Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Weekend At Hot Lead Part 1

For the last fifteen years, gamers across Ontario and sometimes from over the border make a late March pilgrimage to Stratford for Hot Lead, one of the best miniature wargames events in Canada. More often than not I've been either busy preparing for Easter in the parish, or since joining the army, being too busy or too far away or both. However, this year I had some time, a WestJet seat sale, and Mrs. Padre busy and urging me to play with my friends, so off I went. Last Thursday I drove from Medicine Hat to Calgary in a snowstorm, and landed in Kitchener, ON in summer weather of 26 degrees C. My mate James Manto, the evil genius behind Hot Lead, met me there along with his lovely wife Elizabeth, and took me to their house, where they kindly put me up for the weekend.

Having solved the problem of getting to Stratford, I now faced the problem of what games to play in over the three days. My cunning plan of volunteering to fill out the sign sheets for each game on Thursday left James with one less job to do, and me to put my name wherever I wanted. So I was guaranteed a seat in the games of my choice, I just had to choose. Hnmmm.

For Friday night I decided to play in a 1/1200 scale naval game hosted by Ian Tetlow, a talented painter and games master who teaches botany at the U of Guelph when not gaming. Ian's game was based on the WW1 1915 battle of Dogger Bank, when Hipper's battlecruisers blundered into Beatty's.

Ian had a lovely map from (I think), Seascape:

A closeup of some of Ian's models: I believe these are the Seydlitz and Derfflinger:

The rules we used were Victory at Sea: Age of Dreadnoughts by Mongoose. They seemed fairly simple and playable.

I volunteered to take the light stuff, three German destroyers and a light cruiser, the Magedburg. I liked the idea of being a dashing destroyer captain, standing on my flying bridge, silk scarf streaming in the wind, leading my greyhounds into torpedo range. After a few turns of screening the heavies, I got my chance and was pointed at the British line.

Here are my three DDs charging at the British monsters:

Unfortunately it didn't go as planned. My ligh cruiser and two DDs were smashed to scrap and sunk before they got within torpedo range. The third DD turned away, escaped while the British were pounding the German heavy ships, and then came around for another try now that one of Beatty's battlecruisers had fallen out of line. The British DDs had tried the same maneuvre, rather more successfully, and the sole surviving British tin can, half sinking, got a lucky shot in, crippling my speed and allowing the secondaries on my target to finish me off.

This experience left me reconsidering the wisdom of playing in a naval game at a convention, given that in a land battle, regiments don't usually blow up and sink so quickly.

Saturday morning saw me in another kind of battle, helping the hardpressed convention staff run the Bring and Buy booth. Well, I had to earn the coveted Hot Lead staff red shirt somehow. By 09:30 we had an impressive pile of minis, terrain, and books of all kinds and qualities, and a solid press of gamers piled up three and four deep waiting for our 09:30 open. The next hour was totally frenzied, but by 10:30 the crush had abated and I had time to wander about and look at some games.

I may not have this right, but I believe this was the Battle of Lake Erie, one of the many War of 1812 games offered at Hot Lead. Nice ships.

One of several Vietnam games on offer:

A very fine Lord of the Rings game, with orcs trying to take Osgiliath from the men of Gondor. I got the impression that both sides had ginormous off board catapults that occasionally fired and did horrific things to anyone underneath them.

Ian Tetlow and friends' Saturday Napoleonic game, a massive 28mm recreation of the 1813 battle of Bautzen. This game was massive, and ran for most of the day.

An example of the very high standard of the figures in the Bautzen game:

By Saturday afternoon I was done with Bring and Buy and had chosen a WW2 game, "Fallschmirjager vs the Ripperton Home Guard", a SeaLion game in 28mm by Chris Mallet. I've always been a sucker for SeaLion games. Chris was using Battlefront rules.

A view of the peaceful village of Ripperton, showing some of the lovely buildings in Chris' collection. The British had a FOO somewhere in the two larger buildings and the FJ were tasked with going in and winkling him out so a nearby airfield could be used to bring in reinforcements.

The Germans attack in company strength.

There were a few nasty surprises, including a booby trapped bridge that put paid to our hasty assault with motorbikes, a home made device throwing molotov cocktails at us, and lots of barbed wire on the far side of the stream. However, by the end of play we had decent strength in the village and our training was proving superior to the Home Guard, but the British still held the big buildings. While we all had fun, I confess that I didn't fund the Battlefront rules to my taste.

n Saturday evening I decided to overcome my qualms about naval gaming and stuck with my choice to play in Glen Broome's American Civil War game, the 1862 Battle of Memphis. The Confederate fleet was a motley collection of underarmed and unarmoured paddlewheelers, but they were fast and they had rams. Here are some of Glen's beautiful 1/600th scale ships, the CS fleet ready to go.

The US fleet in contrast had fewer ships, better armed and armoured, but quite slow. The result was pretty awful for the Union, ending rather like the sea battle in Ben Hur ended for Jack Hawkin's character, with most of the Union players dogpaddling in the muddy Mississippi.

It wasn't a great result for the Union, but it gave me a feel for the rules Glenn was using, Sail and Steam Navies, and gave me some ideas for my own ACW campaign, where I have a riverine component and have just bought some Thoroughbred models of CS and US ships. Lots of food for thought.

Other battles running Saturday night included an awesome looking WW2 air battle over North Africa, hosted by my friend Keith Burnett, a wonderful game master, using Check Your Six rules and 1/300th scale German, Italian and British planes.

Another air game running Saturday night, a WW1 game with a balloon busting theme.

Gary Schofield ran this beautiful looking 28mm game, featuring a hypothetical invasion of Nova Scotia during the American War of Independence.

Among the other games I noticed in between turns in my ACW game was this amazing chariot racing game, set in the Circus Maximus. More shades of Ben Hur. A lovely terrain piece, thoughit may be picky to ask why the numbers on the racecourse were not in Roman numerals. Still a beautiful game.

There were more games than this at Hot Lead, and you can see more of them at my friend James Manto's blog. Overall it was a good go. The quality of games and their presentation was generally high, the convention is small enough that it is an intimate and friendly experience, the venue is first class and the volunteers running it all are good people. I recommend it.

In my next post, a report on the wild and wacky Sunday morning Victorian SF bring and battle game.


  1. That's a wonderful looking 1812 game.

  2. Glad to hear that you enjoyed my ACW naval game!

  3. @ Conrad: There were several really fine 1812 games and I wish I had taken more pictures of them. I now find myself musing whether I can get into the War of 1812 in a small way, perhaps w 15mms. As a proud Canadian, I really feel I should, somehow.

    @ Glenn: I did indeed enjoy it, sir. I was impressed by the rules and how easy your laminated playsheets made it. The rules you used seemed very accessible. I have now started painting several Thoroughbred models for my own ACW campaign and am drawing on some ideas I learned from studying your models. Hopefully I'll have some results to post here soon.

  4. Great report! I went to Hot Lead about 7 years ago when we were living in Windsor - it was alot of fun.

    I particularly like the look of that Vietnam game and the Circus Maximus course is amazing!



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