Wednesday, 16 July 2014

COW2014

I left home just before 2.00mm with the intention of arriving at Knuston Hall by 4.00pm, but thanks to a number of 'traffic incidents' that were picked up by my satnav, I finally arrived just after 5.00pm. By then the conference attendees were already beginning to get into their stride. The main hall was already occupied by people and the 'bring and buy' stall set up, ...


... the small bar was doing good business, ...


... and the conference timetable was up and session signing-in sheets were already filling up, ...


... whilst some of the attendees took advantage of the good weather to sit outside to relax and chat.


I booked in, dumped my bags in my room, and went to join in.

Friday Evening Sessions

We ate dinner at 7.00pm (it was the traditional Friday night curry with all the usual trimmings!) after which we all went into the Lounge for the introductory briefing and welcome ...



... which was immediately followed by the Plenary Game. (The conference always starts with a plenary session. This is generally an 'icebreaker' game that involves everyone, and is designed to get newcomers and experienced old hands working together.)

This game was entitled A MIGHTY WIND (AKA kamikaze) and was designed by Tim Gow (with the assistance of other members of the Sheffield Wargames Club). It was set in the waters around Japan in 1944.

The attendees were split into pairs. One member was designated the 'pilot', and was tasked with writing a haiku (the subject of the haiku was up to the 'pilot') whilst the other player (the 'ground crew') made the 'pilot' a suitably embellished headband.


Whilst this was going on the umpires prepared the target for the kamikaze attacks ... the US Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers and escorts!



After many Banzais! ...


... and tearful farewells, the 'pilots' and 'ground crew' assembled on the patio area for the attack.


Unfortunately not many of the kamikazes hit a target ...


... and the 'pilots' and 'ground crew' were forced to change places ... and the whole thing was repeated. (This gave everyone the opportunity to take a full part in the session.)



The second wave of attacks was no more successful than the first, and the US Navy sailed on to deliver its knock-out blow in 1945. The attacks may have failed, but everyone seemed to have enjoyed the game.

Because I had not signed up to take part in any further sessions on the Friday evening, I wandered around to see what was available. Tom Mouat was running a session entitled SPECIAL FORCES IN WW2 in the Panel Room. This was a role-playing game, the first part of which involved the individuals being briefed about their mission before they selected the equipment that they would need to take with them.


In the Lounge Mike Elliott and Will Whyler were running games of GLADIOLUS, the old Society of Ancients game about gladiatorial combat.



In the end I returned outside to the patio area and took part in Kiera Bentley's SCOOTERAGE. This can best be described as 'Car Wars on Mobility Scooters', and involved a number of players who represented members of the older generation who use mobility scooters. The object of the game seemed to be to cause as much mayhem as possible in a shopping centre whilst doing your shopping and preventing your rivals from doing theirs.


The game is an absolute hoot to play ... as long as you could keep out of the way of the murderous 'Sally Segue' (AKA John Bassett).

(There was a bit of a debate about the name of the game. Should it be pronounced SCOOTER-AGE because it is about people of a certain age who use mobility scooters, or SCOOTER-RAGE because the players seem to have it in for each other ... and any innocent bystanders who get in their way. As far as I know, the jury is still out as to the correct pronunciation.)

I remained outside for last session of the day in which I took part. This was a re-run of Ian Drury's ENEMY COAST AHEAD game. I managed to pilot my Handley Page Halifax MkIII on two missions over Germany before going to bed ... but some of my fellow pilots were not so lucky.

Saturday Morning Sessions

After a very filling cooked breakfast, I made my way to the Practical Room to take part in John Curry's session entitled BRITISH ARMY COUNTER INSURGENCY MODEL. This is a wargame that is currently under development for the British Army (hence the lack of photographs) and is a map-based game about British-led multinational operations somewhere in mythical Fafrica.

I had seen the basic design of this game at the Connections UK conference last September, but this was my first opportunity to see it in operation. It struck me as being an almost complete work-in-progress, and the generic rules that are used seem to produce the sorts of problems a modern army has to face and deal with in these sorts of situations.

Saturday Afternoon Sessions

Once the lunch break was over, I joined a number of other attendees on the back lawn at Knuston Hall to take part in Tim Gow's LITTLE COLD WARS wargame.

I was given command of a Forbodian Motor Rifle Regiment. I was ably assisted by Ian Drury (who commanded the Tank Battalion) and Nick Huband (who commanded the Motor Rifle Battalion). I retained command of the Reconnaissance, Artillery, and Air Defence elements of the Regiment. Our opponents were units from a French Armoured Brigade (well that is what is said in my post-battle report to my superiors).

The Forbodian Motor Rifle Regiment's reconnaissance units (two PT-76s) move forward.
These were followed by the six T-55s and the command vehicle of the Regiment's Tank Battalion, ...
... the Motor Rifle Battalion (in three BTR-60s), the Artillery Support elements, the Anti-aircraft Platoon (which was equipped with a ZSU-23-4 'Shilka'), and the Regimental Commander's vehicle.
The Forbodian PT-76s cautiously advance towards Regiment's objective.
Tim Gow demonstrates the correct method to determine whether or not an anti-tank missile or tank gun hits its target ...
... and Jim Roche attempts to copy him and avoid putting a dart into his own foot!
The reason why Jim Roche needed to learn how to 'fire' a tank gun; his Panhard AML armoured car had just ambushed a Forbodian PT-76!
The Panhard did a 'shoot and scoot', having hit the PT-76.
A French Air Force F-100 Super Sabre then made a low-level appearance ...
... but the 'Shilka' engaged it and the Super Sabre's bombs went wide of their intended target.
A French anti-tank missile team fired at the other Forbodian PT-17 ...
... which it hit and damaged.
During the next two turns the PT-76 was hit twice more – without effect – before finally being destroyed by a fourth missile.
At this point some of the French armour appeared ... two AMX-13 tanks.
The two leading Forbodian T-55s turned to engage the AMX-13s.
Realising that they had a tactical and numerical advantage, the Forbodian Tank Battalion advanced towards the French left flank.
In the centre, the French AMX-13 DCA 30 anti-aircraft vehicle engaged an attacking Forbodian MiG-17, which flew off after having inflicted very little damage on the French forces.
Elsewhere on the battlefield the Forbodian T-55s destroyed the French AMX-13 tanks. This precipitated a French withdrawal which enabled the slightly depleted the Forbodians to advance and capture their objective.
This was a most enjoyable session, and was my highlight of the whole conference. It was interesting to note that the models were very difficult to see due to their camouflage (even if it was only a coat of green paint!), and the size of the playing area enabled players to attempt to outflank opponents and to use dead ground ... something that is rarely possible on a conventional tabletop.

Saturday Evening Sessions

Thanks to my own stupidity (I spent the entire afternoon in the sun without wearing a hat or drinking enough fluid) I missed all the Saturday evening sessions as I felt unwell and had to go to bed straight after dinner. That said, I was awoken at 11.00pm by Jim Roche's IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY session. This was a singalong to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Even in my addled state of mind, I managed to hum along to most of the tunes before I went back to sleep.

Sunday Morning Sessions

I was still feeling a bit unwell on Sunday morning, and it is probably just as well that Jim Wallman cancelled his 'Little Wars' session (THE WAR OF FIREFLY'S NOSE) which would have been held outside on one of the Hall's lawns. As I had not signed up for an alternative session, I spent some time wandering around looking at what other people were doing. This included Phil Steele's talk and wargame about the BATTLE OF NORTHAMPTON 1460.


Phil uses a wallpaper table as the basis of his terrain boards ...


... and mighty fine they look as well!


His modelling skills – as well as his knowledge of the Medieval period – are exceptional.


Also on at the same time was Jim Wallman's SEALION map wargame, ...

The German team ... looking suitably superior.
The British team planning their defences against the German invasion.
The British concentrated their forces around Dover, ...
... Hythe, ...
... and Folkestone.
... Tom Mouat's CHALLENGES AND ADVENTURES game (which was a tribute to Gary Gygax and the fortieth anniversary of the original 'Dungeons and Dragons' fantasy role-playing game), ...



... and John Bassett's OVID FOR WARGAMERS.


I missed most of John's talk, but was able to take a role in the follow-up game about the political situation in Rome that followed the death of Augustus. (I was the bringer of news ... good, bad, or indifferent!)


After morning coffee I attended John Curry's talk about Donald Featherstone. It was entitled DONALD FEATHERSTONE: HIS RISE, FALL AND RISE and it covered Don's early life, his introduction to wargaming as a child, his career in the Royal Tank Regiment, and his role in popularising wargaming.


This latter section of the talk covered Don's editorship of the UK edition of WAR GAME DIGEST, his role as publisher and editor of the WARGAMERS' NEWSLETTER, and his authorship of numerous books about wargaming, military history, and physiotherapy.

Sunday Afternoon Sessions

The Sunday afternoon 'slot' is always a short one, and after packing my stuff into my car in readiness for the drive home, I only had time to visit two of the sessions that were on. The first of these was LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS. This was a wide-ranging discussion about the use of anecdotes and statistics by wargame designers, and was led by John Bassett and Jim Wallman. Had it not already been somewhat overcrowded ...


... I might have been tempted to stay and take part. Instead I went and observed Tom Mouat's session entitled CYBER TRUMPS!


This is a game that Tom devised to teach people about cyber awareness. The game mechanisms are based upon those used in the old 'Top Trumps' game, but revised, updated, and expanded. I certainly learnt a lot just by watching the players interact and discuss their various options.

The final session of the conference was the AGM of Wargame Developments. The usual reports were made and the only major change in the group's 'officers' was the appointment/election of a new editor for THE NUGGET. By then it was 4.00pm and it was time for us to leave.

COW2014 was finally over ... but the planning for COW2015 had already begun!

6 comments:

  1. You were right about the lawn game photos coming out well. That was a very enjoyable session.

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  2. You seem to have exceeded the original Kamikaze's 50% survival rate.

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  3. Amazing. Saw hardly any of that, & was busy all weekend.

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  4. Nigel Drury,

    I particularly like the low-level photos as some of them look quite real (e.g the two T-55s moving through tall grass).

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Stu Rat,

    In the game the Kamikaze survival rate was better than their success rate!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Trebian,

    One of the joys of COW is that there are so many different things going on that it is possible for two attendees to go to a completely different set of sessions.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete