Tuesday, 14 July 2015

COW2015

Before going to COW2015 I attended the funeral of a fellow Freemason's wife in Enfield, Middlesex. After the funeral – and the reception that took place afterwards – I drove on to Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire, where I arrive at just after 4.00pm. This is supposed to be the earliest time that we can check in … but it turned out that nearly a third of the attendees had already arrived, and the place was really bustling.

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.)

Friday Evening
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.

Saturday Morning
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.)

Saturday Afternoon
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.

Saturday Evening
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.

Sunday Morning
Once breakfast was over I set up my KRIEGSSPIEL 1914 session in the Lounge. The rules were a slightly modified version of those used in Professor Phil Sabin's original game.


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!


Sunday Afternoon
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.

COW2015 was over; roll on COW2016!

8 comments:

  1. A game designed round some of the most profound and saddest of human misery only "a little dubious"??! Blimey...

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  2. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    In our defence, may I beg to point out that the game was about rescuing migrants/refugees.

    The members of Wargame Developments do have a reputation for/history of designing games about what some other wargamers regard as being dubious subjects. I do sometimes find that a bit odd, especially when wargamers who field armies that were notorious for the atrocities they inflicted on their opponents voice concerns about a wargame that examines the darker aspects of war or some of the more challenging military peacetime operations (e.g. counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, cyber-warfare).

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Fair enough, Bob... I think I'm getting more sensitive as I get older to these things... in my defence though, civilians are not "armies"... pax.. I understand your reasoning, but I have to say I wouldn't play it... but then neither would I play some of the other games you mention... :o)

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  4. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    I must admit that as I get older I prefer simple, figure wargames. They are my wargaming meat and drink ... and long may they remain so! COW is an opportunity for me to try something different (such as my KRIEGSSIEL 1914 session) ... and to visit the darker side of warfare if and when I want to.

    I will be attending CONNECTIONS UK in September, and I suspect that many of the military wargamers and wargame designers will be looking at developing the sort of wargames that are not about war fighting as such, but are about the multiple roles the military are now called upon to fulfil.

    It all goes to show the wide range of activities that come under the banner of 'wargaming'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Looks like it was a throughly enjoyable weekend... one year I keep telling myself....

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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  6. Pete,

    You know that you want to ... so book a place ASAP!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. great write up. I was also at COW and attended almost none of the same sessions as you, so I was pleased to read about it.

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  8. John Curry,

    Thanks very much for your kind comment.

    The joy of COW is that the varied nature of the sessions on offer means that it is possible for attendees to experience things that suit their particular interests (and not the whims and fancies of the organisers) ,,, and long may it remain so!

    All the best,

    Bob

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