Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cancon 2013 - Black Powder Group Demo Games

Well, another Cancon has come and gone, the only difference this time is I actually went to it for all three days and was heavily involved, along with my wargaming mate Doug in presenting our Franco-Prussian War demonstration & participation game, Froschwiller.  I have posted on it before as we have repeatedly play-tested and tweaked the scenario, gaming it at our local club.  In retrospect there were a few things we would have done better (a bigger bloody table would have helped!) but all in all it went well and well over a dozen wargamers got to experience it over the two days, for many their first experience of gaming the period or historical wargaming.  The games presented by our group were Zulu - Isandlawana, Peking (siege of the foreign legations during the Boxer Rebellion) and Froschwiller - one of the crucial frontier battles in Alsace at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War.  As you can see the latter I promoted at Cancon with an enormous ad banner nearly 2 meters tall - I didn't realise it was going to look that big but now I've done one we have the perfect vehicle for on the spot advertising for our games at future cons.

Some of the guest gamers in action at Isandlawana
(part of the WA contingent)- note Greg's enormous hill in the background!

The terrain for Zulu was striking with a beautifully scaled version of Isandlawana Hill as a backdrop but its hat's off to the crew led by Andrew who recreated the entire section of Peking that housed the foreign legations, bordered by two enormous sections of the wall of the Forbidden City.  Did I mention the maniac Andrew actually took photos of the British Legation building when he visited Beijing, just so he could get it right?  It was more than just an act of extreme devotion by a dedicated wargamer as the bloody building is now MSS headquarters (the MSS are the Chinese secret police by the way).  Absolutely bonkers BUT he didn't spend his holiday in a Chinese prison and the result of such painstaking research was an amazing recreation of that part of old Peking.  In fact the lads put on one of the most amazing demo/participation games I have ever seen and it was first in best dressed for the very long queue of gamers wanting to try their hand at it.

The passing crowds next to our games during
the three days of Cancon
All three games really pulled the crowds, attracting a huge amount of attention at the 'Con - to the point where crowd control became an issue (a first in my experience) as at times the large numbers of onlookers made it hard for some participants to actually play - that AND the near 30C heat!  By the end of the day both Doug and I were absolutely knackered... but happy!

Greg's terrific piece of scenery at one end of the table -
Isandlawana Hill with  the British encampment at its base

The following pics have kindly been supplied by Greg and Ian (who ran the Zulu demo game) but it shows an exciting quick play scenario with of course, hundreds of Greg's beautifully painted Zulus.

At the other end - hordes of Zulus!
The horns of the Zulu impi close around the thin British picket line
...and closer!
'I say Carruthers, there do seem to be quite a lot of the blighters this morning!'
The Zulu game was a lot of fun and very well attended, winning the award for best demo game at Cancon. Congratulations Greg! The simple straight-forward scenario surprisingly ended up with the Zulus being driven off nearly as many times as the British were wiped out under a sea of flashing asegai blades.

The most spectacular demo game at Cancon in terms of terrain and variety of figures was undoubtedly Peking.  This was played as a campaign over the three days, with the multinational relief column arriving in the nick of time on the third day.  I have scads of great photos of the action but too many to show so to give you an idea of just how big the game was, here is a selection of some of the best shots of the action.

The main table - a section of the Forbidden City wall in the foreground
towers over the foreign legation buildings
Just one example of the amazing detail - the Russian Legation  compound
Hordes of Boxers (and some Imperial troops) begin to invest the legations
Attack on the US Legation is underway
Lookout - the Boxers are on the Wall above the US Legation building!
Colourful Chinese lancers (Imperial?) and artillery with Boxer jingals
 - shoulder mounted cannon.
 They had a three man crew so they could fire at least twice more
when the trigger-man inevitably broke his shoulder!
More Boxers on the wall - this time with artillery
The wall is also stoutly defended by civilian members of the besieged legations.
The well barricaded French Legation compound on the second table.
Two tables were used as historically the two areas were separated by a canal.
The Boxers managed to penetrate the defences, forcing the French back
to their concentric  inner barricades
The US Legation finally overrun on the last day - but that was as far as the Boxers got
with the timely arrival of the International Force relief column
Our game of Froschwiller went quite well, attracting a lot of interest, inquiry (most had never heard of the Franco-Prussian war!) and generated much positive comment, particularly from those who had never witnessed the awesome sight of 2,000 28mm figures on a table in a historical spectacular!  That said, we were stymied on the table size which caused overcrowding with that many figures and slowed down the action at several crucial points during the game.  It was an oversight, not quite sure how it happened but nonetheless it didn't stop the action from becoming fast and furious once the two sides were fully engaged by the third turn!  

With fellow demo deviser Doug  (the French CinC) in the middle with his
Marshal's baton (or izzat a measuring stick?), participants observe the tabletop carnage.
French lines of defence at the start of Day 1
Prussian assault underway against the defences outside Froschwiller
Doug in his fetching Flouro of Power explains how the French really should be able to win this one to some skeptical Westralians while some other Old Fart in another flouro messes about in the background.
Doug and one of the guest Prussians try to ease traffic congestion
mid-table with the removal of a few hundred dead-uns!
The French observe the giant hand of an approaching Prussian!
I have to thank Greg and Ian for the above photos of the Froschwiller game. I have dozens of action shots which I will be posting over the next few days but I think the above is enough to give followers of this blog a good idea of the terrific action at Cancon 2013.  You know, there are thousands and thousands of wargamers and hobbyists of every stripe participating or visiting Cancon over the three days in late January every year. You never know, august publications like WI may even some day cover the biggest wargaming convention in the southern hemisphere. Some day...



  1. Fantastic post and photos, thanks for posting.


  2. I'm kicking myself I didn't go! maybe next year....

    Brilliant looking games and great photos. Well done, Doc!

  3. Fantastic game yourself and Doug presented at the convention, Doc. Great to see these historical games getting the younger generation involved - you kept my son enthralled for a number of hours attempting to drive the French from the village - (not to mention, you kept those OLD WA boys out of trouble as well).

    This was my first CANCON and I would have to place your collection and presentation as "Best of Show".


    1. Thanks for the accolades Guido - I'm glad you and your son enjoyed it -he did a great job given his opponent was Steve who in the previous game hadn't quite managed to take that vineyard! The WA gamers are a great bunch and it was good to meet them.

  4. Wow, awesome array of miniatures and scenery! Must have been a good time!

    Thanks for sharing these


    1. No worries, it was fun to do too! You may be interested to know that over 90% of the figures used were Foundry's FPW range which is still the most comprehensive available (that I'm aware of) and I'm told most were sculpted by the Perrys before they left Foundry - which explains the quality of many. Foundry have just re-released the range and apart from Battle Honours and Helion, I don't know anyone else that does them in 28 - explains why it took us over four years to collect them!

  5. Great pictures and read Doc, saw a picture of you over at Guidowg's blog!

    1. Thanks Frank - the photo on Guido's blog is of me having a heatstroke!

  6. Wow, Doc. You and your mates put on some fantastic games. That Islawanda hill is truly magnificent. The Peking terrain is also top-notch. Of course, I've seen your beautiful FPW stuff in the past too. Impressive, impressive games and no wonder crowd-pleasers. You guys should submit articles of these games to a wargaming mag. Aloha, Dean

  7. Some great looking pics Doc, look a great convention.

  8. Some great looking games there Doc! Very nice photos.

  9. Looks like a top notch display. Most impressive!

  10. so many detailed settings and figures! Seems like you boys had fun there, Doc!