Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Northamptonshire, 28th December

The Championship

(Graham tries to remember how the Armati wheel'm works ...)
Or a quick glimpse of the shows team 'off duty' ....
Yes - what do the shows team settle down to when the season finally finishes? Well some ancient wargames, of course ...

I had hoped to get a ‘full’ five games in to show my support for the current initiative - but such is the amount of SoA admin and shows hours at this time of year, it was very much pushed to the last week or so.

Nevertheless, what a joy, to settle down to a simple, evening game of Armati – in this case a Roman Civil War with show teamer Graham Evans.
Well, we don't do this very often, and had to remember how to set it all up. I think we both went for Romans as they are 'keep it simple' armies ...

And in the way of these things, it was tight. There a very few ‘cute’ moves available in Armati – especially when similar armies face off. And that often means that the dice will determine the outcome … Well, it isn’t necessarily therefore luck that determines the winner … so much as the tactical ability to exploit or cope with what luck can always do to an otherwise predictable outcome (or that what I say when it goes my way … I just curse the dice if it goes the other way!) …

(yes, OK, Mrs Evans did deploy the wind-up Christmas Puddings behind my flank - well it was nearly Christmas, I guess ...)...

The Championship looks to have passed its trial year, so roll on 2010.
Remember, any two members can play each other and count the score in the Championship by sending the results in. You cannot play the same player more than twice, and the only restriction on the game is that it must be an ancient/medieval historical game, offer a fair and equal chance to both sides, and be capable of delivering an unequivocal win/lose/draw result for scoring purposes (though players may well agree between themselves how this applies).
Games do not, therefore, have to be figure games, and might well be played on computer – even via an internet connection (as long as both players are satisfied it meets the ‘fair and equal’ standard …)…
All that said, I suspect mine will be figure games. This year, I played 2 FoG and 3 Armati games (against 4 other members – it would have been more games but the snow deluge cause some ‘return matches’ to be cancelled) – all in my preferred 15mm scale, using Romans, Medieval Italians and Dark Age Spanish.
I suspect that will be my starting point for 2010 – but I’m not known for turning down the unexpected …

I wonder who is up for what ….

Central London, 19th December

No, not the ballet.

Actually a very rewarding multiplayer role-playing and map game from the John Bassett stable. Followed by a very sociable evening afterwards as we relaxed in the run up to Christmas.

I managed to get a copy of Barry Strauss's book at a discount in the closing down sale at Borders in Tottenham Court Road - so tried to get in the spirit ahead of schedule (a good job it was only spirit I was looking for as facts are few and far between ... and Strauss as much obscures them as illuminates them ...)..

The game is part of a developing approach to representing the end of the Republic, and I anticipate further developments in the new year (indeed, I hope that if I don't spill all the beans now, John will be contributing an article for Slingshot in the fullness of time ....)..

Suffice to say, for now, that whilst not without areas that need more work, this game brought out the complexities of Roman politics rather well ... the difficulties of managing the really important agenda (protecting your interests and faction within the Senate) with the irritating one (having to be away from Rome to deal with a rebel or an over-mighty citizen) ... or the difficulties of an over-mighty citizen in turning raw military power into tangible political credit ....

I got myself badly beaten up in the opening battle against Spartacus (OK - no battle ... I got myself ambushed ... some Thracian thing going on was my final memory ...)... and scurried off not in disgrace to Rome but in desperation to my old chum Pompey who was on his way back from victory in Spain. As a consequence, I took over the role of Pompey and all the advantages of his veteran army (and all the ethical/political issues of the great commanders of the Late Republic). The immensely powerful and loyal army (no hyperbole in either case) is an interesting tool: it means you hold the ultimate sanction ... a military government or a Civil War you are bound to win - and almost automatic defeat for your opponents. It almost seems that precisely because you hold all the cards, the other factions will oppose you: however modest your demands. There is a human factor in this. It is an interesting conundrum, and one the game made me think about afresh.

--> -->An enjoyable and thought-provoking run in to Christmas, and a last bit of recruiting before the year end. Thanks for the invitation, John - I hope to be able to play in the next evolution, and, yet again, do please write it all up for Slingshot ...

Birmingham, 13th December

Wargamer 2009
The other half of a busy weekend saw the Shows North crew at Wargamer in Birmingham (Tamara Fordham easily beating me in a pre-Christmas game of Gladiolus ...)...

Graham Fordham provided the 'man'power in the afternoon, enabling me to head north for Derby in time to present the trophies at the end of the Doubles Event. Thanks to everyone for getting that to work: actually it is a real pleasure to do two events on the same day, but it can only really happen when everyone helps.

Wargamer is one of those smaller shows that the West Midlands seems to excel at, and was our last official outing before Christmas. We handed out a few more sample issues of Slingshot, of course, but mostly dealt with subscriptions for next year and enquiries. It was also a last chance to spend some money with the traders, entertain the visitors and put the year to bed.

(an appropriately wintry Flames of War)
And, of course a chance to take the camera around one last time. Not a great deal of ancients games on display at Wargamer, it has to be said ... we obviously still have some work to do ....

See you all next year.

Thanks from the Society of Ancients to all the show and event organisers ... 27 of them, for me, this year ... that's a lot of people mucking in to help us make sure the public doesn't miss out on ancient and medieval warfare.
(Wargamer 2009)

Derby 12th -13th December

Society of Ancients Doubles Masters 2009 Final
Now a Field of Glory event, this was the final round of this year's Society of Ancients Doubles Masters, and all to play for. A busy weekend, as, on Sunday we were also due to be at the 'Wargamer' show in Birmingham. Nevertheless, I managed to get a game in on the Saturday - partnering Lynda Fairhurst as her Scots took on the well-fancied Handley/Sharp Hungarians.

(Scots against Hungarians at Derby)

We lost - but narrowly. It was a tight and educational game - like all these, played in the best spirit ... In the end, Dave and Nick narrowly missed their shot at the title and the event was won by Wayne Dare and Kieth Martin Smith
That is, I think officially, the team was Graham Evans and Wayne Dare, with Kieth as first reserve. The combo won the Derby event, and that was enough to secure them the Alexander trophy for the year as Doubles Masters. More details on all the year's results can be found by following the 'Doubles' links on the BHGS website (here ...)

The Society's thanks go to the BHGS for organising this competition again, and especially to David Fairhurst who does the lion's share of it ...

Next year will see a major change to the Doubles, and a reduction to two larger events, one in England, one in Scotland. The English event will 31st July/1st August at Wheatley Campus just outside Oxford (again, details can be found on the BHGS website). We look forward to a great weekend.

Reading, 21st-22nd November

Warfare 09

Whilst some shows seem to have fallen away slightly over recent years, Warfare at the Rivermead seems to get better every year. once upon a time, it seemed the main hall was sufficient to house the trade and display games, the gym was spaciously accommodating competitions. Now the show proper takes the main Hall and half the gym, the competitions fill out the rest of the space, there is even a strange room right down the back with Warhammer stuff in it. The ancients competitions have always been very well supported, and with a good range of trade and games, this is an excellent event which fully demonstrates that the way to succeed is to stick to that traditional balance, mixing plenty of stuff to join in with and try out with the shopping and competitions.
(Phil Sabin/Eric Cruttenden's Lost Battles presentation of Cunaxa)
The Society of Ancients followed a now regular formula at this show ... a large 25mm Lost Battles participation game with author Philip Sabin on the Saturday, swapping to a Medieval Warfare try-out game with David Edwards and Kevin Large on the Sunday.

Cunaxa provided one of those classic 'Lost Battles' challenges ... how to beat a (significantly) cavalry army with hoplites - but at the same time (given the colossal advantage the hoplites enjoy, and for which they pay), how to win a game in which you can hardly afford to lose any soldiers? I know - during a quieter session, I played the rebels ... I won the battle itself, but narrowly lost on the game score. That probably will have meant a long and testing journey back to the sea ...
(the Neil Thomas Ancient and Medieval Wargaming table)
Out and about, a number of things caught my eye ... A very legible layout of Antietam. Antietam is one of the many 'visitor friendly' battlefield in the US, and it was interesting to relate what was shown on the table to walking the field ... especially 'Burnside's bridge' .... I really must dig out those videos I filmed on the 2003 Historicon tour ...

(Antietam - Burnside's bridge)
That said, this blog is mostly about ancients.

So I was very interested to see, just across the aisle from us, the Malvern guys and their Arthurian themed 28mm Armati game. Armati is like that: just when you think you've met everyone that regularly plays the game, up pop some more. Of course, though the Armati League, I'm most used to seeing the game played in 15mm, and found, doing a vast
Boudicca's Revolt game for English Heritage's History in Action, 28mm a difficult scale to get satisfactory visual results with. So it seemed strangely unusual to see the game in the larger scale. Kudos to them for putting it on, of course, and it's always nice to see Armati at a show.
(the Malvern Armati game)

There was much more to see of course (see the banner collage at the top of the page) - doubtless most of the glossy space will go to the colossal Blenheim game in the main hall. Actually, I took some photos too, because it was impressive in its own way. If all static display games were as good, I might have more time for them. Mostly, these days, they seem to be sponsored by the people that make the figures, of course ...

An excellent weekend. Many thanks to all the people who dropped by and the volunteers who made the Society stand a relaxing place to be based. Although we only ever had three or four people on hand at any one time, I made 10 member/volunteers who rotated their way on and off the stand or game over the weekend. Volunteering like that is what make the Society of Ancients work well. If reading these blog entries makes you want to volunteer, contact the Secretary or put a comment on the blog (I'll get back to you and we should be able to fit you in ...)...
(flying a banner on the Society stand)

Pevensey Bay, 7th-8th November

Anderida Doubles(click on the images for a bigger picture)

Yes, Pevensey Bay still looks as bright and blue as this, in Early November.

Many thanks to Eric Cruttenden and his team for continuing to bring us the Anderida event and its unique flavour. As an unashamed 15mm enthusiast, I delight every year in the trouble the entrants take over their armies - and actually just the brilliance of what they achieve. There is something about the size of 15mm and its ratio to table space that makes the spectacle of massed miniature armies in this scale unsurpassed, I think. And at this annual event, for sure, the effort is always appreciated.
(Pevensey Bay - some local colour)

OK ... While we're doing the beach view thing, I thought I'd indulge you a view of the local night-life. Not quite a pagan festival, there was certainly a ritual burning! Anderida is held on the weekend of Remembrance Sunday ... and this year that also meant that on the Saturday night they had organised their Guy Fawkes celebration. Quite handy to have a beach at your disposal. All this took place right outside the Aqua Club, the event's now traditional venue. The event now embraces an extensive FoG competition as well as its traditional DBM. The big prize of the event is the annual Society of Ancients trophy - not, of course, for the top scorers, but for the most valued contributors ... and appropriately half the Society Committee were playing (and the last two Slingshot editors usually umpire the competitions) so it has a bit of a family atmosphere.

This year, the DBM theme was medieval, the heavily subscribed FoG theme was the Greeks. Well, quite a lot of pikes, then. Thankfully, they can provide a reasonably diverting game in FoG, even though it remains more often the cavalry and the flanks that settle the battles (not, in itself, of course, a bad reflection of Hellenistic warfare - but I still feel Armati does this sort of thing better) ... That Seluecid mix of Phalanx with Elephants, Cataphracts, Chariots and Imitation Legionaries (Thorakitai ... Horse Archers .... Arabs ... the list is endless) proved very popular, of course (and I still have a soft spot for it - it was my first ancients army back in the early seventies ....)...

(Anderida 2009 - yes, we did get the 200 pikes vs 200 pikes clashes ...)

(Some very nice Legionaries chase off those pesky horse archers...)...

Yes, Chris and I did OK, and our Graeco-Bactrians had four entertaining games against Seleucids, Early Successors, Persians and Classical Indians (2 wins saw us sneak into the top half of the table in 9th place) ... You can get a full round up of results, and more pictures on the Anderida website (here ...) but the top teams were ... (FOG winners) Ian Stewart and Richard Collins (DBM winners) Darrell Pearce and Jeremy Morgan.

Coming up trumps again in the best army category, Adrian Bird's colourful style caught the judges eye, and his Seleucid army took first prize.

The blue ribbon award went to Kevin Large and Andy Rourke for an all round warmly appreciated contribution - helpful and entertaining play, good 'up for it' wargaming and a smartly turned-out Thracian army that was a contender in the painting prizes.

(Society of Ancients trophy winners Kevin and Andy surrounded by some of the good looking troops from the event)

Time to get the brushes out, I guess ...

Royal Armouries, Leeds, 1st November

Fiasco 2009
Great to be back at the armouries again - even if the coffee is as expensive as it is luxurious ... even if the way they manage the apron in front of the armouries seems designed to frustrate exhibitors. Excellent slot the organisers gave us this year ... I'd asked to be next to the ever helpful Steve and Dave of the Lance & Longbow Society - but I also hoped to get a chance to look at the Ilkley Lads' ancient naval game ... which turned out to be right next to us ....
Ancient and Medieval zone at Fiasco 2009

As you can see from the photos, I was quite impressed with the deep gloss varnished 'deep sea' terrain boards they had borrowed for the event ... I hope you enjoy that reflective quality I tried to capture.
For a less 'arty' look at the game, and loads more pictures, you can try James Roach's blog ( here ...). The game is based on Piquet and features Xyston model ships. It seemed to work very well and looked splendid. Full marks, lads - and nice to be sited next to an ancients game. For another option, you might like to take a look at the Society of Ancients edition of Richard lee's Corvus (see it on the website's games page ...) ... If you get the chance to play either of these games at future shows take advantage. Always good to see the warships at work.

big figures Gladiolus from the Society of Ancients

Also available from the website, our own featured game was the gladiators classic, Gladiolus. An excellent participation game, and popular with kids and grown-ups alike. We had some fun with this, as usual.

some of the other games round and about at Fiasco

Elsewhere, Fiasco had the usual mix of games, displays and traders ... I was particularly impressed by the range of dice the Dice Guys had on offer (yes, the do ... dice).

For some reason, Fiasco always seems a little smaller and less well-attended than some of the other Autumn shows. Strange, given the excellent added attraction of The Armouries making this a potential day out for the whole family ...

Although perhaps there are slightly fewer of them, the quality of the games at Fiasco is always good (I suspect you'll guess which impressed us this year, though), and there's plenty for the younger ones to do too. Put it in your diaries for next year.

Twilight over the med. as the day ends at Fiasco ...