Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Manchester, 28th November

Northern Doubles

Due to other commitments, the l
ast time I was able to get up to a Northern Doubles League event was back in at Wargames Bazaar ...

I enjoyed it a lot (2 games gives you a day's wargaming, a
nd leaves you wanting more, rather than that 'too much of good thing' feeling some of the more drawn out competitions leave you with). Not over regulated either ... the printer wasn't working so we were using hand-written score sheets, and a certain amount of pointing teams to tables: all good stuff (computers are fantastic aids, but wargamers are people not robots ... so can sort most things out without being plugged-in) ...

There was home-cooked food, DIY coffee and seasonal mince-pies ... and I won't even dare to tell you the price of the Boddingtons round the corner (London it isn't, now move on ...)...

Despite all the coverage of Scotland's weather on the UK's national media, we just had a cold icy morning (
no snow, but that's normal) and a long edgy drive up. Still, we weren't late, and we weren't last, and all was well.

We took my Sicilians.
(Enzo Hohenstauffen, King of Sardinia, commander of the Sicilian host)
are some attractive handicapping systems that apply to the NDBML events (to limit the killer and swarm FoG armies ...) ... but you have to play a few rounds for that to apply - we had a free choice. As it happens, the Sicilians are in the middle (class 2).

This is a very attractive 7th edition army which got emasculated by
DBM 3.1 (I had taken it to Melbourne for the World Championships in 2005, where it placed 13th in the hands of an under-rated player ... but that was prior to the changes).

FoG still over
-rates the power of infantry, but the game is better balanced, and the feudal armies are back. Since Oath of Fealty came out, there has been much dusting repairing and re varnishing in the Regno.

The two games were both excellent and played in rollicking good spirit.
(15mm Imperial Romans from Lancashire Games)
The first g
ame was out of period, against a very smart Imperial Roman swarm (19 BGs I think) Martin Routh & Andy Wallace which got its cavalry needlessly drawn in, and then chased back through their own lines causing mayhem as they went. Sorry about that.

Big Sicilian win.

Flying high into the afternoon, we got found out by Dave Ruddock & David Eltringham's Western Han (out of period and on the
wrong side of the world ... but the crossbow foot with dancing cavalry mixes felt like a good opponent for us ....).
(Western Han)
The game went nip and tuck down to the last turn (when a couple of melees went against us) 13:7 to the current League leaders.

2 excellent games. Apologies to all for a lack of trophy photos ... the cold closed in, and we made a hasty retreat south. I will edit the results into the post when they are published.

is here ... of course ...

Have a look at the 2011 dates. Well worth a Sunday outing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reading, 20 -21st November

(a scene from Sunday's AMW game)


This year, Phil Sabin combined with Eric and Alan on Saturday for a
Lost Battles in
terpretation of Caesar's enterprise at Bribracte.

Doubling the value as ever, on Sunday, David Edwards and Kevin Large offered an
AMW try out game, featuring a skirmish between Byzanti
ne and Turks.

Stalwarts from the
Shows North crew travelled down both days to man the stand, joined by Daivid 'Championship' Barnsdale .... (RJC was bu
sy winning the 28mm FoG competition, but popped over occasionally to update us). Graham Fordham was fluttering his flags in the same tournament, local veterans Duncan Head and Bob Robertson joined us for a chat and I had a penetrating debate about realism with FoG author Richard Bodley-Scott over lunch.

Valuable networking and a sociable and useful weekend.

During the
first hour, it certainly didn't feel that way ... we were on the last rank of non-tournament tables in the bowls hall (The Society of Ancients has long been relegated - along with most of the games - from the main hall in the quirky way this show has developed) ... and only one person stopped to chat. It seemed it was going to be a long weekend. (some of the stuff going on at Warfare 2010)

I'll indulge a snippet or two
from that chat as it has some themes that might be interesting ... the visitor was a recently 'ex-ed' ex-member who felt that Slingshot's recent attempts to cover 'everything' had resulted in it being thin on the main ancients game - which he thought was Field of Glory (because that's what everyone he knows now plays bar the half dozen or so DBMMers you see at competitions). He didn't really see the point of covering rules nobody uses (AMW, Armati, Impetus .. to name but three ...)...Now, I'm not repeating this to be argumentative (as I indicated at the time, since my locals don't play FoG or DBMM, but do play Armati and AMW, generalisations just do not apply) ... I make it because it touches on perceptions.

118 players played ancient/medieval at this year's
Britcon ...just over 300 names appear on the FoG tournament rankings list (though many have only played one eve
nt): maybe regular ancients 'tournament players' in the UK generally constitutes around 200 wargamers? So about 1/5 the size of Slingshot's UK readership ... just as ancients enthusiasts are a minority of wargamers, tournament players are an even smaller minority of the ancients fraternity.

urnament players may be very visible, and at times very vocal ... but it cannot be assumed that what they do is what everyone else does. (Saturday's excellent reconstruction of Bibracte)

For example at
Salute this year there was a whole host of ancients
games - none of them played using FoG. On the other hand, at Reading, on the competition tables, it looked more like about 80% FoG. Very different proportions of very different games.

To have extrapolated from
either, on its own, what most people did would clearly have been a mistake.

Unfortunately, within wargaming, there are no real statistics or surveys upon which to build anything
other than a summary of unrepresentative opinions ... Sales of publications such as Field of Glory far exceed membership of clubs like ours (and sometimes this can lead authors/publishers to jump to conclusions about relative value or popularity ... but I see far more mint copies of FoG booklets on the Bring & Buy than Slingshot, so I wouldn't read much into it).

Statistics apart, I do think it a pity when historical wargaming and tournament wargaming diverge to the extent that they
I do think it a pity that the games newcomers can try amongst the display and participation tables are so blatantly not the game
s being played on all the tournament tables. Sometimes I think the tournament players are seeking a purer test of gaming ability, the display gamers are showing off their overblown collections and the participation tables looking to garner players by offering a cheap thrill ... that is, sometimes I think we are all getting it wrong.

to Warfare, maybe I worry too much ... Saturday's historical wargame, Phil Sabin's Bibracte looked splendid (Phil's smaller terrain system previously used at Cavalier, but with the 25mm forces squeezed-on ... giving the battle that crowded look I, for one, really like). It worked well as a game, too, and entertained a number of participants and visitors. (more from Sunday's Byzantines/Turk AMW game)

Possibly more resplendent, Sunday's game was a chance to join in one of those game nobody ( err - except everyone I know, I guess ...) plays -
AMW ... so might be doing something to redress the imbalanced impression all those FoG and DBMM tables might give. (WotR fluttering flags in an English clash on Graham's table - FoG comp)

As it goes, we did very well from
Warfare, gaining quite a number of new recruits by the end of the weekend. Through the games and publications s
cheme, a number of non-members left with a chance to explore ancient a medieval topics the Society of Ancients way. Good stuff.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by ... whether with compliments or problems which need fixing, all are appreciated.
Someone came over just to ask me to pass on his thanks to the SoA team for all the work we do ... he thought it marvellous that we could achieve it all just on volunteer input. Well, I guess it is - and consider it done!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sandhurst, 6th November

There was a gathering at Sandhurst to mark the passing of military historian and wargame iconoclast Paddy Griffith, who died earlier this year.

Extracts from Television's Game of War were mixed with memories and evaluations from colleagues and friends, both past and present.

Genevieve Griffith spoke of family life, and holidays that turned into battlefield walks and impromptu games ... Richard Carwardine spoke of the Oxford years, Paul Harris of his long association with the Royal Military Academy. Andy Callan spoke of the origins of WD, an
d John Curry of Paddy the wargames author. We were played out with 'Paperback Writer'.

On behalf of the Society of Ancients, I was pleased to announce that the Committee had awarded Dr Griffith the 2010 John Westwood Trophy in recognition of a unique contribution to military history and to historical wargames and game design.

We all send our best wished to family and friends at this time of loss

A fuller tribute and citation will appear in future issue of Slingshot.

I have included a series of links to various Griffith memorial events (here, on my 20th century blog) ...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leeds, 31st October

Fiasco 2010

For me, this was one of those quirky experi
ences. Fiasco has moved across the piazza at Clarence Dock, from the Armouries proper to its new exhibition and functions hall, Saviles.

My impressio
n of Saviles is straightforward: it is a big efficient box conceived to appeal to that sector of the market that has no interest in the Armouries or military heritage (there are no traces of the Armouries' identity, and the hall is themed on 1960s pop and celeb culture as tagged by its namesake, Sir Jimmy Savile).

I've no idea what the package choices available to the hosts are, and I
would certainly agree that in respects such as loading/unloading, lighting etc. the facilities were more helpful than in the main building. However, this event simply wasn't at the Royal Armouries ... or indeed in a venue with any military or heritage resonance ... more the ambiance of 'trendy winebar meets factory shed'. And that was a disappointment.

Same time, of course, you have all the ad
ded expense of the Clarence Dock parking experience.
The comparisons are unfair, of course ... my attendance at Fiasco goes back to the Armley days ... where 'cheap and cheerful' was an understatement ..
. cheap, cheerful ... also popular and well attended. A very busy day for anyone manning a stand. Almost impossible to do without a fair handful of people.

That could not be said these days. OK - I am biased: I really like the Armouries ... its
heritage, its mix of visitors, its museum shop, its expensive but invigorating coffee. Even so, there is no doubt that it was a costly venue to visit and that seems to have put some people off over the years, once the novelty wore off. (breakfast for the team)

We got to the event
bright and early after a crisp dawn start, and were rapidly installed, set up and enjoying bacon butties and some good if unremarkable coffee. As well as the stand, we were back to Greyhounds in the Slips, now with an additional storey to the crossbowman's tower. It seemed to go down well.

Sadly, we were next to some fantasy stuff rather than the historical game indicated on the original floor plan.
We welcomed incoming Committee m
ember Chris Helm to the Shows North fold, who slipped effortlessly into the accustomed routines of chatting to prospective members, promoting the Society and running participation games.

It would be interesting to know what the attendance figures reveal.
(someone left a casualty ring on from a recent game)

My guess would be that visitors were again down ... but it is easy to get the impression with the event moving into a bigger and more airy space. However, the traders I spoke to as the afternoon thinned down
were of the same view - though some put this down to the absence of a bring & buy. There were some empty tables, too - 'no shows', I presume ...
There were quite a few good games and displays for those visitors who did attend - and I took the opportunity to distract James Roach of the Ilkley Lads from his Western Desert display game to present him with the Paul Morris Axe.

James won the award for the most innovative non-commercial game within the Society's remit with his ancient naval take on Piquet - which featured at Fiasco last year (much to look at here ...).

We also had a chat with Rick Priestley of Warhammer and Black Powder fame (and he answered a query I had on BP ... but that's not for this blog maybe ...).. We are looking forward to an exciting contribution to next year's Kadesh Battleday ... and it sounds like 2011 will be another great year for ancients publications and rule books. Great news ...

Maybe it's the arrival of winter light, GMT and driving up in the dark (and, on the return from a reunion dinner ... mine was a trip through 5 counties ...).. but whereas SELWG, a couple of weeks ago, is a show that feels in full season, these days Fiasco feels like the year is drawing to conclusion, and has little of the buzz of busier events.

I came home and started making plans for Christmas.

I hope the organisers got good numbers as a result of the changed venue - and certainly, the Society of Ancients will continue to support their venture.

Was this the Armouries, though? No ... But hopefully the future will bring the traders, gamers and visitors that used to attend.

Is there a wargames event in the Armouries these days? Like the Society of Ancients Doubles once was? Or has that gone too? Pity ...

We'll be back in Yorkshire next month for Recon. Maybe we'll see you all there ....

Let's get a good turn out - it's got to beat Christmas shopping ...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Northamptonshire, October: Armati, new and old

The Championship and stuff...

I'm glad you liked my little bit of extra content on the DBA theme ... there will be more to come. Meanwhile, I have been involved in some interesting Armati games recently


The Northamptonshire guys very kindly slotted a tr
ial game into the Friday schedule ... the 'Double Width' Intro scheme I'd discussed on my ECW blog (full story on this link ...). For ECW historical games I have been using the Intro Ruler rather than the Optimal Ruler (Armati uses a MU system for accommodating different scale figures: true inches for 25mm; two thirds inches for 15mm; and one third inches for Intro scale in which a single base is a unit).

Although Optimal scale is the most commonly played game, Intro has many merits: all
the units are the same width (solving some of the clunkiness of the Optimal game where unit widths can be varied with mixed results), and at one third standard, the movement is more in line with the movement common amongst other game rules.

Having successfully used a 2" MU with 15mm figures for my FoG-ba
se Jerusalem game, I had no worries about using 'the wrong' measuring convention for Armati. Nevertheless, players consenting to a full blown trial is great.

We played 75 bonus points worth of Graham Evans Parthians against Romans - and nice it was to see them out on the table after a while in barracks. Some o
f those splendid Peter Pig figures that are not so frequently seen. I thought these might be good armies to use as in conventional Armati, Parthians can be a bit of a problem (two evades and you are off table ...).. Of course it might unbalance the other way - with less limited space, it might be that the horsemen cannot be caught, so the game is an unwinnable chase down artificially rigged against the infantry.

In fact the game we had was very close.
The Romans were BP4, the Parthians BP6 ... and at the start of what turned out to be the final turn the Romans were 2 down, the Parthians 5. However, the Romans' best chance for the critical break was against a shredded Cataphract unit trapped in melee with equally worn Legionaries, and this disappeared with a flank charge and a die roll (leaving the Romans with no obvious sixth kill, and a couple more cohorts already 3 down and surrounded by horse archers) ..
(Peter Pig figures from the Graham Evans collection)
Crucially, all the players liked the game and thought it both different to the standard
ruler game and more like a conventional battle. I was surprised at the extent to which it was different ... and it was interesting that both Will and I (the more experienced Armati players in the game) got out manoeuvred by our less canny opponents.

Changing the ruler so that deployment becomes around four moves to contact rather than two allows sc
ope for tactical development (on the Roman right flank a cavalry division went round the outside of the oasis, but was not 'taken out of the game' as a consequence) .... deployment was not the key to the game (to the extent that it can be with the Optimal Ruler, especially when allied to deployment screens - so where to set up is simply educated guesswork) ... I wouldn't declare this a 'case proven' on the basis of the trial (given that both Parthian players admit to mistakes but the army still won) ... nevertheless, all players enjoyed the game and thought it ran properly. No horse archer units were lost or hamstrung by being pinned against the table edge, and the armies were able to adjust to each other after deployment in what turned out to be a close game.

A lot of boxes ticked. I will append an exact specification of the rules used at the end of th
e post*.

It was an interestingly quick transition to be setting up my third contest in
this year's Championship. A return match against Will, this time I tried an (A2) Italian Ostrogothic against his Late Roman (Western) ... and this time Will had reconfigured the Romans to the (I think) more vicious looking 'first A2 Late Roman' list (Armati players will know the one I mean, with non-key LHI etc.).

We used all the standard 15mm tournament rules, Optimal scale Rulers,
deployment screen etc.

A word about the armies: this was a first go for me for Ostrogoths (the list looks 'interesting' and a suitable opponent for Late Romans). It has piles of obligatory charging FV5 HC, a
nd should you take all the light units, the net spec. of 4 heavy controlled divisions, three light and Init:5 is quite a viable top line. Taking all the lights also gives you a potentially useful 8 Skirmish Infantry with bow.

The conundrum is the Gothic Foot. I like the look of
FV5 Spear/Bow FT, but they are a mixed blessing ... to shoot properly they need to deploy wide, but wide, they are potential victims of being outshot by non-key skirmishers shooting on a 1 wide front (and I knew Will would field plenty of these)... I also (rightly) expected that Will would come at me with Palatine Legionaries deployed in depth (again battering the wider line). A worthy experiment, then, and I opted to dismount some HC in the middle of the line to boost the melee factors of the infantry (looking for FV5 + wider + stiffened to give me a 7 vs the Roman 6 at contact if I could).

Will's reconfigured Romans had the same infantry core and batteries of SI bowmen as previously, 5 units of LC (two with bow), plus 6 non-key auxilia (2 LI, 4 LHI). All this left only 1 HC. In a sense, a Gothic nightmare, a
s this clearly leaves them outnumbered in LC while key HC have to batter through the auxiliaries to get to anything 'battle winning' to melee. That said, and despite all the light and light-heavy opposition, the Goths enjoyed a 5:1 advantage in mounted warriors.

On the centre right we came to grips quickly: Will hung back too long with his LC (not wanting to take on SI bowmen who had HC they co
uld evade beyond), but pressed ahead with the foot. This left a gap, and so I threw the whole line forward (well, I say 'I' ... obligatory charges did some of it, choice made it everyone) ... my 2 LC charged a block of his 3. My main HC division ploughed into his LHI, and a single unit division got through the gap and engaged his lone HC reserve with general attached. That I liked ... the rest was the best way to achieve it. The LC melee went against me, the LHI took a couple of turns to chew through, and I lost the (level) dice off against the HC! Disaster! Well ... not as good as I hoped - but good enough, as, although I was losing the cavalry fight, the victors from charging the auxiliaries arrived in time to sweep in with impetus and destroy the unit and commander at the critical moment. That was an important part of my game plan, as with such a low Army BP, taking out the HC with commander is the job half done.
On the other flank I inevitably lost everything to javelins and horse bows ... an 'out of command' Frankish Warband, 2 units of HC, al
l my skirmishers, and the end of my Gothic infantry line. Most of my 6 Break Points.

However, in the end, the LC fight was a trade of a key unit each, and in the centre (which was the left flank of Will's more compact line), I edged a protracted melee against the Legionaries (indeed, the margin was shaded by
the wider unit modifier to which I added the Gothic general in addition) ... I was 5 down and the Romans were broken.

Verdict on the Goths
: well, in the end I won it the way I intended, but the damage along the way was very high (I think FT with bows are attractive troops on paper, but hard to employ in battle). Wide against shooting skirmishers means even if the battle is settled in melee you will start the key engagement with high attrition (but if you put your own skirmish screen out for protection, there's no point in your FT having bows!). And indeed, these Gothic cavalry are hard to stop (but that's just as good an argument for using Normans!) ...

(ersatz Ostrogoths ... mostly Black Hat 'Gladiator' figures)
Verdict on the Romans
: take another unit of HC and be more aggressive with your Light Cavalry!

Verdict on the two games?
Obviously the Roman/Parthian game had merit all of its own as it was a 4 player game. Of course, as both players enjoy the contest, the Roman/Goth game was also a thriller (indeed both went to the last unit). I think both players felt the Intro Ruler game played better and more plausibly than the conventional 'smash and grab raid' Optimal Ruler, and probably gave a more convincing depiction of ancient battle.

There is a lot more mileage in this.

For the Society of Ancients Championship go to the webpage (The Championship) ... Join in - any member can enter and any rules can be used.

* The exact game played was Intro, but with all units 2 sections wide rather than 1. And played on a full size (indeed over-sized) table. NB this was not Optimal with the Intro ruler, as all Optimal rules allowing deep units, depth to counter impetus etc. were not used. As it happened, no COH were taken out frontally with impetus, so it was not an issue. I think bracing by being stationary (much discussed on Armati Yahoo Group) is an important amendment to make, and I'd be tempted to allow LC to deploy deep (but certainly not SI) ... However, none of this was done in order to keep the trial simple. We used a standard wheeling arcs tools (normally according to base width fronts), which, of course,
when used with the smaller ruler, allows a wheel of up to 4" , rather than 2 (this was mostly done for sheer convenience - everyone has the tools - but also is a sensible compensation for obliging all the units to be deployed wide). Everyone liked this I think, and there would be no stomach for squeezing the wheel down to a 'proper' 2" (certainly not without allowing deep units ... but I suspect even then, players feel the larger wheel - currently only available to reserve divisions - gives a more authentic feel) ...