The last time I went to Sheffield Triples was in 1993. I’d really enjoyed my trip that day, although after nineteen years the memory is a little fuzzy.
So, when Rich, Panda and myself made the trip up to Steel City on Saturday morning I was pretty confident that things would have changed a bit in the last nineteen years. I was sure that the buses would not still cost 2 pence for a ride anywhere in Sheffield City Centre (although that might have been the 80s!). But other than this, I wasn’t quite sure if nineteen years on the show would be as good as I remembered it.
The venue certainly had progressed. Instead of the City Centre site I vaguely recalled, the current site of Triples is in the splendid English Institute for Sport. As a venue for a wargames show it was just about perfect. Light, roomy, spacious (but not too large), with a café in the building and a reasonable amount of parking.
The Sheffield Wargames Club members were pretty organised, got us directed quickly to our table and basically could not have been more helpful through the day. So, nineteen years on, and the venue was certainly a tick in the column marked “Progress and Good News”.
We were staging our first public outing of the Dark Age large-skirmish rules from TooFatLardies, entitled Dux Britanniarum. We’ve been play testing these every week since early January. I am pretty biased and partisan about them, but I think they’re one of Rich’s best rules sets to date. They certainly give a great, fast game – we managed three games on Saturday, and I think Rich managed two on Sunday without any headaches.
We were joined by some terrific participators on both days. Thank you to everyone who came by to chat or play. Some of the participators came looking for us (which is always a little nerve-wracking as I worry in case they’re bitterly disappointed by what they find). Others had heard of us somewhere (fair enough). And yet others had no idea who TooFatLardies were but were kindly game enough to join in – and very welcome they were! Nineteen years on, the hobby is still full of great gamers who are good for a participation game at any venue we turn up to – another big tick in the “Progress and Good News” column.
So, joined by old hands and new stagers we played through two attacks by Saxon raiders on a Sub-Roman village in southern England and a Pictish raid on a British watchtower somewhere in North Britain. The Picts are fast turning into my favourite army in the game. The “painted people” play very differently to the Romano-British and Saxons, being aggressive (yet brittle) with ample skirmishing power. The Picts need different tactics to be successful as a tabletop force, and finding out their strengths and weakness has proved to be tremendous fun.
Rich’s forces are starting to look very splendid now he has added in Picts into the mix. I’ve tried to keep up by highlighting some of my Saxons following their “dipping” experience, and adding some LBM shield transfers. I don’t think my Saxons are quite there, and it’s a strange, new experience for me when you’re still tinkering with the painting of figures after having used them on the table for months! That’s definitely proved to me that I should really have made sure the Saxons were finished first time round. Nineteen years on, and a tick somewhat embarrassingly in the “Still haven’t learned for all my mistakes” column.
Looking around the other games and trade stands was a real pleasure at Triples. Although we’d been busy playing a couple of games in the morning and through lunch, the crowds had thinned a little by the afternoon. Just about everything I looked at by 3pm was very accessible, still being played (the benefits of a two-day show where the games stay in situ overnight) and I was able to take my time getting around. A lot of the photos which follow come from that period.
Pride of place goes to the re-enactors of the 18th Battalion/ Durham Light Infantry. The two re-enactors were simply two of the friendliest and most knowledgeable people about the Great War I have had the pleasure to meet. Everything they talked about – their equipment, their re-enactment plans, their re-enactment group’s ethos – was pitch-perfect as regards informing the public about the role of the Durham Light Infantry in the Great War, the Northern “Pals” battalions generally and commemorating the service of the battalion’s soldiers almost 100 years ago. I was deeply impressed with the time they had taken to meticulously research their own families’ history, and find the connections where they existed with the regiment. I chatted with Neil (here on the right) for some time about their plans for the centenary in 2014, as well as talking about how wargaming the Great War had changed the perspectives of a few of my club-mates, and myself, about that conflict.
Thank you again for taking so much time out of your day to talk all this through with me. And to anyone who catches these chaps at a show or an event in the future, you have a rare treat in store!
In addition to the re-enactors of the 18th Battalion/ Durham Light Infantry, there was a fair representation of Great War wargames on display. The “Like a Stonewall” wargames group provided a simply terrific demonstration game of the battle of Mons on 23 August 1914 entitled “Dachshunds and Bulldogs”. This was a wargame in 28mm, but on a massive scale with over 200 terrain tiles. The game featured some tremendous vignettes, from Belgian refugees, to German artillery observers, to a fine cardboard Taube and some terrific industrial terrain including slag-heaps. From British cavalry forming up, to German skirmishers sheltering behind a party of Belgian schoolgirls (just how did they find the figures???), to a German field kitchen to a fully German Divisional Command group complete with pickelhaube-d Dachshund.
Here are just some of the highlights …
I can’t really think of a better display of this battle being possible. It balanced impressive size with accessibility. And, perhaps most important of all, it had some wonderfully informative displaying wargamers who practically accosted me to tell me about the game! If this is the standard to aim for in the forthcoming centenary, I predict some simply fantastic games on the wargame show circuit very shortly. Nineteen years on, and the future of display games at wargames shows is in safe hands for as long as these guys keep playing – another tick firmly in the column marked “Progress and Good News”.
Another fine game was The Battle of Marengo from The Glory Boys. Featuring 6mm armies and some fine, functional terrain, this caught the eye and drew you in by stages. There was something about the crisp scenery and terrain, and the scale which just felt absolutely “right”. A very fine game indeed.
The Barnsley Association of Wargamers brought a stunning game from the Crete campaign, again with wonderful custom built terrain. I’ve never done a desert or Mediterranean terrain project, but if I did I would be very proud if it was half as good as these chaps had managed. Top class!
The Sheffield Occasional Wargamers brought along a very interesting game called the Attack on Serre, a Tank Ace game featuring a brilliantly eye-catching Mark IV tank with trench-crossing “tadpole” extensions and a Whippet tank. This looked to be a splendid game with a single player negotiating his or her away over the battlefield in a tank, attempting to survive the chaos and friction of Great War tank warfare and taking a number of objectives. A great game, with some superbly innovative ideas – a very worthy addition to any games show.
I’ve left one of the most iconic images to the end of this Blog post which was the Old School Wargame of a Seven Years War action. Presented and played in the most elegant style imaginable, this was a real time warp back to the 1960s. I don’t remember anything like this nineteen years ago, but it was perfect evidence that good taste never goes out of style.
Oh, and as my good mate Panda mentioned – this is a hill. There’s no confusing this terrain contour!
And here’s some of the other very fine games on display, from the Lance & Longbow Society …
….. and a stunning Vietnam game using Force on Force
Well, that’s Sheffield Triples 2012. I only managed the first day owing to a family commitment yesterday. It was a great out, and a fine show – and a huge thank you to everyone involved. Panda and myself made it back in the train, suitably fortified by numerous cans of lager and playing the Warhammer Invasion card game. All wargame shows should end so well.