Monday, 25 October 2021

Fnurnban #11 : Waterloo Remodelled - mind re-boggled


Having been tipped off by James Fisher on his excellent Chauvinistic Blog, last Friday I visited the National Army Museum in Chelsea, to see the temporary exhibit of James Cowan's work-in-progress 'Waterloo Remodelled'.  This is a model diorama of Waterloo in 1:72 scale, at a truly epic level - the version shown contains 30,000 figures, but is only about one-quarter of what is hoped to be the eventual completed size.The final version will be, they say, 'about the size of a tennis court'. Think about that for a moment..


 As described above, the display consisted of several sections of the battlefield ( a sort of 'edited highlights'? ) .  Rather like a large wargames display, the sections were on individual boards, though thankfully ( unlike a wargames table ) all the figures were permanently stuck in place. I did wonder at first how long it had taken to set up!  It is the brainchild of Major-General James Cowan, who was in attendance along with with his elderly father, who cheerfully manned a table with further work-in-progress  model buildings, accompanied by one of the disabled veteran volunteer figure-painters. The project is affiliated to 'Waterloo Uncovered' , an archaelogical project investigating the real Waterloo battle site, staffed largely by veterans of such theatres as Iraq and Afghanistan, with a view to the work's  therapeutic / rehabilitation effects. Similarly, the team of figure painters and modellers include veterans who appreciate the relaxing and de-stressing effect of such activities.

I had seen some information and pictures on blogs before visiting, of course, but I wasn't really ready for the full  effect - it was truly amazing, mind-boggling stuff!  The 'figure scale' is about 1.5:1, so each battalion is made up of perhaps 300 figures,  and thus when the whole thing is complete there should be about 120,000 figures in all.  

While I was there, there was an explanatory talk  given by James in the museum's lecture room,  but I'm afraid I  managed to miss that, so my information is a little sketchy - but I did have a nice talk  with his 80-something father, who is very 'game' and was happy to chat while also getting on with building another model farmhouse!  The big quesiton for me is 'where is it going to end up when finished?', and somewhat surprisingly perhaps, it seems that question has not been settled yet. How will it be displayed, and by who?  Remember that 'size of a tennis court' line... how do you allow people to view such a monster?  I think it would need a similar setup to that which the museum gave it, with a viewing balcony or gallery - it's going to need a substantal building to itself! Let's hope that question can be settled. 


In the meantime it was a privilege to see it, I am very glad I made it along there. In all the excitement my camera broke, but I got quite a few pictures before that happened, so I will just let them speak for themselves. 




A great shame it was only on display for 4 days, I do hope they can find other occasions to show it to the public - a genuinely amazing spectacle, with an appropriately Napoleonic scale of ambition!  For further information - and much better photos than mine -  look no further than James Cowan's own  Waterloo in 20mm  blog.   Now I think I need a little lie down..

Thursday, 21 October 2021


I was at the SELWG show on Sunday. Normality returns? Not quite, but it's a start. 


Like many others, my last show attendance had been SELWG 2019 at Crystal Palace. The venue was changed this year, surprisingly to North London,  at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre.  This turned out to be pretty decent, I thought -  the main space is an indoor running track arena with a high arched glass roof,and lots of spectator seating, which came in handy.  The games and trade stands easily fitted inside the area of the track. The program listed about 30 games and 50 traders - though there may have been one or two no-shows (most notably it was announced that one of the two catering vans due to attend had been stolen the night before!).  I don't know what the official attendance numbers were, but maybe it felt a bit quieter than previous years, and I suppose that's not surprising.  I felt almost no concern about social distancing, the space felt so - well, spacious (I'll admit I walked into the main hall and immediately discarded my face covering ).  

Night manoeuvres, 1685 style
 There were some fun games, the most unusual being 'Moon Over Sedgemoor' by the Prince Rupert's Bluecoats group,  This simulated Monmouth's night-march to attack the Royal army, by the device of covering up the terrain that the rebels needed to cross.Thus they wouldn't know if they were about to run into a wall, or a dyke, or other obstacle until they hit it - and then perhaps made enough noise to alert the Royal sentries.   Note how the scenery is all painted in dark 'night-time' tones - nice touch.  A worthy 'Best in Show' winner, I think ( see 'Iron Mitten' blog for more ).


In old ( 1930s ) Siam

I also liked 'Shall We Dance? The Boworadet Rebellion, Siam 1933'  by Deal Wargames - and they win 'best explanatory leaflet' with a really nicely-produced 8-page illustrated booklet. They used 'Rapid Fire' rules, about which more later.  There were special rules for units being charged by elephants or buffalo!


2mm scale? hmmm...

A bit of a first for me was  a battle in  ( I think ) 2mm scale - Mark Backhouse's 'Bibracte 58BC' participation game  using his 'Strength and Honour' rules.  Judging by the vocal hubbub from the players, it was going down well -  but I'll admit that the armies looked a bit 'brown blob' for my taste. I really like the idea of playing large battles with small figures, but maybe my limit is going to be 6mm. 


GLC Gamers SCW: note 'decisive moment' of die roll

I failed to take many pictures, to be honest, but another quite nice-looking table  was this Spanish Civil War game put on by the GLC Games Club - who have lasted much longer than the GLC, it seems!  This one wasn't listed in the program ( there were a few changes, perhaps unsurprisingly ), and I'm not sure of the rules they were using - was it maybe  Osprey's  'A World Aflame'?  Other honourable mentions must go to The Society of Ancients'  'Battle of Trebbia 218BC' using Impetus;   Cheshunt Wargames Club 'Battle for Hoa Binh, Indochina 1951' in 6mm; and South London Warlords good old reliable 'Stingray' game - do they make the naval peaked caps larger for every outing? 

( Other bloggers have of course taken loads more pictures, in particular see Ray Roussel's 'Don't Throw a 1' and  'Big Lee's Miniature Adventures' which has a 10 minute video, no less. ) 

Obviously, after 2 years with no such events, one of the best aspects of the day was a bit of social contact, and the ability to chat to fellow gamers.  It was a pleasure to  meet my old buddy Dave (aka St Cyr on Wheels )  for the first time since February 2020 , and to  renew our customary  'Stadtler and Waldorf go to the SELWG show'  routine.  Apart from chatting to some of the game hosts, we had a nice chinwag with the chap from Mili-Art, who did a great job of painting  Dave's Napoleonic armies a couple of years ago.  Better still, we also met up with that most excellent blogger and generous commenter  Nundanket, and had a good yarn over coffee/tea. The other two live fairly close to each other, so there could perhaps be scope for gaming..  Nundanket  ( can I call you Chris? )  also made me a most generous gift of some metal Spencer-Smith figures , which will fit in nicely to my 'Portable 7YW' forces.

These were apparently the remnants of a failed  attempt by another friend to tempt him away from 6mm scale a few years ago! Anyway they are great, and will make at least one 'Portable Wargame' Infantry unit ( complete with Grenadier company ); the horsemen may become officers.  A very kind gesture, thank you very much!

Of course no show visit would be complete without a little shopping. Usually any purchases I make at shows are happy accidents/mad impulse buys,  but this time  I had managed to compile a short list, and even managed to score most of it, with only one spur-of-the-moment extra. 

First a couple of additions to the 'D-Day Dodgers' collection for Italy 1943-1945: 

 Next, rules: 


I've been meaning to pick up 'In Deo Veritas': I like the idea of doing 'Big Battles' in the Pike and Shot period, and it should be a good excuse to get my 15mm 30YW forces on the table. 'Rapid Fire Reloaded' is intriguing,  with only 16 pages of A5 - so it must be simple! Another possibility for the D-Day Dodgers, I hope. 

And there's always books:

Christopher Duffy's 'Instrument of War' has been on the wish-list for a  long time, and became a must-have once I got involved in 7YW gaming: I'm sure it will live up to expectations, and it's only fair to have as good a reference about the Austrian Army as Duffy's earlier work on the Prussians. Frederick gets all the glory, and the balance needs redressing.   Finally the impulse buy:


Charles Grant's last book, published after he passed away in 1979 - I'm hoping it will have the same mix of charm and erudition as 'Battle!',  'The War Game', 'The Ancient War Game' and 'Napoleonic Wargames'.  Does that complete the set? In the introduction he says 'I can conceive of no more lively pleasure than that of seeing unfold upon the wargame table a tactical situation which is a true reflection of a historical event', which seems eminently appropriate. 

So, now I have far too much reading, rule-learning  and modelling than I can possibly keep up with, but absolutely no buyer's remorse; and I enjoyed the day, felt entirely safe and was lucky to meet friends both old and new.  Next 'Salute', in a month's time?  We shall see - sadly Covid infeciton rates here are on the rise again. Meanwhile I'd better get reading/modelling/gaming... keep safe, and well, all ! 

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Fnurban #10 : Wargames shows are like buses.. wait two years with none at all, and then loads come along all at once..

Having bought the current edition of 'Wargames Illustrated', I'm rather taken aback by the re-appearance of - advertisements for Wargames shows!  Like this old favourite : 


SELWG 2019 was the last show I attended, and I always liked this event.  It seemed like a bit of a 'Goldilocks' show - not too big, not too small -  just right!  A good range of traders and games, and all very managable in an afternoon. Notice the new venue - gone perhaps will be the slightly surreal juxtapositions of gamers ( not necessarily the most athletic-looking crowd ) edging past the Crystal Palace swimming pool while synchro swimmers do their stuff in the water,  and the evocative whiff of chlorine ( did anyone do a WW1 game there, with that in mind? ).  Though I notice the new venue is also an Athletics Centre, so maybe plus ca change..  For me, the journey will be easier too, as they have moved to North-East London - should it be renamed NELWG?   Barring some catastrophic Covid surge/lockdown/fuel crisis situation, I am planning to go along, shopping list and camera in hand.   It will be great to be back! 

But that's not all  - from the same magazine issue, we have these: 

hang on - that's this weekend!

 and this...

not at all grim up North

And not to mention, for us Southerners the daddy of them all -  'Salute' returns on 13th  November.   On a more modest scale Ray from Don't Throw a One informs us that 'Broadside' is back in December, also with a new venue, at Gillingham.  It looks like a determined gamer with the ability to travel around England could do a show nearly every week for the next couple of months!  I admit I am not quite that desperate for my fix of games, tradestands and expensive coffees as to try to get to all of these - I'll start with SELWG and see how it goes,  have a think about 'Salute', and 'Broadside' would  be fun, and an easy journey ( and it's near my childhood home -  Rainham Wargames Club, are you there?  I was, about 1976 to 1981..)    These sports centre/exhibition hall  venues are quite large spaces, with hopefully good modern  ventilation systems, and the demographic of attendees is pretty surely double-jabbed ( some already in the 'booster' age groups, dare I say? ) - so I hope all will be well.  

So, what does the team think?  Are you keen to go along to one of these, or still a bit wary of crowds?  We all have to do what we are comfortable with, and I wouldn't criticise anyone for being careful. However to me, this seems a welcome development, a sign of societal recovery - my only concern being that perhaps there are too many shows in quick succession, will gamers suffer 'show fatigue' and attendances drop as a result?   Let's hope not - at least there is a decent geographical spread. It will feel  almost a duty to be generous in our support of the traders too, so - see you ( weighed down by long-delayed metal, resin and and paper purchases )  at SELWG, maybe? 

Keep well, everyone!