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Crisis 2005 - First thoughts

November 6, 2005 10:02 AM - Posted by Alan - Category: Conventions

This site has been quiet for a couple of weeks as your much missed authors have been slaving away to get our big game finished for Belgium’s big wargames convention, ‘Crisis’. That was yesterday, and we came away with the prize for ‘Best Participation Game’, a migraine for poor Bart but a very satisfying day’s gaming.

We set up a long table, representing the road from the Ist Airborne’s drop zone to the famous road bridge in Arnhem itself. Bart built the terrain, to his usual high standards and the overall efffect was quite stunning. We populated the terrain with hand made trees and, largely cardboard buildings bought from paper terrain and Fiddlers Green. I painted the figures, at a scale of one base of 7 figures euquivalent to a platoon. I think we had some 2500 figures on table, with assorted transport, guns and German armour.

The innovation of the day came from the game system we used. This came about from a conversation at last year’s Crisis, where we had put on a nice game using ‘Rapid Fire’ rules. We realised that, despite our best intentions, we were falling into the common trap of Crisis games, that clubs set out pretty terrains and then played a rather unsatisfactory game, with players torn between participating and going off to do some shopping. And given that every year the quality of the traders at Crisis is improving, this temptation is pretty heavy. So, we concluded that we needed a new approach. The game had to be fun, had to involve passers-by, but only ask for a small contribution to the game. The answer lay in a freeform game, with no set rules. Each visitor to the table would be welcomed, the game explained and then the newly promoted General would be asked to make a decision to keep the game rolling. Then maybe a die would be rolled, with a simple 1= failure 6= success type system.

So we put this into action, we added some nice touches such as medals (stickers showing a VC imposed on the Schild en Vriend club symbol) for each participant. And I must say it worked very well. I thought we had a really positive response. Many old friends passed by and enjoyed making a few decisions, often with amusing results that nicely simulated the fog of war (for instance the Airborne anti-tank guns sent off on the northern road by one player because ‘it looks like the easiest way to the town and then sent back by another player who knew the stiry of Arnhem better - this created anguish and amusement to Dave, who faithfully played the role of Frost through the morning).

The game itself was fun, and at the end rather exciting with a massive melee in Oosterbeek fought out by old Schild en Vriend faithfuls, Maarten and Bart D. This for me was a new experience for Crisis quite frankly, and so it actually meant that not only did we fly the wargaming flag but we had a good gaming day. I will write up a story of the battle separately, but for those who are interested, and maybe participated in the game but didn’t see the end of the game, here are the events in bullet (ha ha) form fashion: - John ‘Dave Black’ Frost led his troops into Arnhem and occupired the area around the bridge, other battalions followed more slowly and occupied the area around Oosterbeek and the railway bridge

  • Massive German pressure led to Frost deciding to quit the bridge

  • At the subsequent battle in North Arnhem suburbs, Frost was captured

  • German attacks on Oosterbeek put the British under pressure, big casualties sustained by both sides.

  • Germans launched an attack against the railway bridge,infantry supported by AA guns and a Tiger 2 detachment ‘Mad Dog Koen’ and his girlfriend launched Para platoons in hand to hand combat aginst the Tigers, but they were heroically massacred. Koen won the VC for this action!

  • The Germans kicked the British off the railway bridge, but Maarten with now only 1 effective battalion left in Oosterbeek took the risk of a counter attack on the bridge. At this point very subtle rules came into play, we each rolled a die, the highest would win the bridge! Maarten’s bold attack won the day, the Germans taking big casualties (guess what? we each rolled a die to see how many stands were lost) and they retreated, dispirited.

Meanwhile, Urquhart and the laggardly 3rd Para held off the vast forces of Von Tettau, now under the capable control of Bart D, and at 16.30 we decided that the British had done enough and XXX Corps would arrive on time.

That was fun. I think the system is excellent, and vastly preferable to long complicated rules. As Dave said yesterday, we should just write up a one page summary of how it can work in practice. Perhaos we can do that here on these pages? Personally, I found it particularly interesting to deal with an enthusiastic teenager, who was with us for about three hours and a very serious Colonel from the Belgian army, dressed up in Para gear, who made some very interesting decisions leading to the Battle for Oosterbeek.

On the downside, we were over-optimistic about the system. We had thought it would be possible to run the game with one umpire, while the others could go off and shop or meet people. In fact the opposite was the case, we actually needed four umpires and reserves to allow for the socialising and spending. A lesson for next time.

A further problem was that we had not thought out properly the scale of the game, so we had absurd amounts of troops on the table, which proved difficult to organise and move. Another useful lesson.

Overall I thought it was fair that we won the participation prize, and that Durham won the Best Game, with their lovely terrain and 42mm superb figures. Our terrain boards were magnificent, but our reconstructions of the buildings were only adequate really. I guess the scale of the figures was also a factor.

The trophy went home with Phil, the brains behind our operation, who came up with most of the good ideas for the game system. And particular thanks to Dave Black for helping us play the game for several hours, even if his successors caused his Colonel Frost character to end up in a Stalag somewhere in the East.

On that note, I leave it to others to comment. Photos to follow.

Comments on this entry

Congrats to Bart, Alan, and Phil on a FANTASTIC game. I am very happy that you guys won a very deserved prize. I had an excellent time playing and it had the beneficial effect of curtailing my spending!!! I hated to leave the game, but as more people came in I thought it was better to let the game be played out by some “fresh” faces instead of one of the regulars. Also, when Stephen and I left, the table was literally surrounded by people PARTICIPATING, something no other game could boast. Congrats again to the guys and I look forward to playing the game again.

November 6, 2005 10:13 AM - Posted by David

Indeed, congrats to Bart, Alan and Phil. And also to myself for pulling of a British victory! :-)

I had a good time at Crisis 2005 too. I might even volunteer to help you guys out at the next Crisis 2006 game and stay at the table so you can all do some more shopping.

cheers, maarten

November 6, 2005 3:42 PM - Posted by maarten


Thanks for writing up this excellent report.

Yes, I think we can say was a success. This has been the first Crisis where we got so many positive feedback from many people, as well for the visuals as for the gaming.

I agree that we can finetune the ‘Free Kriegspiel’ idea. Having more than one umpire available definitely is must for a game as large as this one. One of the difficulties I experienced was that I felt unsure about how to proceed with the same players, taking over from another umpire, because we really were making up things as we went. That works fine for players who will stay at the table for 5 or 10 minutes, but not if a player stays at the game for more than an hour. Then suddenly consistency between different umpires becomes somewhat important, I guess.

On a personal note, I think I did spend too much time talking, socializing, and explaining the game to the bystanders, and did not enough umpiring itself. One of the reasons was that I found out I was not as well prepared w.r.t. orders of battle etc. — I even had some troubles identifying different formations ;-). But I guess these can be called beauty mistakes.

So yes, overall I do think that our approach of actively luring bystanders into making some micor-decisions was a new experience for many players.

I did buy some new stuff of course (no figures!): - some more terrain features for my Kallistra terrain. The Kallistra people were very nice to talk to, and happily accepted some suggestions for future product releases. - some boosters for ‘Rocketmen’, a collectible game from Wizkids. - Napoleon at Marengo, the new hot board wargame. - Return of the Heroes, a Talisman-like fantasy boardgame - The latest expansion for Dungeon Twister, Puissances Tenebres. - Dynamit Joe, an Old West gunslinging game, from game designer Frederic Moyersoen. He occupied a table next to ours, and I chatted with him quite a lot. I bought this game purely based on my experience with one of his previous games, Saboteur.

As for the other demogames, I have to admit I didn’t manage to see as many of them in detail as I would have liked. Also, I did not find enough time to browse through all trade stands. Maybe Crisis has become too big for one single day ;-) ?

November 6, 2005 10:57 PM - Posted by Phil

On behalf of TSA: cheers, guys, a job well done!

(the fact that I received a VC for just taking pictures has nothing to do with it…).

Rudi Geudens TSA webslave

November 7, 2005 2:30 AM - Posted by Rudi

Congratulations on the prize. It was well deserved. The photos look very well indeed and I enjoyed my brief command of 7KOSB at the landing zones. The format worked extremely well, but this was in part due to the type of battle being fought, it was a confused series of engagements and quite suitable for an number of isolated decisions which generated order-counter order- confusion. Maybe for future games of this type large battles or operations might be the answer - some of the western desert ones maybe, or perhaps ACW fights in wooded terrain.- Or dare I say it Balaclava or some of the other battles of the Crimea or FPW. I enjoyed CRISIS but had had enough by mid-day, maybe it does need a big airy hall or 2 days or something. Despite the better lighting I was feeling quite claustrophobic by 13.00. Many many traders but fortunately I managed to restrict myself to my shopping list, almost. Transport for my 1944 Brits was sacrificed in order to give them some AA cover, but the Warden of Hoggscastle has a pack of big dogs to go chasing down raiders with. Large parts of the Red Army of 1919 have been cleaned and based ready for painting, and the Whites have been boxed for the next round. Cheers Graham

November 7, 2005 10:22 AM - Posted by graham K

What can I add more to all this enthousiastic comments ? What you guys realised was impressive and the first prize you got is no less than a well deserved reward for the massive work you must have had to get this together. I wish I had more time during the past weeks so I could have been of more help. I promise to do better next year ! ;-)

November 7, 2005 8:36 PM - Posted by Filip