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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The North Aflame, 1936

A Very British Civil War, Bolt Action, 28mm

Sometimes you take part in a wargame that involves fast-moving play, with great sweeping advances and moves of strategic or tactical brilliance. Other times, like this weekend, you might have yards and yards of table to play over, but you land up boxed in one little corner, involved in a fight to the death. It was the League of Gentleman Wargamers’ weekend again, so I was up in Kirriemuir in rural Scotland, spending my time playing with toy soldiers. the theme of this weekend-long game was “A Very British Civil War” (VBCW). For those not in the know, this is a fictitious “alternative reality” game, where Britain was plunged into civil war following the marriage of the future King Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson. Frankly I find this all a little far-fetched – I suspect that few people other than the Church, some high Tories and Daily Mail readers would actually have cared enough to go to war. Still, it provides a good-enough excuse to play something different, with 1930’s tanks and aircraft, curious-sounding factions and militias, and units of red-coated guardsmen and Morris Dancers. The hall had five large tables in it, each representing a little slice of Britain. In the north were the Scottish Borders, where three Scottish players were poised to head south, or fight amongst themselves. Next came Cumbria and Northumbria, with Carlisle on one side and Alnwick on the other. Both towns were held by the British Union of Facists (BUF). below them came Tyneside in the east and the Lake District in the west, with the Pennines forming a barrier between the two. Here the towns or cities were Penrith in Cumbria, Durham (my base of operations), and Newcastle, which was rated as a proper city. While Newcastle was a BUF stronghold, Durham belonged to the Anglican League, and Penrith to the centrist Albertines. Below us came North Yorkshire and Lancashire, with Hartlepool on the eastern coast, and Kendall (I think) in the west. Hartlepool was a Communist enclave, and Kendall an Albertine one. Between the two lay Darlington, a town run by the mysterious Post Office -who had their own mysterious agenda. Finally the last table – South Yorkshire – was dominated by York (another big city), then Preston to the west and Whitby to the east. York was Anglican – seat of the Archbishop of York, Whitby belonged to the Communists, and Preston was another BUF stronghold. So, there you have it – each town was represented by a few buildings, while elsewhere on each  table were one or two resource points, which like the towns or cities provided revenue.For my part, I was the right dishonorable Bishop of Durham, an ally of my fellow Anglican and boss Kieron (Archbishop of York). We were also sort of allied to the Albertines – supporters of Prince Albert (the real-life George VI). They were represented by Bill in Penrith and Charlie in Kendall. Chris ran the Communist Republic of Hartlepool, and we allied with him too. Facing us were the British Union of Fascists – played by Tim (Carlisle), Colin (Alnwick), Steve (Preston) and finally James (Newcastle). That’s them up above, plotting their evil.That meant the bulk of the fascists were in the far north, facing the Scots. They were played by the unholy alliance of Dale in the west (Dumfries), Peter in the centre (Jedburgh) and Charles in the east (Berwick). If they could all play nicely together they would be a formidable opponent, as they all started in the same table. However, the chances of those three working as a team were pretty slim. Finally the Post Office faction in Darlington were run by Kevin. The game began with everyone trying to grab resource centres. There were also two airfields, one of which was near me, but in BUF hands. I ignored it and grabbed the Middlesbrough Colliery, to augment Durham’s resource points. I think it was actually a gold mine, as the playing cards we got each turn by way of resource points were often really high ones. After a brief discussion with the Archbishop, we Anglicans decided to press the local fascist enclaves of Preston and Newcastle. This, of course, wasn’t as easy as it looked. At least I had an ally. Chris moved north to join in the attack on Newcastle. It would have been rude of me not to let him do most of the hard fighting, but the novelty of this wore off a bit when he started losing units faster than he could replace them. Exotic units too – anarchist cyclists, Trotskyist cavalry and Stalinist tanks. Actually, Chris was using his Spanish Civil War force, bolstered by some 1914 British waving a red flag. It worked. My kit was Spanish Civil War too, so my Anglican regulars were International Brigaders, and my Church militia were Spanish falangists! While Newcastle remained too tough a nut to crack, at least I managed to capture its airfield…Elsewhere on the table Dale was becoming bogged down outside Carlisle, while Bill was repulsing all BUF attacks on Penrith. At one stage I even sent my mortar team’s observer into the Pennines to spot, and got a chance to fire on Tim’s BUF. Bolt Action, by the way, is notorious for its strange firing ranges. Even then, a 2-inch mortar shelling the outskirts of Penrith from Consett was something else! Eventually though, after nearly a day of play, it was clear that the BUF in Penrith were on the ropes, while their comrades in the far north were standing firm. After a day of gaming I was no nearer capturing Newcastle than when I started. In the centre, Charlie was under attack from the Post Office, and Chris lost Whitby to the Anglicans. The Scots though, erupted into factionalism when Dale decided to push the king down the stairs of Dumfries Town Hall. Granted, Edward VIII was a bit of a facist-loving rotter, but it gave an excuse for both Peter and Charles to turn on their fellow Scot. While Peter amused himself chipping away at Dale, Charles allied himself wholeheartedly with the Albertines, in order to safeguard the monarchy. That’s roughly where we stopped for dinner, and a lively evening in the pub. A slightly subdued crowd picked up their dice where they left them on Sunday morning, with a few changes. Steve’s Penrith facists were shipped north to Carlisle, giving the Archbishop complete control of the South Yorkshire table. Chris decided to abandon our alliance and fight his battles further south, so I was now on my own. Meanwhile Charles got hold of a train, and Prince Albert – the king in waiting. His plan now was to stick the king in the train, then escort him to York for a coronation. He could have done it in Canterbury, but someone – Peter I think – strafed and killed the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was out walking in the Pennines. So, York it was. Charles did deals with the fascists of Alnwick, but forgot about Newcastle, where my Anglicans were besieging the city. James’ BUF shot at the train as it passed, but in the process they came out of the town, and got cut down by Anglican and Scots Presbyterian rifles. So far so good. I let Charles’ train pass, encouraged by its strong escort, and so it rolled on into North Yorkshire. Could he make it through to York? Well yes – if everyone played nicely. That hope was shattered when the Post Office shot up the engine. So, the king-in-waiting was stuck outside Darlington, with Communist militia on one side and gun-toting Post Office workers on the other. Charles’ son Charlie tried his best to save the king, striking east from Kendall, but it was all looking a little sticky down there. Up in northern Cumbria I’ve no idea what was happening, as it looked like three factions – Scots, BUF and Anglicans – were fighting through the streets of Carlisle. Tim held though, and the city remained a BUF stronghold throughout the game, as did Alnwick. Then there was Newcastle. By now we were running out of playing time, but at least I had a toe-hold in the city. Then, I wiped out a Tynside BUF police unit, and got another one, then capped that by destroying James’ headquarters trolley bus and his mortar team. It was all a matter of numbers now. James still had his elite guardsmen (in red jackets and busbies), a BUF regular unit, and a unit of militia Morris Dancers. The guardsmen had driven me from buildings twice before in the game, but this time it didn’t work. Instead they were gunned down in the street, while my Anglican tank and mortar pounded away at the blackshirt regulars. The Morris Dancers fell in house-to-house fighting, leaving everyone to finish off the last BUF die-hards. With them gone Newcastle was mine – captured in the final turn of the game! Hurrah!  Now came the final reckoning. You got points for towns and cities held, and any unspent revenue. The Anglican League did well out of this, with Archbishop Kieron coming an easy first in points, followed by Bishop Angus. The BUF were the main losers, but by the end they still held on to Carlisle and Alnwick. The Scots didn’t do as well as they’d expected, largely ’cause they fought amongst themselves, the Communists were lucky to survive (although Chris did manage to execute the pretender “Ruprecht of the Rhine”), while the Albertines were pleased their king survived the game, along with his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret, who spent the game in York. The Post Office just seemed to be a thorn in everyone’s side, and Kevin thoroughly enjoyed himself being just that!While I can’t say that either VBCW or Bolt Action are really for me, it  all made a nice change. Also, while I can’t claim history was re-written – as none of this ever happened- at least we all seemed to enjoy the nonsensical madness. Next time though, we’re fighting a “proper” wargame – with tricornes! 


One Response “The North Aflame, 1936”

  1. JosephCade
    30th March 2018 at 7:58 pm

    I’m in agreement with you, Angus, not a fan of Bolt Action in the couple games of it I’ve played. However it is simple and fast enough for a large group game like you gentlemen played – now that sort of affair looked like it was really fun.

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