Sunday, August 23, 2009

Antietam in Paris

I found the l'Immortals de Sud-Ouest Wargames Club in Paris on the web and paid them a visit. Rich was also in Paris and came too. The club meets on Friday nights in un "Maison des Associations", a council building made available for clubs in the west of Paris. Every Friday night they have the use of a moderately sized room with tables & chairs & a set of cupboards to keep the club stuff. When we arrived, there were 3 hommes sitting around eating Domino pizza - I felt right at home immediately. Being August, most Parisians are on holidays & only 6 hommes attended apart from Rich & I. They said that at other times of the year there might be 2 or 3 times that number. But it's just one of many wargames clubs in Paris.

The hommes had metal tool boxes for bringing their troops - which had magnetic stands so they stuck to the trays in transit. Between them they had brought Ancients (both & 12mm & 15mm) & American Civil War figures this night. All the figures were beautifully painted - even the ACW figures allegedly "just dipped" to crash out two armies in a fortnight. After a long discussion they decided to do Antietam using Fire & Fury rules (there is a scenario in a supplement book). Antoine, the bloke who brought the ACW, umpired as he was the only one who had used Fire & Fury much (he belongs to 2 clubs & the other one does it a lot). This club does all periods - the rules they use include Fields of Glory, Flames of War, Age of Reason & Fire & Fury - all in English. They all spoke English reasonably well - some of them fluently, as it's a necessity for wargaming. They expressed a preference for American rules as they are usually much better set out and better written than the English ones (they can speak Barkerese, but like us they find it a particularly confusing dialect).

The club nominally meets at 8pm, but they were in no hurry to get going, I think it was near 10 before they had finished setting up the table & troops, shouted "en jeu" & got the battle underway. Rich was zonked after his flight (he arrived from Oz that morning) & left for bed as we got underway. They made up an 8x6 table with cloths over 20mm MDF boards on a group of tables. We played 3 a side with an umpire & I joined the Union.

The game was very entertaining - the hommes were terrific fun. They are right into the history, and obviously love the game, but don't take it too seriously - the game was full of banter & jokes - many the same as we have. There is a universal wargames-speak - such as discussion of just where the crest of the hill was. They were very considerate in keeping me in the conversation - they used English at lot, and even when they talked in French it was spiced with so much English wargames-speak I could often follow the gist of it.

They started the game with everyone charging forward with their brigades without any real council of war. Antoine explained that this was the Gallic Way: "Charge first, then make a plan." The Fire & Fury rules moved along pretty well considering that most players were unfamiliar with them, but by 12.30, when I had to leave to catch the Metro before it shut for the night, the game was just heating up. It didn't seem to matter to the others though - I gathered that playing on to dawn was not unheard of. By the time I left, my comrades had pushed the Confederate left back after recovering from a nasty counterattack. This had secured a space where our grand battery was being assembled on a commanding hill in the centre. Left of centre, my brigade, plus some timely and well placed reinforcements, almost had the Confederate right (which had been pushed forward a tad recklessly) surrounded.

Antoine provided me a report on the end of the battle by email: "
...we had to quit before the end, but the Confederates were in bad shape, their right flank shattered by more and more reinforcing federal brigades."

The pics are all taken from behind the Union lines.

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