GMT has its Weekend at the Warehouse twice a year, once in spring and once in fall. I had missed the last one because Sandy and I took a trip to Montana last October, so I was anxious to go this spring. I was able to contact people online and get some games set up beforehand.
The day that I left I got a very early start. I pulled out of my driveway at 5:10 am. It takes about twelve hours to drive to Hanford. The advantage of leaving so early is that I get through Sacramento well before traffic gets bad. And when I leave that early, I even get through Fresno before 5 pm. I was dedicated too. Since I am trying to get in shape for hiking season, I even went to the exercise room in the Sequoia Inn and did a half hour on the elliptical before going out for dinner that night.
I was at the warehouse before 9am. It is always fun to walk in and be surrounded by wargames everywhere, stacked to the ceiling, especially when the ceiling is fifteen feet high. I always spend time just walking around, looking at all the games, thinking about which ones I might buy on Saturday. Soaking up all the good wargaming karma.
My first game on Thursday was with Rob Flores. We played Twilight Struggle. I played the Russians. Although the Russians are supposed to have the advantage in the early war, Rob jumped out to a lead. I kept at it though, and decreased his lead and then went ahead. At the end of turn nine Rob conceded as I had a commanding lead in VP's and a dominant position on the board. A win was a good start for the weekend.
That was the only game I played Thursday. I spent a lot of time talking to people I knew but hadn't seen for a long time. I spent more time watching other games. I left early in the evening. I exercised at the hotel, took an evening walk, and went to bed early.
On Friday I had several options. John Zrmic was hosting his usual Sword of Rome game. It's a good game and I have played it at GMT before, but this time I decided to pass. Rob Flores was hosting a game of Napoleonic Wars, one of my favorite games, but I passed on that one as well. Instead I joined a game of Seven Years War: Frederick's Gamble. The game is based on the Nappy Wars system but is still in development. The game was hosted by the designer, Greg Ticer. I was also in a game of 7YW:FG at home with my local game group so I was anxious to play a game with the designer himself overseeing it. Sure enough, in the course of the game several points came up where we were not playing correctly in our game in Boise. Most importantly, I learned that the playtest rules we had were six months old and one major revision behind! So it was time well spent, even if I did not do well as the Austrians. The Imperial Camp got crushed.
When that game finished in the afternoon I played a game of Twilight Struggle with Steve Nagy. It was his first time at GMT weekend and we had just met the day before. He owns a game shop near Winnipeg, and was interested in trying to get more wargaming into his shop and his customer base. It was also his first time playing Twilight Struggle. I was doing well in the mid game when an event forced me to do a discard. That left me stuck with CIA Created in my hand, with the DEFCON already at two. Oops. Game over. A noob mistake but it still lost the game for me.
Friday evening I decided to try out something new for dinner. For as long as I have been going to GMT weekend (since 2010) I have heard that the best part of a trip to Hanford is going to Superior Dairy for ice cream. I decided that I had to try it out.
The place wasn't very big but I was able to get a booth in the very corner. It was cramped but there was only me so it wasn't a problem. Good thing that I'm skinny though.
I heard that the sundaes were big so I ordered just a grilled cheese sandwich and chips for dinner. That left a lot of room for ice cream.
Meanwhile the place was being overrun. Besides the sit down dining area, there was a walk up/takeaway counter for ice cream. First a high school group came from some event. There had to be at least fifty kids. The line went out the door and around the block. And more people just kept coming. I would have been discouraged by a line that long but apparently that is normal for Superior Dairy.
Then I ordered my sundae. I hadn't been misled. It was huge! It took a long time to eat the whole thing but I managed to do it. I did feel like I wouldn't have to eat again for a week though. I have to admit that I had mixed feelings. The ice cream was extremely good. But as a sundae, it fell short. There was really no room in the dish for toppings or sauce or nuts or anything, so that all came on the side. So it was basically just a giant bowl of ice cream. Sitting and eating a half gallon of ice cream at a sitting, even very good ice cream, is a bit much for me. So I was glad that I went and tried it. I don't think I would go back unless I was with someone else so I could share. Or next time I could order a milk shake instead.
Needless to say I didn't exercise when I got back to the hotel after dinner. I settled for a walk.
Next day I was at GMT early. Saturday is always the biggest day. It starts with Gene giving a "state of GMT" talk. This one was quite interesting, with lots of good news. GMT has really grown - 40% in the past year! It's biggest problem is trying to grow its operations to support the revenue growth. That's a problem, but a good problem to have. The digital version of Twilight Struggle did extremely well, so more digital versions of GMT games are in the works. All good news which indicates that the hobby seems to be healthy economically. That's also consistent with the fact that small game companies, like Legion Wargames and Revolution Games and One Small Step games seem to be doing well and publishing lots of new games. Lots of new games to buy and maybe even to play.
After the talk (and Gene's talks, bless his soul, tend to run very long), the session was openend for questions. For some reason, people just kept asking questions. Some of them weren't even questions, they were more speeches. "What I think GMT should do is...". It kept going on and on and on. I was getting restless. The crowd was getting restless. Finally John Z. stood up and said "Enough already. We want to play games!". I felt like cheering.
Next came the best part of the weekend, the game sale. To preserve the sanity of the office staff, the only time that you can buy games is right after Gene's talk on Saturday. Everyone runs around the warehouse grabbing games. Then people line up to see Gene, who marks the discount that you get for your games. I have seen people with hand trucks to carry all of their games. I don't go that far, but one of the reasons that I drive is so I have room to take as many games as I want back home with me.
I ended up getting: Fields of Despair, Triumph and Tragedy, Epic Napoleonics, Clash of Giants: Civil War, the Awakening expansion for Labyrinth, Hoplite and Twin Peaks. The last two were almost gone, and probably wound never be reprinted, so I was especially happy to get them before they were gone forever. I also got a Ludifolie game, The Marshals IV. They are a European wargame company and GMT is their North American distributor. It was quite a haul and I was very happy with it. I had spent the previous three days agonizning over which games to get.
After that I played Ici, C'est le France with Pat Mulvihill. It's a game on the Algerian War of Independence, a conflict that I am very interested in since becoming heavily involved as a playtester for the COIN game on the subject, Colonial Twilight.
I had only played Ici once before, several years ago, against Ralph Shelton at Consimworld Expo. I didn't really get a good feel for the game from that one try, and it was long enough ago that I didn't really remember the game play that well. I was anxious to give it a try again now that I knew a lot more of the history to see how it compared to Colonial Twilight (which I really like).
Well, Ici has a reputation as a long game and that was our experience. We had a late start because of Gene's talk and the game sale in the morning. When the pizza arrived in the evening, we had only played six of the sixteen turns in the short scenario. By then we were both really hungry (and we both really like pizza) so we did the final referendum. My FLN carried the election for the win and Algeria got its independence. More importantly, we both got dinner.
I still haven't made up my mind about Ici. There are some things I don't like. The tactical chits are just dumb and after a while we just stopped using them. But the game definitely intrigued me. It is very indirect. It's not like C&C where you just charge ahead and attack and try to wipe out the other guy. All of your influence of the victory conditions is very indirect. So the game is subtle and thought provoking. Or maybe after a few plays it will just seem abstruse. I'm curious as to which it is so as soon as I got home I set up a game of Ici with a friend for Consimworld Expo in June.
And that was GMT weekend for spring 2017. It was a lot of fun. I played some excellent games, both new ones and familiar classics. I got to talk to a lot of my gaming buddies. And I brought home a bunch of great new games.