Saturday, 9 July 2011

Conference of Wargamers 2011 - 1

So, the highlight of my wargaming year, - Wargame Developments' annual residentail conference at Knuston Hall.

As trailed last weekend we started off with a small select band meeting up on the way in order to visit Naseby field. We met in the old Red Lion at Clipston (recommended for both beer and food) for some lively discussion, lunch and a briefing before dividing up into a small group of cars and heading off.

And then it rained. And rained a bit more, before finally raining. So compared to last weekend's visit it wasn't quite as successful as we could easily have done more if we were either more hardy or more stupid. However I think that we managed to get a decent feel of the layout and the challenges both sides had to deal with before retreating to the Old Red Lion in preference to being struck by lightning.

(I'm serious. It was very, very  wet. I didn't take any pictures as I was under a golf umbrella with a copy of Streeter's map in my other hand most of the time).

Then off to good old Knuston, by which point the rain had lifted.

Knuston is such a lovely venue, - a country house converted into an adult education centre set in rolling Northamptonshire countryside. It provides decent levels of comfort and satisafactory catering, bordering on the excellent. It also has excellent facilities for wargaming with rooms of varying sizes and enough tables of the correct type.

The weekend starts with the traditional viewing of the programme in the main lounge. This involves the shuffling of sessions for those who find they've got their games in at the wrong times, and the signing up process to register the comnmitment to play in one's chosen games.

After dinner the conference proper starts with the "Plenary Game", which involves all participants. This can be anything but is often quite silly. Its main function is to break the ice and get everybody in the mood to enjoy themselves. This year's was towards the silly end of the spectrum, being the re-enactment of famous battles of history through the medium of interprative dance. Despite employing tactical voting skills that would have shamed "Come Dine With Me" I'm afraid the dance troop of which I was a member came last by a considerable margin.

After that brief interlude the evening games began. I took myself off to the Beech Room (actually a mobile classroom) to partake of Jim Roche's "Ne Obliviscaris", a game of the varying fortunes of the officers of the various battalions of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the Second World War. Alas only a small turnout (mainly due to Jim's late arrival after most people had signed up for other games), but I think we triumphed with quality over quantity.

The game started with the construction of the glengarry you were required to wear throughout the game. I think you'll agree mine looks pretty fine.

We then chose our battalions and I showed my lamentable lack of knowledge of the history of this fine regiment by choosing the 2nd battalion (or the 93rd regiment if you prefer). Then before taking up our postings we posed for the obligatory photograph.

In turn one I was posted together with the battalion from India to Singapore (yes, you can see this is unlikely to end well). Jim had researched the history of all of the battalions in a fair amount of detail and each six monthly turn saw us not only serve guard duties, but undertake training of various types (I excelled in jungle combat, for all the good it did me), court young ladies, engage in eightsome reels and celebrate Hogmanay to the skirl of the pipes.

Whilst other players earned their stripes defending the Orkneys before fighting across Italy or France I got marched off to a prisoner of war camp and helped to build the Burma railway. It was a period of cat and mouse with the guards where small victories such as winning extra rice rations counted for a lot for my men and me. On one notable Hogmanay we celebrated by marching round the camp to the tune of our pipes which we had cunningly concealed.

During this time I discovered my personal saviour which lead to me surviving the war by the grace of God and becoming a church minister once back in civvy street. My experiences enabled me to appreciate every minute of my long life before I recently died at the age of 92.

And I got quite a few medals along the way, but alas never married.

An excellent game, although it would have been good to have actually done a bit more fighting.

After that we retired to the main building and the bar before I ran a session of The Elephant in the Room.

All of which ignores the other joy of the conference which is the opportunity to sit and chew the fat with a group of well informed and imaginative wargamers.

More later, I hope. I'm running Send Not To Know, my Spanish Civil War game this afternoon. wish me luck.

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