COW2014

Although it is still just January, planning for COW2014 (the annual Conference of Wargamers that is organised by Wargame Developments) is well underway, and bookings are coming in steadily. To date twenty nine people have booked places at the conference, and the following offers to run sessions have already been gratefully accepted.

A Mighty Wind – The Plenary Game (Tim Gow et al)
1944. The Home Islands are threatened by a huge enemy battle fleet and invasion force. It is our sacred duty to die for the Emperor …

Doodlebuggers (WD Display Team North)
Another fast-paced solo game. Take to the skies over Kent to prevent those new unsporting V-1 flying bombs reaching London. This only takes 10 minutes to play so it will run several times. Who will be the top scorer in No. 607 ‘Knuston’ Wing?

Gladiolus (the old SOA Gladiator game) (Will Whyler)
I will run three or four boards probably in different scales.

Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (Jim Wallman)
A committee game for up to 12. Crisis management of an unprecedented and dangerous crisis. And explaining it on the Today Programme.

Saving Private Mouat (Jim Wallman)
A 100% Totally Not Footfall mission to rescue one of HMGs most vital assets.

Warriors for the Working Day (Jim Wallman)
Just another wargame involving toy tanks in WW2 … but very suitable for those who can’t tell their HVSS from their APDS.

Little Wars: The War of Firefly’s Nose (Jim Wallman)
If there’s any enthusiasm for lounging around on the grass and projecting matchsticks at each other randomly.

Hemlock and Democracy (John Bassett)
404BC: Sparta has defeated Athens. The birthplace of democracy groans beneath the Thirty Tyrants. But a small group of rebels seek to change all that … A political/military role-play featuring Spartan warlords, philosophers, priests, democrats and oligarchs.

Ovid for Wargamers (John Bassett)
John Bassett on his favourite Roman poet: man about town, wit, master of seduction, intriguer at the imperial court and exile. Will feature a re-enactment of the sad, sad story of Orpheus, with audience participation.

Boots on the Ground (John Armatys)
A simple set of wargames rules for company level actions in the early Twenty First Century using 15mm figures and die cast aeroplanes – an entertainment for up to four players.

You don’t have to be a member of Wargame Developments to go to COW … but you become one as soon as you go!


The following are a selection of photographs I took at COW2013. They give a flavour of the variety of sessions that take place.


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Waterstones has a special ‘20% off almost everything’ sale this weekend, and as I was passing their Bluewater branch I decided to see if there was a book or two that I fancied buying.

The store has a carousel display of books published by Osprey, and I happened to see that they had a copy of the ‘Command’ series book about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on sale. (It was written by Edward J Erickson, illustrated by Adam Hook, and published by Osprey in 2013 [ISBN 978 1 78096 590 1].) As Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has always been one of those late nineteenth/early twentieth century personalities that I have wanted to know more about, I bought it.

The book has eight chapters, a bibliography, and an index. The chapters are entitled:

  • Introduction
  • The early years
  • The military life
  • The hour of destiny
  • Opposing commanders
  • Inside the mind
  • When war is done
  • A life in words

A quick glance through the book indicates that it covers everything that I need in order to get some basic understanding of the man who was the ‘Father of the Turks’.


Nugget 268

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the original of the latest issue (N268) to me some days ago, and I took it to the printer yesterday. I intend to collect it from them on Tuesday or Wednesday next week and post it out to members of Wargame Developments on Thursday.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2013-2014 subscription year. It is still possible to subscribe, and this can be done online via the Wargame Developments website. Please note that the subscription costs rose with effect from the beginning of the current subscription year.


Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14 … the story continues

Although I have not mentioned it on my blog for the past few days, I have been thinking about bringing elements of OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules (and possibly BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, and MEMOIR OF BATTLE) together. In fact I sat down one day with the intention of writing this ‘new’ set of rules … and promptly hit a mental brick wall.

Modern thinking about work practices seems to be that what I should have done at that stage is just ploughed on regardless … and hope that something useful would result. (I always think of this as the monkeys and typewriters approach!) It is almost as if being seen to do unproductive work is better than producing no obvious work at all, and that spending time thinking about solving a problem is wasted time.

I have never believed in this sort of approach … which is probably why I never reached any higher on my career ladder than I did. I always preferred to mentally ‘walk away’ from a problem that I could not immediately solve in order to let my subconscious mind do the thinking for me … and I usually found that it worked.

When I woke up this morning I felt as if I was almost ready to begin putting my ideas down on paper … but not quite. Hopefully this will change as the day goes on and I do everything except sit at my computer thinking about how to start!


A century of invention

Writing yesterday’s blog entry about the London Underground system made me realise that a lot of what we take for granted today actually pre-dates the twentieth century. I therefore did a bit of research and came up with the following list (in ascending date order) of nineteenth century inventions and patents. Where possible I have listed the inventor and/or patentee.

  • 1800: Electric battery – Count Alessandro Volta
  • 1800: Programmable machine – J.M. Jacquard
  • 1804: Gas lighting – Freidrich Winzer/Winsor
  • 1804: Prototype steam locomotive – Richard Trevithick
  • 1809: Electric arc lamp – Humphry Davy
  • 1810: Tin can – Peter Durand
  • 1814: Practical steam locomotive – George Stephenson
  • 1814: Spectroscope – Joseph von Fraunhofer
  • 1814: Plastic surgery
  • 1814: First photograph – Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
  • 1816: Miner’s safety lamp – Humphry Davy
  • 1816: Stethoscope – Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec
  • 1820: Arithmometer (the first mass-produced calculator) – Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar
  • 1821: Electric motor – Michael Faraday
  • 1822: Mechanical computer – Charles Babbage
  • 1823: Mackintosh raincoat – Charles Mackintosh
  • 1824: Portland cement – Joseph Aspdin
  • 1825: Electromagnet – William Sturgeon
  • 1827: Friction matches – John Walker
  • 1829: Typographer (index typewriter) – William Austin Burt
  • 1830: Sewing machine – Barthelemy Thimonnier
  • 1830: Lawn mower – Edwin Beard Budding
  • 1831: Reaper –Cyrus McCormick
  • 1831: Electric dynamo – Michael Faraday
  • 1832: Stereoscope – Charles Wheatstone
  • 1834: Combine harvester – Hiram Moore
  • 1834: Corn planter – Henry Blair
  • 1834: Ether ice machine (an early refrigerator) – Jacob Perkins
  • 1835: Mechanical calculator – Charles Babbage
  • 1835: Calotype photography – Henry Talbot
  • 1835: Revolver – Samuel Colt
  • 1835: Wrench – Solymon Merrick
  • 1836: Propeller – Francis Pettit Smith and John Ericcson
  • 1837: Postage stamp – Rowland Hill
  • 1837: Electric telegraph – Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse
  • 1838: Morse code – Samuel Morse
  • 1839: Rubber vulcanization – Charles Goodyear
  • 1839: Daguerreotype photography – Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
  • 1839: Mechanically-propelled bicycle – Kirkpatrick Macmillan
  • 1840: Blueprint – John Herschel
  • 1841: Stapler – Samuel Slocum
  • 1842: Use of inhaled diethyl ether as an anesthetic – Crawford Long
  • 1842: Facsimile – Alexander Bain.
  • 1842: Grain elevator – Joseph Dart
  • 1843: Keyboard typewriter – Charles Thurber
  • 1844: Mercerized cotton – John Mercer
  • 1845: Lockstitch sewing machine – Elias Howe
  • 1845: Vulcanised rubber pneumatic tire – Robert William Thomson
  • 1846: Cold cure process for vulcanizing rubber – Alexander Parkes
  • 1846: Rotary printing press – Richard M. Hoe
  • 1849: Safety pin – Walter Hunt
  • 1851: Falling shuttle sewing machine – Isaac Singer
  • 1852: Gyroscope – Jean Bernard Léon Foucault
  • 1853: Manned glider – George Cayley
  • 1855: Rayon – Georges Audemars
  • 1856: Pasteurisation – Louis Pasteur
  • 1858: Two-stroke gas-powered internal combustion engine – Jean Lenoir
  • 1861: Elevator safety brakes – Elisha Otis
  • 1861: Cylinder (or Yale) lock – Linus Yale
  • 1861: Crank-driven bicycle – Pierre Michaux
  • 1862: Thermoplastic – Alexander Parkes
  • 1862: Revolving mechanical machine gun – Richard J. Gatling
  • 1867: Ticker tape stock price telegraph – Edward A. Calahan
  • 1866: Dynamite – Alfred Nobel
  • 1866: Locomotive torpedo – Robert Whitehead
  • 1866: Can opener – J. Osterhoudt
  • 1868: Air Brakes – George Westinghouse.
  • 1876: Telephone – Alexander Graham Bell
  • 1876: Gasoline carburettor – Gottlieb Daimler
  • 1876: Carpet sweeper – Melville Bissell
  • 1876: Four-stroke gas-powered internal combustion engine – Nicolaus August Otto
  • 1877: Zoopraxiscope (moving picture projector) – Eadweard Muybridge
  • 1877: Cylinder phonograph – Thomas Alva Edison
  • 1878: Cathode ray tube – William Crookes
  • 1878: Longer-lasting electric light bulb – Sir Joseph Wilson Swan
  • 1880: Seismograph – John Milne
  • 1880: Photophone (a wireless communication device) – Alexander Graham Bell
  • 1880: Pre-packed boxes of toilet paper – British Perforated Paper Company
  • 1881: Roll film for cameras – David Houston and George Eastman
  • 1884: Cash Register – James Ritty
  • 1884: Steam turbine – Charles Parson
  • 1884: Fountain Pen – Lewis Edson Waterman
  • 1884: Artificial silk – Hilaire de Chardonnet
  • 1885: Vibrating shuttle sewing machine – Isaac Singer
  • 1885: Gas-engined motorcycle – Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach
  • 1885: Gas-engined automobile – Karl Benz
  • 1885: Automatic machine gun – Hiram Maxim
  • 1886: Coca Cola – John Pemberton
  • 1887: Disc gramophone – Emile Berliner
  • 1887: Barbed wire – Rowell Hodge
  • 1888: Drinking straws – Marvin Stone
  • 1888: Electric chair – Thomas Edison
  • 1888: Commercially successful pneumatic tire – John Boyd Dunlop
  • 1888: AC motor and transformer – Nikola Tesla
  • 1889: Matchbook – Joshua Pusey
  • 1889: Cordite – Sir James Dewar and Sir Frederick Abel
  • 1891: Kinetoscope (motion picture exhibition device) – Thomas Alva Edison
  • 1891: Escalator – Jesse W. Reno
  • 1892: Oil-fueled internal combustion engine – Rudolf Diesel
  • 1892: Dewar or vacuum flask – Sir James Dewar
  • 1893: Carborundum – Edward Goodrich Acheson
  • 1893: Zipper – Whitcomb L. Judson
  • 1893: Wireless communication using radio waves – Nikola Tesla
  • 1895: Cinematographe (a portable motion-picture camera, film processing unit and projector) – Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumiere and Louis Jean Lumiere
  • 1895: Transmission of messages by radio signals – Guglielmo Marconi
  • 1898: Flashlight – American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company (later the American Ever Ready Company)
  • 1898: Remote control using radio waves – Nikola Tesla
  • 1899: Motor-driven vacuum cleaner – John Thurman
  • 1899: Paperclip – Johan Vaaler

I must admit that I was surprised by how early some of inventions listed above were made.


Underground, overground …

The part of London where my wife and I live was not served by the London Underground system for many years. The reasons are – I understand – related to the fact that the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) was built and opened between 1836 and 1838, and had been extended as far as Woolwich by 1849 … some five years before the Metropolitan Railway was granted permission to build the first underground railway in London. (The first part of what later became the London Underground system opened in January 1863 and ran between Paddington and Farringdon. It used gas-lit wooden carriages that were pulled by steam locomotives.)

The London and Greenwich Railway was important because:

  • It was the first steam railway in the capital.
  • It was the first to be built specifically for passengers.
  • It was the first elevated railway.

This situation changed when the Jubilee Line was extended as far as North Greenwich in order to connect the newly-built Millennium Dome (now known as the O2 [London]) to the London Underground system.

My family home – where I lived until I was 23 – was situated in one of the outer London suburbs that are served by the London Underground. Our local station was Upminster, which is now the most easterly stop on the District Line. (Upminster has gone down in history for a variety of reasons. It was where the speed of sound was first accurately calculated, Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood VC lived there from 1894 until his death in 1919, and it is reputed to have been used as an unofficial government codeword for any idea that was seemingly mad … because Upminster is several stops past Barking!)

I used to travel on the London Underground a lot whilst I was growing up, and I was often told the story about how a distant member of my had been the first person born on the Underground!

One thing that I became aware of during my travels on the London Underground was the number of stations that had been built and either never been used or had been taken out of service. Recently a map showing these ‘lost’ stations has been published by UsVsTh3m … and very interesting it is too.


A wargaming ‘Who Do You Think a You Are?’

I was in the process of booking tickets for this year’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Show at Olympia for my wife and I when my mind turned to the genealogy of wargame rules.

Looking at the rules that I have written over the years I can trace distinct lines of development (or their genealogy). For example my ¡ARRIBA ESPANA! rules combined ideas from Paul Koch’s ON TO RICHMOND American Civil War rules and John Sandar’s SANDSKRIEG World War II rules, and my PORTABLE WARGAME rules owe a great deal to Joseph Morschauser’s FRONTIER rules. Likewise Richard Brooks and Ian Drury have written rules that directly – and indirectly – inspired my REDCOATS AND NATIVES and RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES rules, and Chris Kemp’s NQM (NOT QUITE MECHANISED) rules were a progenitor of Tim Gow’s MEGABLITZ rules. I don’t think that this sort of thing is unique, and a quick perusal of the many sets of wargame rules that are online indicates that it is not.

Is this process simply the development of someone else’s ideas or just plain plagiarism? To put it another way, are rules that are developed by one wargamer from the work of another wargamer a legitimate offspring of the original or is it – to use the Victorian meaning of the word – ‘spurious’?

I know that there are some people who would argue that it is plagiarism … but how many wargamers have not given in to the temptation to ‘play around’ with published rules that they may have bought or downloaded for free? Is publishing modifications of existing wargame rules copying or flattery? After all, Charles Caleb Colton wrote in 1820 that ‘Imitation is the sincerest of flattery‘, and he was only simplifying a phrase used in Jeremy Collier’s and André Dacier’s 1708 biography of Marcus Aurelius. They wrote that ‘You should consider that Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship, and that the Gods had much rather Mankind should Resemble, than Flatter them.’ My personal thinking is that if you develop a set of wargame rules that borrow ideas/concepts and/or mechanisms from someone else’s rules then that should be fully acknowledged. By doing that, the ‘borrowing’ goes some way to being legitimised and acceptable.

The growth of the Internet (and blogging in particular) has led to a faster exchange of ideas, concepts, and draft wargame rules between wargamers … and I see this as a very positive development for the hobby that I hope will continue. I know that there are others who disagree with this, and who regard anything that looks even vaguely like plagiarism as an infringement of their intellectual property rights. To them I pose a simple question. Would the world they live in be as accessible if Sir Tim Berners-Lee had taken that attitude?


A minor correction

I need to make a minor correction with regard to my previous blog entries about the ConSim guest session at King’s College, London that I took part in recently.

I misunderstood the nature of the ConSim course, and thought that it was a ‘stand alone’ PhD course. I regret to say that I was wrong, and that ConSim is a module that is offered within the MA degree course. I am sorry if this may have confused my regular blog readers … and my only excuse is the onset of old age and rampant senility!


Burns Night and sudden storms

Last evening my wife and I went to a Burns Night Supper with some old friends of ours who live in Ash, near Sandwich, Kent. Just as we were leaving our house a storm broke overhead without any warning, and we were subjected to strong winds, torrential rain, and some very spectacular lightning flashes. The storm seemed to follow us all the way down the A2/M2 to Canterbury and beyond, and only abated once we were safely inside our friends’ home.

We had a great night. My wife and I both love haggis, neeps, and tatties … which was just as well as there was loads of them to eat! We left to drive home at just after 11.30pm, and we were inside our house not long after 1.00am. We did notice some tree debris in the road as we drove home, but not a lot more that we would normally have expected after high winds.

When we finally got up this morning at some time after 10.00am, our garden was showing signs that the storm might have been even stronger than we had realised. Some of the branches of our laurel hedge (the one I have been gradually cutting down so that we can get into our garden shed) have broken off and are now lying on top of the shed roof, and one of our neighbour’s fence panels is lying on his lawn, having been blown out of its fixings. It looks like we both have some work to do … but we will not be able to start until the torrential rain that is now falling finally stops.

It looks like I will be having an interesting day or two ahead clearing up after the storm.


Itchy and Scratchy meets OP14

One of the things that struck me as I was taking part in the recent Ivangorod 1914 re-fight was the similarity between the sizes of units used in OP14 and my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules … and in several other sets of rules (e.g. BATTLE CRY, MEMOIR ’44, MEMOIR OF BATTLE). All the rules seem to have gravitated towards unit that have the following number of figures:

  • Infantry: 4 figures
  • Cavalry: 3 or 4 figures
  • Artillery: 2 (or more) figures + 1 gun

With this in mind I began decided to see what sort of OP14 ‘armies’ I could field from my existing 15mm and 20mm-scale collections. The results were – to say the least – interesting.

15mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’
A Fezian Army of three Corps and a reserve Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades/Regiments – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 96 Field Guns.

A Britannic Home Service Corps. It has three Divisions – each with two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 48 Field Guns.

A Britannic Foreign Service Army of two Corps and a reserve/lines-of-communication Division. Each Corps has two Divisions – each having two Brigades – and an Artillery Brigade equipped with 72 Field Guns.

20mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’
A German 1944 Infantry Division. It has two Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

A Russian Rifle Division. It has three Infantry Regiments and an Artillery Regiment with 48 Field Guns.

It would appear that I could certainly field sizeable OP14-style ‘armies’ in 15mm-scale … and that 20mm-scale OP14-style ‘armies’ might make it possible to re-fight quite large battles in a small space.

If the opportunity arises, I may well take this ‘experiment’ further. The problem is that when I set out the figures to see what OP14-style ‘armies’ would look like. I was reminded that my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules still need further play-testing and that their origins lie in an idea that Archduke Piccolo had to fight grand tactical/strategic-level wargames. That said, by adopting OP14-style ‘armies’ and reducing the weapon ranges used in my ITCHY AND SCRATCHY wargame rules I might just be on the verge of developing a set of rules that could be used for fighting grand tactical/strategic-level battles.

This ‘experiment’ has certainly given me plenty to think about over the next few days.