Monday, July 14, 2014

11-13 July, Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire

The 2014 Conference of Wargamers

There are so many good things to say about CoW that it is hard to know where to start.  Let's just say that the mix of people is excellent, the attitude convivial throughout ... the accommodation is ever improving and, to my taste, the catering (which barely stops all weekend) is a good 8/10 (for reference: no other wargame venue I have been anywhere in the world has topped 7, and I can't afford 10).  

The bar stays open till you go to bed and seems normally priced.  

The wargaming is 9:00 am to, say, midnight and just stops 4 times for main meals or tea/coffee (with home-made biscuits and cakes - indeed, a cream tea, this year).

Anyone can come so book yourself a wargame holiday.   If there is a problem, it is that the event is just the two days and most sessions only run once - so there are always great sessions you miss (especially if you are putting stuff on yourself) ...

For me, the weekend started with an outing to Cropredy Bridge to look at the ECW (1644) battlefield, and finished with re-running my 20th Cent. Naval 'pop up' game for an old friend ...

In between, I put on two main sessions and aided in an ADG (all ancient/medieval), played landsknecht cards, drove a T55 tank and commanded a detachment of French regulars in Canada ... I joined in on some innovative games, ancient, renaissance, Lace Wars and both World Wars, there was a morale boosting sing along (seriously ...) and a crisis game in a time shift ...

Gladiolus ...

For late night entertainment on the Friday, Will revived Gladiolus and I took along a set - at one stage we had 4 boards in play with several players being introduced to the Society of Ancients classic combat game.

(Gladiolus at CoW: you can teach old dogs new tricks - or should that be the other way round?)

I understand that the game is now out of print and is one the Committee is considering reprinting: so it was great to see players taking to it instinctively, getting good games and entertainment to start their weekend

(a 'made-over' Gladiolus set featuring hexes rather than offset squares, and some nicely laminated cards)

(15mm Gladiolus from Outpost ... 20mm Gladiolus from the old Atlantic plastics set)

Before retiring, I got in a game of Doodlebuggers with WD Display Team North, and set up Montaperti for the morning ...

(Doodlebuggers: normally I would edit out the beer bottle, but a 'London Pride' beside a defeat the doodlebugs game seems fortuitously appropriate)

Montaperti 1260

This was a shameless plug for the Society of Ancients BattleDay.   It is Hydaspes next year, and this year my take on Montaperti using Basic Impetus (plus) was flagged as *Best Game* (so has become my advert for the event).

(Montaperti at CoW: the players announce their intentions)

We had 2 players a side plus some non-playing participants, and in the 2 hour session, managed an intro to the BattleDay, briefing on the battle, guide to the rules, plus completed the game (the Florentine army broke at 10:50 with the session due to end at 11:00)

(Montaperti at CoW: the disarrayed units are broken; the numbers behind units show their current VBU)

The Florentine cavalry wing severely battered the Sienese army's tough German contingent driving them back to the Arbia but failing to break them, meanwhile their pavisier/crossbow units were unable to hold in the infantry line.

(Montaperti at CoW: a closer look at the combat)

(Montaperti at CoW: knights from the Sienese rearward reinforce Lancia's Germans on the banks of the Arbia)

... and the flanking force under the Duke of Arras arrived in good time behind the Florentine left.

In fact, it was neither the Sienese reserves nor the flank march that settled the day - the Florentine knights finally ran out of steam - and then their losses combined with the infantry casualties across the ridge were just too much.   In the basic game, this 50% value would mean the loss of the army but in historical games, I replace it with an ever worsening die roll - in the first instance the army must roll at least a 2.   

In fact, the test resulted in a 1 and meant we could wrap up without running over into the coffee break or needing an artificial solution.

The players seemed to have enjoyed all this  - as a recreation of Montaperti and as a run through of Basic Impetus.


Here's a quick look round at some of what else CoW had to offer on Saturday ...

(a 15mm German Apokalypse occuring at the main railway station)

(anti-tank missile debris on the lawn following a massed tank attack)

(the French marching on Quebec)

(another lawn, another battle: Little Cold War action)

(German Peasants War ... cardboard Landsknechts)

And for my main evening entertainment, I played the French regulars in a huge game of Muskets and Tomahawks ... 

Commercial games - especially of the glossy sort are a rarity at CoW and only get brought along if people really think you ought to know about them, so I was pleased for the chance to get an objective look at this much hyped product.

(Muskets and Tomahawks: scenes from our raid on the village)

Ancients games ...

... and in addition, Trebian ran a multi-player version of 'To Ur is Human' - an excellent treatment of the earliest period of warfare which we have been helping him test and perfect on a Wednesday night ...

(To Ur is Human ... battling for the fields and gardens of ancient Mesopotamia)

Former SoA President Ian Russell Lowell contributed sessions on German soldiers, cardgames and Hittite raiders ...

(IRL is the only person I know who sports an 'I love Luwian' tee shirt ...)

... in addition, Treb came up with a last minute 'pop-up' - Rapid Raphia, an attempt to make a quick-fire but satisfying game out of the massive Hellenistic pike and elephant clash ...

(Rapid Raphia: two boards going side-by-side)

This looked like an innovative success which I think I am destined to play in our weekly local get together this week (and we might try it out at a show, I'm told ...) ...

Before turning in on Saturday, I set up my Northampton session for the morning.

Northampton 1460

Whereas my Saturday session was more of a game with attenuated presentations, 1460 focussed more on the discussion of the battle, location and reconstruction, and on the work of the Northampton Battlefield Society.

(Northampton 1460: me behind the camera, Mike Elliot talking about the battle)

It was great to have a good number of participants, and in the second half of the session, I presented my ideas for wargaming the battle, we worked through the game ideas I have developed and came up with some really good period enhancements ...

(Northampton 1460: the final stages of the Yorkist attack)

(Northampton 1460: Lancastrians man the barricades at Delapre)

(Northampton 1460: the battlefield viewed from the North - NNW)

This session went really well and I am looking forward to modifying some of the attendant mechanisms for the outing at Kelmarsh Hall (History Live!) with the Battlefields Trust next weekend.

Of course, I was helping a session on Friday night, the presenting both mornings, so other people's weekends would have far more diverse than the weekend I managed to cram in.

So maybe we will see you next year?

More on Cropredy (ECW Battles/Cropredy); more on 20th Century CoW (P.B.Eye-Candy)

(Montaperti at CoW: battlefield panorama)

(End-piece: this engraving of the Eleanor Cross at Hardingstone hangs in the Hall at Knuston - it is the landmark from which Archbishop Bourchier and Legate Coppini watched the battle of Northampton)

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