Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Empires at War 15mm Buildings

Recently these Empires at War 15mm timber-framed ECW-ish buildings came to my attention, so I ordered the three available thinking they were DIY kits, like most mdf buildings are.  Imagine my surprise to find out that EAW assembles them for you!

They came super-quick from the UK, and thanks to Mick at EAW asking at the post office about economy postage, super cheaply for shipping.

I did have to use a bit of brush-on matte varnish to take away the shine of some glue stains, and I also used brown and black markers to cover up some spots where the originally tan-ish mdf shows through (most mdf kits have this issue, and I usually do the same thing to them too).  But otherwise they're great, and I've talked to Mick about some colour variation in the roof and/or chimney location, so I can get a few more to serve as part of my urban table for ECW skirmish gaming with Song of Drums and Shakos (my self-titled Song of Pikes and Matches variant).

So the short version is "very recommended!".

Broadsword 3 Game Convention in Hamilton

Back on May 6th I travelled through flooded southern Ontario to get to Hamilton for the third installment of the Hamilton Tabletop Gaming Society's one-day Broadsword gaming con.  They started this last year and aim to have a couple per year, held at the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Veterans Hall.

This was my first time there, I'd tried to go last year but football conflicted with it - I have seasons tickets to the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, coincidentally their arch-rivals are the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, so I decided NOT to wear my Argos gear while wandering the streets of Hamilton.

This year though, I'd promised Barnaby, who major-domos the HTGS, that I'd try to come and I'd run a game if I did so.  So I went to play in the morning and evening, and host a game of Song of Drums and Shakos in the afternoon session.

Getting there was easy enough early on a weekend morning, and I was very happy to find out the hall serves HOT FOOD ALL DAY LONG RIGHT IN THE GAMING AREA!!!!  No cold sandwiches for lunch and dinner because I can't slip away from games starting or finishing or need to get my stuff set up.  

The hall is nicely set up, though admittedly I have a certain fondness for legion halls, with two rooms for gaming during Broadsword, each with its own washroom (which I should probably put in all caps - more washroom space than Hotlead!).  The crowd was friendly, there were a few vendors there, and it was well lit too.

In the morning session I got in a game of Might of Arms, hosted as always by Mike Manning and his incredible collection of 1/72 plastic figures.  This was a generic Thirty Years War battle using his mods to take MOA into the early horse and musket period.

Three of us served as loyal Catholic Imperialists, while another three players served as those terrible protesting Protestant Swedes with their new-fangled battle formations.  In the picture below, the Imperialists are on the left, the Swedes on the right.
The view from behind the Swedish lines (no useful intelligence was gained by my efforts to spy...).  Each side had a wing of cavalry on each side, with Imperial tercios and Swedish brigades in the middle.  The Swedes also had a force of commanded shot on their left and dragoons on their right, which seems a bit dirty...
My heroic tercios!
The heart of the battle...
In the end, the Imperial cavalry on both sides was defeated, and while I'd driven off two-thirds of the Swedish front line, my tercios were too degraded to beat through the second line, and in fact one of my tercios was hung up by a small commanded shot force and couldn't even reach the Swedish second line by the time we called the game.  It was like terriers nipping at the knees of a Great Dane.

In the afternoon slot I ran Songs of Drums and Shakos again, this time the "Troubles with the Ladies of Spain" scenario I haven't gotten to at other cons.  In this, a French general was liaising with his Spanish mistress at one of her family estate's farmhouses when the two of them have a spat.  She runs off to tell the British where he is, meanwhile her maid narcs on her to the French, who send off for reinforcements.

So we have a very small force of French voltigeurs in a walled farm enclosure protecting a general who's decided the fuss isn't worth worrying about and has gone back to bed, needing five turns to get himself up, dressed, and mounted to make his escape when the British DO arrive.

The British have forces of lights and the 95th coming to apprehend (or shoot, the troops don't have a preference) the general.  At some point the French reinforcements - a small squad of mounted dragoons - will arrive.  As a four player game, versus its original two player incarnation, I just bulked up each of the four forces so they were worth about 350-400 points apiece.

For Broadsword, I finally (after about 8 years!) got some big bases of wooded terrain on the table, to go with my Dollar Store conifers; so that was my big reveal for the game.  We'll see those in the background shortly.

I had four players sign up but unfortunately one had to drop out just before the game started due to a work emergency, so the French player got to control both his starting force and his reinforcements.  

Naturally, I forgot to take pictures through most of the game, so what you'll see are just a couple of in-game shots, but more are here (about halfway down) from another attendee who documented much of what was going on there.

Midway through the game, before the dragoons came on and while the British have the upper hand.  The Lights are behind the fence in the upper right of the mat, and the Rifles are just coming out of the woods and charging towards the walled farm enclosure.

The game ended in a last-minute French victory, though it looked through must of the first two-thirds of the game like it'd be a quick romp for the British.  The French player I think was a bit overwhelmed by the rules, and I found out later (after the game!) that he couldn't reach the large QRS I had on the table, and I hadn't bothered to hand out the small one page QRS like I normally do (lesson learned!).  So he was a bit behind the others in picking up the nuances and coming up with a plan that worked within the rules system and took advantage of his troops.  The British also picked up that his reinforcements wouldn't come on the table if they didn't roll turnovers, so they worked to minimize those early in the game, but eventually the dice turned on them.

Eventually though he made a great dragoon charge against the British lights defending a livestock fence and took out most of them in the hand-to-hand combat, including their officer (who got a bit cocky and left himself at risk), and then the voltigeurs did a number of the Rifles as the general escaped behind the few surviving Frenchmen.

This is from the game end, when we called it a French victory (not many British left!):
In the evening I played a game of house-modified DBM (I think, maybe DBA!) for conventions, run by Howard who is a regular organized of DBx tournaments and gaming at southern Ontario conventions.  It was a fun game, basically three one-on-one battles side by side.  My opponent and I were really into it, with no one really ahead, when we looked up to find the game over because the Spartans (my side) had lost on the centre and right!  No pics of that unfortunately (not sure how that happened.

I do have one more pic of a great-looking Gotham table at the con:
More pics of what was going on at the con are at the link I posted above, next one is August 26th, and I don't have a football conflict this year with that weekend, so I hope to be back!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vimy Ridge Centenary Demonstration at the Canadian War Museum

Back in April, for the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, I had the privilege helping put on a wargaming display of the battle at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  Shawn Taylor, designer of the Great War Spearhead rules, and Robert Dunlop, one of the other GWSH gurus had arranged with the museum to put on the display in their front foyer on both the Saturday and Sunday (the anniversary of the start of the battle).

Shawn had flown in from Victoria BC with the figures, and Robert flew in from the UK with most of the terrain; in the days leading up to the event they carved out the underlying hills from foamboard, which they bought locally rather than fly in.  All told, it was a 10' x 6' table, representing 10km x 6km of the battlefield at GWSH's ground scale.

I showed up Saturday morning and helped set the table up, it took us most of the morning, in part because we had a fairly constant stream of visitors stopping by to take a look and ask questions.  We finally had things finished around noon, and then the visitors really started to come by.  We estimated we had 3-400 anyway just that day.

For Sunday we were able to leave every set up overnight, but by the time I arrived that morning, about 45 minutes before the museum opened, I found Shawn and Robert already swarmed by visitors.  In the end we estimated a few thousand came by to chat that day.

Funny thing is we never ended up moving any troops on the table; as originally planned we were going to step through the battle, but instead just left it set up to show the bombardment that opened the assault and the Canadians leaving their lines and tunnels.

It was a really special experience for me to help out, with some very moving moments as we met people who's great and great-great grandfathers fought there, in some cases were wounded or killed there.  We met two people, rather elderly, who's father's had fought, and one person who's uncle was killed there.  We also met one gentleman who's grandfather had fought there, in the German artillery.  In most cases we were able to find where on the battlefield they had been and show the path of their ancestor's unit.  One of my great-grandfathers was there, and I was able to do that for myself thanks to Shawn's notes.

What I found most interesting is how many people came prepared to talk about their family's involvement at Vimy with their military records on their phones, tablets, or hardcopy.  I saw several who stayed at the table for an hour or more, many came back later to see it again after being to the museum displays, from what I heard they really appreciated being able to see the entire layout and being able to pull back for a larger view after the more focused perspectives inside the museum.

I feel a bit bad for Shawn and Robert, as they would often get swarmed as the visitors realized how much knowledge they had, and they had trouble getting breaks in over the course of the days. I, on the other hand, had the luxury of being able to answer what I could and then pointing to one of them and saying "and there's the real expert if you want to know more."

Perhaps the most sobering conversation I had over the weekend was with a middle-aged man who'd grown up in Vietnam during that war, with his father and older brothers serving and his village being on the front lines (such as they were) often.  He said he always brought his Vietnamese-Canadian children to events like this to remind them war is terrible and many had made sacrifices on their behalf for their freedom and opportunities.

Some photos from the weekend, mainly of the great table Shawn and Robert put together (6mm figures):

Side view of the table layout, Canadian attack coming out of the left-most trench line (each "trench line" really represents about 200 yards of interwoven defensive terrain, not just a single trench).

Close up of some of the Canadian forces, each stand is a company of 200 men (in theory).

The German gun line, under bombardment.

Place names on the table, to help people identify landmarks.

The "clean" table, before we started placing troops on it Saturday morning.

Another side view of the action.

The "light" crowd.

The "heavy" crowd.

I also got to meet some Ottawa-area gamers who were also out helping for the weekend, which was great as I'd been planning to come to Cangames this year, and as you'll see in a couple of blog posts, I made it!