Listening to and offering (small) opinion on: Multi-Centre Wargames (chaired by John Bassett). I was intrigues to hear about the previous WD attempts at "Connectivity" between disparate groups of wargamers in a diffuse network. They seemed to range from the ultra slick-professional [US Conference Centre] to mildly cruel (they stuck me in a dark box for three hours waiting for a call that never came but I didn't mind) scenario. The Pol-Mil side of things seemed to rank as more easily achievable than Mil-Pol with coordination of units and sequences of attack. John Bassett quite rightly pointed out (to my philosophical mind-set at least) that the emphasis should be on creating a social event [perhaps with a meal to look forward to at the end of it] with a "game connect" that always holds the potential disconnect, but "the show must go on". My only contributions were (a) to point to a Connections UK 2016 presentation [slide 9] of a KCL Student (Laura Hoffman) on Phil Sabin's MA Conflict Simulation Course where when she 'ran out of friends to play-test he game' she Skyped her "Mum" (that woman is obviously a saint); (b) Games Workshop [please note I was not a player here] through their network of shops "used to" try and link a Saturday/Sunday mega event into a Mil-Pol game. Despite having access to a corporate infrastructure the 'event' (well was reported to me by a participant - sample of one, so dangerous to draw conclusions) was rather 'vanilla' in texture when scaled up from the local hobby store campaign. They seem to prefer to ship them to Nottingham instead for an aircraft hanger sized game instead. Listening to everybody else's experiences was very interesting though and I would say that I would probably "give it a go" if asked. With that we broke early (two hours is a long tome to talk) and wandered off to see what else was going on (I think I acquired some 10mm British Paratroopers from Wayne Thomas at this point),
Spectating on: Strike! Battlegroup Tactical Wargame (by Michael Young). I had dabbled with taking a pop at this one but it overlapped with a WW2 game session (Open Battles) I was keen to attend. Another DSTL professional offering it was packaged in a serious looking box and there were lots and lots of large chunky counters - two thirds of which seemed to be Russian. I started counting and stopped at one hundred for the
Spectating on: Wuestenkriegkartenblockspiel (by Andrew Rolph). My journey back for the cake was circuitous as I passed an "open door" out in the grounds of Knuston I heard the fateful world tank and was drawn in .. to the "Western Desert". I was immediately intrigued and recognised another close run contender that I almost signed up for. No figures but intense looking charts and play sequences with again that intensity of play that meant they were building up to a big clash of arms. The temperature in the room certainly was setting a Western Desert. This one was another long-runner destined to go past the "cake break" into another session.
Coffee and Cake ... very nice fruit cake!
Player: Open Battles (by Alan Paul). This game has history for me. As an owner of Airfix Battles I was disappointed to see it, or rather not see it, continue with extra modules and extension. I thought this game was going to be a "homage" to the game with figures but to my delight it was more of a phoenix from the ashes, watch this space for more things to come. The battle set-up was twice the size of the normal games I had played using 15mm miniatures recycled from Alan's Mission Command game I had spied yesterday. The games is grid based and card activated (See below, a US [although we used British Troops] on the right advance against the Germans on the left, Normandy 1944):
The Germans were split into two forces of infantry supported by "Yank tank killers" (one got a PAK 40 [75mm] 88mm which is also useful in an AA role, the other a Panzer IVH and PAK 40 [75mm]) plus an additional air asset (the ubiquitous Me109) attached to the PzIVH command. I had suspicions that the German PAK were re-rifled French 75s left over from France 1940. The Yanks were a Tank Combat Team with infantry assets attached and an Armoured Infantry Company with "lots of air assets" (two Spitfires and a P47 Thunderbolt). The first session was setting up, talking generally about the period and a lesson in the Airfix Battles rules and extensions (air power, artillery bombardment and various obstacles [field fortifications, pill boxes and barbed wire]). Note: I thought I was relatively "in the know" with regards to Airfix Battles, but there was one important rule I certainly had forgotten about (it has been over a year since I last played [see these scenarios] and I am getting old, so I do forget things!).
I proposed a simple plan the Armoured Infantry would "pin" German defenders from the crossroads up [mainly with the air power] while I "pivoted" by taking the tanks [ignoring the open terrain at the top of the table - with a clear field of view and PzIVH and PAK 40 waiting plus the other PAK 40 in a bunker looking down the road] and would face off against the 88mm AT/Flak (listen, not as crazy as it seems as I planned to take it out with infantry) and turn the left flank. In addition we had two 105mm [although Alan may have said 25 pounders] artillery barrages landing on each German sector [a five by five square template which was pretty impressive - some good should come of that]. Then we would "punch" down the German baseline (that's what is said to do in the manuals). With that we all went off for our last [sniff] Knuston Hall lunch [again first class - I will certainly miss the food] to return for "an hours play".
Returning I found that the German team that had set-up had disappeared off to hear a talk about "The Battle of Edgecote 1469" and in there place the veteran gamer "Von Curry" (minus a Prussian monocle) had taken command. "Who set this defence up?" was his dismayed tactical appreciation. With typical Kampfgruppe aplomb he got stuck into his task (See below, "Von Curry" is on the receiving end of some rather spectacular Allied attack dice rolling [six hits - but he sadly saved three of them being in field fortifications]):
The plan seemed to be unfolding nicely the 88mm was down to half crew strength and the German right flank seemed to be peeling open. The Allied air power seemed to be causing much grief at the other end of the table strafing the German Ground units, until that is the German Me109 turned up and an "active" dogfight took the attention of all. Meanwhile my attack stalled as I tried to "close assault" [what I thought was a battered but not broken] 88mm with US Assault Engineers [those satchel charges should come in useful]. Sadly the one rule I had forgotten (it was a year ago remember) and jumped over in the briefing was that defenders get a defensive fire, aka only close assault "pinned enemy". Ooops the 88mm went off and spoiled my day "Lt Jaworski and a generation of New York hot dog sellers" fell into the soft Normandy soil never to get up again. (See below, my unit 12 was a crack team of snipers who "shot" to kill, they then bypassed the strong point leaving it for the US Assault Engineers to go in, with hindsight [a wonderful thing] I should have just shot again):
"Von Curry" deftly moved his reserves from the centre village but one squad was caught in the open by a Sherman interrupting his move with an opportunity fire card [a nice touch of the system], which was a rather unpleasant surprise to him. However time was passing, so we got a good feel for the game rather than being played to conclusion and as Airfix/Open Battles goes it was rather a big one to fit into one hour play - I guess we were slow to set-up and absorb the rules. I would definitely play this again and would be keen to hear from Alan Paull on his future plans for the game. We shook hands as respectful enemies and headed to the AGM wrap-up.
Listening to: The Wargames Development AGM (by Tim Gow and Bob Cordery). I could not believe it was already all coming to a 2018 end of proceedings, so soon. I felt I could have stayed for a week. The last forty eight hours had been such an intense dunking in the well of wargaming happiness [and being "well fed" to boot - puddings to die for]. The only other comparison I could make it with is Connections UK and as good as it is (and it is good), CoW beats it hands down. At CoW people bring their games (and WIP half-games for constructive deconstruction and critique) to CoW, while at Connections UK (the majority of) people passively hear about "other peoples games" and "wall-flower" the games that are there, being afraid of "showing themselves up" [I may be harsh here]. I speak purely from a hobbyist perspective and I totally appreciated and respect the needs of the "professional" audience [who have jobs I could not do, and respect to them for that], however I know where the innovation lies. Meanwhile the CoW proceedings 'proceeded' very slickly with good humour and there was a warm glow of anticipation for CoW 2019 by one and all [how many "immediate" deposits did Rob take?]. I felt that the departing wargamers were impregnated with many a "stirring thought" or "new idea" to try out. It certainly does live up to its name "Wargames Developments: Conference of Wargamers". In addition what also caught my heart was support by members of WD give for commendable initiative, the Waterloo Uncovered Project helping veterans with PTSD. Selflessness like that sets WD and CoW apart in my eyes for dare I say "competition gamers" - I never met one of the latter at CoW.
Secret Agent: Stalker in search of a Secret Artefact: The Signed Connections UK 2016 Mega-Game Map of Binni signed by the Umpires present at the event (Umpire Signatures: Tom Mouat, Jim Wallman, Bob Cordery, Jerry Elsmore, Rob Cooper). As the Opposition Leader (or should I say more correctly one of the many opposing faction "leaders" - Binni was a country suffering for many an existential crisis, who was the 'opposition' being one) I felt particularly attached to this item (A Player's Map of Binni) salvaged from Tom Mouat's "Free to anyone before I Throw this Away Box". All weekend I had been stalking respectable members of that Connections 2016 Mega-Game "umpiring team" and approaching them when their guards were down and saying "Pssst, I know what you did in 2016, London, Connections UK, Binni - you umpired it, didn't you? Don't try and deny it, I've got photographs!" Their look of fear and alarm dropped after realising that I had not been "harbouring a grudge over an umpire's decision for two years" and now wanted a satisfaction [by pistol duel or dice-off?], so at this point they would quickly sign anything just to get rid of me. Many thanks to these kind gents, golden memories are made of such things (see below, my "wargaming memento", the front):
The back (See below, signatures given under the agreement that this will not be appearing on eBay):
Yes, I claim (happily) to be the saddest wargamer, but very content with the title [a title already bestowed on me by my lovely wife - who when she found out that Tim Gow had been selling off part of his vast book collection she fixed me with a stern look and said "You can take some of your books next year seeing as you are the only wargamer with wargaming models no other wargamer wants!" (reference to my 1:100 "modern" aircraft/helicopters nobody else wanted on the bring and buy stall - but as Jerry said "There must be a game in there". Well I have a year to think on it and many other game ideas)] ;)
Many thanks to all participants at CoW, looking forwards to see you again at CoW 2019. I hope for the people of the "tented city's" sake the weather is as good as it was this year. Regrets none, well perhaps I should have bought more unpainted lead from the "bring and buy stall" ..