In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Two Solitudes

[Edit: corrected some details 28 Dec 2018. I'd gotten confused who I was debating with!]

Recently I was engaged in a very wide ranging and multi-voiced discussion (verging on debate or argument at times, but civility won out unlike in politics) on the Ontario Wargaming Convention Facebook Group about that most terrible of monsters under our beds How to Grow the Hobby.

Earlier this fall a couple of shows had experienced some bad turn outs and one of the organizers started a discussion to explore possible reasons and ideas for moving forward. This discussion, which got very hard to follow as everyone chimed in with observations and replies on other people's posts, generated a few points.

1. the kind of gaming that I and my friends do, that is scenario based games, often historical but not necessarily, of the type that table top wargamers have been playing since H.G. Wells first knocked over a lead soldier in the library with his child's spring loaded cannon, the wargaming of Donald Featherstone, Charles Grant and Brigadier Peter Young, is considered "obscure."

2. much gaming now occurs in stores and these stores have set up tournament circuits of their "mainstream" games; i.e. Warhammer 40K, Hobbit Strategy Battle Game, X-Wing etc. It was noted that at the one show KEGSCON, there were some faces notably absent because they had instead opted to take in an X-Wing tournament elsewhere and also the Hobbit SBG tournament was under attended (growth had been expected in this) because another Hobbit SBG group had decided to run a competing event.

Stores naturally want to sell product, so some stores limit games played in store to what they sell, instead of charging a table fee for allowing a gamer to play anything they want. So it's hard to get the gamers out of the store, because they're already playing for free so why travel and pay admission to an event just to play again?

Back in the day, there was a gaming store nearby, with an open minded owner who let us come and set up games. Which we did, hoping to 'grow the hobby.' We just ended up playing with ourselves and often encountered sneers of derision from the Warhammer kids who thought my Burgundians looked stupid (this while pushing around an empty base because his Daemon riders of Slaneesh weren't even assembled yet).

3. the organizer of a local convention called Sword and Brush felt that everyone should basically join him. He's built a solid base of tournament events, but wants to attract traditional gamers too. Or to be honest, he just wants to attract their admission fees. His idea was that Hotlead, KEGSCON and Council Fires should all just join their banners to them rather than dilute the efforts. Or else we'd all just die out.

I observed that yes, if one wants to grow into a Very Big Convention (i.e. Adepticon or Gencon) then yes, build a base of mainstream tournament and RPG events adding scenario gaming after the fact. But you're going to have big overheads in a big convention center and will have to charge correspondingly bigger admission fees. Also I'm not sure that there is much point, since Canada doesn't have the population of dealers to be attracted to such an event, which would make the admission worth while for someone like me who isn't playing a tournament. And does one want the headaches organizing something like that? I know I don't.

4. much air was burned on the "but the tournament players will see the other games and cross over" to which I replied with a polite "bollocks." Honest, I said it nicer than that but they got my drift. I do know a few who have done this, my friend Scott is one. But I think that for 90% of them, they are locked in their tournament and won't have the time to try another game. If they notice the scenario based games they might think 'cool' but most likely they'll say "hey look at the weird old guys".

Your average Flames of War player, if he tires of FoW, isn't going to think "what other 15mm WW2 game can I play with these figures?" No, he's going to sell his army and use the money to get into X-Wing or Warmachine or whatever.

5. much discussion from me on the negatives of tournaments for shows like Hotlead. They take a lot of floor space and table square footage for players engaged, vs. scenario games. And the tournament players rarely cross over, so why make the effort? This was seen as me being bitchy.

But I see it as defending my turf.

To me scenario based games are what I want to play, What I want to see. What I want to encourage and support. Most tournaments (the Ontario Hobbit SBG guys who come to Hotlead are an exception, which is why I like them) have really awful tables to look at, so they aren't even good to view for the non players. Gamers like me need a nice show where we are the norm, not a minority of "weird old guys" on the fringes of Very Big Con lost in a sea of FoWX-Wing and 40K tournaments.

I've tried to "grow the hobby" by going to stores, but it's like trying to convince people who like Top 40 to try listening to Jazz. I've tried having tournaments at Hotlead. I had Games Workshop Canada run tournaments for a few years. But not many of those players came back.

Tournament gaming and scenario games are two different hobbies that share the same medium.

Am I not worried about dyng out? The dreaded greying of the hobby? I've decided I don't really care. I'm not interested in growing Hotlead into something bigger and shinier or joining it to Sword and Brush and thereby lose control of the event and the money. I have lots of friends to play with, not sure I need anymore to be honest. The only person I want to convert into a love of wargaming is my grandson, and he's not even two yet.

Like Galadriel resisting the Ring I shall fade and go into the West.

Monday, November 26, 2018


My day of cadet training on Saturday was cancelled by the Reserve unit who's Armoury we use, so I was available for a road trip with Mike and Dick to take in the last Broadsword event of the year. These game days are put on 3 or 4 times a year by the Hamilton Table Top Gaming Society as a fund raiser for the Hamilton Legion Branch who let them use the hall for their weekly meetings. So a very symbiotic, and I hope mutually advantageous, arrangement.

It's a very old school, local game convention, held in a down at it's heels Legion hall. A bunch of tables with some nice games. Some folks playing board games. A couple of dealers. Cheap admission. Really, it's the most fun you can have for $10.

I talked my fellow travellers into leaving early so we could play in the morning too and after braving the near freezing rain, the highway, a traffic jam on the parkway and then taking the switch back road down the face of Hamilton Mountain we made it, only 5 minutes late and the three of us sat in on a super cool and amazingly pretty 6mm 1:1 scale American War of Independence game. Figure scale matched ground scale and three stands of 16 figures equaled a company.

The rules were equally innovative. Much fun was had but it was interesting trying to get used to the long musketry ranges, although long range volleying didn't do much to each other. But my partner took our half battalion of British line and engaged in long range volleying to tie down the 2 battalions of Continental line whilst I took my Loyalist troops to march across their front, cross the ford and join our allied Natives in burning the town and tearing up the Rebel militia.

British column

The ford. Close up of the really superb terrain

British lights skirmish with Rebel rifles around the house

Continental infantry engage

Continental deployment

Loyalist troops have crossed the ford and are deploying to attack the town

Fighting around the covered bridge as the Americans try to reinforce the flank. Indians in the woods at the back have driven off most of the Colonist militia. Other Indians and Loyalist troops are firing the buildings.

After lunch I kept to the 6mm theme and played in my friend Brian's Franco Prussian War game. This time he staged the Battle of Spichern, using Bloody Big Battles. I took the French this time, having played the Prussians last time (which was I think 2 years ago). It was brutal. The Prussians got within range quickly, negating the advantage of our rifles and thrashed us badly. I was in a strong position flanking the main Prussian thrust down the valley, but I promptly ran out of ammunition and got swamped by 3 large Prussian brigades, so the Prussians grabbed 4 of the 5 objective markers in one bloody turn! C'est le Guerre!

French brigade moving up from reserve

Prussian assault columns ready to swarm over the wooded heights

Prussian attack developing in the center

French cavalry

French C-in-C
There were lots of other good looking games too, but since I was busy playing I only got a few snap shots of the many well presented games.

Pirates "Blood & Plunder!"

Kings of War fantasy

"What a Tanker" in North Africa

Trench Hammer WW1

More "What a Tanker" but in Burma.
Al in all a good day out and it was nice to get some gaming in. The basement has seen much action lately. But I'm trying to finish up some elves and then I'll set up some solo action if no one is available.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Panzerschreks in Ambush

Scott was free last weekend for a game, which is a rare event indeed. So the two of us played I Ain't Been Shot Mum. The game was an attack by Canadian infantry and armour supported by Wasps on a village in Normandy held by Fallschirmjaeger and a platoon of STuGs.

Mainly because I wanted to put my new haystacks on the table. And the FJ hadn't been out of the box in a while.

Canadians attacked from the left and tried flanking move through field at top

Canadian view of entrance to town 

FJ panzerjaeger team springs ambush 
I deployed from the road,  with one troop on the road, the Sqdn HQ in a field left of the road and the second troop on it's left. The two infantry platoons were following in line on either side if the road. The Wasps trailed behind waiting for something to set on fire.

Scott revealed his trip wire, a section of FJ with two of his three  tank hunter teams who promptly brewed up the leading Sherman.
"Ambush right!"
A section of recoilless rifles were also revealed in front of the Sqdn HQ.
FJ support gun section revealed 
I got the 'Armoured Bonus Move' card so I decided to try and overrun the FJ. Of course, I quickly learned that this doesn't work so good against unpinned troops who aren't in foxholes. I did crush one gun, but everyone else evaded and even made a few antitank attacks. Sqdn HQ had one tank brewed up and the other two damaged. The right hand troop had three Shermans burning after their charge.
Burning Shermans 
The Wasps moved up to toast one panzerschrek team while the infantry rushed forward, clearing the hedge and then the first house at bayonet point. The surviving Shermans got busy shelling everything they could see. The FAC was also calling in Typhoons by this time. The infantry charge swept in before the smoke from the rockets could clear.
8 Plt takes the first house with bayonets
On my left, my remaining Shermans were thinking about crossing the road to flank the town. But Scott tried being cagey and moved a blind along some cover on my flank.  Thinking these were his STuGs I redeployed in cover to protect myself and dropped a Typhoon on the blind to find it a dummy.
Shermans move around the flank

Typhoons give support 
By this time he had revealed his second platoon in the big green house, so my Shermans shifted to put HE into the houses instead of maneuvering more aggressively.  This saved them from getting killed by his STuGs who were sitting patiently covering the field on the edge of town. The field I had been thinking of moving across!
FJ second line

STuGs waiting in ambush 

Surviving Canadian tanks being cautious 
It was now midnight and time to call the game.  His infantry and AT were pretty beaten up, but the STuGs were still a threat.  I had two good infantry platoons but I'd lost half my armour. So it would come down to keeping my remaining Shermans alive to fire HE, while the Wasps burned out the remaining FJ and supported the infantry attacks.

Not a good day for the Canadians. But I enjoyed setting up a bigger game for a change and I liked how the table looked.