Archive for the ‘COW’ Category

Yes … somebody parked a tank on the lawn. Well, lots of tanks .. just another day at Knuston Hall.

Well, how wonderful to be out wargaming again … meeting people many of whom you’ve only seem via Zoom since more than a year ago … CoW 2020 got cancelled. This one went ahead with limited numbers, Social Distancing, sessions outdoors where possible. But it was still great and still packed with games, toys and bright ideas.

(just a sample of the wide variety of sessions at CoW … tabletop games, committee games, skirmishes and pirates … )

The plenary game was a fast and furious look at the machinations in Hungary in its last days as part of the Axis: I was the Hungarian Foreign Minister, looking to open a channel to the Soviets whilst hoping I wouldn’t end up on trial for the government’s evident war crimes. Sorry, that was Magyaria, of course … a fictional country …

On Sunday morning I was in a reconstruction of a wargame originally played in the Cabinet Office in 1975, called WintEx ’75, an excercise in thinking through the transition from peace to war in the event of a Soviet invasion in Eastern Europe. Actually, the game’s precepts reflected classic 70s establishment paranoia, and was mostly about controlling and combatting the enemies within, than about taking on the Warsaw Pact.

Some of the paranoia would have been eminently justified, I’m sure. An illuminating and well-prepared session. Lots of paperwork.

The game on the lawn was based on the attack at the second battle of Villers Brettoneux. I volunteered to command a British tank as my Grandfather had done it for real.

Firing was adjudicated an an adjacent range using toy canon and matchsticks

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CoW 2019

CoW 2019 00

The 2019 Conference of Wargamers at Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire.

My life has become so busy that it is a long time since I was able to head off to CoW for the entire weekend and just lose myself in the opportunities it presents.  This year was no different.

CoW, of course is a multi-period, multi-genre event, but I will post my photo report here as I have done previously.  I had three major involvements this year plus I sat in on a number of illuminating sessions.

CoW 2019 01(Airstrike available in AK minus 47 … my 20th century contribution to CoW 2019)

I enjoyed sitting in on Trebian’s Va t’en Ecosse, a wargame of the ’45 played with (mostly old Airfix) 20mm soldiers.

CoW 2019 15

CoW 2019 16


CoW 2019 17

My main contribution on the Saturday was to present and run our model of the battle of Edgcote (not in this blog’s period so I’ll just give a flavour …) …

CoW 2019 02

CoW 2019 08

AK minus 47

Sunday morning: this was a light-hearted attempt to get out some nice toys (including my new carriers) and continue the theme of Operation Coldfeet/Ice Station CF … this time taking up the story with the failed sky-hooking of the agent (and the consequential ‘boots on the ground’ rescue/evaluation mission).  Of course, this never happened and is totally deniable.

CoW 2019 18

The search mission column enters the table and some unseen defenders deployed (making the best use of the minimal landscape to avoid line-of-sight).

CoW 2019 10

In the inevitable fire-fight (and as always seems to happen) the lead vehicle got taken out quite quickly while the foot groups debussed from the carriers.

CoW 2019 12(AK minus 47: Nato-ish column … VBL converted by me, carriers by BPM, troops in parkas by Khurasan)

The going got tough so the rescue mission had to call in further support.   The tactical leader chose to rope his unit out of helicopters right onto the abandoned ice station.  Although they did some good, they got shot to pieces.

CoW 2019 11

At this point I should apologise for the mismatching bases.  Some of my men in parkas got left at home but I had a unit of Peter Pig Russian Scouts in a different box, so they had to make an impromptu appearance.  Needs must.

The session reminded everyone how much potential there still is in Peter Pig’s classic edition of AK 47 and with the little tweaks, it didn’t seem misplaced in Arctic conditions (indeed its randomness sort of worked) and we thought up a few more special effects as we went.

With the botched rescue attempt, however, the mission was going wrong.  I allowed the sub to turn up (shades of Ice Station Zebra, of course – but the players were demanding it) and the so far unobtained airstrike (as photo opportunities) …

CoW 2019 13a

CoW 2019 13(AK minus 47: flogger acquiring target)

I think there is some potential in this.

That was my CoW 2019.  Thanks to everyone who made it a wonderful distraction and an inspiring weekend.  Next year is number 40.  Expect a celebration.

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The Steyr Kfz70 is Forged in Battle donated by Chris Kemp.   I have added a FoW Breda and some Peter Pig crew figures and put it into the Raggruppamento Sahariana motor pool.

RSI 01s

RSI 02(Steyr Kfz70 pressed into desert service by the Raggruppamento Sahariana)

I have been looking around for some suitable figures, should the soldiers wish to dismount and engage the enemy on foot.  So lightly equipped desert soldiers, mostly in short trousers with a jaunty array of irregular headgear.

Nothing much doing.  In the end I found a pack of AK-47 professionals in the Peter Pig range – they are ideal save the SLRs and jungle hats.  The weapons can be adapted, of course, and I have chosen Bersaglieri heads and various arab styles from range 6’s separate heads …

RSI 03s

RSI 05s(close-up of the dismounted crews … PP figures from the AK-47 range with heads from Range 6)

Here they are with some of the other vehicles …

RSI 04s


Meanwhile at CoW I ran a more ambitious development of my naval game … the scenario was Sink the Bismarck

COW 2015 08s

A lot of positives came out of the game and after the scenario and rules have been published in the Nugget, I will see if some more polish can be achieved and will share them – probably here.

COW 2015 09s(Bismarck takes a critical hit from Prince of Wales)

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CoW 2014 00a

Or, better, pictures from this year’s Conference of Wargamers with relevance to warfare in the mechanised age

I was busy with a number of ancient and medieval projects, so there is a main report on Ancients on the Move.   So I got so see very little of the modern stuff …

CoW 2014 09(Doodlebug down! The WDDTN ADG Doodlebuggers sees another threat neutralised)

The plenary game was a live kamikaze attack in the Pacific, and later, I got to shoot down Doodlebugs – I got the highest tally but had a lot of trouble flying through debris and getting out of my burning Spitfire.    Back gardens in Kent and Woolwich were cratered and Southend Pier was blown to smithereens … but I reckon between us we saved London.

CoW 2014 10a(we had 5 minutes in which to clear the skies of  evil Nazi wonder weapons)

You can have a crack at this at a show later in the year … The Other Partizan, next, probably (look for Wargame Developments) ..

Here is more of the death struggle between Hitler and Stalin …

CoW 2014 12(A senseless waste … German bitter enders scurry through Berlin Station to confront the invader)

CoW 2014 13

… and here is the 21st Century equivalent of a cardboard simulator (the toy-shop plastic and foam rubber simulator?

CoW 2014 14(Lawn Game Simulator: pneumatic anti-tank missile system readies) 

… and it can be beguiling how convincingly the mown grass camouflages 1:32 scale toy tanks …

CoW 2014 16

CoW 2014 17(Little Cold Wars: French ground attack mission)

CoW 2014 18a(Little Cold Wars: taking hits – the T55s attack)

CoW 2014 19(fire in the hole!: Nick Huband demonstrates the anti-tank targeting system)

Mid evening on Saturday we broke for a trip down memory lane … Jim Roche reminding us of the calendar of events from 1914 and 1944 interspersed with morale boosting or iconic songs and anthems from the war years …

IMG_7899(Just in case you didn’t know the words to the Marseillaise … ) 

… and I found a window in which to ski off piste with my pop-up Naval Game, Big Ship Battles (Kaboom!) inspired by some inexpensive ships that became available in a Pound shop

CoW BSB 02(Kaboom! with Chris K … 3 hits on my Battleship … and a level bomber coming my way …)

The game takes around half an hour at most and has none of those traditional naval game mechanisms – it did, however, work (and I am inspired to push it along another level … say, maybe a quick participation game?)

CoW BSB 03a(Kaboom!: a 2mm Bomber from Irregular Miniatures about to complete its mission)

Along with all the ancient and medieval games, that was it for my CoW 2014

2015?  Well, I hope to see you there – CoW is unique for all the right reasons, so a big thank you to all the enthusiasts who make it work!

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COW 2012

Fire and Movement: COW 2012

There didn’t seem quite as much 20th Century action at COW this year – and, inevitably (I seem to have had a bit of a retro year … 54mm, flats, sand tables …) , I missed some of what there was (I missed the Fletcher Pratt, I missed the PVO Strany, I missed John Curry’s British Army 1978 Desert Wargame … but a visit to Megablitz and More will help, and I missed Trebian’s SCW game – see Wargaming For Grownups – but that is all too regular, I guess) …

Spanish Civil War: a scene from the COW preparatory game

I did play in Martin Rapier’s session Fire and Movement, a game from Phil Sabin’s Simulating War.

attacking the German machine gun nests

This is an area based game in which each base represents a platoon, and in which ammunition supply has an attritional effect not unlike being hit by enemy fire.  In that sense it is very British (spraying bullets everywhere isn’t the solution …)… The mechanisms are very smooth, and although the way attrition works is unusual, the outcomes have a plausible feel to them.

Thanks for putting it on, Martin.  A good session.

All the teams clustering around their section of ‘the wire’.

The Plenary Game this year was a quick and dirty perimeter defence in which everyone at the Conference played (mostly as little fireteams in foxholes on the wire).   It was a 30 minute megagame … and we all won!  In truth, there were some ideas in it too (though they were well concealed by the fast card turning and general bonhommie) …

ADG: Display Team North’s ‘Rollbahn Ost’

I also played in John Bassett’s Cold War multi media game … a bit of Committee work, a bit of role play … then some Blue Peter improvisation … plus some big plastic figures and some die rolls to make it feel like a wargame.

In this Alistair MacLean adventure, we had to drop some agents on to an ice flow to investigate an abandoned Soviet monitoring station – though the first of many hurdles was our first drop going down the crevasse.  Our fist drop was human cargo, needless to say.   The weather turned suspiciously in tune with the session time elapsing, and (with me as air mission controller), we had to extract the team.

Cold War … cold feet … (so don’t try this at home)

We had one day to do it, and only six passes to sky hook them all up.  It took an extra day as away team leader Trebian kept ducking when the hook came in (or that’s what it seemed like from my perspective).  Fortuitously, the weather was deemed good enough to give us another day’s mission and we got the job done.

Apparently this was based on a real event, and by the sound of it we didn’t do too badly (the real guys had quite an ordeal on the ice) …  An interesting scenario.

More from COW on Ancients on the Move – click here:

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There was no shortage of 20th century games at this year’s COWWD Display Team North provided me with late entertainment both evenings, and I enjoyed my regular COW opportunity to play the Fletcher Pratt Naval Game with John Curry.

Graham Evans put on his much-anticipated Spanish Civil War game (Send Not to Know) with which regulars will be familiar, and Jonathan Crowe presented a neat little session on Villers Bocage … an illustrated examination of the evidence and a micro scale 1:1 canter through the engagement.

As far as ever is the case, Send Not to Know is finished now.  Graham had a full complement of players so I dropped by occasionally to watch the game but was mostly absorbed in the Franco Prussian sessions in the nearby Beech Room.

A Full House for 'Send Not to Know'

Here are some more shots from the game …

SCW: Republican Artillery

I caught this artillery battering the Fascists: a coloured marker is used to tie up the batteries with the barrages they are delivering.  Blast markers are liberally smothered over the target (according to how many guns, how many turns etc.) but the effect of these are only determined at the end of the barrage …

Moroccans under fire ..

These plucky Republicans also tried some experimental ‘combined arms’ operations, going into the attack with the direct support of a T26 … against the odds, it worked and got them some local advantage.

Unitat per la Victoria!: a brave assault charges home ...

The Fletcher Pratt naval game.

I have played in John Curry’s Fletcher Pratt games on a couple of previous occasions, but only with surface ships.  This year John introduced the air power aspect so important by WW2.  The mechanism is pretty much the same – though, due to having to guess a triangulated distance (with the bandits deliberately altering their height to confuse the gunners), the AA can be very random.

the convoy with air missions over head

The underlying mechanism is that players must place a targeting triangle beside their ship indicating the direction of fire, gunnery involved and the estimated distance …

gunnery markers: in this case, sending up flak at air missions (high up over those plinths)

… ship-to-ship, golf tees are placed to mark the splash … (here is a picture from an earlier game showing it working) …

blue tees are water splashes, red tees are hits

So something like this is not good …  (this is what Tim Gow did to one of my brave little cruisers!)

some damage just can't be fixed!

The air missions were printed strips of aircraft pegged (as deceptively as the player can manage) on those big sticks.   The relative illusions worked probably better than shows up in the pictures …

incoming air missions (I have left in the background of the Practical Room so as not to falsify the impression)

As a participation exercise amongst friends, the system worked rather well and felt quite realistic.  Bombers were lethal to ships (lighter planes less so) and heavy flak was almost always lethal to fly into … but in-game play, hitting ships was quite hard, estimating the distances for the AA very random.   You had that feeling that defenceless ships would have been sitting ducks.

In truth, I’m not convinced this game is anything but a bit of fun … it will always go to the best guesser (the best estimator of the distances involved of course, and I’m not saying that’s always guesswork ...), not the best tactician.  And, of course, by the period modelled, genuine guesswork had been taken out of naval gunnery.

However, as a quick start ‘semi rational’ game mechanism it seems to give the right amount of variability without too much rules intrusion.  So, a good game, and a good way to get people thinking.

Villers Bocage

I enjoyed this little game by Jonathan Crowe … 6mm tanks, but 1:1 and personalised …

Villers Bocage: overview

This session started with a short description of how the designer pieced the game (table, positions and orbats) together … including illustrating what the bombers did (making ‘piecing together’ exactly that …) and how he constructed a table effect from google ‘satellite’ images.

Villers Bocage: the miniature layout

(looks good, doesn’t it?  Printed sheets and little toys – smoke and mirrors, almost …)

Then we got turns to take some rolls in the engagement.  Clearly, it starts with Wittmann and co on the rampage, and with the British mixture of tanks and softskins set up like a coconut shy.  However, there are chances that they will make a mistake and places to hide in the side streets (if your tank survives the opening sweeps).

So the game presented a challenge to both sides: to Wittmann, how much can you take out and how long will you stay in the game?; to the Brits … how plucky will you be with what you have left?  Can you find that elusive ‘rear shot’?

In both run throughs, the Germans probably hung around too long, and the Brits were  possibly a little to quick into the ‘cat and mouse’ (that said, there was bravery as well as incompetence on the day) …

a nice side shot!

I got to throw for the last shot of the session, and took out Wittmann’s Tiger at point-blank (still needed a 10, I think, on 2 D6) … it might not have been the last shot had I failed of course) … Still, I had also managed to sneak a Cromwell round the back to snipe on what I thought might be an obvious line of withdrawal …

I wouldn’t say this has changed my decisions about scales … nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by this intelligent and informative session, enjoyed the quick game and liked the little toys.

These are, of course, the first tiny tanks I have featured on P.B.Eye-Candy and the pictures have come out better than I expected …

For more about COW, there is a general report here, on Ancients on the Move

… and a feature on the Naseby visit and game that I put on over the weekend (here, on ECW BATTLES)

See also

Tim Gow’s Megablitz and More (here), (here), (here) and (here)

Bob Cordery’s Wargaming Miscellany (here)

Trebian’s Wargaming for Grown Ups (here), (here) and (here)

Tom’s photopage (here)


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