Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Joy of Six 2016

Most wargames shows I've attended over the years have had a wide spectrum of genre and scale. Historical tables mix with science fiction and fantasy games, and fleet battles are shown off in the same hall as skirmish games.

The Joy of Six is a little different to your average show, then, as it is focused purely on models in the 6mm scale1. Peter Berry at Baccus 6mm, with the aid of John from Wargames Emporium have been putting this show on in Sheffield for the last couple of years, and it is now the largest wargames show2 in the Steel City.

The show has expanded and improved year on year, and in 2015 moved from the Workstation to the Heartspace at Sheffield Hallam University, to allow for the size of the show. Given that this year side rooms were required to house some of the games, I think we can safely say that there is growth in the 6mm scene.


The Joy of Six tends to have four main types of attractions, even if who is putting on what may change each year. There will be participation games, display games, traders and seminars. I'm going to take a look at each area in turn, and give you an idea of what was there on the day.


Seminars

Peter facing the inquisitive audience
 During the day there were three seminars on, each focusing on different topics. Peter3 had the first slot for a Q&A session around Baccus, the guys from Wargames Emporium had the second to talk about their plans for their science fiction range, while the third was open to any of the manufacturers to talk about new and upcoming releases.

I acted as quiz-master for the Baccus seminar, in one of the smaller lecture theatres. While I had a few questions prepared, the main focus was on what the audience wanted to know about. I'm a fan of this sort of Q&A session - it keeps the people from the company on their toes, as they don't know what they'll need to answer questions on.

One prototype Sherman
For example, Peter used the seminar to talk about how an upcoming resculpt of his English Civil War line would work, whether Baccus would ever do a science fiction range4 and how the development of vehicles to go with the WW1 and WW2 infantry ranges is going. In theory, I have a recording of the seminar, and I'll see if I can transcribe it when I get chance.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it into the other two seminars - my roving photographer role got in the way - but I'm sure that those who were fortunate enough to attend got to hear some interesting plans for the future.

Demonstration Games

First Day of the Somme, by Robert Dunlop
One of the key features of any wargames show are the games that are put on by various groups and clubs, and the Joy of Six is no exception, with a fairly even mix of participation games and demonstration games. The above was this year's centrepiece, with a representation of how the first day of the Battle of the Somme looked, produced by Robert Dunlop. While it took a little while to set up, due to the scale of the battle being recreated, it was really impressive when complete.

Red Effect
Next up we have Red Effect, by the Cold War Commanders. This group have been putting on "What if?" Cold War games at the Joy of Six for a few years now, with a wide range of scenery and models. As with previous years, the group were playing their game pretty much all day, and were willing to answer questions from passers-by as they went.

The 1980's may not leap out at you as a time period suited to small-scale games - but if you focus on the vehicle side of things more than the infantry, there is a wide range of miniatures on the market. During the Cold War, there was always the fear that a land war might break out between the two halves of Germany, for example, and these sort of games give you the opportunity to theorise on what could have happened.

Hougoumont
Lee Sharpe and Ian Willey have built up a good reputation for their large Napoleonic games at previous Joy of Six shows, so it was interesting to see them shift focus to a small area of Waterloo, with a smaller table looking at the fighting around the Hugoumont farm. The fighting in the area is often viewed as key to the French defeat at Waterloo, and Lee and Ian - along with Ian's son, who seemed to be enjoying himself - had a relaxed day enjoying the smaller game.

Bridge at Remagen
Time for some lengthy roadworks...
The last of the demonstration games I want to touch on in this report is also one of the games that people would see first when they entered the show - the Bridge at Remagen, put on by the Deeside Defenders.

The game was a recreation of the film about the battle, with the Allies trying to capture the bridge so they can cross deeper into Germany, while the Germans aimed to destroy the bridge to stop them.

The game ran for most of the day, and added to the cinematic feeling with an "Intermission" sign on the table when the group took a break. In the end, the Germans were able to eliminate the bridge this time, but I believe it was a bit of a close-run thing.

Participation Games

Dr. Mike in the clinic
While I've titled this section "Participation Games", I'm going to start by taking a quick look at Dr. Mike's Painting Clinic. Mike Selway5 is a really nice guy, who fetches a massive set-up along to the show to help people learn how to paint 6mm figures - as well as get a little work of his own done during the day, too.

Providing miniatures, paints, brushes and pre-written paint schemes, Dr Mike is willing to show anyone who has an interest how to deal with the difference in painting technique for the small scale compared to larger scales. His section of the show was popular all day, and not just for the background music Mike provided.

Someone keep ABBA away...
The first actual game - and the only one I actually got to play over the day - was Break the Line, put on by David Elks and Tim Rogers. This was a Napoleonic game with its own set of rules, designed to demonstrate how the columns of French infantry worked during that period.

Following a swift battle of skirmishers, the French would advance on the British or Portuguese line, while the defenders try to hold their nerve for a superior opening volley. Muskets were as inaccurate as you might expect, hitting on 6's, but the hits became more effective as the French got closer, as their save got worse.

I'm apparently no Wellington, as I managed to lead the British to their first defeat of the day. When I checked back towards the end of the show, the scoreboard had made matters a lot closer, though the overall result was, shall we say, historically accurate. Always nice to have a participation game that doesn't take too long, either, with each game taking less than half an hour.

The game was popular all day
Next up we have SAGA in 6mm, which was brought to the show by Per Broden. Per is normally know for turning up to the show with a demonstration game focusing on the Great Northern War, as that is one of the major conflicts in Sweden's history. It is also one that people in the UK are generally unfamiliar with, so it has always been interesting to look at the board and talk to Per about just what was happening at the time.

This year, Per was in the mood for something a bit different.
Close-up of one of the two boards

As I'm sure many of you are aware, SAGA is a popular historical skirmish game produced by Gripping Beast. As a skirmish game, it is suited to using 28mm figures, as opposed to 6mm ones. Per, in his infinite insanity, decided that the rules could work just fine if you had bases of 6mm figures instead, along with appropriate scenery.

The tables still had the feel of a smaller-scale conflict, but with bases of troops felt a much grander conflict than having twenty or thirty 28mm infantry on the table. If you've played SAGA in 28mm, you'll have a pretty good understanding of how the game played at 6mm, though I know Per was encouraging people to stay in formations rather than out-and-out skirmishing.

Pharsalus in the sun

In contrast to Per's SAGA game in terms of volume of figures, we have Pharsalus which was put on by Andrew Brentnall. The game had probably the highest concentration of figures of any of the tables at the show, with around 3,000 figures on a 6 foot by 4 foot table. As with most of the participation games, this one proved popular throughout the day. I'm not sure which system it was using, but I do know that unit activation was resolved with the decks of cards you can see in the above image - you needed to draw a 2 to activate your first unit of a turn, then get a better card than your last draw for each activation after that. An interesting mechanic, which helps to reflect the confusion that can arise in a large battle.

Battle for Endor

Battle for Endor
The last couple of games I want to look at were in one of the side rooms, both brought by Dan Hodgson. I've been aware of Dan's work for several years now, after he put on a really impressive demonstration table at one of the early Joy of Six shows.

This year, rather than put on one really good demonstration table, he upped the ante, and put on two phenomenal Star Wars participation games, themed around Endor and Hoth.

Both games made use of hex-based terrain, as well as liberal use of models from the X-Wing miniatures game. Dan hadn't stopped there, making use of a wall light to give half a Death Star to the Endor table, while converting Gozanti Assault Carriers to carry AT-ATs rather than mere TIE Fighters.
March of the AT-ATs, Hoth

Both games had great visual impact, and Dan had come up with his own tweaks on the X-Wing system to allow both tables to work. I know he had pilot cards for the Snowspeeders, and I believe there was even a way for the Rebels to reenact the tow cable scene on the big walkers.

When I spoke to Dan late in the day, he did admit that he'd put much more time into the look of the tables rather than how the games would play, and that the games that happened at the show had been valuable playtest material. I hope he continues to test the games and improve the rules so they can come back next year - time permitting, I'd love to take part in one of them.


The aftermath of the Battle for Hoth

Traders

As you might expect at a show aimed at a specific scale of miniatures, the Joy of Six had a range of traders in with their wares. Some of the them I'd seen before, some of them were new to me, but all had something interesting on show. I'm going to flag a few of the traders who had something that caught my eye.

Transformers, Robots in... wait, I was wrong...
First up we have some new walkers for Command Horizon, which were on display on the Wargames Emporium stand. They're nicely cast multipart resin mechs, shown above on 40mm flat Renedra bases - though I believe they're considering switching the ones on either end to a 50mm base. The one in the middle is around 55mm tall, while the ones at each end are about 70mm tall. Personally, I think I prefer the one without the obvious head, as I keep getting reminded of Power Rangers when I look at the ones at either end6. The previous bipedal walker from the same range retails for £12, so I wouldn't be surprised if these end up in that ballpark.

Missing some Uruk-Hai
Next up we have a scenery company, in the form of Leven Miniatures. I first encountered Leven at last year's show, and was impressed with the range of 6mm buildings and terrain they offer, covering a wide range of periods and styles. Whether you want to put together a WW2 RAF base, a Viking settlement or a town in the Old West, Leven have options for you.

They had a nice diorama on the stand, using some of their older walls and a custom sculpt to represent Helm's Deep. While the tower isn't currently for sale, he said it is something they may look at producing if there is sufficient demand. Given they already produce a Helm's Deep fascia - which you can see under the cliffs in the upper right of the picture, this could make for some cool set-ups if it makes it into production.

These do exactly what they say on the tin
Last, but by no means least, we have Commission Figurines, who specialise in producing scenery and figures in laser-cut MDF. As with Leven, I encountered them first last year, where the appearance of laser-cut Napoleonic infantry was certainly a novelty, given how used to metal, resin and plastic figures I am. There was a certain "toy soldier" charm to them, but I can't deny they were effective in a block.

This year there was a variety of scenery kits on display, particularly an Earthworks kit. Available in a variety of scales, these kits provide the basing and inner wall for trench lines, allowing you to use wood filler to build up the outer slope as you see fit. The selections on offer seem to be rather good value, even allowing for needing to buy some filler - £3 will get you a meter of 6mm earthworks, for example, along with a couple of right-angle joins. If you're curious about the figures, a wallet-shattering £2 will get you 12 strips of 8 infantry, which is a decent price by any measure.

Final Thoughts

I've not really played many small scale games in my time as a gamer - a bit of Epic: Armageddon, a dash of Dystopian Wars, a bit of Battlefleet Gothic. As a result, you might not think that a show with such a focus on a small scale would appeal to me. Yet I find that the Joy of Six is the show I look forward to attending the most each year - there's a great atmosphere, it is improving year on year, and the scope and variety of games continues to impress me.

I believe the show is due to be even larger next year, so I can heartily recommend making a trip to the Steel City when it comes around - even if you're sceptical of the 6mm scale, you may well find yourself a convert by the end of the day.


1 - Normally meaning that the figures will be around 6mm tall to the eye, at least according to Peter. Some sculptors may use it to mean to the top of the figure's head.
2 - Following this year's show, at the time of writing Sheffield Wargames Society have decided against running Triples in 2017.
3 - He was meant to be accompanied by his assistant, Igor, but I believe Igor got held up by dealing with things on the show floor and didn't make it.
4 - It has already happened once, but Peter & Igor didn't have the time to commit to the range, so it was sold on to Wargames Emporium to develop.
5 - The good doctor is the gentleman in the hat. Something about not paying attention and ending up with a sunburned scalp last year...
6 - If Power Rangers Zords were packing really big guns.