After collecting my room key and uploading my luggage, I joined the throng that had collected in the entrance hall. A bring-and-buy table (which functions on an honesty system and which works surprisingly well) had already been set up, and quite a few purchases were being made. (I managed to buy a ROCO StuG III for £1.00 … which was a real bargain!)
From my arrival until dinner time at 7.00pm I spent most of my time chatting to loads of people and making sure that newcomers to COW were settled in. I also managed to get the dates and cost of COW2016 sorted out. (It will be taking place from 8th to 10th July 2016, and the cost will be £5.00 more than this year.)
After dinner everyone assembled in the Lounge, …
… where Tim Gow and I formally opened the conference and Tim introduced the plenary game DON’T LOOK NOW! Everyone was split up into teams of three and given access to a copy of a 1970s British Army Military Vehicle Recognition booklet. After what seemed a very short period of time, each team was then taken into the Panelled Room where some MILTRA terrain had been set up. (At one point MILTRA had supplied 1:100th-scale military vehicle recognition sets to the British Army, and Tim Gow had bought an almost complete set earlier in the year … and had designed the game around it.)
The teams – each of which represented a Milan anti-tank missile team – had to sit some distance away wearing military headgear …
… and had to spot any vehicles in amongst the terrain, identify them, and decided which to fire at … all in a couple of minutes.
Needless to say, this proved to be a lot more difficult that one would have expected, and although the team I was in did not come last, we were by no means the best either!
After the plenary I took part in Kiera Bentley’s new HUNTER RAGE game. This was designed in response to the current fashion for ‘celebrities’ to go hunting for big game so that they can have their photograph taken with their ‘kill’. The game even has its own Facebook page, where participants can publish their successes … or failures.
Each player has a Lego figure which they can arm from a selection of weapons. (I chose to arm mine with an RPG.)
They then go ‘hunting’. In my case I managed to miss my animal (a zebra) when I fired my RPG at it, but eventually managed to kill it when we had to fight hand-to-hand. A photograph of my figure and my ‘kill’ was then taken and posted on Facebook.
Other hunters were not so lucky, and several got trampled by elephants, rhinos, and other similar beasts. I am sure that some people might think that this game is in very poor taste … but the point of it is to show how stupid ‘celebrities’ that go big game hunting are by mocking their ‘achievements’ by turning the whole thing into a game.
Although I was quite dark by the time the HUNTER RAGE session had ended, Kiera, Chris Willey, and I then sat down and tried to design a game about rescuing migrants and refugees who were trying to get across the Mediterranean. It took us about an hour to do so … and we hope to get people to try it just before dinner on Saturday.
I then took a quick look around what else was going on, and managed to catch as glimpse of some of the action in Tom Mouat’s game DAUGHTER OF THE SKIES …
… and WD Display Team North’s COASTAL COMMAND game.
By this point in the evening I was feeling quite tired, but Nigel Drury managed to persuade me to try the new Finnish wargame WATERLOO 15 … and I am very pleased that I did so. This is an excellent decision-making game, and as Napoleon I just about managed to cause Wellington’s army to collapse just before my own did.
I spent the first half of the morning in Jim Wallman’s session entitled DESIGNING WARGAMES TO ORDER. He described his experiences of designing wargames for the British military establishment, and this led on to a general discussion about the wargame design process.
During the second half of the morning I spent some time trying to get my camera-carrying helicopter drone to fly … and gave up once I realised that the batteries I was using needed charging!
I then spent time talking to some of the other conference attendees about wargame designs we were working on. (This was not a programmed event, but is a frequent activity at COW and allows attendees to bounce ideas of one another.)
My afternoon was taken up with a LITTLE COLD WARS session that was run by Tim Gow. The scenario featured an air assault by Soviet Airborne troops on a NATO airfield that was defended by two Bristol Bloodhound guided missile batteries and a company of RAF Regiment soldiers.
Just over a kilometre away – in a nearby village – a French Reserve Infantry Regiment was stationed to provide a covering force in the event of an attack.
The Soviet air assault was not a total success, mainly due the very effective anti-aircraft coverage provided by the French force’s anti-aircraft gun.
Eventually the airfield was overrun, …
… although a French counter-attack did succeed in causing the Soviet attackers significant casualties.
The Soviet situation was made worse by the fact that the transport aircraft carrying the attacker’s ASU-57 self-propelled anti-tank guns and engineers crashed onto the wreckage-strewn runway.
The battle ended when a Soviet armoured reconnaissance force appeared only a few kilometres from the town …
… just as a light French armoured reconnaissance force arrived to support the remaining French infantry troops.
This was an excellent session, and yet again proved how enjoyable fighting battles with 54mm-scale figures on a lawn can be!
Before dinner Kiera and I did manage to persuade a few people to try out the migrant/refugee rescue game we had designed on Friday evening … and the participants certainly enjoyed taking part, even if the subject of the game was regarded as being a little dubious.
After dinner I managed to observe Phil Steele’s naval wargame, SINK THE BISMARCK!
The game is deceptively simple, but actually produces very interesting results and is ideally adaptable to any naval battle where one side is hunting the other. Whilst watching it I though of several such actions (the Battle of Coronel, the Battle of the Falklands, the pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau to name just a few) and I suspect that modified versions of the rules may well feature at future COWs.
I then attended Jim Roche’s WATERLOO REVISITED session. Jim’s sessions have become a firm favourite over the years … and this year was no exception. He told the story of the Battle of Waterloo through the tunes and songs of the period, including such old favourites as ‘The British Grenadier’ and ‘Hearts of Oak’ and some lesser-known ones including ‘Veillons au salut de l’Empire’ (‘Let’s ensure the salvation of the Empire’) – Napoleonic France’s unofficial national anthem – and ‘Le chant de l’Oignon’ (‘The song of the Onions’), which was adopted by the French Grenadiers of the Guard as their battle song.
The session went extremely well, and both sides ended up fighting each other to a standstill … although the Germans did not quite manage to advance as far as they did historically.
I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the conference venue looking at what else was going on. I spent some time in Mike Elliott’s WAKING SHARK session …
… before looking in on Ian Drury’s BRAVE ADMIRAL BENBOW GAME.
Ian Russell Lowell was in the Library running a session about ancient playing cards that was not on the timetable … a not unusual occurrence at a COW!
After lunch John Curry delivered a talk entitled PADDY GRIFFITH – HIS RISE AND FALL. This outlined Paddy’s career as a military historian and wargame designer, and set the stage for the future publication of several compendiums of Paddy’s as-yet-unpublished work.
The final act of the conference was the Annual General Meeting of Wargame Developments. There were reports by the Conference Organisers, the Treasure and Membership Secretary, the Editors of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT, and the three regional Display Team Co-ordinators. Elections for the forthcoming year’s Officers were also held, and several proposals for minor changes were made and discussed. The AGM was over by just after 3.45pm, and after tea and cake the remaining attendees began to disperse.
Besides Tim (who acted as umpire) there were five other participants, including myself. Two commanded the forces of the ‘Red Menace’ (i.e. WARPAC) whilst the rest of us took command of the ‘Forces of Freedom’ (i.e. NATO). The latter were tasked with trying to hold up the advance of the WARPAC forces on the town of Neu Stan Halle and its nearby NATO airbase. As expected, the NATO forces available were outnumbered but acquitted themselves with honour and glory. (That’s what it said in the official after-action report!).
The town of Neu Stan Halle. The edge of the airbase can just be seen in the top right of the photograph.
Even before the WARPAC hordes had advanced very far across the border, a Spetsnaz unit (led by an attractively-dress female soldier) attempted to disrupt the NATO force by attacking its HQ in Neu Stan Halle.
After a short but decisive firefight the Spetsnaz unit was wiped out … but before the NATO troops could congratulate themselves, the sound of a large explosion could be hear to the east of the town. WARPAC had fired a FROG missile at the town!
A reconnaissance helicopter was send forward to find out the nature of the threat posed to the NATO troops in and around Neu Stan Halle.
The helicopter spotted a large force of WARPAC tanks and armoured vehicles advancing along the main autobahn that linked the town to the border. They also spotted at least one artillery regiment deployed and ready to fire.
As a result NATO deployed a tank company and armoured infantry company into their forward positions in order for them to blunt and WARPAC attack.
In response the WARPAC forces deployed a further artillery regiment.
On the NATO right flank a number of WARPAC reconnaissance vehicles probed forward.
These reconnaissance vehicles included several PT-76 amphibious light tanks.
By now the bulk of WARPAC forces on the main axis of advance were visible.
The bulk of the armoured vehicles were tanks …
… but there were also Shilka anti-aircraft vehicles …
… and armoured personnel carriers.
There was also a 57mm self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicle present.
A close-up of some of the WARPAC tanks. The terrain may appear to have been flat, but as the tank in the centre of this photograph shows, it wasn’t!.
NATO’s response included sending forward a pair of attack helicopters.
It was a target-rich environment …
… and despite the presence of a some mobile SAM launchers …
… NATO also mounted a low-level, high-speed reconnaissance mission using an RAF Jaguar.
This mission enabled the NATO commanders to get the most up-to-date information on the position and numbers of the WARPAC forces.
With so many armoured targets available, a NATO A-10 Warthog was despatched to do as much damage to the WARPAC invaders as possible.
The presence of another Shilka anti-aircraft vehicle did little to put the A-10’s pilot off his mission …
… but the arrival of two WARPAC fast jets did!
A Su-15 fighter.
A MiG-21 fighter.
The WARPAC forces also mounted air attacks using armed trainer aircraft … but they did little damage.
By this point in the battle the NATO attack helicopters were in range of a number of potential targets, which they engaged with TOW missiles.
Some of the WARPAC tanks reacted by making smoke and retreating behind it.
Despite this the TOWs found some targets that could be seen.
The WARPAC air forces again made attempts to mount ground-attack missions …
… but the arrival of an RAF F-4 Phantom brought these attacks to a premature and ineffective end.
The WARPAC commanders chose this moment to fire further FROG missiles at Neu Stan Halle and its airbase … but they missed their target.
In the centre of the battlefield the WARPAC troops had been held up by the much-depleted NATO tank and armoured infantry company.
On the NATO right flank a NATO air-mobile infantry battalion began was deployed to see off the WARPAC reconnaissance unit that was trying to outflank the NATO troops facing the main WARPAC thrust..
A degree of ‘encouragement’ for the WARPAC forces arrived in the person of Comrade Kleb …
… and her minions.
The sound of a large number of helicopters was heard approaching the NATO left flank.
These were engaged by the Sergeant York self-propelled anti-aircraft system … but it failed to live up to its promise and the helicopters continued to move toward the NATO airbase.
In the centre the WARPAC forces finally managed to close-assault (and wipe out) the remaining NATO armoured infantry platoon.
At the airbase the troops deployed to defend it became visible to the WARPAC helicopters.
The defenders included a number of M-60A2 tanks equipped with Shillelagh anti-tank missiles.
Two NATO self-propelled artillery regiments were also available to give fire support to the defenders of Neu Stan Halle and the airbase … but they never actually fired at any point during the battle!
The NATO air-mobile battalion fired TOW missiles towards the WARPAC reconnaissance unit … which immediately dispersed to hull-down positions.
At the airbase two of the WARPAC helicopters circled westwards to give support to a group of Spetsnaz troops who had emerged from hiding whilst the other helicopter landed and disgorged its cargo … WARPAC paratroopers.
The helicopters were followed by an Antonov transport aircraft that was also carrying WARPAC paratroops …
… but this was hit by ground fire on its run in towards the airbase. Despite the serious damage to the transport aircraft, the WARPAC paratroops jumped and landed in an arc some distance from the airbase.
Whilst that was going on, a WARPAC armoured rifle regiment deployed in front of one of the NATO defence positions to the east of Neu Stan Halle.
At this point we reached the deadline set to end our battle and we had to pack everything away before going home. It was a magnificent day, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
As to the outcome … well NATO did manage to hold up the WARPAC advance but it was clear that they were eventually going to be pushed out of Neu Stan Halle and the airbase was going to be captured. Furthermore all day a WARPAC column had been moving out on the NATO right flank, and had the fighting continued the NATO troops would have either been cut off or forced to retreat.
Although the buildings are moulded in some very un-warlike colours (cream and pink!), it immediately struck me that they had potential for use with 40mm and 54mm-scale figures … so I bought two.
It was only when I got home that I realised that they were different and that they were designed so that the two half-buildings that could be clipped together to create a single building.
I am not sure when I will get around to repainting these buildings so that I can use them, but at a cost of 99p each I will certainly think about buying some more when I see them.
The boxes contained:
- 5 Officers with binoculars
- 6 Officers/NCOs with Walkie-Talkies
- 3 Officers/NCOs with submachine guns
- 4 Heavy Machine Guns and Gunners
- 7 Anti-tank Gunners with shoulder-held anti-tank weapons
- 7 Engineers with flamethrowers
- 8 Infantrymen throwing grenades (they might also be suitable for conversion to Mortar crewmen or Artillerymen)
- 2 Infantrymen, kneeling, firing
- 5 Infantrymen,standing, firing
- 7 Infantrymen, lunging downwards
- 7 Infantrymen, advancing
- 3 Infantrymen, crawling
I am not quite sure what this force would equate to in LITTLE COLD WARS terms, but I would have thought that it was probably about equivalent to a battalion.
I am going to be quite busy over the next couple of weeks, but I hope to begin painting these figures at the end of June so that they will be ready by the middle of July.
This might seem like a rather odd purchase, but over recent months Tim Gow has been leading the development of a post-War version of FUNNY LITTLE WARS entitled – surprisingly enough – LITTLE COLD WARS. He has promised to run a session at the forthcoming Conference of Wargamers (COW2014), and I thought that I might try to put together my own small army to take along.
My original thought was to create a NATO-style army for Laurania, but after giving it some more thought I may well opt to paint them up to represent the army of AGGRESSOR, the OPFOR (opposing force) used by the US Army during the 1960s. The uniforms used by AGGRESSOR were American in style but Jungle Green, with Olive Drab webbing/Black leather belts and Black boots, combined with coloured collar tabs that indicated a unit’s branch of service.