Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Newbury Racecourse, 11-12 September


Quite a departure, this year: none of the Society's main shows team was available on the Saturday, so rather than just contributing b
ack up manpower, Shows North was called upon to do the stand on Saturday supporting Phil Sabin's Lost Battles game (Gabiene), and, on Sunday, David Edwards's Tewkesbury FoG display ... (so we became SoA Shows Central?).

My thanks go to Graham and Alison Fordham for the Saturday (Graham drove, and, with Alison, ensured I wo
uld not be undermanned) and then Chris Ager who provided the support on Sunday. Society enthusiasts need to note, however, that this is happening again for SELWG (Shows North does South London!) - so get in touch with David Edwards (details in Slingshot or email through the website) and volunteer to do your bit: the small Shows North team already does more than a dozen shows for the Society, from Birmingham to Edinburgh, as well as helping out at some of the more southern events (if they can do once a month, maybe you can do once a year)

Colours at Newbury would be a good one to volunteer for
: wonderful light and airy spaces, comparatively short queues for refreshments, free parking, a good selection of traders and a good mix of things to do when not on duty on the stand (including, on the Saturdays, a chance to join in a historical battle with the author of Lost Battles) ... This year actually we did two games each day - Phil supported Gabiene with a set up version of Empire (which the team played as their last game of the day) on Saturday ... I ran my Double DBA Zama game to fill that space alongside Tewkesbury on Sunday.

In addition to doing the stand and taking
some pictures of the show, I played in the afternoon run of Gabiene, and ran three games of Zama on Sunday. Thanks to Graham, we were comfortably on time (so I can 'before and after' Phil's game).
(the lost Battle team set up Gabiene on Saturday at Colours)

, BC 316, was one of the key battle between Alexander
's successors, fought in Persia between Antigonus and Eumenes. The battle was fought in a flat open plain, with, as Sabin reconstructs it, Eumenes's baggage close behind his army ... Antigonus has a value advantage of about 10%, mostly in a huge cavalry advantage only partially offset by Eumenes's superior quality phalanx - the Silver Shields.

Although the battle becomes a race against time
(can Eumenes find a decisive opportunity before his army inevitably succumbs to envelopment), the battle is governed by clouds of dust disrupting command and control (which Phil models by potentially allowing the flip-flop rule to be applied after a dice off between the commanders at the start of a new turn, effectively reversing the sequence and allowing the favoured army to go again*). For more on this, of course, have a look at Lost Battles.
With Alison and Tamara holding the fort, I was able to get a good trip round t
he show. I was disappointed by the absence of one or two traders that used to be regulars (those vehicles from Skytrex will have to wait til Derby, I guess ...)... and my impression of the show - reinforcing what I saw at Partizan - is that Black Powder games seem to be getting the edge over Ancients games compared with earlier in the year (in some senses, this may be the waning of the SoA BattleDay effect ... aside from my Zama reprise on Sunday, the Punic Wars games that were all over Salute have been replaced by ACW or Napoleonics, now) ...

That said, there were quite a lot of worthy exhibits, and a reasonable mix of things to look at and things to join in. There were re-enactors, all
the big Societies (SoA, Lance & Longbow, Pike and Shot etc.) were present, there were some competitions, and as usual with Colours, a big modelling and painting exhibition ...

(For another view of the airstrike, have a look at m
y WWII blog P.B.Eye-Candy ... )
On Saturday afternoon, I was able to take the role - alongside 'liaison umpire' (?) Alan Waller - of Eumenes. We refused our right flank, pushed hard on the left, even redeploying some of the phalanx to exert pressure on Antigonus's right, battering his companions and forcing him to rally them repeatedly ... Committed to the front rank, Antigonus fell whilst rallying and was escorted from the field, giving us something of the edge we were looking for.

(Phil Sabin manages the technical aspects of the game as Antigonus falls whilst attempting to rally his guards)

Actually, their morale held up better than ours, so, eventually our surviving troops
withdrew, leaving the severely mauled and leaderless Antigonids in command of the field. On points, indeed, we had managed a small victory. The main game on Sunday was a splendid 28mm participation game of Tewkesbury, giving visitors an opportunity to try out Field of Glory.
(scenes from the Tewkesbury game)

David ran this through several times with players as varied as establis
hed game designers to ancients newbies. Meanwhile, I took over the sidebar space from Empire with my 10mm Zama.

(Sunday at Colours: both Society of Ancients games in play)

Although it was very much an extra game, I cannot resist reporting the game between two newcomers to DBA where Hannibal won ... by
breaking through the centre with his elephants. Before they were eventually destroyed (vindicating the role of the Triarii), they left the Roman lines a little fragmented for when the reserve lines closed, and Hannibal was able to secure the final victory. For the scenario designer, of course, this was very satisfying (Scipio usually wins this battle, as it generally comes down to the infantry - and the Romans have the better troops for the infantry slog).
(critical moments at the battle of Zama)

Historically, we can see that Hannibal's solution to this was to attempt to break through in the centre. As in history, in the game, this attempt usually fails. It is good to see, however, that if it succeeds, it can lead to victory) ...

Sunday started to go a little quiet by the afternoon - I'm told this may have something to do with public transport ... also it was a very nice day. However, this is a good show, and well worth the trip. That Sunday is quieter give visitors better access to everything - so mark Colours in your diaries for next year ... and for SoA members, why not get a free pass by volunteering to man the stand and help the Society?
Every contribution helps.

Thanks to the organisers, thanks to the volunteers, thanks to the visitors and members who dropped by.
Next shows for us are Derby (Greyhounds in the Slips and The Elephant in the Room), and SELWG (GitS goes south!)

*i.e. the dust rule replaces IGO/UGO with an initiative roll where the winning player decides the order. As with a game like Armati, this means if the new turn is won by the player who has just moved second, he can choose to go first in the new turn - thereby gaining the same advantage as a Brilliant Commander like Hannibal can employ, with the flip-flop, in the standard game. The same limitations apply, so squares that just attacked cannot attack again (meaning the benefit is more in manoeuvre and exploitation) ... the advantage being somewhat tamer, these days, than in the original version of Strategos ..

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Newark, 5th September

The Other Partizan
After seven weekends on the road, we had a welcome little late summer break before Newark Irregulars' Autumn show, The Other Partizan ... a generally quieter reprise of the Spring event.

We got there in good time, of course - in time to see Dav
e Lanchester not set up and wondering how to pitch the Lance & Longbow Society table in our combined Societies pitch :O) For the Society, we were making a return to this year's showgame, Greyhounds in the Slips, now deployed on its dedicated fold-out board (pasting table) ... but awaiting some booster sections to the walls to give the whole thing a bit more (crowd-pleasing height).

I suspect these booster sections will meet the public at Derby and SELWG next month. Roll up and play.

(Some smartly turned out Romans in Phil Hendry's desert game)

There were quite a few attractive games on display - as ever with a Kelham Hall event - but mostly be played amongst their own exhibitor teams (this tending to be a show where people show up, chat and shop - then go home early rather than stay and play).
(the Harfleur crossbowman looks down on the English)

Nevertheless, as ever, GitS had a few takers, and got some enthusiastic feedback, we took a few memberships and distributed plenty of free sample Slingshots. A good day's response for a quieter midlands show.
the number of ancients games in action seems less now than earlier in the year, though the presentation standards of many were exemplary.

(click on the picture for a closer look)

I also got to have a browse around ... the Perry's were doing a Black Powder in the Sudan game, Martin at Peter Pig was demoing Washington's Army, and WD Display Team North were giving a last outing to 'The End' (and I finally got a game).

I got to chat to Jervis Johnson amongst others, and had a good go at encouraging him to come along to the Society of Ancients BattleDay next year ... it is Kadesh, and I am very hopeful we might have some exciting new things in the mix ...

Thanks to everyone for their help as usual, and thanks to the players for joining in.

Colours next, where you can join in with a demonstration of Lost Battles with aut
hor Phil Sabin on the Saturday, or try out FoG in a Wars of the Roses scenario with Society Secretary David Edwards on the Sunday. I'll be running the stand.

Greyhounds in the Slips returns at Derby and SELWG ... twinning with the Elephant Game (TEITR) at Derby. Unmissable.

Manchester 13th-15th August


(the view from my noisy room - mercifully masked with shots of the event)
I guess there's always a lag getting reports posted at this time of year. Britcon is the one that's always difficult to write. It's a great weekend, but such a missed opportunity.

The UK deserves a great national event, and Britcon, with its wonderfully w
ell-supported competitions, and it's excellent city centre location is a prime candidate to be it. Just as Salute is far and away the best wargames show, and COW the best residential weekend, Britcon has the location
and the players.

(Britcon - scenes from the show)
Sadly, Britcon got itself into a rut some years back and now really only does the tournament side well (and then only if you are a real addict who doesn't want to be troubled by social niceties ...).. I won't dwell on what Britcon does badly ... suffice to say that the Society of Ancients is there as an exhibitor and as the donor of a prize ... as the donor of a prize, we no longer merit much of a mention (more recent comers are more celebrated), and as an exhibitor, we rely on visitor footfall and exposure.

This year, the
show - if you can call it that - was screened-off behind a large Slitherine stand so that the few visitors the show now attracts were (s
o they said) at first unaware that there was a show.

(Flames of War ... where the attractive terrain can be found)

This year, rather than end up writing anot
her blog about how annoying never ending wargames can be, played the BHGS way, I thought I'd drop out of the competitions and devote my time over the weekend to promoting the Society full time. So much for that - the response for space to put on games got a pretty hostile reception.

I was able to squeeze in a stand
for the Battlefields Trust and I was given a couple of table for the Society gear ... but just in case anyone came - and assuming they found us, tucked away behind the
Slitherine stand - I was only able to chat, explain and share samples, not to entertain.

(some nice Romans from Mark Fry's FoG army)

If I had come as a visitor, expecting a wargames show, I suspect I wouldn't be coming back next year. As visitor numbers decline, the BHGS, rather than upping its game, simply shrinks the space it allocates, and so the decline continues. For results of the competitions you can do no better than visit the BHGS results pages.

(some nice Vikings from Mark Grindlay's Armati army)

The ancients Armati competition provided an exciting climax, with a dead heat for the Championship between overnight leader Carl Luxford and Karsten Gould ... Karsten very generously deferring to Carl on the basis of count back (Carl had won the game between them) - a tradition within Armati events, but not specifically in the rules for Britcon ... so, shared amongst a select few, UK Armati now has a new national champion.

Paul Dawson won the Society of Ancients 'Persian Helmet' trophy.

Ian Speed (New Kingdom Egyptian) won the best painted army (ancients) prize.

There are prizes for traders but not for exhibitors. The traders choose the best painted army (it is alwa
ys a 28mm army, as you would expect ...)..

Next year is a jamboree year as Britcon founder and BHGS supremo Ian ('JD') McNeil steps down after 14 years. Ian has done a fantastic job of creating the event out of almost nothing, and establishing it - as it were - on the world stage.

The event needs a new champion who can capitalise on the fantastic base Ian has provided, and take Britcon to the next level ... a fantastic weekend and a great wargames show. It will take some imagination to do that ... but I am sure it can be achieved (and it is what UK wargaming deserves, too)..

Roll on Britcon 2011 ... and roll on, Britcon 2012!
For more information, go to The Battlefields Trust For more information on the Naseby game, go to my ECW Battles Blog