Wednesday, February 8, 2012

5th February, York Racecourse


The snow bound trip into York for Vapnartak was something of an adventure and had I known that I would end up driving my notoriously slithery German RWD vehicle on fresh compacted snow, I probably would have bottled it (overseas readers: bottled it = chickened out/not gone).

As it was, I was tail-gunner on the Gentlemen Pensioners (Lance & Longbow/SoA) expedition and just followed where the vanguard led. And that got us into the show just about by opening time (and if some of it was achieved more by faith than judgement, I'm not telling ...)...

Saturday was an altogether sunnier affair as we had all gotten together in Salford for a big Sudan battle the day before the show (see below). What a great idea for a wargaming weekend (big battle on Saturday, show on Sunday. What's a few snowflakes?!).

(Vapnartak: York Racecourse, 5th February 2012)

Back with Vapnartak, although some Societies get pride of place, The Society of Ancients does not. Nobody will tell me why. We have loyally supported this show since back in the Merchant Adventurers' days - yet every year they find a way of pushing us even further off the beaten track. This year we were out of the show proper up amongst the competition tables. A few visitors found us but most didn't.

(wargame in a box ... tucked away in a corner - the Society of Ancients at Vapnartak)

I guess it must be because they don't want Participation Games and anything other than 28mm, but I wish they would tell us as we always try to involve people and introduce newcomers to historical wargames etc. whenever asked, they always approve (then stick us where we can't be found by any potential players! Doh!) .

(Lance & Longbow Society's simple but effective Ravenna game)

(Curteys put on this big if slightly anonymous version of Plataea)

Many evenings of work went into this year's 'Lords of the Nile' project (which will see better locations at other shows ...) so it was a pity so few saw the combination of tradition German flats with modern terrain presentation and WRG's latest trial of DBA V3. Looks splendid, don't you think? Ah, well ...

More on Lords of the Nile below. And you will get a better opportunity to see it at Hammerhead this coming weekend.

(display tables at Vapnartak)

(WWII: German columns doing what they do best)

(some nice early 20th C. soldiers in the Middle east)

Vapnartak is therefore a trade show mixed with 28mm clumsy tables and a labour intensive Flea Market. There were some good offerings amongst the 28mm stuff (though, as is increasingly the case at York, nothing much new or imaginative) ... here's a quick tour, but you are better served by visiting 28mm drool sites for this show if you like that sort of thing.

(my favourite downstairs game: Ilkley's old school game with traditional wargames soldiers)

So ... nice venue, nice people, strange priorities. I'm sure we will continue to support the show as long as they continue to accommodate us (but I'm not sure that will be for much longer as out in the car park is probably next for historical wargaming's biggest volunteer association ...) ..

Gentlemen Pensioners Big Game (day before Vapnartak) ...

This was a Sudan game played with 28mm figures and using The Sword and the Flame roughly based on the battle of Firkat.

(Firkat mounted Mahdists emerge victorious from the desert flank)

For a balanced and fuller view of the game, you might like to visit other Gentlemen's blogs ...
Fire at Will
Wargames Amateur

Now commenting on a game played using the hugely popular TSATF rules is tricky ground. The rules are extremely clumsy and characterless: slow to resolve and very arbitrary. Inevitably, as a pioneer of the use of cards, I quite like the sequencing of movement and shooting by playing card (but in all honesty, most other games that use that mechanism do it better). And using D6 for some rolls, D20s for others, isn't gaining points for elegance. Then, of course we must have saving rolls. The combat system is a triumph of tedium over efficiency.

(twilight at Firkat and the Mahdists celebrate as the Egyptians run away)

I am a great social wargamer and really enjoyed pushing the colonial toys around with friends I have known now for as much as 30 years. We could make the game worthwhile and entertaining using any old mechanism, however dubious or un-promising. But just for balance, given the misleadingly positive spin The Sword and the Flame so regularly gets, I thought it proper to record my view of the rules themselves: the worst so-called 'historical' wargames rules I play all year ... not even close on Black Powder, Science vs Pluck or PitS (or something you scribbled down the night before) in my opinion. All the things I dislike in a set of rules rolled into one package. I commanded the Mahdidsts, by the way, and we won. So don't let that cloud your judgement.

And yes, I'd happily do it all again (as the whole thing was a great game despite the rules) ...

Lords of the Nile (DBA V3) at Vapnartak ...

I'll say a little more after the game has its second run at Hammerhead. Phil Barker kindly emailed me the latest trial version of V3 a couple of days before the show and we played the game through a few time both with seasoned DBA enthusiasts and complete newcomers to the DB system.

(DBA V3: close combat in the lands of the Pharaoh)

Of course, it worked very smoothly and cleanly in all the games and V3 generally seems both to work better than 2.2 and to give a more intuitive and cleaner game (less 'gamey'/easier to play). The movement is in basewidths and seems to work better than the older system. Rear Support and consequent losses are much simplified giving a more authentic flavour and better balance. The games themselves took about the same time to play as previously (despite an expectation that the games might be a bit quicker) ...

Those people who were able to find the Society stand at Vapnartak seemed to enjoy seeing the game played with these refurbished veterans of yesterday's wargaming and they are, indeed, a pleasure to play with. They have the size of 28mm with none of the clumsiness - in a different world they might even catch on :O)

(The Egyptian army's lone element of Psiloi heads for the security of the Teddy Bear fur)


Will Scarvie said...

The more I see those lovely 40mm Prince August semi-flat figures (Ilkley's old school game), but more I want to amass a vast collection of them.

SoA Shows North said...

Yes, they really did catch the attention, didn't they ..

A 'someday' project without doubt ...

(or something near it)