Wednesday 28 July 2010

Incident on the border: The battle for the bridge

Turn 4
The Maldacian Artillery Batteries were still too far away from the nearest Lauranian Units to open fire on them, but the Lauranian Artillery Battery was able to engage the central column of the Maldacian force. It targeted the hex occupied by the second Infantry Unit in the column. The Lauranians threw a 6, which meant that the Infantry Unit was hit; a further D6 die score of 4 ensured that it was destroyed!

D6 dice were again thrown by both sides to determine who would move first this turn. The Maldacians threw a 4 and the Lauranians threw a 3, and as a result the Maldacians therefore moved first yet again.

The leading Infantry Unit of the central column stormed across the bridge and engaged the Lauranian Border Guards who were protecting it. Both sides threw a D6 die; the Maldacians scored 2 and the Lauranians scored 5. As both Infantry Units had to score 5 or less to destroy the other, both Units were destroyed!

At the same time one of the Maldacian Infantry Units on their left flank reached the river and attempted to wade across it, but they only made it as far as the middle.

The Lauranians reacted to this by moving the Gatling Gun Battery up to the river’s edge, and firing at the Maldacian Infantry unit that was in the river. Both sides threw a D6 die; the Lauranians scored 4 and the Maldacians scored 6. Because the Gatling Gun Battery had to score 6 or less to destroy the Infantry Unit and the Infantry Unit had to score 5 or less to destroy the Gatling Gun Battery, the result was the destruction of the Maldacian Infantry Unit.

In addition to this move, the Lauranian commander moved all of his Infantry Units towards the village but not off the hill, as he felt that this still gave him an advantage.

Turn 5
The Maldacian Artillery Batteries were now able to engage the Lauranian Gatling Gun Battery, and both Maldacian Batteries targeted the hex it was in. The first Battery threw a 1, which meant that its shells had missed the hex; the second D6 die they threw was another 1, which indicated that the shell had gone over its target and hit an empty hex. The second battery then threw a 4, and its shells also missed the target hex. Its second D6 die score of 5 meant that the shells actually landed in the river, and were rather too close to one of their own Infantry Units!

The Lauranian Artillery Battery replied and targeted the hex occupied by the Maldacian commander! Their D6 die score of 2 meant that they missed the target hex, but the second D6 die that they threw was also a 2, so that the Battery’s shells hit the hex occupied by one of the right-hand Maldacian Infantry Units. When the third D6 die was thrown, its score of 2 determined that the Maldacian Infantry unit was destroyed!

D6 dice were thrown yet again by both sides to determine who would move first this turn. The Maldacians threw a 5 and the Lauranians threw a 6, with the result that the Lauranians moved first.

The Lauranian commander now decided to commit his Infantry Battalion to the battle, and it advanced downhill and into the village.

The Maldacians responded by falling back. Their commander realised that in order to fulfil his orders he would have to take further casualties, and as his force had already lost over 40% of its Infantry Units, it was becoming increasingly obvious that success would be bought at too high a price … especially as the two countries were not actually in a state of war! He would make this clear in the secret report he would write to the Minister of War … along with a long memo about the need for more training by the Artillery.

The rules as adapted for use with my Heroscape hexes work well, although I think that Infantry Units should be able to fight each other at slightly longer ranges. I have seen this in adaptations of the ‘Frontier’ wargames rules for both the Napoleonic and American Civil War periods, and this would be a logical next step for me to take in developing my version of the rules.

I do like the Artillery rules, and this play-test showed how well they can work. However, I think that the definition of what is and is not ‘Artillery’ would be necessary if I were to develop the ‘Frontier’ rules for later historical periods. For example, tank guns would not be classed as ‘Artillery’ whereas mortars might be.

It gives me something to think about for the next few weeks … if and when I get the time!

Incident on the border: The early moves

Turn 1
As neither side’s artillery was in range the turn began with both sides throwing a D6 die to determine who moved first. The Maldacians threw a 6 and the Lauranians threw a 3; therefore the Maldacians moved first.

The Maldacian force continued to move forward in their existing formation, with the Artillery Batteries sandwiched between the Infantry Battalion columns.

Other than to advance the Gatling Gun Battery closer to the river so that it was better placed to deny the advancing Maldacians an easy crossing, the Lauranian commander decided to keep his forces where they were. He felt that by remaining on the heights above the village and the bridge over the river, his troops were better placed to fight off any Maldacian attack.

Turn 2
Although both sides were now closer to each other, none of the artillery was in range. The Maldacians threw a 3 and the Lauranians threw a 4 to determine who moved first; on this occasion the Lauranians had the option to move first, but decided that they would remain where they were.

The Maldacians moved forward once again, and did not change formation.

Turn 3
The leading right-hand Unit of the Maldacian Infantry was now in range of the Lauranian Artillery Battery, and the Lauranians opened fire on it. They threw a D6 die to see if they hit the target hex; the score was a 2, so the shell missed the target hex. They threw another D6 die to see where the shell did land, and the score of 1 caused it to land in the hex behind the target hex, which was occupied by another Maldacian Infantry Unit. A further D6 die was then thrown, and the score was 4; the Maldacian Infantry Unit was destroyed!

D6 dice were thrown by both sides to determine who would move first this turn. The Maldacians threw a 6 and the Lauranians threw a 5; the Maldacians therefore moved first again.

Enraged by the loss of one of his Infantry units, the Maldacian commander galloped forward and ordered his two flank columns to change to a more dispersed formation. He also ordered the central to assault and take the bridge over the river and then to seize the village.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Incident on the border: The initial positions

To test whether or not it was possible to adapt Joseph Morschauser's 'Frontier' wargame rules so that I could use my Heroscape hexes, I decided to set up a short play-test battle.

The Scenario
As was normal in that part of the World, relations between Laurania and her neighbour, Maldacia, had deteriorated again. The most recent squabble resulted from the arrest of a Maldacian who had bought a defunct mine just over the border in Laurania. He had decided to fly the Maldacian flag above the newly re-painted mine buildings, something that was not allowed under Lauranian law without a permit. The local police tried to persuade him to remove it, but he refused, and in the intervening scuffle one of the policemen was injured. The Maldacian was arrested for assaulting a police officer, and incarcerated in the local jail.

Although the Maldacian miner was released once tempers had cooled down, news had already reached Maldacia and several spontaneous demonstrations were held throughout the country. Some of these demonstrations degenerated into riots where the Lauranian flag was burnt and Lauranians visiting Maldacia were assaulted. When the Lauranians responded with a strong diplomatic note that protested about the attacks on Lauranian citizens and requested compensation for them, the Maldacian Minister of War sent an enciphered message to the commander of the troops stationed near the border with Laurania. This message told him in no uncertain terms to 'cross the border and give those damn Lauranians a taste of something that they won't forget in a hurry.'

He responded by rapidly mobilising an Infantry Brigade of three Infantry Battalions and two Artillery Batteries and moving them up to and then over the border. He intended to capture a small village near Castramonta, drive the local inhabitants out, and then burn it to the ground. The village, which was built near to a bridge over one of the fast-flowing mountain rivers, was well known in the region for the anti-Maldacian sentiments of its inhabitants, and the Maldacians hoped that its destruction would send a strong message to all Lauranians not to annoy their northern neighbour.

The Lauranian Secret Service actually managed to decipher the message from the Ministry of War to the commander of the troops stationed near the border with Laurania before it reached its intended recipient, and the Lauranian garrison at Turga – an Infantry Battalion, a Gatling Gun Battery, and an Artillery Battery – was hastily sent along the mountain road towards Castramonta to intercept the Maldacians. It reached the high ground just above the village as the Maldacians began the descent into the river valley. The stage was now set for a battle.

The Initial Positions
The situation at the start of the battle. The Maldacians – whose uniforms a very similar to those worn by the Austro-Hungarian Army – can be seen advancing from the right towards the river and the village in three columns, each made up of an Infantry Battalion. Between each column is an Artillery Battery. The Lauranians – who bear an uncanny resemblance to the Prussians – can be seen occupying the heights on the left of the picture, although the Gatling Gun Battery has been pushed forward to guard the Lauranian right flank. The village is occupied by a Company of Lauranian Border Guards.

Heroscape and Morschauser's 'Frontier' wargames rules

As reasonably regular readers of this blog will know, I own quite a large collection of Heroscape terrain. I bought more than ten RISE OF THE VALKYRIE Heroscape Master sets some time ago when they were being sold off cheaply here in the UK, and since then I have developed several sets of rules that used the hexed terrain that forms the major part of the Master set. I have also painted and flocked a couple of the terrain sets to 'improve' the way that they look.

Last night, as I was dozing off to sleep, I was struck by the thought that with a few minor changes to the Artillery Rules I could adapt Joseph Morschauser's 'Frontier' wargames rules so that I could use them with my Heroscape terrain. When I woke up this morning I had a working solution in my head and sat down to set it down on paper.

The solution is as follows:
  • After nominating the target hex the artillery is firing at, throw a D6 die.
  • If the score is 5 or 6, any Unit in the target hex is hit and further D6 die is thrown to adjudge the effect:
      Direct artillery fire:
      4 or 6: Destroys a Command stand.
      2, 4, or 6: Destroys any other stand.
      Indirect artillery fire:
      6: Destroys a Command stand.
      4 or 6: Destroys any other stand.
  • If the score is 1, 2, 3, or 4, a further D6 die is thrown to see which hex the artillery fire lands in.
  • If there is a Unit in the hex that the artillery fire lands in that Unit is hit, and the procedure laid down above for adjudging the effect is used.
I hope to try this out mechanism later today ... but first I have to take my wife to the dentist for some emergency treatment!

Monday 26 July 2010

Busy, busy, busy ...

I do not seem to have had much time to relax today, and I am definitely feeling as if I have done too much; after all, I am supposed to be on holiday!

My plans to have a quick wargame this morning had to be shelved because I had to do some work on the company accounts before the end of the financial year on 31st July. This involved a visit to the bank, something that always takes longer than expected. Today I got stuck in a queue behind several people who were paying in large amounts of cash on behalf of their companies ... and the procedure of checking, re-checking, and then correcting the mistakes that had been made took almost thirty minutes. By the time my simple transactions had taken place, the queue of people waiting to see a cashier went out of the door!

My wife and I then went to see my father-in-law who lives in Herne Bay, Kent. This is a return journey of 115 miles, and the drive usually takes just over an hour each way ... but today we had to visit the local cash-and-carry warehouse first to buy him a load of things that he wanted. This added quite a bit of time to our journey as the warehouse is in the opposite direction from the route we take to Herne Bay.

During our journey to Herne Bay we managed to grab some lunch at Chatham, but when we arrived at our destination my father-in-law announced that he had to go to visit a friend who is in hospital in Canterbury. We unloaded all the things we had bought for him, and then had a quick chat before he set off to the hospital.

The drive home was somewhat more fraught than the drive to Herne Bay, as the roads seem to have been invaded by large numbers of foreign lorries and coaches. Rather than being able to drive at a steady 65-70 mph most of the way home, my speed was going up and down like a yo-yo as lorries or coaches pulled out – usually with little or no warning – and overtook each other at slow speed on the two-lane motorway. By the time I got home I was tired and very fed-up, and not in the best of moods.

However, my wife assures me that things will be better tomorrow, so with a bit of luck I might actually manage to fight the wargame that I have promised myself.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Ministry of Space: Science Fiction or Alternative History?

When I was a boy my favourite reading material was THE EAGLE. I particularly liked two things that appeared in this weekly publication - the exploded technical drawings that were on the middle pages ... and the latest episode of DAN DARE – PILOT OF THE FUTURE. The latter appealed to me because it portrayed a version of the World that did not seem too remote from the reality of 1950s Britain. In those days the UK had all sorts of missile and rocket projects on the go, and even though many of them did not seem to work very well, they at least gave us the allusion that we were still one of the 'big boys' ... how wrong we were!

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when I saw a copy of the graphic novel MINISTRY OF SPACE (Titan Books [2004] ISBN: 1 84023 924 7) on the bookshelves of my local bookshop, I bought a copy ... and I am very pleased that I did.

The whole style of the book is very reminiscent of the Dan Dare stories, both in the quality of the illustration and the very real 'feel' of the incidents and equipment that is portrayed. It is very apparent from the notes written by Warren Ellis – the story's author – that he drew his inspiration from the Dan Dare stories created by Frank Hampson and his team of writers and illustrators for THE EAGLE. The people who created MINISTRY OF SPACE – Warren Ellis (Writer), Chris Weston (Artist), Laura Martin (Colorist), and Michael Heisler (Letterer) – have done a magnificent job.

But this is no children's tale. It tells the story of Britain's space programme - an orbital rocket-plane by 1950, the building of an orbital a space-station from 1953 onwards, a Moon landing in 1956, and colonisation of Mars in 1969 ... but it has a very dark side to it as well.

The story is told in two parallel strands; one tells of the development of the Royal Space Force and its success whilst the other tells the story of the man who made it all happen – Sir John Dashwood – and how he financed the whole thing using gold 'liberated' from the Germans. But the gold is tainted because it is the proceeds of the Holocaust, and this secret is about to be exposed by the ‘new boys on the block’ – the Americans.

I like this book because it was not just an entertaining 'read'; it posed a series of morale problems that have more than an element of reality to them. What would have happened if Britain had got hold of all Germany's rocket scientists in 1945? Would Churchill have agreed to us 'tainted' finances to keep the UK as a major World Power if the opportunity had arisen? Would Britain have recovered from her near-bankrupt state and emerged as a economic powerhouse on the back of a successful space programme? Would that success have kept the UK politically and socially stagnant as a result?

I am not sure if this is a science fiction book or an alternative history book. Whichever it is, however, I enjoyed it, and I would certainly recommend it.

After all these years ...

For anyone with even a passing interest in the Chaco War – and I certainly have that! – David Zook's THE CONDUCT OF THE CHACO WAR is the book you simply must read. For years I have been trying to get hold of a copy of my own ... and now I have one, courtesy of the Internet!

I found my copy via Amazon, ordered it, and it was delivered whilst I was in Norway. As the book has been out of print for many years, the copy I bought was second-hand, having originally been gifted in 1973 to Seminole Library, Seminole, Florida. It has 'Withdrawn' stamped inside the front cover, and they must have sold it on to the bookseller from whom I bought it.

I have yet to begin reading this book. Having looked for a copy for so long, I don't want to rush the process; I want to savour and enjoy it.

Oh, and if you are wondering what will happen once I have read it ... well, I was recently asked if I might write a short book about the Chaco War, and now that I have added this book to my resources, I don't think that I can refused.

Saturday 24 July 2010

COW2010: More images of the Joseph Morschauser Session

I was very pleased to find an email from David Bradbury amongst the items in my 'inbox' because he had very kindly sent me some pictures of the practical part of my session about Joseph Morschauser.

This photograph was taken whilst I was giving words of advice and guidance to Jonathan Crowe during his battle with Ian Mitchell. Dick Scholefield (seated on the right) seems more interested in what is going on in the neighbouring battle than in his own, a situation that a very determined Bob Bowman looks to be about to make worse!
This is a close-up of the battle between Jonathan Crowe (who commanded the Anglo-Egyptian forces) and Ian Mitchell (who led the Mahdists). The simple terrain was quick to set-up and take down, and the players all seemed to enjoy the experience of trying out these wargames rules.

I have been to … Norway

My summer holiday from work began on Thursday … and early on Saturday morning my wife and I were on our way to Southampton to board P&O’s MV Ventura to cruise to Norway.

Day 1: Southampton
The drive down to Southampton took just over two hours, and we were pleasantly surprised by the speed with which our luggage was hustled away by a porter, the car was handed over to the parking service, and we were checked in and able to pass through the security system. In fact the whole process took less than thirty minutes from when we got out of the car until when we sat down in one of the ship’s numerous bars for a free glass of champagne and plate of filled rolls.

After listening to the obligatory safety lecture from the Captain, we unpacked and had just enough time to reach the Promenade Deck as the ship moved away from the quay. Our passage out of Southampton took us past the No Man’s Land Fort (a sight that I have seen so many times as I have sailed out towards the English Channel) …

… and then on to the Nab Tower.

Something that I had not noticed before was what looked like a smaller version of No Man’s Land Fort that was situated nearer to the Isle of Wight. I think that it is St Helen’s Fort, but I may well be wrong.

We then sailed towards the French side of the Channel so that the ship could pass through the Straits of Dover in the correct traffic lane, and as we went to bed we could see the lights of Boulogne very clearly to the starboard side of the ship.

Day 2: At sea
After a good night’s rest we spent the day relaxing as we sailed across the North Sea. Other than quite a large number of oil and gas rigs – some of which looked as if they were longer functioning – we saw little in the form of other ships except for the occasional rig supply vessel.

During the morning we attended an illustrated talk about the history of P&O. The lecturer – who is also the Deputy Cruise Manager – explained how the company developed from a shipping line with one ship that carried the mail from the UK to Spain and Portugal in the first half of the nineteenth century into being a major part of the largest cruise operators in the World. Of particular interest was the section about P&O’s ships during the First and Second World Wars. It was a P&O ship that carried a large part of the force sent to capture Tanga in German East Africa during World War I, and it was P&O’s Rawalpindi – which had been re-armed so that it could act as an Armed Merchant Cruiser – that took on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau when they attacked the convoy she was escorting. He then moved on to the part played by two P&O ships during the Falklands War of 1982 – the Canberra (also known as the ‘Great White Whale’) and the Uganda. The former was used as a troopship, and carried 40 Commando and the Parachute Regiment south to the war zone, and the latter was used as a hospital ship.

After lunch I read a couple of chapters of a murder-mystery set in the period just after the Great Fire of London – THE FROST FAIR – as well as re-reading Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules to make sure that I had a full grasp of the game mechanisms he used before beginning work on the latest draft of my INTERBELLUM wargames rules.

Day 3: Bergen
We arrived in Bergen to find that the weather was damp with low cloud and light rain, which is not surprising as this city gets rain on most days of the year!

This is the only place where we had booked to go on an organised tour … and it was called ‘Panoramic Bergen and Mount Fløien’. It actually turned out to better than we had hoped, considering that the weather. The tour of the city was pleasant, and we were able to stop a couple of times to take photographs of some historic buildings. The latter included King Håkon’s Hall …

… and the Rosenkrantz Tower.

The latter was built to defend Bergen from potential attackers, but my researches indicate that it was never used for that purpose.

We also visited the house built by Norway’s first Prime Minister before making our way to the lower end of the funicular railway that goes to the top of Mount Fløien. The lower boarding area looked like something from the film WHERE EAGLES DARE, as it was up a long tunnel cut into the solid rock and into which the carriage seemed to come at great speed, only slowing very abruptly for the last twenty or thirty feet.

Having reached the top of Mount Fløien, we found that the cloud was obscuring any view that we might have had over Bergen. It cleared temporarily for a few minutes, and during that break in the cloud we were able to get a reasonable look at Bergen from nearly 1,000 feet up … and very impressive it was.

We then made our way down – again by the funicular railway – and we chose to leave the tour at that point so that we could walk through the city for a while. We visited the fish market and were also able to visit to a few shops, but prices in Norway are even higher than in the UK, so our purchases were restricted to some postcards.

After our return to the ship we spent what remained of the day reading and catching up on our sleep, although we were awake in time to see the ship cast off and move sedately down the fjord towards out next destination … Flåm.

Day 4: Flåm
Our route to Flåm took the ship up the longest and deepest fjord in Norway; Sognefjord. Flåm turned out to be very small … in fact it was little more than a railway station – the terminus of the scenic Flåm Railway – a small railway museum, some gift shops, a couple of restaurants and cafés, and a hotel at the head of the fjord.

We decided to go ashore by tender and have a look round, but it began to rain quite heavily almost as soon as the tender left the ship, and by the time we reached the shore it was torrential. We spent some time looking in the shops, but there was little that appealed to either of us, and again our purchases were limited to postcards. The small museum that was attached to the railway station was much more interesting, and we spent some time looking at the various exhibits.

The fjord is different from those I have seen before as its sides are quite steep and rocky. Looking aft down the fjord I was reminded of those war films where British bombers were sent on suicide missions to bomb German installations in occupied Norway. One could almost imagine the roar of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines echoing along the fjord as a squadron of De Havilland Mosquitoes flew down it towards their target.

We spent the evening sailing back down the fjord. Because we are so far north it remained light until almost 11 o’clock and we could pick out various places along our route to Olden.

Day 5: Olden
Olden lies in one of the arms of Nordfjord, and is somewhat larger than Flåm. It has a small church and several shops, and is the centre of a farming community that produces milk and milk products.

The weather had not improved since we left Flåm, and it rained almost all day. Rather than risk getting too wet walking into the centre of Olden, we took the local sightseeing road-train (i.e. a small tractor unit and two covered-in trailer coaches). The hour-long journey went up one side of the valley the fjord is in and down the other side, and we were able to see – and photograph – the local scenery. This included an ancient stone bridge over the local river. The river was very high and flowing at great speed due to both the rain and the water from the glacier that is situated at the head of the valley. The glacier is, in fact, the largest on the European continental mainland, and had the weather not been quite so bad we might have visited it. We hope to return to Olden next year, and – if the weather is somewhat more clement – to visit the glacier.

I managed to spend some time finishing reading the Restoration murder-mystery THE FROST FAIR, and began to read Margery Allingham’s SWEET DANGER. This is set during the interwar era, and features her hero – Albert Campion – in a story about finding the rightful heir to a small Balkan kingdom called Averna. This reminded me that I still need to complete my map of Maldacia, and I hope to do some work on it later during this cruise.

During the evening we cruised back down Nordfjord on our way to our final destination in Norway, Stavanger.

Day 6: Stavanger
We sailed south overnight, and arrived alongside in Stavanger at 8.15 am. The weather was overcast, and there was some rain. This gradually moved away, and by just after lunchtime the sun was shining and the air temperature rose.

We went ashore during the latter part of the morning and went for a walk around the older parts of Stavanger. We saw – but did not enter – the Guards Museum. This is a tall tower that was built on the highest point in the old town of Stavanger, and it was used by the Town Guard as a lookout point to protect the harbour and to spot any fires that might threaten to spread and burn down the wooden buildings that made up most of the town.

After doing some window shopping, we visited the Stavanger Maritime Museum. This is housed in one of the older, wooden buildings by the quayside, and it dates from the period between 1770 and 1840. It is split into four floors, with the first telling the story of how Stavanger developed as a fishing and trading port. The first floor concentrates on the shipbuilding industry in Stavanger, and has numerous displays of shipbuilder’s tools and models of ships; it also has a reconstruction of a typical 1910 General Store. The second floor contains further reconstructions, this time of a shipping office dating from 1977 and a typical Stavanger merchant’s home from the nineteenth century. The attic houses a reconstruction of an old sail loft. This is a delightful small museum, and is part of the larger Stavanger Museum.

We returned aboard in time for a later lunch and then spent a couple of hours relaxing in the sun before going below to our cabin. I then got ready for dinner after spending an hour or so working on the draft of an interwar version of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules, and I hope to continue with this project tomorrow.

Day 7: At sea
The weather remained overcast during most of the day, but the sun did manage to break through occasionally. The temperature was warm enough for us to sit out on deck for some time, and I managed to finish reading SWEET DANGER.

I was able to do some work on my interwar version of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules, but the need to begin packing our luggage so that it could be collected ready for tomorrow’s disembarkation meant that I was not able to do as much as I had hoped, and the draft remained unfinished.

Day 8: Southampton
We awoke to find that we were already moored alongside in Southampton, and after packing our hand luggage – the majority of our luggage having already been collected overnight and sent ashore – we had our last cooked P&O breakfast of the voyage.

The drive home was uneventful and took just over two hours, despite it being the first weekend of the school Summer holidays when road traffic is usually very dense.

Saturday 17 July 2010

Artillery in Morschauser's 'Frontier' wargames rules

I have just re-read Joseph Morschauser's 'Frontier' wargames rules and have come to the conclusion that I like the idea that all Artillery Units can fire each turn before any other type of Unit can move or engage in combat.

I also like the very simple system for artillery not to quite hit what it is aiming at. This, coupled with the possibility that getting too close to an enemy Unit that your own artillery is firing at could result in a 'blue-on-blue' incident, makes it quite an interesting mechanism. I am therefore seriously thinking of incorporating this mechanism in the next draft of my INTERBELLUM wargames rules.

Friday 16 July 2010

Reading old copies of The Nugget ...

As part of the process of improving and updating the Wikipedia entry about Paddy Griffith, I have been reading through the first ten year's issues of THE NUGGET ... and I am struck by the fact that my memory of what they were like was nowhere near the truth! They do seem to be rather fuller of angst than I remember, and the quality of the printing does leave a lot to be desired, especially during the first few years.

There have been calls from some of the newer members Wargame Developments to make the older issues available online so that they can access and read them. This does present a few problems.

Firstly, the copyright for articles that were submitted lies with the author, and without getting their express permission to republish the material we cannot do so without redacting large chunks of each issue (N.B. This is not a problem now, as the relevant conditions regarding republication of articles is now included in the Business Section of each NUGGET).

Secondly, many of the articles were relevant to the point in time when they were written ... but that this no longer holds true.

Thirdly, ... well many of us were younger and a lot less experienced as writers and wargames designers, with the result that quite a few of the articles are no very good.

It is interesting to note that things began to change during the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is the era of the separately published COW Reports. These were far more detailed in content, and contained quite a few sets of complete wargames rules, design notes, and the critical feedback given by attendees subsequently to COW (These are now referred to as 'Onside' and 'Offside' reports). They were, however, costly and complicated to produce, and the decision to publish the COW reports in full within THE NUGGET marked the genesis or metamorphosis of the publication into its current form.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Axis of War – Parts 1 and 2

Today is the first day of my Summer holidays ... well it should be a Professional Development Day, but we have been given time of in lieu of the extra twilight training session we have done this year.

I used my time wisely, although I doubt that my wife would agree that I did! After doing the usual early morning chores that have to be done each Thursday (taking the full rubbish bins out for emptying etc.), I paid an expensive visit to the local type fitters to have four new tyres fitted to my Mazda Tribute 4 x 4 (I say expensive, but what they charged for the tyres, wheel balancing, and fitting plus VAT was less than any other local tyre fitters were willing to quote me just for the tyres less the VAT). I then did a few odd jobs that needed to be done, including getting the majority of the work for my business accounts ready for the end of the company's financial year on 31st July.

Despite the fact that the Test Match between Pakistan and Australia was on, I decided to finish watching the DVD entitled AXIS OF WAR - PART ONE - THE FIRST OF AUGUST that I bought some time ago.

For some reason best know to itself, the DVD player refused to fast-forward through the first half of the film, and in the end I watched it from beginning to end. It tells the story of the break between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang and the subsequent fighting in Nanchang that started on 1st of August, 1927. The film was made by a major Chinese film maker that seems to be an offshoot of the Chinese People's Liberation Army and no expense has been spared in its making. The sheer scale of the battle scenes must have required literally thousands of extras, as well huge amounts of real or replica military equipment. There did appear to be a few anachronisms, but these did not detract from the film.

The style of the film does take a bit of getting used to, and it represents the main characters in a rather over-the-top heroic way. My DVD did not come with anything other than subtitles, and these sometimes appear to be rather literal in their translation. That said, I did enjoy watching the film because of the battle scenes.

I then decided to watch the second part of the trilogy, AXIS OF WAR - PART TWO - MY LONG MARCH.

As the title suggests, this film deals with the Long March, and concentrates on the role of one family within the Communist-led Red Army. Chairman Mao also appears, and he is portrayed very sympathetically.

The battles scenes in this film are also well staged and quite impressive, although I preferred the way this was done in the former film. This film also only had subtitles rather than being dubbed into English and the characters were still portrayed in a rather stylised way. I did, however, enjoy watching this film, and I will look out for the final part of the trilogy when it is released.

PS. The covers of both DVDs are a little misleading in that the air attack shown on the cover of AXIS OF WAR - PART ONE - THE FIRST OF AUGUST takes place at the beginning of AXIS OF WAR - PART TWO - MY LONG MARCH, and the troops who assault the bridge in the second film are not wearing American-supplied uniforms!

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Paddy Griffith: Improving the Wikipedia entry

Thanks to several members of Wargame Developments I have been able to extend the list of Paddy Griffith's publications on his Wikipedia entry as well as the list of wargames he designed and/or published.

Some of the latter are rather elusive and difficult to pin down. This is due to their often ephemeral nature. Paddy would devise wargames that were 'one-offs' and that were not necessarily designed to be repeated. Sometimes they were blinding successes ... and sometimes they were not. They were, however, all worth taking part in as you came away feeling that you had gained some sort of insight into an historical era or a way to design (or not design) a wargame.

Sunday 11 July 2010

COW2011 and the Wargame Developments Website

Although it is only a week since COW2010 ended I have already received twenty-three bookings for COW2011 ... and most people have paid in full!

To make matters easier for others who want to pay for COW2011 or who want to join Wargame Developments as either a full or e-member, I have updated the Wargame Developments website with new PayPal buttons. These changes take into account the fact that rising costs have forced an increase in membership fees to:
  • £10.00 for e-members (anywhere in the World)
  • £20.00 for full members (UK, Europe and BFPO)
  • £30.00 for full members (Rest of the World)
The cost of attending COW2011 as a resident for the whole weekend is still not fixed yet as I am waiting for Knuston Hall to notify me of their charges for next year, but I fairly sure that it will be £225.00 (including the cost of full membership of Wargame Developments for 2011-2012).

Paddy Griffith: Wikipedia entry

I spent part of today adding extra detail to the entry in Wikipedia that describes Paddy Griffith's life and work.

As further information comes to light I and other members of Wargame Developments hope to update this entry as part of the project to ensure that his developmental wargames design work is continued.

Saturday 10 July 2010

Griffiths at Gettysburg

The UNFASHIONABLY SHINY website has a very interesting blog entry about Paddy Griffith's involvement in the famous BATTLEGROUND TV series that featured wargamed re-fights of famous battles.

The battles that were included in the series were:
  • Edgehill
  • Waterloo
  • Battle of the Nile
  • Chalons sur Marne
  • France, 1944
  • Gettysburg
They were hosted by Edward Woodward (AKA Callan), who introduced each battle to the viewers.

It is a great pity that no copies of these TV programmes seem to exist, as they would probably be appreciated by a new audience these days.

Friday 9 July 2010

Paddy Griffith: Times Obituary

Page 66 of today's issue of THE TIMES has a three-quarter page obituary about Paddy Griffith. The headline describes him as being a 'Military historian who re-created key battles in history as war games and was a fearless challenger of the accepted version of events'.

The first sentence is a very succinct description of Paddy and captures the essence of the man:
Large, convivial, yet dedicated to the serious analysis of military history, Paddy Griffith was a fearless challenger of the accepted version of events and an iconoclastic war-gamer.
A suitable memorial to his life and work has yet to be determined, but this obituary is the first step towards achieving a lasting legacy that will continue and build upon Paddy's frequently ground-breaking achievements.

Paddy Griffith: Funeral service details

Paddy Griffith will be cremated later today after a short, Humanist service that will be held at 2.40pm at Manchester Crematorium.

Due to work commitments I will be unable to make the journey from South East London to Manchester to be at the service, but my thoughts will be with Paddy's family today. Wargame Developments will be represented by – amongst others – Tim Gow.

Paddy's family have requested that the only flowers at the service should be those sent by members of the family, but they have asked that donations in memory of Paddy could be given to Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation.

I understand that there are ongoing discussions about some appropriate longer-term memorial or memorials to Paddy's memory.

Thursday 8 July 2010

COW2010: The Joseph Morschauser Session

Thanks to Tim Gow (who unlike me, had his camera with him!) I now have some pictures of the practical part of my session about Joseph Morschauser.

Tony Hawkins and Richard Brooks fight it out on the nearer of the two battlefields whilst David Brock is locked in combat with John Curry on the further one. Peter Roe looks on whilst drinking his morning coffee and I oversee proceedings from the left.

Wayne Thomas (who was just out of shot in the previous photograph) takes a keen interest in the battle between David Brock and John Curry, and even Peter Roe has moved forward to have a better look at what is going on.

The table where the other two battles were taking place is in the background. Nick Huband, John Bassett, David Bradbury, and Russell King – along with an ex-member of the Knuston Hall staff and his partner – can be seen watching the action.

Ian Mitchell and Jonathan Crowe can be seen in the foreground fighting each other (with Nick Huband paying close attention to the action) whilst in the background Russell King is drinking his coffee and watching Bob Bowman battling it out with Dick Scholefield.
As I said in a previous blog entry, I only had eight people sign up for this session, but a lot more turned up for the presentation and then stayed to either take part or watch the rules in use.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

What next?

The week or so after COW can seem like a bit of an anti-climax. For a start one usually feels very tired, having stayed up too long playing wargames, drinking, talking, and generally 'chilling out' with one's mates. Then there is the effect of having to go back to work or – in the case of those who are lucky enough to have retired from full-time employment – back to not working.

The last few days have seen me spending a lot of my spare time tying up the administrative loose ends that remain from COW2010 and processing the bookings that are already coming in for COW2011 (twenty two as I write this blog during my Wednesday lunch break). By now I should have begun the process of unpacking the stuff I took to COW and putting it away ... and getting myself sorted out as well. The problem is that I seem to have been overcome by a general feeling of weariness, and I am finding it very difficult to motivate myself to get on and get things done.

So what can I do to break myself out of the lethargy that seems to have a firm grip on me at the moment?

Why, write some new wargames rules and plan a new project of course!

As yet my ideas are still rather vague, but it is very likely that it:
  • Will be a further development of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ rules (I like some of the ideas that the rules include; for example, that artillery fires at the beginning of each turn and before any movement or other combat takes place)
  • Will be set in the period from 1860 to 1940 (This is my favourite period of history after all)
  • May involve one or more imagi-nations (I still have my Maldacia project to finish sometime soon, and this might just be the spur I need to get it done)
In other words … more of the same!

I am beginning to feel more energised already; I just hope that it lasts until I get home.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

After COW ... comes COW!

Did COW2010 really only end two days ago?

The reason why I pose this question is that I have already processed twenty (Yes! ... TWENTY!) bookings for COW2011 already! What is more, most of those who have booked have paid in full!

As a result I have not yet had the time to properly unpack all my models, terrain, and other wargaming stuff properly. With a bit of luck I should manage that tomorrow ... assuming, of course, that I don't get a load more COW bookings!

Monday 5 July 2010

COW2010: A personal review

Despite terrible traffic (it took me over four hours to drive from South East London to Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire – twice the travel time calculated by my satnav!) I managed to get to COW2010 in plenty of time for the specially arranged plenary session before dinner.

Tim Gow and I had decided that we needed to mark Paddy Griffith’s death with some form of special session, and that it should be held before dinner on the first night of the conference. It was kept as simple as possible, and began with Tim explaining the events leading up to Paddy’s untimely death and what had subsequently happened. I them followed with my memories of Paddy and a brief reminder of his work, especially with regard to his creation of Wargame Developments and COW (the Conference of Wargamers).

The Plenary Game
On the original COW programme it was planned that Paddy would run the Plenary Game, and that the subject would deal with World War I. Tim Gow and the other Sheffield members of Wargame Developments kindly offered to organise a replacement game, and after dinner most of the attendees could be found on the Knuston Hall lawn preparing to assault the German trenches (or as in my case, defend them). Most were armed with cardboard rifles (with baynots!), although I did see at least one cardboard mortar and several cardboard machine guns. The Germans were armed with three cardboard Maxim machine guns and several broom-handle Mauser pistols.

The first two British attacks were unable to break through the German trenches – although they came very close to doing so on the second attempt – but by 1918 (the third of the assaults) they had learned the lessons of earlier setbacks and – with the cunning use of a tank that looked very much like two men carrying a crate and another saying ‘Clank! Clank!’ at regular intervals – they were able to smash through three lines of German trenches and into the open land beyond (The Germans were heard to mutter afterwards about how they had been stabbed in the back, but that is altogether another story and another game).

This game was very much in the tradition of Paddy’s ‘silly hats’ games, and I think that he would have approved of the efforts made by the game’s designers and the enthusiasm with which it was played by those who took part.

Friday Night After Dinner Games
Once the Plenary Game was over and packed away, several ADGs (After Dinner Games) were staged.

We Shall Be Kings
A very typical Tim Price game that involved the players trying to find Saddam’s hidden treasure in post-war Iraq.

Lots of fun and skulduggery seemed to be taking place at the time when I looked in on the session, and the feedback I got from some of the players was extremely fulsome – as it always is for one of his games.

The Elephant In The Room
This was Graham Evans game that pitched velites against the ‘tank’ of the ancient world – a war elephant.

The game was very elegantly crafted both in terms of the rules and the models used. I did hear Graham utter one memorable quote during the time I was watching one of the games played: ‘You are the first person to play this game who has managed to get their velites all killed during the first round!’

The Birds Are Singing And It’s a Wonderful Day!
Dick Scholefield first brought this game to COW some years ago, and it was nice to see it again. Attendees who had never previously played were able to sample Dick’s very clever role-play game with 1:300th scale figures on a 1:300th scale terrain.

A platoon of British troops had to patrol an area of Northern France in the period just after the Normandy breakout, and during their patrol they were faced with a series of situations to which they had to respond. Each patrol had a set of different randomly generated problems, and it tended to generate a fast learning curve for the players. A classic game which still has much to teach us!

The End
This very clever game has been put on as a participation game at several wargames shows this year by the members of the Wargame Developments Display Team North.

As can be seen from the photograph, this game has high production values as well as having a very simple to understand – but nevertheless sophisticated – set of ‘rules’. Each player tries to stem the advancing Allied tide by using a restricted number of counter-attacks and ‘secret’ weapons. The End is inevitable; what counts is how long you can put it off!

Saturday Morning Sessions
Saturday morning sessions tend to be a problem for me because there is always at least two sessions on at the same time that I want to take part in. This year I opted to sign up for Richard Brook’s OP14, where I took on the role of being a German Korps commander.

Some time ago I designed and tested a set of operational-level World War II wargames rules. These were published in THE NUGGET and inspired Richard Brooks to produce a set of operational-level rules for the Great War. This morning’s session gave me the opportunity to try them out … and I was mightily impressed.

The game mechanisms were similar to those Richard has used in several of his previous wargame designs and were thus very easy for me to grasp within a relatively short time.

There were, however, some very specific differences due to the higher level of command each player represented. The resulting game mechanisms might be too abstracted for many mainstream wargamers, but they did enable us to fight a day of World War I combat in less than three hours and to achieve a generally historical result.

Contact, Tanks! East!
This was a session that I had wanted to go to, but because it clashed with OP14 all I was able to do was to pay it a flying visit.

Wayne Thomas and David Brock always put on excellent games with well thought-out mechanisms and beautifully presented models and terrain. This was no exception. The battle that was recreated was a clash between Allied – mainly French – troops and the Iraqi Republican Guard during the 1991 Gulf War. From what I saw of the session it was an exciting battle that the Allies were winning … but at the cost of quite a few casualties.

World War I Dogfight
This was another session that I was only able to pay a short visit to, but I was immediately struck by the high production values as well as game mechanisms that were on show.

Saturday Afternoon Sessions
The afternoon programme was equally crowded with attractive sessions, and I decided to spend my time visiting as many as I could rather than just taking part in one or two. But first I did take part in a short and hilarious game involving zombies!

Killing Zombies
This was a very short impromptu game set up by Jim Wallman and played on the lawn. Four ‘survivors’ (i.e. non-zombies) had to make their way through a crowd of hostile zombies that were intent upon killing them. If three of the four could reach safety, the Human Race would survive; if not, the Human Race was doomed. All that each of the ‘survivors’ had to protect themselves was a gun, but this was only capable of halting a zombie, not ‘killing’ one.

I was a ‘survivor’ … but I failed to reach safety by just a matter of feet. I am sorry to report that as a result, the Human Race is doomed!

Les Petite Batailles
Over the past few years Mike Elliott has been developing a series of simple rules for fighting a variety of different nineteenth century wars.

This addition to that series has been designed for refighting battles from the Napoleonic era and uses 6mm figures mounted on bases that represent a battalion.

Sharp End – Back To Buggerupistan
This is a set of rules that Phil Barker has been developing for some time, and I think that this is the third year running he has brought along the latest version for play-testing.

It started with a very empty battlefield that was being over-flown by a ‘Predator’ unmanned surveillance aircraft, but as the scenario developed more and more NATO troops were deployed to meet the developing threat.

I must admit that I cannot bring myself to wargame this current conflict, but from what I have seen the mechanisms that Phil has used work well and produce reasonably accurate results.

The Last Crusade
Had I been on the ball I would have signed up for this session even though it is not a period that I have a particular interest in.

The reason why is because it was being run by Ian Drury – whose games are always excellent – and because it used a gridded battlefield – which is something that I am very in favour of. In this case the grid was created using vinyl floor tiles on which was printed a four by four grid of ‘tiles’. These are relatively cheap to buy (if you can find a stockist!), are very durable, and can be drawn on with water-based OHP pens.

A Place In The Sun
Tim Price is always an excellent speaker. He is humorous, a little irreverent, and very informative, and this talk about his deployment as a member of the NATO training team in Iraq was an eye-opener.

The talk covered:
  • The purpose of the NATO Training Mission to Iraq
  • The pre-deployment training he underwent and the kit he was supplied with
  • What daily life was like for a member of the Training Mission
  • What it was like to work in the IZ
  • Understanding the Arabs
Saturday Night After Dinner Games
After dinner I took part in what appeared to be a very silly game that actually had a very serious lesson. I then had a short break before returning to the fray.

Spock’s Shameful Secret
This was not a Star Trek game although a Vulcan was involved. It was intended to recreate the logistical problems involved in the famous ‘Black Buck’ attack on Port Stanley airfield during the 1982 Falklands War.

The players represented either the Vulcan’s crew (a pilot, and flight engineer, and a bombardier) or Victor tankers. The ‘aircraft’ all had fuel tanks (plastic beer glasses with a hole drilled into the bottom that were filled with water) which needed to be kept topped up if the Vulcan was not to run out of fuel (in this case water) before it reached Stanley.

This sounds simple … but it isn’t! The Victor tankers had to refuel each other to keep sufficient tanker aircraft in the air so that they could refuel the Vulcan. We had two attempts, and on the second the Vulcan reached and bombed the airfield just as it ran out of fuel. Mind you, they missed the runway but they did hit the airfield!

Anti-U-Boat Wargames of the Western Approaches Tactical School
I missed the start of this session so all I was able to do was to pay it a short visit.

John Curry has been able to reconstruct the tactical wargame used by the Western Approaches Tactical School to train Royal Navy officers in anti-U-Boat warfare. This famous game has been all but lost for many years, and it has taken some time for John to research into what it looked like and how it worked. This session was the result of that diligent work.

Tank Terror!
This was a short, fun game that pitted motorised model tanks against ant-tank defences.

The defenders had several ‘weapons’ that they could use (anti-tank grenades [Diet Coke tins that had to be thrown into a crate to ‘hit’ the designated target tank] and bazookas (ball pens dropped from shoulder height using an outstretched arm; the ball pens had to hit a small picture target of the tank it was aimed at to ‘hit’ and ‘kill’ that tank). When a tank was ‘hit’ its electric motor was switched off and it stopped.

Early Wargames
When I was young I never owned any of the boxed ‘wargames’ that were on the market; this session gave the opportunity to finally try some of them.

The games that were available included ‘The Battle of Balaclava’ …

… Triang’s ‘Combat’ (with its beautifully sculpted figures by Stadden, that were later sold in sets by Almark) …

… and Waddington’s ‘Battle of the Little Big Horn’.

Sunday Morning Sessions
Sunday morning was when my session was scheduled to take place.

Joseph Morschauser: Forgotten Pioneer?
There were only eight names on the sign-up sheet for my session so I expected to have a quiet and fairly informal presentation followed by everyone having the opportunity to try of Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargamer rules … but then nearly twenty attendees turned up!

The presentation seemed to go fairly well, and there were quite a few interesting questions and comments made. The practical part of the session was also well attended, with attendees staying to watch even if they were not going to get the opportunity to use the rules themselves. In fact attendees who did have that opportunity wanted to carry on with their battles even after the session was supposed to have ended, but eventually they had to pack away so that the next session could be set up.

I got lots of very positive feedback after the session, and John Curry is seriously considering republishing Joseph Morschauser’s book.

Washington's Army
This is the latest incarnation of Peter Pig's American War of Independence wargames rules. Martin Goddard and Rob Roriston put on two sessions to give attendees the opportunity to try out the latest version of these rules.

Fire So Close You Are Splashed By His Blood
The session that followed mine in the Panelled Room was David Bradbury’s wargame about galley warfare in sixteenth century Mediterranean. He brought an earlier version of this wargame to last year’s COW and it was obvious from what I saw that it has undergone continued development.

What is interesting is the way he mixed the use of small scale model warships on the tabletop with representations of each galley and its crew in 25mm scale.

A Few Acres Of Snow
Martin Wallace always brings a wide selection of new and prototype games to COW, and this was a typical example.

He put on several sessions during the course of COW, and I was able to spend a few minutes watching him demonstrate this particular game about the Anglo-French war for the control of North America to Michael Young.

Drumfire: Corps-level Trench Warfare In The First World War
Elsewhere Martin Rapier ran a very nicely presented World War I wargame. The players had to plan and then execute a Corps-level attack on the German trenches.

As one would expect, there was a lot of artillery available to support the attack as well as aircraft and tanks.

Return To The River Don
For the past few years Graham Evans (AKA Trebian of Wargaming for Grown-Ups) has been developing a set of wargames rules that cover the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Allied Intervention and Civil War.

What struck me as I watched this session was both the quality of the models he was using …

… and the very professional look of the rule booklet he had given to the participants.

I hope that he makes these rules available to a wider audience as they produce interesting, enjoyable, and realistic wargames set in a somewhat neglected historical period.

Return To Democracy
I happened to pop in to see what this session was about … and promptly found myself taking part!

This was a typical Jim Wallman game that combined a real-world scenario transposed to a Science Fiction setting. A small planet with deposits of a much-needed mineral had, until recently, been ruled by a fanatical dictator who was supported by a ruthless military machine (Does this sound familiar?).

The dictator had been overthrown by rival politicians with the assistance of military forces from a nearby group of allied planets. These forces (led by Tim Price and Nick Drage) had then remained ‘on world’ to help the interim provisional government to maintain peace and to train a new local militia/paramilitary police/self-defence force. They had also offered to help the planet’s economy by investing in new infrastructure projects and assisting them to exploit the mineral deposits.

The locals (led by Gavin Parnby, Rob Cooper, and Jerry Elsmore) managed to negotiate a staged withdrawal of the military forces that were there to ‘assist’ them, but it felt like a close-run thing at times!

Sunday Afternoon Sessions
Because COW ends by 4.00pm, and the Wargame Developments Annual General Meeting is held at 3.00pm, the Sunday afternoon sessions are always somewhat abbreviated.

Der Grosser Schweiger – The Life And Career Of Helmut V Moltke The Elder
This was an illustrated lecture by Richard Brooks about the life of Moltke the Elder. As usual Richard’s lecture was very informative and peppered with humorous comments and anecdotes about his subject, and I came away with a far better understanding about Moltke and his influence on the armies of Prussia and – after 1870 – the German Empire.

The death of Paddy Griffith could easily have cast a pall over COW2010, but everyone there was determined to mark Paddy’s passing by trying to make it the best COW ever. It is too early to decide whether or not we managed that, but I certainly came away feeling that my wargaming batteries were well and truly recharged and my enthusiasm for the hobby had been rejuvenated.