Friday 17 November 2023

Warfare 2023 - Wargames Association of Reading

Last weekend Steve M and myself made the drive up the A303 to attend Warfare 2023 hosted by the Wargames Association of Reading, and a show Steve and I have gone to over several years previous back in the days of desperate parking around the Reading Sports Centre, to our most recent trip which saw us at draughty Ascot in 2021 when the show relocated post Covid and all the doors were open to provide supposedly necessary fresh air for all concerned but leaving a lot of very cold traders next to the opened doors. I've attached a link below to my show report from that visit.

JJ's Wargames - Warfare 2021

At the time of the Ascot show, it was common knowledge that this was not to be a permanent new home for the show, and already Farnborough, famous for its air shows for the civil and military aviation industries, was the likely venue change, and I would have travelled up last year had it not been that I was off on my travels down under and so pencilled the date for 2023.

We had a very pleasant drive up on Saturday morning with very light traffic coming up from the south-west, some thing that can't always be guaranteed in summer months and arrived at the venue just after 11am and were immediately impressed with the ample parking arrangements, coupled, when we completed our walk from the car, with an equally impressive show space as seen below.

A busy show hall at this year's Warfare 2023

The Reading chaps have done a good job on the organising of the event from what I could see, with the opportunity to pre-purchase e-tickets online, which I availed myself of, Steve preferring the old fashioned cash in hand mode of entry, and our arrival and entry was very smooth, us banking on the disappearance, within the hour of doors opening at 10am, of a large number of the usual crowd that seem to arrive at shows, pick their pre-ordered stuff up from traders and then leave before midday.

As you know, I like to get a full show experience that not only means picking up stuff from traders and supporting the hobby industry, but also checking out the games and talking rubbish with fellow enthusiasts of our great hobby, and this year I figured the latter aspect would be prominent as there wasn't any pressing items to be bought on this visit, so I went around the traders with that pleasant serendipitous approach of 'if I see anything I need I'll get it, and if not I wont' .

Whilst taking time out for a lunch break, Steve and I also got time to meet up with pals from Penarth who were also at this year's show, with chat naturally turning to thoughts of some joint games to play next year and Simon S. from the NWS with thoughts about future naval games at Yeovilton.

In the afternoon, I set off, camera in hand, to take some extra time to look at games that appealed to me and chat with the chaps involved, and so in no particular order, I present this year's games that caught my attention for various reasons to cause my camera to linger and with all the games displaying a passion for the subject that is obvious to see.

Battle of Ulundi 4th July 1879, 28mm Anglo-Zulu War - Jeremy R Fowler
I love the Anglo-Zulu War as a period to play and the spectacle of the games it produces with the filmic drama that was captured in the films Zulu and Zulu Dawn brought to the table, just lacking the thunder of guns, and the chanting of Zulu warriors accompanied by the thumping drumming of assegais on leather shields.

When you see a large square of British redcoats surrounded by Zulu impis you immediately think of Ulundi and Mr Jeremy Fowler really captured the feel of this dramatic battle with this collection of figures, beautifully arranged with an attention to detail that had me captivated with each British unit in the square represented and arranged as they were on the day; to the scratch built field oven at its centre that has an amazing back story of its own, to the modelling of the Zulu shield store, on stilts to protect the leather shields from rats, complete with a young Zulu handing out new shields from its interior.

It was great to chat with Jeremy about this collection and enjoy hearing about the research that went into its creation, a man after my own heart.

Each unit indicated on the plan of the square below is modelled accordingly.

Zulu shield store complete with Zulu quartermaster.

The plan for the Imperial square that informed the position of the units represented on the table - you've got to love this attention to detail.

The field kitchen present at the battle and wonderfully rendered here in the game

Isandlwana 22nd Jan 1879, 28mm Anglo-Zulu War - Combined Oppo's Wargames Group
The Anglo-Zulu war theme was well represented this year with the chaps from the Combined Oppo's Wargames Group up from my home town and regular participants at Warfare, I having regularly featured their games previously, which are always a feast for the eye, and this year's Isandlwana game was equally impressive, with plenty of cameo groups on the table to feast the eye upon.

Nicely done chaps.

Dornier Down, Chain of Command - Shepway Wargamers
Before delving into the dark arts of historical wargaming, I stumbled my way into the hobby from the world of model making, which probably goes a long way to explain my love of detail that visually captures the theme portrayed; and the sight of a large model Hurricane wheeling away from a crash landed Dornier Do17Z bomber recreating a very well known picture of a well documented incident during the Battle of Britain that saw the interception of these low level specialist German bombers.

What I really enjoyed seeing, was this very famous cameo moment from the Battle of Britain linked into a game of Chain of Command, recreating a 'what if' Operation Sealion invasion game, with shades of 'Dad's Army - don't tell him Pike', combined with some lovely terrain creation and figure modelling.

As well as showing the overall table space for 'Dornier Down' by the Shepway Wargamers you get a really good impression of the overall show space at Warfare, with the competition games towards the back of the hall.

The briefing for the game explains;

September 1940, somewhere in South Kent between Lydd, Ashford and Hythe.

Operation Sealion has begun, the German invasion of Britain. Our game portrays an attempt by a small unit of German paratroopers, dropped near Lydd airport to liberate a high-ranking German intelligence office, who has been captured and is currently in the hands of the local Home Guard, following the crash of the Dornier Do17Z he was flying in.

Lead units of the German 17th Infantry Division are also on their way from the invasion beaches, on route to their inland objectives.

Palestine 1938 (The Green Howards in Beit Faruk, October 1938) - Deal Wargames Society
An area of the world that is very much in the headlines was a feature of this particular game, capturing as it did Britain's previous role of world policing that thankfully is something the nation is less involved in these days, but capturing the endless nature of the asymmetric warfare that has become a common feature of most modern conflicts prior to the war in Ukraine.

The theme of the game from the Deal chaps was the Arab revolt in Palestine in 1936 against the British Mandate, with Arab insurgents attacking British garrisons in the countryside and then slipping away, enjoying widespread support from the locals.

The game displayed was based on the Official History of the Green Howards during which they launched an attack on Arab positions supported by light mechanised forces, artillery and air power, wonderfully represented by an assortment of figures and vehicles and Gloster Gladiator fighters and a Vickers Wellesley light bomber.

In a three hour battle with rebels, one Green Howard was slightly wounded, twelve rebels killed and the pilot of a shot down Gladiator rescued (note the crashed Gladiator), but later dying of his wounds.

The marvellous Matchbox rendition of the Vickers Wellesley, forerunner to the Wellington medium bomber of WWII, this kit displaying the geodetic wing and tail plane structure, if you look closely. 

An Airfix Gladiator wheels over the battle below

The Arab miniatures were a mixture of Airfix, Early War Miniatures, Strelets and Nikolai figures

Battle of Delhi, 11th September 1803 - Crawley Wargames Club
Together with a recipe from the Crawley Curry Club, the Crawley Wargames Club served up a 15mm recreation of the Battle of Delhi pitting General Gerard Lake's Bombay Army of some 5,000 men against French General Louis Bourquin leading a large Mahratta army of some 15,000 men;

'Delhi Dal Mahani - A rich mixture of kidney beans, black lentils, tomato and buttered cream. Served with a refreshment of red porter ale from Limerick. Originally served on 11th September 1803.'

Lake would deploy his cavalry ahead of his infantry before the Mahratta guns, withdrawing them as his infantry closed up out of sight in very tall grass, before withdrawing his cavalry and feigning an army withdrawal seeking to draw the Mahratta's out from their strong position on a ridge with swamps on either side.

The plan succeeded and when the Bombay and British infantry attacked, the surprise was complete breaking the enemy who quit the field leaving behind 3,000 casualties and 60 guns, with the British suffering some 500 casualties mainly among the European infantry.

The rules in use were Age of Eagles 19th Century, since renamed by the club, Age of Tigers and the figures on show were like a trip down memory lane for yours truly with figures from Fighting 15's, Lancashire, Irregular, Two Dragons, Minifigs and QRF/Freikorps.

I must admit to painful memories of using the old brittle Freikorps figures back in the day and losing a large collection of AWI troops to broken ankles that somewhat hastened my move to 18mm and AB, but that is another story, and I did enjoy getting a close look at this lovely presentation.

A splendid rendition of part of the city walls of Delhi

So another Warfare and another year of wargame shows fast approaching a conclusion, and a rather sparse one compared with my usual calendar, with just Partizan in May and now Warfare, mainly explained by my extended time away on my travels and the need to catch up on my own wargaming projects in the remaining time once I was home that has seen a reduced calendar of other events.

Hopefully I can get back to a more normal year as we go into 2024, and it was nice to see the Reading chaps seem to have sorted themselves a much more serviceable venue for their show and thanks to them for organising it and to Steve, Glyn, Andy, Andy T and Simon for their company on the day.

More anon 


  1. Thank you for posting this. I was away on my travels this year so had to miss it.

    1. Hi Jeremy,
      Great, glad you enjoyed the read.