A new game for the young – or not so young

As a distraction from running around our re-enactment campsites and shouting a lot, I have developed a game for our youngsters whereby they can sit still and shout a lot.

This is a “wargame”, but is intended to represent more closely the way that we represent battles as re-enactors rather than actual war.

The original game was designed for use on a card table with a grid of 12 x 12  2” squares, but for portability, last weekend it was played on a cheap cork notice board ruled into 11 x 7 squares.

First the location of the two trees on the field are diced for. Each player rolls 2D6 for the position left-right and 1D6 for the position forward from their base line of one tree. Trees represent barriers to movement and shooting.

Next each player dices for their army. The armies in my game were constructed from four boxes of 30 Years War plastic figures found at a previous “muster”: one of cavalry, one of artillery and one each of the infantry for each side. I added three cannon from an Airfix Waterloo French set.

The full selection of available troops for each side is:
3 guns, each with 2 crew.,
3 pairs of cavalry,
2 groups of 3 pikemen and an officer,
7 groups of 4 musketeers or dragoons,
The General, with a drummer, ensign with flag and one pikeman.

Each player dices for his army of 12 units:
General is mandatory.
Artillery: 1,2 = 1 gun, 3,4 = 2 guns, 5,6 = 3 guns,
Cavalry: 1,2 = 1 pair, 3,4 = 2 pairs, 5,6 = 3 pairs.
Pike: 1,2 = no pike, 3,4 = 1 x 4 pike, 5,6 = 2 x 4 pike.
The rest of the army, to make up to 12 units/bases (hereinafter called “bases”), is made up of musketeers.
Because there is a maximum of 7 musket bases, if the Artillery/Cavalry/Pike contingent is less than 4 bases combined, then the shortfall is diced for:
1,2 = 1 gun, 3,4 = 1 pair cavalry, 5,6 = 4 pike.

The armies are now deployed on the first two rows of the board, from each player’s perspective.

Next first player is diced for, higher die becoming first player.

The turn sequence is:
General issues movement orders to any bases adjacent to his square (including diagonals).
Units ordered to move do so, according to their capabilities,

Any unit with a valid target may shoot. Cannon, 6 squares, muskets 3 squares, cavalry 2 squares (to the right only).

Hand to hand combat. Any base with an enemy adjacent to the front must attack. Cavalry roll 2 dice per figure, infantry and artillery 1 die per figure.

Having now witnessed several games I have spotted hidden subtleties not intended in the original design. For example:
With the 11 x 7 board it is possible to launch a cavalry attack in the first turn that will wipe out the enemy in their sector but will leave the cavalry isolated without command. (The “Prince Rupert” effect).
Two guns side-by-side in the centre as a battery may preclude the enemy General from moving across the line of fire to give orders.
Any unit on the back row of the field has a 1/6 chance on average of being forced off the field by any enemy action.
One should always keep a sacrificial unit between the enemy and the General.

The above is a summary of the complete rules, the current version of which I am happy to supply on application to paul.wisken@btinternet.com.

Battle results for last weekend:

Archie (aged 9): 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, 1-6, 5-6.
Casualties inflicted: 24, Losses 20. 3 won, 2 lost.

Paul (me) (aged 64): 4-6, 1-6, 6-1, 1,6.
Casualties inflicted: 12, Losses 19. 1 won, 3 lost.

Graham (Archie’s dad): 3-6, 2-3**
Casualties inflicted: 5, Losses 9. 0 won, 2 lost.

Steve (Cavalry commander): 6-5, 3-2, 6-1
Casualties inflicted: 15, Losses 8. 3 won, 0 lost

** General retreated from the field. Game conceded.

So Steve is best and Archie is in line for CO when Steve retires.

The best laid plans – A trip “oop north”

On the Sunday and Monday of the English public holiday weekend (25th-27th August) the English Civil War Society mounted a battle display at Hylton Castle, Sunderland.
Since the camp site was available from Thursday 23rd to Wednesday 29th we decided to make it a holiday and see the sights. After all, the weather was wonderful and it is an area we have not previously explored.
And so we planned to set off from Hampshire early on Thursday 23rd and make a leisurely progress northwards, returning in the same way on Wednesday 29th.

Wednesday 22nd
Alas, Chrissy’s first day of holiday, planned for packing and preparation of the caravan, was annulled due to a subordinate’s illness, requiring her to go to the office to run the monthly payroll. Naturally, being in the office meant that she made herself available for every other work assignment and packing did not happen as planned.

Thursday 23rd
We packed the caravan and started off around two hours later than planned. All went well until we stopped for what passes for a meal at a motorway service area near Nottingham. Returning to the car we found one tyre flat.
We used the HGV facilities to pump it up and stopped at every second or third petrol station over the next 150 miles to check the tyre, which held up.
Arriving about three hours later than planned, we found that the campsite water supply had not yet been provided. An empty bowser was parked around 500m from the camp site. Plans were in hand to get it filled. The contract with the council was for a mains supply with three taps, but it was clearly lost in translation.
Our friends had saved us some “Spag-Bol” for dinner, after which we fought the caravan awning in the high westerly wind until it was erected. Then we returned to the water point for our supply, connected the barrels to the caravan and fell into bed, exhausted.

Friday 24th
As expected, the car tyre was flat again. We summoned the AA via their mobile phone app. About an hour later the mechanic called to say he was 200 yards away and needed talking into our temporary campsite. The app showed he was around 20 miles away at the time!
After we described the problem, he re-inflated the tyre and sent us off to Kwik-Fit tyre services around 15 minutes away. They found two small cuts in the tyre, either side of a previous repair. The tyre had to be scrapped. Unfortunately Kwik-Fit could only source a replacement about a week later and at a cost of around £200.
They sent us across the road where another garage was able to source a tyre immediately and fit it within 90 minutes at little over half the cost.
So with half the day wasted we did some shopping and returned to camp.

Saturday 25th
We made a trip north across the Tyne to a couple of camping shops in a vain attempt to source better and/or additional camping equipment, after which we stopped off for fish and chips (and a sausage for the dog) at the seaside.
Returning to camp we were told that our horses had arrived at the battle site four miles away.
Four of us drove to the site to find this was a false alarm, but also that an inadequate area had been fenced off for the horses, and we had to re-arrange and extend the 6ft x 6ft metal fence panels, before setting up an electric fence to keep the horses from different stables separated.
No water supply had been provided for the horses, so alternative arrangements were put in place involving ferrying 25 litre containers from the nearest tap around 500m away. This continued throughout the weekend.

Sunday 26th
Our caravan battery was registering low voltage, so I fired up the petrol generator (brought “just in case”) to top it up.
I played and supervised a few wargames played with my game designed to keep the kids amused, but which has grabbed the attention of some of the adults in our group. I lost at three of the four games I played.

The re-enactment battle started at 2:30 pm, and despite the driving rain proved to be a cracker from the cavalry point of view. The enemy cavalry, some of whom were drawn from a Scottish display team “Riders of the Storm”, were highly interactive and a good time was had by all. Our sponsors, Sunderland town council, were delighted.
After the battle, returning to camp we found that our caravan was without power, the newly charged battery now registering 0v. I installed the spare battery and all seemed well – so far.
In the evening a ceilidh band played at the beer tent until late.

Monday 27th
Off with the dead battery to Halfords, where we bought a solar panel charger for the caravan, and eventually had the dead battery checked, only to find it was registering a full charge.
Back to camp to get into C17th clothes for a cavalry drill and skill at arms display, for which I was providing the commentary. Not only did I have little clue about the planned display sequence but parts of it were carried out behind, from my commentator’s viewpoint, a large bush. It all went reasonably well, considering.
The afternoon battle was even better than Sunday’s version. Our biggest problem was crowd management. Thousands turned up and overflowed the designated viewing area.
Returning to camp some of our number had to depart for home almost immediately. Others prepared for an early departure on Tuesday, and then we sat and chatted around the camp fire.

Tuesday 28th
We awoke to reports of several thefts around the campsite. Our group’s gas range, a mountain bike, the beer pumps from the beer tent, and several other items had been taken. The police were called.
All except us from our group packed and left during the morning. We prepared to spend the afternoon at Beamish museum. Then we found that due to mis-communication most of the facilities had been or were being removed from site, and so with this and the security issues (our caravan now standing alone near the far edge of the field) we decided to go home.
So our leisurely drive home on Wednesday turned into an 8 hour slog home on Tuesday, arriving home around 10:30 pm. We transferred the food from the fridge and collapsed into bed.

Wednesday 29th
A day spent unloading, cleaning and preparing the caravan for our next trip to Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in a couple of weeks, where we will have real 240v electricity instead of gas and batteries.

We never really got to see the sights, but despite wind and rain and our technical issues we had a good break with good friends. Roll on next summer.

A bit of TV nostalgia

Today I was relaxing and watching the 1970s BBC TV series “Wings”, which is based on the experiences of the Royal Flying Corps in 1915.

One of the BE2 crews was played by Michael Cochraine (pilot) and David Troughton (observer), clearly a well-established partnership and good friends.

The next time I saw these two together on TV was some 20 years later in the ITV “Sharpe” series, set in the Peninsular War, playing Sir Henry Simmerson and the Duke of Wellington, clearly the worst of enemies.

They also both have rôles in the long-running BBC radio series: “The Archers”, where David’s real son Will plays his son Tom Archer in the drama.

I spent a long time trying to remember where I had previously seen Tim Woodward (Sgt. Alan Farmer), until I spotted him in the next war as Squadron Leader Rex in Channel 4’s 1980s series “Piece of Cake” about the RAF in 1939-40. This series was based on one of Derek Robinson’s eminently readable books about the fictional “Hornet Squadron”.

(Incidentally, reverting to WW1, I can recommend “War Story” by Derek Robinson. He has an excellent command of black humour).

Spotting and cross-relating great British actors is not new to me. I remember years ago spotting Nigel Green as Colour-Sergeant Bourne in “Zulu” receiving rapid promotion to become General Wolsey in “Khartoum”.

A wargaming and general update.

So what have I been up to since the last blog post?

 Market Garden campaign.

More US paratroops from GHQ , Adler and Irregular Miniatures have been painted.  The Irregular Miniatures chaps were in stock awaiting painting and must suffice as infill for the numbers needed for my next battle, but will be replaced by more identifiable models as and when I have time. 

I have also been painting and dipping many new vehicles for the Guards Armoured Division, in preparation for the next campaign game in the queue.  They now await final detail and a flat varnish.

WW2 – the whole war.

I have both initial forces ready for 4th September 1939 – the Polish counterattack.  Terrain hexes are listed and need to be dug out of the stock, in preparation for the battle, when the Market Garden engagement is over.

Some potential reinforcements on the German side need to be based and (re)painted.

Operation Sealion 1940

Although I halted the play-by-email campaign, the project is still viable for the future. I found in the attic the 00 gauge model electricity pylon kits that I intended to convert into a Chain Home radar station in 1/285, and so started work.

AWI/Revolutionary War 

I have prepared and printed the labels for counters to play the battle of Chatterton’s Hill using Richard Borg’s “Battle Cry” ACW  boards and adapted hex-based “Black Powder” rules.

ECW table-top for youngsters.

 Yesterday I play-tested and tweaked my 3rd edition rules for the card table and 20mm plastic soldier battle game that I designed for the under-12s in our cavalry re-enactment group, but which has since been embraced by the “grown-ups” too.

Over the August Bank Holiday we intend to run a “knock-out” competition.

French Revolutionary wars

In my guise as a “Pensionnaire des Invalides” at re-enactments I use the same card table with wooden models to replay whatever battle we happen to be at. Although my models consist if several strips of MDF figures glued together as blocks, I think they suffice. I have been painting the basic white fronts to French infantry. More detail will be applied later.


I have a biscuit tin full of plastic 20mm board game figures based for “Black Powder” games.  I used them earlier this year to teach myself the rules. Now I need to give them at least a basic paint job, probably in high gloss as “toy soldiers”. I started, simply because the paint pot was to hand, with the cardboard bases.

Life in General.

Having failed to find out why Facebook no longer removes the “unread” markers from posts, I have closed my account and regained at least one hour each day for more useful purposes, including this blog.

I have also been to my local NHS practice (only took 6 weeks to secure an appointment) to discover from the X-ray results of two months ago that the degenerative bone disease that has previously taken both my hips (or something very similar) is now in my spine.  Next steps:  fill in a form (of course), then I may be allocated to an osteopath, a chyropracter or an accupuncturist for further mucking about with my body, according to the will of the NHS.

Meanwhile, on the wargaming front, sitting and painting is painful; standing and pushing models about is painful; sitting before a computer is painful.  So everything will be done in small doses.

And at the end of the month I intend to drive with a caravan from Hampshire to Northumberland and back (with an intemediate stay!). This will definitely be carried out in small doses!

Returning to Nijmegen

Our campaign has now entered the morning of the 18th September 1944.

The first engagement was a battalion level attack by US parachute troops against a battery of SP AA guns guarding a railway crossing to the north of a heavily wooded area.
The paras moved out before dawn but it was light before they neared the crossing.
Taking advantage of the woods, they first built improvised defences before opening up with rifles, machine guns and mortars from the south and west of the AA position.
The Germans did not even know of the existence of the enemy before they were completely wiped out.

As an exercise it was useful, but as a wargame I am not so sure. It took me ten days to prepare and 90 minutes to play, including a detailed turn-by-turn report.

And now we return to Nijmegen Bridge, where the Americans have moved up reinforcements overnight. Both sides have also recovered casualties and stragglers during the night phase.

I wish that I had taken some better overall photographs of the table when I last laid it out.Nijmegen
Trying to reconstruct it I first made the error of shifting the whole layout 250m to the west, and thereby the hex pattern is not quite as it was. Secondly I am unable to identify from this photograph several of the specific buildings used last time.

Many of the good Burghers of Nijmegen will be somewhat disoriented when they leave their front doors today to discover they now live in a different street!