Monday, 2 September 2019

Cotswold Wargaming Day 2019 - Post Match Analysis

And so Sunday 1st September dawned clear and sunny. A propitious start for what was destined to be a fine day's wargaming at the 2019 Cotswold Wargaming Day.

Yes, behind the innocent facade of a typical English country village hall...

...there gathered an assorted bunch of gentlemen nutters playing at toy soldiers. 

The Games
I was lucky enough to have 8 games offered this year (thanks so much guys), which filled the hall nicely. Each game got a side table (an important detail IMHO) which still left plenty of room to move around and access all the tables. 

Apologies to those concerned if some games are under-represented in the following photos. No preferential treatment is intended, it's just that I need to be more professional and organised when using the camera!

Game 1.
Shaun, Roger and Allan with 'Liberdy', their Wild West Gunfight game.
Guys, I'm sorry I didn't get over to the table to enjoy a few turns with you.
Game 2
Steve (out of shot) and Dave presented their Bloody Big Battles Crimean game.
Game 2.
Stuart was particularly enthused by the concepts of the BBB rules.
'Mr. 30mm' moving into 6mm? Surely not. Hold the front page!
Game 3.
Bruce brought his air wargame over again this year, changing the scenario to 'Battle Over Berlin'.
Game 3.
Massive B-17 formation about to be engaged by German fighters (top left).
Game 4.
Jon brought along a 'Merville Battery' scenario, using the under-rated Battlegroup Panzergrenadier rules.
Game 4.
Typical of the day. Bruce and Colin move over from their air game
to enjoy some ground-based WW2 action with Jon (centre).
Game 5.
Roy and Matt put on a 'Mexico 1862' game, a very original choice of period including some intriguing figures.
Game 5.
Ouch! Those 28mm metal figures can be heavy, but this hero struggled on with a badly sprained wrist.
What a pro!
Game 5.
Forget consulting the rules gentlemen. What's all this perching of sabot bases on rooftops?
You'll never win the 'Most Gentlemanly Wargamer' prize with that faux pas.
Game 6.
Stuart (2nd from right) led a hearty group of gamers in a 1791 'Haitian Revolution' game.
Excellent pointing action that man!
Game 6.
Nice terrain, interesting scenario.
Game 6.
And some lovely figures as well.
Game 7.
Phil Olley and Steve Gill with their 'Wars of the Vaubarian Succession' game.
Game 7.
I was lucky enough to get a game in on this table. Here my commanding general oversees the action.
Game 7.
Predictably, I trounced Steve even though he was using his own rules.
But what a poignant moment when the big guy burst into tears of shame.
Chin up man!
Game 7.
Being an 18th century nerd myself, the interior of Phil's town was a joy to behold.
Game 7.
Posing. Left to right, Phil, me, Steve.
Game 8.
Willz returned again this year with his lovely Spencer Smiths.
Once again, note the first class pointing taking place here. Bravo!
Game 8.
Aaah, Spencer Smiths, in real plastic. Look at that limbered battery in all its glory.
Game 8.
Sorry everyone, still drooling.
Game 8.
A fine sight for any 18th century nut like myself.

And The Winner Is...
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the trouble to turn up. I counted 31 gamers when the hall was at its busiest, which pleased me mightily. However, as a thank you to those who went the extra mile and brought along games for the rest of us to enjoy, I like to have a light-hearted prize giving as an extra 'thank you'. And thanks to Stuart for doing the judging.

'Best Terrain'
Despite my failure to take some decent photos, the 'Liberdy' table was most impressive.
Nutters! But in a nice way.
'Best Figures'
Steve and Phil got this one. I understand Phil is the painting guru!
They were real beauties my friend.
'Most Gentlemanly Gamers'
This pair of reprobates? What was Stuart thinking?
A grudging congratulations to Steve and Dave.
'Honourable Mentions'
Not everyone can win a category, but thank you (L to R) Steve, Willz, Matt, Jon
and Bruce (not pictured) for helping to make the day so memorable.
'Best Game Overall'
And so the Stuart Asquith Trophy went to the other Stuart's Haitian game, with its mixture
of all the elements that make a fine wargame. Well done!
I bask in the glory with the winners of the top award.
Choke back the tears guys.

Intense, But Satisfying
That's what my day felt like. You may have noticed that the photos in this blog feature rather more actual wargamers than the average blog post. This is very deliberate. The atmosphere and spirit of the day was all I could have wished for - light hearted, friendly and relaxed, with plenty of banter and the occasional bit of serious chat about the hobby. Thank you so much to everyone who was there for your attitude, enthusiasm and creativity.

Very noticeable was the number of games using little-known or self-written rules. Was it just a coincidence that the big commercial and competition rule sets were largely absent? I don't think so. Also noticeable was the variety of unusual periods and creative scenarios on offer.

A final photo, relaxing at the bar before packing up. Steve and Willz were, I believe, the gamers who travelled farthest to be there. Alright, it's not a bar. It's the kitchen hatch. But the vibe was the same.

Lastly, the generosity of attendees this year resulted in a cash surplus of £55. My wife and I decided to send the money to the 'Many Tears' dog rescue charity.

So, next year? I certainly hope so. I reckon it will be Sunday 30th August in 2020. Maybe I'll see you there!

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Post of Honour - Napoleonic

I have a project that I've been spending quite a lot of time on recently -  developing a set of rules for the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) based on my Post of Honour - Seven Years War rules.

The idea of Post of Honour was to write a genuinely simple set of horse and musket rules that still gave a real historical flavour. Starting with the SYW seemed logical as I had built up a good knowledge of that conflict. Then, never having properly wargamed in the Napoleonic period, and given the huge popularity of those wars amongst wargamers, I decided it might be a fun challenge to learn about the period and see if a version of Post of Honour could be created to cover them.

I have indeed learnt a lot and have enjoyed a great deal of interesting reading, including reading through established rule sets. One thing I became more and more aware of was that the popular sets were all significantly more complex than I preferred, so in developing a simple set maybe I was doing something worthwhile - assuming of course that others might think along the same lines as me. 

To give some well-known examples, I have looked at Black Powder, General de Brigade and most recently Over the Hills. All of these are successful sets, but I was looking to produce something at least an order of magnitude simpler than any of them. It was checking out Over the Hills which eventually inspired me to share my project in this particular post.

My Paradox
In my more reflective moments, I will usually maintain that you shouldn't make up your mind about a set of rules until you've played a few games with them. But on the other hand, my personal experience is increasingly telling me that I know whether I'm going to be interested in a set of rules after one quick read through. Indeed, I have often rejected a set of rules by about page 5 and just skimmed the rest.

This was my experience with Over The Hills. Well, 'rejected' is too strong a term. The rules are obviously created by people who know and love the period. They are sensibly structured - a basic game, extensive optional rules to add to the basic game, and a good selection of historical background and army examples. The book is also well laid out. My only real criticism is the extent of the grammatical and punctuation errors, which are very common but usually don't stand in the way of making sense of the text.

I got my copy cheap from Caliver Books as a second edition is on the way This is in itself a tribute to this publication - certainly, all the online reviews I have seen are positive. My conclusion that I would never play the rules was based on one simple assessment - level of complexity. Which brings me back to where I started.

Post of Honour - Napoleonic

I finally feel it's time to get these rules of mine out there and see what people think. At the moment, there are only the basic rules plus some notes. I intend to produce a historical periodisation which will point out the variations in tactics and army quality of the various nations which occurred as the period  unfolded.

So, how to 'get the rules out there'? When Honours of War was being playtested, I successfully used Yahoo Groups to gather comments, suggestions and criticisms. It would appear from online feedback that Yahoo Groups has since gone rather downhill, and tends to be full of glitches and issues. I discovered this straight away when I found I was unable to load a photo for the group cover. Therefore, I have gone for a Google Group. The format of the latter is not quite so well suited to my purpose, but it is free and very easy to set up. If anyone has other suggestions for a playtesting forum, I am all ears.

So, Napoleonic fans, please visit;

Post of Honour - Napoleonic (Google Group)

Membership of the group is subject to approval (keeps out the riff-raff and spammers) so you will need to click the 'Apply To Join Group' button. A short message from you would be much appreciated. Let me know of any problems.

Maybe we can get something started here.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Seven Years War Rules - Post of Honour

First, two links to version 3 of Post of Honour. The movement modifiers table is slightly changed, making formation changes in particular just that bit slower to better represent linear warfare. Plus the usual tweaks here and there - check the melee section in particular if you already have a copy of the rules.

You know how it is - you see a link in a comment but it's not live - you can't just click on it. Oh, the frustration, the senseless anger.

Fortunately I happened upon this simple explanation of how to put live links in blog comments. I've used it and it works. Long live the revolution!

Gotta run. See you again soon!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

'The Ancient Battle of Ardea'

It's no use looking up this battle in your history books, as it is entirely fictional. It was fought as a celebration of the conclusion of my ancients project.

The battle was a very basic set-up so I could get all the figures onto the table and give King's of War Historical a good shake out. I went for a 'classic' ancient wargame look - flat terrain with just a few palm trees for background, and the armies set out on opposite baselines.

I had belatedly realised that my S&A Scenics 'Dried Earth' felt battle-mat needed some scenic scatter to give a little more texture and colour. The look is definitely improved, but I reckon adding a bit more green would be a good thing. 

In the photo above you see the forces of Latium on the right, with Paphlagonia to the left. In total (that is, including both sides), I appear to have assembled around 320 infantry, 60 cavalry, 8 chariots, 4 elephants and 4 war engines. A modest enough collection by some standards, but a very pleasing achievement after about 2 and a half years of what I originally called 'The Trimsos Project'

It all started with a game at Stuart's house, transformed itself into a rules-writing project which failed to be taken up by Osprey (they were right - I have abandoned those rules now), and has finally resulted in a collection of figures which give me great pleasure, along with the discovery of a rule set which I am happy with - Kings of War Historical. So much for the usual advice about 'sticking to your goals' - in this project I have just followed where my instincts led me and have wandered well off the path of Mr Featherstone's rules and his original 1962 battle.

With hobbies, it is best to follow the advice of Buddhist meditators - 'do not crave your goal, but allow the process to unfold'. This seems to produce maximum relaxation and pleasure. It is instructive to reflect on the stage I had reached in January 2017, and remember that the test game I played on a 3' x 3' table with mostly unpainted figures was nevertheless an absorbing and enjoyable couple of hours, and as much a part of my hobby as any games I will play with my full collection:

But back to the present. 'Ardea' was a solo game to get me back in the ancients groove after many weeks poring over the history of the Napoleonic Wars (of which you may hear more at a later date). The photos below give a flavour.

Latium - The King's War Elephants lead the centre.
Paphlagonia - the central phalanx is protected by missile troops.
Coming to grips - the Pahlagonian archers make little impression on the elephants.
An overview as the elephants crash in, whilst two Paphlagonian warbands attempt to
fold around their phalanx and delay the Latium main battle line.
The fighting between the two flanks turned out to be a sideshow, with honours broadly even and
neither side able to use any advantage to affect the main fight in the centre.
A to-and-fro melee between the elephants and Blue and Yellow Shields took place.
End game. The elephants have done very well, and now allow the Latium main battle line forward to finish the job.
Overview at the end of the battle, with Latium triumphant.
Interesting to see how many units have been removed from the table

As I mentioned, I am still liking the Kings of War rules. In this battle, I noted that the elephants were rather too powerful and I will be reducing their melee ability - a simple matter of changing a melee factor of 3+ to a factor of 4+. And I will be adding a home-grown 'stampede' rule to make them entertainingly unreliable.

It now remains only to get some games in with wargaming friends and enjoy the social part of the hobby. Of course, in our hobby as in any other, the Fat Lady never really sings and it's never really over. But I don't feel any great need for more in this section of my wargaming. In particular, I've had quite enough of painting figures, and the expense of acquiring ready-painted figures will provide a reassuringly restrictive influence. 

'Til next time!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Victrix - Legionaries & Velites

The availability of hard plastic models from Warlord Games and especially Victrix has made creating my modest ancient armies so much easier - and cheaper. 

An excellent case in point is the box of Republican legionaries and velites from Victrix. Sixty models for just under £30 - that's 50p each, in other words. Victrix win out over Warlord Games in that you invariably get command models as well, which is not always the case with the Warlord sets. However, in fairness Warlord do commonly include shield transfers in their price.

However, when it comes to legionaries the phrase 'shield transfers' tends to send a shiver up my spine. Fiddly, fiddly, fiddly. The transfers for my Macedonian Pikemen were bad enough. This is one of the many areas where creating an imaginary army is advantageous. The Victrix figures are being used to form units from what I have called 'The Black Legion'. These fearsome characters fight for the army of Latium, and Roman Imperial red is replaced by black. The unadorned, menacing black shields are a particular aspect of their appearance on the battlefield, and purely by coincidence this avoids me having to test my patience with shield transfers or fancy painting.

These characters are based for Kings of War Historical, so they are 8 to a base in my slightly slimmed-down units (the rules go for basing in tens). For the Velites I experimented with just 7 to a base to get a more skirmisher-like effect, which I think worked out. Plus I saved on painting 2 extra figures - well worth it.

For the record, I used Vallejo acrylics with no undercoating - another advantage of plastic figures. So there's just a single layer of paint and a coat of varnish. Bases are made from a double layer of 1.5mm cardboard.

It's All A Fantasy
I normally count myself as very much an historical wargamer. However, creating imaginary nations for my ancient wargaming has reminded me how important it is to remember that really we are just playing with toy soldiers. In a recent edition of Miniature Wargames (no.432), editor John Treadaway summed it up thus: "It's all non-historical gaming. It's just a question of degree". A few years back I might have challenged that statement, but now I think it is fundamentally correct. Once you step into the world of miniature wargaming with model soldiers, you are in a hobby world and have left the arena of 'simulation'. The late Paddy Griffith came to this conclusion decades ago (see this post).

This doesn't lessen our hobby, it just shows it in its true light. I believe myself to be very much at the 'historical' end of wargaming, but in the end it is indeed just a game of toy soldiers. I think that anything else would be rather too warlike for my personal taste.

'Til next time.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Mr Wesencraft and the Battle of Blenheim

At this time of year, it's easy to find a quiet corner in the delightful grounds of Blenheim Palace.

Well, what a fool I've been. Since I moved to my present job 6 years ago I've visited Blenheim Palace many times. How did I miss the diorama of the battle in the museum area, with its thousands (yes, thousands) of 6mm miniatures? Whilst kicking myself and admiring the work, what did I see in the bottom right hand corner but the nameplate in the photo below:

Hmmm. I seem to recognise that name...
Yes indeed, the Charles Wesencraft. Wanting to know some background, I did what one does these days and searched the internet - which duly came to my aid. The diorama was created in 2003-4 almost entirely just by the man himself for the 300th anniversary of the battle. That's 6000 6mm Baccus figures painted by one man in well under a year. Crikey. He tells the story HERE.

The battle is depicted as it was at 5.15pm. This is Oberglau, viewed from behind the British lines.
Blindheim/Blenheim assaulted by the British.
Between the two towns.
A close up of some of the cavalry figures.
Oberglau again and the cavalry contest to the west.

Intentions must have changed since the display was installed, as it has remained in the historical exhibition located in the old stables, and has not moved to the palace as Charles mentions in his story.

A further treat is in store for anyone hanging around outside the gents toilets (as I often do; it's all entirely legal you know). But let me put it another way. In the lobby area outside the rest rooms there is a fine display of models from the National Collection of the British Model Soldier Society. My photo shows figures from the wars of the 18th century. Some beautifully painted flats can be seen on the lower shelf. Surprisingly, many people seem to hurry past without even noticing the treasures on display!

Anyway, if you've never looked into it, Blenheim Palace is a fantastic visit on many levels - as the birthplace of Churchill, as a glorious piece of architecture, as the location of extensive and beautiful grounds which can be explored at will, and as an historic building linked to one of the most famous battles in history. Visit if you can, and allow all day.

I'll be back with some wargamey stuff, asap!