Monday, July 27, 2009

Stoke, July 26th

The 2009 Stoke Challenge
A very fortunate weekend in many respects - a fantastic sunny Saturday at the Festival of History ... and an excellent rainy Sunday indoors at the Stoke Challenge ... Actually the M6 was horrible, but I'd much rather that than the weather be the other way round over the two days ...

The Stoke Challenge is the club's annual invitation wargames event, and this year again featured the two ancients challenges plus the planes and WW2 stuff. A well attended DBMM singles event, and the light-hearted 100 point Armati Doubles event.

I was up there playing Armati (well ancients, A2 Armati, anyway...) for the first time since Glasgow last year. The Stoke club were able to put up three home teams, and the Armati League took up the challenge with three teams of visitors. The six Triumph of Cavalry armies fielded were two Tang Chinese, an Andalusian, an Abbassid Arab, an Arab Conquest and a Sassanid Persian.

(Ghazi Warband from Chris Ager's Arab armies)

After two rounds of entertaining and quite tight battles, the Armati League teams mostly had won, the Stoke teams mostly not. My (Arab Conquest) team's first game went down to the last set of combats (both armies broke on 7 key unit losses, and we started the last turn with us -5, them -6 ... the crucial combat was between tired camels and tired Andalusian lancers - not panicked, both on FV4 and both already on 2 BP: so if the lancers lost, the game was over, if they won, the breaks were levelled and some more 50/50s would follow ... our camels shaded it) ... very close.

(lovely figures from the triumphant Abbassid army)

Mark's prize-giving mostly seemed to be about dead generals and stuff like that, but for what its worth, apparently the highest scoring team was the visitors' Roy Boss/Rodger Williams combo. Well done to them and their Abbassids.

Brian Pierpoint won the DBMM event, with Jim Gibson coming second. There is a full listing of the DBMM results here ....

Many thanks to the Stoke club and to the individual umpire/organisers: great job.


Dover Amendments?

Paul S-to-Z thought some of you might be interested in (this link to.. ) the Vintage Wargamers (he thinks it goes well with the rolling slideshow from the early nineties, I think).

Well OK, I'll tuck them into the links section. I don't think I ever played the Dover Amendments, mind ....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire, 25th July

Festival of History

'Festival of History' is the English Heritage summer event just down the road from me at Kelmarsh Hall. It it very big on the outdoor stuff - living history, re-enactment, fly pasts etc. It covers (mostly military) history through to the Twentieth Century, but with masses to entertain and inform enthusiasts of ancient and medieval warfare: a custom zone devoted to the Siege of Harfleur and Henry's French adventure, a Gladiator ring, and a Tilt Yard - in addition to scheduled displays from the coming of the Romans to the advent of gunpowder in the main arenas ...

(The main Hall vista with Roman drill demonstration taking place)

There was a large medieval component to the living history zones, and a lot of weaponry being demonstrated.
There is an extensive wargames zone run by the Phoenix Wargames Club - historical games aimed at getting visitors to see the light: 2 ancients games (Thermopylae and Caratacus - both employing Warhammer Ancient Battles) an English Civil War game, aerial action with Wings of War and a Battle of the Bulge snowscapes game.

(some of the historical games presented by the Phoenix Wargames Club)

I had an interesting chat with them over the Thermopylae game - it was apparently lasting much longer than WAB battles usually do - there was an outflanking move through the passes that was making slower than expected progress (meanwhile, frontal attacks on the Spartan position were proving virtually futile .. well, that seems OK, then ...). Good effort by the club, and plenty of kids joining in. Ancients looking by far the most popular.

(those 300 Spartans again)

Apart from the fact that there is 'ancient and medieval history and wargaming set therein' throughout the event - so any Society of Ancients enthusiast would warm to it - this is an excellent family event with plenty to do and, I thought, much better access than the similar event for which we used to do the ancient tabletop games some years back at Kirby Hall (History in Action). Expensive tickets, maybe, but more than a full day's worth of stuff to see and do, free parking, idyllic Northamptonshire and a big discount if you join English Heritage. mark it in your diaries for next year and cross your fingers for a sunny day.

With Naseby Battlefield only a mile or two away, there is always a strong ECW theme to the event - and indeed I was there to meet some of the Battlefields Trust activists in connection with a Naseby project I am engaged with for the Pike and Shot Society. Whilst the rest of us go about our normal business, making a living, supporting families, enjoying historical hobbies etc., the Battlefields Trust are waging a campaign (sometimes a rearguard action, it seems) to protect our military heritage from being concreted over as carparks, housing developments and motorways. Towton is near the top of the endangered list. The trust needs our support and help in this vital work.

There are more (ECW) pictures from Kelmarsh (and ongoing updates about my Naseby project at the ECW Battles in Miniature blog).

To find out more about the Battlefields Trust (and help with a donation if you can ...) go to their website ... (here... )

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rome 9 - 12 July

European Individual Championships

Sadly unforseeable circumstances meant that I did not get to this event - but there are some interesting photos at

Bletchley, earlier this year, in April

A Look Back at the 2009 Battle Day - Callinicum ... I was going to paste these photos into the 'Good Start' collection of pictures from earlier in the year - but they demanded to get a posting of their own. Many thanks to all the teams who took so much trouble with this year's challenge. Eastern Romans against Sassanid Persians on the front line at Callinicum.
A sunny Spring day, Sycamore Hall, Bletchley ... and a wonderfully presented series of games from all the best known authors ...
And an excellent and informative introduction by Roy Boss - which I think helped us all better understand what this battle is all about ...
(Mark Gilby and Graham Fordham set up Romans in the FoG game.)
(Command and Colours attractively presented as a figure game)
(Martin Simpson gave RFCM's Conquerors and Kings a rare outing. The little star shapes mark out the board's grid pattern)
(newcomers and old favourites)(and topping the terrain awards again, Mark Craddock's innovative flowing foam Armati table)

(decisive moments on the Armati table)

And finally everyone got together at the end

Zama next year, folks!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Knuston Hall 3rd to 5th July

COW 2009
WD's Conference of Wargamers

The event of the year traditionally starts with a plenary 'ice breaker' game to get everyone into game playing mode at the start of the weekend. This year it was former SoA Treasurer Chris Ager's horribly named 'I thought I saw a Putty Cat' which had the assembly communicating covert operations by means of modelling the information in playdough and cut up paper. So it was mercifully quick and got everyone milling about and chattering. And a riveting weekend of wargames was underway again ...

There wasn't quite so much Ancients stuff this year. John Bassett did a very popular Roman politics game, Graham Evans ran the latest version of his Wars of the Roses game 'Trial by Battle' - and Ian Drury and Richard Brooks a combined session, also late Medieval, each presenting a battle (Faughart and Flodden) with Richard's rules (with the much imitated squared array and card activation).

I hope in both (all three) cases we can persuade the authors to share their different insights with Slingshot readers in the fullness of time.

Whilst all this was going on, I have to admit that I had slid out of period slightly and was playtesting a new version of my English Civil War Armati adaptations for the Naseby game I am due to run for the Pike and Shot Society at Colours this year. Naseby is my local battlefield, and 2009 is its appeal year (so I'm sure all of you will support me trying to do my bit for our constantly threatened heritage). You can find out all about my ECW project by visiting some new pages I am setting up for it (English Civil War Battles in Miniature) ... or if you want to go direct to the Naseby appeal, click this link ... You might even like to make a donation ...

Well, nearly all of this features unique rules mechanisms (Wargame Developments still proudly badges itself 'we write our own rules'), and the freedom that gives allows the event to offer (I'd argue) more games in more diverse periods than any other event in the world.

That said, it is also one of the few events where one can relax over a cup tea with our Life Vice President Phil Barker - whom, I'm sure you will be pleased to know, I can report is still lively and jovial (enjoying his wargaming and tinkering with mechanisms, as ever ...)...

My own weekend also included trying out Peter Pig's trial American War of Independence game - a variation on their very popular Civil War Battles system (all of which evolved from the innovative 'Bloody Barons' with which the other Medievalists amongst us are, I'm sure, very familiar ..) -

... an extremely absorbing battle on WWI's Eastern Front - not far off Tannenburg, it is fair to say ... (all players SoA members to boot!) and a map-based Napoleonic Operational game with Megagame Makers' Jim Wallman ... and also a couple of ACW games ... a Gettysburg boardgame and a skirmish/roleplay of the Great Locomotive Chase (surely you all know about that ...)..

This year, of course, the weather was good, and an event like COW allows some constructive use of the great outdoors. John Curry's Recce Game out on the lawn was an excellent example of something simple done well. We were using binoculars to spot (1/32 scale) model figures and vehicles over scaled distances as they lay in wait camouflaged in the undulations and scrapes of an apparently flat terrain. It was very tricky (see the pictures) ...

Of course, this is much easier for us than scaled observers and scouts (who would be down at the level of the vehicles).

Yes, they are dug in somewhere out there.
Click on the photos to get a better image.

The concealment was all pretty innocent - all the kit was still in its plain green or grey dull plastic (and the figures were mounted on bare cardboard bases) ... nothing was actually camo'ed up or manipulated. Enjoyable and illuminating.

Here's more of the other stuff.
Bob Cordery has more COW reports and photos
on his Wargaming Miscellany blog.

Of course, I write up COW on the Shows North blog because we have a membership stand at the event. As usual, we took some memberships and distributed a few more games and publications (this is, in itself, something of an achievement ... so many members of WD are SoA members these days) ... not just because it is one my favourite wargames experiences in the year!

So a big thank you to WD and the organisers for extending us the space they do - and thanks to everyone who contributed their part to a great weekend. Well up to the standards it has set in recent years.