Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stoke on Trent 25th July

The 2010 Stoke Challenge.

All change for the Stoke Challenge this year ...

After a couple of years just being a (welcome) midlands tournament day (DBMM, Armati Doubles, FOW etc.) ... this year we were treated to a (one day) wargames show ... trade stands, demonstration games, organised parking - even direction signs up on the approach roads (thumbs up for that, Stokies ... we've been lost round your streets before, so the signs brought a cheer to the Northants battlebus ..)..

I hope the traders did OK and will come back next year - it is hard to tell (I bought a few bits, including some wicked little Litko plastic explosions as markers for a game that has no place on Ancients on the Move ... but no book from DL .. that will have to wait til Britcon) ... Some nice plastics around, too, but sadly I didn't really have much time to shop.

Due to some prominent personalities having family commitments, the Armati Doubles Challenge really was a challenge this year ... just 4 teams, Stoke, Northants, Malmesbury and a Malmesbury/Northants combo (we might perhaps call them the 'Joker' team) ...

It was a BC themed event, and both Malmesbury and Northants took a highly fanciable 'Later Pontic' (the former taking extra light troops, the latter Scythed Chariots), Stoke took Fabian Roman, and the Jokers took Gallic. A brave if unwieldy choice.

I need not worry about modesty in giving results - I was half the Northants team, and we ran perpetual champions Roy and Rodge (Malmesbury) very close in a 1BP margin game where a dead general and an intiative roll settled it. Meanwhile the Jokers edged past Fabius (where delaying tactics lead to an indecisive game?). So the Jokers played Roy and Rodge in a final I could not see how they could win (and they didn't) ... while we could not force a decisive result out of the Fabians and lost a split result by 1BP (another dead general) ..

So Roy and Rodge retained their crown, with Mark and Will, the Jokers, as runners up. Oliver and Martin won the third place play off for Stoke, so Chris and I tucked the Northants team into the remaining slot.
Two good sociable games, very different in their own ways. Armati 100 point Doubles is a very good format, even if this (BC/Antiquity) isn't my favourite period for the game (all those non-key light troops and gamey mixed divisions ...)... Just a pity I don't seem much good at it.

Elsewhere, Brian Pierpoint (41 pts Romanian Frank) won the DBMM, followed in a very close finish by Jim Gibson (40 pts Navarrese) and Keith Nathan (40 pts Later Muslim Indian) ... Sorry I couldn't give it more coverage - I was in the other room playing Armati.

For a broader view of the event have a look at the
Stoke Challenge Gallery

Great event, guys - a simple formula, but it works.

I hope to see you all next year.

Next week - the Society of Ancients Doubles Masters at Oxford.
Field of Glory Open 15mm.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire 17 -18 July

(click on the pictures to see a bigger image)

Festival of History

Festival of History is English Heritage's annual weekend packed with living history, re-enactment and partnership organisations. Military history is a favourite with the visitors and a core theme throughout the weekend.

(some of EH's activity orientated exhibits ...)

The living history displays and encampments are full of military costume societies, regiments and groups, and the arena displays feature warlike action from Ancient Rome to World War Two.

(Roman encampment)

(Medieval campsite cookery)

For the Ancient and Medieval enthusiast, there is one of the largest Roman displays of the year, together with Normans, Crusaders, action from the Wars of the Roses - as well as the ever popular Tournament and Joust.

(Breaking a lance: excellent camera work from Chris Ager)
(Roman re-enactors: more from Chris)
Fresh from the WOTR Battle of Northampton, I was helping out on the Battlefields Trust stand, publicising the work done protecting and preserving our military heritage sites and recruiting new members.

The Battlefields Trust is, of course, behind the crucial work done to clear up the historical riddles surrounding the Battle of Bosworth. A key objective of the Trust is to protect England's battlefields from motorways and developers, and fully half the 'at risk' list falls within the Society of Ancients remit.

(Battlefields Trust 'Iron Man' James Parker fascinates a youngster he hopes one day will treasure England's battlefields: sponsor this man!)
The Battlefields Trust needs support in membership, donations and campaigning. Activist James Parker will be raising money by attempting the Great North Run in medieval armour, and would appreciate your support - you can find a 'donate' button by following this LINK.

As usual for this event, a wargames tent was provided manned by the Phoenix Club of Rushden, and with the support of Warlord Games - this year the feature game was English Civil War (using Johnson and Priestley's Black Powder).

(scenes from the Wargames tent)
For a bigger selection of the non ancient and Medieval pictures from Festival of History, visit my other blogs ...
ECW Battles in Miniature

As for Ancients on the Move, we will be back playing Tournaments over the next few weeks - look out for

Armati at the Stoke Challenge
FoG at The Society of Ancients Doubles Masters

And Claymore and Britcon come up in August. A busy summer out and about.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Northampton 10th July

Northampton Museum
Battlefields Trust Northampton Conference

Marking 550 years since the Battle of Northampton, this one day event was attended by many fellow wargamers and military enthusiasts from near and further afield. Introductions by Mike Elliott, Peter Burley and Matthew Bennett attempted to put the Wars of The Roses and the battle into context. After lunch, Tom Welsh, Harvey Watson and Mike Ingram gave contributions to help us identify where the battlefield might be today....

Finally, Glenn Foard wrapped the day up with an analysis of the methodology of locating battlefields, running through the evolution of the Bosworth Project, and comparing where we stand with Northampton - what needs to be done and what is possible. The good news is Dr Foard pronounces Northampton 'doable' despite the gaps in our knowledge and the encroachment of industry and development on the area of the battlefield (especially on the 'traditional' site).
Meanwhile, over lunch (I joined the the visit to the the little Italian place round the corner...) there were demonstrations of 15th century armour, and as a display piece, all day, Simon Chick had put up an excellent 28mm figure layout of the battle (very much the 'golf course' theory, of course ... butting the artillery fortification's right flank up to the Abbey and stretching away towards Hardingstone).

A good prompt and talking point, given the number of wargamers milling around, and a good piece of eye-candy for the other visitors to Northampton Museum and Library (who, otherwise, mostly get boots and shoes).

All credit for that.

There are more pictures, and a full explanation of the interpretation on Simon's blog Je Lay Emprins ...

According to the various accounts, the Battle of Northampton was fought in the fields between the Eleanor Cross/Hardingstone, and Northampton; between the cross and Delapre Abbey; with the river to the Lancastrians' rear, with the Abbey to their right, with the battle fought within sight of the cross ... and with the view from the hill on which the cross stands looking into their field works.
(photo from a little in front of the Eleanor Cross, taken in July 2010)
Since the cross and the abbey are still there, and it seems established that the river has not changed its course substantially, it should be easy enough to plot these various topographical notes and identify where the battle was fought.
In fact, proposals for the location vary by at least half a mile, there are no verifiable 'finds' to go by, and none of the proposals seems to satisfy all the accounts (the cross is about a mile from the river, so the point looking into the fortification isn't that close to the cross, or the fortification isn't that close to the river).

None of this need mean our sources are wrong (though we can never exclude there might be the odd rogue account) ... It was pretty clear, listening to Welsh and Foard, that what the contemporaries meant by their descriptions might not be what we immediately jump to on first reading, and that the names may have changed as much as the topography they describe (i.e. we need to understand the descriptions on their terms, not ours).

(marking some of the reference points on a 1940s aerial photo available on the Battlefields Trust website)
Most of all, of course, we need an accurate reconstructed 15th Century map of the Delapre area south east of Northampton on which to try to fix all this. Although that didn't sound beyond us, no-one had one to put forward.
Until all of that is done, we will not be able to tick all the components of Dr Foard's methodology - and most of all, the verification ... survey, dig and find the evidence.

So the case of Northampton remains tantalising ... all the descriptions agree that there was a substantial earthwork - the kind that would leave its mark in the landscape if we knew where to look. Until we find that evidence, the speculation is interesting, but just stepping stones in the process.

Yes, of course I came away with my own theory.

An interesting and potentially important day.

Although the meshing of the different disciplines didn't run smoothly at all times, it was fascinating to watch.

Events of this sort are regular, and are posted on the events list on the Battlefields Trust website.

See 'events'

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Manchester 9th July


It all passed off appropriately.

Sober and respectful, but with touches of characteristic irreverence and humour.

I had travelled up to Manchester to offer condolences on behalf of the Society of Ancients, and to share a few moments of reflection and reminiscence with friends, family and fellow enthusiasts. The formal stage was a humanist service with reflections from family members together with some memories and precis of Paddy the Historian and Wargamer from Tim Cockitt.

Paddy drew together a very wide range of contacts - John Dewienkiewicz, Tim Gow, Andrew Grainger, Jerry Elsmore, Andy Callan, Chris 'The Doormouse' were amongst many paying their respects ...

I spent some time over a coffee and a drink talking to former Slingshot editor Ian Greenwood, with whom I have had little contact since he dropped out 20 years ago. Ian was very much a Griffith disciple, and brought many of Paddy's wargaming or historical challenges directly to the Society's readership. Controversial though some of this was, Greenwood's characteristic mix was what re-engaged me with the Society and its activities (indeed, it was Ian and former President Roman Szwaba who first suggested I should allow my name to go forward in the Committee elections of 1988 ... that's another story, so they say - and a very long one).

Ian is well, still teaching, and on good form - as indeed were most of the veterans and old friends - and although he has seldom wargamed publicly since his replacement as Slingshot editor, he continues to mix Wargames with Cricket as activities for his pupils ...

I first met Paddy through the SOAC events Ian organised at Knuston Hall (a series of sort of Ancient and Medieval COWs that ran on well into the 1990s, latterly with myself and Ian Russell Lowell at the helm). Paddy's often sprawling games were full of ideas, if, sometimes, brilliant and annoying in equal measure. It is impossible to imagine wargaming the way it is today without the great jolt it got, called Paddy Griffith. And without the initiatives he launched and the inspiration he gave, it is impossible that I would have developed the circle of much valued friends and accomplices that have kept me going over the last 20 years.

Our sympathies and support go to his wife, Genevieve, son Robert, and their families.

I understand there will be a more comprehensive and inclusive memorial event organised in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, we mourn the passing of a unique enthusiast and indefatigable friend. Someone who made a difference.

See also ...
Obituary: The Times, 9th July, 2010 (p.66)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire 2-4 July

Conference of Wargamers 2010(30 years of COW)
Week off/week on ... then COW arrives: another full weekend - well, the 'full' weekend. Friday through to Sunday afternoon ... a continual choice of games, workshops and discussions covering all periods and styles of wargame.


First up, what has become a regular event these days, a battlefield walk or off-site visit somewhere in the East Midlands (and justifiably 'on the way' for those travelling in): this year, coinciding with the 550th anniversary, and a conference next week, a medieval choice - the Battle of Northampton.

Northampton - July 10 1460 - March, Warwick and Fauconberg (Yorkist) defeat Buckingham and the King (Lancastrian) through the treachery of Lord Grey of Ruthin (changing sides when the Yorkists attack). The Lancastrians are outnumbered 2, maybe 3, to 1, and choose to defend in a prepared artillery position just out side Northampton. The guns don't work due to the waterlogging
of the position, and Grey helps the Yorkists into the fortification in his sector. It is a decisive victory and the last where the Yorkists professed any kind of loyalty to the king.

Northampton is one of those battles where we don't exactly know where it took place - just south (or south east) of the town, in the meadows near (or right next to) the river, between (though some feel not directly between) Delapre abbey and the Eleanor Cross on the London Road.

Somewhere under the appropriate meadows and golf fairways lies a medieval battlefield. We had a walk around, and an interesting series of explanations from Mike Elliott of the Battlefields Trust. I had not walked up to the cross to view the possibilities before (and I may have more to say after the upcoming conference).

This year's COW had a sad start due to the loss of the conference and movement's founder, Paddy Griffith, but a week before. He was celebrated, honoured and toasted, before people cheered up a bit - and got on with games both serious and silly in the spirit he had passed on to people ... and of which, even in the hour of his mourning, no doubt he would have approved.

The plenary game, on a beautiful Northamptonshire evening, played on Knuston's main lawn, was a 'live' multi-participation version of WD's 'World War One in Three Turns' (during which the participating bodies learned how to deal with the realities of the new warfare).

Of course it is all a bit simplistic, and, out on the lawn, more than a bit laughable ... but that is the point. To start the weekend by getting everyone mixing, to break a few rules about formality, and to reinforce the rule that there are no rules.

Amongst the fun games that followed, Graham Evans reprised 'The Elephant In The Room' which debuted for SoA at Campaign, earlier in the year (and which draws upon the Anno Domino combat system also featuring in this year's show game 'Greyhounds In The Slips').

I'll have to confess I didn't pursue an entirely ancient and medieval theme through the weekend - and so missed tantalising offerings such as 'Hastings - A View from the Shieldwall' - there was just too much going on. See Bob Cordery's blog, or my 20th century pages for a flavour ...


'The Last Crusade'
was Ian Drury's treatment of the 'Battle of Nicopolis'. Using a version of Richard Brooks' Middle Aged Spread that was tweaked to include horse archers, the battle was played on an array of squares with 15mm figures. You will need a membership of WD and a copy of the Nugget to get a full account of these rules, but activation is by square in a sequence determined by playing cards which also limit what the unit can do with that move.

D16s are used in dicing for hits, which can cause losses, disintegration or rout ... The horse archers are like clouds of annoyance getting in the way, clustering around enemies and such like. The 'owning' player doesn't exert a great deal of micro management over them, but the results were quite plausible. With a dramatis personae of newcomers, Ian was nonetheless able to steer through to a decisive outcome (and a convincingly historical one) in a couple of hours ...

was another run of John Bassett's Slave Revolt game (see the London game reported previously) ... this was played as an After Dinner Game with more players and much less time. The results were admirable and excellent. With more players, and a brutal time regime, the Senate 'Committee Game' worked much better - a sense of urgency impacted on the players, I think, and there were many more decisions taken and a better type of argy-bargy (just what the designer wanted, I'd guess) ...

Meanwhile, back with the operational game (the Slave Revolt), in which, this time, I took no part at all, Spartacus and his gang really were running riot. They were taking on our ad hoc armies, defeating them and killing senators ... even the great Pompey Magnus somehow was toppled. That said, after a great battle of mutual annihilation, Rome was intact (but down to a few raw legions) but the remaining rebels and leaders were using their victory to leave her lands and head for freedom and homelands. Impoverished and depleted, the eternal city had survived a battering the match of Hannibal's.

By the late evening, Greyhounds In The Slips came out, the excellent WWI aerial combat game was into its nth rerun and John Curry was unboxing commercial wargames from yesteryear of the kind you usually only see on a James May nostalgia show.


After a morning spent clashing with Tsarists on the Don (see elsewhere), after lunch we had another bash at Zama and my Double DBA scenario ... This was a great joy as Phil and Sue Barker came along, and did much of the legwork (explaining the game, expanding on tactics and outcomes etc.) pretty much leaving me to do the Zama bits.

Excellent. In this outing Hannibal made a really good go of the elephant attack, held up Masinissa's Numidians whilst getting right into the Roman reserves on the other flank. It was a tough battle, and resolved itself narrowly for Carthage in a slog out of the veterans. This is a theme to be explored further.
Elsewhere, the cardboard simulator had become an inflatable v-bomber attack with slapstick refuelling mechanisms, traitors had been shot at dawn, wind up toy tanks had crossed the trenches and award winning designers had showcased their latest designs. All in all, great weekend. Something to recover from and a lasting tribute to the inspiration and personality of its founder Paddy Griffith.

I understand places for next year's event are already disappearing.