Friday 19 June 2020

Not A Wargame Show Part 2

As a follow on to an earlier post, this is intended to be something of a celebration of our wargame show scene, which has fallen from the gaming calendar at the moment due to the Covid 19 situation.

Battle of Cobb's Farm participation game

In particular, my fave show Phalanx, was due to take place today (Saturday 20th June) and so I have looked at doing a few things that would replicate my show experience with a virtual take.

So here is a Non Show Report, which covers trade, loot, a Bring ‘n’ Buy and even a game table, in observance of a virtual Phalanx Show :-)

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.

[Standard text like this is the voice of my virtual visit]. With anticipation growing for the big day, I set about drawing up ‘the wish list’ that would guide me through the trader hall and perhaps for the first time ever, the list might work, with no more and no less bought :-)

As is always the case with this show, I have a small cash boost as it sits around the time of Father’s Day and I am duty bound to take the worry of what colour socks to buy etc. away from the kids and instead get that bridge or those paints or that book or those rules or whatever hits that budget point and doesn’t look like a sock!

As I walk through the door and pay the entrance fee of one smile, I am immediately greeted by the Bring and Buy tables, a warehouse worth of unwanted wargaming items looking for a new home. I have only brought along one thing to sell, the Black Seas starter set from Warlord Games. Price things right here and they usually go, with the club taking a 10% handling fee.

It is a superb value for money set, with some lovely looking ships to build, but I had to face up to a truth that my gaming plate is always so full, that this will never quite get to the top of that queue. It is an 'as new' item, as I have only ever taken the lid of for a look at the components. Time to clear some shelf space. Anyway, it caught someone's eye and sold.
Black Seas - Warlord Games

[Bold text is my real world voice - This went onto e-bay. It is simply ages since I have sold anything there. Charges are 35p to list and like the wargame show, e-bay take 10% of the sales price as a fee, but ... also include the postage cost in that take! which seems odd. PayPal take a further 2.9% plus 30 pence on the total money transfer, which of course again includes the postage. Anyway, I did a 3 day auction and happily the item went to someone who could enjoy it].

There is always a bit of a scrum around the Bring and Buy tables, but my shouts of 'mind this child' as I cradled my Granddaughters baby doll, saw the crowd part aside and I managed to nip in and get me a wonderful selection of superbly painted Wars of the Roses figures, which are an absolute joy and the perfect boost to the start of my WoR project.

[Last week, fellow blogger Phil, kindly gifted me some lovely painted and based Perry Wars of the Roses figures to help me along with my new project. They really are lovely figures and I will treasure them. The blogging world really is a unique place where creative and good people can come together and enjoy our quiet acre of the internet - thank you Phil, I am well chuffed].
A sample of Phil's bases

Next, it is off to the trader hall. As usual, a quick dash around first to see ‘what is what’ and then a slower second browsing to get into that more serious level of trying to stick to the buying list, while falling victim to impulse buying and the spells cast by the traders.

This is a really nice medium sized show, having a good balanced range of traders and game tables and plenty of room to circulate, so you can get pretty good access to your trader and pick up most of the things you are hunting for.

I bumped into a few familiar faces and it is nice to chat in the relaxed atmosphere of a show and talk about latest projects and such like. There is something about a show that is anchored on a nice bunch of people gathering with a single focus and interest and having a shared passion. Everyone has that intense, deep in thought look as they browse the wares and consider their budgets. It's not like ordinary shopping for pies and things ... this is proper serious shopping!

Having spied some things that capture my current interests, it was time to make some traders happy.

[As a hobby, the ease of internet shopping and the fact that so many traders have recently managed to keep their product flowing, has been such a good thing in these testing times. At the start of the Lockdown, I did order quite a bit of stuff to kickstart my Pocket Armies projects, but my figure side of buying has been quiet of late. So for my Non wargame Show day, I did a bit of trader business on the internet as follows;

28mm plastic Napoleonic Austrian Cavalry. This is the new heavy cavalry set from the Perry’s, who have recently re-opened following temporary closure in the initial Covid days. Much anticipated, I thought I better grab a box before the first run sells out. I am doing 6 figure cavalry units, so the box will give me two separate units of heavies.
The new Perry Austrian cavalry and lovey illustrated
painting guide. Now to try and get it all back into the box!

20mm AB WWII Germans. I ordered these from Eureka Miniatures. I suppose AB can be described as being from the posher end of figure ranges, so I picked a couple of packs of infantry up as a treat, again for the Pocket Armies project and it seemed a useful way to get the Father’s Day presents sorted. I will use these to supplement my Plastic Soldier Company bases. As I write this, they have not turned up yet, but I have had the e-mail to say all is in hand.

EDIT - at 11.20 AM the figures arrived ... while I'm at the show, how good is that :-)
These are just lovely sculpts - very pleased

Roket (Deluxe) Plastic Glue. This is something of a specialist glue. As I have never seen it in a model shop or at a show, it was ordered from an outfit called Le Mans 88 Motorsport Merchandise, on Amazon. It is a low odour, non-toxic, weld glue for plastics. It does not glue parts quite as quickly as my Revell Contacta glue, but I have been having a problem with solvents, so this glue when used outside and especially on a breezy day, seems to help with some of that. With such a plastic mountain before me for the Pocket Army stuff, this is going to be an essential item over the next few weeks as I use summer to prep figures ready for winter painting.

Bases. It would be impossible to do a show without coming away with some bases or other clever MDF product. During the Lockdown, Hoka Hey Wargaming, a regular supporter of the show circuit, managed to keep going and I had bought an animal pen and some 80mm bases from them in April. But seeing Phil’s Wars of Roses figures on 50 x 50mm bases, I could see that as being a most useful size, so put an order in for some, plus some 40mm and 50mm circles and also picked up a few of their fencing sections at the same time. Whether buying from Hoka Hey, S&A Scenics or The Last Valley (all supporters of the show circuit), they do ensure continuity in the styles and materials used for their product so that it is easy to match up new purchases with older ones.

Rules or a Book. Bringing home some reading matter always rounds off a day of show shopping. I like the look and feel of some of the older sets such as Volley & Bayonet and Flower of Chivalry (Bruce MacFarlane), so hoping for more of the same, I ordered Red Feathers and Delaware Blues from Caliver Books.

These are a 44 paged, spring bound, set of rules by Simon William Hall, with around 16 of those pages obeing actual rules and they make for a good read. The author supports all scales, but clearly prefers 6mm. For larger figures he suggests dividing distances by ten and then converting to inches, so a regular infantry regiment in line in the rules can move 60mm for 6mm figures or be converted to 6" for 15mm and 28mm. There are two quick identical reference sheets at the back of the spiral bound booklet, except one has measurements for the smaller scales and the other one for the larger scales, which I thought was quite handy

Units get written orders, which can be changed during play. These are simply phrased like 'Advance to the farmhouse and then hold'. There is a single scenario supplied (Hopkirks Hill 25th April 1781) which has 8 British units and 9 Colonial units. The system uses rosters to keep a record of unit Combat Effectiveness, which reduces through casualties and provides the measure for morale tests and for reaching the 'Break Point' of 50% of CE loss, which will end the game. Anyway, they are doing their job, I am enjoying browsing them.

I am not quite ready for AWI yet, but when does that ever stop us!].
AWI Wargame rules.

For some years now, the canteen at the show (a leisure centre) has been closed and the organisers bring in an outside caterer, who sets up in a small courtyard. Fortunately to date, the June weather has always been good and so the queue and subsequently sitting or standing around (depending which cater attends and whether or not they bring seating) has not been a problem. 

Having tired myself on a gallivant of several laps around the show, it was time for a sit down for a coffee, plus a something warm and high in calories to fortify the body and soul.

[Selecting a similar mid morning treat was not going to be straight forward as all of our eateries are still closed due to Covid restrictions. However, we do have a large garden centre that has been doing a take-away service, so that seemed the nearest experience. The person who served me was masked, visored and gloved, my confidence was high! A rather tasty looking big piece of Lemon Drizzle cake begged to be hacked off the cake stand. We had vouchers for a free coffee, so two coffee’s and a piece of cake later, we were ready for the off. We tend to share these big wedges of cake, which is great for the conscience and gets one closer to feeling that it is actually good for you! :-), though I normally do this show on my own, so by rights, I should have had the whole wedge of cake to myself ... a dirty job, but someone has to do it! ]

Suitably fortified, I returned indoors for a more leisurely peruse around the tables, camera in hand for some nice shots to grace the show report that invariably goes up onto the blog. This is the time to pick up those pots of paint or a new brush etc, but I don’t have much time left, this year, I have agreed to put on a participation wargame. I have wanted to do this for a few years now, so here was my chance.

I had a definite theme in mind, wanting to promote the ‘small game’. The idea was for a kitchen / dining table sized game that could show what could be done with just four boxes of 28mm figures. The action was to be a fictional encounter, out on the far flank of a bigger battle. 

This was the Battle of Cobb’s Farm with ACW forces, an encounter drawn from an article on this blog from 13th July 2019, when a post appropriately called ‘Not a wargame of Cobb’s Farm’ discussed how a planned small 28mm game to introduce Mike to Black Powder rules, which required standing at a temporary table, was abandoned due to a bad back and instead transferred to being seated at the dining table with 12mm figures and terrain, so it seemed a ready purpose made introductory scenario. 
Scenario layout

The defender (Union) has just two infantry regiments, which can be had from one box of figures, plus a two base gun battery, which can be had from another box. The attacker has three infantry regiments, which take a further box and a half of figures. In all, the game was using five 18 figure regiments and a pair of guns, plus 2 commanders. Of course all of this and more can all be got out of the great value Perry’s 28mm Battle in a Box starter set, which also has the farmhouse building (kit) and the Firepower rules, which we shall be using here. 
Overview of Cobb's Farm, Confederates are at the bottom
of the photograph.

There was a lot of interest from the public, with those that stopped for a chat saying they only gamed at home and that gaming space was limited to kitchen / dining tables and available gaming time had to work around family meal times and so they were pleased to see something at a show that would work for them. Some were enthused enough to even go off and buy the necessary figures, how good is that!

[And so onto the game, a small and fast action, with the easy Perry Firepower rules ensuring there was no impediment to play or progress.
Perry Firepower rules in play

The Confederates have two things to think about. The Firepower rules have randomised movement rates and anything in cover can attempt to get a save by re-rolling the hits and saving on a 4+, so that makes the stone wall around Cobb’s Farm an impressive defensive position and the Confederates cannot be sure how long it will take them to reach the wall due to the randomised movement.

The system is very much a ‘buckets of dice’ affair, with the infantry rolling 9D6 when they fire, so there is the potential for some wild effects and units don’t generally stay in combat for long. Typically after receiving two lots of fire, they are at risk of failing Morale Checks and retreating. Certainly after suffering three turns of fire, a unit would be lucky to prosecute their actions well.
The Confederate brigade goes into line for the attack. The rules
give no advantage to having rear supports

The Confederates suffer heavy casualties as they advance, with 12th Virginia (far left) stalling.

The Confederates are sorely missing either a fourth regiment for further support or an artillery battery that can attack the target with shot and from which the defender cannot claim wall cover .... so no saves! Perhaps they need both.
12th Virginia (top left) put down fire (ineffective) and then
25th Virginia and 13th Virginia make a frontal assault. Note
the 2 casualty bases with red dice, they are metals from 1st Corps

As the Confederate charge strikes home, Union 8th Ohio have had enough and flee the field, only stopping on the other side the of the farmhouse, where Brigadier Shields rallies them.

The attack has been difficult for the Confederates, with 12th Virginia, taking more punishment than could be expected of any unit to withstand, being lost during the charge.

The Union 67th Ohio moved down onto the Confederate right flank, driving off 13th Virginia with intense firepower (the buckets of dice did a lot of damage in this attack) and with the rallied 8th Ohio suddenly returning to the field with Brigadier Shields, the Confederates called off their attack. The Union re-establish their line, though a renewed attack that afternoon would almost certainly see off the now mauled and nervous Union 8th Ohio! 
End Positions, 8th Ohio return to the field and 67th Ohio
drive off the Confederate attack. The artillery at the back
had not been very effective in this game.

Having played this from the perspective of a participation / introductory game, I think I would quite like to put on an 'easy' participation game at a 'real' show. The Firepower rules actually give a quick and decisive game and would work quite well with the right scenario, perhaps with another three more regiments and another artillery battery thrown in to mix it up a bit. That is something for me to think about and one of the good things to fall out of this virtual day].

It was time to pack up and head home. The show numbers had started to thin since lunch time, though the Cobb's Farm table had someone siting opposite me for most of the time, perhaps sometimes that was just so they could rest their legs, but even-so a good many interesting chats were had.

All that remained was to find some dark corner at home to squirrel away my loot and then to look forward to the next show.

[Well, all-in-all that worked well as a Non Show day or more to the point, it gave a moment to pause and consider how lucky we are to have such a vibrant show scene and to respect its worth and to thank all of those that make it happen.

While today ended up with things bought, sold, gifted, played, eaten and people met. I can’t wait for the real thing to start up again].