Sunday, 21 February 2016

Prestonpans Wargames show - a wargaming soirée



On Saturday, I headed east for a new wargaming show from the Scottish Battlefields Trust

Not only was it based in the historic small East Lothian coastal town of Prestonpans, it was held in the most convivial surroundings of the Prestoungrange Gothenburg, or 'Goth' - a Grade II listed building with over 100 years of history. 

And most importantly, it is a bar, bistro and a micro-brewery!



The Goth is right on the sea front, although on the day it was rather wet, windy and a tad bracing! But then again, it's still in the grip of a particularly stormy Scottish winter. As I arrived by car a bit early (door opened at 11am) I managed to grab a parking space in the small free shore-side car park in front of the Goth.  

The Prestoungrange Gothenburg, or the 'Goth', Bar, Bistro and micro-brewery in Prestonpans
As I sat in my car waiting for the show to start, I watched the frothy grey rollers sweep in across the Forth. In my rear view mirror, I could see the Goth's frontage with its Madder red and white signage advertising its Bistro and Micro-Brewery.  I was already regretting taking the car! Note to self - Prestonpans has excellent rail and bus links!

The show was held in the upstairs function room, surrounded by paintings and historical memorabilia from days gone by. Evocative paintings of the Battle of Prestonpans hung over the six gaming tables filling the suite adding to the atmosphere of this wargaming event.

The very convivial function suite
My mission for the day was to help out some of my fellow members from the Falkirk club with the Public Participation Border Reiver game I mentioned in my previous post. There was quite a contingent from our club, so all I had to do was to sit in on a game or, when having failed to steal livestock, answer any questions from visitors to our table.

John Ewing from the Falkirk club, who produced the Border Reiver PP game, was demonstrably a most excellent host. John is one of those naturally talented tutors and storytellers, easily making the game fun and accessible to all-comers whilst effortlessly weaving titbits of historical context without you even realising it. 

It's a tremendous ability. Of course, other members helped John organise, setup and run the game, particularly Allan Hugh Ronald and Andy Wilson. A team effort and a damn fine game it proved to be.

The Border Reiver PP Game in progress with John Ewing (standing) playing host
The Border Reiver game was pretty much as we play-tested at the club a week earlier. John had taken on board the feedback and he was using named chits for randomly drawing the initiative with corresponding chits and Reiver faction rosters for the players.

Two full games were played with a mixture of club members and public participants. One in the morning and one - after a Stovie lunch break for some - in the afternoon. It all wet down rather well I think given the feedback and general hilarity generated by the players! To top it all off, a small display was added including a game overview, books and fact-sheet handouts for historical context.

I always think an info display is crucial to any successful display game at a wargame show. Far too often at shows I see some wonderful terrain boards with vast, exquisitely painted miniatures marching over realistically modelled features but with no obvious indications of what the players - usually earnestly leaning over the table armed with extended tape-measures - are actually playing! 

There were a small number of traders in attendance at this inaugural event, whom along with the club games completely filled the moderately sized function suite. For my sins, I did not pick anything up this time - as my reader knows, I moan enough lately about my never-ending paint queue to start adding more at whim! However, there seemed to be a constant flow of customer throughout the day so I hope these trader-pioneers have helped pave the way for the shows successor!

Of course, now I've dwelt on my club's game I'll turn to the other five games on display. They were all of an appreciatively high standard too, being well attended and hosted by friendly and amenable players. Here they are:


The League of Augsbur: Killiecrankie 1689:




 


 

 South East Scotland Wargames Club  Y Gododdin AD600-Participation


 

English Civil War game by David Imrie and Iain McDonald.


 

Brett Fletcher - The Porteous Riots


Even though this was a modest inaugural show, the unique venue and general camaraderie of the attendees made this a particularly friendly, relaxed and a very convivial event. Everyone I met were keen and enthusiastic. It almost seemed more like a Gathering than a wargames show at times! Maybe it was the odd pint of Fowlers Ale that helped, but I think that was only part of it.

The event was organised by Warwick Louth, who's Arte Militaire Wargames blog had been added to my Blogroll since its début at the beginning of this year. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to Warwick at the show. 

Warwick seemed rather surprised how well the show was going, being so well attended for an event so new in the wargaming calendar. He can be proud that he's managed to pull off a great wee show and certainly something he can surely build on. The positive feedback on the show's Facebook Event page is testament to this.  

Although, herein lies the rub. Expanding the show may require a larger venue. That, I think, is potentially a tricky issue given the rather unique and charming venue that added to the flavour of the show's success. On the day though, these musings were temporarily allayed as Warwick also had the duty of judging the small painting competition. Luckily it proved to be an easy task. There was only one entrant! Nevertheless, a fine miniature.
Painting competition winner: 71st HLI Napoleonic by Iain McDonald (The Camlachie Wolfe Wargames Blog)

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Hopefully Warwick and the Scottish Battlefields Trust can build on this to make it a regular pin on the wargaming calendar. And my thanks to all the clubs, players and organisers making this a great wee day out.