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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Anodyne phrases of advertising blurb.

What is it with so called "professional" organisations these days. You ask 'em a question and they fob you off with bland gobbledegook interspersed with a lecture on how wonderful they are- designed to leave you feeling that if YOU don't think they are wonderful it must be your fault.
Let me explain

Last week I received my copy of Miniature Wargames- the one with the Salute programme in it.  Now this has nothing at all to do with the magazine which was well up to scratch but rather with an advert placed within the Salute programme for the Derby Worlds show in early October.Which has a new ordganiser.....
 Seeing the advert I thought all was well. So imagine my discomfiture when a bare 24 hours later I received an email with the trade stand application form to find that
 a/. the venue had been changed- so was not the one in the advert.
b/. the stand price had risen by almost 20%
c/. almost no explanation was given for the above except to say that "the new owners of the old venue had decided against hosting large events"

Now the new venue-Hanger 42 at Brintingthorpe Lutterworth Leicstershire actually looks pretty good being large and spacious though somewhat out in the sticks which may prove problematic for some (I've so far found no mention of public transport links) and I'm told- not by the organisers that nearby accommodation is thin on the ground so there will be travelling.
 Now I understand that the organisers may have been put between a rock and a hard place but do they say any of this NO we just get how utterly splendid the new venue is and how utterly wonderful it is all going to be provided we all toe the line.

Now as it happens I had a question to do with stand prices and layout as the form was not entirely clear so  I emailed them and did I get an answer - well sort of but again couched in advertising BS which I found infuriating after all I've only been in the trade for 26 years and I know nothing (except the smell of bullshit when it is being spread)

 So whats a chap to do? Well my usual 18foot frontage stand has gone up to £440 and others are of course in proportion. I know of 2 past traders who have told me they are not doing it and I don't blame them.. The likely turnover is such that - with other expenses factored in  (you are spending well over a grand before you have sold a soldier)- that  even breaking even is a risk let alone making a few quid.
 So this year- assuming I attend- still the most likely- I'll cut my stand to 12 feet and only take the 15mm and 10mm ranges. Customers will need to pre-order any 25mm stuff. Now as it happens the majority of sales for the past couple of years have been Blue Moon 15mm so it may not be a bad move and it will save me about £400 or so as I'll drop a staff member too. as there is not room for 3 behind a 12 footer.
 Now I'm still thinking about this but I'm certain that the new broom has not swept cleanand that a new venue- however pretty- won't solve all the problems especially if the punters can't get there but mainly  trying to paper over the cracks with bullshit does not work - well not here anyway.

Sunday 19 March 2017

Small action between York and Lancaster

Yesyerday saw the gathering of the T.W.A.T.S. for the March meeting at our usual haunt and watering hole. As I mentioned in the previous post the game was to be a 40mm Wars of the Roses encounter.
 I decided to use Tony Clipsom's "Foray" ruleset for the reasons outlined in the previous post.
 I've concluded that  my biggest bitch with the whole rampant system - the 2 versions I have being Lion Rampant and Pikmans Lament- is organisational  rather than the actual "game mechanisms". But having said that I realise as I type that in those 2 sets the silly non-historical  organisations are PART of the game mechanism  which for me makes a total non- starter when those organisations are as ridiculous (in historical terms) as the "Rampant" ones are. Obviously medieval small unit organisation - laregly decimal . The English for example had under officers called Vintenars (leader of 20) and cantanars (leaders of 100) and of course there were companies of 20 or 50 in other armies as well as the smaller "organisations" of lower retinues- so the base everything around 6 and 12 whilst saying almost in the same breath that one  model soldier is one man is of course total cobblers. The same basic premise holds for lament and no 17th century organisations were NOT based on 6 and 12  though it holds slightly better here than in the medieval period since quite often  in the ECW a "file" was actually 6 men- though sometimes it was 8 or 10 men to the file. Of course that did not always obtain in other armies.
Shaun site behind his Yorkist forces drawn up on their hill. 

So putting away various forms of Rampant we move on to Foray which  is far more flexible organisationally speaking and yet overall is about the same complexity level  having quite a retro feel to it.
 Present for the game were 4 members Myself, as Umpire. Theatrical Steve , Mechanical Shaun and Andrew the Tekkie. Table set up was two roughly parallel ridges running more or less diagonally across the table separated by a valley with a road running through it down to a river which as it happened never featured in the game.  The Yorkists under Shaun drew up in one body on the larger and higher of the two ridges.. The Lancastrians were in 2 bodies of roughly equal size one commanded by Steve and the other by Andrew- Andrews force was drawn up on the smaller ridge and Steve's in the grounds of the small manor house.

Part of the Lancastrian array under Steve. 
Along Archery dual  ensued after it bacame clear that Shaun was nailed to his ridge. He concentrated on Steve's troops . This allowed Anrew to shoot him up a bit without relpy and in the end some truly bum dice meant that he lost about half of his archers with comparatively small loss to the Lnacastrians.
The other Lancastrian wing under Andrew.
The Hand of Shaun - descends from the Heavens to advance for the crunch. 

Now the Lancastrians advanced and having little choice the Yorkists moved towards  Steve's contingent.. A fierce melee in the centre resulted in Shaun's leader taking a hit but refusing to yeild. However morale results fored a halt on the Lancastrians so Shaun broke contact as  his right retreted andAndrew came up to outflank him. With only his left wing more or less intact - but a little outflanked Shaun conceded the game.
Headless theatrical Steve ponders as the Yorkists advance. 
 The outflanking move goes in - Job done for the Lancastrians. 

Now this was a pretty short game by our standards lasting a little over 2 hours of actual play- with breaks for hot Pork Butties and chips- and beer and an overlong set up time simply because I was winging it and had prepared nothing as I expected to be playing in an AWI game. However Jim had been called to work at the last minute I was suddenly in the chair.
 Despite this all want well and with a bit of tweaking these rules could be really tasty. Indeed there may be other versions about by now as I got these from a  Yahoo group some few years ago and the file says "test version 1.1 "
 Nevertheless I'm much encouraged by this game and want another bash with more troops.
 This will happen at the Durham show on June 11th this year for certain- but maybe we'll get another game in before then.

Friday 17 March 2017

Rampant Foray?

 I've been dropped in it at very close to the last minute so instead of being 15mm AWI the next T.W.A.T.S  game will be 40mm Wars of the Roses  That will be tomorrow. First time out for my 40mm collection in this period and a good chance to test 2 alternative sets of rules. Even if I do have to wing it a bit.
 Tony Clipsom's "Foray" and- though I hate to say it "Lion Rampant."
 Now on reading my preference is for Foray as it actually assumes you are an adult and has at least some flavour of small scale medieval warfare. They are simple but not simplistic and very open ended. Unit sizes are elastic and there is no straitjacket of a points system. Almost the very opposite of Rampant. They may actually take some thought.
The first of Lord Clifford's retinue.
 I've been adding figures to this collection on and off for a while so that now I'm just a few short of 100 finished models with more on the painting table.

Edward IV retinue- well the first batch anyway. More to do of these.

I'm pretty chuffed with how they are coming out. iI have the Earl of Suffolk's men on the go too. Not having to stick to a hidebound set of rules means I can do whatever size units and groups I like rather than the 6 or 12 of Lion Rampant. Flexibility is the key.

These chaps will of course be added to each retinue as needed as leaders or characters.

So we will see what tomorrow brings.  I'll let you know of course.

Close up of the various Knights and Men-At Arms. 

Thursday 16 March 2017

In the "Age of the Games Designer."...

There has - it has to be said- something of a gap in my blog posts. There are a couple of reasons for this
 1/. After a slowish start March has gone mental.  The NEW Blue moon ECW range - absolutely wonderful stuff even though I'm  biased-  is selling well the new cavalry and guns are really nice.
2/. Perhaps more to the point. I couldn't think of anything to say.
 Now I hear gasps of disbelief from my Gentle readers. What Big Andy not opening his face to give forth? Has he died ?Does the Sun still move in its wonted course?
 Well yes all is well. It is simply that I'm perhaps having a small bout of wargaming boredom.
 But having said tht see my previous "The past still blasting" and go to the link for Tantobie Internet Tattler  Now on that fine blog you will find a post "Blast from the Past", at the end of the post one of the comments by "Norm"  said  of older magazines

In the first instance, the magazines were the fabric or the glue of the gaming community, especially those not involved with a club. They were the beginning of people by example showing others how to do things in a better way. They did give a strong sense that they were written by wargamers for wargamers. 

 Now I'm not sure I completely agree with that though there is no doubt that magazines were more important back then- Some of the writers were not wargamers- this especially true of articles in  Military Modelling , Airfix Magazine ,Battle and later - to an extent Practical Wargamer.
But also

 that the hobby was actually already pretty sophisticated back then and in that regard, those magazines can still have a modern feel re their content.

 That latter comment set me thinking. For a start, in my view, the hobby has lost much of it's past sophistication- at least as far as much of the "mainstream" is concerned. Of course it depends upon what you mean by sophistication.
The articles in  the magazines  of the 70's and 80's were often significantly more sophisticated and had more depth  that the frequently shorter simpler pieces that are printed today. Rules were frequently more sophisticated than many of today's simplistic offering. Try comparing the 1978 medieval skirmish set "Retinue" with the  child like simplicity of Lion Rampant. or WRG's 1685-1845 set with say "Black Powder"  or  "Firefly" with "Bolt Action" .
This of course is not to say anything about "better" or "worse"  or even Norm's holy grail of commercial success. Let's face it some 1970's rules were almost unplayable and production values were certainly less sophisticated as there were no pretty pictures. But I'm not always sure that today's market is any more sophisticated or  discerning that that of the 70 and 80s. Different yes , more fractured yes and of course the influence of Fantasy and Sci-Fi  "gaming" has been huge and not always to the good.
 If anything  the "game designers"  of this genre have a lot to answer for as Richard Clarke points out in his piece "Sigmoid Curve" in WSS 88. I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with his premise and not simply for WW2. There is a lot of twaddle uttered by "game designers" - who seem to be a different breed from old fashioned "rules writers" . I'd put it like this a "game designer"  wants to design a playable game he can sell and all sorts of stuff will be subordinated to that end. A rules writer wants to produce a set of rules for a given historical period. that reflect warfare in that period. Now obviously there are shadings here Mr Clarke for instance calls himself a games designer but places himself firmly in the historical camp and backs this with evidence citing his set "Chain of Command" which I have not played but have heard lots of good things about from chaps whose opinions I respect.
 We are now in the "Age of the Game Designer" where it appears that the game is far far more important than anything else- except the sales figures of course. Otherwise why would so much lightweight crap even exist, often seemingly re-cycled in a prettier box at a higher price.
 Now I will take issue with Mr Clarke over one point. He blames the lack of realism in many rules on companies who wish to sell lots of toys that players can put on the table all at once and since these companies also sell the game rules .... then draw your own conclusions. Now I'm not saying he's wrong but tarring all model companies with the same brush is somewhat out of order.
 Old Glory for example do not really produce rules or games. We are a Model Soldier company. Most of the rules we sell come from other sources or are very period specific.. We view then as an adjunct to the soldiers rather than as an engine for selling soldiers. There are a good bundle of Soldier Companies in our world who do not make games at all. The "games company" is one of the unforseen circumstances of the Sci- Fant influence. The "Official Miniatures" line  and similar marketing tripe has had perhaps a pernicious influence out of all proportion in the minds of some of our brethren.
 So MARKETING is far more sophisticated than it was in the 70s and 80s so we come full circle back to the original point, But is marketing all there is to our hobby- I leave that answer to you Gentle Readers.

A little later.
 I've just seen Perry's latest- "TravelBattle"-  on TMP Good Grief! now we have 8mm plastic figures on a pre-coloured pre-everything plastic board. Why  do we need this. I can see that it will add  to God's Anointed Perry's bank balance but if you are that sad that you "need" to take something like this on your hols  for a "gaming fix" then  you may need medical help- or perhaps if you work away - as I did you can play with yourself in your hotel room (and yes all smutty puns intended.) You still may need medical help.
. This feeds directly into the ideas noted above Yet more "Wargaming Lite" at the expence of Featherstone's "intellectual pursuit".
 and no I won't be spending over 50 notes on such a box of twaddle.
 Any spare Nifties I have about the place will be spent on useful stuff such as a third leg......

Saturday 4 March 2017

The Past- still blasting .

 Found a very interesting post on my good friend Andrew the Tekkies blog this morning

Now Andrew is somewhat younger than I or most of the rest of our group and I found his views on the earlier manifestations of our hobby fascinating. I've already commented on his blog so rather than repeat myself I'd  advise chaps to go and have a butchers.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Rearguard action at Utterly Edge

So there I was setting up the table for the latest T.W.A.T.S meeting yesterday when it cam to me. A question. Why are some wargamers so bloody boring? It must be in the genes- we all do it from time to time especially when riding our own pet hobby horse. Now I'd just had the latest WI drop on the mat and frankly it is tedious  full of "rules spotlights" and sycophantic twaddle about how wonderful the new Perry western desert stuff is. The whole mag was an exercise in product placement. Now you'd expect a bit of that but somehow this issue went over the top. There were a couple of interesting bit- making tents in 10mm and some nice stuff on the last weeks of the Reich - focusing on the Panzer Test facility and its extempore Panzer company. I would have liked more of this  However overall the tone was pretty childish again or rather patronising. It  sometimes seems to me as if the various writers would rather be thought "cool" than educated. Sorry to say this but this is the unforseen, pernicious influence of  SCI-FANT specifically GW and its fanboys and copycats. Even Henry Hyde's column- actually quite thoughtful -has pictures of bloody Airfix all over it.
 What is this bloody obsession with childhood
 This is all a long way from the "intellectual pursuit" that Featherstone aspired to in Advanced Wargames. And by God it is so repetitive and boring .

However back to the plot. I was in the chair for this month's game so I decided on a follow up to the Battle of Shyterly Moor -see earlier post-  I thought I'd use Pike and Shoote for the game this time as I'd had them a while- even read them- but not actually played.
 Time pressure meant I never made specific briefings but no worries I thought  the forces are all in their boxes and aside from detaching a couple of units frOm the Parliamentarian side to simulate losses from the previous engagement  all was set.
The field of battle before anyone turned up.

By Gum You could lose the will to live trying to find stuff in Pike and Shotte- what a faff- even though I 'd read them- and yes bits READ very well. Playing was so bloody slow with all that IGOUGO each player issuing orders 1 at a time by the end of move 1 we had terminal ennui.
 So I switched to  faster set.... WRG....  Well it was the only other set I had to hand.
The Royalists advance.

The actual enagagment was a follow from the Battle of Shyterly Moor  on so the Roundheads had troops deducted to simulate campaign losses- their Cuirassiers had a proper smacking last time out so declined to play this time as had 1 of their foot regiments. However they were reinforced by 2 more companies of militia shot and a couple of guns.
Royalist Horse and Dragoons bimbling about. 

 They had a distinct terrain advantage as I decided to base the scenario loosely upon the battle of Adwalton moor, so the Roundheads had a hedgeline to defend which, while gapped in parts was a significant obstacle to the somewhat more numerous Cavaliers.
Floating Jeff took the Cavaliers and Jim and Shaun the Roundheads
 Quire quickly after the tedious first turn the game became a right slogging match. Strange to say but the roundheads kept about half of their shot in reserve and the brunt was born by the 4 D class militia musketeer units. They stood to it manfully. Giving at least as good as they got and often better.
 The battle developed into a long firefight with only the superior Royalist Artillery giving them any kind of edge.
The Parliamentarians sit safe behind their hedges

 As the afternoon wore on  a unit of royalist horse finally put in a charge against some exposed roundhead shot and after a 2 move fight sent them packing and pursued- only to be hit by the Rounhead horse and sent off in turn. The better controlled roundheads did not pursue and this allowed Jim with the Roudhead right wing to break contact and beat an orderly retreat declaring that he had done enough. The rest of the Rounheads followed suit albeit in a somewhat more disorderly manner abandoning guns and baggage.
The Royalist horse finally make a move. 

 The Royalist - having had a stinging slap in the face contented themselves with collecting more abandoned Roudhead guns and more importantly enough powder for another battle.
 The Roundheads fell back on their fortified base at the town of Utterly.
 But nest time we'll use Forlorn Hope ....