Saturday 31 July 2010

Operazione C3 / Herkules - The invasion of Malta 1942

The recently deceased Paddy Griffith, who had previously run a number of games (Operation Seelowe - the invasion of Britain 1940, the invasion of Crete 1941 and the 1940 Norwegian campaign) at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, was due to run another such event on 16 October 2010.

I am happy to be able to report that the game will go ahead, and with the help of Paddy's notes (kindly sent on to me by his son, Robert) a group including myself, Jerry Elsmore, John Drewienkiewicz, Adam Poole and Richard Clarke will design and run the event.

The game will deal with the planning and execution of the Axis invasion of Malta in 1942.  Players will represent military, naval and political leaders.  Brirish, Maltese, Italian and German interests will be represented.  A team of umpires will set the scene and keep the game on track.

For booking details please see the Duxford website.
You must book with Duxford in the first instance and then contact me for briefing details etc.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

John G Robertson

Another death to report I'm afraid.

I have today attended the funeral of John Robertson (known to many as 'JR'), the well known Dundee based wargamer and historian.  John died following a long illness on Monday 19 July at the age of 75.

I will post a longer piece on John's life another time.  For now I will simply say that I have said a reluctant farewell to a great friend and mentor. 

The funeral was attended by a number of John's wargaming proteges, including Paul Jenkins, John Munro, Billy O'Rourke, Richard Proctor, Stuart Riddick, Ady Blake and Tom McCafferty.  Paul, John and I made an emotional visit to JR's attic wargames room - still a source of wonder and excitement after all these years.

John is survived by his wife Morina, daughter Pamela and grandson Owen.  My thoughts are with them.

Friday 23 July 2010

The Battle of Cunaxa - 401 BC

This was another battle played using Phil Sabin's Strategos (or Lost Battles) rules.  The historical battle was fought between The King of Kings, Artaxerxes II and his brother Cyrus who had risen in revolt in order to try to grab the throne.  Althought most of the troops present were Persian levy units, Cyrus had engaged a force of Greek mercenaries which were represented as 10 Veteran Hoplite units. 

A good source for the is Xenophon's 'The Persian Expedition' which devotes a chapter to the battle.  I highly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in the period - very readable and real 'boys own' adventure stuff!

I played Artaxerxes and Martin Rapier was the revolting Cyrus.  All the toys were Baccus 6mm from my collection.  Photos were all taken from Artaxerxes' side of the table.

Below - The King of Kings army is already deployed with scythed chariots on the left and the King himself top right.  Cyrus is still arriving.

The King of Kings (in the chariot) with cavalry bodyguard.
Hoplites advance screened by Persian light troops.
Battle is joined.  The black counters mark the 'key zones' for Cyrus (left) and Artaxerxes (right).  Red counters mark 'spent' units.  The King's left wing is looking OK although the centre and right are under pressure from hordes of Hoplites.  Cyrus has died a traitor's death leading his bodyguard against the King.
The King of Kings leads his bodyguard against some rare veteran cavalry and more hoplites.

Crisis!  Artaxerxes has perished heroically at the head of his army and the enemy advance into his key zone.  Quite a few of the King's units have by now been eliminated of run off.
Victory!  After hanging in the balance (and looking pretty bad for the King's Army), the rebel force finally disintegrates.  The Persian troops flee while the Greeks march off in good order.
Historically Cyrus was killed during the battle and his Persian troops fled while the Greeks stood firm.  The Greeks, refusing to surrender,  offered their services to Tissaphernes (a leading Persian noble and 2ic of the King's Army).  He turned them down but after inviting the Greek leaders to dine, the King had them killed.  As the Persians knew they couldn't defeat the Greeks in battle, they were allowed to march northwards and (eventually) home. 

Tuesday 6 July 2010

COW 2010 - Part 3 - Sunday

The first session I attended was Bob Cordery's talk on pioneering US wargamer Joseph Morschauser.  Bob gave us some background on Morschauser's life and outlined the rules he used.  The interesting presentation was followed by an opportunity for a number of people to play games using his rules, as Bob had set up four tables with identical terrain and figure sets. 

Below:  Bob explains a point in the rules to an attentive Richard Brooks (left) and a bewildered Tony Hawkins.  Don't worry Tone, it's the way Bob tells them!

Following this session I sat outside for a while and wrote up some notes - including some for a game after an idea came to me during Bob's presentation. 

The weather was like this pretty well all weekend:

I then took the opportunity to look round a few other sessions, including 'Return to the River Don' presented by Graham Evans.  Despite seeming (from the title) to be a game about the waterways of South Yorkshire, this was in fact the latest incarnation of Graham's Russian Civil War grand tactical rules.  A spectacular (as always from Graham) looking game, it seemed to be very popular.

I also looked in on Martin Rapier's 'Drumfire' WW1 game.  This had been extensively reported on this blog before, but it appeared that Martin had at least found some competent players...

Unlike my previous photos of Drumfire games, this was taken from the German perspective.

After lunch I attended Richard Brooks's presentation on Moltke the elder.  Moltke was the chap who from small beginnings (in the Danish Army) oversaw the rise of the professional military in Prussia throughout the third quarter of the 19th century.  Look out for Richard's book on the subject which is due to be published next year.

The conference closed with the AGM of Wargame Developments.  No additional matters arose, but both Bob and I pointed out the need to book early for COW 2011 which will be on 8-10 July 2011.  Bookings can be made via the WD website while session details should be sent to me.

My thanks once again to all who attended COW and in particular all those who ran sessions and of course the long-suffering staff of Knuston Hall.

Only 52 weeks 'till the next one!

Monday 5 July 2010

COW 2010 - Part 2 - Saturday

Saturday morning began, as always at COW with a splendid breakfast.  The first session I took part in was OP-14, presented by Richard Brooks.  Regular readers will be aware that I have done a fair bit of work on this game system myself, but I felt that it would be useful to play a game Richard was running himself.  Learning at the feet of the master, so to speak.

he scenario Richard had chosen was The Battle of Gette.  This was elements (well, most) of German 1st Army advancing from Liege to Antwerp.  The Belgian forces consisted of 1 and 3 Divisions, with 2 Div rushing to reinforce while a cavalry division formed an advanced screen.  This may not sound much but this paltry force amounts to half of the Belgian Army!

Photo - the Germans unsportingly use infernal machines to spot for their guns.
The Germans (3x Corps of the buggers!) were commanded by Bob Bowman, John Curry and Bob Cordery.  Known throughout the game as 'Two and a half Bob'.  Ian Drury appeared as von Kluck but disappeared at half time to visit his Kaiser/mistress/bookie.  The plucky Belgians were commanded by King Graham Evans (1st Div) with Gavin Parnaby (Cav Div), me (2 Div) and, er someone else (3 Div).

Photo: The Belgian 2 Div advances to contact.  In contrast to my use of 6mm toys and hexes (see my previous Op14 posts), Richard used 15mm toys and squares.  Here we see a division of 3 4-figure brigades, a 2-figure HQ stand and a (weak) artillery brigade.

The cavalry div managed to delay 2 German Corps for nearly half a day.  Here they are about to be pushed back by some Germans who were temporarily unable to find any babies to bayonet or libraries to burn.

The cavalry fall back as 2 Div rushes forward.

2 Div's situation deteriorates just before night (thankfully) fell.

While all the real action was going on, the King came under pressure from a third German corps.  Clearly, this was a great Belgian victory, as we were able to skulk off to Antwerp overnight.

During the morning tea break I was able to look in on Wayne Thomas's 'Contact Tanks East' game which used his 'Externals' game system set in 1991.  The game saw the (6mm) French Daguet Division getting stuck into the Iraquis.  Wayne's games are always worth a look and I try to play if possible.  Sadly COW always involves clashes where I want to play in at least 2 sessions as a time!  Bloody Conference Organiser!  Oh hang on, that's me....
Wayne's terrain features are always an inspiration!

French Division(?) HQ with AA and AT assets.

Saturday night saw the unveiling of two of my games.  The first was billed as 'Spock's Shameful Secret'.  Nothing to do with Sci-Fi, this game was an attempt to  recreate the Black Buck raid on the airfield at Port Stanley during the Falklands War. 

The game featured an inflatable Avro Vulcan with a crew of three.  Matthey Hartley acted as pilot, with gun-toting Chris James as bomb-aimer and Peter Grizzel as flight engineer.  10 other volunteers acted as tankers.  All aircraft were equipped with a 'fuel tank' - a plastic pint beaker with a hole drilled in the bottom.  The 'fuel' thus drained away in about 15 seconds, so the players needed to devise a refuelling plan.

My thanks to Judith Rawle and Matthew Hartley for the photos of this game.
The Victor tankers take to the skies...

The moment of crisis!  The flight engineer is jettisoned to save weight.  Well OK, he fell over.
The bombs are dropped.  The 'stick' of bombs was represented by Chris firing a burst from an automatic airsoft pistol - hence the crew's safety glasses.
The umpire displays his hand crafted scale model of the airfield and analyses the damage.  One bomb went a bit close to the runway.
The game showed how difficult it was to co-ordinate the refuelling and the sheer effort involved in getting a single aircraft to the target.  Nearly.

I then ran my 'Tank Terror' game.  This was inspired by the purchase a few months ago of some 20mm motorised tanks.  I had run a couple of playtest games where the tanks were set up an pointed at a position defended by a platoon on plastic US infantry armed with AT grenades and bazookas.  For the game at COW I was assisted by Jerry Elsmore and John Armatys.  The US players comprised (left to right) Pvts Huband. N, James. C and Cartwright. F, with Lt. Wallman. J and Cpl. Rawle. J.

The glassy-eyed diehard Nazi fanatic tank crews were represented by Lt. Rapier and Hpt Hartley.
The 10 tanks were released while the US players flung grenades (Coke cans) and fired bazookas (pens).  Players had to declare which tank they were firing at and 'dead' tanks were switched off.
In both games the infantry manged to kill all the tanks but not before the main defensive position had been overrun.  This was aggreed to be a fun game which produced real panic!

Saturday 3 July 2010

COW 2010 - Part 1 - Friday

COW 2010 is progressing well.

I arrived at Knuston Hall in the middle of the afternoon and was, as ever, warmly received by the staff including Manager Eamonn Flanagan (who fled as soon as he could) and Duty Manager Rue Herd, seen here welcoming drinkers to the bar:

In a change (one of many!) to the usual running order, on Friday evening a short event was held to commemorate the life of Paddy Griffith.  This included some comments about Paddy's contribution to wargaming by Bob Cordery and a one-minute silence. 

The weekend 'proper' commenced with 'Completely Over The Top' - our new plenary game.  This involved players being organised as a British Infantry Division (3 to a battalion), with a commanding General and a few Germans.  3 attacks were then carried out in 1916, 1917 and 1918, with various different approaches.

In 1916, there was a lengthy artillery barrage
Designed to kill or supress the Germans - including machine gun positions:

The infantry then advanced (walking slowly toward the enemy...)

The Germans, alas, were still very much alive and hardly any Brits made it to the first trench line.

In 1917 a creeping barrage was tried but the overall result was similarly dismal.  In 1918
 new technology was introduced - the tank. His Majesty's Land Ship 'Knuston' is seen here in the British assembly area.  The crew of three comprised a commander, left track gearsman and right track gearsman.
This new approach helped the British brreak through the German lines 'to the green fields beyond...'

I was then involved in running 'The End'  (see previous posts) and was then roped in to play Graham Evans 'The Elephant in the Room' - now popularly know as 'Pachyderm Down'.  I took the role of a Roman Velite attacking the elephant.  All was going stunningly well until it stamped on me....

More on Saturday's games later...

Thursday 1 July 2010

Conference of Wargamers 2010 - ready at last!

Having spent last night packing and re-packing kit for CoW, I am now pretty well ready to go.  Despite taking only 'light' sessions (i.e. - no pile of boxfiles full of toys to accomodate) there is a surprising amount of stuff to fit in the car.

While wallowing in my pre-dinner bath earlier this evening I suddenly remembered that the kit for 'The End' was still in the garage.  Bugger.  Surprisingly, after a bit of careful repacking I managed to fit it in the boot.  Oh, I do like big cars!

A planning session on Tuesday night gathered Martin Rapier, Jerry Elsmore, John Armatys and I at Martin's house to discuss the 'emergency' plenary game 'Completely Over The Top'.  Having allocated roles to some players we established that all the required equipment was in place: 4 whistles, 2 dozen cardboard rifles, 3 'Broomhandle' Mauser pistols, 2 'Maxim guns' (airsoft AK-47s with cardboard tubes over the barrels), a tin of smoke grenades and various silly hats. 

The provisional cast list is as follows:

Completely Over The Top - The Plenary Game
Kick Off Friday 8 pip emma prompt.

Chief Umpire: Rapier, M.
Technical Umpire: Gow, T
Liaison Umpire: Armatys, J
RSM: W.O.1 Elsmore

The Germans
Cordery, R.
Barker, P
Brock, D
Perry, C
Whyler, W
Young, M

The British
Major General D.W. Thomas
Lt. Colonel J. Bassett
Lt. Colonel S. Bowns
Lt. Colonel R. Brooks
Lt. Colonel I. Drury
Lt. Colonel G. Evans
Lt. Colonel M. Hartley
Lt. Colonel N. Huband
Lt. Colonel A. Kleanthous
Lt. Colonel I. Mitchell
Lt. Colonel T. Mouat
Lt. Colonel J. Salt
Lt. Colonel J. Wallman

Everyone else: an assortment of Tommies.

I plan to arrive at Knuston Hall in the middle of the afternoon in order to ensure that everything is as it should be (it will, but it's the Conference Organiser's job to be paranoid!).