Tuesday, 26 April 2022

The Donald Featherstone Annual Memorial Weekend 2022

Post the Covid nightmare I wanted to have a pick me up treat and as a result booked myself a place at the annual Donald Featherstone Memorial weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre in Basingstoke. Following the death of Featherstone, Mark Freeth the owner of the holiday centre has annually held a weekend of gaming, banter and food to celebrate the great man. This years theme was the Italian Wars using the Pike and Shotte rules which was a real attraction for me.

 I think like a lot of wargamers, recovering from the last two years has been difficult. I think for some wargamers it will prove too difficult to take up the brushes, dice and rulebooks and return to the hobby. I certainly have periods where I struggle. Luckily I am able to attend events like the memorial weekend which helps and using some of the beautiful figures from the original Gilder collection was a real incentive.

The trip to Basingstoke is a nightmare for me and this year was worse with the M1 being closed, so a five hour journey was a lot longer. Still I made it.

All attendees stay at a decent quality budget hotel on the outskirts of Basingstoke and this year I discovered the games would be staged in the hotel which was great. Talking to Mark about it, he stated it made sense to stop renting a specific building and instead base everything out of the hotel. It was a very good move.

There were 14 players and two umpires for the weekend which allowed each player a minimum of two battallia. I opted to lead the papal forces with a second command of gendarmes and light cavalry for the first game.Naturally I also chose to be the Pope with all the attendant paraphernalia. That consisted of a  Peter Gilder painted Carroccio that afforded a plus one to papal troops. A very handy thing to have around.  

For the first game the Papal/Spanish forces were facing a French, Venetian,Florentine force dug in along a range of hills. They were also allowed a series of redoubts.There are two ways to look at such a tactical problem, but for me I thought it caused the French to act in a very cautious mindset, allowing the Spanish/Papal to manouvre without the french reacting properly to what was going on.   
However no matter what you try the inevitable issue is, do you attack the redoubts or ignore them. Well this Pope decided to issue a Follow Me order and plough a unit of gendarmes straight over the redoubt into the waiting French crossbowmen hidden behind the ramparts. Not very subtle, but it caught the French commander out. Im not saying it was historically correct, but it was certainly enjoyable.For once I didnt have my leader killed and although the gendarmes routed the crossbowmen they were pushed back by a unit of swordsmen.But a good way to end the first game. A close draw.
For the second game I managed to keep hold of the Papal contingents but opted for some top quality landsknects and some units of mercenary gendarmes.This time it was a more open terrain and I was facing a Venetian force with lots of decent arqubusiers. Pike and Shotte are great rules for big games, but if one isnt a lucky player then the command throws can be an issue. My cavalry commander was one such individual[ Notice how I blamed an inanimate figure] who couldn't throw to save his life. They seemed to spend their time watching as the Venetians shot the daylights out of my pike units.
It ended up as a win for the French/Venetians, but only just. I must admit I was knackered by the end of the day. Im not certain if it was the stress of throwing badly or the fact I managed three blunder throws that saw units retiring. 
The said cavalry commander, more interested in his dogs than actually leading his men to glory.

For the big game, there were various towns and villages that gained the players points. There was also respective camps that gave you even more points. What is it with wargamers? One can guarantee they will inhabit every wood, hill and building irrespective of their tactical use. This game followed that pattern, which allowed my Papal units and large gendarme command to be facing a very stretched line of French crossbowmen, and French pike units.  
For once my cavalry could move at will and eventually I was able to unleash them against some dodgy French pike and crossbowmen.The result was a satisfying one, the pike routing as they saw their crossbowmen wiped out.Using the follow me rule again I was able to lead a gendarme unit through the gap and towards the French camp. Sadly I had to leave in order to make certain I got back home without falling asleep. As I left the Papal and Spanish were on the brink of a great victory.


The man himself, Julius the warrior pope and the only cleric to lead a gendarme charge, what a man.
There is a formalish dinner on the Saturday night of the weekend followed by a talk by some wargaming personality which is then followed by an auction of various wargaming goodies. This year Mark had pushed the boat out and brought in a wargaming legend who gave a very informative talk about Peter Gilder. Well that's how I billed it as I stood up to talk about Gilder's important role in the rise of wargaming. I think I did okay and managed not to swear or make too many mistakes.[ The actual talk notes are on my Borgia blog ] 
The auction this year was for the Ukrainian refugee effort and raised a decent amount of money.
                                    Would I go again? Definitely. Give it a try next year.  

A lovely castle from the original Holiday centre.

                            Some French crossbowmen again  from the original centre.
The Carroccio from the original wargames centre. A combination of Irregular Miniatures,Essex Miniatures and the odd Connoisseur figure. A beautiful piece.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Billhooks Two.

Well last weekend I took a drive south to Derby for the second Never Mind the Billhooks tournament. I had planned my small army, practiced a bit to understand how to best exploit the rules, sorry I meant learn them. [Yes that is me in shorts! It didnt help and sadly didnt put off the occupants I faced.] 
The whole point of the tournament is fun, winning isnt that important which is just as well as I piled defeat upon defeat. For something different I decided to have a lot of levy archers and bills with only a couple of decent units to use in a melee.How did it go? Well it was pretty disastrous to be honest.
Levy troops die very quickly. Their saving throw is a six which as readers should know is something I rarely see and throw. To kill they also need sixes, and in a morale throw if they throw a six they have to throw again. If one gets the balance right, levy troops can be handy but it is foolish to rely on them to win a battle for you. So yes I am a fool. But I have always liked the underdog and therefore it seemed logical to pick an underdog force.

Here is an image of one of my classic tactical moves. March my best troops around a swamp to fall upon the flank of the enemy, who meanwhile march forward and mince my remaining forces. Not one of my better ideas, especially as I knew it was daft even before I set off on the march.

Billhook weekends are more than a series of games however. On the Friday night it was great just to sit in a pub drinking a few pints and talking about toy soldiers.  James Morris turned up and it was interesting to hear him talk about his new rules for the Dark Ages. They are due for release very soon.

The Saturday was great for the banter, seeing how other wargamers play the rules and just playing with my toy soldiers.

I know readers think I exaggerate my inability to throw decent dice when in a battle, but actually its worse than that because in Billhooks there are opportunities in a dice roll off to win event cards. These cards can give you a small advantage and sometimes allow you to draw an even more important card from a separate pack. 

There are two opportunities per move. By the end of the day, I had managed two cards! This is a record for me. Three games of maybe 15/20 moves. You do the maths as its just too depressing to think of it.Basically I couldnt win an argument.

This is a classic example of my bad luck. These are my best units. One is a powerful unit of men at arms, the other, carrying the red standard are veteran bills. You will see they are in melee with each other. How did this happen you ask. The answer is a rarely drawn card called TREACHERY. So I had the unedifying sight of my two best units slugging it out. I lost that game easily.

Finally a block of levy, looking for a target as they march off the table after failing a morale for seeing other levy rout. Did I enjoy the weekend? Damn right I did. Was it frustrating throwing pants dice and watching your opponent mince your troops, well yes and no. It was a fun weekend and enjoyable as a social event, although I would just love to throw a handful of sixes, just once..... 
Would I do it again? Certainly. There is another tournament arranged for September, I would recommend trying it out, you might face me. 

Saturday, 19 March 2022

A man with no plan.

Ive been a bit busy this last week but Im not certain with what. I suppose sometimes that's the way things go. Anyway I felt I needed? some extra Men at Arms for my Wars of the Roses army. So I painted up these chaps with another one already underway. 
I then got to thinking that I didnt really know just how big was my Yorkist army which to be honest had grown way in excess of what had originally been a small force that I wanted to use with Never Mind the Billhooks. So I did a review of the figures.
Im a bit wary of doing reviews because some people might take it as showing off and others might realise that Im one of those wargamers who paints until they get a new interest. 

 Basically someone without a plan. Im more of a wargamer who likes painting and if the period is something that captures my imagination then I just crack on. Im lucky I have time and can usually scrape some cash together to buy the toys.  [within reason]

As one can see its far too big for a normal 100 point Billhooks game which would be about six units. At the review I counted 34 units and that was without the skirmish troops and artillery.
But its colourful and I can use them all using other rule sets. Of course this is without the Burgundian's Ive been painting as well but I still have some way to go before I feel I have enough.


My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating