Monday 26 September 2016

Participation games at shows

Having been involved in two very different events in the past month, let me describe these recent participation games (and advertise a couple of forthcoming ones).

The first was our BBB Franco-Prussian game, Beaugency, at the Colours 2016 wargames show in Newbury, UK. The second was in Carentan, Normandy, where as part of the "Fete aux normands" the Guerriers du Marais put on an anniversary game of Hastings 1066 alongside a Saga game of Vikings vs Normans.

The Guerriers du Marais showcasing the hobby in Carentan.
Viking longship handcrafted by Didier's late grandfather. 

To the most recent first. The fete aux normands is not a wargames show at all but a celebration of local history, arts and crafts, especially Normandy's Viking heritage. Thus there were reenactors with a Viking longship, the Dreknor; Dark Ages swordfighting and C19 folk dancing; craftsmen forging axes or making jewellery; and the usual collection of stalls selling mead, beer, crepes, books, gifts etc etc. Also gracing the event was a Higgins boat landing craft in working order, and a US Navy Dodge truck.

And for me, the main attraction was the tent hosting the two games being laid on by the local wargames club, the Guerriers du Marais. I am an occasional visitor and honorary member of the Guerriers so it was great to catch up with my amis and to assist with their display. As the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings was just a couple of weeks away, my Norman friends thought that would be a good battle to showcase, and they roped me in as a passing Anglo-Saxon to be the fall guy. The rules were "To the Strongest" which were new to me as I very rarely touch anything pre-Napoleonic. However they were easy to grasp quickly - language barrier notwithstanding - and the turns ticked by swiftly. I can see why this nice ruleset is gaining a following.

The fete was busy and plenty of passing punters came by to check out the games. I took my responsibilities as a demo player seriously and made sure to talk to people and explain the game. One young lad was interested enough that I was able to encourage him to take command of some Normans and start rolling dice. He was soon hooked and stayed for the rest of the afternoon. Didier and I on the Anglo-Saxon side weren't able to change history, and I collected a metaphorical arrow in the eye. However, as young M was sufficiently enthused by his victory to want to know when and where the Guerriers meet, I reckon I have recruited a junior member so I'll call that a victory.

It was a lot of fun to be in a game at a non-wargaming event and have the chance to introduce members of the public to our hobby. I've done that once before, when we did our Waterloo game at SOFO last year, and I shall keep an eye out for more such opportunities in future.

Colours being a wargames convention was different in that most visitors were already members of the hobby, but similar in that it was still partly about attracting people to "our" part of the hobby. But first and foremost it was about entertainment, giving players the chance to join in our FPW Beaugency 1870 game for as short or long a time as suited them, and making sure that they had a good time. I'm confident in saying that was mission accomplished too. We had several players pass through the ranks in the course of the day, all staying involved for an hour or more, and lots of interested spectators to whom I enthused about the Franco-Prussian War and how its asymmetry makes for such great gaming. Our efforts earned positive attention, judging by some favourable blog comments here ("Well done to the chap who was able to talk him to a standstill on the Franco-Prussian campaign"!) and here ("an interesting looking Franco-Prussian war game") and photos here and here. It helped that the game itself was a classic BBB nailbiter. The scale of the game - a three-day battle - allowed for the two sides to implement major strategic shifts in their efforts, and of course it all came down to the last few dice, either side in with a chance of victory, but with the final result a draw - which our novice Prussian player was more than happy with!

So both my recent outings have been enjoyable and successful ones. I'm hoping the next will be at least as good: Warfare 2016 in Reading, UK, on 19-20 November. Last year we ran a Franco-Prussian game of the battle of St.-Quentin at Warfare. The plan this time is to stay with FPW but change battles. Probably we will fight two small ones on the Saturday - maybe Coulmiers and Beaune-la-Rolande - and then reprise Beaugency on the Sunday, all using Crispin's autumnal/wintry custom terrain. If you're thinking of going to Warfare (which I thoroughly recommend as an excellent show) and have any interest in FPW and/or BBB, do drop by, whether to join in and play or just to say hello and have a chat.

And if you're on the other side of the pond, apparently there will be BBB participation games at Millenniumcon, 11-13 Nov in Round Rock, Austin TX. Dave Bennett is running his ACW battle of Stones River, and Rob Smith is offering both the 2nd and 3rd battles of Plevna (Russo-Turkish War). You can see how their games will look here and here.