Wednesday, 12 July 2017

My COW2017

My journey to Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire was not a good one. It should have taken me slightly less than two and a half hours to drive there, but thanks to it being a Friday (the roads were even more crowded than usual) and the weather being hot (in places the sides of the roads seemed to be strewn with broken down vehicles or cars that had hit each other), the drive took me just under four hours. By the time I got there I was feeling someone more that frazzled, and discovered that because I was late, most of the sessions I had wanted to sign up for were already full.

Once I had the chance to sign in, say hello to quite a few people, unpack my bags, and grab a cold drink, it was time for dinner ... and things began to look up. The food was – as usual – both excellent in quality and in large enough portions to satisfy the appetites of even the hungriest of wargamers, and by the time dinner was over I had calmed down and was ready to enjoy myself.

I was not disappointed.

Friday Night Plenary Game: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
It has become a tradition that after a very short introduction to the weekend, everyone takes part in a plenary game. This enables newcomers to quickly get involved in events, and serves as an 'ice breaker' for the whole weekend. Sometimes plenary games are just a bit of harmless fun with people doing silly things ... and sometimes they cover more serious topics. This year's plenary game was one of the latter.

The game dealt with the events that lead up to the building of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent 'Berlin Crisis'. Most of the participants were allocated a team (e.g. Federal German Republic, Democratic German Republic, USSR, USA) and a role (e.g. Head of State, Foreign Minister, Army Commander) but some - like me - were given player/umpire roles. (These are called 'plumpires', and the role of a plumpire is to help the game move along by acting as a conduit for information, a back-channel for unofficial discussions between teams, and to present problems that need solving. I was given the plumpire role of being Willy Brandt, the Mayor of Berlin, and spent most of my time trying to ensure that my city was not taken over by the Russians and/or the GDR and trying to get the USA and FDR teams to do something to get the wall removed.)

I'll leave others to decide who won and who lost, but my general impression is that regardless of how well players did in achieving their individual objectives, everyone enjoyed themselves.

Friday Night After-Dinner Games
Whereas the daytime sessions tend to be rather more serious, the so-called ADG (after dinner games) tend to be more relaxing and fun. On Friday night I had to opportunity to visit several including Platoon Commander's War on Hexes, ...


... Awfully Amateurish Agincourt, ...


... Another Dark Night in Whitechapel (Will Jack the Ripper strike again?), ...


... and Graham Evans' innovative Northampton 1480.


Saturday Morning Session 1
As I had not signed up for a particular session I spent the first part of the morning going around and observing what was going on. In the lounge Ian Drury was explaining how his The Greater Enemy: Operation Crusader game worked.


In the Panelled Room attendees were being briefed by John Salt about Firefight's Grand Day Out, ...




... whilst in the Practical room Graham Evans was running a Spanish Civil War game using his If You (Still) Tolerate This rules.


As can be gathered by the number of photographs that I took, I ended up spending a lot of time at this particular session, and thoroughly enjoyed watching the battle unfold.







Saturday Morning Session 2
After a coffee break I took part in an unscheduled session of The Battle of the Somme.


This is a resource management/card game where each player represents either a German or British corps commander. There were insufficient players for the full five-a-side game, but we were able to pit two British corps against the Germans. By adopting the 'reinforce success' strategy I was able to effect a breakthrough on one axis of advance. This effectively destroyed the ability of the Germans to stop me mounting a second series of attacks that easily broke through on another sector of my front-line.

Saturday Afternoon Session 1: Fall Edelweiss
I had been able to sign up for this session, and was given the role of running the reconnaissance and naval assets in John Bassett's strategic-level game about the German offensive in the Caucasus.


The venue was the Beech Room, which was surprisingly cool considering how hot the weather was outside.



Each side placed their unit counters (both real and dummy) on the schematic strategic map.


After some initial success, the resources available to the Germans began to be diverted elsewhere ... just as the Soviet side began to be reinforced. Although one of the oilfields was captured, its retention by the Germans was none to secure, and had the game continued there was little doubt that they would have had to conduct a fighting retreat.

Saturday Afternoon Session 2: Rote Armee Fraktion
This session took place after tea and was also held in the Beech Room. The game was about events in Germany (and other parts of Europe) during the early 1970s when the Baader-Meinhof group and others were 'fighting' a war against the established order. On this occasion I was given the role of being Helmut Schmidt (i.e. the role of representing the German establishment and government).


The game was one of the new-style free Matrix Games, and it felt as if worked much better than the earlier more rigid structure Matrix Games. As to who 'won' ... well we all seemed to have achieved our objectives, and I ended up a Chancellor of the German Federal Republic!

Friday Night After-Dinner Games
I spent the first part of the evening wandering around watching the sessions that were taking place. In the Lounge Richard Biggs was running a tabletop wargame that used beautifully painted 54mm-sized figures. The game was entitled Saving Gordon and was set in the Sudan.


Next door in the Panelled Room Tim Gow was running a Western Gunfight game entitled Shootin' Time, ...


... whilst in the Library a World War I Trench Raid was taking place.



At 10.30pm I joined the small group who were taking part in Jim Roche's session Over There – Wartime Singalong. This is the fourth year running Jim has staged this sort of session, and it takes the form of a history of what was happening one hundred years ago during the First World War (with the occasional diversion into other eras), interspersed with audience participation in the singing of contemporary tunes. Although there were fewer participants this year, the singing was lusty and enthusiastic.

Sunday Morning Session 1
I had hoped to be able to sign up and take part in Andrew Rolph's Rattenkrieg game about Stalingrad, but although I was too late to sign up to do so, I did at least manage to see the game in action.



In the Panelled Room Nick Drage was giving a talk about The Evolution of Player Tactics in the Video Game Watch-Dogs, ...


... whilst the Practical room was the venue for John Curry's session that used the Mechanised Infantry Battalion Staff in a Combat Situation Gaming Simulation Device from 1979.


At the same time, Sue Laflin-Barker was running a game entitled Asterix and Redbeard's Treasure in the Library.


Sunday Morning Session 2
Whilst Rattenkrieg was still raging in the Lounge, the Library was again being used for a smaller-sized game. This time it was Mike Elliott's recreation of the Battle of St Fagans (1648), Full and Glorious Victory.


Sunday Afternoon
After lunch, and before the Wargame Developments Annual General Meeting, John Armatys chaired an Ideas Exchange. This provides attendees with the opportunity to share all sorts of wargame-related ideas and products that have discovered.


The AGM took relatively little time, and there were few changes to the 'management' of Wargame Developments. Probably the most important information attendees were interested in were the dates for COW2018 and COW2019 and the cost of attending COW2018. Everything was over by 3.45pm, and after saying goodbye to the other attendees and the staff of Knuston Hall, I left for home.

Unlike my journey on Friday, the drive back was totally uneventful. It took me just under two and a half hours to get from Northamptonshire to South East London, and I was back home in plenty of time to take my wife out to dinner at a nearby restaurant.

22 comments:

  1. Looks like there was an interesting spread of games. Next year I keep telling myself....

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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    Replies
    1. Pete.,

      It was a very good conference, with lots of different types and styles of game on offer.

      If you do ever want to come to COW, you really must book early. COW2018 is already almost fully booked!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Your experience is why I go to conventions a day early. Give me time to wind down from the trip (often 8 to 10 hours here in the US). That being said,I am surprised that Cow does not allow for on-line sign-ups

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hardly worth it for the only 50 or so attendees.

      Delete
    2. Dick Bryant,

      The journey time in no way relates the distance I had to travel, and is more the a reflection of the state of Britain's road system. Yesterday I had to drive from where I live to St Albans, Hertfordshire. The journey should have taken just over an hour but took nearly two and a half. The reason for the delay was sheer volume of traffic and an incident that caused the police to close the main orbital motorway around London for some time.

      Due to the dynamic nature of the COW timetable (things have a habit of moving both time-slot and venue), having a pre-booking system for sessions would be very difficult to set up.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    3. Mike,

      You are probably right. The time and effort it would take to set something like this up would not be worth it for the number of attendees.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  3. Hi Bob. It was nice to see one of the Somme Series card games get a run out. Shame you couldn't do all five; that would have been something special.

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    Replies
    1. Vexillia,

      I must admit that I did rather enjoy playing this game ... and not just because my corps was successful.

      We did try to get more people to take part, but there were just not enough spare bodies around at the time.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. We will run all 5 Somme games side by side at COW 2018!

      Delete
    3. Ian Drury,

      Now that is good news ... and should be an interesting session to take part in!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  4. Bob,

    Your photo record of "If You Tolerate This" is much better than mine. I should have had a quick look here before posting my write up!

    We must arrange for you to come and have a go up in Shedquarters at some point in the not too distant future.

    Cheers,

    Graham

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trebian,

      I enjoyed watching the battle unfold, and will send you copies of my original photos.

      Id love to come up at some time in the future ... just as long as my wife hasn't booked us onto another cruise at the time your are staging a game!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. Love the "hands on feel" to this event
    What are the dates for COW 2018?
    .. Will go Google the WD website

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    Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      COW was once described as like being at the best wargames club in the world. Lots of different games to take part in and lots of interesting people to meet and talk to.

      COW2018 will be taking place from 6th to 8th July 2018 ... and most of the residential places have already been booked!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  6. Have also made mental note to join WD in August as a "post 300" participant ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      Join soon. It costs £25.00 for full UK membership with a printed copy of THE NUGGET and £15.00 for full membership with an electronic copy.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. If I join now then the subscription starts in August? The electronic version seems the best option as there is less evidence for the wife to spot!

      Delete
    3. Geordie an Exile FoG,

      If you join now you get the password for the current year's NUGGETs and your subscription starts with the publication of N301 in late August/early September.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    4. Done :)

      I am now a post Spartan 300 issue 301+ WD'er
      Looking forward to August already!

      :)

      PS Gone for the e-membership so I should (a) not clutter up the house to the distain of my wife and (b) save extra weight on your legs going to the Post Office ;)

      Delete
    5. Geordie an Exile FoG,

      I'll email you the password for this year's NUGGETs later this evening, and send a copy of next year's password next month or early in September.

      All the best,

      Bob

      PS. The great thing about the e-membership is that you can print off any articles you want.

      Delete
    6. Already really enjoying it :)
      Causing the wife to check up on me looking over my shoulder ;)

      Delete
    7. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      I am sure that you will enjoy it!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete