Wednesday, July 23, 2014

19th-20th July, Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire


History Live! is massive ... it is also a lot of fun.   There is a great emphasis on youngsters actively enjoying history, whether it is taking part in impromptu theatrical shows, clambering into reproduction aeroplanes or trying on weapons and equipment.   

Anyone who tells you that kids aren't interested in history is just wrong.

(participation theatre at History live!)

(youngsters were encouraged to try out the reproduction biplane)

I was there with the Battlefields Trust using the Northampton 1460 model to illustrate the work of battlefield preservation and interpretation ...

(Northampton 1460 showing the action moved on to the assault phase)

This is a wargame model although it was used as a moving tableau for the purposes of History Live! moving the contingents as we believed happened on July 10th 1460 and explaining the course of events.

The presentations seemed extremely successful and by late Sunday, I had handed out all the leaflets I'd taken along to support the exhibit.

If you wanted playable wargames, the Phoenix Club had, as usual, a range of wargames to join in ... ancient, Napoleonic, WWI (of course) and WWII ...

(Romans and Celts in the History Live! wargames tent)

Mostly youngsters and all historical.  Again, anyone who tells you that kids aren't interested in history is just wrong.   Anyone who tells you you need to glam it up with fantasy monsters is just wrong.  

 If wargaming is a greying hobby (and what an 'if' that is ...) then it can only be because greying wargamers aren't giving youngsters a chance to join in (or are abandoning them to commercial fantasy stuff).

(The Battlefields Trust at History Live! 2014)

Northampton is, of course, just a few miles down the road from Kelmarsh Hall and there was a lot of interest in the project to protect and explain the battlefield at Delapre Abbey.  

After much campaigning, Northampton Borough Council has recently accepted a Conservation Management Plan specifically for the battlefield area, so it does look like people power works.   There is much still to do, so enthusiasts can show their support by liking the project's Facebook page, and/or joining the Northampton Battlefield Society.

(Northampton 1460: in the heat of the action)

The battlefield model is constructed inside a rearranged pasting table (construction) and uses 15mm figures with oversized banners by Fluttering Flags ...

(Northampton 1460: the archbishop of Canterbury and Papal Legate Francesco Coppini watched the battle from the Eleanor Cross at Hardingstone)

Mounted figures are mostly Mirliton, foot are a broader mixture including Peter Pig, New Era Donnington and Corvus Belli as well as Essex and Tabletop (

(Northampton 1460: decision - lord Grey of Ruthin's men help the Earl of March's troops into the position)

Outside, of course, the main arenas are given over to military displays by reenactment societies from all periods of military history and living history camps ... 

(full size Wars of the Roses artillery on show in the living history encampment)

We had about an inch of rain dumped on the site overnight and on Saturday morning but otherwise the weather was splendid, at times becoming sweltering.   

The whole event was well-managed and it took some persuading for people to leave the site on Sunday evening so we could all pack up and go home.

(Zulu wars period soldiers on their way to the arena at History Live!)

Monday, July 14, 2014

11-13 July, Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire

The 2014 Conference of Wargamers

There are so many good things to say about CoW that it is hard to know where to start.  Let's just say that the mix of people is excellent, the attitude convivial throughout ... the accommodation is ever improving and, to my taste, the catering (which barely stops all weekend) is a good 8/10 (for reference: no other wargame venue I have been anywhere in the world has topped 7, and I can't afford 10).  

The bar stays open till you go to bed and seems normally priced.  

The wargaming is 9:00 am to, say, midnight and just stops 4 times for main meals or tea/coffee (with home-made biscuits and cakes - indeed, a cream tea, this year).

Anyone can come so book yourself a wargame holiday.   If there is a problem, it is that the event is just the two days and most sessions only run once - so there are always great sessions you miss (especially if you are putting stuff on yourself) ...

For me, the weekend started with an outing to Cropredy Bridge to look at the ECW (1644) battlefield, and finished with re-running my 20th Cent. Naval 'pop up' game for an old friend ...

In between, I put on two main sessions and aided in an ADG (all ancient/medieval), played landsknecht cards, drove a T55 tank and commanded a detachment of French regulars in Canada ... I joined in on some innovative games, ancient, renaissance, Lace Wars and both World Wars, there was a morale boosting sing along (seriously ...) and a crisis game in a time shift ...

Gladiolus ...

For late night entertainment on the Friday, Will revived Gladiolus and I took along a set - at one stage we had 4 boards in play with several players being introduced to the Society of Ancients classic combat game.

(Gladiolus at CoW: you can teach old dogs new tricks - or should that be the other way round?)

I understand that the game is now out of print and is one the Committee is considering reprinting: so it was great to see players taking to it instinctively, getting good games and entertainment to start their weekend

(a 'made-over' Gladiolus set featuring hexes rather than offset squares, and some nicely laminated cards)

(15mm Gladiolus from Outpost ... 20mm Gladiolus from the old Atlantic plastics set)

Before retiring, I got in a game of Doodlebuggers with WD Display Team North, and set up Montaperti for the morning ...

(Doodlebuggers: normally I would edit out the beer bottle, but a 'London Pride' beside a defeat the doodlebugs game seems fortuitously appropriate)

Montaperti 1260

This was a shameless plug for the Society of Ancients BattleDay.   It is Hydaspes next year, and this year my take on Montaperti using Basic Impetus (plus) was flagged as *Best Game* (so has become my advert for the event).

(Montaperti at CoW: the players announce their intentions)

We had 2 players a side plus some non-playing participants, and in the 2 hour session, managed an intro to the BattleDay, briefing on the battle, guide to the rules, plus completed the game (the Florentine army broke at 10:50 with the session due to end at 11:00)

(Montaperti at CoW: the disarrayed units are broken; the numbers behind units show their current VBU)

The Florentine cavalry wing severely battered the Sienese army's tough German contingent driving them back to the Arbia but failing to break them, meanwhile their pavisier/crossbow units were unable to hold in the infantry line.

(Montaperti at CoW: a closer look at the combat)

(Montaperti at CoW: knights from the Sienese rearward reinforce Lancia's Germans on the banks of the Arbia)

... and the flanking force under the Duke of Arras arrived in good time behind the Florentine left.

In fact, it was neither the Sienese reserves nor the flank march that settled the day - the Florentine knights finally ran out of steam - and then their losses combined with the infantry casualties across the ridge were just too much.   In the basic game, this 50% value would mean the loss of the army but in historical games, I replace it with an ever worsening die roll - in the first instance the army must roll at least a 2.   

In fact, the test resulted in a 1 and meant we could wrap up without running over into the coffee break or needing an artificial solution.

The players seemed to have enjoyed all this  - as a recreation of Montaperti and as a run through of Basic Impetus.


Here's a quick look round at some of what else CoW had to offer on Saturday ...

(a 15mm German Apokalypse occuring at the main railway station)

(anti-tank missile debris on the lawn following a massed tank attack)

(the French marching on Quebec)

(another lawn, another battle: Little Cold War action)

(German Peasants War ... cardboard Landsknechts)

And for my main evening entertainment, I played the French regulars in a huge game of Muskets and Tomahawks ... 

Commercial games - especially of the glossy sort are a rarity at CoW and only get brought along if people really think you ought to know about them, so I was pleased for the chance to get an objective look at this much hyped product.

(Muskets and Tomahawks: scenes from our raid on the village)

Ancients games ...

... and in addition, Trebian ran a multi-player version of 'To Ur is Human' - an excellent treatment of the earliest period of warfare which we have been helping him test and perfect on a Wednesday night ...

(To Ur is Human ... battling for the fields and gardens of ancient Mesopotamia)

Former SoA President Ian Russell Lowell contributed sessions on German soldiers, cardgames and Hittite raiders ...

(IRL is the only person I know who sports an 'I love Luwian' tee shirt ...)

... in addition, Treb came up with a last minute 'pop-up' - Rapid Raphia, an attempt to make a quick-fire but satisfying game out of the massive Hellenistic pike and elephant clash ...

(Rapid Raphia: two boards going side-by-side)

This looked like an innovative success which I think I am destined to play in our weekly local get together this week (and we might try it out at a show, I'm told ...) ...

Before turning in on Saturday, I set up my Northampton session for the morning.

Northampton 1460

Whereas my Saturday session was more of a game with attenuated presentations, 1460 focussed more on the discussion of the battle, location and reconstruction, and on the work of the Northampton Battlefield Society.

(Northampton 1460: me behind the camera, Mike Elliot talking about the battle)

It was great to have a good number of participants, and in the second half of the session, I presented my ideas for wargaming the battle, we worked through the game ideas I have developed and came up with some really good period enhancements ...

(Northampton 1460: the final stages of the Yorkist attack)

(Northampton 1460: Lancastrians man the barricades at Delapre)

(Northampton 1460: the battlefield viewed from the North - NNW)

This session went really well and I am looking forward to modifying some of the attendant mechanisms for the outing at Kelmarsh Hall (History Live!) with the Battlefields Trust next weekend.

Of course, I was helping a session on Friday night, the presenting both mornings, so other people's weekends would have far more diverse than the weekend I managed to cram in.

So maybe we will see you next year?

More on Cropredy (ECW Battles/Cropredy); more on 20th Century CoW (P.B.Eye-Candy)

(Montaperti at CoW: battlefield panorama)

(End-piece: this engraving of the Eleanor Cross at Hardingstone hangs in the Hall at Knuston - it is the landmark from which Archbishop Bourchier and Legate Coppini watched the battle of Northampton)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5th July, Northampton (Delapre Abbey)

Northampton Battlefield Open Day 
(with the Friends of Delapre Abbey and the Medieval Siege Society)

So this was the first Open Day for the recently formed Battlefield Society, and as a result of the date of the battle (10th July) competes with the British Grand Prix, Wimbledon, the World Cup and the inevitable British Summer threat of rain (which goes with all those).

The latter is, of course, a teasing irony ... it rained on the morning of the battle, just as it did on the morning of the Open Day.  We can hardly complain about that!    All in all, we were very pleased with the results, and our thanks go to the Battlefields Trust, the Medieval Siege Society and the Friends of Delapre for their support.

The event was also the debut of my new battlefield wargame display.

(Northampton 1460: a Society of Ancients/Northampton Battlefields Society game featuring Mirliton figures and Fluttering Flags)

For more on the build, please have a look at Northampton Battlefield Reconstructed ...

(Northampton 1460: Edward Earl of March attacks the Lancastrian position)

(putting the historical battle into context ... details and narratives)

(Northampton 1460: Fauconberg's attack on Talbot's sector)

Used as a moving tableau in this instance, the layout proved a good adjunct to the mix of reenactment, talks and walks on the battlefield and will benefit from further enhancements and landscaping before its next outing at CoW in a week's time ...

Upstairs, Mike Ingram gave a well received and detailed account of the battle, while outside, men in armour demonstrated  combat and archery from the period ...

(members of the Medieval Siege Society running a tournament)

Downstairs, in addition to the battlefield display, we had activities for youngsters, mostly engaging them with Medieval heraldry, badges and symbolism.

(Northampton 1460 - a battlefield Open Day at Delapre abbey)

The Battle of Northampton represented a turning point in the Wars of the Roses ... perhaps for the first time, artillery was massed on an English battlefield; as a result of Lord Grey's treachery, King Henry VI was captured and Warwick (the Kingmaker) was granted the highest office.   In the aftermath, Richard Duke of York made formal his claim to the throne, and Margaret of Anjou (Henry's Queen) plotted her opposition.

Events were now on the road to Towton, and the next two Kings would be Richard's sons, Edward IV and Richard III.

Northampton battlefield has long been under threat of partial development and lacks an established walking trail, guide and interpretation boards: the Northampton Battlefields Society is trying to move forward on these issues whilst engaging the public with their heritage and publicising the potential.

You can find out more about NBS on Wordpress/NBS or on Facebook ...

(Northampton 1460: despite the many Summer attractions, many gathered to enjoy the period entertainments)