Thursday 26 October 2023

Cotswold Wargaming Day 2023 - The Judges Scores Are In

And so, a slightly delayed report on CWD 2023. One or two non-wargaming parts of my life took up some time recently, and so I waited for a quiet moment to properly enjoy putting the report together. In fact, two fine AARs are already out there, from Chris Gregg and Steve Johnson. Both are well worth visiting.

This year we had 11 games scheduled at one point, but sadly unavoidable issues cut that down to eight in the end. One good result was that everyone was together in the main hall, with no games in the 'side room ghetto'. I counted 31 gamers present, or 33 if you count me and my long-suffering other half (more on that later). For the moment, here's a quick run-down on the 8 lovely games that were played on the day.

1. Indian Mutiny in 28mm - Ian Bailey
True to form, Ian had a great looking game set up in half an hour or less. For me, it was a classic with multi-player particpation, great figures and fine terrain. As a result, Ian was the winner of 'Best Game' and the Stuart Asquith Trophy. Rules were Mad Dogs and Englishmen .

2. Western Desert in 28mm - Stuart Surridge
Stuart and friends returned with another fine game, using a home-brewed set of rules combining Bolt Action and Chain of Command, an innovative idea which set the stage for what turned out to be a very innovative show, as we shall see. The opponents were Italians and Free French troops.

3. The Battle of Maipu 1818 in 25mm - Napoleonics in South America - Tim Cull
The theme of innovation continued with this game set in an unusual period, which also featured the clever and detailed scenario planning Tim is well known for. So, after a briefing on the situation, players found the gaming table suddenly covered with a black cloth and were thrown in to a night attack, following which a new daylight table appeared and the main action commenced. I've never seen that done before. Tim got one of three prizes from Empress Miniatures for 'Most Innovative Game'. The rules in use were Liberators!, a period specific set which have their own website.

4. Sharpe Practice ACW in 28mm - Mark Richards
Will the surprises never end? Mark brought over a lovely game using the Sharpe Practice rules, but featuring a scenario from the ACW. Nice! Intense play was taking place throughout the day - as with most of the games, I wish I could have joined in.

5. 'Napoker' Participation Game in 28mm - Tony Dillon
Tony brought over his delightful scenery and superb figures to present a Peninsula participation skirmish game, featuring (who else?) Richard Sharpe. The rules were his own, simple but great fun, with much kicking down of doors to reveal what was inside the various houses. If it was wine inside, you actually got a glass of wine! And a chocolate coin if food was within. Brilliant. My wife Jane and I played a game and really enjoyed ourselves - this was the first time in over 30 years of marriage we had played a game together. And yes, I got a thrashing. Reminded me of our wedding night.

Tony received the Pendraken Miniatures prize for Best Vignette. His game included three or four groups of lovely figures, any of which would have won the prize. He also won the Chris Gregg prize for Best Presented Game - the first time anyone at CWD had won two prizes. Well done!

6. Battle of Inkerman 1854 in 20mm - Stuart C. & Cirencester Wargames Club
Another nice terrain which was set up very quickly, and as usual a game played with intense interest and concentration by my local gaming club. Roy Boss provided a wonderful old school figure collection of 20mm metal figures which were widely admired. They won one of the three prizes for Most Innovative Game, for their rules around fog of war which were used in the game. The overall rules were a lightly adapted version of Shadow of the Eagles. The adaptions, including the fog of war rules, can be found in the file share section of the SotE website.

7. Imaginations India 1755 in 10mm - Steve Johnson/Dave Fielder
For background details of this excellent game, see Steve's website. A fine and funny back story had been invented for this imaginary battle, which meant the game got another of the Most Innovative Game prizes. A great variety of well painted units were also present, and the rules choice was, well, nothing but the best - Honours of War, of course, with the odd amendment. 

8. Battle of Sidi Barrani 1940 in 10mm - Paul and Matt James
More Western Desert loveliness from Paul and Matt, but using a very different set of rules from the other game in this period - BKC IV. Yet more innovation here - naval gunfire support for the Brits, which you don't see very often. A number of the models were in base coat only, but at the CWD we don't worry about such things a great deal. Some nice middle-eastern style buildings. Great to see Paul and Matt back at the show.

Highlights of the Show
Firstly I want to pay tribute to the generous nature of those who provided the prizes. I have maintained the tradition of giving prizes at the CWD as it is a way to thank those who have taken the trouble to put on games, as well as being a fun way to bring everyone together during the show. This year I was intending to restrict myself to just one prize, the Stuart Asquith Trophy, as getting together the books I had been giving away was becoming problematic. 

No sooner had I mentioned this on the CWD mailing list than Chris Gregg came forward, offering to create a bespoke artwork for me to present. Then Steve Johnson offered to contact his friend Leon at Pendraken Miniatures to try and arrange something (they came through with a £25 voucher to spend on their website). About the same time, Paul from Empress Miniatures (who had attended the show in the past) also offered some prizes from their product line. He brought along 3 copies of the Bohica rules for the Vietnam War.  My problem was solved. I thought the donators should choose the title of their prize, so Chris Gregg's was for Best Presented Game, Pendraken's was for Best Vignette, and Empress Miniatures' was for Most Innovative Game.

Which leads me to my second highlight. By a happy coincidence, I thought this years show had a definite theme of innovation, as I have tried to point out in the above descriptions. Creativity is one of the best aspects of historical wargaming as a hobby, and I am particularly drawn to what I would call intellectual creativity - as demonstrated (for example) by clever scenarios, unusual historical periods, and clever rule mechanisms. All of these things were on display at CWD 2023. In fact, after a quick chat, Paul and I agreed that there were three games (at least!) that warranted an award for Most Innovative Game, so one book was presented to each of three games, as described above.

A personal highlight was not only taking part in one of Tony Dillon's participation games, but doing so with my wife Jane as my opponent. A first in over 30 years of marriage! It was a tribute to the game and Tony's umpiring that she actually rather enjoyed herself, despite being convinced that wargaming is boring and that wargamers are basically nuts (in the latter case, she may have a point).

Finally, it was good to see a bit of bring and buy action taking place, as well as having Chris Gregg's usual display of military-themed art on display. This adds a nice extra dimension to the show, and I hope it may continue into the future.

So there you have it. Another cheerful and engaging event, which I for one found rather inspiring. It was worth every minute spent organising. Thanks again to all involved. 

Next time, some news for WW2 gamers. Stay tuned!