Sunday 17 April 2016

Salute 2016

I hadn't planned on visiting Salute this year. Last year was my first visit and although worth the trip, I much prefer Colours as a show. Then I received a bit of a last minute request from Michael Leck asking if I would be able to help out on their table. Well frankly I couldn't say no to such a tempting offer! Afterall I had been following their plans with great interest over the previous few months, details of which can be found on Michael Leck's Blog and Jonas' Blog.

So a rather early start saw me arrive at the Excel Centre around 8.30am, just in time to start helping the chaps set up the table. After a busy hour or so we were ready just in time as the doors were opened to the public. We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the table, the figures and the Lion Rampant ruleset that we were using. Michael, Jesper and Jonas provided some simple wonderful figures whilst Jan once again came up trumps with a superb scratch built table and terrain. Colin, Tony and I as general helpers were able to answer lots of questions from the visitors, as well as taking part in the game to allow the others to have a bit of a wander around the show. I had to leave in the early afternoon but there was still plenty of interest in the table and the game, which was great to see.

So before I get to some thoughts on the show in general, I thought I'd post a few pics of the game:

Mercenary German cavalry come galloping past a shipyear, to the aid of their Swedish paymasters.

The Danes have landed on the beach and start to move inland past the market.

The Swedish Archbishop musters his troops to see off the Danes.

The Danes have formed shieldwalls after leaving their longboats, with a skirmish screen in front.

More Danish troops on their way in Jan's scratch built longobats.

As the Danes approach, Jesper  waits confident that the Swedes will prevail!

I did manage to snatch a quick look around the show at lunchtime. there was simply so much to see that I concnetrated on a few games that were of interest to me.

The siege of Bristol, with probably St Mary Redcliffe church in the background.

Looking from the southern city walls to the siege works.

The infantry in the fields outside the city walls.

A Seven Years War game.

The same game but from the other end of the table.

Another Seven Years War game on a superb table.

A British firing line outside the city.

Some more spendid looking chaps.

The terrain was superb and the buildings incredibly detailed.

So what did I think of this years show? Some thoughts below in no particular order: 
  • It's a long way to go for a show. I live in Bristol and with good traffic it is a 6 hour round trip. No suprise then that it makes for a very long day out.
  • It is relatively expensive to attend the show. Factoring petrol and parking, it cost me around £60. If I attended as a visitor and planned in advance, it would cost me around £30. But then it is more than a shopping trip for me, really a chance to catch up with friends and traders that I have known for along time.
  • We all commented upon the harsh lighting and noise of the show. This took its toll quite quickly, especially when you are concentrating all of the time. Not a lot can be done about this due to the nature of the venue.
  • The show is incredibly well organised and 'hats off' to the South London Warlords for all of their efforts.
  • We heard that there were 6,000 plus advanced ticket sales, which seemed similar to last year. In the first 10 minutes some 4,000 vistors flooded into the hall! It was certainly a sight to see.
  • This year there seemed to be more display games and they were much easier to see. There appeared to be more space around the tables which was nice.
  • Lots games seemed to have no or very little actual gaming going on. Some seemed to be more dioramas than games. Maybe this was due to the time I looked around, but we made sure that the game was always being played as well as having a few of us as helpers to answer questions, chat to the visitors etc.
  • This year I found it harder to find some traders that I wanted to see. They seemed to be jammed more tightly together than last year (maybe this was one reasone the gaming tables had more space) and so tended to merge into one another. I don't think that it helped that most of us there seemed quite monochrome in out attire! Maybe next year the traders could have better banners etc above their stalls!
  • Simply put the whole show is quite overwhelming. There is just so much to see that it is hard to take it all in. Quite a few people that I chatted to commented upon this. So rather like going to a museum etc, make a plan of what you want to see before you get there so that you don't miss anything.
  • It is tiring, really, really tiring, for both visitors, traders and those demoing games. We saw an awful lot of people almost out on their feet by lunchtime. The entrance hall becomes a bit of a chill out zone and it is worth taking some time out midway just have a mental a physical break.
  • It was really nice to see a lot more children this year. Maybe there is a new generation coming through to replace us older ones, again something that a few people commented upon.

So would I help out next year if asked again? More than likely yes. Michael, Jesper, Jonas and Jan are all great chaps who are a pleasure to chat with and play a game against. Ditto Colin and Tony. This more than offsets the long day involved and it is a nice excuse to meet up with some new friends once again. Michael already has a plan for next year, but he has to persuade Jan to make another table. So watch his Blog for possible further information...

Monday 11 April 2016

Bloody Big Battles Bash

Sunday saw an early start as I headed down to Oxford to take part in the inaugural Bloody Big Battles Bash. En route I picked up Mike Embree and we had a good chat about military history, wargaming and life in general. Time flew by and we soon found ourselves at the village hall in Wolvercote where the show was being held. Everything was pretty much ready by the time we had arrived, so we made ourselves known and had a quick look around before getting down to the main business of the day. Some of the games on show can be seen below:

The Wilderness, American Civil War 1864

Laing's Neck, First Boer War 1881

First Bull Run, American Civil War 1861

Balaclava, Crimean War 1854

Dybbol & Als,  Second Schleswig War 1864

First El Teb, British Sudan Campaign 1884

Loire Campaign, Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871

Koniggratz, Austro-Prussian War 1866

Solferino 1859
This was to be the first game of the day and one that I was looking forward to a lot. For once I had managed to remember to read up on the scenario the night before and come up with a plan. This was to sacrifice San Martino and defend the crossing of the river Redone with a small force, with the main units of VIII Corps helping to defend the central ridge and the two towns which were objectives. My fellow players agreed and so we had a plan. Would it work or not?


The table with the Sardinian General indicating where he would like his troops to go to. However they did not always follow his commands!

The French Guard Corps push forward through some rather tricky terrain.

The Austrian left flank in a strong position as more French troops arrive.

Elements of Benedek's VIII Corps arrive to support the Austrian centre as the French attempt to outflank Castello town.

Battle is well and truly joined.

The French and Austrians face each other on the plain as the fighting grows fierce around Castello. Benedek's VIII Corps troops arrive in the nick of time to re-inforce Castello.

The French struggle to close with the Austrians.

The Austrian flanks are well and truly secure, with the centre breaking the French attack.

With the French centre gone, they begin to withdraw and the start Austrians celebrate their win!

Well what a great game. Well done to my fellow players who did a sterling job in the centre and on the left flank, which won us the game. The Allied players were all true gentlemen and the game was played in the right spirit and with lots of fun and laughter. Our plan worked and we stuck to it, which I think really helped our cause.

So we then had a brief pause for lunch and a bit of a chat, as well as the opportunity to have a better look at the table we had glimped on arrival.

The Boer War table with the topographic approach which, to my mind, worked a treat. The brown edges to the levels delineated steep hills and were very easy to see during the game. Something to bear in mind for future games.

Troops with rockets which looked brilliant.

A ship on the Dybbol & Als table. Certainly not something you see everyday on a wargames table.

The Danish entrenchments.

The Konniggratz table which was certainly eye catching.

Views of the hilly terrain.

Up hill and down dale.

With lunch finished it was on to the final game of the day. For this game I had not done my research and frankly did not have a plan, other than to defend the Austrian right flank as best I could! Whilst the table was certainly wonderful to look at, it was quite hard to figure out where different level hills stopped and started. It was also absolutely chock full of troops, which made sure we concentrated through out. So without a plan how would things go?


The Austrian left flank with the Saxons on the far left. austrina reserves start to move forward to re-inforce a seemingly sparsely defended centre.

The Prussians advance towards the wood, which would see some fierce fighting.

The Prussians suddenly appear on the Austrian right flank.

Fierce hand-to-hand fighting takes place in the wood.

The Saxons more than holding their own against relentless Prussian attacks.

The Prussians mass for their planned assaults.

The Austrians outflanked and under pressure in the wood...

... and break as a result.

The Saxons continue to hold off the Prussians.

Sadly we had to leave before the end of the game, but it ended up in a draw, due entirely to the brilliant Saxon defense conducted by Rodge, my fellow gamer. Thanks to his efforts the Austrian Empire lived to fight another day! Tired but happy we made our way back home

Thoughts on the Day
First of all a big thankyou to Chris and the Oxford Wargames Club for putting on such a wonderful days gaming. One must not forget the other gamers who took the time and effort to put on such a great variety of games and in different scales. If it is on next year I will certainly try to attend. So to end with a few thoughts on the day.
  • It was great to see such a variety of different table on show. The Koniggratz one was certainly stunning to behold. Personally my favourites were the First Boer War and Solferino ones, as for these rules I was able to clearly make out where hills were, which ones were steep etc. I was particularly taken with Chris' approach, which was one of the map drawn on to a sheet of thick paper/cloth, with trees and buildings then added on. Not only did it look good, but was easy to make and more importantly store. This is something that I need to have a go at in the future.
  • Have a plan. This worked with Montebello but I did feel a bit at sea with Koniggratz as I didn't have one. So some homework certainly pays dividends.
  • Play to have fun. This was evident across all of the games as far as I could see. Playing with like minded gamers was a pleasure as frankly most of us did not care if we won or lost, as long as we enjoyed ourselves.  

Hopefully this has given you a good overview of the day and hopefully piqued your interest in these rules.  Maybe you will even be able to attend another Bash if there is one...