Wargames lectures at Crusade

There is a short period in the year from early December to late January where there are no active shows in the UK. Typically the last show is the Last Reveille run by the Lincombe Barns Wargames Society (last weekend in December). The first of the new year is Crusade, run by the Penarth and District Wargamers on 25 January.

I’ve been a regular attendee at the Penarth show for more years than I care to mention! Lots of traders attend and it usually has several good games. It also has an excellent bring and buy. Richard Clarke of the TooFat lardies will be in attendance and playing games all day (bonus!). There are usually some re-enactors, who show off their weapons. If you ask nicely, they’ll let you look at them (I’m avoiding using the phrase “play with them”, which might be more accurate).

However, Crusade also offers something else: a series of lectures held by Dr Adrian Goldsworthy and Rob Jones (see picture, with Goldsworthy, below). These lectures are themselves – in my opinion – worth travelling the hundred or so miles to attend. The lectures are on history and wargaming, or rather reflections on history and how they can be translated into wargames. After all, you want your Romans to feel like Romans on the tabletop, or as close as can be expected .

Last year’s lecture focused on weapons. Most ancient rules sets consider the sword to be the standard weapon. Adrian argued that there was nothing standard about the sword at all; if anything, it was a specialist weapon. Common tools such as axes could be adapted to warfare, spears could be cheaply manufactured, but the sword was an expensive specialist weapon with only one purpose: killing people. So instead of being the default weapon from which other weapons are measured from in any set of rules, perhaps it should have its own special rules. Adrian discussed how the sword was a weapon of the elite in different cultures; sometimes, individual swords were even given names. He discussed at length the evolution of the sword in the Roman army (from gladius Hispaniola to spatha).

Rob then took this discussion and looked how the sword evolved in the medieval period. From Viking swords – close in design to the spatha – through to the bastard swords and two-handed swords, which became increasingly common in the later medieval period with the improvement in amour and abandonment of the shield. Goldworthy and Jones always encourage questions from the audience, so I had the opportunity to discuss the spatha and semi-spatha.

Previous lectures have focused on the effectiveness of missile weapons in the ancient period, how perhaps victory conditions for different ancient armies should differ, and how cavalry should be reflected in games.

Now for me, I find the lectures fascinating. To be fair, however, these will not be everyone’s cup of tea. They’d come to shop and play a few games. Some friends who attended last year’s show weren’t that enthusiastic. I guess my perspective is as a wannabe game designer, seeing how we can reflect history in our games. If you like your history, these are well worth attending.

Whatever your poison, Crusade is a good and varied show. See you there!

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