Thursday 30 April 2015

Games and shows - a couple of clarifications

A couple of things that seem to have been not clear in my previous post, or have suffered from people misreading specific examples as generic ones, so bear explaining.

  • "Participation" games. No, this doesn't mean 'you have to run something like our Dambusters game'. What I meant was your game needs to involve the public at some level. The Lardies' Fighting Season demo was taking an hour and a half to two hours a game, but because of the way Rich and Nick effectively 'MC' the demo, it was possible to spend 10 minutes at the stall and come away with an understanding of the game. 
  • Make it short. I don't mean 'your game must only last 10 minutes'. What I meant was that it needs to be possible for someone who's interested in your game to get a meaningful takeaway from it in the time you could reasonably expect them to want to spend - i.e short within the context of the show. If this is a smaller show where it's possible to do all the stalls in an hour or two, people potentially have more time at their disposal compared to Salute, where there are over 100 traders and nearly as many games (which gives everyone an average of about 2 mins at each stand if they spend the whole day there, which is just about enough time to figure out whether you're interested in a stall :D).

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Games and shows

Just in case anyone missed the results of the poll a month or so ago, and hasn't read the current round of discussion in WSS on the subject... it does seem pretty clear, based on the above and our experience as a club, that the way to go for a 'show game' is definitely participation.

Things we've learned:
  • Make it short. Specifically, make the amount of interaction time with the game that someone needs, in order to get something out of the game, short. The bigger the show you're at, the shorter, as well. It's pretty clear, for example, that it's almost reached the point that you can't do Salute in the time between opening and closing, and expecting people to play your game for half an hour or more isn't going to wash. Also? If the answer to 'when's the next game start?' is longer than folks are prepared to wait, not everyone will come back, because even with the best will in the world, some game or dealer at the other end of the hall will grab them at the wrong moment. Which means either
    • REALLY make it short, end to end. Our Dambusters game was 10 mins tops to get from one end of the lake to dropping the bomb.
    • Make it easy to dip into. If you're running (say) a 90 min demo of your new system, make sure its easy for someone to look in for 5/10 mins and get a grasp of what's going on. If you're running a recreation of a famous battle, ditto. 
  • Make it simple. If you only have 10 minutes of someone's time, then you don't want to spent half of that explaining things. (And equally, if in order for someone to dip into your new rules/game you need to spent 5-10 mins explaining things, you might have a problem with your rules!)
  • Make it 'big'. I'm not necessarily talking scale here, but visually easy to assimilate. When you have a crowd two deep round your table, you need to make sure that people can work out what's going on without having to be sat at the table with their nose in the figures. 
  • Make it look good. 
    • Coffee cups and lunch boxes OFF the table. Purchases and coats under the table.
    • Ask the show when you book, for an extra table and the attendant extra space for game reference sheets etc,. so you can keep them off the table, and so that clearing the playing surface for photographs takes no time.
    • On which note - if someone's shaping up to take a photo, offer to clear any dice etc for them. 
    • Get a banner to advertise your game - they're only £32 from my eBay guy on 24 hours turnaround. 
    • Get club shirts. With your names on if you can, or print name badges if you can't.
    • If you need to do rules handouts or flyers, put a bit of work into making them look the part. 
    • If you're at the table, you're working the table - if you need to go eat etc, you should, IMO, go elsewhere. (Guilty as charged on a couple of occasions, and I accept this is probably the controversial one! :D)
  • Make it memorable. The above will go a long way to doing this, but in addition it doesn't cost a fortune for little takeaways like our DFM stickers (thanks to the RAF guys' Predator game at Hammerhead for that idea) and facsimile pilot logbooks for the kids.
  • Tell a story, if you want to grab the younger generation (and for that matter the older). We were lucky with the Dambusters game in that there's a story there to be told, and we had display stuff to go with it and several people (including two schoolteachers) with a knack for explaining what was going on to folks who were watching. (One of the best bits was the actual pieces of crashed Lancaster ME749 - comparing that to a Coke can and actually letting people handle it went down very well.) If you're reenacting (say) Crécy, be prepared to talk about it. Which leads to what might actually be the most important one:
  • Work, don't play. If you've asked the show for space for your game, people are paying their hard earned money to the show for the privilege of coming, which includes seeing your game. If you use that space to play that big all-day huge battle with your mates that looks pretty, and ignore the punters, then in my opinion you are simply disrespecting both the people who run the show and the paying customers. As a takeaway from this? Your game needs more people to run it at a show than you need to playtest it (you did playtest it, right?) down the club. especially if you all want some time to do the rounds of the rest of the show. We think we can run (Not "play". You don't "play" a show game.) the Dambusters game itself with two people: one 'managing' the pilot and one moving the plane and handling the flak, but even with the five we had at the show, at least three of us hardly left the stand for anything but food, loo/sanity breaks and scheduled meetups. 
  • Stand up as much as you can. Your punters will be, and you should be making eye contact and talking to them. (Guilty as charged sometimes, as my back was killing me.)
  • Ask the question "Why are we here?" - as a follow on from the above: find your purpose and stick to it. :
    • To run a game that allows people to have fun?
    • To demonstrate a new set of rules?
    • To recreate a famous battle?
    • etc etc
    • ...and if the answer turns out to be 'to play a game' then it's time to reevaluate your priorities.
  • Have fun! Seriously. It is possible to have fun doing the above - all our team agreed we probably had more fun running the Dambusters game than at any show we've been at in the past. AND I hardly spent any money :D
Feel free to disagree with me. That's what the comments section is for.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Meeples 144 - Salute

I don't normally plug Meeples episodes I'm not a co-presenter on, but
a) this is a great overview of some of the new stuff at the show
b) I'm on it as an interviewee... :D

Meeples & Miniatures – Episode 144 – Salute 2015

Monday 27 April 2015

A couple of Dambusters photos

Would have liked to post more, but unfortunately the new tablet takes really rotten (I.e. blurry) photos in low light.

So, here's the two I popped on Twitter:

Rumour has it, this was the only time Rich Clarke sat down all day.:)

[I did NOT, mark you, break my posting streak... :D this has been sat on my Phone having failed to post since the 27th, to which it is now correctly backdated.]

Sunday 26 April 2015

Salute report - The Dambusters Challenge

Left Peterborough at 7:15, for once not in my car, as all the bulky stuff was being brought by Andy M from Huntingdon. Made it to the Excel at a  pretty respectable 9 am, to find Dan, Andy and Grahame already there and the game pretty much set up.

And there for the most part I pretty much stayed for the entire show!

For those who weren't there, our game was "The Dambusters Challenge". If nothing else, it could probably have won the award for "most featureless gaming table", as it simply consisted of an 18 foot by six foot roll of blue lino, with a 6 foot wide model of the Möhne Dam at one end and a Lancaster cockpit at the other. The former was made of painted hardboard, bent into the required shape and held there by art, nails and Andy's  wizardry: the latter was built on a spare speaker stand, and basically involved a lot of wood and a piece of bent plumbing pipe. Both of those looked much better than I describe them.

To that we added an Airfix Lancaster kit, fitted (by club member JamesB) with a bunch of LEDs and a USB socket and held in the air by 150 quid's worth of engineering stand. To be honest, this was the one frustration of the day, since the USB socket was supposed to be connected to an Arduino, and that controlled by an Android tablet by Bluetooth. It worked fine with James's phone in a test run on Monday, but refused to talk to my new tablet at all, so sadly the LEDs to indicate damage to the plane didn't work. Ah well.

The game will run with two (very busy) people, but we found four or five very effective: one person guided the pilot, one person measured and moved the plane, one person sorted out the flak, and a fourth (and often fifth) person effectively managed the queue. We had a display table by the side of the game which included assorted facsimile memorabilia as well as four genuine pieces of a crashed Lancaster, and the extra people spent a lot of time explaining the history and the game to the spectators.

The rules are childishly simple. Every time the Lancaster moved, you could adjust its change in speed, its height and its sideways travel by one "click" in either direction: simpler than it sounds. The flak was placed in a semi-arbitrary fashion, and had various effects ranging from taking out an engine, the blast knocking the plane sideways, and so on and so forth. Basically we tried to be entertainingly fair, since after all the object of the game is for people to have fun, not for us to win.

Did people enjoy it? I strongly suspect so, from the fact that we started playing at 10 AM and finished our last game at 5 PM. I think in that time we had over 40 runs - we certainly gave out something like 60 stickers of a Distinguished Flying Cross and 20 or so facsimile logbooks to the kids. Next time, I'm printing some Victoria Crosses for the exceptionally heroic pilots, and maybe some DFM's for co-pilot/bomb aimers.

I think what got me the most, was the fact that every time someone sat down to play, the stand was suddenly two and three deep with 20 or more people watching then do it. Brilliant fun.

Other than that, I made it to the bloggers meet up, visited the TFL stand twice to admire "Fighting Season" and pick up a set of IABSM markers. That was the sum total of my Salute loot and visits to other stands!!

We were clear of the hall by 5:30 and home by 7:30, clutching our award. According to my pedometer, I walked over 5 1/2 miles. This may explain why I was worn out last night!!!!

Photos to follow tomorrow: mostly they're on my new Android tablet, and I haven't figured out how to get them off yet!!! (and they're also, it appears, out of focus, as its camera seems to be rubbish)

Saturday 25 April 2015

Home from Salute - tired but happy

Longer report tomorrow - I've been on my feet most of the day, and my right eye is somewhat sore and tired, so it's my intention to curl up with a mug of tea and Test Match Special. 


In case that's a bit hard to read, that's the Robin Hunt Memorial Trophy for Most Innovative game at Salute 2015. :) :)

Huge thanks to the club team. More tomorrow. 

Friday 24 April 2015

See you at Salute

All packed - except that I have no idea how this house can lose THREE tape measures! Last pile of stuff includes Android and iOS tablets, an emergency charger, 4 pages of stickers, a reference book and a couple of laminated reference sheets. I'd have another cryptic photo for you, but my phone ate Adie's pictures...

My ride (for once I'm NOT doing the driving) arrives at 0715, so we'll see you all at Salute stand GC15! I hope to live-Tweet from there.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Salute blogger meetup - IMPORTANT CORRECTION

As Ray seems to have pre-empted me (go Ray): the meeting is in the MIDDLE of the hall (by the stage/painting competition) at 1pm

Oh, and here's today's Salute prep teaser. (Before you ask, it's a roll of lino.)

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Salute blogger meet up...

So, I haven't actually seen any mention of this on my blog feed recently but then again I haven't seen much of anything on the computer recently, since my eye's only just cleared up to the point where I can do more than post photos ;)

In the absence of information to the contrary, how about we shoot for usual time, usual place: just in front of the food stall in the middle of the right-hand end of the Salute hall at 1 PM. 

I'll be there, in the usual Peterborough Wargames Club blue hoodie.

CORRECTION: as Ray seems to have pre-empted me (go Ray): the MIDDLE of the hall (by the stage/painting competition.

Saturday 18 April 2015


The Meeples Sword and Spear episode has made it through epic trials and tribulations, and has finally been edited and published. (See previous entries on this blog for the gory details.) Kudos to Neil for finally getting it done.

Friday 17 April 2015

Wifi security

A brief security digression: I was checking out a new tablet-driven audio mixer the other day, and was somewhat appalled to discover that its builtin access point only supported WEP for authentication (I.e. how your computer signs on to it). 

Heads up, if you run your own WIFi access points: WEP is trivially hackable by any script kiddie with a small fraction of a clue. If your access point supports it, for your own safety upgrade to WPA2. And while you're at it, disable WPS: it may be incredibly convenient but the "security" process it uses to connect is laughably insecure. 

Thursday 16 April 2015


Eye infections suck. 

Fortunately, being married to a vet makes applying eye ointment much easier. And Siri makes posting to the blog much easier. 

Mike, listening to the Test match and realising just how much time he normally spends in front of a screen...

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Too Fat Lardies/Warbases 28mm Garden kits

Lots of fun stuff in the run up to Salute: two of my favourite companies have teamed up to produce some rather nice scenery bits in 28mm.

What can I say? Looks great! Sign me up.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Kickstarter Watch - Tanks in Manchuria

There's a LOT of what I'd call 'small press' Kickstarters around at the moment. This one is by Trenchworx, the folks who produced the 3D printed Japanese tanks I mentioned a while back, for 28mm resin vehicles for the border conflicts around Manchuria from 1932-1945.

The Kickstarter's at $1700 out of its initial $3000, with 29 days to go...

Coming up:


T-26 Light Tank
BT-7 Fast Tank
T-26 Model 1933  [available at $9,500]
T-38 Tankette  [available at $12,500]
OT-26 Flame Tank  [available at $15,500]
T-34 / 76  [available at $20,000]
GAZ AAA Truck  [available at $32,000]
GAZ AAA Quad Maxim  [available at $44,000]


Type 92 Jyu-Sokosha
Type 97 Chi Ha
Type 79 Ko Gata  [available at $3,500]
Type 89 Yi Go  [available at $5,000]
Type 94 Tankette  [available at $14,000]
Type 95 Ha Go  [available at $17,000]
Isuzu Truck  [available at $38,000]
Type 97 Shinhoto Chi Ha  [available at $50,000]

Monday 13 April 2015

Sherman vs Panther vs Pershing - 6th March 1945

I suspect quite a few of my readers have seen this bit of WW2 footage. It's worth watching again though, especially when accompanied by Dierk's page on it which includes maps and other related content.

Sunday 12 April 2015

War History Online

Somewhere a while back this site popped up on my Facebook feed, and every now and then it posts some links to various quite stunning WW2 (and other era) pictures and movies.

If you aren't already, I'd suggest bookmarking it.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Editing podcasts

For those wondering, I did manage to get stuck in to the several hours of Meeples' recordings Neil dropped on me. One isn't looking too good, but fortunately for everyone's sanity that's NOT the Sword and Steel one. That had some real problems with hiss, though, which I managed to get rid of.

If you're interested in how(you may want to go to YouTube and fullscreen this):

Friday 10 April 2015

RIP Richie Benaud 6 October 1930 – 10 April 2015

Apologies for the non-wargames content, but...

As many of you will know, I am a cricket fan: today marks the passing of one of the voices of cricket, behind only perhaps the gravelly Hampshire tones of John Arlott, and the dry, laconic Yorkshire wit of Jim Laker:. I refer, of course to the great Australian leg spinner and commentator, Richie Benaud.

Those three were the voices I grew up with, from the BBC's Sunday League coverage (watched with my grandfather) to Test Matches up and down the country. Benaud's commentary was always incisive, observant and well-informed, as befitted a former Australian test player and captain, and his delivery and accent just gave you that sense that you were in good hands. He was also a man of principle, calling time on his British commentary career when Test cricket went to Sky, as he felt that cricket should be free to air. (And for all that I have a Sky Sports subscription, I agree with him.)

Richie Benaud was a part of the soundtrack of my life. He will be missed.

Thursday 9 April 2015

A busy night

Spent the day on call at work, and the evening thankfully not getting paged (although I did have to clue up the boss on an email I'd sent at 3pm he clearly hadn't read) while having the first rehearsal with the new band, which was awesome fun.

Wargame content today, precisely zero, though I should probably flag that the club will be at Salute and Campaign (Milton Keynes) within the next month with our new and... only slightly crazy... participation game. Watch this space for some in progress shots.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Kickstarter Watch - 28mm L'Armee du Levant

There's more than a few Kickstarters around at the moment - this one is another 'obscure theatre of WW2 in 28mm' one, not, you understand that this is a bad thing.

So - what do we have here? To quote the blurb:
The goal is to create a range of 28mm Colonial French figures for the 2nd World War which are suitable for use in a wide variety of settings. The basic goal is to get 10 metal figures with a set of differing detached heads into production, allowing them to be made as regular colonial troops with either an Adrian or sun helmet, as French Foreign Legion in Kepis or as Senegalese Tirrallieurs in chéchia.
Laudable aim, if the concept floats your boat - I know there are quite a few people out there who enjoy WW2 theatres that aren't the obvious. £60 will get you a platoon of rather nice looking sculpts with your choice of separately moulded head. It's currently targeting £4500, and stands at just under a grand with 22 days to go (May 1): Kicktraq reckons it's going to fall a hair short, so I figure some more publicity won't hurt.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Battle Report - 6 Apr 2015 - Chain of Command

An interesting evening introducing Ryan (huge WW2 Japanese fan) to Chain of Command, and a very fun game which demonstrated how CoC does encourage a more tactical, even cerebral approach to the game. Gary was his opponent, and had a veteran British force that was tasked with defending the Probe scenario, i.e. preventing the Japanese exiting via that table edge. The Japanese had the (nearly official) 1941 list, with a type 92 combat car in support, while the Brits laid a minefield.

The Japs have a 2" extra move in the Patrol phase, which made things interesting - basically they slightly flanked the British on both flanks, leaving them a touch constrained compared to the wider Japanese choices. Ryan's initial dice were excellent - I think he got three phases on the trot, deploying a section on the right flank (with the rule that allowed him an extra 6" out from the jump off point) and a whole mortar section in the centre. The next phases were a game of cat and mouse: Ryan brought on another section in the centre, and Gary brought on all three of his. Lots of cut and thrust, the type 92 almost getting shot by a Boyes AT Rifle on overwatch, but basically Ryan was waiting for a chance for two phases at once again, which never materialised, to deploy his one remaining section and hit Gary's shifting weak spot.

I still reckon the British over-committed - I'd have left one section in reserve to see where the Japanese chose to make their main attack: instead one section shifted from one side of the board to the other.

Either way - fascinating game. And we may have a convert (and I commend Ryan's blog to you if you haven't found it yet) :D
Jump off points, Japanese on the right.
The first Japanese section makes an advance 
Mortars lined up along the hedge line
The British holding up the Japanese right.

Monday 6 April 2015

Private Friedrich Brandr, King's German Legion, 1792? - 18 June 1815

A fascinating news piece for those who missed it today.

From the Independent (the original is in the Sunday Times but I don't link to articles behind paywalls if I can avoid it):
The 200-year-old skeleton found under a car park on the site of the Battle of Waterloo has been identified as a Hanoverian with a hunchback, fighting to liberate his homeland from Napoleonic occupation. 
Military historian Gareth Glover believes the soldier to be Friedrich Brandt, 23, a private in the King’s German Legion of George III, who was killed by a musket ball that was still lodged between his ribs when he was found in 2012.
I love it when my military history and archaeology hobbies come together :D 

Sunday 5 April 2015


Been a more Meeples-y weekend than I expected. Got a surprise Google Hangout request (yes, we've gone back to Google Hangout for sound quality reasons) for a recording session on Good Friday evening. Fortunately herself was out (duty vet at the dog track) and son and heir has his nose in Elite: Dangerous (I must resist the Mac version), so... watch this space for another new episode.

However, first there's a couple of episodes to still edit, and like a mug (and someone who owns some decent sound kit) I've volunteered to help Neil reduce the backlog by seeing what I can do with one of the outstanding Skype'd episodes. Tomorrow morning's figure painting session is therefore postponed in favour of a stint with Logic and a pair of headphones, I think :D

Saturday 4 April 2015

Kickstarter Watch - Wasteman

Just time to get in on this one, if 35mm post-holocaust SciFi skirmish floats your boat.

Wasteman by ThunderChild Miniatures: it only has about an hour and a half to go, but it looks rather fun if that's your bag: lots of interestingly different miniatures. Something of a gang-based (so, think Necromunda/Judge Dredd) game with some card-based mechanics - it looks like you could use some of the minis for Judge Dredd Cursed Earth games, if nothing else. And moreover, Jason who's the creator is local - Cambridge. The KS has passed its goal, and looks to be doing pretty well.

Friday 3 April 2015

Another Hereward Wargames show update!

I'm being a busy bee this weekend.

Continuing an Easter weekend of work on the site, there's now an online trade stand booking form, reachable at or via the main website. Hopefully it's all nice and self-explanatory - if not, do drop us a message via here, Facebook or the show email and we'll try and resolve any queries.

Please note that you won't be able to pay as part of the form, as we will need to confirm we have space for you before we invoice you. We'll take cheques or Paypal when it comes to it :D

Thursday 2 April 2015

Hereward Wargames Show update

As part of their sponsorship, Gripping Beast​ have generously donated 200 of their ‘Hereward the Wake” minis for the first two hundred attendees. (We’ll have a picture of the figure just as soon as we’ve prised it out of our tame painter’s hands!)

In celebration of that, we've updated the website to enable advance registration, via Paypal on the club's site: book early for £3, get your advance ticket, and don't miss out on your free figure!

Wednesday 1 April 2015

April Fool!

I have to say, I'm a little disappointed at the lack of good wargames-related April Fools. It's got to the point (not just within the hobby) where you mostly just yawn, sigh a little and move on to the next outrageous piece that couldn't possibly be true. Still amazes me how many gullible people there are out there, though - the one spontaneous April Fool that did tickle me was the idea of Peter Jackson making a movie out of the Appendices to Lord of the Rings, which got some very successful bites out of the more suggestible members of Tolkien group on Facebook (not guilty, I hasten to add :D ).

To be good, an April Fool needs to be borderline believable, preferably topical, utterly deadpan, and really, IMO needs to have a moment somewhere near the end where for most readers the scales fall from their eyes and they have a good chuckle at being nearly got, and then go back and unpick it for the hidden jokes. Too many these days aren't quality humour :D

I take a certain delight, though, in the fact that my one public contribution to the genre (back in 1998 when I was working for CricInfo and the cricket world was trying to get its head around both Shane Warne's many different deliveries and the whole concept of reverse swing) got republished verbatim by several daily papers on the subcontinent, I suspect because the concept of an April Fool spoof wasn't a common thing.

April Fools aside, I've had a very lazy day, apart from successfully scoring both the 2014 Flames of War objective and a spare Flames of War Firefly barrel, both of which I count as productive. Oh, and I'm now caught up on Meeples episodes, barring the two I know are in the can. Neil!!!! :D

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