Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Salute 2017 - musings on a show

Once again Michael Leck and chums from Sweden decided to put on a demo game at Salute 2017 and kindly invited me along to help out with the game, an invitation which I was only too happy to accept. All the details for the game can be found on Michael's excellent Blog and I also belive there will be an article in a forthcoming issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine.

All too quickly the day of the show arrived and some of my planned preperation fell by the wayside due to a rather hectic couple of weeks on the work front. Rising at an unGodly 4.00am soon saw myself and SWMBO on the road for London bang on 5.00am. Thankfully the traffic was trouble free and having dropped my wife off en route, I somewhat blearily strolled into the show just before 9.00am. 

It was great to meet up with Michael, Jesper, Jan and Colin from previous years, as well as meeting Andy, a Brit living in Sweden and member of the same club. As always the Swedish chaps had a great table on show, thanks to Jan's superb modelmaking skills, as well as Michael and Jesper's wonderfully painted miniatures. Set up was well underway when I arrived and by 9.30am we were pretty much done and dusted, ready for the visitors to be let in at 10.00am. 

The day flew by with plenty of interest in the game right from the off, which was great. Michael does a grand job in providing plenty of information on the game, so that visitors can take away a leaflet if they so wish, or those of us on 'info' duty can elaborate further if so required. Helping out left me little time to walk the show, but I did manage a quick dash round (more of which later) and took some pics of the games that looked of interest to me.

The view from the main Dutch force as it prepares to try and take Fort Mosquito.
A view towards the Fort from a Native American village in the woods.
The Dutch prepare a seaborne assault on the Swedish positions.
Jan's wonderful scratch built ship.
The imposing Swedish fort, again scratch built by Jan.
The Swedish harbour by the fort.
The Dutch massed for attack.
Of no interest to me but certainly to my son.
No idea how the game plays but it looks interesting.
Sword beach on D-Day.
A Great Northern War game IIRC. Plenty of info on display.
Definitely linear warfare.
Some nice touches on the sides of the table.
These little details help bring a game to life IMHO.
A nice looking (18thC?) game.
I love this turreted building.
A lovely detail of a chateau in its gardens. Very nice.
No action at all in evidence on this table as i think it was to advertise a range of lovely Samurai buildings.
The castle is certainly impressive. Not sure where I could store it through.
Yet more wonderful buildings.
I liked the junks arriving with the Samurai rusing ashore.
A nice looking game...
... with a great walled town on display.
Battlegroup Tobruk table. As far as I could see no game was being played.
Lots of detail and wonderfully painted miniatures as you would expect from Piers.
A Russo-Japanese War game I think...
Whatever it was it looked nice.
A lovely ACW game using Pendraken Miniatures range of figures, fences and buildings. This is the sort of game I can relate too.
A great Cold War game that really shows the benefits of 6mm figures.
Another game using Pendraken Minitures figures.
Once again a game I can relate to.
Completely blank on this game but looked good.
18thC game?
Whatever it was it had another lovely walled town on display.

So another Salute done and gone, I thought I'd jot down some thoughts on the show. These are based upon my experiences as a demo gamer, rather than a visitor, so may not hold true with the latter. Well in no particular order:

  • It is a long, long day out from Bristol, with us being on the road for around 8 hours. This may not seem a lot to some, but to us it is. Is it worth it? In purely financial terms of course not. It cost around £50 there and back, but if I paid to get in the show, that would have risen to around £65. That would buy me an awful lot of lead from Pendraken Miniatures, or books or a combination of the two. But then it is not all about the cost. It is nice to meet up with the Swedish chaps and to have a look at what is going on in the hobby, as well as talking to other gamers and traders. Would I attend if not invited to a demo game? Probably not to be honest, or only ever few years. I much prefer Colours as a show on many levels.
  • Once again one cannot fault the organisation of the show. It is superb. Enough said.
  • Is the venue nice? Not really but where else could you get so many gamers into one space? The show certainly felt more open this year as they had reduced the floor space for the traders. This was a good thing IMHO as it felt more open and you didn't have to push past rucksack attired gamers to get to stands or games.
  • This is a show where 28mm simply dominates (which probaly reflects the hobby as a whole). So if you are into 28mm, which many, many gamers are, you are simply in heaven. For me there is little on offer now as I pretty much have all the scenery I need, talk less of my lead mountain. 
  • The range of stuff on offer is staggering. So if a relative newbie to the hobby, it must be overwhelming. The hobby is certanly in rude helath.
  • On the games front there seemed to be an awful lot of sci-fi and fantasy skirmish games on show, being played on 4' x 4' tables or smaller. This is no bad thing but certainly not my bag. The trend to smaller games was a theme talking with visitors to our game throughout the day. Not all of us have the space or a dedicated games room to be able to store the classic 6' x 4' table and accompanying scenery and minatures. Then there is the cost to consider.
  • Not many of the games on display really grabbed me. Now this is most likely to my having to whizz round the show and the lack of time to have a good look at what's on offer. Normally I make a list of games I want to see, but the rush on the work from put the caibosh on this. Looking at other Blog posts, I somehow managed to miss quite a few games, some of which I wished I had seen. If I go agan next year I must be better prepared. Simples.
  • The numbers attending the show appeared to be up this year. Certainly after the initial rush, there was a steady stream of new arrivals throughout the day which was nice to see. Hopefully this translated to good sales for the traders. What was noticeable this year was that there were a greater number of younger visitors (by that I mean under 30) as well as more women and a greater ethnic mix, all of which bodes well for the future of our hobby.
  • Once again a lot of the demo games simpy didn't seem to have anything actually happening. Now this may have had to do with my tour at lunchtime, but personally I like to see a game being played. This was a view shared by other gamers I talked to, who do not see Salute purely as a shopping trip with some eye candy games thrown in. Now not all games may be able to have enough people to keep the table constantly staffed, but it would be nice to see for future shows.

So there we have it. Another Salute finished, which despite the long day I broadly enjoyed. It certainly has stirred my wargaming juices, which is no bad thing, so hopefully I will be able to get some games in again sometime soon.

Monday, 3 April 2017

The Battle of Cooking Pans - an Honours of War AAR.

Dave and I were unexpectedly able to meet up last week for a final game for sometime, probably until late Summer or thereabouts. So as Dave had recently finished some Pendraken AWI figures, we decided to give 'Honours of War' a run out with some tweaks to suit the conflict. In terms of details, please see below for Dave's info he provided in advance of the game:

The Battle of Cooking Pans: An Honours of War AWI Scenario.
"Large doses of sarcasm are required in this event"

Situation: 1781, The continentals are getting a grip and managing to put up a good show against the King's troops. Von Steuben has drilled the men and some standard tactics are available to organise the men although not all the militia are yet turned into the equivalent of regulars. The British see an opportunity to deal a blow to this attempt at organising a decent rebellion and have sent a brigade under Brigadier Farkin Tarquin to deal the blow. The Continentals are mustering to meet this threat and defeat it, General George Washing-Line is hatching a cunning plan.

Mission (both forces): Break the enemy forces i.e.  Brigade(s) must have more than half units "Done for" and forced to retreat from the field. It will be noted that the British have one brigade and the Continentals, two (2) brigades. Doing the maths the British have quite a task ahead of them, but then they do have Royal Ascent. Cavalry are ignored in the victory conditions, they are simply there horsing around.

Execution: British forces are deployed in a single brigade with an aim to get into the Continentals soonest, use the standard Honours of War SYW statistics. The Continentals will deploy one brigade up front to absorb the attack (choose either) with the other behind in support at the start, use the proposed AWI Continental statistics (attached). George can go where he wishes. British go first of course, play the game until you've had enough or a victory condition has happened or the bar has closed. Continental terrain may make it hard to move line troops to move around, so live (or die) with it.

British Forces:

Brigade Tarquin (Dependable but a bit chinny)
Light Bobs - Standard Light infantry
Highlanders - Superior Line Infantry
1st Infantry - Standard Line infantry
2nd Infantry - Standard Line infantry
Light artillery - Standard gunners

Independent Cavalry - Standard Light Dragoons (deployed 'at will') .. Note that Will is not actually at the battle, but he is happy for them to go anywhere with the British .. but not in advance of Brigade Tarquin, that would be Farkin wrong!

Continental Forces (under General George Washing-Line who is rather Dashing):

Brigade Trump (A Dithering fool, focussed entirely on his hair piece)
Virginian Militia - Inferior Line Infantry ... these guys stink
Green Mountain Militia - Inferior Line Infantry ... these guys make Baldrick high class
1st Continentals - Standard Line infantry, they know about soap

Brigade Stallone (Dependable Bostonian with a street brawling reputation)
Riflemen - Standard light infantry armed with rifles ... they come with their own trees
AWI Militia - Inferior Line infantry ... these truly stinketh
2nd Continentals - Standard Line infantry, these guys have used an iron and can do straight lines

Independent Cavalry - Inferior Light Dragoons ... hidden deployment at start (the cunning plan). Note location on map with trusty pencil and surprise the British when they come within ONE cavalry move of them and shout: "BOO" in an annoying American accent (which is of course REALLY annoying).

With the details of the scenario sorted, Dave left it up to me to come up with the layout for the game. I broadly used the map for the Battle of Chadd's Ford in the latest issue of Wargames, Soldiers & strategy as a guide, then tweaked it a bit to suit my scenery.

Sadly I have lost the notes I made during the game, which was nearly a week ago. Hopefully my poor ageing brain can remember enough to give a flavour of what happened. So without further ado...

The British are entering from the top left hand corner, with the Americans partially deployed on the right.
Brigade Stallone ready for action, with the riflemen on the left flank.
Things got off to a bad start for Farkin Tarquin, as a Poor command roll saw his Brigade unable to advance towards the enemy. So strung out in line of march, they crabbed onto the table, which we blamed on them having some Highlanders.
Seeing the indecision of the British, Stallone's Brigade moved sharply forward.
Turn 2 saw the British get their act together and start to move towards the pesky rebels. Brigade Trump arrived ably supported by General Washing-Line.
The British struggle to form all of their infantry into line, whilst their cavalry move off along the left flank.
Stallone's Brigade managed to gain the BUA, which the riflemen occupied, whilst the Militia and Line moved off towards the wood.
Dave ponders as Brigade Trump moves swiftly along the road, his hair billowing in the wind and acting as a sail.
Turn 3 and both sides start to close, ready for action.
With a fair wind, Brigade Trump rushed forward and deployed into line, ready to take on the Mexicans British.
Brigade Stallone have formed a defence in depth (or so they hope) and are ready to offer a refuse flank if the cavalry push past over the hill.
Turn 4 sees things really kick off, with both sides closing and the game resembling a school football match, with everyone crowded into one area.
Brigade Trump push towards the British who are arrayed along the fence line.
Brigade Stallone does the same, with the Riflemen facing off across a fence with the British.
Turn 5 and movement by the British triggers the suprise arrival of the American cavalry, who then proceed to roll a 'Poor' command, and so crab across the table. They mush have Scottish ancestors.
Brigade Trump reacts to the British who have moved off into the wood to try and turn their flank.
The fighting rages in and around the wood, with Brigade Stallone wisely leaving a unit back to protect their flank.
Brigade Stallone trading blow for blow with the British.
Turn 6 and the British suddenly gain the upper hand.
One of Trump's Battalions is completely blown away by some devastating fire from the Highlanders.
At least Brigade Stallone knocks one British Battalion back...
... but a Battalion of Militia is on the ropes after a charge by the British cavalry, who luckily fail to persue.
Turn 7 sees the British very much on top.
Brigade Trump, temporarily abandoned by General Washing-Line, rolls a 'Feeble' command and so all of his units have to fall back.
In the woods Brigade Stallone try to hang on.
The British cavalry advance towards the Militia Battalion, but are unable to charge them.
Turn 8 and the Americans succumb to the superiority of the British troops.
Despite the late arrival of the American cavalry, Brigade Trump loses another Battalion is therefore broken.
The same is true of Brigade Stallone, who reel back somewhat punch drunk, losing a Battalion and seeing the Riflemen pretty much done for, leaving their Brigade all but broken too.

Post Game Thoughts
Well, the Americans in the end were well and truly beaten. At one point they looked to be in quite a good position, but appearances can be deceptive. Still it was a fun game, with plenty of sarcasm and childish jokes as required by the scenario. So a few points on the game upon reflection:
  • After quite a break from Honours of War, it was nice to playing a game with these rules. Once again we found that we rarely needed to use the rulebook, with the QRS sufficing, which in our book is the sign of a good ruleset. We did get a few things wrong, but nothing which materially affected the outcome of the game.
  • I did not place my cavalry at all well, so much so that they didn't play any part in the game whatsoever, apart from providing comedy moments due to two 'Poor' command rolls in a row. I would have been better placing them on the right flank, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. 
  • "Quantity has its own quality" may have worked for Stalin, but it didn't work for the Americans. The Inferior Militia simply were on the backfoot once they started taking hits and unable to rally any off.
  • Coupled with the above, the Highlanders won the game for the British with two simply devastating volleys that destroyed two Battalions in as many Turns.
  • With Dave away, this game may spur me on to finish a Brigade or two a side for my planned Imagi-Nations forces.

I'm not sure what or when my next game will be. Hopefully BKCII in some form or other, either AVBCW or some WWII, given that my Fallschirmjager have yet to have a run out...