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.
Glad you had a great weekend I’d been picking up various updates off FBook. It’s a fair hike to Basingstoke and that’s the only thing that puts me off going - maybe next year 😁
For certain the table looked awesome.
Hopefully catch up at Partizan
The Gilder figures are still fantastic!ReplyDelete
A weekend gaming with strangers? How very unEnglish!😉 Certainly sounds like you had a grand time though!ReplyDelete
Saw your photo on several of the Facebook updates from Mark and you looked like you were having a blast. Reading your blog post confirms it.ReplyDelete
Superb looking games, seems an enjoyable weekendReplyDelete
Great to see you again Robbie, after you left I led the Glorious Knights into the French Camp 👍ReplyDelete
Very impressive & very envious too. Glad you made the effort for what sounds like a brilliant weekend.ReplyDelete
Sounds and looks, like one great weekend!ReplyDelete
Looks awesome, sounds like you had a great weekend!ReplyDelete
What a great looking and sounding weekend Robbie: your holiness!ReplyDelete
You slipped in that little extra almost unnoticed; guest speaker no less. Brilliant!