Sunday, 31 January 2016

Crusade 2016 - Penarth & District Wargames Society Show

Yesterday I spent a very pleasurable day in sunny, yes I did say "sunny" Cardiff, which is never the best of weather to enjoy a day in doors looking at wargames and other related subjects, but it did add to the pretty view of Penarth marina as we got close to the venue for Crusade 2016.

I love spending time with friends and visiting shows and having had "Crusade" on my "must check it out" list for several years took the opportunity to go with Steve M and "Mr Steve" who has Cardiff as his adopted home - so no need of the sat nav as he is almost local.

Along with Mr Steve, we have several members in the club who have ties to South Wales and regularly attend Crusade and based on their comments, I was really looking forward to going.

In addition the Penarth club also organise presentations from notable guest speakers on various wargame/historical related subjects and so with copies of the speakers books in the bag I was also looking forward to hearing Dr Adrian Goldsworthy, Robert Jones and Gareth Glover speak on ancient, medieval and Napoleonic related subjects

The main sports hall given over to a very good selection of traders and display/demo games
We arrived about 11.30am and with about an hour to spend before the first speaker presentation took the time to wonder around the show.

As well as picking up some 28mm 4Ground mdf Roman and Celtic wagons, together with some oxen, brass rod spears and wagon loads appropriate for the period, I also took the time to photograph the games that caught my eye.

First up was this rather nice 28mm AWI period, Battle of Hobkirks Hill using mainly Perry miniatures and I believe the Perry rule set. My apologies to the organisers, but I couldn't see a reference to who was putting this game on, but it certainly looked very nice and caught my attention almost immediately on entering the hall.

A very nice rendition of the AWI battle "Hobkirk Hill". No teddy bears were hurt in the production of the game

The next game that I immediately gravitated towards was this excellent 28mm LRDG raid on a German airfield game presented by Major Brothers. I loved the modelling and attention to detail.

Major Brothers Demo Game - LRDG Raid on a German Airfield

Next up was Richard Clark and the Too Fat Lardies presentation and participation game of Sharp Practice 2 with an ACW theme. I love the range of games offered by the Lardies and the principles that underpin their games. I haven't played Sharp Practice as I don't play a lot of skirmish games, being a "Grand Manner" kind of gamer, but I have my eye on some Peninsular War Napoleonic minor actions that I would like to play and Sharp Practice 2 are on my radar to try out, so it was fun watching the game unfold yesterday.

Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies running a participation game of the new Sharp Practice 2 set in the ACW. The editor of Wargames Soldiers and  Strategy Magazine, Mr Guy Bowers passes the table in a blur - so much to do, so little time!

I haven't spent much time looking at the Battlefront activities since I turned my attention from 15mm WWII to Napoleonics and the launch of Team Yankee has rather passed my by so it was fun to see the 15mm models from their range painted and on display at yesterday's show.

As you would expect from Battlefront the models look very nice and well proportioned and seem to capture the look of the period very well. Not for me, but as a wargamer and modeller I can always appreciate a nice looking range of models.

Some of the new Team Yankee models from Battlefront

And so with my tour of the tables complete, I joined the two Steve's to settle down to listen to the first speaker of the day, Gareth Glover who has published a large selection of books using original often previously unpublished first hand accounts from British observers of campaigns ranging from Egypt to Waterloo.

Gareth's work adds to the knowledge base we have for these campaigns and associated battles and from the first hand accounts quoted can often de-bunk some of the myths about how they unfolded and provide a basis for further research.

Crusade-2016 Guest Speakers

Gareth Glover - Presented his thoughts about "Strategy and Battle Tactics at Waterloo".
Not a great picture as I was using my IPad for taking notes and grabbed this photo as Gareth was introduced
Waterloo material forms a significant part of Gareth's work and having spent a fair bit of time researching my own visit last year, I was really interested to hear, as he described it, his personal thoughts based on the research he has done and his conclusions about the strategy and tactics of the armies involved.

Some of the highlights I noted during the presentation were the following points, although I would stress this is my interpretation of Gareth's presentation taken from my hastily tapped out notes on my IPad and translated here. Any errors are mine not his;

  • Although we are not entirely clear on the discussions had between Blucher and Wellington on the precise nature of their initial set up for the coming campaign, it is more and more clear that Wellington was centred on the line of Nivelle, Braine le Compte out to Oudenarde covering his LOC to Ghent/Brussels and Antwerp and with Blucher on Ciney Namur, Ligny covering his LOC to Liege. The Prussians always planned to use Ligny as a concentration point and that Quatre Bras didn't figure in either allied army's plan as point of importance - Napoleon's central position move would soon change that.
  • Questions about the suitability of Wellington's choice of the Waterloo battlefield given its position in front of the Soignes Forest are unfounded given the numerous roads passing through the forest as illustrated on an 18th C map presented. The forest was thick enough to prevent passage through it other than by the many roads and Wellington's plans, should his army fail to hold the ridge was to leave garrisons along the routes from Pappelotte to Braine L'Alleud to impede the French long enough to allow his army to fall back through the forest.
  • Hougoumont is often described as the allied right flank but when the other forces including Hill's II corps are included it can be seen that it occupies the centre of the allied line and was thus of even more importance as a position to be held to protect the forces in that vicinity, with Glover citing the difficulties suffered by allied troops near to La Haye Sainte (LHS) when that position fell in the late afternoon.
  • The attack of D'Erlon's corps was discussed, with Glover's assertion that he considers the French guns were not formed in a typical "Grand Battery" and that they were sited to support their respective divisions, moving forward to the central ridge to close attack the allied line as the infantry moved into the dip in the ground. He believes the hedge line used by the allied infantry was a particularly formidable barrier to the infantry and certainly held up D'Erlon's men before they were struck by the British heavy cavalry. Once attacked the line in column formation impeded any attempt to form square although it seems that the rear lines my well have formed emergency square  and were ignored by the cavalry as they charged on to the French gun line.
  • The French cuirassiers on the far side of LHS supporting D'Erlon's men were disorganised when they attacked allied infantry in line moving to support the farm and the cuirassiers were in turn attacked by the British Household cavalry who after passing behind LHS swung to their left to support the Union Brigade attack on the French guns.
Gareth Glover Collection

Gareth had a lovely collection of Waterloo medals on display that I grabbed some pictures of at the end of the presentation

  • GG believes from accounts that the often used explanation that the French cavalry attack in the afternoon was a mistake by Ney is not correct and that Napoleon, in his pulling in of all his cavalry reserves from his right flank together with his Guard units to support the attack intended an Eylau style massed cavalry assault to break the allied line. In other words, Ney was a scape goat for the Emperor's failed plan.
  • During the French cavalry attack it seems that many of the British gun batteries withdrew behind the infantry squares and reformed near the allied cavalry lines, Mercer's battery being a notable exception. Although the gunners were ordered to leave their guns and seek shelter with the infantry squares, there appears to be little evidence to support this happening.
  • GG can find little evidence to support the idea that British light cavalry units did much to impede or disrupt their French opposites and in the main kept out of the fighting around the squares.

  • There seems to be little evidence to show that the French were aware of the Prussian advance on their right flank until Lobau's men "bumped" the Prussian advance guard in the mid afternoon. No attempts were made to defend the right flank with precautions such as loop-holing Plancenoit for defence.
  • The final pursuit of the broken French army from the battlefield was not without problems as many of the pursuing Prussians were desperately short of ammunition and their is evidence of British ammunition wagons and caissons being sent over to quickly resupply the Prussian troops.
  • The final march on Paris could well have proven more contested had the French had the ability to sufficiently garrison the thirteen fortresses between the city and Waterloo as illustrated on map presented.

The points highlighted provided plenty of scope for further conversation at the end of the presentation and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion they provoked afterwards.

In addition I had the current book I am reading, namely Gareth's "From Corunna to Waterloo" illustrating letters giving first hand accounts of two 15th Hussar officers, with me and the author kindly autographed my edition.

My copy of "From Corunna to Waterloo" autographed by the author

When I have finished the read I will share my thoughts with a review.

Next up we had a very entertaining and informative presentation by Adrian Goldsworthy and Robert Jones

Dr Adrian Goldsworthy, Ancient Historian and Novelist

Bloodied Banners - Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield, Robert Jones

Adrian Goldswothy (pictured) together with Robert Jones presented their thoughts on the
main kind of battle in ancient and medieval warfare - The raid and the skirmish battle 
Adrian and Robert presented a very compelling argument that based on the historical record, we wargamers spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on the "Big Battle" which were comparatively rare events compared with the favoured and more common approach to warfare of this period, namely the raid/counter raid and the low level skirmish warfare this kind of activity generated.

This imbalance in the wargaming approach to the subject has lead to a limited number of skirmish rule sets in comparison to the many more "Big Battle" rule sets.

One aspect that often gets overlooked by we wargamers is that in the 21st century we take for granted that we know where places are in relation, one to another. The ancient, medieval commander was often not so well informed  and thus raiding was a very specialised form of warfare in that prior reconnaissance was vital to determine the target, how to get there and importantly how to get back, returning safely with any ill gotten booty, slaves, treasure and livestock.

For the defender against raiders, the name of the game was observation, delay and disruption of the raiders principally along the most likely routes of movement, thus alerting and allowing for the gathering of a counter attacking force to strike the raiders on the return home.

Here lies, as the two speakers illustrated the core of the majority of military activity of the period, and often larger engagements resulted from a raiding force being cornered by the defenders and forced to call in all their outlying foragers to contest the forced battle.

My edition of Adrian's "The Complete Roman Army" autographed
by the author, also being read at the moment
I certainly came away with lots of ideas particularly around my planned Roman, Dacian, Sarmatian and German collections and consideration of some skirmish level battles would seem to be an interesting addition to my plans.

The three presentations were a great distraction and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions and have marked the diary for a return next year.

Finally whilst heading back across Cardiff to collect our car, Mr Steve kindly detoured to take us over to visit the massive Firestorm Games Emporium in what looks like a converted furniture store. I immediately thought on entering the shop of the advertising slogan seen here in the UK by a certain beer manufacturer, which would proclaim, "if Carlsburg made a wargames store".

On entering the shop floor the left of the store is filled with table space (see below) which at the time was in full use with that hum of noise created by gamers engrossed with the the drama on the table in front of them.

To the right was an amazing amount of stock of board games, terrain, painting, modelling materials and figures from X-wing, Battlefront, War and Empire to name but a few. I had heard a lot about Cardiff's new store and gaming facility and I was very impressed.

Thus ended a very nice day in Cardiff and we all came away very impressed with Crusade. I can see the show being a regular event in JJ's Wargames calendar and I am looking forward to the next one in 2017 - Well done to the guys at the Penarth and District Wargames Society and thank you to Steve M and Mr Steve for their company.


  1. Looks like you had fun, I should pop along next year, Tony might have gone, not sure. Firestorm looks impressive to say the least. Looking forward to more battle reports from you this year, best wishes, Jeremy

    1. Cheers Jeremy, we had a very nice day and I would recommend d the show without hesitation. Firestorm is very impressive to

      Plenty of stuff to come in 2016

  2. Sounds a good day mate. Put me down for next year.


    1. Hi Vince, it's a good day out and you're very welcome. See you on the next one

  3. As I only live 10 minutes from the venue then this a show I regularly attend , this year I thought it was the busiest I had seen it in recent years and it was a bit of a squeeze at times and we had arrived late. When you add the fact that you also get 3 quality guests speakers for free at a show this size then its a must attend for anyone with a few hours spare, sometimes I have just attended purely for the duration of their talks .I was also very pleased to see that this year for the first time it was standing room only for the lectures ( Ok, it is only a small room /squash court ).
    As is usual with shows held in a leisure centre , parking can be difficult especially as its also on a Saturday but if I was attending from a distance then I would perhaps consider the train to Cardiff and then the link to Penarth as the station is right next door .
    This is the size of show where you would normally only stay for an hour or two after opening but with the extra attraction of speakers it keeps you there until mid afternoon, perhaps this is something that other small shows or even Colours should consider so as to avoid that empty look you start to see around 2 pm .
    My purchases were a few more 15mm ECW, the last few figures to finish off my Biblical Canaanite army and some warbases for the great Dux Brit game , that which was foretold by the Ancients long ago and will soon come to pass.( and some new X-wing ships , sorry chaps)

    1. A great day Steve, both Steve M and I really enjoyed it. You make a good point about guest speakers at shows. I think our US cousins are ahead of us with this idea of inviting guest speakers to their "Cons" and I think it is a way to bring new life to some of the smaller shows here in the UK.

      For the military historian/author it is a great way to engage with a major group in the military history book market, namely Wargamers and I think both have things to offer each other.

  4. Impressive pictures, the place to be!

    1. Thanks Phil, it's often quite tricky getting half decent pictures at shows with often questionable lighting conditions and lack of the trusty tripod/gorilla stand. You can just about get away with it with 28mm but those AWI figures would have looked much better with the tripod.

  5. Excellent read and sounds like a great convention.
    I would have loved to have been at the Gareth Glover presentation - thank you for providing your notes. I agree with the comment about Ney being a scapegoat for Napoleon's decision to mount the mid afternoon cavalry attacks.
    I've always been skeptical about the motivation behind the advance of the Guard Light cavalry - 'to get a better view' - just never cut it for me.
    All the best

    1. Thanks Nigel. Yes I have always been a bit suspicious of the "blame Ney" explanation for why it all went wrong. The Emperor was not on his top game during the whole campaign pretty much following his catching the allies out by moving up the Quatre Bras to Brussels road, and I have always thought it unlikely that Ney would have had the authority to order the movement of pretty much the whole French cavalry and reserve without the say so if his boss.

      One note I left out was a very interesting diagram from GG that showed that prior to the French cavalry attack, Wellington moved several battalions on to the forward slope in front of his line between Hougomont and LHS which had the effect of breaking up and channeling the French cavalry thus disrupting their momentum.

      A very interesting presentation and I am thoroughly enjoying "From Corunna to Waterloo" with some great descriptions of towns and sites in Portugal and Spain that I now have on my list to visit.

      I enjoyed following the thread on the group discussing British musketry and how you have modelled the effects in C&G. I would love to see the calculation you have put together. Having seen fire issued at various ranges I was not surprised by the results illustrated in the YouTube link. I think I will put up a mention here on the blog. A must see for any potential new C&G player.