Since there aren't a lot of wargamers in Boise I enjoy going to wargame conventions. Each year I usually try to go to Consimworld Expo, BottosCon and spring and fall GMT weekends. Another convention that has always interested me is GameOn in Seattle. I know several wargamers in the Seattle area that I have met at other cons. But it is held in February every year. Since I like to drive to conventions that just doesn't work. Planning to drive over the Cascades in the middle of winter would be just crazy. So I have never been to GameOn. But this year there was a special summer session of GameOn scheduled for July. That was perfect for me. Not only could I make the trip but I figured that I could combine it with some hiking in the Washington Cascades. I signed up right away. I contacted some of my wargaming friends in Seattle and Vancouver BC and was quickly able to arrange game sessions for all three days of GameOn Summer Session.
Driving there was easy. GameOn is held in Issaquah at the Holiday Inn. It's the first town that you hit as you enter the Seattle area on I90. The drive only took seven and a half hours. I didn't even have to get up early and I was still there by five pm Thursday evening. After checking in, I took a short drive over to Tutta Bella Neopolitan Pizzeria for dinner, which was ok but not great.
My Friday game was with Ralph Shelton. He suggested we play a game in GMT's Next War series. I had never played any of them but they were on my list to learn. Since Ralph is the developer for the next game in the series, Next War Poland, I would be learning from a pro. In fact during out game, whenever a rules question came up, he would just text the designer, Mitch Land, to get a clarification.
Ralph suggested Next War Taiwan. Since it has the fewest units we had a good chance to finish it in one long day. On the down side, it has the most air/naval stuff so I had a lot more rules to absorb. On top of that, Ralph suggested playing the Advanced Game rather than the Basic Game. "It will be a lot more fun" he said. That added another twenty pages of rules for me to learn. Plus we threw in some optional rules for good measure.
Ralph lives in Issaquah so he came down to the Holiday Inn on Thursday evening so we could set up the game. That gave us the full day on Friday to play and we would need it if we were going to finish. We had a hard stop Friday night because Ralph was taking his son to an airshow on Saturday (a great father/son activity IMHO). His son Ryan came along with his dad on Thursday night so I got a chance to meet him. He's only seven but is starting to learn to play wargames.
I played the ROC while Ralph played the PRC invaders. While he threw me in the deep end with the Advanced Game, Ralph picked the full US intervention scenario which heavily favors the Republic of China. Although he got ashore, the numerous US air units meant that the Allies had air superiority over the island right from the start. The steady stream of US ground units sailing in also slowed his advance.
My one good move of the game came when I sailed two US carrier battlegroups into the Straits of Taiwan. It was risky, as it exposed them to cruise missile attacks from the Chinese mainland. My air defenses dealt with everything that he threw at me though. With the US Navy in control of the sea around Taiwan, the invasion force found itself out of supply. Ralph conceded when it looked like his troops would start to surrender.
Like I said. The scenario heavily favored the ROC.
I had a lot of fun playing and I did learn the game. I didn't come to a conclusion on the series though. It was interesting to have all that modern stuff: helicopters, special forces, aircraft, navies. Some of it felt like it was just a dice fest though and my decisions didn't really affect things much. Air superiority was an example. We both just threw in all of our air units and then took turns rolling dice against each other one-on-one to see who lost more aircraft. I'll have to play more to come to a conclusion. Next time I think I might go back to the Basic Game to get into the system more gradually.
Saturday I had a game lined up with Dan Carey. He suggested we play Ukraine 43. I had never played it before but was anxious to try it. It was designed by Mark Simonitch, one of my favorite game designers. It uses the same system as Normandy 44, a game that I really like. I also have other games that use that system - France 40 and Ardennes 44.
We played the scenario that covered the first week of the Soviet summer offensive. I took the Germans so I tried to get in the right mindset for getting pounded on relentlessly. Dan did a good job of it too. His Russians came at me hard. As in all East Front games, all I could think was "so many Russians!".
It was a really good game. It felt like the Eastern Front in 1943. The Russian offensive was really powerful but the German panzer divisions were still strong enough to counterpunch. The most important location on the board, the city of Kharkov, changed hands three times in our game, pretty much like in real life. We finished late Friday night and Dan ended with seven VP's. He needed eight to win so it was a narrow victory for me. Definitely a nail biter.
On Sunday I had a game of the old classic, Napoleon's Last Battles, arranged with Rob Bottos, who was coming down from Vancouver BC. Rob and I have tried to arrange a game at BottosCon for several years. It never has happened since Rob is always so busy with the work of organizing and running the convention. At GameOn he was free to just enjoy gaming. Unfortunately he got sick just before the con and couldn't make it. (I suspect that his immune system was weakened by the stress induced by contemplating the thrashing that he was going to take from me at NLB.) Rather than try to schedule something else, I decided I would just move on to the hiking portion of the trip a day early. The weather forecast was good and I was anxious to get into the mountains.
On the way out of town I stopped at Around the Table, a game store in Lynnwood that was recommended to me by Dan Carey. He said they had a good selection of wargames, including some used and out of print games. Sure enough, I found an unpunched, mint copy of Britain Stands Alone, published way back in 1994 and long out of print. It's about Operation Sea Lion, the planned but never executed invasion of England by Germany in WWII.
As I was checking out the guy at the counter asked me if I wanted to sign up for their rewards program. I explained that I was from out of town. He wanted to know how I had found out about them. I explained that I was at GameOn and Dan Carey had recommended I stop by their store.
"Oh yeah. We know Dan real well" the gamestore guy said.
"I just played him at GameOn yesterday. Beat him too" I boasted.
The guy shrugged. "Yeah. We all do."
Although it was only a weekend, I really enjoyed GOSS. I got in some good gaming and got to see some of my wargaming buddies again. And now I got a chance to go to the North Cascades, some of my favorite mountains.