Monday, 22 June 2015

Gaming with the League of Gentleman Wargamers - Charles Grant scenarios

For a second time, I was invited to join the League of Gentleman Wargamers in Kirriemuir for a weekend of war gaming entertainment. Invited twice, what on earth were they...........?

Last time the game was organised by Steve R. It was a game organised to such a level that hats were doffed by all present - he had done Kingmaker (one of the best boardgames ever devised) made big and war game stylie. I couldn't imagine anyone equalling it.

The venue is a dream. A huge room and very reasonably rented at £10 per head (including coffee and biscuits) for the entire weekend.
The League on the second day. Though backs are facing, left front to back, Angus, Peter, Steve, Colin (off left) and Bill in the distance. Right, a blurry Charlie, Dale, Steve and Charles. The other Peter couldn't come on the Sunday due to unforeseen  family circumstances.

Same game at about the same time but with an unblurred Charlie (in salmon pink) and in the black top, the man with the rules plan, Kev. Angus, don't do it! Dale, look the other way.

This time it was Charles Grant's turn to design and run the scenarios for the weekend. The scenarios were set, befitting this commemorative year, to mark the fall of Napoleon. Charles ignored the obvious and decided not to do Waterloo, Ligny, Quatre Bras, etc. Better some what ifs further afield involving the others advancing to crush Napoleon's return; a weekend of proper gaming rather than a 'grand demo' of what might have been.

I travelled by train from Yorkshire to Perth to link up with Steve, who kindly gave me a lift for the last leg up to Kirriemuir. We checked into our digs for the weekend, had a meal, a pint or two, then went to the venue to set up for Saturday. After the kiddies disco kicked out (an unforeseen eventuality - half a dozen middle aged me standing outside a kiddies disco doesn't feel right), we succeeded in getting the four tables for the Saturday games set out in under an hour - not bad, and plenty of time left in the evening to chew the fat in a local hostelry.
Vendee country
The Alps

The Pyrenees
Somewhere Vs the Prusso-Russians (?)

Three of the games (four in total) were concerned with the French holding back the advance of the 'coalition' in various theatres. There was a scenario holding back Prussians and Russians; another holding back the Austrians in the Alps (thankfully I didn't have to do this one as the terrain was terribly complicated - it was the Alps!); and one holding the Pyrenees against advances from the Peninsular. The fourth game involved getting a wagon train through a rebellious 'Vendee'. There were eleven players; once twelve, when Charles decided to weigh in. 

My First game. My French try to hold the Pyrenees

Remarkably, I manage a draw.

Vendee country. My troops escort a wagon train (just in shot, bottom right) to the French barracks. Easy peasy. A win. My cavalry take out all three units of Vendee before the wagons are pushed across the bridge. For a moment it looked less certain. The unit in the foreground catastrophically failed its first volley check and was destroyed.

My last game is more difficult but a joy for me to fight. The cavalry melee goes one way then the other until finally, after several turns, I lose: Very exciting.

The rules were designed by Kev. These rules have, apparently, been used for several H&M periods gamed by the LoGW. They are, in essence, very simple. They are very easy to play, have a period feel and an all important element of risk - 'CATASTROPHIC' is a very cleverly defined result! I liked these rules a lot. The mechanisms were very elegant indeed: Well done, Kev. 

On Saturday morning the games commenced. Each scenario was set to last about two and a half hours. Each player would play three of the four scenarios on offer during the day, though from the start you were either French or Allies - I was French. To be honest, I thought the itinerary highly ambitious. It is a mark of Charles' experience that this was achieved without demur of lack of time from any of the players. The scenarios must have been well balanced because at one point or another I think each scenario was won by attacker and defender.

Charles umpired the weekend except for the last 'Vendee' game. I think he must have a thing for unshaven men with scythes. Regardless of his penchant - or not - for the downtrodden and smelly early 19th century 'Daily Mail' reading proletariat, he somehow won the 'Vendee' game. I don't think anyone else did.

At the end of the day I had won one, drawn one and lost one. A mid-table result. I enjoyed each scenario, and actually enjoyed the game I lost the most - it was, from early disasters, a lost cause that just got better. Losing can be the best fun: Is it O.K. to say that out loud?
Just before dinner on Saturday. The French have deployed first. The game is set.

At about 5pm Saturday's games ended. Within an hour, or so, all the games had been dismantled and reset for the big Sunday game. This was to be fought on a 24 foot long by 6-8 foot wide table. It would be the French holding back Prussians, Russians and Austrians (I think). I held the French right against a combined attack from Austrians and Prussians. I was outnumbered 5:2 and I lost but, at the last turn, I still had one unit left, Huzzah! Victory conditions must have been a bit confused because although I thought we had lost, my compatriot Steve (also on the right) thought we had lost, and the entire Allied army thought we had lost, our C-in-C and Angus didn't. At that point I realised why Steve and I had not been reinforced with troops sufficient to hold our position. I hold Dale (our C-in-C) entirely responsible for our defeat and if the 'Empire' is ever restored I will personally hold the basket. Dale, if you read this it's nothing personal, it's merely a 'Matter of State' (LOL).
This is my position just after lunch. That thin and scattered blue line in the immediate foreground is me. That bloody great chunk of white is them. Steve, his belly in blue, and just in shot , does his best to support me, but without reinforcements from the centre I'm doomed. C'est la vie, je t'aime mon Empereur.

So apart from having a lot of fun, as an old dog, what did I learn from the older dog? Well, that is difficult to put into words, and more so as certain assumptions were merely further enforced. More than anything, I think that Charles has designing scenarios down to fine art, even when using rules that are quite new to him. This can only come with experience so I'm not going to even try to explain what he does. But, what he does do, is to keep everything very simple. For want of a better example, when he devises his forces for a particular scenario and wishes to exaggerate a difference in arms (artillery, cavalry, infantry) he will exclude an arm from a force. This might not seem 'historically / army list' right but makes sense in broader terms. When devising scenarios in future, I will now keep this in mind. It is a very 'old school' thing to do; it is something that I, an old lag myself, had somehow forgotten. In game terms it worked magnificently. The victory conditions were also so clearly defined that everyone knew what to do to win. There were no points totting here. You achieved a mission or you didn't. A draw was given, gentlemanly fashion, if one side might have achieved victory if the game was longer or it was too close to call. I gave a draw in my first game because although I had technically won 'at time' I felt that I couldn't, in conscience, claim a proper victory.

Every game was conducted in the best spirit; any gamesmanship was decidedly jocular; fun was had, winner or loser, by everyone; loser's described their fleeting moments of victory with decided glee.

So, how was the weekend for me? The League of Gentlemen Wargamers are a crew that any wargamer would like to associate with (and the general public would probably be best to avoid, LOL). I'm very proud to associate myself with this bunch of backstabbing,  murderous, hard drinking, dice totting, scoundrels. In short, pirates to a man, you just can't beat them for company; but, best check your wallet before you leave. 

I'm hoping that I can make it up to the November bash with a Prohibition Chicago setting: I wonder if  Rocky 'Le Roc' Roche will be there. Named after the 17th century pirate and terror of the eastern seaboard [bizarrely true, and I've half convinced my nine year old son we are related, obviously to each other, and Le Roc].  He would be a sea captain running liqueur, in considerable bulk, out through the St Lawrence to 'States south'. With his trusted crew of well armed waterfront cutthroats and very, very pretty dockside ladies of disarmingly ill repute (yet unpainted and unsourced) he would be a force to reckon with. Pugilists (LoGW members know this is important) beware, this guy's boxer fights under his master's name - cue music.

If I can't make it, due to an appointment in Barcelona, I'm looking forward to the next one after, if I'm invited. I'm down to do an Italian Wars weekend sometime in 2017 - though that is a long way off, it seems I might be a 'Gentleman'. Having said that, given the company........................(LOL).


Gonsalvo said...

Sounds like a great weekend! As you well know, scenario design is perhaps the most difficult aspect of our hobby - part history, part art form, part trial and error. You've done some great ones! Finally, like most other social activities, the company makes all the difference!

Der Alte Fritz said...

A sign of a good Wargame and game group is when you lose on the tabletop but you don't really care, because you had fun.

Carlo said...

Excellent report James and lovely photographs. I would be very inteseted in seeing some more details of teh scenarios as it would e a series of games I would love to try out at the club in our own "Perth" here in Australia. Great looking tables.

Will McNally said...

Looks and sounds a brilliant weekend

Flags of War said...

Great stuff. Some very well known Wargamers there :)

Simon Miller said...

Looks like a whole lot of fun! That final table looks very grand.