Friday 8 August 2014

Down At The Club (2)

Club wargaming has never been a big part of my hobby. In the past I have been happy to do most of my gaming at home or at other people's homes, within a small circle of wargaming friends. But I appreciate club gaming can add a lot to what one gets out of the hobby - it's just a question of finding a club that suits you and is within a reasonable distance.

In the Bristol area, I was lucky to be steered towards the Portbury Knights club, which at the time I joined was a thriving club with both boardgaming/fantasy and historical players hard at it during most meetings. Such a meeting was the subject of my original Down At The Club post from 2010. Unfortunately the club seems to have fallen on hard times, having zero web presence now as far as I can tell. Rumour has it that historical gaming has more or less stopped. 

On moving to the Oxford area, joining a club was an obvious way to meet new wargamers, so I ended up at the Oxford Wargames Society one Monday evening not long ago. I was lucky in that club members focus mainly on historical wargaming, and I found I was quickly welcomed and invited to join in. A particularly refreshing aspect of the club was that a number of members focus on developing their own rules and trying these out at club meetings.

Anyway, for my third evening at the society I was asked to put on a Blitzkrieg Commander game for some interested players. This I managed to do, using an adaption of my Race To The Vistula scenario from a good few years ago. I am not much used to acting as an umpire, so my guidance tended to be a little lacking in timeliness and accuracy as the evening progressed. Parts of the rules ended up being forgotten or badly explained, but a hectic game ensued with everyone seeming to enjoy themselves. A few photos are shown below:

The initial Polish defenders were set up east of the river,
allowing the Germans to make rapid progress across the table.

"AFVs may not close assault other AFVs".
No point in trying to ram that Panzer I with the armoured train then.

Despite the various random arrivals being mainly Polish, and some of the German command rolls being rather unfortunate, it was obvious by the end of the game that the Germans were going to get enough armoured units off the far side of the table to win.

Umpiring? It's a mug's game if you ask me.
Oh the endless questions, the pressure to get things right, the constant banter.
But on the other hand, with four nice guys like these fellows...

So What's The Point?
Club gaming? Of course, you have to be able to find a club that suits you, that covers your interests and has like-minded people attending. But in my limited experience, club gaming can offer a great deal. On a practical level, it gives you a physical space much greater than any normal home environment, so those big games are a possibility. It also offers an environment away from the pressures of home - you can concentrate on the gaming without interruption. And if you find the right club, those big club projects can become a reality, whether you join in with what's already going on or maybe start your own.

But, as was pointed out to me by one of the members of the OWS, the most significant difference from home wargaming is the social aspect. You encounter new wargamers and are exposed to new ideas and new perspectives. And club games tend to have a different character, especially if more than two of you are involved. Of course, one could just do what one does at home but do it at the club. However, this might be missing the point. The game of BKC I played at the OWS was very different from the game as I would play it at home. The poring over the rulebook, the quiet, concentrated effort to make sure the game correctly included every rule aspect, was replaced by a much more rough and ready approach where what mattered was keeping the game moving as rapidly as possible. Both approaches provide enjoyable wargaming: experiencing both is well worthwhile.

Plus, of course, if you pick the right club you can go down the pub afterwards. No photos of the latter event are available.

Many thanks to the chaps at OWS for making me welcome. Soon it will be time to get them playtesting Honours of War. I just hope they'll be gentle with me...


Bluebear Jeff said...


I long ago noticed that there is a very different "vibe" between one-on-one games and multi-player games.

The former seem to often really bring out the competitive nature of the two players as they strive to win.

However in the latter case there is often a much more relaxed feeling . . . if your side loses it doesn't mean as much as if YOU (only) lost.

Now this phenomenon is the same whether the game is at home or at a club . . . but often games at home are two-person affairs and those at a club are usually multi-player.

So I urge you (and others who can) to join and support their local clubs if at all possible.

-- Jeff
(sadly with no club near my area, small town Canada)

Keith Flint said...

A good point Jeff. Multi player games (wherever they occur) are certainly a different animal from the 2 player variety.

Adam J said...

Hi Keith

We met at NikFest a couple years ago ..when you umpired me in your SYW game.

Now we are nearer neighbours (I'm in Cheltenham) ..maybe you'd like to meet up for a game?

Either way..I'm looking for a couple of good scenarios for British Paras (maybe Sicily) and hoped you might be able to recommend something?

Keith Flint said...

Adam, hi. My email is

Drop me a line and we can try and get something organised.