Wargamer’s Notebook 17

There are times in any hobby that make you sit back and say, “It doesn’t get any better than that.” I experienced one such day at the recent Partizan show in Newark and it was good enough for me to set aside an entire Notebook in celebration. I cannot envisage a show offering more in the departments of impressive skills, enthusiasm, variety of approach, friendly presenters and inspiration. I can never recall having spent so much time at each table chatting away about the game, the show and the hobby. It was truly a classic, and I can only hope to see many more like it. There will as a result be no Game of the Month this time since there were no less than a dozen outstanding games at Newark, any one of which could have carried off the prize, so, in no particular order and hoping they all eventually surface from Duncan’s darkroom….

We start with the League of Augsburg which, despite evidence to the contrary, is comprised of just two hard working individuals. Once again they put on one of their wonderful games, featuring the Great Northern War as usual, this time backed up by a colour notebook PC which was running a slideshow of information and frequently asked questions. A clever, if somewhat risky, development. The game looked splendid, and both Phil and Barry were more than keen to chat about terrain, figures, those incredible flags, life, WI, controversy and even how they designed and built some of the best looking redoubts I’ve seen. Quite superb.

They may be MAD but they put on a damn good game. Mosborough and District’s ‘Somewhere in Spain’ had state of the art figures linked to Barry Edward’s Playable Napoleonic Wargames rules. I know I don’t get to anything like every show, but this is the first non-Perry game I have seen to use Foundry Napoleonics throughout and en masse. And they really looked good. Nice paint jobs, and thoughtfully based, which had even the ‘Foundry have no movement and don’t look good in units’ faction admitting that they looked the part.

Bill Gaskin put on one of his four board Peninsula masterpieces, this time featuring a couple of redcoat squares under attack by some French light cavalry. In the background, the 95th (and some strangely Sharpesque figures) held off an onslaught of voltigeurs. Because Bill is suffering with a dodgy back, this game was effectively a static diorama, even to the extent of flocking in the bases – but the idea was to show how to set up a game for photography, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t make the cover of WI. Either way, excellent work, and it was good to see Bill back on the circuit.

Next up was the St Helens and Ashton society who put on a 1/300th game entitled Normandy ’44. Now this really was something to behold. Not only were the tanks just right (all GHQ’s remarkable models, and exquisitely painted) but the terrain was Terrain Maker hexes and the overall result was rather impressive. A long chat with Graeme Spencer ensued wherein he advised me about using and building the terrain system, how it could be made to look close or open, the problems with trees, and how difficult it was to store. Having been recently stirred by a re-reading of Normandy (the Terrain Maker book), I think I might be pursuing this route on a larger scale.

The Perry Twins and a small army of friends put on a massive Franco Prussian game which had hundreds of figures and some of the best terrain of the day, centring on a massive shelled out building that drew many admiring glances. Derby offered Guadalcanal 1942, with wonderful sea boards and some delicately modelled and splendidly painted ships. Viva Franco was put on by Ray McGarry and featured, you’ve guessed, the Spanish Civil War. Excellent arid terrain, some wonderfully evocative biplanes and a selection of buildings that would make most people dribble with envy. Also rather good was a massive Guns of Navarone game presented by The Bunker, complete with some great terrain right out of the film (but sadly lacking the famous theme music…). Gettysburg was Leeds Wargame Club’s contribution and it would be true to say that they had some of the better figures and buildings on display. To try and capture something of a battle as big as the ‘Burg is no easy task, but this game managed it in style. Elite Miniatures can always be relied on to keep the ‘old style’ Napoleonics alive and well. They put on a super game set in Poland 1807 using the big battalions and Grand Manner formula, proving that this combination is still a staple of the hobby.

The day was coming to a close and I still had several stands to visit, one of which was Tim Gow’s WD game on WWII house to house fighting. Now this isn’t my period/scale at all, and I can live without relating to individual soldiers who are cut down as they cross a road, so I just watched the game and looked closely at the systems. And it was actually quite clever. The basis is a pack of cards which are used in a ‘Play Your Cards Right’ manner – resulting in the players shouting, Higher! Lower! as their troops edged forward. Good stuff, I should think could be usable elsewhere, and it was rounded out with a fascinating chat with Tim and Bob Cordery.

As if all that wasn’t enough, an excited Dave Thomas came over to me and said, “Do you want to see some of the best painted figures ever”. Something of a daft question I’d have thought, so I duly followed him across the hall to where Dave Andrews had left a box of medievals. Just a handful of infantry, some archers and four mounted knights, but Oh My. Without doubt, they were at least as good as Dave had suggested. The shading and colours were amazing, the posing and animation something else, and the detail in the heraldry was quite unbelievable. Truly beautiful figures, of which I hope Duncan got a shot so you can all see the undoubted talent on display here.

After all the excellent games, the traders almost seemed a secondary attraction, but as ever there were some new and interesting products. WGF had their range of figure storage cabinets which have removable drawers which can then be slotted into matching carrying cases for the lug to the club or show. The workmanship was impressive and I cannot imagine that the cabinets would receive anything but a thumbs up from, shall we say, the Domestic Aesthetics Committee. My only comment is that I like my figures to be on display as well as safely and stylishly stored, and as these cabinets are solid wood, you need to open the drawers to see them. Still, this is way better than my current system of box files and WGF will also build display cabinets to your specification – Portland Works, Randall Street, Sheffield, S2 4SJ. 0114 276 5505.

Not on show at Newark, but worth bringing to your attention is the Exactoscale range of architectural papers. Unlike the usual coloured brick papers that you can buy at your local model railway shop, these have two major advantages. Firstly, they are sticky-backed so applying them to a building or wall is very easy, but even better, they have a small amount of relief provided by the special inks used. So the minuscule bricks, boards or tiles stand out just enough to make them look real, but retain the advantages of paper over plasticard – inexpensive, ease of painting and weathering, a huge range of styles and the ability to use gouache, watercolours or even chalks on the surface. Highly recommended. Lists from Exactoscale, 29 Couchmore Ave, Esher, Surrey KT10 9AS.

Well, Sharpey is no more. The final series was pretty ropey (Trouble at t’mill, Mr Arkwright!), and while the Waterloo episode wasn’t bad (penned as it was by the writer of Charge of the Light Brigade), it was perhaps not all it could have been. The surprising appearance of some Nassauers and Dutch-Belgian light dragoons along with some very good vignettes was tempered by a blurring of La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont, the now expected fifty men posing as a regiment, and some real howlers that would get the trainspotting fraternity (of which I am one) up in arms. But as much as I have moaned about some of these programmes, there must have been upwards of ten episodes which were quite superb and we would all be a lot poorer if they hadn’t been on at all. Congratulations to all involved and I hope, in time, Mr Bean learns to act in another accent.

I was reading a recent copy of Napoleon magazine and spotted two interesting books on the French Napoleonic army published by the famous museum at Les Invalides. Volumes 6 and 7 in the Napoleon et ses Soldats series, they feature the years 1804-1809 and 1809-1815. The books consist of page after page of black & white photographs of real weapons, instruments, standards, uniforms, shakos, belt plates and contemporary prints, interspersed with many colour pictures, most of which adorn the walls of the museum. They both sounded mouthwatering and I was resigned to both a large hole in my wallet and having to wait until my next visit to Paris. But Nancy Kirkham of Hersants rounded out a near perfect day at Newark by having the exact same volumes on the shelf at a very fair price. Both were snapped up, and they did not disappoint.