Archive for July, 2013

Conference of Wargamers 2013: MySummary

The Conference of Wargamers is a group of about 100 wargamers of long standing (for which read ‘oldies’) that get together at Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire for a long weekend every year to play experimental, innovative and above all enjoyable wargames developed by the participants. For how it all started in the mists of time, see the Wargame Developments website, or alternatively just buy John Curry a drink.

This year’s gathering (5 to 7 July 2013) started with a plenary ice-breaker session run by Mike Young about the oldest war: Homo Sapiens vs Neanderthals. This involved much running around and ‘ughing’; there were two mechanics: the lower browed brethren were permitted to communicate only via grunts, whereas the intellectual side had full language. Combat did not involve clubbing each other to death – though optional inflatable clubs were carried by some. Simple numerical comparison at the point of combat drives back the inferior side. The Homo Sapiens had to kill off the Neanderthal babies by crossing off a space on plastic sheets placed around the site, while the grunters had to use their superior numbers to beat off the sapient raiders. So a simple genocide game really. Good fun on a warm (!) July eve, followed by beer and chewing the cud with folks I’d not met since my last attendance here in 2010.

I managed to sneak into Graham Evans’ talk on the Xian Terracotta Warriors. He gave a very informative and fun presentation on his recent trip to China, focusing on an in-depth review of his visit to the mausoleum of the first Qin emperor. Some very good photos brought the thing to life (as it were).

Saturday also dawned fine and began with the excellent Knuston Hall breakfast – good enough to last beyond lunch, except that in their fine tradition our hosts also provided mid-morning coffee and biscuits and a hearty lunch too. Good food and plenty of it is part of the CoW experience.

My first session was with Graham Evans again – and once again in China, but now at the time of the Taiping Rebellion. We fought a Brits v Chinese battle of 1860, using his EDNA (Ever Decreasing Numerical Allowance) based rules. They fitted the period very well, despite the contrasting fortunes of myself and Mike – in a game with dice, such vagaries are bound to happen. Though the Brits duly won the battle (EDNA d12s for true Brits, d10s for Indians, versus the Chinese d6s and Manchus d8s), there were parliamentary questions about the losses. The movement system was based on squared off terrain, which caused the odd difficulty with diagonals, resolved easily with goodwill on all sides, but I suspect might cause rather more difficult with pernickety rules lawyer types.

After lunch I played Sue Laflin-Barker’s Gentlemen Go By game, largely because it seemed rather too hot to play the War of Freedonian Succession outside, and there seemed an imbalance of players. As it happened, we managed 4 smugglers and 2 Revenue players. As a player of many Eurogame board games, this had a definite Eurogame collect-and-deliver feel, though played with minis. It worked OK, but I suspect more development and balancing is required. This type of game is a tough call.

In the evening was the first of my own two offerings: Carrier Strike! I’d run an earlier version at CoW 2010, which, though rather hand-to-mouth, had gone down quite well (thank you particularly to John Salt and Alex Kleanthous for comments back then). This new version was more fully developed with actual written down rules and even some 1/3000 scale figures. Many thanks to Chris Ager, John Armatys and Bob Plumb for being willing victims. After an explanation somewhat coloured by [state=after-dinner] the players got stuck into combat. The intro scenario is effectively ‘first blood’ on the enemy carrier. Chris and John as Blue managed to sneak a recce patrol through the inexperienced Japanese (sorry, Red) fighter screen, to spot the location of the enemy CV group. They launched a full-scale attack with 2x strike and 1x escort squadrons, which forced a hurried re-arming from Bob. He was in time to intercept with 3 CAP squadrons, which forced the escorts and one strike squadron to break off. The final strike aircraft pushed on regardless, braving heavy flak as well as CAP – 3 aircraft made it through and in a careless disregard of death smacked a bomb on one of the carriers. Although the yanks lost a few more aircraft than the japs, they’d managed to snatch a minor victory by damaging the enemy carriers while maintaining their own intact. More importantly, feedback on the current design was very positive – I look forward to measured critique in the Nugget!

Sunday morning I ran Mission Command, requiring a double-slot. Those brave enough for a complicated WW2 game early on the final day were John Salt and Rob Doel, and thanks too to Phil Barker for stalwart ‘observer status’ in the first half. It was a lively session with many a divergent conversation into the art of code names, artillery doctrine, and even French philosophy (particular thanks to John!); I learned much in many unexpected (and some expected) directions. From my point of view at least, the game worked, which was a relief, as I’m always afraid of a bomb in such august (or at least July) company. John has even volunteered to supply more info and sources on national artillery doctrines, which should be very helpful. I’ll be writing up a description of the game itself later on. Suffice it to say that the players’ party (British paras) dealt with the Hun pretty well, even though one company got caught in a kill zone.

The final session was John Curry’s entertaining Random Tales from the History of Wargaming Project, always fun with some of the ‘historical’ characters in the room!

Thanks also to all those who purchased the bring-and-buy material I brought along. I went away with nothing left.