Sunday, 23 November 2014

Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Issue 380

The latest issue of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES magazine arrived in the post on Friday afternoon, and thanks to the problems I have been having with my broadband service, I have managed to read most of this issue before writing this blog entry.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Briefing (i.e. the editorial) by Henry Hyde
  • World Wide Wargaming by Henry Hyde
  • Forward observer by Neil Shuck
  • Fencing champion: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Fantasy Facts by John Treadaway
  • The Featherstone Annual Tribute: by Henry Hyde
  • Don's colonial collection: Victoria's empire is still fighting in Swindon by Chris Scott
  • Let's fight Oporto 1809: Part 2: the rules and Orders of Battle by Jonathan Jones
  • Red versus Blue: Mass participation wargaming by Phil Dutré
  • Gravelines: Wargaming with Vauban fortresses: part 1 by Henry Hyde
  • Fields of Ponyri: A Battlegroup Kursk campaign weekend by Warwick Kinrade
  • A chat with Larry Brom: A send three and fourpence special outing by Conrad Kinch
  • SELWG 2014: Enthusiastic wargaming at Crystal Palace by John Treadaway
  • The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal report by Henry Hyde
  • Hex encounter by Brad Harmer
  • Recce
There is a lot of interest for me in this issue. For example, I always wondered what had happened to Donald Featherstone's wonderful collection of Colonial figures ... and now I know! I am also a fan of Larry Brom's work, and own three editions of his THE SWORD AND THE FLAME rules as well as his scenario portfolio and THE SUN NEVER SETS campaign system. Conrad Kinch's interview with Larry – and the introduction and afterword to it – was my particular favourite article in this issue.

Henry Hyde announced a bonus for all of us who subscribe to the printed version of MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES. As from this issue our subscriptions will be a Universal Subscription and will include a free digital subscription. This will entitle us to download the digital version of the magazine as well, and will also give us access to the archive of digital issues that have been published.

Now that is a REAL Christmas present ... and I thank Henry and the team for this generous gift!


  1. Did you see the review of Open Combat - played on a two foot square table?

  2. Nobby,

    I must admit that I haven't yet read the RECCE section right the way through yet ... but I did notice the review and it did look rather interesting.

    All the best,


  3. I think the Red v Blue article was the most interesting for me and certainly has sparked some ideas in my head as a way of gaming things like the Western Desert and Eastern Front campaigns of WW2, maybe scaling down from divisions to battalions/regiments for the former.

  4. TamsinP,

    It was an interesting concept, but I wouldn't want to try it at a British wargames show.

    I think that scaling the whole thing down to regiment/battalion-level makes a lot of sense, and might make it more manageable. My personal preference would be to set my games on the Eastern Front ... but the Western Desert would mean that you could re-fight most of the major battles.

    All the best,


  5. W.r.t. Red vs Blue:
    Thanks for liking my article! I had been thinking about such a mass participation game for a long while, and I did run various precursors during conventions in the past, but never at such a scale.

    Anyway, we ran it at Crisis, which is in spirit very much comparable to the British shows, with several thousands of attendees. I also think such a game only works well at such a large con. We had printed 1500 of those order cards, and many them were still lying around tables in the bar area, at various gaming tables etc. Many convention visitors just don't care for that type of experimental game, but there's always a core of experimentalists that are captivated by it.

  6. Phil Dutré,

    I was most impressed that you managed to stage such an innovative and successful game at a show. It certainly required a lot of forethought and planning.

    I hope to come to CRISIS sometime in the future. I live less than 30 minutes from a station on the cross-channel rail link, and could probably get to CRISIS almost as quickly as I could to a lot of UK shows.

    You comments about what a lot of show attendees like and don't like bears out my experiences of running games at UK shows. Many years ago I ran a Matrix Game at SALUTE, and it attracted a large number of people who just came to watch and listen. Two people pushed their way through the crowd to the front ... and then complained that 'all it is is a board game!'.

    SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES was likewise 'written off' by some passers-by because it did not use toy soldiers, even though everyone who took part thoroughly enjoyed the game and took away copies of the rules.

    All the best,


  7. Bob,

    You should definitely try to come to Crisis. Many people from the UK already do. In size, it starts to become comparable to Salute (or so my British friends say), but you get a taste from "contintal wargaming", with plenty of clubs coming from Belgium, Netherlands, France and Germany (and many UK clubs as well).

    Experimental games: I always felt inspired by your matrix games articles you wrote for Wargames Illustrated. As a result, we experimented quite a lot with matrix-style games in my gaming group (see also BattleGames issue 33 for a description of our story-telling mechanisms in wargaming).

    I do think that many conventions games (and probably club games for that matter) are becoming rather stale. They all look splendid, but they all go for the same polished railroad modeling look. Mechanicswise, they rarely offer something new.
    But at every convention, there are always a couple of experimental games, and those are the ones that I am always interested in.

    It's my opinion more wargamers should make an effort to think "outside the box". There's too much streamlining going on these days :-)

  8. Phil Dutré,

    As I wrote in my last comment, I really ought to go to CRISIS one day. I know that Jim Duncan has made the effort, and travelled all the way from Scotland, which is a much longer trip ... although I suspect that it probably didn't take him much longer that it would take me as he flew.

    it is interesting to see how the Matrix Game concept has moved from being very much a fringe – and derided – method of wargaming and into the mainstream. It won’t make the final ‘jump’ until someone writes a glossy wargames book that uses it, but in the meantime its use continues to grow. I understand that it has been used by the military and the arms industry – in a modified form – and has proven to be a useful tool when it comes to opening up discussions on topics such as equipment design as well as introducing more ‘open sky’ thinking.

    Now that I have access to the full electronic versions of BATTLEGAMES, I will try to make time to read your article about your use of Matrix Gaming techniques. I am sure that I will find it interesting and no doubt very informative and thought-provoking.

    I agree that a lot of the games one sees at shows tend towards the spectacular rather than the innovative … and I suppose that part of the blame lies with the fact that we are all attracted by ‘look’ rather than substance. The glossy wargames magazines don’t help as they tend to feature beautifully painted figures on model railway-like terrain. I know one wargamer who used to refer to them a ‘wargamer’s porn’ … and I think that he had a point! As to thinking ‘out of the box’ … well a lot of the wargamers I meet at shows seem more interested in the latest trends than anything else. In other words, what new figures in what new period and with what new rules are available rather than what new wargaming techniques and mechanisms are being used.

    All the best,


  9. "I agree that a lot of the games one sees at shows tend towards the spectacular rather than the innovative … "

    I think that is very true. I am recently started as a war gamer (still learning) and have only been to three shows, latterly FIASCO, and I find I am attracted to the look of a game but definitely not model railway scenery. Model rail quality scenery is fine until the figures arrive. I find it slightly ridiculous that the little figures and vehicles are moving around on bases that cannot always match what they are standing on. And figures with Spring grass flocked bases standing on top of cornfields is worse than symbolic scenery, imo but others mmv.
    Outside of the glossy mags I am looking for good symbolism in scenery (and then a medieval or colonial) theme.

    "....and I suppose that part of the blame lies with the fact that we are all attracted by ‘look’ rather than substance."

    Very true and I can't see how war gamers will ever get substance across in the hustle and bustle of a show.

  10. Nobby,

    It is nice to read that a relative 'newcomer' to wargaming has not been sucked in by the concept of the wargame as a moving diorama, and that you want to fight aesthetically pleasing wargames on terrain that works with rather than against the figures.

    Almost all my figures are mounted on simple bases with neutral/natural-coloured cork scatter as the main base texturing material. It is simple to apply, does not require painting, and seems to work on most sorts or terrain. I add the odd bit of static grass or cork 'rock' here and there, usually to help me to recognise which base belongs to which unit.

    As to terrain/scenery … well the old fashioned, ‘traditional’ stepped hill is simple to make and the figures don’t fall or slide off them. (The one quibble that I have with Hexon II hills is that my figures have a tendency to slide off them; as a result I now tend to use individual hexes to create ‘stepped’ hexagonal hills.) Buildings need to be as small as possible or built in the good old Charles Grant-style (i.e. where the building can be lifted off its base so that figures can be placed inside). I have yet to perfect my 2D ‘flat’ buildings (this is a project that I must revive ASAP!) but they will also work well.

    Is it possible to impart the substance of new ideas to wargamers at a show? I think that the answer is ‘Yes’ … but it would have to be done in such a way that it was attractive to look at and did not take up a lot of time. When I ran the ‘SAVING GORDON’ Matrix Game at SALUTE I used some very nicely painted and based figures and a well-presented map board. The briefings were laid out using a DTP and I made sure that we had plenty of people in the crowd explaining what was going on. Someone could come and watch for ten or fifteen minutes and walk away with a fairly good idea about how the game worked.

    We took the same approach when we ran SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES and several other participation games at shows. This is the sort of approach Wargame Developments has had to the games it puts on … and it has worked.

    (One thing that I cannot understand about some wargame shows, and that is the concept of a ‘demonstration’ wargame. They usually end up as static dioramas that people photograph or with the participants enjoying themselves but ignoring the onlookers. What is the game ‘demonstrating’? I can understand why a company might run such games to demonstrate a set of new rules that they want to sell – and Peter Pig do this very successfully using participation games rather than demonstration games – but all other sorts of demonstration games only seem to demonstrate how good a group’s terrain and toy soldiers are.)

    All the best,



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