Monday, 29 August 2011

The Naval Wargames Weekend, Gosport

Liz, the kids and I have just returned from Gosport where we took part in the naval Wargames Weekend (organised jointly by the Naval Wargames Society and the Explosion! Museum of naval Firepower). We had a great time, and we hope the other attendees did too. There were a host of games presented over the weekend.

Stuart Barnes Watson staged a refight of the battle of Koh Chang in 1/1200. Some lovely, and quite rare, French and Thai models did battle amongst the islands and fog banks, with the French this time coming off distinctly second best.
Across from the Thai action, Battlegroup South had an awesome 1/700 Pacific War game with impressive models and terrain featuring a quiet Japanese anchorage that as about to receive the unwelcome attentions of the United States navy. This was a lovely game that earned many admiring comments during the two days.

As did the Solent Wargames Association’s “Sun, Sea and Sandwich” game, a 28mm Wars of the Roses naval game on Saturday. Many large cogs did regular battle, and several members of the public were co-opted in to command ships and to do their best for York or Lancaster.

The SWA changed games for Sunday and shifted forward in time and down in scale to cover famous surface actions of the Royal Navy in WW2, principally the sinking of the Bismarck and the Battle of the River Plate. General Quarters 3 rules were in use, and the games played with some lovely 1/2400 models.

Across the way Mark Barker’s “Inshore Squadron” put on an excellent demonstration game base don the 1811 battle of Lissa. Mark’s team always put on a  lovely show with some very fine models and this was no exception. Malcolm Smalley’s “Clear For Action” computer moderated rules were in use, and the action (at least on the first day) went true to form with a glorious victory for the Royal Navy (at least that’s what the RN commanders told me!)

Dave Sharp views the French and Venetian squadron, approaching its doom at the hands of the Royal Navy
NWS chairman Jeff Crane and family brought along a “Man o War” game, reminding players and public alike that naval wargaming isn’t restricted solely to historical genres. Alas Jeff was only able to stay for a short while, but it was good to see his MoW models in action again.

The next game on the list was an innovative recreation of WW2 damage control by Jim Wallman. In this game the players take on the role of Damage Control Officers on board HMS BELFAST, marshalling their scare resources in terms of equipment and manpower to fight fires, control and pump out flooding, limit damage and restore combat efficiency in an RN cruiser under fire. One of Jim’s participants was a serving RN officer who has done this kind of thing for real, and who said the whole thing had  a most realistic feel to it. Praise indeed!

Jim advises a member of the public on the intricacies of RN Damage Control

Wayne Pocock and Nathan Girdler planned to refight the battle of Hampton Roads in 1/600 using a variety of rules. I’m not sure how this turned out, but at the start of the day Monitor and Virginia were seen doing their best to cause damage by shot, shellfire and ramming using Jason Gorringe’s “Smoke on the Water” rules.

For my own part I had (overly) ambitious plans to run 4, possibly 5 different games over the weekend. In the end this didn’t quite work out. Saturday began with my “Wings and Waves of War” variant on the popular WW1 air combat game, wherein a brace of RN 55’ Coastal Motor Boats attempt to escape from German air attack. In the first game my CMBs successfully fought off a pair of Hansa Brandeberg W.29s; in the second action I took the Germans, now reinforced by a pair of Albatros W.4s. The RN force (commanded by Laura) was assisted by the arrival of an RNAS Camel. This time, despite sinking one of the CMBs by gunfire, my W.4s were savaged by fire from the boats (one going down to the dreaded “bang” card after suffering very little damage), whilst the Camel pounced on the W.29s. In the end the RN prevailed as my last W.29 was shot down, but not before the last surviving CMB had been heavily damaged.

Game #2 featured my “Privateer” game using 1/450 pirate ship models. This ended up as a static display, with plenty of discussion with passes by on the models, conversions and the rules.
Game #3, on Sunday morning, was the first run out of my rules covering Medieval small ship actions. The game was based on the battle of Sandwich (August 1217) in which an English squadron under deBurgh engaged a French force under Eustace the Monk. The rules worked well (although some areas for improvement were identified), and were certainly quick! Eustace once again succumbed to the onslaught of the English fleet, his flagship being surrounded and captured whilst other Englsish ships ransacked the French transports.

Game #4 was to have been my Cod War participation game, and game #5 the 1/600 model – and ground – scale recreation of the River Plate battle, but time did not permit these to come into play.

Overall the weekend went well. For a “first attempt” it was successful although as in all things we identified a number of areas where it could be better. The general consensus was that it was a worthwhile event that we will run again next year. Arranging the event at the same time as the Surface Warships Association’s display day at the museum was, on reflection, not wonderful as it meant the wargames were on display in the Grand Magazine – a lovely venue but very dark; ext time we will probably run the event on a  different weekend with games in the conference centre (which is large, light and airy). Moving away from the bank holiday weekend should also improve attendance, being more “family friendly” for potential participants (In fairness the location and date, and hence the non-availability of many NWS members and players was a result of the short timescales in organising the event).
So, in summary, a good weekend of gaming, and (for me at least) an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. Watch out for announcements about the event in 2012!

1/72 radio controlled “Flower” class corvettes, Surface Warship Association


  1. Really pleases that it went so well for you, even though you didn't get to run all of your games.

    Next year I'm hoping to be able to get there or even persuade some of my local club to help run a game.

    Thanks for the report.



  2. It sounds like a successful weekend! The Damage Control game looks interesting. Certainly a different take on the subject.

    I'm not sure how it was at your event, but over here the general public (and especially adults) always seem a bit reluctant to join in the games.

    Are you going to revise your Medieval rules? Kevin and I are interested in hearing about the changes.


  3. The Medieval rules need a little bit of work, but not much. I ought to point out that I was trying out the rules for individual ship actions rather than "fleet actions", which are the ones I think you've used before and which haven't changed.

  4. Good to see a picture of my Corvette, the only time in thirty years it has seen water. :L