Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Trouble With Triples

Sheffield Triples Wargames Show was held a week and a half ago at the English Institute for Sport and for the fourth year in a row, I was there for the weekend. Some of you may have seen the chat on TMP about the failings of this show, in particular the lack of attendees and a handful of traders. Well, I have been pontificating on the matter and to coincide with Andy's take on the matter, here are my thoughts.

Previously held in May, this year saw the move to the original timeslot for the show. This was given as one of the reasons for the perceived failure of the show, a change in date combined with a lack of advertising. If you don't tell people, how will they know? Well, sorry if this is a tad blunt, but GOOGLE IT!!! Seriously, it's a five second search and there you have it. It's not rocket science. Do people have to be spoon fed everything? Is it beyond a person's ability to discover information for themselves? Or has wargaming dumbed down to the point where if it's not delivered with the force of a four by two across the back of the head, it doesn't register? As I said, a tad blunt. It is true the event should have been advertised more, but the information was out there. Lack of communication from the organisers has also been blamed and, regardless of whether it is 100 percent factually accurate, that needs to be addressed by the organisers.

Some have blamed the venue, too large, too soulless, not the Octagon. Well, sorry, but if you like your venues with space, decent lighting, easy access for traders and public and decent grub, the EIS has it. What is the obsession with atmosphere at venues? OK, so as a punter, funky venues are a nice touch, but spare a thought for the traders, the lads and lasses who have to cart their gear around these places. And if that doesn't make you consider your view, what about this: Shows only happen because traders table fees pay for the venue. From personal experience, I'd take a sports hall over somewhere like Kelham Hall any day of the week.

Others have questioned the need for a two day show and one that falls close to two other reasonably sized shows in the calendar. If you made it a one day show, which day? Saturday, and risk clashing with sporting/public events (during the weekend of the show, there was the derby soccer game, Six Nations and a beer festival in the building opposite the venue); or Sunday and have the usual busy at 11, dead by 1 syndrome. What if the venue will only hire out for the weekend so you have to take the block booking? Weekend shows also give more time for competition games, greater scope for demo and participation games, and give a more relaxed vibe to the show. So, for me, they have their place.

So, mini rant over with, where does that leave me on Triples 2016? The show was not as well attended as last year, at least it seemed that way. There were fewer games on display and fewer traders, so the move to just having one hall next year may help. At the very least, it would fill the place up. Having said that, it may be in the interests of the organisers to publicly answer some of the criticisms/observations of those who attended the show. Not a mea culpa though. As Andy points out in his post, if traders or demo gamers decide not to attend, that's not the fault of the organisers. If they didn't know about the show, then better communication possibly, but bear in mind the second paragraph above.

I'll end on a question for you. I mentioned Kelham Hall above, and Partizan has moved venue to the same location as Hammerhead. In addition, 2nd Partizan is now in August. Since the shows have moved both venue and date, what would you expect the effect to be for this year?

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Plus One For Buying The Umpire A Pint

Last Saturday saw an assemblage of TWATS (Andy, Jeff, Theatre Steve, Shaun and myself) at the usual location for a game of modern warfare with a slight twist on the usual set up. Normally, you see, it's a straight conventional square off between valiant British forces and the despicable Great Leader's horde of cannon fodder. Well, this time, as I was in the chair, I wanted to try something different. 

Enter stage right, Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake. I'll let the briefings take it from here.


With war between the Allies and The Great Leader looking increasingly likely to as a means to extract the Hirraqui forces from the invaded country of Quewait, a last ditch peace mission by an ”interested third party” was given the go ahead by the UN. Consequently, the Deputy Vice Chief Executive (Gulf Region) of Oyston Industries, Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake arranged a meeting with an envoy of The Great Leader’s in the town of Al-Missya, located 10 miles from the border.

Oyston Industries is the largest corporate entity in the Gulf region, with oil exploration, extraction and refinement interests, combined with renewable technology research and development.

Unfortunately, during the meeting, news broke that The Great Leader had begun a pre-emptive assault on the massed Allied forces. As per protocol devised by Oyston Industries along with the local British forces, a rapid response team was dispatched to extract Sir Copestake. This it did. However, as the Chinook and its escorting Apache made their way southwards, ground fire brought the transport down. Fortunately, there were no casualties. A ground based force is now en-route to the crash site to complete the extraction.

British Briefing

You control two forces on table, with potentially a third en-route. The aim is to get the HVT to safety with minimal casualties, though as always, things are not quite that simple...

Extraction Unit

1 command Infantry stand (integral AT)
1 infantry stand (integral AT)
1 sniper stand
1 HMG stand
Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake and bodyguard
You start off at the helicopter crash site and have a decision to make as to where to more to. Staying put is an option but the local militia and regular forces know where you are. Discretion may be the better of valour, at least in the short term. There are no injuries to prevent tabbing out, however there is a lack of suitable footwear for a certain individual.
You do have off table 81mm mortar support though this is not available if you locate to a built up area.
A brief note about Sir APC. He served in the Nookyo Yeomanry during the 1980’s and is still range qualified. He can provide additional rifle fire if you desire. This will, however, greatly expose him to enemy fire. That, and he would enjoy the excitement. Sir APC’s close protection detail is armed with an SMG and pistol.
British Ground Extraction Unit
These will start off table, with dice rolls required to decide when they make an appearance. These are Royal Marine troops who have made a rapid advance through the weak enemy forces. As such, there vehicles are lightly armoured though they do have CVR-T support.
1 command Infantry stand (integral AT)
3 infantry stands (integral AT)
1 Milan Stand.
1 Quad Bike and Trailer
1 Pinzgauer truck
2 Landrovers
3 CVR-T Scimitars
For the initial two turns, Apache support will be present on the table. After two turns, “Ugly 69” will return to base for refuelling. It’s return is dependent on how the Allied Forces are dealing with the Great Leader’s attacking forces (yup, dice rolls). Whatever you do though, don’t get it shot down. Losing one helicopter in a day is an accident, two would be considered careless.
There is an emergency extraction procedure if it all goes tits up (Total Inability To Stop Unfriendly Persons). An extraction for Sir APC can be completed by climbing onto the exterior of an Apache. Please note that this is extremely risky and has more danger than you can possibly imagine (in other words, the Umpire will be a bastard with your dice rolls!)
British Support Forces
HQ No 1 Sqn Prince Regents Own Heavy Hussars
1 Command Sultan
1 Sabre Squadron with
1 Command Challenger 1
2 Challenger 1
No2 Sqn Prince Regent’s Own Heavy Hussars
1 Sabre Squadron with
1 Command Challenger 1
2 Challenger 1
Attached armoured Infantry – 3rd Btn Queen’s Malabars –
1 Command Warrior IFV
2 Warrior IFV
1 Command Infantry Stand
1 Infantry stand
1 Weapons stand
These will have to be diced for as the game progresses. Please note that at the Umpire’s discretion, there may have been losses prior to the units reaching this area of operation. If they reach the VIP group, they will pick up and return to their starting point.
British Success Scenarios

  1. Everyone gets out, minimal casualties
  2. Sir APC is extracted, British forces remain in situ, providing a jump off point for following forces
  3. Sir APC is extracted, British forces remain in situ, under extreme pressure due to numerically superior enemy forces
  4. Sir APC is dead, British forces remain in situ, providing a jump off point for following forces
  5. Sir APC is dead, British forces remain in situ, under extreme pressure due to numerically superior enemy forces

  1. Sir APC is dead, British forces heavily engaged with local Hirraqui forces with subsequent losses on both sides (and a scathing editorial in The Times to go with the lovely obituary of Sir APC)

Hirraqui Briefing

In order to please The Great Leader, you must take advantage of the local situation and kidnap the western capitalist dog called Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake. The Great Leader trusts that you will, with the blessing of Allah, capture the infidel and hold him until we can benefit greatly from him. He must be taken alive.
Due to the forward thinking of our Great Leader, these are the great forces you have to complete your divinely ordained mission:
Local Tribal Militia
Enthusiastic and blessed by Allah (Morale 7, rabble)
1 infantry command stand
2 weapons stands
2 infantry stands
Local Tribal Militia (2)
Extremely enthusiastic and blessed by Allah (Morale 10, vigorous rabble)
1 infantry command stand
5 infantry stands
Local Militia Support:
1 107mm RCL
1 HMG stand
1 Light Truck with SNEB
1 Truck (with for 107mm rifle and HMG stand)
3 Motorcycle stands
Fist of Allah Tank Company (deployed in Al-Missya, unable to move til Turn 3)
1 Command T55
2 x T55 (understrength)
Follow up forces (from turn 6 onwards)
Experienced Morale 8
Tank Battalion with
Battalion HQ company
1 Command T-72
1 T-72
1 BDRM  SA-9
2 Tank Companies each with
1 Command T-72
2 T-72
1 Tank Company with
3 T-72

Victory Scenario


The Game

With the stage set, the assembled TWATS were assigned sides. As benefited the scenario, Andy took the British as he was, figuratively, in-situ. Jeff took the enthusiastic militia and the T55 company. Theatre Steve took the very enthusiastic militia and the support weaponry. To start off with, there were dice rolls to see how far the Chinook made it from the town and which side of the highway it crashed. This was important as Andy managed to place the crash site as far as possible from the two villages containing the militias and the town with the T55 company.

Another fine mess...
Steve started by sending his motorcycles haring down the highway with his light trucks in support. In very short order, "Ugly 69" sent the light trucks packing, though that did leave their support weaponry inconveniently in the middle of the road. Jeff started to move his militia towards the crash site, whilst Andy started the long tab away from it.

Worse than the A19 at rush hour!
The second turn saw Hirraqui forces get their revenge by hitting a Scimitar with a 107mm round. As the rest of the extraction unit passed by the militia held village, Steve sent rounds their way, hitting another Scimitar but apart from that, they continued to speed through. Andy, sensing discretion was the better part of valour, continued his run, whilst Jeff, fearing "Ugly 69's" cannon, retired his militia back to their village. So far, fairly tame. That was not to last...

Turn three saw some bloodshed as a 107mm point blank shot missed a speeding Scimitar, though RPG fire took it's toll on the accompanying Landrovers. Not to give impression of being softies, the British return killed the 107mm crew and dented the enthusiasm of their RPG wielding compatriots. Jeff began moving his militia back towards the Chinook as "Ugly 69" had to RTB, leaving the Brits feeling all lonely.

Whatever you do, don't look back!
Turn four saw the T55's join the party, sending long range 100mm fire towards the Scimitars. This was as pointless as it sounds. However, the motorcycles has reached the hill where Sir APC and his boys were hiding. They then proceeded to spray and pray, narrowly missing the VIP but causing no casualties. The British return was more effective, having not moved. This allowed the infantry and the attached sniper to put three hits against the motorcycle troops. Steve then decided to dismount for the next turn.

What's that coming over the hill? Is it Militia? It is Militia!!!
Turn five heralded the Hirraqui support forces arriving on the table, whilst there was no sign of the British follow up troops, though they would be ably led by Shaun who had just arrived. The motorcycle troops were being a tad tiresome, RPG fire using HE warheads killing one British soldier. Small arms fire, despite the warnings of the umpire to the risk of hitting Sir APC, was directed against the group. Sir Copestake was hit!!! His body armour was well made, though, and he survived. He was not, however, best pleased. British return fire killed another motorcyclist and pinned the unit. "Ugly 69" made a welcome return though, sending Hellfire missiles towards the T55 company which was now rapidly approaching the under fire escapees. The end result, one dead T55.

Almost there, almost there...
At this point, time was called and the (as usual excellent) Beef butties supplied with copious amounts of chips were consumed. Now refreshed, we were back to the table.

Turn six finally saw the British support forces arrive, in a race with the Hirraqui regulars as to who would get to Sir APC first. Back at the gunfight, the surviving T55's were now pouring MG fire onto the desperate band of troops, though their lack of main gun depression mean it was just the turret mounted AA MG's and not the main guns or coax. This was seen as unsporting, and another T55 disappeared to Hellfire missiles, whilst the remaining tank took a glancing hit but passed it's morale test. By this point, the initial British response forces had reached the VIP and surviving infantry.

The British support arrives and take no notice of The (infamously shy) Great Leader

Meanwhile, it's getting a bit squeaky over here...
Turn seven turned out to be the last, but bloodiest, of them all. The T55 MG fire killed a British command stand, though Sir APC was untouched, whilst the sniper team took a hit. British LAW fire killed the last T55 and the remaining motorcyclists failed a morale and ran away. The British support forces took fire from Steve's village militia, one RPG hit a Challenger, it didn't notice. Return fire was lacking effect as the British were travelling too fast to get to the VIP. Meanwhile, the SA-9 tried to take out "Ugly 69" and missed. Hellfire missiles killed two T72's and damaged two more in return. At that point, I called it a day.

So, who won? Well, the British achieved victory condition 2, though not without taking more casualties than I thought. The Hirraqui's? Well, they were all shot. Life's tough. Jesting aside, it was fun to see how the scenario worked out and though it needs a bit of tinkering, it has potential. And in best Bond style:

Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake Will Return!

Now, at the TWATS, we always play umpire led games. It works, partly because of the mindset of the group (we are not really competitive gamers though some of us have been in the past), and partly because we want to enjoy the games we play, not fight over rule minutiae. It also helps that when we are missing part of the ruleset, the group knowledge helped keep the Umpire right. At the same time, the Umpire can add to the rules to make them a bit more real-world and less gamey. This brings me to the title of the post. The scenario itself was called "Chinook Chicanery". However, during one of the turns, I had a pint bought for me as part of the round and the comment was made, "plus one for buying the Umpire a pint". That kind of neatly sums up the attitude of our group (and it stuck for the post title!). Not that I would succumb to bribery like that. It would have to be a pint and a double whiskey and then I'll consider the merits of the situation! :-) 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

You could take me to Hull and back...

After what has seemed like an age of uninterrupted work, last week saw some time off and a bit of a road trip to Hull to see the better half's sister. Just prior to the trip, we went to see Deadpool at the cinema and enjoyed it immensely we did. Fast paced, hilariously funny and tonally spot on, it is the perfect counter to the increasingly serious Marvel and DC movie universes. Give the trailer a shot as it's a blast.

Anyway, the trip to Hull. It is not, as some people think, a crappy place. True, it has both good and bad, but then all places do, and it suits a couple of days to see the what the place has to offer. Apart from the usual retail haunts (and a CEX store that doesn't stink of b/o and pee!), it also has a Games Workshop store. As I was passing, I thought I would have a look in.

Wow!!! Why the wow? Why the three exclamation marks?

Well, it was busy, and surprisingly not just with the expected hordes of teenagers. Nope there was a goodly mix of twenty-somethings, worried looking parents buying the teenagers their toys, other halves standing in bemusement at said toys, and your humble scribe. (My better half was perusing a shop further down the street). What did make me go "wow!" at first was the general stock of the shop. Reasonably well laid out, sections on rulesets, figures, starter kits, vehicles, books etc. Nice to see and not what I had expected, although that could be down to me seeing GW fans at wargames shows and projecting that image to the company. The second "wow!!" came from the book section alone. I knew there was an expanded universe out there but seriously, how many books??? I presume they must sell (and keep Dan Abnett in tea and biscuits), but I wasn't expecting the full on media expansion of the lore. It made me wonder how much GW are focussing on everything other than the gaming systems that I thought was there bread and butter.

The final "wow!!!" kind of answered that for me. I saw one figure, looked like grey resin, maybe an inch tall (I profess to not know the details), in a neat little blister pack. Nice piece of work, until I saw the price. £15!!! For one figure!!! Jesus indeed was sobbing gently into his handkerchief.

Now I admit, I have not played any GW games since the 1980's but I can't quite comprehend how people can justify charging (and paying) that much for one figure. Not when you can buy Perry plastics at shows for £20 per pack for 36 figures, or Old Glory 25mm for £24 for 30 figures. The former are plastic, the latter metal, but either way, much better value than £15 for one! Do GW need the book sales to cover the low sales of actual gaming goods? I am not sure, but it's a thought. And yes, I am aware of the idea of expanding market presence and diversifying your income, but at those prices, no wonder the parents looked terrified...

I didn't loiter for long, and after the aforementioned two days, we left Hull behind and returned to the bright lights of County Durham.

Thankfully, now I am back home, I can get round to sorting out my plan of action for this Saturday as it's a TWATS meeting and I am in charge. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!!! If I had whskers of a certain length, I would be twirling them right now. It'll be a modern, not-quite-Iraq themed game, but on a smaller scale than previous games, and with a few umpire introduced amendments to the proceedings. There shall, without doubt, a report or two and pictures.

The weekend after that will be filled with the joys of Sheffield, where the Triples show is being held in it's new timeslot. I admit that I am looking forward to the show, it has a good number of traders, games and the facilities are of the better sort for a show. There is also the Lord Nelson pub, just round the corner from the hotel. That is always a nice sight for sore eyes on a Friday and Saturday evening.

After that, well, hopefully some more blog posts, more music reviews for the other blog I write for and maybe, just maybe, a couple of cinema trips too. Well, one can but hope...