I played more games at CSWE this year than ever before. I spent the first four days playing East Front games. It's always been my favorite period of history for wargaming. After that I played a variety of games for the rest of the con. It was pretty much solid wargaming the whole time and I finished twelve games in eight days. It was great fun but CSWE is more than just playing games.
I have as much fun buying new games as playing them. Anyone who has seen the shelves in my game room knows that. And CSWE has a lot of opportunities to buy games.
On the very first day, when I set up my game in the morning, I deliberately chose a spot in the back corner next to the flea market tables. They're like a rummage sale - any really good deals sell right away. So as I played on Saturday (and Sunday and Monday as well), every time someone brought in games for the flea market I would jump up to check them out. In particular I was hoping to add one or two Standard Combat Series games to my collection. I ended up getting five. Now I have every SCS game ever published except one (not counting multiple editions of the same game). And I got them for very good prices. Gazala, Crusader and Operation Michael for $30. Drive on Paris for $20. Guadalahara for $15. All mint and unpunched. Any of those would go for at least $60 on eBay. Good thing my opponent was patient because I kept jumping up everytime someone walked in with new games.
I got other good deals. As someone was setting down a big stack of games I grabbed a mint copy of Second World War. It was only published a few months ago and lists for $100. I asked the guy how much. He said "$15". My eyes almost bugged out but I kept my cool. I didn't want to seem too anxious. No sense encouraging him to jack the price up. "Hmm" was all I said, then tried to look like I was considering it. I made sure not to set the game down in the meantime. I didn't want anyone else to grab it. Finally, I said nonchalantly "Ok. I'll take it."
Besides the flea marked there are other possiblities for buying games. Near the end of the week there's an auction for used games, mainly high-value, out-of-print collectables. It used to feature a lot of good stuff but has gone downhill in the past two years. After going to the preview, I didn't even bother to attend the auction this year.
Lots of publishers attend, especially smaller ones, and offer convention discounts on their games. They have a special room set up for them that opens for an hour. Every afternoon I would take a break from whatever game I was playing while the vendor room was open.
One evening I managed to make a quick trip to Tempe's LGS, Game Depot. They had an impressive offering of wargames. While I was looking them over the lady from the store came over and said "You must be here for Consimworld." I guess not many people spend time perusing their wargame section.
The trip was worthwhile. I scored a copy of Falling Sky. It's currently out of print, although GMT is sure to reprint it. But hey, a game in hand. Now I just need to make sure that I play it before the reprint comes out.
Another fun part of CSWE is getting previews of new games that are in development. There were two new Mark Simonitch games. Stalingrad 42 is a revision of his old Campaign to Stalingrad game. He has brought it up to date using the rules for the operational series he has done for GMT (Normandy 44, France 40, etc.). He was also playtesting a game on Caesar's Gallic Wars that uses the Hannibal system. Since Hannibal is one of my all time favorite games, that was exciting.
Pacific Rim was demoing their new edition of Korsun Pocket, a classic monster game that has been out of print for a long time. I saw Hungarian Rhapsody, a new Operational Combat Series game on the battles in Hungary in late WWII. Victory Point Games was playtesting the first game in Frank Chadwick's new ETO series, an East Front game called Thunder in the East. Didier Rouy, the designer of the Vive l'Empereur series of Napoleonic games, was showing the next battles in that series. A Time for Trumpets, a new monster Bulge game, was playtesting for the second straight year. It's being designed by Bruno Sinigaglio and developed by Randy Heller, two masters of Bulge games. It's a battalion-level game based on the system used in Bitter Woods.
The new edition of Streets of Stalingrad, a classic monster game on the battle for the city of Stalingrad, got a lot of visibility. The new map for the game was mounted on the wall and was just beautiful. There is a Kickstarter campaign to fund a playtest kit for the fourth edition. Besides the map, the fourth edition adds lots of smaller scenarios, many that can be played on a single map, so it is very exciting. I currently have the third edition from L2 Design. It's long out of print and I think it's the most expensive wargame that I own. PaVE is organizing the playtesting and he was recruiting me to participate. Yes, I did sign up. It's only the second time I have ever done a Kickstarter campaign.
Another interesting game was Ostfront. The designer, Craig Nynych, has been working on it for several years. It's a huge monster game of the entire Eastern Front. Craig has been doing all the work himself and it has been interesting to see the progress each year. I hope that he is able to find a publisher.
Brian Train showed me the new COIN game that he is working on, Thunder Out of China, which covers WWII in China from 1937 to 1941. I would love to help with playtesting that when it is ready. I had a lot of fun with the Colonial Twilight playtest.
There were lots of other new games to see. But it's also fun seeing the various games that are currently out set up and being played. Especially the monsters. Since CSWE is a week long, it's the best opportunity that most people get to really play a monster.
Of course, gaming is a social activity so the best part of CSWE is the chance to see friends again. Now that I have been going for several years, I know quite a few people who are regulars. And of course, I got to meet people and make new friends this year. It was a great week.