Saturday, 24 July 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

With quite a lot of Guns, but not very many Roses.

That's quite a shameless heading really, as I'm not actually a G'n'R fan.

Anyhow, this week's meeting of the Monday Night Group (held, as tradition dictates, on a Friday) after a number of false starts ended up being in my garage. This worked out pretty well as I really wanted to get my XIVth Army out for an extended game of PBI. It's one of those ironies that I bought a Japanese PBI force to take on my XIVth Army but have actually ended up using the Japs the most to fight Phil's Russians in Manchuria. I have to say that isn't recommended, really. Lacking in any decent armour or anti-armour kit the open Manchurian plain isn't very friendly for them. Plus their main advantage, - their willingness to charge home - is shared by the Russians, and they've got SMGs as well.

So we went back to Burma, with a Japanese attack on a British base deep in the jungle. As I've said elsewhere we rarely play PBI "straight". On this occasion I set the table up as bigger than usual, - about 12 squares by 10 instead of 8 x 8. I also dispensed with the pregame sequence and all the reserve rolling bits and pieces. I like the idea of putting all my kit on the table rather than leave half of it in the box due to capricious dice rolling.

So we have a base consisting of some Nissan huts and a few other lean-to type buildings , - courtesy of the old Corgi cardboard WW2 Airfield set (excellent value if you can find one. Mine came from Duxford). In the corner of the board there's a native village - see photo - the rest of the board is covered in vegetation, with a jungle stream and a track as well. This is defended by a couple of platoons of West Africans and a Stuart tank form the Rajputs. I deployed these first, and laid them out as if they were just "in situ" not expecting an attack. So we had an outpost in the native village, a couple of MG posts overlooking one flank and then the remainder allocated to each building.

The Japanese attacked with two strong platoons (one veteran) supported by a medium mortar section and a Company Commander section with some flamethrowers attached. Their third platoon has been sent on a flank march and will turn up at an appropriate time.

We played the game with the MNG amendments, - the principal of which is to roll the motivation and AP dice together and chose which one applies to which. This gives us more motivations and makes the game much more action packed and decidedly more bloody. We also modify the motivation rules in the jungle squares, - although they count as closed squares only the first square counts as closed for motivation purposes as long as there's a contiguous series of squares occupied by bases of the same platoon between the commander and the bases being motivated. Finally for the moment we allow bases in the same platoon to "spot" for light mortars in the same platoon (we're talking about this costing extra APs, which I think is a good idea).

The game started with the two Japanese platoons surging across the stream. The veteran platoon was on the Japanese right, the average platoon on the left, supported by the medium mortars. The West Africans were in a bit of confusion, principally as I can't tell the difference between rifle and SMG groups at a distance. Fortunately it had no real effect on the game, other than to tempt one Japanese section into an ill advised bayonet charge ("I wouldn't have charged if I'd realised they had an SMG!!!". The main damage, however was done by the light mortars grouped round the Nissan hut in the foreground. Using observer fire they were able to break up the initial Japanese attack through the jungle, although the lead section eventually succumbed, and were wiped out. It was looking sufficiently dodgy enough for me to move the Stuart up to support the section under pressure in the second Nissan hut. Although looking in the picture it seems to have been moved back and I don't remember doing that.

The Japanese on the left had also gained a foot hold, overrunning the village building closest to the river. They also started to get the medium mortars into the game, and they can put down a fearsome lot of fire.

That's about where we finished, with the game poised for next week's entertainment. There's some reserves sitting in boxes off table, just waiting to see who turns up for the restart.

All I need to do now is go away and make the flag pole flying the lone Union Flag which should be in the middle of the parade ground.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Real Life (part 13a)

Again real life has even stopped me blogging about real life, let alone interrupting my wargaming.

First up an update on the Dragon Boat racing. We managed to get a team together for all three races, but didn't make the finals, which honestly was a relief as it meant we could pack up at 3:30 rather than hang on to 5pm. And when you were on site at 8am putting up the gazebo and laying out tables for food and drink that makes a difference. The barbecue went well and no one got food poisoning and missed work on Monday. I have to say that team events are a worry, - when we all go out together I can't help thinking that we are one dodgy chef with salmonella away from bringing the company down. Maybe I should split people up between several restaurants when we go out.

So all things considered that was a success. And I have a freezer full of bread rolls because we over catered.

I have managed to get a bit of wargaming stuff done. I've done a couple more CoW reports and I'm part way through the write up for The Elephant in the Room. I've even done some work on those 28mm 16th century Irish I bought in Derby last October. And built and under coated a couple of tchankas and some Sudan campaign cavalry limbers.

So not that bad really.

And I finished Peter Hart's "1918 - A very British Victory" which I found very moving. It is mostly oral history taken from the Imperial War Museum's archive which Peter Hart is responsible for. It follows on in the recent tradition or revisionist history (he holds Paddy G's book on British Army tactical development in particular esteem).

A fine piece of work, and thoroughly recommended.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Real Life (part 13)

This year it was my turn to be the equivalent of the morale officer for my division at work (I have a snappy title that goes with the role, but I won't share it with you).

Whilst those of you who know me are rolling around on the floor laughing at this thought I'd point out that mostly I don't have to do that much in the role. I have a committee of five younger, more enthusiastic, staff who have all the ideas and do the legwork. I just turn up at the end to take the credit (or, more commonly, pay for everything). What we - or rather they - do is organise a range of social and charity events throughout the year. We get a mix of responses and do things like quizzes, one-off projects (built a playground a year or so back) and recently went greyhound racing

This weekend is the centrepiece event of the year, - Dragon Boat racing with the local Rotary club. This means finding a minimum of 12 people to crew a boat for three races. Ideally you want more than 12 so not everyone has to do every race. The whole thing is billed as a "Family Fun Day" so there's stuff to do when we're not racing.

However it is also expected that you do a barbecue, so the last couple of evenings have involved the shopping for this. 100 burgers, 200 sausages, 300 bread rolls, plus salad, dressings, bottles of drink etc etc.

We have a departmental gazebo to house us for this event, and this year we have one of those large rubberised tarpaulin banners with the company logo on it to mark our space, but you also need cool boxes, picnic blankets and a large amount of assorted paraphernalia. Although the event doesn't start until 10am you have to be there by 8am (on Sunday morning!!!!) to ensure you get a decent pitch and to have everything set up by the time the hordes arrive.

Although of course you don't know how many hordes are coming. Your rowers are signed up before hand so that's your minimum number, but its the supporters that you have to worry about. There's those that are definitely coming, then there's those that "might pop down", and they might come alone or they might bring a friend/partner/child etc. So we're catering for a minimum of 50 (ish).

Which is all very well, but where do you store everything? The freezer & fridge are stuffed to the gills, and we still haven't bought any ice to keep drinks cold.

One thing wargaming doesn't prepare you for is mass catering, although in fairness to Paddy Griffith he did write a chapter about it in a piece he did on organising mega-games. I wonder where I put that?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A Day Out of the Office

I had a day out yesterday, - courtesy of a friend at a supplier. It was a historic event (although not as historical an event as had previously been suggested).

Yes, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Pakistan v Australia test match at Lords. The first time since 1912* that two national flags, neither of them England's, have flown over the Lord's Pavilion for a test match.

As you can see from the picture the weather wasn't very promising. As I travelled in from "up country" I had to leave before any announcements of the day's play. However, there was no rain on the way down, and the scoreboard at the ground proudly announced:

I have to say that this did make me feel quite proud. The game has been organised by the ECB for Pakistan as a home test for them as no one can tour Pakistan at the moment. The ECB is making no money from the game, so this is putting much needed funds into one of the great cricketing nations of the world. It's a way of showing people who want to disrupt normal life that there are still people out there willing to give a hand in exchange for....nothing. I don't know how many other sporting governing bodies would be that altruistic.

Anyway, I knew I was at a test match in England as the score board soon changed to:

Fortunately although our tickets were in the stands we had some catering supplied in the Mound Stand hospitality suite, where they serve a very nice bacon sandwich. Play started at 12:00 and despite coming off for bad light occasionally we saw a fair amount of cricket of varying quality. This included an Australian batting collapse, so the day wasn't wasted.

The game finally finished at about 6:20, with the Aussies looking a bit precarious:

Clearly this is all complete gibberish to some of you out there, but I enjoyed myself.

* The 1912 game was between Australia and South Africa and was part of a triangular Test tournament with England as well. It was not regarded as a success. The Australians did fairly well despite fielding a weakened side due to six of their players refusing to tour following a fist fight with the selectors. Yes, you did read that correctly. Ah, oh for that bygone, genteel age before the Great War....

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

New Game!!!

Not a wargame, but definately a CoW game.

Whilst doing a bit of father/son bonding with young Master Trebian over lunch we each chose a different bottle. I had some Hook Norton "Haymaker" and he had a Bulmers.

We have discovered Bottled Booze Top Trumps. Take any value from a label and challenge your mates. Bulmers won out on size & alcohol units, but the Haymaker was well in there with Alcohol Percentage and date of founding the brewery.

Obviously a game to play with forfeits.

Remember drink responsibly.

It is your responsibility to help reduce this country's bottled booze mountain.

Real Life (part 12a)

Got rid of ants.

Ants came back.

Gone out and got the ant fighting equivalent of Corps Artillery.

Deployed ant powder. Sophisticated ant traps in reserve for evening attack.

Whilst buying ant powder got sealing ring to fix sink.

Couldn't fix sink. Joint wouldn't tighten over sealing ring.

Took sealing ring back. Exchanged it for different sort*.

Fixed sink.

At least for now.

Wrote first CoW report.

Got ready to take Mrs Trebian in for operation.

Sat and worried about that. Modern medicine and surgery is great. Just wished we didn't have to use it.

*Our village has a real, authentic, hardware store run by a bloke who knows his products, doesn't take credit cards, lets you take stuff and pay for it later, and will swap stuff if it doesn't work out for you. It's brilliant, even if B&Q can do it cheaper.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Real Life (part 12)

Got back from CoW to discover:

1) Waste pipe from kitchen sink has come loose and refuses to push back and retighten
2) Ants have invaded the kitchen and I can't work out how they get in
3) Most of my garden tubs have nearly died
4) I don't have enough bookshelf space anymore

Isn't Real Life great?

CoW , The Final Chapter (for this year)

Oh my...up early again as I have to set up for the Return to the River Don game. There's quite a lot of figures to get out, and terrain to lay out and the room to set up generally and I don't want to miss breakfast.

It looks from my pictures that I haven't got one of the overall battlefield. I had a railway crossing a fordable ditch and some roads a few wooded areas plus some buildings.

As I had six players and one assistant umpire I again indulged myself and overloaded the table. The Whites had two infantry regiments (total 5 battalions), a couple of batteries, a cavalry brigade and tow armoured cars. The Reds had a couple of infantry regiments (6 battalions), three armoured cars including one of Phil's scratchbuilt Garfords, and a couple of batteries.

We had the whole morning session, - about 3 1/2 hours - and got a lot done although didn't reach a conclusion. Units failed to move, were coerced and come mutinied. A battalion of White volunteers close assaulted the village in the face of Red MGs and under the pistols of their Officers to meet the inevitable fate. The Red conscripts all took heart from their armoured cars and refused to run away.

The players were good enough to speak well of the system. Inevitably you get the suggestion to "speed it up" but I'm happy with each step in the game as it gives a realistic feel. To speed it up will lead to more abstraction. I'll say no more for now and do a proper detailed write up for Nugget, WD's magazine (so if you want to know more you'll need to join). The photos show my penchant for use of labels and markers. I make no apologies for this, - it makes it so much easier to track what is going on.

Final point on the game, - having packed everything so carefully I left the railway track in the garage. Some masking tape and marker pen stop in for it in fine fashion.

After lunch I slid into Richard Brook's lecture on Von Moltke the Elder. Entertaining and informative as ever, I shall pick up the book when it is published.

CoW as ever is rounded off by WDs AGM, which passed without incident.

And so home for another year.

Can't wait 'til next July!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

No, I'm....what did you say your name was?

Saturday evening..(well Sunday morning now, but this blog is about last night)

I'd signed up for John Basset's "Spartacus" game. An ambitious attempt to game the slave revolt, involving about 18 players, divided into two games that interlinked. There was the small and well managed map game with the slave players rampaging round Italy and a political committee game at the other end of the table for the Roman players which seemed to be complete chaos..

In the end the slave armies were destroyed all but one unit of Thracian Cavalry at the very gates of Rome itself, - which was one more unit than the Romans had. Many of the Roman Leaders were dead but the slave revolt central command decided to call it a day and retire to Thrace with their piles of loot (except for Crixus who chose to die with his men. Silly man).

Played over about two hours there was a fair amount of noise and energy in the game and with so much going on it was amazing it got to a conclusion and such an enjoyable one as well. Marvellous effort by John Basset.

Skipping over Mike Young's game of genetic inbreeding in the Hapsburg Empire (immortalised with the instruction "I'm now going to show all of you how to make babies) I sat in on John Curry's session on commercial boardgames from the 1960s (which included Waddington's Battle of the Little Big Horn" and General Horrock's "Combat").

John C has done a lot to record the development of the wargaming hobby and if you haven't already done so you should check out his History of Wargaming website. John is also republishing most of the great wargaming books of the last 50 years so I finally got round to picking up Featherstone's "Wargames" and "Advanced Wargames" as well as Charlie Wesencraft's "Practical Wargames" and "Wargaming with Pike and Musket". I don't know if they now have anything I really need nowadays, but I felt I should have copies. John is really doing excellent work in this area and fully deserves all our support.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Plucky Belgians and other short stories

Another rich and varied day at CoW. Started off (following the lavish traditional breakfast) with Richard Brooks' 1914 Operational Level game "Op14". This is square based and card driven.

This is a very high level game. The picture shows a German Corps attacking a river line in Belgium. Each one of those figures represents a Regiment, so each square has a brigade in it. The blocks in the foreground are the Belgians dug in along the river line with dummy blocks to enable effective concealment.

Each turn represents 90 minutes, and Richard is strict about the time off day which means we could, as the plucky Belgians, play for time, defend until nightfall before slipping off to Fortress Antwerp. The clever thing about the game is that period doctrine is forced on players. Artillery has to be attached to Divisions, infantry has to attack even if apparently futile. A close and tense game was fought. Hopefully the updated set of rules will be included in Nugget.

Also managed to squeeze in a longer chat with Martin Wallace of Treefrog (best boardgames company in the world) and look at what he's got in playtest. Picked up one of his signed limited edition copies of "Age of Industry" as well. Our chats work much better when we are both sober.

CoW has a number of non-programmed and ad-hoc events. Post lunch we had a Jim Wallman special. No description for now, but here's the recruiting poster. This is another lawn game, which w2as short and silly but at least it gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine for a while.

This afternoon I took part in another square based game this time Ian Drury's Battle of Nicopolis which uses Richard Brooks' "Middle Age Spread" rules. The Christian attack was as stunning in its audacity as it was in its total failure. They'll be burying the dead for weeks. This photo shows the Turkish command deliberating. I don't know why they're looking so worried, - if you look closely you can see that most of the christian army is heading towards the camera and so the River Danube. A fun game, but not my finest hour.

Rounding off the pre-evening meal session with an interesting lecture from a serving officer who is currently mentoring the Iraqi armed forces. Fascinating stuff.

This evening holds the wonders of Spartacus and something to do with the Cold War in the Arctic.

Can't wait.

Oh My God It's Early....

Goooood Mooornin' Knuston!!!

Less than 5 hours sleep but inspite of the pounding headache (thanks Mrs Trebian for reminding me to pack paracetamol) I'm awake at 7am and ready to face the day.

Knuston Hall is such a super venue for a wargaming weekend. The Northamptonshire countryside looks beautiful, the Hall has the charm of a bygone age and a cooked breakfast awaits.

Last night's blog was a bit short on detail but it is hard to describe CoW because so many bits are going on at once and you never know what is going on round the corner.

Special surprise last night was Phil turned up with what looked to me to be completed Garford-Putilov's, complete with rivets & a passing resemblance to my style of paint job. He modestly says there's still a few things to complete on them, but they are passed around eagerly by the assembled gamers. For all our talk of design and so on we still love our toys! Martin Goddard of Peter Pig looked on interestedly....maybe there's hope for a 15mm manufactured version...

As I was running The Elephant in The Room last night in the entrance hall I missed a lot of what else was happening. I sort of sat there and ran the game as the rest of the conference rotated round me (and bought me drinks - thanks guys). Alas it is too late now but I finally discovered the perfect name (Ian Drury, I believe suggested this, - I was too drunk to notice everyone - ). "Pachyderm Down" Has a real ring to it. Don't know if I'll change the board and all the parts now though.

It's the 30th anniversary of WD this year, and we've been coming to Knuston for our annual conference now for 29 of them. It has changed a lot. In 1981 it was very "local authority" with shared bathrooms and do it yourself service. It's much more 2oth century now, - most of the rooms have shower cubicles for example. So after a late night's gaming you can liven yourself up in the morning with hot running water without getting lost wandering around with your towel. So now the pain killers have kicked in and I've showered the sleep away I'm ready to get stuck into the day's entertainment.

Real Life? Better than Real Life. No danger of being a Grown Up interfering today.

Blogging Whilst P*ss*d

Well, it's 1:50 am on Saturday morning and I've made it up to my room, comfortably outside several pints of beer and about a bottle of wine.

So far I have met lots of old friends, made some new ones and bought several new books at below cost price. And what else?

Well we had a very pleasant evening meal and played a game of Military Memoirs (see Jim Wallman's free wargames rules site for the details) the wargamers' version of consequences. Then we had a brief memorial for Paddy Griffith (well done to Tim & Bob who got the tone perfectly) before repairing outside to refight WWI as a lawn game.

That only left me to run the elephant game for three groups of players, all of whom (except Martin Wallace of Treefrog) seemed to go away satisfied. Oh, and Peter Pig turned up and gave me a big bag of toy soldiers to paint.

All in all as a wargames evening pretty much perfect.

Just need to get ready for tomorrow and Richard Brooks' Operational WWI game. Tasty!

Apologies for grammer and typing but let me just say I'd probably be best not driving at the moment.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Battle of Northampton revisited

The curtain raiser to CoW is an informal meeting at a historical site en route to Knuston. Last year was Gibraltar Barn (look it up) this year for the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Northampton we went to...Northampton.

Guided by Mike Elliott of the Battlefield Trust we sort of rambled in a few minutes late from all over the place, including a local pub (excellent value 2 meals for a Fiver each) and addressed ourselves to the problem of where the battlefield is and how easy is it to make a field devoid of any features interesting.

Luckily with a select band of WD's finest you don't really need much to look at as we can speculate about anything with little of no evidence. This walk didn't really alter my earlier views on the site of the battle, but I hadn't looked at the site from the Eleanor Cross before and that reinforces the view that half of it is under 18th century landscaping and the golf course.

Ultimately we'll never know until they geophys the site and maybe not even then.

From there it's a short drive to Knuston to meet more old friends. And even the rain has kept off.

(No competition here but Bob Cordery - I posted first!!!!)

Ready for CoW

It's got to the point where I have to take the whole of Friday off to be ready for CoW. Well, actually I backed myself into a corner by reducing my preparation time through an extra playtest game Monday evening (wise choice) and having an WD old friend - Tony Hawkins - over last night so we can do the pre-CoW Battle of Northampton walk together. So instead of packing we had to have a game.

We played ECW ("Victory Without Squares"). Tony took the early war Parliamentarians v my dashing Royalists. A close game with the Parliamentarians winning through via a stunning performance of their left wing trotter cavalry who swept all before them.

So now I just need to find where I've put all my bits for my Elephant game, check the boxes with the RCW stuff in them and print out my Paddy tribute. And find my camera. And decide whether to take the Notebook PC so I can blog whilst I'm there.

Decisions, decisions.

Then down to the pub for lunch.