There’s been a lot going on lately and I’m a very busy boy, but I wanted to let you know about the two events I attended last weekend that saw me racking up a couple of hundred miles in the Battlebus.
First on the agenda was a brand new event, organised by the marvellous Mark Backhouse, regular contributor to Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine, who featured in a recent Battlechat podcast. The Come and Have a Go If You Think You’re Lard Enough! day took place at Sarisbury Green Community Centre, The Green, Sarisbury Green, Southampton SO31 7AA on Saturday 23rd March, and featured a total of eleven games, all using TooFatLardies rules, with miniatures and terrain donated by the various game organisers. The event was not open to the public—participants and those running the games had pre-booked their places—but I was kindly allowed to come and loiter with intent for the morning, and I was also delighted to discover that Neville Dickinson, the man responsible for the birth of Miniature Figurines back in the 1960s, was also there as Guest of Honour. More of him later.
The games were as follows:
- Sharp Practice – Based around a ‘what if’ British invasion of Japan in the 1860s
- Sharp Practice – American Civil War Valley Campaign 1862: The road to 1st Winchester
- Sharp Practice – Cape Wars, based around the ambush at Booma Pass in 1850
- Bag the Hun – WWII aerial fighting over Southampton in 1940, possibly the bombing of the Supermarine Factory
- Bag the Hun – WWII morning game 1945 over Berlin, afternoon game Malta
- Through Mud and Blood – WWI Western Front 1914: can the plucky Entente troops hold up the Schlieffen Plan?
- Martian Practice – A Victorian Steampunk on Mars variant setting using the Sharpe Practice rules
- Chain of Command – Modern variant: Chinese Marines and USMC clash in a near future fictional scenario set in 2020
- Chain of Command – Western Desert 1940, Commonwealth versus Italians
- Chain of Command – Malaya December 1941: Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders attempt to hold up the Japanese advance along the Grik Road
- What a Tanker – Normandy 1944 in 15mm, run by Guy Bowers, editor of WSS magazine
Because of other duties (see below), I decided to just be a hovering onlooker, but found myself suppressing the urge to take part in what were clearly a series of highly engaging games. The participants ranged from Lardy veterans to complete beginners—indeed, one of the attendees, Michael Blake, had never actually played a wargame at all beforehand. I spoke to him and he was clearly having a wonderful time which, judging by the comments I’ve seen, applies to everyone who attended. Interestingly, he was a collector of miniatures for some time beforehand, but had never yet taken the plunge. This Lardy day, however, proved to be the perfect opportunity and it was clear he was converted for life.
A special mention and best wishes to Michael, by the way (who you can see in the black T-shirt playing the Through the Mud and the Blood canal crossing game), because he will be missing Salute in a couple of weeks because of a serious operation on his back. Wishing you a swift recovery, Michael!
From my point of view, I applied one of the criteria I use when judging ‘best participation game’ at shows: the noise. Lots of chat and laughter, no umming and aaahing, no rumble of disagreement or even antipathy (and yes, I’ve seen and heard that far to may times at shows open to the public). In short, Mark Backhouse and his chums have managed to create a ‘hit’, straight out of the box on their first attempt. I shall certainly be along again, and next time, I hope to get a game, too. The sheer variety of games in such a relatively small event was also wonderful to see—they certainly sent me scuttling to find my ‘smaller wars’ reference books!
It was great to see the Lardies-in-Chief there too: Rich Clarke, Nick Skinner and Oddcast host Sidney Roundwood were clearly having a great time, with Nick running a Bag the Hun game, Sid indulging in some gaming in the late Samurai era when I saw him in the morning, and Rich roaming the event like the alpha lion of the pack, making himself available to anyone who had questions about rules or the Lardy life in general. It’s great to see how enthusiastically they support so many of these Lardy events, travelling considerable distances to donate their time and energy for the good of the hobby.
In short, the event was a hoofing success, and I recommend that any of you interested in attending next year should get in touch with Mark as soon as possible. There is a Facebook page here and Mark’s Twitter account is here.
Let me mention Neville Dickinson again, who is about to celebrate his 85th birthday on 1st April. I’ve met Neville on a few occasions, but only briefly, in passing as it were, at a number of wargames shows. But this was the first time I have had the opportunity to have a proper ‘get to know you’ conversation with him, and he is a really fascinating man.
Quite apart from his involvement with Miniature Figurines, which he grew from the stumbling beginnings of a company called Alberken (see the full history here and here), and which he later sold for sufficient cash to allow him a comfortable retirement, I was also fascinated to hear about Neville’s service in the Army in the 1950s. He saw active service in the Korean War, where he ‘saw the elephant’. He made an interesting comment about Korea being the last of the ‘old fashioned’ wars in which most infantry fire was still delivered from single-shot weapons, which meant that as long as the first shot missed, you had a chance to dive for cover, whereas the automatic weapons of later and recent wars have led to much higher casualty rates.
Of course, Neville was a Southampton contemporary of Tony Bath, with whom he played many wargames and participated in the famous Hyboria campaign, and of Donald Featherstone, which allows me to segue perfectly to a description of the rest of my weekend in Part 2.
Thanks to Mark Backhouse for inviting me along to this great new event. I’ll be back!