A Kiwi at Partizan

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As I mentioned in my last posting, during my recent trip with my wife to the UK and Europe, I was able to fit in a day at the Partizan Wargames Show in Newark.

This was actually the second British wargaming show I’ve visited, as back in 2013  I was lucky enough to attend SELWG in London. Based on that previous experience, I had some idea of what to expect. But despite this fore-knowledge, the sight of so many incredibly impressive games at Partizan was a real eye-opener to this colonial boy!

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The show was held in a very roomy and light venue at the Newark Showgrounds. I arrived just before opening time, and there was already a queue at the door. At 10.00 exactly the doors opened and the line moved quickly as the entry formalities were carried our efficiently by the organisers (including giving the first 500 visitors – including yours truly – a specially commissioned 28mm figure of the famous inter-war revolutionary, Rosa Luxembourg).

I spent the next six hours happily wandering round the hall, feasting my eyes on loads of beautiful games, and occasionally taking out my wallet to add to a burgeoning carrier bag full of purchases.

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I was asked several times how Partizan compared to wargaming shows in New Zealand. Now, truth to tell I have only attended a few shows in New Zealand, mainly Wellington’s Call To Arms. Therefore my answer to this question could only be based on my relatively small experience of the New Zealand show scene.

The main difference I noted was that the New Zealand shows I’ve attended have mainly revolved around competition tournaments, in which players fight a series of bouts throughout the day. This means that the main emphasis of these shows are on game-play. Almost all the show attendees are there to play in the competition games, and very few people attend purely as spectators. 

There are also usually a few demonstration games, but these tend to play second fiddle to the competition games. And because most of the competition gamers have to play to a strict timetable, they can usually snatch only a few brief moments between bouts to look at the demonstration games.

At Partizan, however, there were no competitions. Instead, the show was split into two main groups – demonstration games and participation games. And there were spectators aplenty. A large portion of the crowd of over 1,000 attendees weren’t there to play at all, but had come to look at some top-notch games, buy from the many traders, and network with other gamers. With so many non-playing spectators, and without the constraint of  a busy competition timetable, every demonstration table was always crowded with viewers. 

All in all, Partizan was an entirely different show to what I was used to back home. And as someone for whom the look of the game is far more important than the game-play, Partizan suited my tastes very well!

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The games

Now, on to the games. There were so many games that I never got to photograph them all. I’ll only show some of the tables that particularly impressed me. But there were many other fabulous games too. From looking at other people’s photos of Partizan, I think I might have actually missed seeing some tables altogether … so many great games, so little time!

There’ a lot to see in some of these photos, so don’t forget that you can enlarge the pics by clicking on them.

Siege of Oosterbeek, 1944

I had several favourite games, but this one particularly rocked my boat. The Old Pikeys gaming group had chosen to depict the siege of Oosterbeek during the Arnhem operation.

What initially struck me, having just come from spending eight days with my relatives in the Netherlands, was how the terrain actually looked Dutch, in particular the architectural style of the buildings. So often Arnhem games use generic European buildings, but in this case the players had spent a lot of effort to replicate the typical Dutch style of buildings.

Another eye-catching feature of this game was the use of well-modelled aircraft flying overhead. There were even paratroopers jumping out of the Dakotas (unfortunately my camera overlooked capturing them, as I took no photos of the door side of the planes!).

Now, I know someone is going to ask me what rules they were using. Well, you’ll recall I mentioned above that I am more a ‘look of the game’ guy than a game-player. So I never thought to ask the presenters about the rules – and, truth to tell, I didn’t even notice if it was a game being played, or a static display!

The Old Pikeys deservedly won the best demo award.

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Battle of Assaye, 1803

This ‘Wellington in India’ game really took my fancy, not only for the colourful period, the lovely Indian castle, the beautifully rendered smoke-trails from the rockets – but also for the stylish way that the Boondock Sayntes gaming group played their game, complete with uniforms and wine.

The Battle of Assaye in 1803 pitted a standard Napoleonic period army (albeit with sepoys) against the wildly exotic Maratha army, a juxtaposition that makes this period one I’ve always fancied doing (though I probably never will, as I am no longer keen to start two large armies from scratch!).

You can see that the Sayntes included some playful touches in the castle interior, including a multi-armed deity and a magic rope climber.

If I recall correctly, the Sayntes were using ‘The Men Who Would be Kings’ rules.

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The Battle of Mandara, 1801

My pals the Perry twins never disappoint,and this wonderful recreation of a battle in Egypt was no exception. Like the above Indian game, Napoleon’s Egyptian adventure provides an opportunity to add a touch of the mystical East to your more standard Napoleonic game.

This game featured some of the latest offerings from the Perry Miniatures range, and beautiful they are too. I especially loved the cameleers, and of course those impressive British landing craft.

The terrain looked suitably hot and dusty. The ruined temple really set the scene. It was cleverly made from wine bottle corks!

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Invasion of the Sugar Islands, 1759

Graham Cummings of Crann Tara Miniatures put on this game based on Stuart Insch’s booklet  ‘A Guide to the British Expedition to Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1759’.

Most of the figures are from the exquisite Crann Tara range, or conversions of these figures. Graham and his friends used the ‘Musket and Tomahawks’ rules.

As a side note, I got excited speaking to Graham when he told me that he is finally going to produce some Gardes Françaises officers wearing stockings, something I’ve long tried to convince him to produce. At last I’ll be able to do a unit of Gardes Françaises exactly as per the famous painting by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux.

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Attack on the Abbey, 1918

This World War One game put on by the Earlswood Wargames Group was the overall winner of the ‘best of show’ award, and you can see why.

The terrain is what made this game. And it went to show that modelling an effective trench system doesn’t necessarily mean having to cut trenches into a custom board. Instead, this group used individual bases with the trench system raised above the tabletop. They then simply scattered a large amount of flock (homemade, I think) between the individual bases to merge them together. A simple but very effective approach to represent the trench-scarred and crater-spotted earth.

Each of the individual terrain features was a work of art in itself, with puddled craters, duckboards, bits of ravaged trenches, shattered trees, shell bursts, and of course the ruined abbey. There was even a dogfight taking place overhead.

I believe that the trenches were made using Kallistra’s modular Hexon trench system.

The rules being used were Chain of Command.

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Russo-Turkish battle, late 17th century

I’ve admired the work of the League of Augsburg from the very first days I began following wargaming pages on the internet. This was the first time I had seen one of their games in real life, and boy did it live up to my expectations!

The modelling work on the wagons, buildings, figures and flags was fantastic. And the teddy-bear terrain was beautifully done.

One feature that caught everyone’s eye was the mortar being fired from inside the encircled wagons, with the shell visible flying out of the plume of smoke – you can see it in all three of my photos below.

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Malaya, 1942

During the course of day I was fortunate enough to meet and chat to several well-known faces of the wargaming hobby. Most I had never met in real life before, knowing them only through our online contact via blogs and forums. It was great to finally meet Richard Clarke from Too Fat Lardies in real life rather than ‘virtually’, and for him to treat me like a long-lost friend!

Richard and his team were doing a WW2 participation game set in Malaya. This was another fantastic-looking game, with some great buildings and very effective jungle.

I was so entranced at meeting Richard that I unfortunately neglected my photo-taking duties, and only ended up with these few photos! There was just so much more to this terrain that I should’ve captured. But from these photos, you can at least get an impression of the quality that you’re not seeing!

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Blood and Plunder

The Leicester Phat Cats hosted a large ‘Blood and Plunder’ game. The model ships really caught my eye, as this was the first time I had seen these beauties in real life. Although some concessions have been made to make these models workable with wargaming figures, the producers have done their homework and they really look like actual ships.

I didn’t catch the gaming action, but it appears that battles were taking place both on land and sea.

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Test of Honour

This was the first game I spotted when I entered the venue, and it immediately attracted my attention because I too am into the Samurai period.

Terry Broomhal had some very impressive buildings and colourful vignettes on his board, as you can see from the pictures.

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Discworld Witch Racing

Having travelled halfway round the world to visit Partizan, but with only six hours to take it all in, I didn’t want to lock myself into participating in any games. But as a lover of the Discworld series of books, I just couldn’t resist this ‘witch broomstick racing’ game put on by the Grantham Strategy Club. Luckily it took only about half an hour to complete. Needless to say, I lost the race!

The model figures accurately captured various of Terry Pratchett’s well-loved characters. And the model of Unseen University (made from a cut-out book) was very impressive.

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Riot: the Brexit Years

Finally, I’ve got to mention this timely little game put on by the Doncaster Wargames Society. Everyone was talking about Brexit during our trip, so it was interesting to see it represented as a game.

I don’t really know the details of how the game was played, other than I think the vehicles had to negotiate their way from the Houses of Parliament (right) to deliver a message to Buckingham Palace (left), all the time being beset by angry mobs along the the way.

I wish I’d returned to this table to watch the game being played, as I’m sure there would’ve been some very interesting discussions between the players, depending what their views on Brexit were!

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Closure of massive Chunuk Bair diorama

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At 6.00 p.m. on Sunday 2 August 2018, Sir Peter Jackson’s The Great War Exhibition, including the massive Chunuk Bair diorama that I was so involved with back in 2015, closed its doors for the last time.

The Great War Exhibition was designed as a temporary exhibition, to be kept open for the duration of the First World War centenary, and to close some time after the November 11th Armistice Day ceremony in 2018.

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Featured in the exhibition was a huge diorama of the battle that took place at Chunuk Bair on the Gallipoli peninsula in 2015. Around 140 wargamers from all over New Zealand worked in a team effort to paint the 5,000 specially made 54mm Perry Miniatures figures.

You can read all about this complex project in this downloadable Wargames Illustrated article.

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Fellow wargamer, and one of the project heads for the exhibition, Rhys Jones, attended the formal closing ceremony, where he spoke to the invited guests about the creation of the exhibition, including the diorama.

“The good news is that there is plenty of interest in parts of the exhibition, including the diorama, being moved to another location,” Rhys told me. “We remain positive that the diorama will again be on display in the near future.”

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Above: Rhys Jones, Sir Peter Jackson, and Alan and Michael Perry survey just a few of the thousands of 54mm figures painted by an army of volunteer wargamers during construction of the diorama in 2015.

The Great War Exhibition has been a real success, being the second-highest rated attraction in Wellington on TripAdvisor, after Te Papa. “We had also been offered to be put in Lonely Planet,” said Rhys, “but had to turn that down as we were closing.”

Mtantrum_2015_05_04_0180Above: Sir Peter Jackson makes some final adjustments before the offical opening in 2015.

Rhys was pleased that the exhibition had been such an impressive tribute to the soldiers of The Great War, and the Chunuk Bair diorama was a key part of that success.

“A (semi) final thank you to everyone who contributed to the creation of the diorama – be it painting and/or constructing the terrain. What an amazing effort to do all that in less than three months!”

There’s more information about the closure of The Great War Exhibition here and here.

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Plug pulled on New Zealand’s massive Chunuk Bair diorama

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Back in 2015 about 100 New Zealand wargamers volunteered to take part in the nation’s official World War One centennial commemoration by participating in a crowd project to paint over 5000 specially sculpted 54mm figures for a massive diorama of the Battle of Chunuk Bair.

The diorama was to be part of Sir Peter Jackson’s The Great War Exhibition in Wellington’s former Dominion Museum. The building was leased until November 2018 from its current owners, Massey University.

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Now the time has come for the lease to conclude. Massey University will return to the Dominion Museum building in 2019, so The Great War Exhibition will close shortly after after Armistice Day in November 2018.

I haven’t yet heard what will happen to the diorama or its 5000 painstakingly painted figures. I just hope it will remain intact, and can be housed in a new location. Maybe the National Army Museum at Waiouru might take it?

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But if the worst were to happen, and the diorama is broken up (oh, that’s so painful to even contemplate) we must lobby that the 5000 figures themselves are preserved for posterity. You can read all about the sobering experience of painting these figures in this article from Wargames Illustrated.

I’ve got a personal stake, too, in hoping to preserve the special figure that the Perry twins sculpted of me, pointing the way in the below pic!

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Anyway, let’s keep our fingers crossed that a new home will be found for the diorama. In the meantime, you’ve got till 2 December to see it in its present location.

If you can’t make it to Wellington before The Great War Exhibition closes, take a look at these amazing photos by Andy Palmer on the Mustering The Troops blog to see what you’ve missed. These are the very best photos that you’ll find anywhere of this diorama, professionally taken just before it was enclosed in glass.

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Here are just a few sample pics from the above blog. Click each picture for the full effect, and be prepared to be especially shocked by the last one. Please do go to Dressing The Lines for plenty more of these pictures, along with detailed captions.

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‘Wargames Illustrated’ articles about Chunuk Bair diorama – in full!

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To mark Anzac Day, you can now download two illustrated articles describing the amazing story of last year’s massive Chunuk Bair diorama project for The Great War Exhibition in Wellington.

The publishers of Wargames Illustrated have kindly agreed to let the diorama project’s Mustering The Troops blog put up two full articles that first appeared in their August 2015 issue.

  • Wargaming’s Stunning Achievement: The Chunuk Bair Diorama describes how the project was conceived, and how Sir Peter Jackson (director of the Lord of the Rings movies) inspired the wargaming community throughout New Zealand to join together and paint thousands of figures within a very tight schedule.
  • The Perry Perspective was written by Michael Perry, one of the famous Perry twins, the British sculptors engaged to produce the figures for the diorama.  He provides his fascinating insight into how this unique project came together, and the adventures they had in New Zealand to get everything done in time.

Click this link to download a PDF containing both articles in full: Wargames Illustrated_Chunuk Bair [8.51MB].

 

My 2015 blogging review

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2015 was a great year for this blog to start with, but quietened down in the second half of the year.

This was mainly because much of the first six months was spent enthusing about Sir Peter Jacksons’ Battle of Chunuk Bair project, which I was part of.  On just one day (January 22nd) I got an amazing 2,367 views with my post on Sir Peter Jackson needs Kiwi wargamers. That post garnered 243 individual comments, too.

But the sheer exhilaration of the Chunuk Bair project meant that I lost my ‘wargaming mojo’ for the remainder of the year.

Towards the end, there was another flurry of activity as I began waxing lyrical about the New Zealand flag debate, and my favoured choice of the Red Peak flag. But sadly that is now all over for me!

Anyway, happy New Year to you all!

Here’s the official WordPress annual report on this blog.  First, a short excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 96,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Trouble painting faces? Look at these!

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I visited The Great War Exhibition in Wellington again this afternoon, to have another look at the amazing diorama of the Battle of Chunuk Bair, which I have previously reported on.

Today I undertook a closer examination of some of the amazingly realistic work done by the Weta Workshop team on the life-size figures in other parts of the exhibition.

As you can see from the header picture of the American doughboy, you could be mistaken for thinking he was a real person. The modelling and painting of this face (albeit at 1:1 scale rather than on our tiny miniatures) is the absolute ultimate in the figure modeller’s art.

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Even the hand looked real, down to the individual hairs.

In fact, as I was taking these pictures, I was a wee bit anxious that he might in fact be one of those ‘human statue’ guys, and would suddenly wink and shout ‘Boo!’

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Below are some of the other faces I photographed earlier when they were still under production.

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And, finally, here are a few more pics of these amazing figures in their displays.

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New Gallipoli animated feature film called ’25 April’

Following on from New Zealand’s massive diorama of Chunuk Bair, click on the YouTube link above to see the two-minute trailer of a new full-length animated movie about Gallipoli to watch out for.

’25 April’ is an innovative feature documentary created to bring the story of the New Zealand experience at Gallipoli (Turkey) to life for a modern audience through a re-imagined world.

Using graphic novel-like animation, ’25 April’ brings First World War experiences out of the usual black-and-white archive pictures and into vibrant, dynamic color.

Weaving together animated “interviews” based on the diaries, letters and memoirs of six people who were actually there, the film tells the compelling and heart-wrenching tale of war, friendship, loss and redemption using the words of those who experienced it.

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