Sunday, December 23, 2012

17th December, a shed in Northamptonshire

(Merry Christmas to all: detail from Mantegna's crucifixion)

Following the autumn's Armati, FoG and DBA events, we christened Treb's new wargames facilities with a 'double AMW' battle of Cannae ...

A narrow win for the Carthaginians: very difficult to make skirmishing and envelopments work in AMW, but a historical outcome was just about possible ...

Great game and nice to see those 20mm HaT plastics out again ...

Nice shed ..

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2nd December, Birmingham

(a quiet moment on the SoA stand at Wargamer: Chris examines his loot from the Bring & Buy)


... and so it was with a yawn and barely a scrape across the icy windscreen and we were loaded and off to Great Barr Leisure Centre in Birmingham for the last show of the year ...  Shows North's last show for the year, certainly, and pretty much the last on the UK circuit.

Wargamer is something of an enigma - it is quite modestly attended and very 'old school' ... the feel is as much 'community open day' as 'trade show', the Bring & Buy is a treasure trove of wargame surplus, priced to sell, and the admin is a family affair.   Attendance can be patchy.   Maybe that's a December thing.

(scenes from our DBA 'Lords of the Nile' game in progress)

We took along the DBA V3 try out game, because it suited the relaxed nature of the show - but also because I had arranged with Phil Barker to take over his original flats collection and so the flat's version of his latest game seemed entirely appropriate.

There were a couple of other ancients games in play, both of them 'open day' style big games.   Either ends of the tradition, I think ...

(old style WRG Ancients game in progress on a cloth battlefield)

(new style trayed-up 28mm Ancients game, fairly static, on a 'teddybear fur' battlefield)

Both very impressive games and good to see traditional ancients periods doing well amidst all the hyped-up gamer fads.

There are always plenty of games to look at here ... I think it is a nice 'end of year' day out, and the kind of venue where people can set up something they want to put on (just because they want to).

There's always a good ECW/TYW display and plenty of good 20th Century and Modern exhibits.

This is Ancients on the Move, of course - but I'm sure you'll indulge me a few out of period examples (it is Christmas ...):

(splendid 28mm TYW wargame)

(LRDG raid game ... Bardia giving some 'drive by' options, but ending up on an airfield -shades of 1942 from Benghazi, perhaps?)

(shoot up them planes while the chance is there ...)

And a very impressive Spanish Civil War game fought on an impressively Iberian looking table ...

(different scale, but very 'Trebian', right down to the white casualty rings!)

(a lone T26 scouts out the road ahead without any infantry support ... click on it for a bigger version)

The other key event at Wargamer 2012 was my acquisition of a large collection of authentic 1960's flats, donated by Phil Barker to my memorabilia collection.  Wargames History.

Now, when Phil and Sue asked if I would be interested I had no idea what might be involved ... A mass of fine pewter or just an old shoe box with some broken bits and pieces in it?   I said yes, of course, as Phil is, in person, a pivotal piece in the history of today's wargame (and a key contributor to The Society of Ancients).

Well, take a look!

(new accessions: Phil Barker's ancients flats collection)

What a fantastic array!

Being from Phil, the figures are fully turned out, simply but consistently (and 'fully') painted, organised into proper units, and based.

The latter point is fascinating.  Tony Bath, of course, stored his figures flat, and mounted them into slotted sabots (made of two layers of cardboard stapled together with slits at regular intervals) on the day.

The majority of Bath/Hyboria figures from Deryck Guyler's collection were glued onto plain cardboard bases in fixed multiples (so would have required rings or similar casualty markers).

Phil's collection seems to mark a transition between the Bath wargame and the WRG games I began with (2nd edition) when I started ancients as a teenager in the early 70's: they are flats, of course, organised in typical Bath-style units, and with no 'frontage' concepts (so,say, no dispersing of skirmishers more widely than combat infantry) ... but the uniform basing is permanent, is painted over in a precursor to the modern landscape style, and each unit has a split down of (mostly) singles and smaller multiples to allow casualty removal.  So part Tony Bath, part WRG.

Well, as the photo shows, there is much more to say and plenty to photograph: I will post some more as I assimilate all this over the winter.

Well, that was 2012.   I think the wonders of the Olympic Games in the middle of the year have added to the pace with which the year has rattled by.  I have a few more games to play and a couple more blogs to squeeze in - but what a year for the historical wargamer and Ancients enthusiast!

Thanks to everyone on the UK Shows circuit who contributed to making it a friendly and rewarding time!

See you in 2013.   Vapnartak is in 7 weeks.   Sooner than that, I'll be out playing FoG in Usk.

Friday, December 14, 2012

1st December, Pudsey

Recon 2012

Back on the road again and an early start for Leeds (Pudsey) ... and mercifully, a very mild daybreak with not too much ice to clear from the car (this was the last scheduled shows weekend, and the first weekend of December has proved assault course in the last couple of years).

Indeed, from past experience, I had left a little extra time for de-icing and related winter hazards ... and so the soft start meant a remarkably relaxed cruise up through the Midlands in bright, clear, conditions.

This year, again, we did a Lance & Longbow/Society of Ancients combined zone - though sadly without the Towton Battlefield Society who had, last year, joined us to mark the anniversary of Wakefield.

We ended up running two participation games at either end of our shared turf ...

At one end Will McNally ran his 20mm Conquistadors 'DBA in the New World' game ...

(DBA in the New world with plentiful 20mm plastic Mesoamericans and the like)

While at the other end I had set up my 90mm 'Greyhounds in the Slips' which has not been on the road for a number of shows now ...  I had intended to roll out the new Bosworth game, but had to cut my cloth as time pressures took their toll - and GitS was all boxed up and ready to play ...

(Harry smites his way into the breach)

I think it worked very well ... soon after setting up, I had some players and pretty much ran the first 4 games back-to-back, and that took care of the morning.  I hope the other game was as busy ... either that or the chat was good as there seemed plenty of wargamers clustering around the stand (and judging by the quiet tally, they weren't signing up for the Society ...) ...

In the less busy afternoon period, as well as getting in another game, I had a walk around the show and tried out Will's DBA.

(upstairs games at Recon: a good range of well-presented games - Borodino to the top-left)

I thought the choice and standard of games at Recon very good - especially upstairs (where I had spent a lonely day trying to find people to play Gladiolus a few years back) ... Andy has done a good job of attracting content and now upstairs is thriving, even if, by the time the SoA/L&L stand was quiet enough to wander, the crowd was a little thin.

Great games though ... I particularly liked the Borodino ('battlefield in a box' look as I like to think - it reminded me of a pasting table!) DBN apparently.  Now last time I saw that at a show was back at Kelham Hall, presented by Tony Morley and his Lincoln associates.   Again, I saw some good things going on) ...

(more from upstairs: I loved the clean and simple look of this Participation coastal game set up)

There was an interesting looking Cockleshell Raid game that seemed to have a number of youngsters smiling and rolling dice  - it seemed to be something of a canoeing expedition with high explosives ... what could possibly go wrong?   However, shows being shows, I didn't have enough time to stick with it long enough to follow how it all hung together ...

(Detail from the long, strung out, raid game - with an inset giving you a better idea of the layout)

Finally, I conspired to lose a short game of New World DBA: they told me that Wargames Amateur David always and reliably comes up with a bundle of ones and twos - so looking for a quick win, I confidently set up one of those classic DBA 'kill or get killed' situations with my Conquistador Knight General (surely the 'boss' piece in any New World encounter ...?).  Well I'm sure you don't need a blow-by-blow description of how the game panned out ...

And then suddenly the sun had gone and it turned very cold.   Some of the exhibitors and traders started to pack up and that meant the doors were opened (and, December in Yorkshire, that means it's time to pack up get moving) ... By the time we had got our gear into the car I could barely feel the tips of my fingers: we headed South.

Well ... a relatively busy and congenial show, if a little quiet on the Society's recruitment side (as is often the way with these Northern Shows).  Really nice to get there and back again without too much exposure to the ice terror, and we were feeling good about the last show of the year ... Sunday and Wargamer in Birmingham ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

17th November, Reading


Sorry for putting Glasgow ahead of Reading in this rush to catch up all the late autumn shows and events.

I was only able to do the Saturday, and, without my camera, we have illustrations from Richard 'BattleDay' Lockwood's new-fangled mobile phone ...

The good news is it's new tech ... so a lot better camera than my old 'pure camera' camera.  The bad news is Richard is even less a photojournalist than me (so just photographed a few things we both liked when I reminded him ...) ...

(28mm war elephant from Eric's collection, photographed on RL's mobile phone)

The show was its usual splendid self - whilst many a show has declined over the years, Warfare seems to go from strength to strength.   It has all the boxes ticked ... popular competition, lots of splendid games - some to play, some to admire - a very big and diverse trade show, a well-supported B&B at a venue we are all used to (and which has both public transport connections and adequate parking*) ...

The catering used to be excellent, and there were long queues - these days it is not what it once was, and that has cured the queues.   That's the only real decline - but the SoA shows teamsters do like their full breakfasts, so no extra stars, I'm afraid.

(Agema cavalry from the Raphia game)

Saturday saw the Society represented by Phil Sabin and the Eastbourne display team (Eric and Alan) who put on a good looking 28mm version of the battle of Raphia played with Lost Battles.

28mm ancients fans will have enjoyed the show, as elsewhere we enjoyed a splendid Armati Crusades game put on by the Warfare regulars from Malvern and a stylish Warlord Lite demo from former SoA President Trevor Halsall.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle by Saturday mid-afternoon as the organisers sought to straighten out some of the issues with display games and Societies 'trading' from their 'game' pitches.   An oldie but a goodie.

The Society of Ancients, of course, takes a membership stand along to shows as part of its public face.   Although I was told we were not seen as presenting a problem it is probably as well to be open about this ...

(resplendent massed Christian infantry from the Armati game)

Most of the modest 'commercial' activity the SoA engages in at shows (both by volume and by value) is signing up members.  Second is a low level of transaction with our members who save some costs (on both sides) by picking up odd items when they see us at shows (it is handy for them and another reason for visiting the show) ...

In addition, there are a small number of casual transactions with non-members.  Mostly these will be copies of a Society game or a back number of Slingshot.   These are 'sold' below a commercial margin, and we have always looked at them more as self-subsidizing samples.   They are surplus from our print runs and are much more use to the visitor than a business card or a flier ...

None of this amounts to any sort of commercially viable 'trading'.  The Society does not make anything from attending shows.  Nobody gets paid or gets any freebies: the volunteers manning the stand do so purely out of their regard for the Society; the authors of the games or publications get no royalties, and any funds raised through them go straight back into the fighting fund (mostly that means fuel costs these days).

(Byzantine cavalry close-up from the 'Warlord Lite' game)

The Society does not compete with any traders and none of our 'amateur' publications are available from other sources.  We only carry material published by the Society, written by our members, and made available through the publications scheme.  Our accounts are not secret and there are no profits being made.

I must admit if I have any 'beef' about any of this, it would be the current trend for traders taking demo tables and displaying their products or promoting their rules/games.   These are basically adverts, and I think they ought to be paid for as such, rather than allocated free in the same way as they are to clubs and Societies (who sometimes are, indeed, sponsored - but there is at least a partial stage of separation there ... ).

It has happened on occasion that advert games of this sort get set up and then not actually played (as the traders themselves are to busy selling the product and will not underman their stand just to play the game).   The game is therefore just a free display cabinet.

Not that I am pointing fingers or making rules.  For many years I ran the Society of Ancients AGM (back when it was a show and had hundreds of visitors.  We had other Societies, we had trade stands.  We never charged a penny (like the explanation says, we aren't commercial, we don't trade, we don't make profits - we never did!).

(more close-ups from Richard's trip around this year's Warfare show)

At the shows we attend, we are guests of the clubs who organise them.  We play by their rules and we always hope that if there any issues arising, people will simply raise them with us and, generally, any confusion will be covered.  My comment re the free advertising game is to illustrate that there are always two sides to any story.

My Saturday at Reading was well worth the trip - I met lots of fellow enthusiasts, old friends and new.  I solved a number of issues, set up some great new initiatives - and as ever (where would the shows trade be without the bundles of cash spent by the Society and Club shows team?) picked up plenty of wargame gear to last me over the cold months of winter ...

Hope you liked the guest photographer, too :)

*of course the parking is not great and you need to avoid being late ... it isn't free, but there is a refund deal ... etc. etc. (so, again, something we're used to ...): all of which means it gets an 'adequate' rating, and I'm sure we'll all manage to soldier on ...

Monday, December 10, 2012

24th - 25th November, Glasgow

Armati League - Phil Rodgers Trophy Tournament

After missing a couple of years I was very pleased to be able to get up to a very mild late November Glasgow for the 2012 running of this evergreen and ever-popular Armati event hosted by the Glasgow Phoenix club.

The main attraction of the event, of course, is to visit one of Europe's finest cities and enjoy some time off with fellow wargame and heritage enthusiasts.   In addition, there is an Armati tournament of pre-set scenarios with all the figures and game components provided by the hosts.

These truly are 'turn up and play' events.

(Before and After: Armati with deployment screens ...)

Format: each table is provided with dice, measuring stick and markers, plus two copies of the appropriate army lists, and the two armies and terrain; the army configuration is fix as listed (no working out to do) - the only decision, where appropriate, being whether or not to dismount (at deployment, of course); players have complete control over terrain placement and army deployment;

Each round is drawn in the usual chess way, then one of the matched players will draw a coin at random from the bag; the coin indicates the scenario/table number and has an 'A' side and a 'B' side - the coin is flipped to decide which player gets which army.  

Once players have had a chance to familiarise themselves with the draw, deployment is from behind screens.

(some of the wide variety of armies provided at Glasgow 2012)

The 'scenario' system means uncompetitive and/or unusual armies can be put into the event (so long as the balance is fair, 'uncompetitiveness' does not matter), and none of the armies needs to be 'min-maxed' for optimum effect.

Thus, my games were ...  Libyan Egyptian vs Midianite; Achaemenid Persian vs Lydian; Ottoman Turk vs Timurid, Umayyad vs Abbasid; Garrison Roman vs Dacian;

(massed Biblical light troops)

(Lydians outflanked: I won from here ...) ...

(Timurids successfully drawn into my trap: I lost from here ... ) ...

All good games, entertaining opponents, beautifully turned out armies and interesting historical scenarios ...

I lacked a good 'High Midlle Ages' game, but otherwise the coverage was good, and most of my games were very well balanced  - so on the margins til the end (but none were timed-out, thankfully ...)..

(a lot of mugs getting shot ... best I say nothing ...) ...

There were no real 'in play' issues, and with plenty of wine and Polish cakes courtesy of big Mark's nuptials, a convivial atmosphere seemed assured ...

(can you see their knees wobbling? ...)

... and entertainment was organised into the early hours of the morning for those with the stamina to do what Glasgow does best ...

(didn't get to play this one ... would have suited me and Pete, I think ...)

The prizes at the end were for the 2012 Glasgow event (the Phil Rodgers Trophy) and the 2012 Armati League ... Presented on behalf of the Society of Ancients by Roy Boss and going to the usual suspects in an order I forgot to write down at the time.  I will link/update to the appropriate XL sheets, and a Society of Ancients News blog will go out as we close off the year's awards tallies.

(Steve Metheringham and Mike Lillie receiving their hardware from Society President Roy Boss)

An enjoyable and nostalgic trip north of the border where the painted peoples live ... Though the weather (and so the travel) was this year exceptionally mild, I stayed the extra evening and enjoyed a leisurely trip home via a rather soggy detour to make sure Hadrian's Wall was still there ... 

Following my recce, I think we might make a day of this on a return from Claymore one year ... (better August than November - though this being the UK, that is by no means assured ..) ...

Phil Rodgers Trophy
GB Armati League

Saturday, December 8, 2012

DBA out and about/catching up

Gothic Wars and more ... the November/December switch over proved a busy time ...

As well as some late year Championship DBA games, there are updates from the annual Armati outing to Glasgow, Recon in Pudsey and Wargamer in Birmingham all to come.

(Donnington Byzantines and Numidians from Trebian's collection)

Belisarius was back on his horse, toxic Heavy Cavalry and all ... I think Treb needs to play FoG to get the full richness of 'heavy horse archer' combat, but it's always a pleasure when this army takes to the table - a wargames classic.  

(a Gepid army from all over the place confronts the Donnington Byzantines)

Meanwhile, there is a long straight road that leads to the heart of the Empire ...

(Gepids and Sub Roman British meet down a road in Essex ...)...

This little bit of Britannia was dominated by the close terrain ... meeting the Gepids here proved a tactic which did not suit frosty British ...

(the British get drawn into the defile ...)...

But within days, Ragadeseus was trying the same 'break 'em up' tactic

(Watling Street? Ragadeseus takes on the Gepids ...)..

The battle came down to a violent cavalry melee in which those nearest the king fell first ...

(Chariot, Lurkio, Gladiator and Essex warriors from Phil Steele's collection)

All V2.2, this cluster of games really brought home the attractions of the Eastern Front Dark Age period - watch this space for details of next year's invitation.

Meanwhile, another straight road passed Hadrian's Wall and led to Glasgow ...

Friday, November 23, 2012

4th November, Manchester

Northern Doubles League - Round 5.

A quick return to playing Field of Glory for this event (before the trip to Glasgow's annual Armati event!)

This is a great series of events with a nice crowd.   I enjoy playing doubles, and two games of FoG suits me well enough for a wargames trip.   The League offers FoG-R and DBMM as well (and single entries are accepted - but shout around if you are short of a partner ... the social experience of the doubles game is best shared).

Chris and I took my trusty Late 12th Century Spanish and crossed our fingers that we would get some suitable opposition to charge into ...

(Spanish adventure: Game One)

Well, we struggled against the well-organised and practiced Han Chinese ... MFs with heavy weapons and portable obstacles which they pick up and drop down more easily than modern soldiers can do trenches and barbed wire (translate MFs anyway you like!).   A good-natured and challenging game in which we could make no progress at all.

(Spanish adventure: Game Two)

Our second game was against more plausible Euro/Mediterranean opposition: an Ottoman army which, despite its radio-controlled Janissaries, has some similarities with the Moslem armies that were historical foes for our Spanish.

This game didn't go at all well for quite some time, but after some sparkling die rolling by Chris (I wish I could say that every game ...)... we came close to a decisive win inside the distance.

Around the tables, there was a familiar array of old friends and the usual display of big and beautifully turned out wargames armies ...  Doubles events certainly fill up the table spaces.  I particularly liked ...

 (Assyrians vs Mycenneans ... a big battle)

(Romans bullying unarmoured natives ... don't they ever stop?)

And, presumably a big army swansong ... the biggest army I have ever seen used in a tournament ...

(Ruddock's huge Andalusian army swarms around the Swiss)

Those Andalusians would have made very good period opposition for us, but I'm sort of pleased we avoided being swamped by a swarm!   Anyway, I enjoyed the games we did get.

So, one 'getting nowhere' defeat and one 'nearly cracked it' lucky victory ... no trophies for us this time.  Others did better ..

Well done to the winners (some of whom are, shall we say, familiar? with the victor's rostrum) who were rewarded with trophies and a warm handshake from Colin Betts. 

That's the last double game for me until Usk next year.  And the last FoG (time to rummage around for my Armati rule book) ... I'm beginning to look at Big Battle DBA, you know ...

2013 will be the last year for the Northern League under the current seamless management  (Betts/PearsonGoss) ... a big thankyou to them, and here's to giving them a good farewell turnout next year.