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Monday 10 June 2019

The Battle of Bad Schmelling June 8th 1709, Durham Wargames Group Show Game 2019

So, Gentle Reader, the morning of June 8th dawns and somewhat later that that awfully early time Jim the Builder and I load up the gear in the piddling rain  for our Demo game at the Durham Wargames Group's annual Open Day which as an  annual event has been running for something close to  40 years. As a past member of the group I recall organising  two or 3 of the events in the early 80s and I was by no means the first to do so. Equally I recall putting on Demos - as a member at that time. I recall the Battles of Nevilles Cross and the Battle of Ghinnis as well as a medieval Chevauchee and doubtless there were others that have slipped my mind. So although a small event it has a certain longevity though  it has fallen a little from its high point in the 1980s. Of that more later but for now back to Jim and I in the rain .

 Yes it is a wet and windy June morning as we meet up with Mechanical Shaun and Floating Jeff to unload- up comes Theatrical Steve and our team for today is complete. Liam - aka Garth is also supposed to be here but is stuck in Kendal with mechanical difficulties  awaiting the AA . So the five of us set up the game on its 10 feet by 6 feet table with around 800 15mm Marlburians- all Blue Moon 15mm and mostly painted and organised by Jim in the last year. I provide a few units as well as most of the terrain so this is a co-operative effort but with Jim definitely in the chair as Umpire .
Early in the action. The Allied guns find the French Infantry. 

As it happens the game was a little cracker- even though I came second -Floating Jeff's legendary dice throwing eventually proving my undoing. Jim based the scenario on the battle of Creveld from the Seven years war. Apparently this meant my outnumbered British - with Prussian and Danish  help had to cross a river in the face of a French army  while a Durch force appeared on the French Flank unbeknown to the French high command. We we almost got away with it . The French slightly outnumbered our whole force and Mechanical Shaun - as the Dutch commander  pressed them hard, forcing the French to divert troops  to protect their   flank and rear. Meanwhile I tried to cross the river in two placeS and despite routing two French battalions with some fearsome artillery fire it was never really on the cards until the last move when I finally got  Dumbarton's regiment across  and into the French- only to lose the melee  against Jeff 's usual  highly inappropriate dice rolling.. It was really nip and tuck and a fine time was had by all. Rules were a slightly modified version of Warfare in the Age of Reason. A set I have always liked and have used for many sub-periods within the 18th century. It can take modification without upset and is not so hyped up on its own cleverness of mechanism that it ever becomes less than sipmple to use or obscure in meaning.
The Dutch put pressure on the French flank and rear.
Dumbarons Regiment prepares for it assault

Now As to the show- well frankly  I have seen better. Usually for a small local event Durham gets pretty packed . The crowd was very sparse this year but then the weather was unseasonably awful. Having said that though there was a certain lack of games and a lot of empty space in the main hall. When I went in the only sound was that of my own footsteps ! . There were two scruffy looking games at the far end of the hall- cluttered and uninteresting. One was Cruel seas - looked hasty like a normal club night game put on half and hour before the players arrive. - Can't even recall what the other one was. . Over in the bowls pavilion there was a game of the Russian assault on Bhokara which was interesting and unusual. Typical of Conrad Cairns and his friends nice one Dudes. A static display of the so called "Battle" of Piercebridge in 1642 looked nice but in 2mm was barely visible to the naked eye despite the effort that had gone into the scenery. The actual encounter was a   skirmish involving the Hull roundheads trying to stop a much larger Royalist force  crossing the River Tees.  Since they only had a couple of infantry companies and a troop or two of horse they failed .  However the display looked very nice. It was obvious some effort had been expended.
"There are more of us than you "- chant the French as Prussian and Danish troops move up to cross the river. 

There simply were not enough games.  The main hall as I mentioned had 2 small games- both less than 6 feet by 4  both lacking in anything resembling effort at any kind of display . Both about as eye catching as a party political broadcast.. I have no idea who was running/hosting them and I don't care.
The French main battle lineas it shifts to counter the Dutch.

 Surely the local groups can do better for a local show with such a long history.. After all it is not as if the NE is short of wargamers. But perhaps that is not the right question. Perhaps the question should be "Can the NE supply a sufficiency of wargamers who are willing to put some effort into a demo or PP game at a small show such as Durham?" Has the local hobby become so utterly introverted that it can't be bothered to do anything other than play -in private-  on four foot square tables- I can't answer that and I am also aware that petty local bickering  has sometimes had its effect. I only  know our group does not follow THAT pattern, after all in the last few years we have managed to do a Demo at the Durham show is lots of different periods and scales of which our 15mm Marlburian game was only the latest. In the past we have done 28mm ECW, 40mm ACW, 20mm Modern, 15mm Modern, 1/600th Naval, 10mm Seven Years War, 28mm Seven Years War and 40mm Wars of the Roses. All this from a group with no more than 6 regular members plus the occasional guest. For next year we are looking at 28mm Indian Mutiny and before anyone sneers behind their hands  "well they have the resources of Old Glory UK behind them - only partly true- the models still have to be made and painted, scenarios  worked out,. EFFORT put in for what has for us always been an enjoyable day. A few cheaper soldiers does not a demo game make. The chaps still have to turn up, still have to have some enthusiasm for what they do .

 Not sure what the dozen or so traders made of it- I did not have my traders hat on  so didn't ask. Not that I would anyway.. I spent more on a roud of beers than I did on toys. A secondhand copy of C.S. Grants book Wargames Campaigns and a can of white spray primer- for buildings I brush prime figures- was my lot. Though I was tempted both by Hoka Hey wargaming's Elizabethans and by Reiver Castings French revolutionary Wars British I resisted- at least for now .....

 Now I and  the rest of our group did enjoy the day and will be ready to do another demo next year if we are invited. Yes the show needs a bit of a shot in the arm but no it should not merely wither away like so many others. It deserves better.


  1. Nice looking game, and totally fair point about the effort involved in putting these together. Question though, and I ask this simply in the context of your repeated insistence that younger/newer players like simple/mechanism run/dumb wargames: why a demo (I play with my friends) and not a PP (I invite others to play my game)?

    1. Simple answer. I don't want Joe Thumbfingers smashing up the carefully painted gear it has taken Jim especially and me a little bit lots of effort to put together. The problem with many- though not the best- PP games I have seen is that they sometimes end up as a creche so Daddy can go and buy his toys. Also these days many "games players" simply don't have the background knowledge nor do they want such. To many there is no discernable difference between a bunch of goblins and Dumbartons Regiment of Foot. Also most PPgames have to be of short duration- an hour or less as the American pattern of show wargaming simply does not fit very well into the usual British show format (If it did then things might change somewhat) which in itself is very limiting. There are only a certain number of things you can do in a 6 hour or so show format. BTW it its not about mechanisms- AOR is a pretty simple system that works well for the 18th century. If it is about anything it is about the unwillingness of many games players to acquire- or care- about the needed background knowledge that does not smack them in the face in the rulebook. It is about the unwillingness of many to actually put any effort into what they are supposed to be interested in. It is not even about period. It takes just as much effort- possibly more- to put on a good quality Fantasy or Sci-Fi game but no effort at all to play many of these Lamentably Rampant "skirmish-a-likes" that seem so popular.

    2. You should probably have stopped after the first sentence. Because pretty much everything after that smacks of snobbery. "They" are not smart enough to "get" your game. Your game is "Malburian" themed. The troop types therefore are cannon, which are immobile but can fire at stuff, infantry, which can move and fire, and cavalry, which charge at things. My nephews (13 and 15) could probably handle that. They might even be interested enough to dig into analog games rather than the computer games they usually play. Heck, they might even be inspired to read more about history. But, and here’s the thing, they aren’t going to want to stand around and watch you play…

    3. Missing the point again I am not aiming at children. I have never considered the hobby SOLELY for children despite the marketing obsession with them. Don't care if they watch or not . Don't want to force anyone to engage as they have the choice but will make an effort if they wish to engage. Your categorisation of "Malburian"(sic) is over simplistic and inaccurate- obviously deliberately so for reasons of reverse snobbery and speaks to exactly the kind of stuff I would personally prefer to avoid but which is in some areas seemingly so popular. Now if your are 13 then perhaps a version of lamentable rampant is what you need but when you are 43 ? I choose otherwise and if that is snobbery in your blinkered view so be it. There should be room for all but your over reliance on commercial popularity to decide merits is - for me- too narrow we merely demonstrate other choices

    4. I do enjoy a good 'straw man' argument, and I must confess I do enjoy these occasional conversations with you. so... straw men; 1. I have never suggested that this is a game solely for children. neither have I suggested that you should go Rampant (!) I have simply stated that the basic elements of a 'Horse and Musket' game can be broken down into cannon, infantry, and horse. They do different things, and those things can be easily communicated to someone new to wargaming (and I think I have Charles Grant on my side here). Quite what they do with that new knowledge.... well, isn't that part of the fun?
      2. my reliance on commercial popularity.... I'm not sure where this comes from? I don't sell toys or rules, so I literally have no dog in this. You do. which is why I asked, are you inviting people to play, or simply showing?

  2. A little later ...... More thoughts occur.
    1/. My - and our group's- hobby is not merely about the dice rolling. As I have said numerous time on this blog if the gaming was all there was to this then I wouldn't bother as I find gaming alone pretty damned tedious. It is also about the modelling and the presentation and yes the look of the thing. Equally if I WAS a games player then I wouldn't go near toy soldiers as there are far far easier ways of playing wargames You choose to ignore that.
    2/. The short show format limits what you can do. PP games as I said are usually pretty short- you choose to ignore that too. At US shows chaps hosting games usually tell you how long it will take and how many players etc. I have seen this done in the UK but only rarely and always at 2 day shows. You complain because I choose not to follow a format that suits you view of the hobby- though I have run PP games in the past and we do have guests playing at our one show game of the year. The standard UK PP format holds precisely no interest for me or the other group members.
    Lets face it these are areas we are never going to really agree upon- though that does not stop the discussion being interesting. You approach is very very different from mine and far more game-centric than mine.

    1. Well... dah... of course there is more to it than simply dice rolling. for simply dice rolling, I can go play craps at the local casino - might even make some money. Your photos show beautifully painted and based miniatures on really nice terrain boards. I know how much time that takes. I neither ignore, nor complain, about anything. I simply asked, given your oft stated concern that the hobby is going to hell in a commercial handbasket, if these lovely figures and terrain were going to be up for new players to get involved. the answer, apparently, is no.

    2. Why- since most of them belong to others should they be AUTOMATICALLY be "up for new players" TANSTAAFL. Again you avoid the issue but to be fair some of this is chickens and eggs- yes we have guest players some are new to historicals- I have already said this in other posts. This year the expected guests didn't make but check out previous Durham show games.. Are your mythical "new players" prepared to take a serious part? If not- at a show- then they might be better off with their Zombies or an hour but again the British show format does not really fit large traditional games being PP - unlike the format at US shows I have attended and indeed played at. Most British PP games - indeed all of those I have seen are of much shorter duration with simpler scenarios most often fantasy or sci-fi- though not always- anf most bore the arse off me straw man or not.
      Also bear in mind that while in principle I might agree with your PP above all premise at least some of the time that in this case practicality does not support you. The rest of the group would have to agree- they don't work for me they are volunteers. I wasn't running the game so I had no dog directly in this either- not this year or last though I have in SOME other years.
      Idf the time and space and boredom problem could be solved there is no intrinsic reason why guests should not play- provided that THEY also make a commitment . Can they do that?

  3. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch! love it - never seen that before. slightly curious still as to the 'issue' you think I am avoiding? Is it connected to free lunches? We should probably bring this conversation to a close. I love that blogs now allow wargamers across the world to chat about stuff; I hate that body language, tone, are hard to put across in comments (and I am no Shakespeare). my point was simply this; in your blog, you constantly rail against the dumbing down of wargaming. You cite your TWATS as exemplars of a more historical approach. Simulation and game, rather than just game as game, if you like. Personally, I have a lot of sympathy with that first philosophy, and like to think that my games are based in historical fact. And so I was curious as to whether at conventions you used your games to bring people in and share your philosophy directly by having them actually play, or whether you thought just watching a game, for hours, would achieve the same thing by some kind of osmosis. Clearly, the answer is osmosis. Good luck with that!

    1. TANSTAAFL was simply put in to show that the idea that unknown quantities can simply turn up and play is not in our lexicon. but other wise that is actually pretty close to our attitude- though perhaps as you say lack of body language make the mere words appear a little over serious. . I rail against the commercial dumbing down as in my view it limits choice. All these gamey games look the same to me . The various Rampants are virtually idenetical for example - . As despite my waspishness there are plenty of chaps out there who don't dumb down and who do have the knowledge and yes we do engage whenever we can. I don't particularly hold us up ans any kind of example- merel show how we choose to play and what we do and do not choose to do. I am certainly no kind of paragon and neither are the rest of the lads. As a final line- If you choose to or agree with our approach fine say hello Join in if not equally fine Variety is the spice.