Friday, July 26, 2013

20th - 21st July, Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire

(throughout: please click on the pictures for a bigger image)

History Live! with the Battlefields Trust

Assiduous followers of heritage news will know that this was called off on the morning of the event last year, flooded during 2012's rain-blighted and unseasonal July.    This year, by contrast, driving in on Friday to set up was more like entering a dust bowl.

(ECW exhibits on the BFT stand: items found at Basing House)

(a relatively quiet period on the BFT stand ... so I get to take some pictures)

The Battlefields Trust had asked me to bring along my Bosworth game as an item to feature and talk about on the stand (the design, of course, is based on the BFT's recent archaeological project at the site).  We also had the usual range of books and back issues, battlefield booklets and archaeological curiosities.

(Graham from Fluttering Flags with the Blore Heath game in the wargames tent)

The Wars of the Roses period was well represented with live action on the display grounds, Blore Heath in 28mm (variant Pike and Shotte) in the wargames tent, and my Bosworth (DBAexhibit in 54mm in the History Live! pavillion.   As well as Blore Heath there were Gaugamela WAB,  ECW,  and Bolt Action games plus some Warlord Games gear on sale.

(wargames by the Phoenix Club ... Blore Heath is behind the throng of players and enthusiasts)

Other interesting attractions over the weekend were the Sand Sculptures, Fair Ground attractions music and dumbshows ... Something for all the family, right down to 'make do and mend' wartime fashion demonstrations ...

(sand sculpture before and after: the now lost Euston Arch - I was fascinated by their work over the weekend)

(History Live!: a jester on stilts entertains a young audience)

The core, of course, is always live reenactment and arena displays, combined with living history encampments and, these days, wargamers and battlefield enthusiasts ...

English Heritage knows this is the best way to share our past with people of all ages.

(enthusiasts of all ages get involved on the Battlefields Trust stand)

(archaeological royalty pops over for a chat: Turton and Harding chew the fat)

(some nice Crusades period weapons on display in the Living History avenues)

But here are some more wargame pictures ...

(Ian Kay - Irregular - has added these casualties to his 54mm medievals, so I have factored them in)

(Bosworth ... Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, with his uncle, Jasper, alongside) 

(Bosworth on the BFT stand ... more)

... and Blore Heath ...

One of the more unusual features of the weekend is the Saturday night entertainment: most of the exhibitors stay over for the weekend, generally under canvas ... Having shut to the public at 6pm, the site reopens for exhibitors at 7: it is party time for the reenactors and display teams, with food, drink, fair rides and live music: it is probably the best and most anarchic fancy dress ball in Northamptonshire ...*

(Nuns, Nazis and Anemones ... but all in the best possible taste ... Kelmarsh party time)

OK, OK ... it's a jellyfish ... but you get the picture ...

I'm guessing History Live! was a great success this year ... certainly the BFT had record recruitment, the place seemed packed, there were occasional delays to the food operations as meat roasters sold faster than they could cook, and generally, the place was a sea of people - all seeming cheerful and interested.   What a contrast to a year ago!**

(History Live!: The main arena on Sunday afternoon - late afternoon and still packed)

Politicians and planners please look at the pictures - no, not footie or the British GP ... this is the audience for 'history and military heritage'.   Big, isn't it?   Bigger than you thought, maybe? 

Please take us into consideration when you plan your carparks and rail links.

(there was more than ancient and medieval, of course: Peninsula veterans march past)

I have put some pictures from the WWII zones on P.B.Eye-Candy ...
You can join The Battlefields Trust and help protect England's threatened heritage ...
The Society of Ancients will be at Claymore on August 3rd

*yes, I know, that may not be setting the bar very high ... nonetheless, these people are seriously committed to dressing up ...

** I append these contrasting photos.  Hopefully 2014 will be more like this year (though wothout the extremes perhaps)

(from mud bath to dust bowl ...)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

14th July, Cobridge TA Centre

Stoke Challenge 2013

It was good to be back at Stoke after a year off (more correctly, after a year where we had to miss it due to a calendar clash).   This is a friendly unpretentious event and we all enjoy the day out and hospitality.

I put on an Armati game as previously (the game has a solid following within the host club), this time repeating the English Civil War battle I did for the Pike & Shot Society last Colours (at Newbury Racecourse, from where you can see Donnington Castle, a landmark of the battle), and last week at COW ... the second battle of Newbury (1644) ...

It is quite a complex battle, but works well using Armati (and an adapted form of the ECW rules and stats in the otherwise superseded Advanced Armati): I think the best option by far for this period if you can get hold of the rules.

There is a detailed report on my ECW Battlesblog, but here are some highlights ...

(Newbury 1644: Manchester advances against the Eastern positions)

(Newbury 1644: Jacob Astley's troops defend Shaw village)

(Newbury 1644: across the Lambourne, the Royalist garrison defends Shaw House)

The battle was a tight one, and Manchester was able to push through Shaw right up to the hedge beyond which was the King and Royalist reserves.  Astley was defeated, but just short of the prize, Manchester's assault ran out of steam and his men had had enough.

At the western end of the battle, Cromwell did not press, and Waller and Skippon were beaten off Speen (Skippon falling in the melee), but Balfour was ab le to drive all the way up the southern water meadows, almost meeting up with Ludlow's horse who were similarly hacking their way in from the west.

(Newbury 1644: Balfour - bottom left - and Ludlow - right - squeezing out the last opposition south of the main Royalist position)

There were some excellent other demonstration games at the show ...

(an attractive Napoleonic game run by members of the host club)

(the Battle of Balaclava by the Stoke Wargames Group)

(a nicely detailed Rapid Fire desert game with the DAK streaming forward ...)

(this good looking 'Maurice' table was being run by the Derby show organisers, and seemed a very fluid and brisk game)

For ancients content I'm afraid you would have to look more to the tournament end of the hall where DBMM and FoG-AM were both well supported.

(ancients players with nicely turned-out armies battled away all day in the Challenge events)

Maybe you should consider taking an ancients game along next year?   It is certainly friendly event and welcomes games and groups.

The event also regularly raises a good sum the the Army Benevolent Fund.

Friday, July 12, 2013

5th - 7th July, Knuston Hall

The Conference of Wargamers 2013

This year's COW fell into three parts ... the - now, annual - Friday afternoon excursion (this year to the Harrington Aviation Museum) ... the sessions I hosted (9:00 am each morning, so keeping me disciplined over the weekend) ... and the sessions I attended (which were fewer this year as I had sessions to prep) ...

After the visit to Harrington, I led an impromptu expedition to the nuclear missile pads on the old airfield.  These are now listed by English Heritage, but at the moment access is possible provided you respect the countryside and stick to the tracks.   Whether they end up 'visitor friendly' or fenced off remains to be seen, now that the ruins are officially recognised.

(Harrington site ... Aviation Museum - the A14 now runs between it and the nearer road on the map - and Cold War relics which are on the old runway)

(Cold War relics: some shots of launch pad one)

Later Friday I rejoined the Conference and got in an entertaining game of Ten Rounds Rapid (the WDDTN shows game ... I suspect your next opportunity to play this will be The Other Partisan) ... after which I finished the evening setting up for Newbury.

(Ten Rounds Rapid: another wave of Huns approach)

9:00 am Newbury II 1644 - a compact wargame of the battle using modified Armati.

I think this session worked well.  I am always conscious of the time, so didn't give an extensive introduction either to the battle or the rules (but relied on active umpiring and  'picking it up as you go' to get people playing) ..

(ECW Armati ... the small ruler prominent in the shot)

Timetabling at COW allows single or double sessions, and I find, with an efficient game like Armati as my template, I can fit an ECW battle into the 2 hour slot after breakfast ... as long as I push it along.

The alternative - taking half a day - is unthinkable.  We had 5 players and over 30 units in play but reached the point where Waller's army broke off, and the King was testing to break by the time darkness ended the engagement inconclusively - which is pretty much what happened in 1644.

(units from Manchester's force take Shaw House towards the end of the day's fighting)

Lord Goring dealt much more aggressively with Cromwell than in 1644, but fell in the fighting.  Balfour broke into the back gardens along the flank of the Kennet water-meadows (but was too badly mauled to force an advantage from the position) and Manchester's second wave broke into Shaw House and captured some of the King's guns (had this happened earlier in the day it would have unlocked the position).

We used the intro scale ruler with full width units as is standard for me now with compact historical battles.   Armati has the best combat system for this period, but (as ever with realistic terrain and built over templates) don't get too fussy about who fits where (it's a built over area - of course they won't quite fit ... but that is why they don't fight on their full FV)

Fletcher Pratt on Grass

(Fletcher Pratt ... my flotilla of destroyers lies alongside Renown in Gib)

An outdoor recreation of the French attempt to rush the straits of Gibraltar.   The grass had been cut a little roughly making for a choppy sea to measure over.   The umpiring team did a great job adjudicating gunnery and torpedoes and the French were ultimately turned back.

(looking splendid in the grass: 54mm Britains Life Guards)

Also on grass, the Little Garden Game pitted toy soldier against toy soldier as 50 year old Britains took on more modern 1:32 boxed plastics in imagi-nation gunboats with matchstick ammunition.    There is an intriguing mix of qualities in this nostalgic whimsy, which, despite its obvious appeal, still doesn't quite work for me ...

Saturday also saw a session about the challenges of wargaming (and history) in an age of faith, in this case looking particularly at Lepanto, and then I assisted John (History of Wargaming Project) Curry demonstrate an early 'limited awareness' skirmish wargame for the WWII period.

(a very basic Lepanto downloaded to help us think ... what would we do?)

(more grass)

(for more on the Stage Coach in Sue's Gentlemen Go By, see the FoGBlog entry)

... and I sat in on an experimental Napoleonic game in which the (multiple) players gave sequential tactical orders to battalions which were then moved on a map table by the umpire.   It did what it did very well, and it is intriguing to wonder how it can develop.   

(multi-player Napoleonic tactical)

(16 card carrier strike)

Well, it's challenging to give a fair impression of the variety and originality of a day at COW in just a few pictures and captions, but after all that, I finished the day running a few games of the Bosworth DBA participation game.

(Bosworth: the tension rises as the battle lines approach)

9:00am Bosworth background talk and slideshow, followed by DBA V3 wargame 

I had the Lounge booked for a Sunday morning talk on the Wars of the Roses and search for Bosworth battlefield which would end with a play-through of the game based upon the new information.   Aware that the game could accommodate fewer than the talk I decided it was best to get the game set up the night before and finish the day running 'preview' games.   It seemed to work very well.

In the morning session I presented some of the archaeological evidence that has informed the new identification of Bosworth battlefield and generally presented the story of the campaign, its causes and consequences.

(Bosworth on Sunday morning .. 54mm figures by Irregular and several plastics brands, flags by Fluttering Flags)

As a real treat, we were able to finish the well-attended session with two players who had not played DBA before (yes there are still plenty out there) testing out the reconstruction.  It was a tight game which I think brought out a number of important features of the narrative.   Henry won it.   Just.

Talking to Phil Barker over lunch, he pointed out to me that he now considers that Henry should probably only be rated as a Cavalry element in this battle (not as a Knight) as he showed none of Richard's eagerness for combat.

Funnily enough, I thought that when I designed the scenario - but kind of thought the DBA community would just not wear a Cav Gen for an English medieval army ...  But I think I will amend the lists accordingly (and see if there are any unexpected negative results from the recasting) ...

(Bosworth: Henry Tudor's Welsh allies and supporters)

Sunday afternoon

I finished up COW with a mixture of sunny socialising and indoor chat: there were more games going on but the only proper session I did was listening to John Curry's Random Tales.   

Many of you will know John's History of Wargaming Project, in the course of which he has interviewed Don Featherstone, edited some of Paddy Griffiths's papers, republished lost books and collated disparate scraps.   Random Tales was a look under the sorts of stones that perhaps should never have been lifted.  Fascinating but probably actionable.

COW is one of the best, most varied and most compelling weekend events on the UK calendar.   If you like what I like.

COW 2014 is taking bookings now ...

You will be able to see Newbury at the Stoke Challenge, and Bosworth should feature on the Battlefields Trust stand at English Heritage's History Live event (Kelmarsh Hall).

(COW 2013 ... summertime: a lot of the weekend looked like this scene from the Harrington meet)