Re-enactors' Market

Went to the traders fair today, mainly because there was an officer’s meeting for Fox’s. While I was there I bought a few books from Paul Meekins, a small pottery kettle and some marbles for Alexander. I also had a tour of Warwick because I was driving sans navigator and went left onto the A425 instead of the A423. Still got there in the end though.

Saw lots of people I hadn’t seen for ages including, Edmund & Emily with little Ed, Paul Meekins, Howard Giles, Charles Kightly, Mutts, and Sophia Sidney. Also saw a fair number of others that I managed to catch up with at Sherwood Forest pretty recently. 

Gist of the officers meeting was simply that we need to do some more recruitment, and to assist that effort we need to sort out some flyers and then tart up the website to give people a better idea of what we do, how much fun it is and get them into the idea of joining, The primary audience for this recruitment effort are people who are interested in history but who have never tried re-enactment before. We’re looking at students, wargamers, and general history buffs.

Anyway, to get some momentum going we’ve set up a small working party to knock some ideas on design and content together. Paul Stinton (Fox’s 2ic & also Fairfax Publicity Officer), Marika and myself will try and get something sorted out over the next few weeks. Emphasis on getting it done rather than discussing it. Marika has done a fantastic website for Lord Orkney’s regiment, a 1660s group that portray what became the Royal Scots. we ought to be able to adapt the template for it to have similar material for the Fox’s website.

The other topic of discussion was about getting the bank account signatories updated. What is required is a copy of the latest minutes of the 2009 AGM so that we can confirm to the bank that our officers have changed and who we need as signatories on the bank account.

After the meeting I had a wee look around to see if I could get a small cauldron with a lid. Not being terribly certain what I wanted to buy from a historical accuracy point I didn’t actually buy anything, instead I picked up some leaflets. Best seemed to be Anvil Art although even those didn’t look quite the same as these ones I found on Somerset County Councils museums page about down hearth cooking.  

Improper Ganda!

A fantastic collection of propaganda posters that have been photoshopped to change the message. Very funny, especially the re-enactment one, and the Cthulhu poster. Worth a few minutes of browsing past in my opinion.

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The library of Triamore: Mundane tractatus

Last night I joined in with Simon Cornelius’s Ars Magica campaign. My character is a female Mage (aka Maga) called Lumen, she’s a younger daughter of a French baron in the early thirteenth century. Blond, blue-eyed and slightly elfin like, the picture I have in my head of what she looks like is of the actress Laura Harris.

Lumen is current a visitor to the Triamore Covenant and brought some books with her in exchange for being allowed access to their library. She appears to be in her early thirties and has not yet settled down and got her own lab yet. Her primary interest is in learning her arts better by reading up, followed by a little practise. She prefers Spring and Summer and gets a little sad in the winter time, being a sunshine sort of person.

Apart from socialising a little with the mages of the Covenant at meal times she spent most of the time in the library reading a book called “The Four Humours” which taught her a fair amount about Corpus.

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Master of Europe 3

The megagame of the 1813 campaign in Europe was played at Anerley Town Hall on Saturday 7th November 2009. My role was as General Blucher, the senior Prussian Military Commander and also the Commander of the joint Prussian-Russian Army of Silesia.

We started off during the ceasefire period of August 1813, with my army in the furthest South East section of the map, in Reichenbach, near Breslau, in what I think is now Poland. The other member of my team was Mike Young, playing a Russian General. Our orders were to stay put until a general plan of action had been agreed. The initial army council of war having failed to set an objective other than to defeat Napoleon.

We were up against Marshal Ney’s army, which was immediately to our front across a river. We also had some distance between us and Ney’s Army, about 1 turn’s worth of tactical marching. However the first turn still had the ceasefire in effect.

A quick conflab with my staff officer sorted out the Army of Silesia’s plan. We weren’t going to wait for a plan before we started operations. We were going to take the war to the French and see how far West we could get, fighting French armies on the way. We decided to operate two parallel columns of about equal strength along parallel roads taking us due West to the Elbe near Dresden and then North-West on the Eastern bank of the Elbe (because we expected the Army of Bohemia to our South to be operating into the west Bank of the Elbe towards Leipzig).

Having decided what we wanted as army boundaries we then informed both the Army of Poland (to our North and in the process of forming) and also the Army of Bohemia (commanded and co-located with Prince Schwarzenberg, the overall C-in-C of the allied armies).

That done orders were written for our army columns to move non-tactically. One column of mainly Russians would move directly up the main roads into contact with the French armies. The other column, with mostly Prussians and under my direct command, took a southerly route and force marched to attempt to cut off the French army from its source of supplies. These manoeuvres were successfully completed without breaking the terms of the ceasefire or alerting the French to the outflanking.

The moment the ceasefire ended we were on the move. The Prussian column moved northward and successfully cut off the French from their supplies (evidenced by reports of having captured many French supply waggons). The other column knocked on the front door and the French retired in front of them. We encircled MacDonald’s corps and another by the end of the second turn, and forced Marshal Ney’s HQ & a third corps to retire as well.

We then attempted to fight a battle against the two French corps from both sides as the fog closed in. The result was a very confusing action in the fog during which the two French Corps managed to slip away over a river and through some woods. (Rob, my liaison umpire, told me that we had been incredibly unlucky as he had rolled a 0 on the d10. Any other result would have been a clear allied victory). None the less, we had attacked the French, held the battlefield while they retreated and so claimed this as a victory!

We followed closely on the heels of the French army, and several times I issued orders for battle at first light to find that the French had already started their retreat. Harrying them to the West I finally decided to forced march to bring them to battle, which resulted in another Prussian victory around turn 6. Unfortunately I didn’t make notes of the place where this battle was fought and don’t have a copy of the map to refer to, but it was about 60km North-East of Dresden.

It was at this point that the Army of Bohemia started to get in my way. Despite an exchange of several letters where I made it clear what progress we were making and insisting that their plan was flawed and unnecessary they had persisted in their drive due North from their start point (rather than North-West as I had suggested). They had decided that they wanted to take Ney’s Army in the rear (which I had already done before they told me that they wanted to do it).   

What happened next was that my Army was prevented from moving West by a column of the army of Bohemia that I had corresponded with in the immediate previous turn as I saw it close to my line of march. The commander had deliberately ignored my correspondence and move down the road I had claimed as my line of advance (which had been sanctioned by the C-in-C).

I was bloody furious about this and shouted at the players concerned, threatening to attack any army that was in my way. In part this had some good effects, but it stalled us moving west for two turns, and limited my area of operations significantly as the Army of Bohemia de facto claimed a chunk of the Eastern bank of the Elbe as their own operating area (leaving the Western bank more or less clear apart from a couple of corps that stuck close to the river and took some of the crossings from the west).

At the same time Berlin got taken by the French and set on fire (not entirely sure by whom). I was then instructed by the King of Prussia to do what I could to liberate Berlin. he also gave instructions to the Guard Corps and the Reserve Cavalry to join my Army along with the Prussian II Corps.

At the same time Marshal Ney’s Army had turned North, and one of my two columns had pursued him. We fought a third battle at a city with a river to the east (where the allied Army of Poland was waiting just across the river). I took the city and my engineers repaired the bridges over the river. The Army of Poland then took the initiative and surged west following Ney’s Army. I had a fruitful liaison meeting with the Army of Poland while the two Army Commanders were co-located and we agreed some boundaries and a strategy.

My Northern column turned South again and marched back to the rest of the army, some 80-100 Km due North of Dresden. Rumours of Napoleon’s Guard were arriving, along with reliable reports of lots of French troops. Uncharacteristically I ordered my army to dig in around the town while we concentrated. This was just as well. Ney attacked us supported by the French Guard Artillery. Following an Arty duel our Artillery Corps destroyed the French Guard Artillery. Ney’s Army was bloodily repulsed, but only because the Prussian Guards and Reserve Cavalry had been committed. This resulted in the Cavalry being destroyed (it only had 1 strength point) and the Guard down to 50% off original strength.

The next turn Ney came back, but this time my entire Army was present and I had rotated two very battered Russian Corps out of the front line and replaced them with the Prussian I Corps. At the same time Napoleon was attacked by the army of Poland 20km to our North. The French lost both battles. 

This, I decided, was the time to attack. The fresh Prussian II Corps arrived and we moved North with bayonets fixed, the order “Advance implacably & kill the French” duly issued. In the course of the next two turns pursuit we killed four French Corps, plus the Old Guard. The surviving Prussians equipped themselves with bearskins and then moved back South to clear the road for the Army of Poland.

We found ourselves with no avenue of advance, surrounded by friends. So we started south again in pursuit of some French stragglers that were moving for Dresden in the hope of getting across the Elbe there. However the Army of Bohemia had taken both Dresden and all the nearby crossings.

Another about turn ensued and we went back to the North and got in contact with Napoleon’s army just east of Wittenberg (about 40km or so). Although by this time Napoleon was no longer with the Army. We were on the direct Southern flank of the Army of Poland again and this limited our flexibility and ability to go anywhere. Our only option that allowed free movement was attacking into the French who almost a

lways retired in front of us

On approaching Wittemberg we met the local armed forces outside the town. They were claiming neutrality and I offered them the opportunity to join the alliance against Napoleon. They were at least partly convinced by my proffered arguments that we’d fought with Napoleon in 1812, but could see that he was now a spent force and that us Germans ought to band together to get rid of the foreigners interfering in how we enjoyed our sovereignty.

At that point the game ended, which was just as well as we’d been thoroughly boxed in by our supposed allies. 

The only trouble we had was from our friends, the enemy were most accommodating…

Preparing For War – Onside Report

British evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk
Image via Wikipedia

Rather than run a conversational design session at the November meeting I decided to try and do something that was at least vaguely playable. My reasoning was that I’d been somewhat frustrated at the conference with discussions of games that looked like they could actually have been played, and I’d felt that perhaps by playing it we could have tested whether or not the perceived problems were actually real.

Anyway, I did a sort of role-playing game about re-constructing an infantry company after the evacuation from Dunkirk. John Rutherford was the first person to arrive (after me) and so I cast him as the first officer to report to the village in Devon I’d decided to put the company in. Chosen only because the OS map of Devon/Dorset was the first to hand when I was collecting materials for the game, they might equally have ended up in Scotland! John’s character, 2/Lt Robson was a recently commissioned officer who had been sent to France within days of being commissioned and then evacuated a few weeks later.

On arrival in the village by train 2/Lt Robson discovered that he wasn’t expected, and nor was his company! He set about contacting the local policeman, the vicar, chair of the parish council and other notables in the village.

Staying overnight in the village pub he established that the company could be billeted on the Mill when it arrived. Within a day the remainder of the company arrived by train under command of the Major (Jim Wallman). Shortly afterwards Lt Hanse (Mukul) and 2/Lt Duff (Dave Boundy) reported for duty. The company was swiftly sorted out into platoons and sections, on the basis of sharing out the experienced men and the good NCOs as well as those with dodgier records.

The first few weeks were played out in organising the company, the accommodation, acquiring weapons, worrying about area of operations, responsibility for guarding bridges etc and also getting everyone to do lots of drill. Having worked all this out and got to the beginning of September I moved to monthly turns where the OC set the training priority and each month I asked for volunteers for Officer training (and later on Commandos) as well as setting some small incident for resolution, e.g. scrounging a coal lorry, or the Christmas do. If I was going to run this game properly I’d do some more research on some of these things and ensure that the players had some better background. As it was I was making it all up as I went along, including the mechanisms, so it was in areas no doubt thinner than it ought to have been, and probably quite ahistorical.

On the whole we managed to pass four and a half hours playing the game before I drew it to a halt so that we could have some discussion. For me the main point is that there is a game in all of this as there are many decisions to be made. Largely it is a building/development game in its purest sense, although what you are building/developing in this case are your soldiers. Probably the best way to improve the game would be to make a small card for each soldier which could be updatable with their stats, rank etc. That would simplify record keeping as the platoon commanders can just keep those in front of them organised into sections etc. The platoon commanders could also have a mechanism for developing people which would give them some decisions about how to improve their platoon, and also about how to interpret the OC’s training priorities.

We had some discussion at the end about leadership styles and now these should affect the development of a platoon/company. This certainly needs further thought, and I think it could be a good way to develop things, but I’m not sure exactly how it ought to impact on the game mechanisms.

If I do get further thoughts from people then I will do something on this.

One thing I am conscious of was not having a well thought out mechanism for exercises, partly this was because I didn’t think we had enough time to break into a proper wargame. My inclination would be to play this sort of game as a campaign, and play each exercise as a largely kriegspieled wargame using the figure resolution of the combat mechanisms (which I did prepare, but didn’t use and I think I’ll need to re-do in the light of the outcome of the session).

On another point, we semi-randomly picked 6th Battalion DLI to be the battalion that we were part of. A quick look at google afterwards showed that 6 DLI were a territorial battalion and went to France with 50th Northumbrian Divison in early 1940 and then were evacuated through Dunkirk, they went to North Africa in April 1941 (when we finished our game) and then fought through the rest of the North Africa campaign, Sicily & Italy. They came back to the UK at the end of 1943 and were in the assault troops on Gold Beach on 6th June 1944. Probably one of the few battalions to have been at the sharp end all the way through the war.

Here is the spreadsheet (Open Document Format) that I used to speed things up during play (although this will be printed onto cards before I next try this game). Company Roster.ods

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