest. I set up my playtest copy and got a lot of questions from people. Everyone was curious how it worked with two players, since all previous COIN games have been four player.
First game was against Trevor Bender. He is the designer of the (soon to be released) expansion to Labyrinth, so the topic was very interesting to him. He played a different strategy as the FLN then I had seen before. (Notice how I talk like I am such an experienced player with like three games under my belt.) Instead of dispersing, he concentrated his guerrillas and put up a very stiff fight in the mountain areas to protect his bases. The game was very tense through the middle campaigns, with both of us threatening to go over our victory conditions. In the final campaign, attrition weakened his forces to the point that my French could get the victory. The game even went down to the very last card.
After dinner I played against Nick Markovich, again a new CT player but experienced with COIN. This game was totally different. An early first prop card meant that the French were slow to get going. Nick grew cautiously, so the result was that our scores were close but fairly low against our victory conditions. We stayed close until I got lucky, dispersing my forces on the very last operation before the prop card. A lucky guess, but it let me do pacification over a lot of the map and put Nick in a hole. He fought hard, but couldn't get out before the next prop card gave the government the win.
Two very different, but two very fun and exciting games of Colonial Twilight. I really like the game and think that it is going to be very popular.
Saturday it was back to another favorite. I stuck to the theme of French Colonial wars of the twentieth century. Nick and I played Storm Over Dien Bien Phu, a game that I have played several times over the last year and like a lot. My first ever game of SODBP was against Nick at Consimworld Expo last year, and he had won as the French. This time he took the Viet Minh and we had a very hard fought, close game. It ended with a French win, with Nick just one VP area shy at the end.
Later I played Storm Over Dien Bien Phu against Ray Freeman, and this time I had the advantage of more experience. I took the Viet Minh and had a fast start on the first turn only to completely stall in the middle turns. But I was finally able to get my offensive going again and managed to win on turn seven (of eight). Another good game.
Besides playing games, a significant part of the weekend at the warehouse is Saturday morning. Gene gave his usual overview of GMT, and it is doing better than ever. There are lots of good games in the pipeline and the company is healthy. The digital version of Twilight Struggle that was just released the week before is doing very well. It also seems to be stimulating interest in the board game version as their orders have jumped up since it was released. All good news.
Then came the time I had agonized about for the two previous days, the chance to buy games. I bought the second edition of Empire of the Sun. An awesome game but I wasn't sure if I needed the second edition or not. I decided to be safe rather than sorry and still am not sure which one I will keep. I got Next War: Taiwan, a series I haven't played yet but several wargamers I know really like it. I got the reprint of Cuba Libre, a COIN game I passed on in its first printing. But Colonial Twilight has revived my interest in COIN. Because it is smaller and shorter than other COIN games I think it will be a good game for breaking people into the system. I got Silent Victory, because the first game in the series, The Hunters, sold out really fast (and seems to be really popular). I didn't want to take chances. I got Serbien muss Sterbien, because I don't have any games in that series (on WWI) and I would like to give it a try. It's the smallest and easiest (and cheapest) of the series so it seemed like a good place to start. Finally I bought Orages a L'est, a Vae Victus folio game on the East Front. I started out as an East Front wargamer and even after all these years I still can't pass up an East Front game.
That was a pretty good haul. But there were still enough games that I wanted that I didn't get that my list is already full for fall GMT weekend.
Ivan, my friend at work, had said he wanted a copy of C&C Ancients. I texted him on Thursday to ask if he wanted me to get him one. Since I didn't hear by Saturday I didn't get one. On Monday he had a lame excuse for why he had missed my text. That's two GMT weekends in a row that he missed his chance. Sucks to be him.
A really fun weekend. The drive back took longer, and was tougher. There was a traffic jam in Sacramento (at noon on a Sunday!). There was a nasty rain/hail storm in Nevada where I had to slow to thirty miles an hour. In five miles there were four cars that went off the interstate. But I made it home ok. Now it's time to start getting ready for Consimworld Expo in June.