Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Manchester 14-16 August

Britcon 2009
Well, its August and along comes the Britcon dilemma. Britcon can be a pretty dull affair if you aren't playing in the competitions - but a relentless bind if you are. Now that I have stopped playing Armati, I am back with the three and a half hour (plus) games ... so a Saturday of 10 to 12 hours competition style games back to back (and for all that, with the games mostly not completed ...) starting at 8.15am (no, that's not the breakfast, that's the actual game start) with no proper flexibility. So it was Field of Glory for me, and another run out for the Condotta Italians I had used in America ... more as a default choice than anything else (this year has been almost devoid of time to prepare ... that said, we have had to wait almost til the end of the publications cycle for one of the more interesting titles, Oath of Fealty - and so there was nothing like enough time to absorb that selection before submissions for Britcon ...) ...
(I used my Italians again - seen here, appropriately enough, anchoring a position amongst some enclosed fields)

From a Society point of view, the event was OK - its a good opportunity to keep up with the competition players, and show them what SoA is up to. But there is little in the way of visitor interest - so my thanks go to the stalwarts of the Lance and Longbow Soc, Steve and Dave, and to Alison on the door, all of whom helped out while the usual suspects were away playing games.

This year's Britcon saw a further coalescing of the current tournament scene. Most ancients enthusiasts in 3 FoG 'periods' (28mm, 15 ancient and 15 dark age/medieval), backed up with a credible DBMM event and 'just viable' numbers playing Armati and DBM. Warhammer Ancient Battles seems to have dropped off the bottom, now (and sadly I suspect Armati will be following it). For what its worth, the raw stats had just under 100 playing FoG (double all the other ancients categories put together), plus 50 odd fantasists and a similar number of Flames of War players (many of who once would have been ancients players ..)... In the medieval FoG event, there were two other Condotta Italians (including listmeister Paul Robinson) - we all came in the 'bottom 10', ho hum - while in the top ten, a couple of Serbs got in amongst the usual suspects and their Later Ottoman armies (the lowest placed of the 4 Ottomans came 11th ... a fact I include because someone asked me the other day ...) ...
(Kevin Ellis's resplendent Swiss army)

So an enjoyable but tiring weekend at the Condottieri coalface. As well as one of the other Italians, I played an Ottoman, 2 Catalans (one of which was Karsten from the FoG group - nice to meet you, Karsten) a Swiss and a Later Crusader. It was a great game against Kevin's Swiss, and I managed to scrape a win in that one. It is a sign that the mainstream game has moved since DBM 3.1 ... you now can get both a good game and a win against Swiss with Italians (that said, the results page speaks for itself ...).

Pete Dalby won the Medieval FoG with his Ottomans, Phil Powell won out over the Dom Rom Swarms in the ancient period (relentless use of tactics throughout the event - read more on the forums and mail groups ...), with, elsewhere, Richard Collins taking the 25mm, Mike Bennett the DBMM and Jez Evans the DBM.

This year's all round, ancients, Mr Popular was Ray Duggins - the highest vote winner of the game-by-game 'sportsmanship' poll of opposing players, Ray was presented with the Society of Ancients 'Persian Helmet' trophy, and gets a pat on the back from Ancients on the Move to go with it ... Well done, Ray ...

The rest of Britcon? Well sadly, I didn't get to see much of it because I was stuck at a table (and so apologies for the scarcity of photos, too - on site for 46 hours, but no time to dither around with cameras ... one must game, game, game ...). It was very hot and humid this year which probably added to the fatigue. Would that there was more to Britcon than the competitions, because it is such a great social event and a good chance to meet up with so many people ... but I guess you can just have too many queues for this and queues for that in an environment strangled by its own over-regulation. Lets see if we can't organise some kind of big participation game or similar next year (and maybe some fresh air too ...)...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Edinburgh, August 1st

Claymore 2009, Telford College, Edinburgh

This was the first Claymore at the new venue– Edinburgh's Telford College.
--> First impressions were positive re parking availability, space, variety of attractions etc. although maybe the jury is out on numbers and certainly loading and unloading (being fair to SESWC, I assume we take 2009 as a learning year) …
The new venue comprised 2 main areas, the hub area at the front of house, and the gym hall a corridor’s length away. We were in the Gym. It always feels a bit cut off to be in the ‘other’ room, but I got the feeling everyone got round, and there was enough trader and game content to make the gym an essential part of the tour.

Deliberate or not, there was very much an Ancients theme to our area, as well as the Callinicum game Glasgow Phoenix were putting on for us, Gateshead club had an adjacent game, Lance & Longbow presented an impressive ‘Fulford Gate’ (stretching the concept of Lance & Longbow, maybe, Dave? … ), and there was a visual very impressive Siege of Troy layout.

(click on the pictures to see a larger version)
I would like to thank Paul Innes and his Glasgow crew for putting on Callinicum. As some of you may be aware from the pre-publicity, this was a transportable version of the big 25mm sand table game put on for the Scottish participation in this year’s Battleday. Having joined in the Bletchley proceedings, I was keen to see another version, and already well-briefed on the battle. As a fan of Arty Conliffe wargames (as well as being an Armati regular, I have been impressed with what I have seen of Shako and of Crossfire …) … I was keen to have a look at the proposed mechanics of Tactica II.
Paul was careful to ensure that the game and info sheets gave a good flavour of the battle and of Tactica’s ideas without giving the unpublished new game away, and I shall respect his concerns. In addition, some of the game mechanisms were scenario add-ins to simulate the historical context.
The game runs to an initiative driven IGO-UGO sequence, with limited manoeuvre, simultaneous shooting but player-defined melee directions: familiar stuff to Armati/Tactica enthusiasts, but with some new subtle tweaks.

How the open movement works, I couldn’t say … working off a given scenario, and with Paul’s penchant for shoulder-to-shoulder deployments, there was not a great deal of player choice beyond go forward/not go forward. That said, I remember Roy commenting at the BattleDay that there was a prolonged archery phase at Callinicum which was largely absent from a number of the Bletchley games (including the Armati games I joined in) … Certainly the horse archery was in evidence in these games. For more about the battle itself, the 2009 battlepack is now available from the Society of Ancients website (here ...)
A feature that certainly seemed to work well was variable unit size, and break levels gear to a link of unit size and morale/training levels. Again, not to much I will say, and no judgements I would like to make after what was just a taster … however it did seem to mesh nicely and gave a good and entertaining picture of battle.

The scenario played quickly despite a large number of players and visitors joining in, and the games were quite tight … comfortably allowing a morning and an afternoon run to completion, and a 1:1 result overall – which reflects both a balanced game, I think, and how marginal (or mostly ‘spun’) was the historically claimed ‘victory’.

(elsewhere at Claymore - the Troy game)

(elsewhere at Claymore - the Fulford Gate game)

I have to admit, with the Callinicum game to play, a hall full of ancients, and Society members dropping in to say ‘hi’, I didn’t get out much – so can’t really
add too much to the above brief survey of what seemed to be a successful show.

In addition to the Troy and Fulford games, the RAF Wargames Club had another innovative looking participation game, and since I snook in a Khartoum picture in my Phalanx report, I can hardly not mention the 'Gold
for The Mahdi' adventure with its tomb raiding overtones

(RAF Wargames - Saving Private Ryan)

Certainly a worthwhile venture for the

Society of Ancients.

Thanks very much to everyo
ne who contributed and to everyone who stopped by (and thanks for the positive feed back).
Thanks to SESWC for inviting
us, and I hope the new venue lived up to your expectations.

Find Paul's Callinicum stuff (here ... )

See the Bletchley BattleDay pictures (here ... )

(Gunboat in the 'Gold for the Mahdi' game)