Thursday, March 17, 2016

13th March, Wolverhampton

These days our first proper show of the Shows North year is Alumwell's WMMS in Wolverhampton.

Always friendly, always well-attended - and with a good trade presence (well I can usually get the stuff I need) .. This year we shared a birth with the Northampton Battlefields Society. ...

NBS have been doing sterling work defending the battlefields of Northamptonshire against developers, especially the 1460 site at Delapre Abbey.  As part of the campaign they have self-published a new book on the battle and we will have some available at shows this year ...

That's the Amazon link but if you get it through the Society at a show, all the cash goes to the Battlefield Society and everything over the basic cost then helps defend our heritage.

If you are interested in the Wars of the Roses, you need this book.

Plugging nearby Northampton aside, we used our time at the WMMS to get out the nostalgia collection of flats originally owned by Tony Bath, Deryck Guyler, Phil Barker and others and put on a 60's style game ...

(1960s style ancients ... the Bath/Guyler/Barker flats at WMMS 2016)

Although it isn't necessarily the definitive version (I'm working on narrowing that down), we played to the version of the Bath wargame included in Donald Featherstone's seminal War Games (first published 1962) ...

(the rules were Tony Bath per Featherstone's War Games ... here, the John Curry reprint)

When I booked the game in with the show organisers I had no idea that veteran Midlands wargamer, Society LVP and original painter of the majority of the figures on display, Phil Barker, would be able to attend ...

Re-united, as it were, with some old friends ...

(Phil Barker settles in behind one army in the Bath/Guyler/Barker flats battle)

As is often the case these days, Phil preferred to share his recollections of those early games (the development of the basing system, his victorious cataphracts, Tony's infernal layering of rule upon rule etc. etc.) than push the tin around (he is thinking entirely about HFG these days) but it was great to see him in good health and a pleasure to welcome him to the Society stand (where would the ancient wargame be without Phil and those early pioneers, most of whom, sadly, are no longer with us?) ...

(the very same cataphracts Phil used to defeat Tony Bath all those years ago)

As I hope the pictures show, the style of the game was how I fancy things would have looked.  I came into wargaming at the end of the 1960s, and some of the terrain I have had since then - but I have to admit I don't think things ever looked quite so complete as they do these days (in the modern game's infancy, really, anything you had would do ... at least for us youngsters).

(1960s style terrain ... original Bellona bridge and Merit Poplar trees)

Elsewhere we saw quite a good mix of games and displays, plus military vehicles, reenactment and the modelling exhibition which is part of the flavour of the show.

Painted backdrops seemed to be popular this year ... an interesting development.

(the Battle of Edgehill 1642 complete with landscape and skyline)

(Swiss and Burgundians)

Indeed there were one or two English Civil War games - I believe Helion have some rules coming out (I wonder if this is also on the up again) although perhaps fewer ancients ... nevertheless these Romans were out ...

... and there was a very large Hastings game using Gripping Beast figures (or so the captions implied)

A Roman Battle for Hyboria

Unusually for me I pitched this as an imaginations encounter because it was a celebration of Tony Bath's legacy and also, the Bath rules being as they are, I wanted to incorporate elephants, cataphracts, Gallic cavalry etc. into the game (to bring out the variety in the rules) ... 

It seemed to work nicely although those elephants are tough beasties.

The Eastern army, with reinforcements suggested on its flank, seemed to have the advantage (more elephants, Phil's fully armoured cataphracts, and a couple of those pilum-chucking cohorts) ... they went on the attack ...

(the Eastern army as it took the field replete with elephants, cataphracts, and legionaries)

This elephant stampeded under missile fire, however - and stormed off the table (narrowly missing those Gallic horsemen who were frantically - and it turned out wisely - running away from the cataphracts)

The Western elephants had already been lost to missile exchanges between the crewmen.

The rules are very bloody by modern standards ... high hit ratios and low chances to save ... whole swathes cut down by missiles or melee - but morale rules which give a fair chance to small surviving groups to press on.

(light troops tussle on the Southern edge of the battlefield)

(elephants and archers battle for the gentle slopes in the middle of the battlefield)

(Eastern high point ... 2 elephants survive the battle for the hill, cataphracts bear down on the Gauls and, foreground 2 cohorts will take on some archers) 

... actually, the cohort nearest the hill has already lost figures to the bowmen and will get cut down further before combat, while its supports will engaged by cavalry returning from a fight on the flank.

(the endgame)

Hit with more missiles, another elephant stampeded, in this case charging straight forward into the auxiliary cohort which had done the damage.  The foot broke and ran - but subsequently rallied.  The elephant headed off the battlefield.

The last elephant finally succumbed to hails of pila.  The archers who had torn shreds out of the enemy cohort then trounced them in melee - leaving the Western army, somewhat improbably, commanding the centre of the battlefield.

The cataphracts destroyed the lightly armed Gauls but both players agreed that they would then have ridden off rather than tried their luck against the overwhelming numbers now behind them.

Actually the game had worked very well and played quite quickly ... although there might be a catalogue of nuances one would look again at with 50 years more wargame design under our belts, it was fun, and victory progressed in a series of logical steps from player decisions and bouts of die rolling.

You can see why it would have caught on.


More Barker wargaming next week - the very latest style, though ... DBA 3 for the Society sponsored Northern Cup at Triples (but I'll take some SoA goods with me and the promised copies of Northampton 1460).


TWR said...

A very interesting post, with significant nostalgia.

Vince Cholewa said...

Thank you for the post. Great to see Phil Barker was there and the game using flats.