Sittangbad Demo

In 2006, we presented a refight of Sittangbad at Partizan show in Newark. Here's the story of how we did it, as recounted at the time on my previous wargames blog/ website
for some Classic wargaming candy pictures, scroll right down to bottom of page...

The Battle of Sittangbad  -a Demonstration Game:


How we did it, and why!

Members of the OSW yahoo group, Steve Gill and John Preece, approached me in 2005 to discuss plans for an “old school” style demo game and to see if I would be interested in assisting in any way. I jumped at the opportunity, and we got underway, a few weeks later inviting Henry Hyde to join the crew. We identified Partizan at Newark in May 2006 as a good showcase, and I duly contacted “Tricks” (Richard Tyndall) to book a table.

“The War Gamers” was born, as this was the name we chose as being most suitable for us to be identified with.

above: Lentulus and staff
below: The Herzog Johann, and his infamous "pavilion".



Why Sittangbad?
Originally, we were going to make the game a refight of Mollwitz from Charles Grant’s book “The War Game”.
Then after a frenzy of emails we decided to switch to The Battle of Sittangbad (from Peter Young’s book “Charge”) as being more suitable for our purposes.
i. A totally fictional battle gave us a little more latitude for wargamers’ license.
ii. The game is manageable in terms of size… there are only about 4-5 Infantry regiments (albeit large units of around 80 figures), and 3-4 Cavalry regiments per side (each of around 30 figures) in the original, which seemed ok to tackle.
iii. Simple terrain… but some of everything… a river section, buildings, marsh, woods, hills.
iv. An interesting scenario with clear objectives, and playable in the time available at a show (or so we thought!).
v. An unusual look to the game… fighting down the table rather than across.
vi. Plus, Steve and John are more familiar with the Charge rules than any of us is with The War Game rules (after all these years!).

Style/ rationale
The aim was to maintain the charm and appeal of the original game, use Charge rules, and offer a faithful recreation of the Young/ Lawford game, whilst stamping our own particular “look” on it.

In the interest of consistency and style, I created all flags for both sides .
Above - flags of the Imperialist Infantry...
On the left: The Alt Sachsen Grandier coy (representing Coy Waldeck from the book)
Centre: The Innsbruchen Infantrie (representing The Pandour regt from the book)
Right: flag for Henry Hyde's regt von Eintopf (representing The Isembourg regt from the book)

The Partizan show is known for the high quality of the Demo Games, so a chalked on river and marsh, and unpainted buildings (as depicted in Charge) would perhaps not go down too well! So I volunteered to do some terrain that would capture the “Classic wargaming” style.
Although we wanted to keep it simple, minimalist, and faithful to the original, we would still make it an attractive game. This would require some thought to get the balance right, so I set down some groundrules for making the terrain:
i. No flock/ static grass!
ii. No “texturing”
iii. Simple modelling and plain painting
iv. Game functionality is paramount
v. As always with demo game terrain, transportability and storage are also critical.

I also wanted to scratch-model the various buildings in a “classic wargaming” style, with the facility for placing figures inside. This meant designing them so many of the roofs can be lifted off, and buildings can be removed from bases to reveal damaged walls/ ruined sections. I settled on a cross-breed look: a sort of combination of the Charles Grant “lift of to reveal ruins” design, combined with the way I normally scratch-build along the lines of the Games Workshop approach using foam card, etc. I also used Wills Scenics roof tiles on some of the buildings, and in places some doors and windows from TM Terrain.

For the base boards themselves, I decided on plain MDF boards, painted an appropriate shade of green, with simple terrain features placed on top. Such pieces would be as basic as thin (2mm thick) MDF shapes cut out with a jigsaw and painted the appropriate colour (for the river and marsh), and very basic polystyrene hills.

Whilst the overall effect is relatively uncluttered and minimalist, the components of the terrain did seem to take me longer than anticipated. This was in part due to the fact that I suffered for my art at one stage when I sliced into my thumb with a modelling knife, putting me out of building action for a couple of critical weeks! In the end, the effect of the whole layout was evocative of the original, but different enough for more modern tastes.

For pictures of the terrain layout and the buildings see further down this page.

Again, we wanted to be faithful to the original. So Stadden (Tradition), Willie, Spencer Smith Miniatures, Holger Erickson; all in 30mm. There’s no getting away from the beautiful, stately poise of these well-proportioned chaps.
We also decided to field the troops “unbased”, rather than putting them on multiple bases. This, we agreed, was an essential element to the character of the original Grant/ Young/ Lawford armies, and was certainly right for our game. The only exception to this is with regard to cavalry which (particularly in the case of Spencer Smiths and Holger Ericksons) are slender and would tend to fall over in collapsing domino fashion if not mounted on some form of card/ wood. We opted for custom-designed Litko bases, and I sent an order in for the requisite number, which duly arrived and were despatched to the rest of the team.

We opted for a fictional orbat (we decided not to stick slavishly to the orbat in Charge… but to use our existing units, with a few of the favourites in the original game being recreated; eg The Erbprinz Regt… which John bagged!). So we divided the sides into Dark Blues (the Electoral forces) and Whites (the Imperialist Forces).

We already had many of the required figures in our existing collections. However, there was still a fair bit of re-organising of unit sizes and extra painting to do, in order for certain regiments to be depicted as exact replicas.

Since we had never met up as a foursome before, it was essential to keep a close eye on progress, who was doing what, and to see if anyone needed help to finish their individual commitments to make the game happen. So an excel spreadsheet was emailed around on a regular basis to keep morale up (and sometimes kept morale down when we realised how much was still to do!). We also emailed photos of units in progress, and I was keen that the overall terrain/ buildings design would meet the approval of the whole team, so sent many photos as items were completed.

As for the figure painting… All four of us scoured the pictures in the original Charge to see Peter Young’s figures in their magnificence. Amongst our many emails on the merits of white or black gaiters, John Preece even noticed the colour of the figures’ shovel covers, not to mention the gaiter buttons (and highlights!!!)

It was very interesting to manage such a project from afar, and I couldn’t wait to actually meet up with the rest of the group the evening before Partizan. The flurry of emails and regular updates via a fairly extensive spreadsheet were fun. We almost had a minor disaster when one of our number (no names, no pack drill) found the letter he thought had been sent several weeks earlier to order figures from Sweden! Imagine the shock of knowing that a good number of little chaps might not even get here in time, let alone be painted.

The Pils Holstein regiment... Stadden figures.

Here’s how I kept track of progress… just a very simple series of checklists:  

Electoral forces (Prussians/ Dk Blues)
Original Unit / Who’s doing / New name for unit / completed

Herzog Johann +ADC(+ Pavilion!)/ Phil / complete
Uhlan Regt (Lt Cav)/ Steve/ Moravski Hussars (SSM) /complete
Dragoons of Montmort (Hvy Cav) / Phil / Kronenbrau Kurassiere/ complete
Gendarmerie (Hvy cav) /John/ HE Cav /complete
Garde Jaeger (Lt Inf Regt) /Steve /Buchsenschutzer von Grassin (RSMs)/ complete
Erbprinz Regt (Line Inf) /John/ Erbprinz Regt/ complete
Steinzeit Regt (Line Inf)/ Phil/ Pils-Holstein Regt/ complete
Electoral Footguards (Line Inf)2 Coys/ Steve/ Erste Altmark (RSM) /complete
Combined battalion, incl Gentlemen Pensioners 1 coy/ John/ complete
Light Battalion (2 coys) /John/ Combined Erbprinz/ Gent pens Lt coys (Suren) /complete
Engineer Bn/ Steve /Savoy Engrs (SSM)/ complete
Artillery – 3 Batteries /Henry/ SSMs /complete
Flags: Erbprinz, Footguards, Steinzeit, Gentlemen Pensioners… Phil - all done

Above: The Kronenbrau Kuirassiers
Imperial Forces (Franco-Austrian/ Whites)
Original Unit /Who’s doing/ New name for unit/ completed

Lentulus + ADC (+ tent!) /Phil/ complete
Lanciers de Saxe (Lt Cav) /Phil/ Chevaliers de Rouen /complete
Kornberg’s Cuirassiers (Hvy Cav) /Henry/ Von Klinkertor Kur /complete
Kleist Frei Corps (Lt Inf Regt) /Henry /Von Wacht Grenzers/ complete
Isembourg regt (Line Inf) /Henry /Von Eintopf’s regt./ complete
Coy Waldeck Regt (Line Inf)/ Phil/ Alt-Sachsen Grenadiers/ complete
Pandour Regt (Line Inf) /Phil/ Innsbruchen Infantrie Regt. /complete
B Battery Field Art’y /Henry /Von Rikoschetzki Battery./ complete
3rd Engineer Bn (2 companies) /Henry /Von Lochgraber /complete
Flags: Isembourg, Waldeck, Pandour… Phil - all done

Above: The Innsbruchen Infantrie... on the day this flag was replaced as noted previously.

Above: Chevaliers de Rouen

Item /Who’s doing/ Completed

Base Boards/ Phil /yes
River /Phil/ yes
Marsh /Phil /yes
Hills /Phil /yes
Woods /Phil /yes
Eisenberg Village bdgs /Phil/ yes
Sittangbad town bdgs /Phil/ yes
Bridge /Phil/ yes
Jetty /Phil/ yes
Breastworks/ earthworks /Phil/ yes
Table cloths /Phil/ Yes

Above: In the book, there's a strange looking element on the end of the breastworks around the edge of Sittangbad. I represented it as some sort of ruined small round tower.

Miscellaneous Bits and pieces
Item /Who’s doing/ completed

Pointer sticks/ laser pen /Phil/ Got
Artillery batons/templates Steve/ John/ got
Handouts/ Henry /complete
Display boards and materials /Henry/ Complete
Orders sheets (for writing orders) /John/ complete
Rules playsheets /John /complete
Kapok/ smoke/ Phil /Got
Dice, tape measures /All/ got
Charge book /all /got
OSW thongs All – at your discretion! I’ll show you mine if...
The War Gamers’ Badges/ Henry/ Complete

Emergency repair kit-
(I always take this to shows to touch up any last minute accidents resulting from travelling):
Superglue, blue tack, drawing pins, scissors, sticky tape, flipchart pens
Paint brush and emergency paint set (black, white, brown, green, red, blue, yellow).
Board “spacers”… 2mm thin pieces of board to sit underneath the base terrain boards in case of uneven tables.
Synchronise watches… don’t think I’ve forgotten anything!

Setting up on the day
Despite a whole host of supportive emails being forthcoming as a result of my online progress reports on the development of the game, we still had significant moments of trepidation before the show at what the reaction would be… would people “get it”?

However, we needn’t have worried. After a hearty breakfast, we drove the short distance down rain soaked driveway from our hotel to the hallowed halls of Kelham.

A host of onlookers, including notably Mike Siggins, John Boadle (master architect), Mark Allen (whose painting talents are renowned), John Ray, Bill Gaskin, and so on kept us going all day!

It wasn’t long before we were able to relax as we overheard comments like “Great! They’ve done it just like in the book!”

Many people who knew Brigadier Young in person said he would have approved very much of the spectacle. And to cap it all John Stallard (of WECW notoriety) stopped by with a surprise. He has access to the Brigadiers “on table persona” in the form of the famous figure of Graf von Grunt. Although the figure was unavailable to make a personal appearance on the day, at least John brought with him photos of the 30mm gentleman.

Post show reactions and feedback
It’s always difficult to gauge just how a game has been received at a show. After all, most people will be fairly pleasant face-to-face! The real test would be afterwards, in the cold light of day. And it’s always interesting to see what gets said online, in the wargaming chat rooms …
And we were amazed at how positive was the response. Some didn’t like it, most did; but very seldom do games get so much individual attention. No doubt, the modelling skills of other games was far more “realistic”… yet we feel that we created a certain design, a certain charm, and yes, a certain classic nostalgia which had people captivated. Of that we are rather proud…

The Buildings:

Above and below: The Grunterhof. One of the main buildings in Sittangbad town itself.

Below: the tavern in Sittangbad...

Below: my version of the strange looking prison shown in the book
Below: more Sittangbad town houses. All were produced in the "lift off to reveal ruins" style.
Below: Eisenburg Village
The Layout

These pictures were taken in my wargames room the week before the show.
I wanted to bring a consistent aesthetic to the game, and with only the black and white pictures in "Charge" to go by I had to come up with something that had a distinctive appeal.
I must admit having considerable trepidation in designing and creating the terrain in such a stylised way. However, the "look" has certainly caught on, and has been replicated by many in the hobby since. I like to think that's my small contribution to the classic look!


and some pictures taken on the day by Henry Hyde:




Henry Hyde said...

Wonderful to see this stuff again, Phil. Thanks!

Chris Gregg said...

It all looks as if it was very beautiful, especially your buildings. Thanks for taking the trouble to give us this fascinating blast from your past.

Phil said...

Thanks guys.
It was good to revisit this whole project and just look through the photos and relive it a bit. Doesn't seem like 6 years ago!!

abdul666 said...

Such pleasant photos! Some never posted before, I believe? Thanks for posting this report again.