Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Classic Collections do battle at Cotswold Wargaming Day

I was very fortunate to be invited by Keith Flint (of "Honours of War" fame) to the very first Cotswold Wargaming Day held on 2 September  2018 in the small town of Northleach off the A40 in the mid-central Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire.

Keith had organised this and had invited various wargamers he knows in the general Gloucestershire/ West Country area. I live only about 20 miles away from the venue but I met wargamers from a distance - at least Plymouth and Aldershot, and not so far away at Cirencester. Keith had the backing of veteran wargaming legend Stuart Asquith who proudly said he lives near enough to "walk home to lunch and back again". Stuart and Keith had put up prizes, and also with the sponsorship of Osprey Publishing to reward the game organisers for their efforts.  18 attended in various capacities and took part in five games, some ran twice during the day. A small £5 donation each covered hire of the spacious hall and included self service tea, coffee and biscuits all day!  Keith allowed me a nice amount of space for my display of military paintings, which I hope was of general interest, and I made at least one new acquaintance and client out of it as well as discussing a new commission in detail with another.

First a general look round and then a bit more detail of what interested me most.
Willz Harley's classic Spencer Smiths in an SYW Imagi-Nations game
WW2 in Normandy by Jon in 15mm using Battlegroup Panzer Grenadier rules
In the words of Bruce McCallum: "my own easy flight/squadron level air rules. Operation Cinzano, Italian biplanes v Hurricanes over Suffolk in November 1940, when you thought the Battle of Britain was over. (Spitfires & Me 109s in there too!)." Sorry I don't know any more about this apart from that Bruce was treating participants to caviar to snack on!!!!.

Display of original paintings by yours truly
Battle of Talavera 1809 using classic 1:76 scale Hinton Hunt figures, by Roy Boss, Mark Barnett and Stuart
Seven Years War using "Honours of War" rules in 28mm by Steve and Paul

Talavera in "20mm"

When the Cotswold Wargaming Day had originally been planned for March this year and had to be cancelled due to snow I had signed up for Roy and Stuart's classic "20mm" Napoleonic game for purely nostalgic reasons. As a lad when I first started Napoleonics Hinton Hunt figures were a market leader but a bit pricey for me and most of my metal collection was the cheaper and more bland Miniature Figures. So the idea of playing a full blown battle with just part of Roy's classic Hinton Hunt collection was too much to resist. (Apologies for the poor picture quality - the light in that part of the hall just did not like my camera.)

A bonus was that we were to use a 1970s style set of rules called "Muskets and Marshals" by Ian Spencer. Fistfuls of dice, saving throws, casualties in figures not points, simultaneous movement, non-scaled-but-fun weapons ranges - you get the idea.....So this was Talavera 70s style. That meant using historic orders of battle with each battalion at 24 figures and cavalry regiments of 12, lots of guns and the whole battlefield represented on a 10 x 6 table.

 An 8 inch musket range maximum compared to 36 inch artillery range seemed a bit disproportionate but I was here for nostalgic wargaming not a simulation, and it all worked pretty well. So, willing suspension of disbelief and get stuck into those 12 dice per infantry volley and enjoy the mayhem! (Hey, I love saving throws anyway!)

Stuart Asquith casts a practiced eye over the proceedings. See my open left flank in the foreground

I innocently asked if I could go British, and that was before I knew it was Talavera. Matt was busily putting out the French and the Allies had been  placed along the ridges, redoubt and city as if deployed. Although they were all in exposed column blocks on super custom made trays I did not query it - mine not to reason why when playing a new set of rules in someone else's game. And then almost by accident I had been nominated as Sir Arthur Wellesley and was having the orbat briefed verbally, loosely given a historic map as a guide, and a formal historical order of battle in a book in Spanish! To my (pleasant) surprise I was told the "deployment" was only approximate and I was to redeploy how I thought fit within the general historic areas. So, getting my head round the battalions, brigades and divisions at no notice proved a bit more of a challenge than the "old school" muck around that I had expected! Who says wargaming does not keep your brain nimble? Anyway I got there in the end and was quite pleased with my lines and use of reverse slope, except for the exposed left flank which Roy assured me would be secured later.

I won't be giving a blow by blow account but just enjoy the pics of the classic troops with some annotations.

Spanish hold the area of the redoubt
View along the French main line
Some game balance was given by the French dominance in artillery but the British
 had quite a lot of nifty rifle-armed skirmishers
Although I got the troops deployed Stuart turned up just in time to command the British troops on the big left flank hill. Player-umpire Roy had the Spanish, and kept most of the Allied cavalry in a central reserve position. Matt and Tim commanded the French.
Guards Brigade and other British take cover on the reverse slope but my guns
were horribly exposed to the big French battery
Even though fairly well back my central infantry were to suffer from those guns throughout

Tim launched a single regiment of Polish lancers to push back my riflemen...
.....which they did but fell foul of rifle fire and musketry from squares and
fell back sorely depleted
Matt's columns' suffered from Stuart's guns so the French attack voluntarily
halted along the stream valley so his own guns could fire over them
My lines held firm in the centre
Spanish gun crews in the redoubt got diminished by counter battery fire

Roy brought some of our cavalry reserve on the left flank (as he had promised) for Stuart to counter attack. At left a French column charged one of our battalions while it was in square and pushed it back in disorder....but that left the French vulnerable to counter attack which sent them packing. British guns were being smashed by the grand battery.
In the centre the attacking columns formed lines and began to blow my riflemen away by musket volleys
Stuart departed at lunchtime and left me to revive the left flank. Nice score by my Spanish
light horse saw off the French Dragoons and this began a significant start to an
Allied outflanking of the French right
French columns move forward again now the British guns have gone
And the grand battery starts to batter whatever infantry are exposed on the crest
Spanish troops continue to relax in Talavera so Roy can  concentrate on contesting
 the redoubt
Tim chose to attack across the river with cavalry.
I succeeded in forming an emergency square,,,,
.......and these were his melee dice scores!
Depleted cavalry regiment shown below

To give us more manoeuvring space and bring up reserves I advanced in the centre. Although the British infantry suffered they were making space for that cavalry regiment of Roy's at centre left of the picture. 
Sadly Roy's Spanish flee from the redoubt against good French troops (and below).

In the final act of the game Matt attacked all along the ridge and received only average
 casualties from my British lines. A couple of his battalions charged home and both won their melees
which posed difficult issues for a successful British outcome to the battle.
We had played from about 1030 to 1620 with a break for lunch and had to stop with the game hanging in the balance. There had been a lot more incidents than this space allows me to describe but essentially the battlefield ended up as four different zones:

  • Allied left: Significant Allied cavalry strength meant a severe threat to the French flank and would inhibit further progress of the French attack. 
  • Allied centre left: French dominance of the big hill but Matt's lead battalions were now weak and there were still some British reserve battalions
  • Centre: Roy's cavalry had broken a leading French battalion at the stream so I was fairly confident that my strong reserves could repel any further French attempt in this area
  • Allied centre right: The redoubt was lost and the French were storming through towards Talavera and still had uncommitted battalions.

I couldn't stay to hear Roy's pronouncement on a result but I think it would be something along the historical lines - French marginally beaten tactically and with significant losses, but Wellesley would deem that with most of his artillery and light troops shattered he would use his superior cavalry position to cover a strategic withdrawal and leave the Spanish to it! (Care to comment Roy?)

Great fun and a very relaxed atmosphere. Matt and I were almost trying to outdo each other in gentlemanly play!   At one point we couldn't decide so just diced for it. Pragmatic Roy came up and realised the rules did cover the situation but said "Why interfere when both players are happy with a dice decider!" Regular readers know I like a "serious" historical wargame in my own space but when I'm away from home it's OK to play just for fun isn't it? This game fitted the bill perfectly - history, nostalgic figures and rules and good company. Thanks to Roy, Matt, Tim and Stuart for making it possible. Also it confirmed my view that 1:76 (22mm) is an ideal size to refight a historic battle and I will be planning to redo my SYW armies accordingly sometime in the future.

Seven Year's War - Imagi-Nation game

I reported on Will Harley's successful gaming with his classic armies at the Kenilworth Wild Geese gathering in June and he felt able to travel North again for our benefit in Gloucestershire.

Will told me he fell into collecting Spencer Smith figures more or less by accident a few yeras ago and ended up buying many hundreds, and creating two Imagi-Nation armies. For those not familiar with SS they started life in the 1960s as bags of about 50 x "30mm" polythene figures all in the same marching position - grenadier and musketeer, with a few random officers and drummers. There were  three or four mounted poses and a few gunners and that was it. The figures lacked detail so could be painted pretty much as any 18th century types you wanted. Willz has recreated the ingenuity of those early years but applied a more sophisticated painting style and matt finish which gives the armies an appearance of elegance and polish comparable with any modern 28mm range.  He justly got public praise for this from Stuart Asquith who awarded Willz the prize for "Best Painted Armies".


Classic-style big battalions
Above pictures during the first game of the day
Keith took part in the second game - both games used Jim Purky's rules (of Fife and Drum Miniatures)

The versatile dragoon figure - a particular favourite of Willz'

Keith Flint - without whom we would have neither the Cotswold Wargaming Day
nor the brilliant "Honours of War" rule book

Willz explains a point to Keith........
......and then spots the camera and you can't keep a straight face long next to Willz!
 The day also included a speech and prize giving by Stuart Asquith. There was a prize for "Most Gentlemanly Gamer" and who could argue against Bruce winning that - serving caviar with his game! Each of the games got a prize for some aspect of our hobby at which it excelled but Best Overall Game went to - Talavera, in which I was privileged to play Wellington, so I could not disagree it was a great choice.
Roy and Matt receive their prizes from Stuart
The magnificent Stuart Asquith Trophy which will be competed for next year
Many thanks from me to Keith and Stuart for organising such an enjoyable day not very far from home, and to Roy and Matt for putting up with me at Talavera.

Feedback has encouraged Keith to agree to organise CWD2 on 1st September 2019 at the same venue and he hopes to encourage more game organisers and players than for this inaugural venture. So if you live in the general Central/South -West of the UK and fancy organising something you can either get in touch with Keith directly or email me and I will pass it on.


  1. Thank you Chris for your excellent post and very kind comments on my Spencer Smith figures. Your blog has has helped to inspire me during this ongoing project. It was an excellent day out and nice to meet up again, I was having so much fun gaming I forgot to take pictures of the other games and I thank you for remembering.
    What a pleasure it was to meet Stuart Asquith an iconic wargamer who helped to nurture my wargaming interest in the 70 - 80's we were spoilt on Sunday. A big thank you to Keith Flint for his idea to run this day, roll on next year.
    A grand day out in the Cotswold's, Sunday was wargaming at its best.

    Happy gaming,
    Willz Harley.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Willz, as we enjoyed seeing your game set up again.

    2. Clever of Keith to have a model of Stuart himself on the trophy ;-)

  2. Thanks for a good report of the show Chris. I had a wonderful time and sadly didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked at the other tables. But then there is next year so who knows...

  3. What a wonderful mixture of ideas and experience. That looks like a truly stimulating day out and good company to boot. Thank you for sharing the games with us.

  4. That looks like a fun weekend and great games. I am slightly envious that you got to play a game using so many Hinton Hunt figures.

    I rather like the idea of hiring a hall and inviting a few folk to put on and play games. Is this a growing trend across the hobby I wonder.

    1. Thanks Steve, John and Mark. Yes indeed the battle with Hinton Hunts was sheer indulgence for me as they were the same figures as at my wargaming epiphany at Waterloo 150 in 1965 and I had a small number myself later. Thought of you Mark and discussed the collection with Roy - originals versus "pirates". He also has Russian and Austrian armies. Given your joint interest it would be worth a trip for you to Cirencester to see them.

  5. Ha ha! a growing trend? I have to smile as before Conventions and Shows it was the only way. From about 1968 to 72 the "Severn Valley Society" hired halls so members from Cheltenham, Bristol, Cardiff, Worcester and Oxford areas could battle together about twice a year.

  6. Well, what with loads of Hinton Hunt Napoleonics, classic Spencer Smiths, AND Stuart Asquith, I'll be dreaming of brightly painted toy soldiers and tabletop battles galore once I finally drop off to sleep this evening. Looks like quite an event!

    Best Regards,


    1. Yes Stokes you'd have loved it! Sleep well...........ZZZZZZZZZZZ

  7. Outstanding report and great selection of pictures of games. Sounds like a very fun event.

  8. Looks like a great show thanks for sharing. Plus Stuart Asquith on site and those SS figures!

  9. An impressive looking day of wargaming and it looked great fun.

  10. What a wider ful post on what must have been a sensational day Chris. Thank you!

  11. What a super event - looks like all had a great day

  12. The Talavera Game looks spectacular - to see even a part of Roy's collection on the table is always a treat. Glad you enjoyed the rules!

  13. Yes Ian, the rules fitted the figures, units and style of historical refight perfectly, well done. For nostalgia's sake I have added your excellent Hinton Hunt blog to my favourites at right.

  14. What a great day out! In no particular order; Stuart Asquith, Keith Flint, Hinton Hunt and Spencer Smith, what could go wrong? The Spencer Smith figures brought back some fond memories. I remember going to his place in Camberley to purchase figures in 1973/74 when my friends and I started wargaming.

    1. Hi Greg, thanks for virtually visiting the Cotswolds! That must have been pretty special to collect your bags of SS figures in person. Having two of my 1960s iconic figure collections in great numbers in the same room was a bit magical :-)

  15. A day of war gaming with great looking games and notable names. What’s not to like.

  16. What a fine day's gaming. Good to see Willz getting recognition for his collection.
    Nice report Chris.

  17. Very entertaining account of what looks to have been a great little convention, and I think that when it comes to conventions small is beautiful. I even recognised one of the innocent bystanders in one of the pictures, a certain Major of Royal Marines who I had the pleasure of wargaming with when in the old country - now retired, shurely!

    1. Sparker, thanks very much for visiting the blog. I only knew 3 people there before the day and made a few new acquaintances so can't answer your question. As for retirement I believe some lucky people retire from the UK armed forces very early indeed . You look a mere 25 in the picture, mate :-)

  18. Thank you Chris for taking on the demanding role of Wellesley , leaving me an easy time with the Spanish. I felt that , just as we finished playing French prospects were improving a little,as the British lines were suffering in the centre and, having advanced with the Spanish as a matter of levity I was taking a hammering on your right. However,vyou had worked cavalry round their righ flank , a threat to their centre that might well have neutralised their thrust.
    Two items in the Muskets and Marshals rules definitely need tweaking: Firstly the British line only gets a shooting venefit if it has a full 12 figures, ( the front rank of an untouched battalion). with the French having such a preponderance of artillery they were always going to have inflicted a casualty on the Brits before their columns came up so the redcoats got no benefit from staying in line. Secondly the Spanish have only a one in six chance of avoiding disorder when charged and disordered units die quickly, which the Diegos promptly did,bwith a mass flight to the rear that made my bit of the battlefield look like the start of the London Marathon fancy dress section. More encouraging were my British light dragoons who carved their way through the centre of the French army. One of the good things about playing such a big battle was that incidents such as that do not turn the game as the now blown light dragoons were faced off by some French dragoons before they could capture Marshal Victor or King Joseph.
    Peninsular battles have a rhythm because the British stand in line , the French bombard and then attack abd the Brits hide and then face off the French. That is very much what happened in our game, The players folliwed the script, Wellesley held his nerve and his position abd we all had a fine time. Next year , deo volente we will bring some continental armies. Roy
    PS thanks for the extensive blog post!

    1. ....and thank you Roy for such a splendid outing as Wellesley which I thoroughly enjoyed when I got the hang of the orbat and the rules. I agree with you about the British musket volleys, the French seemed pretty overwhelming with all that artillery - maybe an ammo limit of say 6 shots per game might make the artillery commanders of both sides pick the best targets only, and not every turn. I think these rules give cavalry the right kind of Napoleonic decisiveness and excitement.

  19. Many thanks Chris for such an outstanding post on the whole day. Here's to next year!

    1. And thank you once again Keith for all you did to make it such a success

  20. See Keith's account of the day at his blog here

  21. Always wonderful to see those lovely Hinton Hunts on the table. They appear on several blogs for our delight. Most be quite something to see them 'in the flesh'?