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Saturday, 11 July 2020

VCOW Day 2

Today starts at 9.00am with two sessions:
  • ‘Give me back my legions!’
  • ‘Remote wargames’
These will end at 10.30am, and after a thirty minute coffee break ...
  • ‘English Civil War Virtual TEWT’
  • ‘Carrier Strike’
... will run from 11.00am until 12.30pm.

After lunch (12.30pm until 2.00pm), there will be three game sessions ...
  • ‘One Hour World War 2’
  • ‘The Convoy: Gridded Age of Sail’
  • ‘Remote Kriegsspiel’
... taking place until 4.00pm.

After a thirty minute break for afternoon tea, Professor Gary Sheffield will talk from 4,30pm until 5.20pm about ‘Wargaming & History’. He will be followed by Graham Longley-Brown, who will talk about ‘Defence & Recreational Wargaming’ from 5.20pm until 6.00pm.

A dinner break will last from 6.00pm until 7.30pm, when two further sessions will take place. The first will be a large-scale multi-player game entitled ‘Unfortunate Difference’, and it will last from 7.30pm until 9.30pm.

The evening will end with the traditional historical singalong from 9.40pm until 10.30pm ... but for the first time ever, it will be done online!

Friday, 10 July 2020

VCOW Day 1

VCOW (The Virtual Conference of Wargamers) starts this afternoon with a virtual tour of the Lansdowne battlefield.

The conference proper starts with an introduction at 7.20pm, followed by a talk entitled ‘Wargames: What and Why’ by Peter Perla from 7.30pm to 7.55pm. Mark Herman will then talk from 7.55pm to 8.20pm about ‘Professional and Hobby Wargaming’.

The evening will then be rounded off with three online wargames:
  • ‘The Day of the Jackal’
  • ‘The Great Mutiny 1857’
  • ‘Hadley’s Hope’
I’m not taking part in any of the games, but I am very much looking forward to listening to the talks.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Looking backward to go forwards

I was quite busy yesterday getting a few things sorted out for VCOW, but I made time to have a look at the original version of RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES (RF&IC) that I wrote back in 2004, and felt that there were quite a few things that I liked about the design ... and several that I did not!

I actually took RF&IC to SALUTE2004, where I demonstrated it in a number of participation games. I seem to remember that most of the participants were fathers with young children, and that the rules suited them because the games were quick and it gave the father and son teams a chance to play a wargame at together at a wargame show, something that was not generally encouraged at the time. (My more recent experience indicates that this is no longer true, and that many wargame shows encourage the staging of games where a variety of age groups and genders can take part on equal terms.)

We played through a simple scenario that involved a Russian attack on a couple of fortified positions defended by the Germans. The Russians had infantry, light artillery, and four T-34 tanks (two T-34/76 and two T-34/85) and the Germans had infantry supported by light artillery and two tanks (a Panther tank and a Tiger tank). I managed to take some photographs of one of the battles:







Looking at these photographs again, I realised that this was the sort of wargame that I want to recreate when I redraft RF&IC, but with one major change ... NO MORE FULL-SIZE PLAYING CARDS ON THE TABLETOP!

I have learned a lot about wargame design since 2004, especially what will and will not work. As a result, I will be applying these lessons to the new version of RF&IC, which currently has the working title of RF&IC2020.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports

It is quite some time since I did a review of the battle reports that have been featured on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page, and doing so reminded me just how inventive so many of the players are.

Paul Wisken has been using the TRAVEL BATTLE boards made by the Perry brothers with 3mm figures from his collection ...


... and the result is very impressive!

Gary Sheffield took the 'Seize and Hold!' scenario we fought online some weeks ago, and re-fought it with another wargamer ... but this time the location was changed from central Europe to the American Civil War.


He named the river crossing points ('Griffithville Bridge' and 'Paddy's Ford') in honour of the late Dr Paddy Griffith, a military historian and wargamer we both knew well.

Jon Freeman has produced a wonderful setup using Billy Bones paper figures and terrain ...


... which give the whole battle the look of a contemporary woodcut! In this case, the Parliamentarian forces were fighting the Royalists in the Battle of Bucklebroadwood near the hamlet of Luckett.

Finally, Barry Cater continues to use the rules to fight all sorts of unusual tabletop battles. In this instance, Croatian Ustaša units of the Black Legion were fighting Chetnik partisans in part of the former Yugoslavia.


I am sure that my regular blog readers (and especially the other users of the PORTABLE WARGAME series of wargame rules) will agree that these players had produced a very varied set of battle reports, all of which have interesting and innovative features.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Paul Wisken, Gary Sheffield, Jon Freeman, and Barry Carter.

Monday, 6 July 2020

VCOW is coming!

VCOW (the Virtual Conference of Wargamers) will be starting on a Friday evening, and I expect the last few days are likely to be a bit hectic at time.

At present, we have over sixty attendees, and I suspect we might pick up a few more as the week progresses. As one of the co-ordination team, I will be communicating with the attendees by email at least once before Friday, and will be taking part in our last pre-conference Zoom meeting on Thursday evening,

On Sunday morning, I will be doing a talk about the origins of Wargame Developments and the first ever COW, which was held at the former Moor Park College, near Farnham.

The building that housed the former Moor Park College.
I’ve already written it and prepared the slides, but I’ll certainly be going through it a couple of times between now and a Sunday to check that it makes sense, and to make any final tweaks that it might need.

The building that housed the former Moor Park College is Grade II Listed, and after it ceased to be used as a residential training college, it was converted into two large houses. It has since been redeveloped into a luxury residential complex with twenty-four apartments.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Would you like more spam with that?

They’re back!


After a short lull, the spammers are back again ... and they seem to have chosen yesterday's blog entry to be the target of their spamming!

For once, it does not seem to be Russian-based IP addresses that are the source of the jump in traffic on my blog; it is Indonesia!

Why this should be happening is totally beyond me ... and I wonder if other bloggers are experiencing a similar sudden upsurge of interest from that part of the world.

I am still at a loss to know why people do this, but I am very glad that I haven’t removed the ‘comments moderation’ option as it is stopping them from clogging up my blog with unsolicited rubbish. I’m quite capable of clogging it up with rubbish myself without any external assistance!

Saturday, 4 July 2020

US Independence Day

I would like to wish my regular US blog readers a happy 4th July.


Over the years I have visited New York, Newport (Rhode Island), Boston (Massachusetts), Bar Harbor (Maine), and Portland (Maine) during my travels. I have many Internet friends from all over the United States ... and I wish you all well (and good health) at this very trying and dangerous time in your country’s history!

Friday, 3 July 2020

The Portable Seventeenth Century Wargame book: Another update

Work on the P17CW (THE PORTABLE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY WARGAME) book continues apace, and to date it includes:
  • A list of the major European wars (and some Japanese ones) that took place between 1600 and 1700
  • A chapter about the military innovations that took place during the century
  • A set of Portable Thirty Years War/English Civil War Wargame rules written by Antoine Bourguilleau
  • A set of Portable English Civil War Wargame rules written by Alan Saunders
  • A set of Portable English Civil War Wargame siege rules by Arthur Harman
  • An English Civil War pre-battle system by Arthur Harman
  • An English Civil War card-driven activation system by Arthur Harman
  • A means of showing a unit's current Strength Point Value using flags devised by Arthur Harman
  • A set of Portable Wargame rules for fighting battles of the Japanese Sengoku era by by Antoine Bourguilleau
It has been pointed out that all the rules so far included in the book come from the first part of the seventeenth century, and that the book ought to be renamed THE PORTABLE PIKE AND SHOT WARGAME (PP&SW) book, but I am hoping to include rules (and possibly a campaign) that will cover the second half of the century, if only to justify my original title choice!

I am not sure how big an audience the book will attract, but it does illustrate that the basic system is extremely adaptable.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Maigret et moi: Part 4

I have continued to work my way through Georges Simenon's Maigret books, and to date I have read the books shown in bold:
  1. Pietr the Latvian
  2. The Late Monsieur Gallet
  3. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien
  4. The Carter of La Providence
  5. The Yellow Dog
  6. Night at the Crossroads
  7. A Crime in Holland
  8. The Grand Banks Cafe
  9. A Man's Head
  10. The Dancer at the Gai Moulin
  11. The Two-Penny Bar
  12. The Shadow Puppet
  13. The Saint-Fiacre Affair
  14. The Flemish House
  15. The Madman of Bergerac
  16. The Misty Harbour
  17. Liberty Bar
  18. Lock No. 1
  19. Maigret
  20. Cecile is Dead
  21. The Cellars of the Majestic
  22. The Judge's House
  23. Signed, Picpus
  24. Inspector Cadaver
  25. Félicie
  26. Maigret Gets Angry
  27. Maigret in New York
  28. Maigret's Holiday
  29. Maigret's Dead Man
  30. Maigret's First Case
  31. My Friend Maigret
  32. Maigret at the Coroner's
  33. Maigret and the Old Lady
  34. Madame Maigret's Friend
  35. Maigret's Memoirs
  36. Maigret at Picratt's
  37. Maigret Takes a Room
  38. Maigret and the Tall Woman
  39. Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters
  40. Maigret's Revolver
  41. Maigret and the Man on the Bench
  42. Maigret is Afraid
  43. Maigret's Mistake
  44. Maigret Goes to School
  45. Maigret and the Dead Girl
  46. Maigret and the Minister
  47. Maigret and the Headless Corpse
  48. Maigret Sets a Trap
  49. Maigret's Failure
  50. Maigret Enjoys Himself
  51. Maigret Travels
  52. Maigret's Doubts
  53. Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses
  54. Maigret's Secret
  55. Maigret in Court
  56. Maigret and the Old People
  57. Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
  58. Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse
  59. Maigret and the Saturday Caller
  60. Maigret and the Tramp
  61. Maigret's Anger
  62. Maigret and the Ghost
  63. Maigret Defends Himself
  64. Maigret's Patience
  65. Maigret and the Nahour Case
  66. Maigret's Pickpocket
  67. Maigret Hesitates
  68. Maigret in Vichy
  69. Maigret's Childhood Friend
  70. Maigret and the Killer
  71. Maigret and the Wine Merchant
  72. Maigret's Madwoman
  73. Maigret and the Loner
  74. Maigret and the Informer
  75. Maigret and Monsieur Charles
I have also read the following short stories:
  • Maigret's Pipe
  • Maigret's Christmas
  • Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook
  • The Little Restaurant in Les Ternes

The most interesting of the recent books that I have read was MAIGRET’S MEMOIRE. It tells the story of the relationship between a young Belgian author called Georges Sim (who is later revealed to be Georges Simenon) and Chief Inspector Jules Maigret. They are introduced to each other by Maigret’s boss, the head of the Police Judiciare, when the author wants to write about the more unusual crimes that Maigret works on. He follows Maigret around, listening to and watching him whilst he works. Over the years, the two become friends.

In his memoir, the ‘real’ Maigret tries to correct some of the inconsistencies told in the stories about the ‘fictional’ Maigret and his team. For example, in some of the stories the ‘fictional’ Maigret wears a bowler hat, but this disappears in later ones ... and the ‘real’ Maigret explains why. Likewise, the ‘real’ Maigret explains that Simenon used a limited number of ‘real’ names for the Inspectors who worked for the ‘fictional’ Maigret, and this is why some of them seem to change during the course of the stories. In particular, Inspector Torrence is killed in PIETR THE LATVIAN ... and then reappears in later stories.

The ‘real’ Maigret also explains that Simenon did not always retell the stories in the correct chronological order, and that real names and locations were changed for the purpose of the storytelling process.

In fact, the whole book is a wonderful artifice by Georges Simenon to explain away the inconsistencies in the Maigret books ... and it is extremely enjoyable to read. It also tells how Maigret met his wife Louise ... or as she is usually just referred to, Madam Maigret.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Three more months on ...

Having spent the last three months in lockdown, things are just beginning to ease, although there seems to be growing evidence that we may have a second wave of the pandemic on the horizon.

During the last three months, I read lots about how people in general are getting fed up with the restrictions and need to get back to 'normal' ... whatever that is. Looking back over those three months, I seem to have got a lot done, mainly thanks to my hobby providing me with lots of mental stimulus and having the time to spend on wargaming.

A brief survey puts this in perspective:
  • THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME has been published.
  • I am currently working on the next book in the series, THE PORTABLE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY WARGAME.
  • I have renovated a large number of German and Russian vehicles (and some figures) for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.
  • I have prepared the campaign map and the weather rules for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.
  • I have learned how to use Zoom and Skype.
  • I have taken part in two online nineteenth century figure wargames with Gary Sheffield.
  • I have taken part in an online role-play game set in Ancient Rome, that was entitled 'GIVE ME BACK MY LEGIONS!'.
  • I have prepared and delivered three online Masonic lectures ... and have another one in preparation.
  • I have helped to plan for the VCOW (Virtual Conference of Wargamers) that will be staged later this month as a replacement for COW2020.
  • I have prepared an online talk about the origins of Wargame Developments and COW that will be delivered during VCOW.
  • I have continued to read my way through the entire published collection of MAIGRET books by Georges Simenon.
  • I have reviewed six books.
  • I have been interviewed by Henry Hyde for his BATTLEGAMES podcast.
Looking at it, I seem to have achieved quite a lot during the last three months ... and I still have plenty more to do!

Six months ago I wished my regular blog readers and fellow bloggers a safe and healthy 2020 ... and I repeated that message three months later. Today I would like to reiterate those best wishes again.

STAY SAFE AND STAY WELL!