Sunday, 29 January 2017

Crusade 2017 - Penarth and District Wargames Society

Crusade 2017 Wargames Show

Yesterday was spent pleasantly enjoying my first wargames show of 2017 in sunny South Wales at Crusade hosted by the Penarth and District Wargames Society.

After a very busy week at work I was in need of some R&R and what better than to immerse oneself in the hobby in the company of friends, Mr Steve, Jason and Nathan as we took in the games on show, enjoyed the many varied trader stands, chatted with other gamers as we wondered aimlessly around the new venue, St Cyres School, and thoroughly enjoyed the historical presentations from Drs Adrian Goldsworthy, Rob Jones and Mr Gareth Glover.

As always I thought I would share with you my impressions of the day and present my pictures of games and other items that caught my attention.

Last November, JJ's Wargames created quite a debate on various forums following my post about our trip up to Warfare at Reading and the difficulties posed by the venue, so I thought I would spend some time commenting on this new venue being used by the Penarth club which contrasts very favourably with a similarly congested venue they were using in the previous year.

St Cyres School is a very large modern building surrounded with acres of parking. The rooms are large, well lit (a definite aid to us camera wielders) and airy and there was plenty of room for further expansion should, as I suspect, the show grows in size. In fact the venue was so good for a wargames show, that the only complaint I heard was that we were all struggling to get our bearings and work out where everything was.

The Penarth organising team are to be congratulated for securing a perfect venue and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

As with last year Steve and I headed immediately to the room set aside for the guest speaker presentations. I have commented previously that these presentations should become more common at wargames shows as they really add value to the day with a great opportunity to discuss and learn more about the history underpinning our hobby.

Crusade 2017 Guest Speakers

First up was Gareth Glover looking at the amphibious war that was conducted in the Mediterranean during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period with a wide ranging run through of the various actions and the background leading up to them with a view to presenting the great possibilities of scenario design for the gamer.

The rather blurred picture of Gareth's initial slide (sorry I was using the IPad to capture these) showing a map of the Mediterranean with red numbered points dotted around to show where the various actions covered occurred.

As a student of the Peninsular War, I have always had a passing eye on the rather disjointed approach to British operations in the Mediterranean and its impact on Wellington's operations; particularly the activities conducted in the latter part of the war on the Eastern Coast of Spain to tie down Suchet's forces as the Duke prepared to carve up Joseph and Jourdan.

However the war for control of the Mediterranean and its sea lanes was wide and far reaching drawing in not only the forces of the French, Spanish and British but also the Russians, Turks, Americans and Austrians and we were treated to a run through of the various mini-campaigns, little wars and punitive expeditions that were characteristic of the fighting in this area.

The American expeditions to the Barbary Coast were covered as part of a wide ranging review
The activities of the British from the initial engagements under Admiral Hood at Toulon in 1793 and his failure to remove the French fleet, the later invasions of Corsica, Elba and Minorca drew out the tensions between the army and navy learning to co-operate with one another often with diverging objectives.

The navy were looking to take strategic bases for further operations designed to control the area whilst the army focussed on supporting allies on the mainland by taking and holding key islands and strategic points designed to frustrate French control and domination of the shore.

The tension extended to the actual joint operations themselves with the army complaining that the navy were in the habit of dropping their passengers at the first undefended beach rather than saving them long marches by getting them as close to their objectives as possible.

The point was well made that researching these operations requires the wargamer to read both the accounts on the navy and army to be able to arrive at a conclusion about the actual events often found somewhere in between the two.

British Landing at Aboukir in 1801
As the experience gained was built upon, British amphibious operations improved, culminating in the D-Day like precision of the landings at Aboukir in 1801 where General Abercrombie, commanding, put the experience of how not to conduct an amphibious assault, gained in his involvement in the landings in the Netherlands in 1793, to good effect.

The landing plan incorporated waves of assault boats supported by close in fire support ships and guide boats demonstrating a growing capability to conduct opposed beach landings.

We were then treated to examples of those smaller actions conducted by the more unusual units from this period with the Corsican Rangers lead by Sir Hudson Lowe later famous as Napoleon's gaoler on St Helena, but here a fearless leader in commando style actions, such as the attack on the Ionian island of Santa Maura in 1810 when Lowe lead his soldiers behind French defences using an aqueduct to gain access to the town.
Assault on Santa Maura 1810 - Fortescue

Captain William Hoste
Lowe was not alone as a daring commander in small operations and we were treated to the exploits of Captain William Hoste, one of those Nelsonian Royal Navy officers always ready to take the fight to the enemy and who excelled in these small actions particularly in his daring attack on Lesina (modern day Hvar) in 1813 and his victory at the Battle of Lissa in 1811; Captain Richard Church of the Greek Light Infantry who also played a significant role in the attack on Santa Maura and Colonel Robert Oswald of the 35th Foot

Battle of Lissa 1811 - Nicholas Pocock

Captain Richard Church - Greek Light Infantry 1813
35th (Sussex) Regiment of Foot played a leading role in British Mediterranean operations from 1800 to 1816

There was lots of actions to cover and the presentation had to scan over several of them that I had not heard before such as the Russo-Turkish Battle of the Danube also known as the Battle of Slobozia in 1811 where a certain General Kutuzov lured an Ottoman army over the Danube only to attack it mid crossing, destroying its supply and artillery train and forcing a surrender and eventual peace terms very much in favour of the Russians.

Other actions included Lagosta 1813, Korcula 1813, Castalla 1813, Lesina (Hvar) 1813, Trieste, Zara 1813, Activities in northern Italy in 1814 and the operations by the British to support Royalist forces in Marseilles and Toulon in 1815 after Napoleon re-entered France.

The talk concluded with a look at the final moves by the British to halt the activities of the Barbary pirates in 1816 with the attack lead by Lord Exmouth which would later lead to the French occupation of North Africa as part of wider European concerns to control the North African coast line. How strange that Europe today still finds itself having to deal with a new form of pirates from the North African coast in the form of people traffickers.

I really came away from Gareth's presentation with lots of ideas for future games covering this interesting yet little covered theatre of the Napoleonic Wars.

Sharp Practice scenarios abound with the multitude of small scale landings and commando style actions and those interested in exploring these ideas further would be well served by getting Gareth's two books looking at the war in this arena.

Next up was a very interesting presentation and discussion hosted by Adrian Goldsworthy and Robert Jones looking at the issues faced by ancient and medieval armies when looking at battlefield command and control.

Adrian kicked things off with an analysis of the types of troops that made up ancient forces and a consideration of their training, if any, and their experience of manoeuvring in the presence of the enemy.

Large battle experience was a relatively rare one with most military activity focused around smaller actions such as raid and counter-raiding operations and thus it was likely that many so called disciplined forces would have had great difficulty making some of the simplest manoeuvres when the threat of battle was close at hand.

Greek hopolites or barbarians in armour when it came to control on the battlefield
Commanders would have to pay close attention to controlling the natural instincts of their men and young men in particular liable to lose control and charge in, in a bid to get the whole thing over and done with; and this impetuosity, so often modelled in rules covering barbarian warbands, could also affect so called drilled armies as well. It was pointed out that many units of Greek hopolites were civilians most of the time and their level of training and discipline could liken them to be described as barbarians in armour.

The natural instinct to close rapidly with the enemy could also be contagious and an unwary commander may soon find neighbouring contingents soon joining in the uncontrolled rush to battle removing the possibility of choosing the best time or place to commit to the fight.

The Roman tactics were discussed with a conclusion that a significant improvement in Roman methods was to encourage commanders to operate as such, thus not to engage in Alexander like charges in the front ranks, but to stay back to direct and orchestrate the fighting in a Wellingtonian model of trying to be in the right place at the right time.

The age old problem of rule sets struggling to model Roman 'Triplex Acies'  was discussed looking at the multiple line of maniples often in chequerboard formation thought to facilitate Roman units moving into combat and being able to retire back on the supporting lines or be reinforced by them.

It was interesting hearing Adrian's dissection of various rule sets and I have come away even more confirmed in how well 'Augustus to Aurelian' models these tactics

The other issue discussed was the problem of controlling victorious troops in pursuit of a beaten foe. Many rules capture this effect by insisting that victors make an immediate pursuit for at most one turn and then attempting to rally back under control.

The evidence of this happening very often is not overwhelming and that probably the normal reaction would have been a pursuit off the wargames table with a test to return at some very variable time if at all.

The example of Hannibal's cavalry defeating the Roman cavalry at Cannae on both wings and reining in from the pursuit twice then to return and attack the Roman infantry from the rear was described as very unusual and uncommon.

Rob Jones then presented the issues facing the medieval commander and concluded that if you thought things were tough in the ancient period, it didn't improve much if at all in this later one.

The chaos of early medieval battle
The early medieval period is characterised by armies of warbands with all the issues of impetuosity and uncontrolled battle that that would imply together with pursuit of a beaten foe.

The picture doesn't improve much in the latter periods other than the fact that the armies became slightly more delineated into specific commands or vanguard, centre and rearward battles with sometimes a fourth or reserve battle.

The armies were not trained in mass battle tactics or formations other than to form up into separate masses of troops. The role of junior positions within the ranks of soldiers such as vintenars and centinars are not thought to have commanded the men in battle but rather thought to have been more concerned with ensuring the twenty or hundred men they were responsible for turned up for duty.

As far as the knights were concerned the only command ranks were the constables and marshals who could pull rank to decide who would have the position of honour in the line and the King, Princes and Nobles of Royal blood who would be required to command the army as whole because nobles were known not to obey any commander of lesser rank.

It seems we can also forget about knights regularly training for battle and archers turning out to practice their shooting skills. These men when not soldiering were busy in their other roles outside of their military responsibilities and enjoying all the social activities that would keep any young man away from training at arms; the evidence suggests that training for war was minimal even among the knightly classes.

Thus the picture created is of a mass of troops, split up into commands with a minimum of manoeuvre training and battlefield discipline, severely limiting the commander's ability to practice much finesse in the way he could choose to run his battle.

The age of chivalry when commanders were expected to get stuck in
The other additional issue was that this was the age of chivalry and commanders were required to lead their men in battle from the front. This only aggravated the command and control situation with senior ranks too busy fighting for their lives and smiting the enemy to get caught up in overseeing any battle plan.

Even when there was a plan agreed the senior commander or King could not always rely on his subordinates to carry it out in the way agreed and the call of honour and glory could always be relied upon to affect a junior commander's judgement with an impetuous attack possibly causing others to join in prematurely.

So what about rule preferences from our distinguished presenters? Well Adrian made the point that being an academic and wargamer made it really difficult to choose a set of preferred rules to model all the considerations they would want included.

At the moment AG was enjoying playing Sword Point from Gripping Beast with some reservations.
Grippingbeast - SWORD POINT

RJ felt that one of the best Medieval rule sets available was 'A Coat of Steel' which are free and produced by the Perfect Captain, just asking you to make a contribution to charity for using them.
A Coat of Steel - Perfect Captain

As mentioned I came away confirmed in my own choice of Augustus to Aurelian and likewise A Coat of Steel which I have all printed out and ready to go at some stage.

Key 'take aways' for me were to err towards upping the chances of impetuous attacks even among the ranks of my disciplined Romans, limit the options on redeployment and manoeuvre of troops in the face of the enemy and increase the chances of uncontrolled pursuit by victorious troops.

Thank you to Gareth Glover, Adrian Goldsworthy and Robert Jones for an excellent, very interesting, educating and thought proving series of presentations, which for me is a highlight of the show.


So with my mind fired up with ideas and insights we grabbed a quick bite of lunch and then set off exploring the show.

As we made our way towards the first show room my eye was caught by some lovely painting which given the subject matter of the previous presentations seemed very appropriate with Napoleonics and medieval models displaying the skill of "Little Ninja Painting".

Napoleonic and Medieval painting service from 'Little Ninja Painting'
Nothing better than to see what a prospective painter can do for you than seeing their work close up 'in the flesh' so to speak

Bach Mai Airfield 1954, French Indo-China War, Demonstration Game
Presented by Major Brothers

The first game that caught my eye was this stunning presentation of the attack on Bach Mai Airfield in the French Indo-China War 1945 - 1954.

Obviously a labour of love to put all those model aircraft together as well as the terrain and figures.

Really great looking game that set a fine standard for the day.

Quatre Bras 28mm - Demonstration Game
Presented by The Officers Mess

Next up we took time to chat with members of a new club based in Wells, Somerset and thus neighbours of ours, down in Devon; 'The Officers Mess' who put on this 28mm Napoleonic Quatre Bras game.

Those guys with the helmets are Chasseurs a Cheval who donned their new look at Quatre Bras in 1815
Well that certainly scratched my itch to see some Napoleonics in action with some very fine painting on display.

Mob Violence in Ancient Rome Participation Game
HATS (Haverfordwest Wargames Club

Next up a lovely recreation of first century Rome with a game recreating the gang violence and mob rule that was very much a part of ancient Rome.

The scratch built buildings with slave market, out-doors communal toilets and an orators stand below the marble statue was a joy to see and set off brilliantly with an appropriate cloth.

The civilian character figures were beautifully done. I particularly liked the man with the child on his shoulders below.

Roman's, Countrymen, lend me your ears .............
Not only a great game to see set up ready to play, but it was also for sale, lock stock and barrel.

"What a Tanker!" Participation Game
Too Fat Lardies

Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner aka Too Fat Lardies have made Crusade a regular venue on their promotional tour around the country, year on year and being a confirmed Lardy fan myself it was a pleasure to see a new set of rules from the House of Lard on display - 'What a Tanker'.

I love the peculiarly British style of 'Carry on' humour that permeates through every rule set the Lardies produce. I know some people confuse this humour with a suggestion that their rules are not serious games, or 'beer and pretzels' rules as our American cousins would say, but that would be a big mistake to make.

The rules the Too Fat Lardies produce are very much focused on the simulation side of the hobby but with a huge dollop of fun built into the play design and to my mind they and others have lead the hobby in new ideas of design concepts away from traditional 'igougo' rules and have looked to include the concept of battlefield friction.

As always a Lardy game is well turned out but there is nothing here that any gamer couldn't bring to the table at a normal club night or game at home.

Battle of Magenta, 2nd Italian War of Independence - Principles of War
Wessex Wargames Society - Southampton

In the next room we got chatting to members of a the club that boasts the late great Don Featherstone among their former membership.

The Wessex Wargames Society have been around since 1969 and puts the Devon Wargames Group est. 1983 into perspective.

They had put on a very attractive 'Principles of War' game covering the Battle of Magenta 1859.

These later 19th Century European Wars have always drawn my eye as a lover of all things Napoleonic, although for me the improvements in weaponry upsets the balance that is Napoleonics and has thus kept this as a period I would play but not one I must play.

That said I can always appreciate a well turned out game that draws the casual observer like me in to learn more.

War of 1812, A Plastic Victrix & Perry Demonstration Game
Esprit de Corps

I am a sucker for all things 'War of 1812' so it took little prompting for me to linger and get some shots of this lovely looking game featuring lots of figure adaptations to show some typical British/Canadian and US troops of the period.

Canadian Militia look on

Given the small size of the battles of this war, 28mm or larger would seem to be an ideal scale to do it in, and this is a period on my list of collections I would like to do at some time

Canadian Voltigeurs to the fore

I believe the chaps from the Esprit de Corps group were using a set of Don Featherstone skirmish level Napoleonic rules to model this little set to and I was very happy getting this game in the viewfinder.

"Those are regulars by God"
So there we are, the show season for 2017 well underway with an excellent Crusade 2017 in its brand spanking new shiny venue.

Thank you to the Penarth and District Wargames Society for organising a great show and to Mr Steve, Jason and Nathan for their company during the day.


  1. What a phenomenal post! - excellent job, young sir. Looks like a great show, but also your choice of pictures and informative text really made it a most enjoyable read.

    I have to admire anyone persisting with the function title Crusade in the current politico/religious climate, so more power to them. I find most wargame shows something of a turn-off these days, so your post is refreshing and most welcome.

    1. Hey thanks Tony, much appreciated.

      Yes I know what you mean about the name, but like you I hope they don't bow to any PC pressure like 'Armageddon' changing to 'Colours' after all the protests by the anti-nuclear brigade.

      We have become more selective over the shows we tend to go to and regular venues have become part of my wargaming calendar. I really enjoy chatting to other gamers and taking inspiration from what they have come up with. I hope the posts reflect that, as I report the games that catch my eye and express the passion of the gamers that pull them together. To my mind that's one of the best parts of our hobby


  2. That's a refreshing post about shows. The talks sound fascinating and the games looked lovely much more than a shopping opportunity which let's face it is probably cheaper online, you clearly enjoyed it and I can see why!
    Best Iain

    1. Cheers Iain, yes the games and the chaps that create them are the best part of shows for me. I love the creative ideas on show and I always come away with loads of ideas that inform my own games.

      In addition chatting to the traders is fun and I will be posting about a new product that has just become available following a conversation back in November at Warfare - more later.

      I really think more shows should think about reaching out to historical authors and academics as I think they really add much more to any show. I hope posts like this will encourage other organisers.


  3. Shaun from Little Ninja Painting here. great review on what I agree was a really good show.
    Thanks for taking time to check out my table and adding it to the review, much appreciated.

    1. My pleasure Shaun and thanks for your comment. I hope you can see that this blog is all about celebrating painting as a big part of the hobby and a part for everyone to enjoy and I love to see other peoples work and your figures caught my eye at an instant. I hope it helps generate interest in your business.

  4. Most impressive post, what's not to like? Love the ancient Rome streets, beautiful...

    1. Thanks Phil. Absolutely, as I mentioned above and is highlighted in the title of this blog, the best in the hobby is all about passion and you can see that best expressed in great looking games hosted by enthusiasts for their period in history - I just love that.

  5. Jonathan, an excellent show recap! Everything is first rate; great photos and engaging dialog. Oh, and now I know what the Corsican Ranger uniform looked like! Next time I refight Maida it would be fun to field the appropriately attired unit.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks Jonathan, glad you enjoyed the read. Well if you do field the Corsican Rangers don't forget to have a suitable figure representing Hudson Lowe.