Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Siege of Portsmouth, 1642 - The Other Partizan, 2018




You might remember that a while back I staged a couple of refights of the battle of Lützen in the Thirty Years War, using 2mm scale figures. Although most of my wargaming since then has involved 28mm figures, the interest in 2mm scale battles and campaigning has never left me.

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of joining my good wargaming chum, Mark Backhouse, in helping run his wonderful 2mm Siege of Portsmouth, 1642 game at The Other Partizan show in Newark, England.


Mark’s game is really fantastic, and graced the pages of issue 90 of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy – including a full campaign guide and ruleset. I really enjoyed the article, and was very keen to play when he asked me if I’d like to join him at the show. It also gave me the chance to model and paint some of Rod Langton’s wonderful 1/1200th scale Anglo-Dutch ships – more of which in a follow-up blog post to this one.



I’ve included some photos of the game in this post, which played very smoothly in the morning and afternoon of the show. We had a fantastic group of players through the day – thank to everyone who took part, and indeed for everyone who dropped by to say hello.


So, what made this game fun to play, and interesting to take part in? I’ve tried to set out my thoughts below, in no order of priority.

(1) Different Possibilities: I’m often at pains to say to my friends that wargaming in 2mm scale does not make a “better” wargame than any other scale, but it does open up a number of possibilities which can be harder to realise in the larger scales of 10mm, 15mm and 25/28mm. The ease of painting figures (really, figure ‘blocks’) in 2mm make armies simple to prepare, build and paint. (For those new to the painting process regarding 2mm figures, I’ve uploaded a guide on painting 2mm figures in the sidebar of this blog.) That leaves more time for terrain making and rules design and play-testing.

  

Mark made the Portsmouth terrain a year or so back, but added a new board in the space of only a week before The Other Partizan. As with my terrain for Lützen, I think we’ve both being surprised how quickly you can make 2mm terrain look eye-catching and appealing to play on.



(2) Helping the Figures: Time saved in painting figures and making terrain means that you can have more time to research, think through rules and perhaps be inventive in other aspects of the 2mm wargaming process. I think 2mm as a scale works best where the figures, the terrain and the rules work together. Another way of looking at this, is to think that “the figures can’t do it by themselves”.

Lovingly painted 2mm figure blocks – like Mark’s – catch the eye, but maybe not for as long as lovingly painted 28mm figures might do. In a 2mm game, the wargame creator needs (in my view) to offer something more, to supplement the figures and terrain. This leads a wargame creator with the opportunity to fill that gap with hand-outs, cards, play aids and other material which complements and augments the game on the table. Of course, this is true with any wargame – but perhaps even more true with a 2mm game, and certainly one at a wargames show.

Knowing that the 2mm figures need a context, a world in which to retain the players' interest spurs you on even further to recreate that world.



 

(3) Think Strategically: The 2mm scale of figures creates opportunities hard to realise in other scales. Mark’s game featured a campaign for the siege of a sizeable town, with events depicted including foraging, supply provision, naval blockade, reconnaissance, construction of field fortifications, field battles, retreats, refugees and amphibious landings.  Pretty much the whole world of the 17th Century Captain General.  The smaller 2mm scale of the figures allows a greater range of actions to be depicted than often occur on a wargames table. Just as the scale of figures reduces, the tactical and strategic scale of the wargame expands commensurately. 




  
So, in the Siege of Portsmouth 1642 game, scouting and reconnaissance, foraging and engineering were essential components of victory in the time context of the game. What resulted was not, of itself, a "better" game, but it was a quite different game to that offered in scales where the combatants just face off over a battlefield. 

(4) Make Your Own Rules: As a scale, 2mm is perhaps never going to be the first choice for most (or, perhaps, any) wargamers. For that reason, it is possible that there may be fewer wargames rules written for the scale than for, say, brigade-level Napoleonics. I don’t see this as a bad thing. It really forces a wargamer interested in playing a 2mm game to think about the type of game they want to play, and create rules to match. Any slight frustration at not having a well-used and widely popular set of 2mm 17th Century wargames rules to use is more than offset by the reward of having to research and write the rules ourselves, to fit the game we would like to play in this scale.




I should add at the end of this list that 2mm games do not have to be huge, or on a grand scale. We’ve had fantastic 2mm games on a table 2’ x 2’. The grander tactical or strategic option for wargames I the 2mm scale is there, but it’s a choice for you to decide if you want to take it

We also ended up winning the Best Participation Game Award at The Other Partizan, which was enormously generous of the show’s hosts, Tricks and Lawrence. So, hopefully, we’re doing something right!


Next time, I’ll look at some of the 1/1200th ships we made for the game, and perhaps offer some entertaining comments on how hopeless my attempts were to emulate the wonderful images on Rod Langton's website.  Hope you can join me for that!

38 comments:

  1. What a splendid display! I've had a few chats with Mark about his Portsmouth game, including digging for tips on modelling, so I know how much time and effort he has put into this whole project. I was particularly impressed by the tiny details, especially his scratch built herds of sheep(!). A very well deserved award. Many congratulations.

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    1. Thank you so much! They sheep and 17th Century refugees fleeing Portsmouth were very popular with visitors to the game. It was a terrifically well produced game by Mark. Thanks again!

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  2. Sidney
    I'd seen pics of this game on other blogs and I have to say this is just amazing looking. You'll never sell me on 2mm but wow what a sight. My dad lives near Fareham and I've sailed in various of his boats though those water for 35 years, and it's great to see them in 1642 guise. Your Langton ships look pretty damn good to me, so looking forward to seeing your how tos. I've drooled over Rod's range many times but don't have the gumption or dexterity to try them. You're a better man than I!
    The last photo was well deserved.
    Cheers, Peter

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    1. Peter, this is fantastic! I am very sure you would have navigated the waters around Portsea Island and Havant so much better than I managed! I'll have the next blog post on the Langtons ships up in the next few days! Very best regards!

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    2. Sadly, dad's getting on in years and sold his boat. I navigated Portsmouth by car this summer funding my way to the Rhyde ferry, and that was very stressful. I showed my wife your pix, she hadn't realized that Portsmouth was based on islands and noted that explains why it's so tight to drive around.
      Cheers, Peter

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    3. Mark lives in Gosport, so he was the terrain maker and map-maker! Just don't use the terrain as a driving guide, or watch out for the hastily built earthworks if you do!

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  3. Awesome, congrats. Can't believe I missed you. We were at the other end running a Sudan demo game.

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    1. Thanks Martin and I'm so very sorry I didn't get to meet you. I dropped by to say hello to dave, but he didn't mention you were there at the game! I'm really sorry - but definitely next time!!

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  4. Superb! Something radically different yet satisfying to the eye.

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  5. Figures can’t do it by themselves! A fine view... I see 28mm painted well , yet seriously let down with terrain .. or worse by biete noire .. we have to take the roofs off to play as if it’s been carpet bombed. I like the grander game of the smaller scale . I would have liked to spend more time looking around the games.. but I had a large horse of mahdists to cause chaos with

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    1. It was wonderful to catch up with you, as ever! And yes, you did seem to have hands full with Mahdists in that very "small" game you were playing ;) It did look wonderful though - a great spectacle.

      There's much to be said for the grander themed game in a smaller scale. Not "better", but different, and just as much fun.

      Catch you very soon, I hope.

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  6. Stunning game, Sidney! Congratulations on the show award.

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  7. That's a beautiful looking layout!

    Christopher

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    1. It was a lot of fun, Christopher. Maybe one day we can bring something like this to the Continent so you and Nick can have a go with it. I'd love that.

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  8. I've seen a lot of great pictures of this game around the web. Well done!

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  9. A very grand looking game Sir! Great to meet up for a quick chat as well.

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    1. Hey, Ray - fantastic to catch up with you and Postie! Shame Lee was at a wedding ;) Hope to catch all three of you very soon, maybe at SELWG if I can get there.

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  10. What a wonderful piece of work.

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    1. Conrad, it was just great to play. You would have loved it, you really would - hopefully one day! Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  11. It looked even better in the flesh! A stunning table.
    I’ll have to see if I can grab a copy of that issue and see how it works. Too little time on the day unfortunately.

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    1. Thanks so much for coming by and giving your expert thoughts on Portsea Island and local knowledge - that was just brilliant. I was really sorry I could not spend longer with you and Matt at your amazing game. Hopefully I can catch up with that sometime soon.

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  12. A well deserved award for an astounding game. Your post has really started me thinking about 2mm for participation games. The tiny scale really does open up the creative possibilities and I can get my 60+ langton ships back on the table

    Very thought provoking

    Miles

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    1. Thanks so much, Miles! Very kind indeed! Your Langton ships would be just perfect for 2mm scale, and I can just imagine that there are some amazing possibilities for 2mm games set in the American War of Independence. You're definitely the man for doing that!!

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  13. A truly impressive sight Sidney! If I‘m ever to explore the width and depth of grand tactical wargaming I‘ll make sure to pick your brain for inspiration. When making it to your isle next time round I‘d love to get a closer look at some of your 2mm stuff myself.

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    1. Thanks so much, Nick! Please do, anytime - always happy to chat through anything!

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  14. Fabulous looking game,I'm a sucker for an age of sail ship and congratulations on the award!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thanks so much, Iain!! The game was really brought to life by the naval dimension - just proof of that old saying "Any wargame is probably improved by the addition of a ship, boat, train or balloon"...

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  15. The best game of the show and inspirational. You not only sold me on 2mm but impressed the hell out of me by being able to locate the precise position of Mick's Burger Van on the hill and with your tales of Shit Creek! Entertaining, educational, scatological and visually wonderful!

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    1. Thanks so much Barry! It was great catching up with you again at the show. I loved it when people came over to the game and pointed out where they'd lived/ got drunk/ been on holiday!

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  16. What a triumph! You both did superb work on this project. I love the combined arms aspect of the scenario and how it translates to the tabletop.

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    1. Thanks so much, Curt! The combined arms aspect was all Mark's idea - and it worked brilliantly!

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