Monday, 9 July 2012

COW2012

Despite the threat of bad weather, the journey to Knuston Hall took just over two and a half hours. I drove in and out of rain for most of the trip, and was only held up just north of Cambridge. The delay was due to volume of traffic caused by an earlier vehicle breakdown. I arrived just after 4.00pm, and was greeted by Tim Gow (my co-organiser of COW) and one or two other 'early birds'. After checking in with the staff and being given my room key, I unloaded my luggage, took it to my room, and then sat in the Main Hall chatting to people as they arrived.

By 6.00pm the sun was beginning to shine, and some of us sat outside and talked until dinner, which was served at 7.00pm. After dinner and coffee in the Main Hall, Tim assembled the attendees in the Lounge and made a very brief speech of welcome.

The expectant multitude await the grand opening of COW2012 ...

... but for some (in this case Phil Barker) the waiting has proved too much, and they appear to have dozed off! (In reality Phil was looking down as I pressed the shutter, but the picture was too good not to add to this blog entry!)

He then handed over to Ian Drury, who briefed everyone about the Plenary Game.

Friday 6th July: Evening Session

The Plenary Game: The defence of Nha Xtan
I was one of the same team of umpires who helped to run the game, which was set in Vietnam on 10th July, 1963. The players were members of an American Special Forces training team who were tasked with training a group of Montagnards tribesmen so that they could be used against the Viet Cong. Unfortunately the VC decided to attack the training camp, and it's defence was left to the four squads of Special Forces after the Montagnards ran away after being mortared.

The players were split into five groups. Four of the groups represented the four squads and the fifth represented the platoon commander and his small HQ team. Each group was allocated an umpire, whose job it was to set up each squad's table (which had three foxholes and a command bunker) and to act as the enemy (i.e. put the figures that represented the VC troops on the table as and when a half-pack of playing cards 'generated' an attack). Each player was given a figure that represented them, and the squad leader allocated them to foxholes

My part of the game fairly zipped along. Numerous VC attacks were made, and in most cases they were driven off and only minor casualties were sustained. At one point the platoon commander ordered the squad to send a man back to HQ, and this left one foxhole with only one defender ... just as it came under attack. The squad's Claymore mines were very effective in helping to keep the VC at bay, but once a VC suicide Sapper managed to infiltrate the wire and reached the squad command post, things started to go wrong. The Sapper exploded his charge and killed the squad commander (Sue Laflin-Barker) and the radio operator (Martin Rapier). At this point the rest of the squad, some of whom had already been injured, withdrew to the command post, where they prepared to make a last stand just as the sun came up and a new day dawned. at this point the VC withdrew and the squad's survivors were able to report that they had just managed to hold their position.

This was a great ice-breaker, and really got attendees in the right frame of mind for the rest of the conference

Rollbahn Ost
This is WD Display Team North's award winning 'Operation Barbarossa in twenty minutes' game. I had played it before (the Team had brought an earlier version along to COW2011) but this version has had some minor cosmetic changes made to it that enhance its aesthetic appeal.


The joy of the game is that the players are in competition (each commands an Army Group) but must also cooperate if they are to succeed. The fact that there is a time limit makes players make decisions as fast as they can, otherwise none of them stands a chance of reaching their goal and winning the game.

Call it Qids
Graham Evans designed this game about the Battle of Kadesh for the Society of Ancients, who published it as their incentive game for 2012. I did not have the opportunity to play the game, but it was yet another game that had excellent production values and just cried out to be played.


Saturday 7th July: Morning Session

After a reasonable night's sleep (I am now of an age when it is rare for me to get a full night of sleep without waking up at least once!), I awoke to find that it had not rained all night and that a light mist filled the valley in which Knuston Hall sits. After a hot shower and a hearty breakfast, it was time to get down to the business of the day ... playing wargames!

Fletcher Pratt Lite
Ian Drury has produced a simplified version of Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game Rules, and this session gave participants the opportunity to try them out. The scenario dealt with a German attack on an Allied convoy to Russia.

I commanded the convoy and it's close escort, and despite the best efforts of the German Navy I managed to get all but one of the merchant ships out of trouble at the cost of the loss of one escort and some damage to my Dido-class Light Cruiser, Hermione.

The convoy on its way to Russia. The plastic box lid made it easier to move the convoy rather than having to move each ship individually.

The Allied heavy units, which included two battleships (HMS Rodney and USS Washington) were particularly effective and Washington's radar-controlled guns inflicted considerable damage on the Tirpitz, which was forced to turn away, ending the attack on the convoy.

The convoy's close escort moves towards the enemy in the hope of both allowing the convoy to get away and to give time for the Allied heavy units to come up. The leading German ship (to the left) is the Prinz Eugen and the right-hand one is the Tirpitz.

Measuring the range! This has to be done as accurately as possible, and whilst Peter Knowlden (see here on the right) holds the tape measure so that it passes through the firing arrow, Ian Drury (on the left) ensures that the tape is straight and the fall of shot is marked with upturned golf tees.

Torpedoes away! The German destroyers tried to force the British close escort to turn away by firing torpedoes at them. The British countered by laying smoke and firing their torpedoes towards the Tirpitz. The latter can be seen (in the top middle of the photograph) moving away from the British torpedoes whilst engaging the British heavy units with here two rear turrets.

The radar-controlled guns of USS Washington managed to land a salvo of nine 16-inch shells onto the Tirpitz. She limped away from the action very severely damaged.

Far Away Wars
This was another session that I wanted to take part in but was unable to do so because it clashed with Fletcher Pratt Lite. I did manage to pay it a fleeting visit ... and was very impressed by what I saw.

The armies of two Chinese warlords battle for supremacy.

Wayne Thomas and David Brock's game about fighting between Chinese Warlords had simple but effective rules, excellent 15mm-scale models, and a gridded playing surface ... so it ticked all the right boxes with me!

PVO Strany
This was Tim Gow's hilarious simulation of Soviet fighter control during the 1980s. Two players acted as Soviet fighter pilots, who were controlled by a Fighter Controller using location information passed on by a Radar Operator and Radar Controller. The 'radar' was a small mirror fitted to a long pole, and the Radar Operator and Radar Controller sat behind a screen with their backs to the action whilst the Fight Controller was sat inside the building and could only communicate with the other players using small hand-held radios.

The RAF Vulcan had a crew of three, and was given a pre-determined flight path to a target.

The first Vulcan and its crew.

The Soviets had to intercept the bomber before it reached the target. During the three games that were played, the Soviets managed to intercept and shoot down the Vulcan once, just before it reached its target. In one of the other games the Soviets managed two interceptions, but failed to shoot the Vulcan down. The third game saw the Vulcan fly past the interceptors several times before it managed to drop its bombs.

The Vulcan passes close to one of the Soviet MiG-21s ... but the latter obeyed its controller's orders and ignored it!

The first Soviet PVO Strany team. The radar is a broom handle with a car wing mirror taped to it. The Radar Operator had to sit behind the green screen and use the mirror to 'see' where the intruder was so that they could give its location to the Radar Controller.

Saturday 7th July: Afternoon Session

Little Garden Wars
A short period of rain after lunch forced this session to be moved from the lawn to the Beech Room. Jim Wallman had devised a scenario that saw the Army of Freedonia and her allies attacking the reinforced Cordeguayan Army, part of which was occupying a disputed area of land. The main part of the Cordeguayan Army was behind a river, but two Regiments of Cavalry and a Horse Battery were across the river and tasked with holding up the Freedonian advance ... which they did, although they were wiped out in the process.

Let battle commence! The Freedonians and their allies advance, screened from the main part of the Cordeguayan force by the latter's Cavalry Brigade (Two Cavalry Regiments and a Horse Artillery Battery).

Some of the Freedonians and their allies. These were particularly well turned-out units whose behavious under fire proved to be equally impressive.

The Cordeguayan view of the battlefield.

The Cordeguayan Cavalry Brigade charge one of the Freedonian Infantry Regiments!

The result of the charge ... two decimated Cordeguayan Cavalry Regiments. Military theorists everywhere will be asking themselves the following question, 'Does Cavalry have a role to play on the 'modern' battlefield if this is the likely result?'

One of the Cordeguayan guns aims at the enemy. In actual fact this gun proved to be very inaccurate, and scored very few 'hits' throughout the battle.

The ranks of the army of Freedonia and her allies are depleted by very accurate rifle and machine gun fire.

By the end of the battle the Freedonians and their allies had confined the Cordeguayans to the Cordeguayan side of the river ... but at what cost? The bodies of the fallen were strewn all over the battlefield ... and the majority of them were Freedonians.

The Freedonians were unable to force a crossing, and eventually retired, claiming victory as the Cordeguayans had been forced back across the river. The Cordeguayans countered by citing the disproportionate number of casualties suffered by the Freedonians when compared to the number of Cordeguayans who had fallen in battle.

As there was still a couple of hours remaining, a second scenario was set up. On this occasion the Cordeguayans were pitted against the forces of the Crimson Empire, who proved to be brave but poorly armed. The Cordeguayans beat of the attacks of the Crimson Empire's Pugilists and their mercenary allies, but suffered far more casualties than in the previous battle.

The Cordeguayans prepare to defend their trading post from the army of the Crimson Empire.

This session was very enjoyable, and we hope to run a similar session in 2013 to mark the centenary of the publication of H G Wells's LITTLE WARS.

Saturday 7th July: Evening Session

Footfall Revised
Tom Mouat produced yet another memorable game about a special team of military and civilians tasked with dealing with unusual and/or difficult situations that fall outside the remit of other government departments.

This game involved retrieving a glass orb that had gone missing and that might just have special qualities. Needless to say things started to go wrong from the start, and I will not dwell on the rights and wrongs of shooting or detaining unarmed civilians, nor with opening large steel doors marked 'Warning! Danger! Do Not Enter!', or firing 40mm grenades at a nuclear reactor that someone else is trying to shut down. These things may or may not have happened. I don't know, as my character was killed trying to fulfil their mission.

Cold Feet
Because so many people had signed up to take for Footfall Revisited, Tom Mouat had to run the game twice. Several of us opted to take part in the second session, and in the interim we took part in a short game devised by John Bassett about a US mission to investigate an abandoned Soviet weather station that was located on a large ice flow. We parachuted in with our equipment ... and survived the experience! We then fulfilled our mission and were eventually extracted by a B17 that had been fitted with a Skyhook extraction system.

The Skyhook fitted to the nose of a B17.

It was a great mixture of role-play and figure gaming, and set us up for the disaster that was Footfall Revisited 2.

D-Day Dodgers
This was a mixture of history, pictures, and a sing-along that told the story of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during World War II. Jim Roche led the session, and a great time was had by all!

Soldiers of the 7th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, preparing for an operation in North Africa.

Sunday 8th July: Morning Session

Philippi Revisited
John Bassett, ...


... ably assisted by Phil Steele, ...


... delivered a very interesting session that examined the personalities of those people who led the various Roman factions in the aftermath of Julius Caesar's assassination. It also looked at the way in which the sources used by historians who have written about this historical period are now subject to review and reassessment, as well as the use of sacrifice and auguries in the ancient world in general and Greece and Rome in particular.

For someone like me whose interests mainly lie outside the historical period covered by the talk, this session was made more interesting (as well as most entertaining) by the wealth of knowledge displayed by the speakers and their excellent delivery.

Flat Pack Platea
I was not able to take part in this session, but Phil Steele's flat figures and sand table terrain were wonderful to see!

The sand table terrain looked very realistic.

Some of the wonderful 'flats' used in Phil Steele's game.

Some more of the 'flats' (in this case, Persians) used in Phil Steele's game.

No Man is a Peninsular
I missed the beginning of Trebian's Spanish Civil War Corps-level wargame, but I did manage to pay it a fleeting visit. The figures are 15mm-scale and made by Peter Pig.

Stephen Aguilar-Millan issues his orders whilst his opponent (Will Whyler) and Trebian look on.

Some of the advancing Nationalists are pinned down by Republican fire.

A number of Republican Infantry units prepare to advance.

The trees give troops some cover from attack ... but not much.

Samurai Shumi
This was a short unscheduled session put on by Jim Wallman. It used 15mm-scale individually-mounted samurai figures fixed to metal beer bottle tops. The figures were moved by flicking them across the tabletop, and any figures that a flicked figure hit - without falling over - were removed. A very simple, fast, fun game.

Flicking the individually-mounted samurai figures with any degree of accuracy required skill ... and quite a lot of luck!

Sunday 8th July: Afternoon Session

Whilst some intrepid souls carried on wargaming straight after lunch, I packed my bags and prepared for the WDAGM (Wargame Developments Annual General Meeting). As I am the Treasurer and Membership Secretary I have to present a verbal report and needed to spend a few minutes getting my facts together.

WDAGM
Tim Gow made a brief statement about COW2012 and I was able to add the following details:
  • The dates for COW2013 will be 5th to 7th July 2013
  • The cost of attending as a residential attendee will be £250.00 and as a non-resident it will be £220.00
I then gave notice that the cost of membership would need to rise by £5.00 in a year's time (i.e. August/September 2013 onwards) to cover the recent rise in postal charges and to allow for projected increases in printing charges. A general discussion about Wargame Developments' banking arrangements followed, and it was agreed that the choice of bank would be left to the Treasurer (me!).

All the existing officers of Wargame Developments were re-elected and the AGM finished with a rousing vote of thanks to Eamon Flanagan and the staff of Knuston Hall for everything that they did to make the weekend such a memorable one.

14 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great weekend. Thanks for the report on all the activities.

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  2. Sean,

    It was a great weekend ... and watch out for more reports from other bloggers in due course!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Great report- looked like a fantastic weekend.

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  4. Peter,

    It was a wonderful weekend, with lots of great company and excellent sessions.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Chasseur (Jeff),

    Many thanks for your kind comment. I am pleased that you enjoyed reading my report.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. I must make an effort to attend one year.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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  7. Looks like you had a good weekend Bob

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  8. Peter,

    Be warned ... you go once, and then you get hooked!

    I hope to see you there one day.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Johntheone,

    I certainly did ... and I have already booked my place at next year's conference!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Great report, Bob. All of the weekend looked very interesting, as well as being good fun. I downloaded the programme from the WD site, and was impressed with the variety of the games on offer. I really hope to make it over one year. Thanks again for the great, and very full, report.

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  11. Sidney Roundwood,

    Many thanks for your kind words.

    COW is a great event, made so by the enthusiasm of the attendees and their willingness to try something new, however different it may be from their usual wargaming activity.

    I look forward to seeing you at a future COW.

    All the best,

    Bob

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