Saturday, 9 January 2021


In just under four weeks, VCOW2021 will be taking place, and as of this morning, the programme includes the sessions that are listed below.


45 minutes: Any number of participants

Brian has been designing conflict simulation games for the civilian market for over 25 years, with over 50 published designs to date. His articles and games have been published by a wide range of large and small firms. His special interests in game design are irregular warfare, "pol-mil" games, concepts of political influence in games, and asymmetry in games generally. In his spare time, he is an Education Officer in the Ministry of Advanced Education of British Columbia, Canada.

In this presentation, Brian will speak briefly about his work in designing asymmetric games on irregular warfare and how this has contributed to the origin and development of the popular "GMT COIN" system. Brian co-designed A Distant Plain (Afghanistan 2003-13) with Volko Ruhnke and designed Colonial Twilight (Algeria 1954-62). His third game using this system, China's War (China 1937-41), is currently under development.

John Bassett: GRAPPLE X

90 minutes: 6-8 participants

A game in finest WD taste about testing the British H-bomb in the 1950s. Features boffins, Valiants, the last generation of imperial administrators and a trusting but slightly anxious local population.


30 minutes: Any number of participants

Based on research undertaken for a PhD this talk will look at the commonly fought but infrequently gamed issue of counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare looking at those games that have tried to simulate this complicated environment.

Pete Sizer is a gamer of 30 years’ experience with an special interest in guerrilla warfare, counter insurgency and asymmetric warfare. He is currently doing a PhD in Wargaming at Bath Spa University, supervised by John Curry and Dr. Clifford Williamson.


1 hour: Any number of participants

A beginner's guide to the technology that will change wargaming. An introduction to choosing a printer, finding models and printing toy soldiers, tanks and terrain.

John Armatys: DETTINGEN

2 hours: 4 participants

A simple refight of the Battle of Dettingen (1743) using Brown Bess Squared (a gridded version of my Brown Bess rules - see Nugget 317) on a PowerPoint table with toy soldiers and terrain mainly from Tom Mouat’s Mapsymbs range.

John Bassett, Ian Drury, and Russell King: WARGAMING THE 1960s

90 minutes: Any number of participants

A panel discussion on wargaming the decade of Algeria and Vietnam, the Berlin wall and Cuban missile crisis, OAS and UDI, Selma, Detroit and Chicago. John, Ian and Russell are inveterate 1960s gamers and will discuss approaches to recreating the era using toy soldiers, board games, free Kriegspiel and role play and will address both the attractions of this decade and what makes a good 1960s wargame.


1 hour: Any number of participants

In this session I will present the first six months of my PhD research into squad-level infantry combat in the 20th and 21st centuries, and how best to represent it in a wargame, via Tabletop Simulator. The session will end with Q&A and a general discussion on what wargaming on this topic does well, less well, or not at all (but should do).

Graham Evans: WELL, DID YOU EVA!

3 hours: 2-4 participants

A game of the Taiping Rebellion. In the vicinity of Shanghai the Ever Victorious Army bid to free a village from the clutches of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace. This will be a proper toy soldier game run using video streaming. Marvel at the marvellously detailed 15mmm figures, which you won’t be able to touch, as the puppet master pushes them across the table, liberally interpreting your instruction. Using the “Taiping Era” rule set, (trialled at previous COWs, and now available for purchase), this game will provide a unique opportunity to participate in a game at the legendary Shedquarters.

Evan D’Alessandro: TIME FOR TRUTH

2 hours: 2-5 participants

Tallinn, Estonia: A statue put in place by the Soviet Union in 1955 that commemorates the Red Army has been deemed inappropriate to have so near to Parliament. The statue is removed at midnight from near parliament to a suburb park. Due to the violence in 2007 over a similar statue removal, the plans were filed a week in advance and only a small public works crew was briefed. Last night the statue was moved without incident, however, someone got knowledge and social media is quickly aflame. As the morning breaks, a protest is being quickly organized and fears of a second Bronze Night are palpable. As the Russian bear watches from across the border, the question is open: will the situation be defused, or will 2007 repeat? Players will play real life characters, representing the government of Estonia and Tallinn, but need not stick strictly to their roles.

John Wilkie: PAPAL CONCLAVE 1492

2 hours: 4-23 participants

It is August 1492 and Innocent VIII has finally done the first honest thing in his life and actually died, though there are those who were not convinced he had even managed this. But he is now in the ground and so it is time to elect a new pope, to banish the years of misrule and to tread carefully along the tightrope of 15th century Italian politics while not upsetting the French, Spanish, Neapolitans, Venetians or Turks.

As a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church you have been charged with the task of electing a man to take on that role. You may even fancy doing it yourself.

The game is played in accelerated real time with 15 mins covering 1 day, 1 vote per day and as much plotting, scheming and back-stabbing as you can fit in, all conducted on zoom using chat messages, break-out rooms and announcements to the assembled Cardinals. No mobile phones or whatsapp - it is 1492 after all.


90 minutes: 2-6 participants

A game based on the Plains Indians’Native Americans’) buffalo or bison hunts. Players take the role of a Native American buffalo hunter. Their aim is to gallop alongside one of these magnificent animals and bring it down. Everything about it is then usable. Meat, sinew, hide, hair, hooves, horns. To sustain the tribe.

The plan is to play the game over Zoom, but with a real table with toys (bison and hunters) being manoeuvred by me, plus screen layouts so players can see where they are and what to do next to bring down one of the big beasts. Hoka hey!


1 hour: 8-10 participants

Nuclear crises come and go, but yet again the great and the good of the Eastern Bloc get together to mull over key issues and the plans fr progress in their countries - and the inevitable march to Full Socialism. Your speech will be provided to you by your friendly domestic political adviser shortly before the meeting. The minutes of the meeting, and the success of the meeting, have been agreed in advance. Presided over in the beautiful Socialist city of Budapest by the youthful - and relatively sober - team of Gorbachev and Shevardnadze.

John Curry: THE SIX-WEEK NAVAL WAR, 1789

2 hours: 3-15 participants

It is 1 May 1789, and a new war has just broken out between Britain (and her Portuguese allies), and France (and her allies Spain and USA), over the vexed question of the Andorra Succession (the sordid diplomatic details of which need not detain us here).

Britain is thirsting for revenge after her defeat in the American Revolutionary War, and her fleet is in good order, maintaining an open blockade on all enemy ports.

The French Alliance also has a number of old scores to settle, such as regaining Gibraltar, subduing Portugal and wiping out the British sugar islands (or preferably, the City of London herself). The French Alliance can muster more and better ships than the British Alliance; but they are not in such good order.

Every one knows that the war will be over quickly as all three of their governments are nearly bankrupt. The players represent the naval committees of Spain, France and England. Using a hex based map, the game is run using a semi rigid kriegsspiel.

John Curry: THE FARM

90 mins: 1-6 participants

The British army has advanced over the Pyrenees into France in 1814 and the long war is about to end. After a small misunderstanding over goods belonging to a French farmer, you were given an option to prevent a court martial; retrieve a cannon that was left behind in yesterday’s skirmishing by a farm over the next ridge.

Players represent one character in the game. Using the Tabletop simulator software, you can only see from ground level, the game is using the Donald Featherstone Skirmish rules. An Irish soldier, a Scottish soldier, an English soldier etc. led by an upper-class English officer. What could possibly go wrong? The game is a manual first person shooter.


2 hours: 4-7 participants

Ever since Tim Gow brought NATO Brigade Commander to COW many, many years ago, we've been using it run games at the Sheffield club. These have ranged from very modern (Gulf Wars 1 and 2), through traditional Cold War games and also many WW2 games.

During lockdown we've found it works very well for remote gaming as it is grid based and combined with its 'unit at a time' activation mechanism, it helps mitigate the issues of large groups trying to communicate over Zoom.

I'll be running a small game, typical of the ones we've been running since March, which covers the US 84th Infantry Division attacking the Westwall in late 1944.

Active roles for up four US players, three German players and as many observers as can be accommodated sensibly.

Potential players should indicate a preference for sides when booking so I can send out the right briefings.


3 hours: Up to 6 participants

A science fiction role-play adventure set in a 1980s vision of the far future, and soon to be published by Drive Thru RPG.


Details to follow.



A session on the Portable Wargame and how it can be used virtually during lockdown. To include the origins of PW, variations on the original (Bob’s idea being that it is a toolkit which can be amended in all sorts of ways), PW campaigns, and above all, how we have adapted it for use online to play virtual games during the lockdown.

Possible followed by a few turns of a game just to show how it works in practice.

John Bassett: VALKYRIE

2 hours: 4-6 participants

A matrix game of the attempted Berlin putsch against Hitler on 20 July 1944.

"That's the last thing I need" - Albert Speer, 20 July 1944.

Any fully paid-up member of Wargame Developments (WD) or anyone who has been a member within the last two years may register to take part in the Virtual COW (VCOW). WD members may also invite guests to attend.


  1. This looks like it would be a fun event to participate in.

    I happen to live amongst the Sioux (the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes...although they call themselves the Oyate), on a reservation.

    There is a local museum that has a bow that was used at Little Bighorn, and a number of other items, in my small town.

    About 45 minutes away, there is a much larger museum that covers a lot of the history from the late 1800s to about the 1960s, about life on the res.

    1. Justin Penwith,

      I’m hoping that VCOW2021 will be as successful as the last VCOW.

      It sounds as if you live in a very interesting place, surrounded as you are by so much culture, and with two museums within a relatively short distance.

      All the best,


    2. Well, "museum" is relative. They are quite small in comparison to most any other museum I have been in.

      I only mentioned it because one of the events listed in your post, the buffalo hunt.

    3. Justin Penwith,

      In my experience, smaller museums almost always have something unique that makes visiting them.

      All the best,


  2. Lots of fascinating games, we are spoilt for choice!

    1. Tradgardmastare,

      There are quite a range of session on offer at this year’s conference,

      Hopefully there will be an online session booking system in place in the near future.

      All the Best,


  3. Looks great - when can we start signing up for the sessions?


    1. Simon,

      I should imagine that you’ll be able to sign up for sessions in a fortnight or so.

      All the best,


  4. So you guys in the UK are about 5 hours ahead of us on the east coast USA. What time will these events begin being broadcast by zoom? Some of these look interesting enough for me to pay for a membership.

    1. Mr. Pavone,

      Last year’s timetable should give you some idea as to when sessions will take place.

      I hope that you can join us for part of VCOW, if not all of it.

      All the best,


    2. Thanks Bob, that's very helpful! I may see about signing up for a digital membership if that'll do the trick.

    3. Mr. Pavone,

      Glad to have been of assistance!

      All the best,


    4. I just paid for a WD membership. That'll let me join VCOW2021 if I understand correctly, or do I have to pay the 5 pound admission fee also? I can cover that if the latter is the case. Any idea when the actual schedule will be posted? I need to keep my scout patrol activities in mind as well.

    5. Mr. Pavone,

      I have processed your membership of WD, and you should have already received the necessary password to be able to access and read this year's copies of THE NUGGET. Your membership entitles you to attend VCOW, but that will cost another £5.00.

      May I suggest that you have a look at the last VCOW programme (VCOW2020) to get some idea of the timings, allowing - of course - for the time difference between the UK and the USA. The actual VCOW2021 programme looks as if it will be finalised at some point next week (I have a Zoom meeting tomorrow about it), at which point you will be able to decided if you can attend.

      All the best,



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