My COW2017

My journey to Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire was not a good one. It should have taken me slightly less than two and a half hours to drive there, but thanks to it being a Friday (the roads were even more crowded than usual) and the weather being hot (in places the sides of the roads seemed to be strewn with broken down vehicles or cars that had hit each other), the drive took me just under four hours. By the time I got there I was feeling someone more that frazzled, and discovered that because I was late, most of the sessions I had wanted to sign up for were already full.

Once I had the chance to sign in, say hello to quite a few people, unpack my bags, and grab a cold drink, it was time for dinner … and things began to look up. The food was – as usual – both excellent in quality and in large enough portions to satisfy the appetites of even the hungriest of wargamers, and by the time dinner was over I had calmed down and was ready to enjoy myself.

I was not disappointed.

Friday Night Plenary Game: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
It has become a tradition that after a very short introduction to the weekend, everyone takes part in a plenary game. This enables newcomers to quickly get involved in events, and serves as an ‘ice breaker’ for the whole weekend. Sometimes plenary games are just a bit of harmless fun with people doing silly things … and sometimes they cover more serious topics. This year’s plenary game was one of the latter.

The game dealt with the events that lead up to the building of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent ‘Berlin Crisis’. Most of the participants were allocated a team (e.g. Federal German Republic, Democratic German Republic, USSR, USA) and a role (e.g. Head of State, Foreign Minister, Army Commander) but some – like me – were given player/umpire roles. (These are called ‘plumpires’, and the role of a plumpire is to help the game move along by acting as a conduit for information, a back-channel for unofficial discussions between teams, and to present problems that need solving. I was given the plumpire role of being Willy Brandt, the Mayor of Berlin, and spent most of my time trying to ensure that my city was not taken over by the Russians and/or the GDR and trying to get the USA and FDR teams to do something to get the wall removed.)

I’ll leave others to decide who won and who lost, but my general impression is that regardless of how well players did in achieving their individual objectives, everyone enjoyed themselves.

Friday Night After-Dinner Games
Whereas the daytime sessions tend to be rather more serious, the so-called ADG (after dinner games) tend to be more relaxing and fun. On Friday night I had to opportunity to visit several including Platoon Commander’s War on Hexes, …

Awfully Amateurish Agincourt, …

Another Dark Night in Whitechapel (Will Jack the Ripper strike again?), …

… and Graham Evans’ innovative Northampton 1480.

Saturday Morning Session 1
As I had not signed up for a particular session I spent the first part of the morning going around and observing what was going on. In the lounge Ian Drury was explaining how his The Greater Enemy: Operation Crusader game worked.

In the Panelled Room attendees were being briefed by John Salt about Firefight’s Grand Day Out, …

… whilst in the Practical room Graham Evans was running a Spanish Civil War game using his If You (Still) Tolerate This rules.

As can be gathered by the number of photographs that I took, I ended up spending a lot of time at this particular session, and thoroughly enjoyed watching the battle unfold.

Saturday Morning Session 2
After a coffee break I took part in an unscheduled session of The Battle of the Somme.

This is a resource management/card game where each player represents either a German or British corps commander. There were insufficient players for the full five-a-side game, but we were able to pit two British corps against the Germans. By adopting the ‘reinforce success’ strategy I was able to effect a breakthrough on one axis of advance. This effectively destroyed the ability of the Germans to stop me mounting a second series of attacks that easily broke through on another sector of my front-line.

Saturday Afternoon Session 1: Fall Edelweiss
I had been able to sign up for this session, and was given the role of running the reconnaissance and naval assets in John Bassett’s strategic-level game about the German offensive in the Caucasus.

The venue was the Beech Room, which was surprisingly cool considering how hot the weather was outside.

Each side placed their unit counters (both real and dummy) on the schematic strategic map.

After some initial success, the resources available to the Germans began to be diverted elsewhere … just as the Soviet side began to be reinforced. Although one of the oilfields was captured, its retention by the Germans was none to secure, and had the game continued there was little doubt that they would have had to conduct a fighting retreat.

Saturday Afternoon Session 2: Rote Armee Fraktion
This session took place after tea and was also held in the Beech Room. The game was about events in Germany (and other parts of Europe) during the early 1970s when the Baader-Meinhof group and others were ‘fighting’ a war against the established order. On this occasion I was given the role of being Helmut Schmidt (i.e. the role of representing the German establishment and government).

The game was one of the new-style free Matrix Games, and it felt as if worked much better than the earlier more rigid structure Matrix Games. As to who ‘won’ … well we all seemed to have achieved our objectives, and I ended up a Chancellor of the German Federal Republic!

Friday Night After-Dinner Games
I spent the first part of the evening wandering around watching the sessions that were taking place. In the Lounge Richard Biggs was running a tabletop wargame that used beautifully painted 54mm-sized figures. The game was entitled Saving Gordon and was set in the Sudan.

Next door in the Panelled Room Tim Gow was running a Western Gunfight game entitled Shootin’ Time, …

… whilst in the Library a World War I Trench Raid was taking place.

At 10.30pm I joined the small group who were taking part in Jim Roche’s session Over There – Wartime Singalong. This is the fourth year running Jim has staged this sort of session, and it takes the form of a history of what was happening one hundred years ago during the First World War (with the occasional diversion into other eras), interspersed with audience participation in the singing of contemporary tunes. Although there were fewer participants this year, the singing was lusty and enthusiastic.

Sunday Morning Session 1
I had hoped to be able to sign up and take part in Andrew Rolph’s Rattenkrieg game about Stalingrad, but although I was too late to sign up to do so, I did at least manage to see the game in action.

In the Panelled Room Nick Drage was giving a talk about The Evolution of Player Tactics in the Video Game Watch-Dogs, …

… whilst the Practical room was the venue for John Curry’s session that used the Mechanised Infantry Battalion Staff in a Combat Situation Gaming Simulation Device from 1979.

At the same time, Sue Laflin-Barker was running a game entitled Asterix and Redbeard’s Treasure in the Library.

Sunday Morning Session 2
Whilst Rattenkrieg was still raging in the Lounge, the Library was again being used for a smaller-sized game. This time it was Mike Elliott’s recreation of the Battle of St Fagans (1648), Full and Glorious Victory.

Sunday Afternoon
After lunch, and before the Wargame Developments Annual General Meeting, John Armatys chaired an Ideas Exchange. This provides attendees with the opportunity to share all sorts of wargame-related ideas and products that have discovered.

The AGM took relatively little time, and there were few changes to the ‘management’ of Wargame Developments. Probably the most important information attendees were interested in were the dates for COW2018 and COW2019 and the cost of attending COW2018. Everything was over by 3.45pm, and after saying goodbye to the other attendees and the staff of Knuston Hall, I left for home.

Unlike my journey on Friday, the drive back was totally uneventful. It took me just under two and a half hours to get from Northamptonshire to South East London, and I was back home in plenty of time to take my wife out to dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Advertisements

COW2017 is over … and it’s less than a year until COW2018!

Unfortunately, thanks to the UK’s unpredictable road transport network and the hot weather, I did not manage to get to Knuston Hall by 5.00pm so that I could enjoy a cool drink on the terrace whilst I waited for COW2017 to begin.

In reality I finally got there just after 6.15pm, and rather than take time to unpack and take a breather before it was time for dinner at 7.00pm, I ended up in the office sorting out a last minute booking. As a result I was rather hot and flustered by the time I sat down to eat dinner in the newly refurbished dinning hall, and this feeling of running to catch up only seemed to slowly diminish as the evening went on.

Despite this rather stressful start to my weekend, the conference turned out to be a great success and COW2018 is already almost fully booked!

I have quite a bit of conference-related admin to do today (and possibly tomorrow), but I hope to be able to write a blog entry by Wednesday that will cover what I saw and did at COW2017.


COW2017 … starts today!

With a bit of luck by 5.00pm this afternoon I will be sitting in the sun on the terrace of Knuston Hall, …

… drinking a cool drink, and waiting for COW2017 (this year’s annual Conference of Wargamers that is organised by Wargame Developments) to start in earnest.

For the first time in many years I am not putting on a session, and as a result I hope to be able to spend time watching and taking part in many of the activities that other attendees have organised. Quite a few bloggers will be there, as will a number of well-known wargamer designers and writers, and if the last thirty six years are anything to go by, it will be a thought-provoking and inspiring conference.

I will certainly be writing a blog entry about what I see and take part in at COW2017 … but probably not until the middle of next week, by which time I might just have recovered from two late nights and an overdose of wargaming!


Nugget 300

I collected the latest edition of THE NUGGET (N300) from the printer today, and I hope to post it out to members of Wargame Developments over the coming weekend.

I have already uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and they are now available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the ninth and last issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2016-2017 subscription year … and is the three hundredth to be published. This is an important milestone in the history of Wargame Developments and THE NUGGET, and this issue will be published just a month before the 38th annual COW (Conference of Wargamers) takes place at Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire.


Nugget 300

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue of the journal to me on Saturday, and I am taking it to the printer later today. This should mean that it will be printed and posted out to members of Wargame Developments by the end of the week.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the ninth and last issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2016-2017 subscription year … and is the three hundredth to be published. This is an important milestone in the history of Wargame Developments and THE NUGGET, and this issue will be published just a month before the 38th annual COW (Conference of Wargamers) takes place at Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire.


A look back at 2016

If I had been asked what I spent most of my time doing last year with regard to wargaming, I would have answered work on my Napoleonic project and my PORTABLE WARGAME book … but even a cursory look at the record shows that my memory of the year is more than a little out!

January and February seem to have been dominated by my WINTER-ISH WAR mini-campaign, whilst March saw the beginning of my model pre-dreadnought shipbuilding programme and the acquisition of Stuart Asquith’s collection of Del Prado painted 25/28mm Napoleonic figures. In April I seemed to be a bit all over the place until the very end of the month, when AIRFIX BATTLES: THE INTRODUCTORY WARGAME was published. The latter got a bit of play during the following month and I spent quite some time reading through ZONES OF CONTROL: PERSPECTIVES ON WARGAMING. June saw the end of my massive shipbuilding programme as well as extensive reports on the models that I saw in the Monaco Naval Museum.

July is always a busy month, and began with COW2016. It also saw the first glimmerings of my renewed interest in my ongoing Napoleonic project, and by the end of August my Dutch-Belgians, Brunswickers, and Hannoverians were all renovated and based. Connections UK 2016 took place in September, and work on my Napoleonic project continued apace, with the result that my British Napoleonic Army was finished by the middle of October. I then began work on my un-renovated French figures, and by the time Sue and I went on our latest cruise (which took up the last week of November and the first three weeks of December), the bulk of the French Infantry were well on the way to completion.

So where did my PORTABLE WARGAME book fit into all this? Well it has been gradually coming together over the months, and as I write this, it is approaching the stage where it is almost ready to be proof-read before publication. With luck it will be published early in 2017, and then I can begin work on my next book … which will be the centenary history of an important Masonic Lodge.


Nugget 292

I collected the latest edition of THE NUGGET (N292) from the printer on Monday, and I posted it out to members of Wargame Developments this morning.

I have already uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and they are available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print. A printed copy of the requisite password has been posted out to all members this morning.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the first issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2016-2017 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can still do so if they want to. This can be done by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website. A printed reminder has also been sent out with this issue to all of last year’s subscribers who have not yet re-subscribed.