Heligoland

heliI mentioned somewhere the other day that I had picked up a copy of Heligoland. This is a story of an island close to the coast of Europe and about 290 miles from the English coast. It was populated by about 2,000 people who spoke a language closer to English than any other.

The importance of Heligoland is that it is at he end of the Kiel Canal. England took over the island in 1807 and it was instrumental in defeating Napoleons Continental System.

However, in the late 19th Century, Lord Salisbury, the English Prime Minister, traded the island with Germany for some territory in Africa. This was done without reference to the islanders, one minute they were English, the next they were German. I still have a fair bit of the book to read and I am sure that I will find other parts of it frustrating, such as the English using it as a practice bombing area after World War 2. During that war, the island was the first target for English night bombing.

There are some good scenario opportunities through the book, such as HMS l’Amiable chasing off some Danish privateers.

I bought the book in a Kindle version (my preferred method of reading at the moment). The downside with the Kindle versions is the lack of maps and illustrations in a lot of cases and this book is one that in hardcover has a number.

I can, however, recommend the book – well worth the read.

Cancon 2009

The National Tally Room at EPIC in Camberra
The National Tally Room at EPIC in Canberra

I just got back from Cancon 2009. I drove down to Canberra on Saturday and drove straight to the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) and the National Tally Room there. This room is where Federal elections in Australia are tallied and decided. In addition it is where the annual convention of the Canberra Games Society is held. Cancon. This year was the 31st Cancon (but I didn’t get the t-shirt). From the outside, the National Tally Room looked quiet, just cars parked around the area indicating that something was on.

It was great to get to the relative cool of Canberra after the heat of Sydney (I left Sydney at 10:00 am and the temperature was already 32 having only fallen as low as 25 the night before). Canberra was also around 32 when I arrived, but without the humidity.

The crowd inside Cancon 2009
The crowd inside Cancon 2009

Once I got inside the hall it was a different matter. There were more people at Cancon this year than I can remember on any of the previous trips I have made to Cancon.

Cancon is one of Australia’s largest Wargames Conventions and whilst small compared to say Salute in the UK or Origins in the US, it is never-the-less arguably the premier wargaming event on the Australian calendar. This year there appeared to be more competitors in competitions (and more wargame rule-sets had competitions around them) than in previous years. This is a good thing for the hobby as a whole and the spirit in which the games were played appeared to be good too.

On top of the increased number of competitors there also appeared to be a larger trader area than in the past with plenty of ways to spend hard earned dollars and even in these days of financial organisation meltdowns the traders seemed to be doing a brisk trade.

WWII demonstration game using Lego blocks and Märklin track
WWII demonstration game using Lego blocks and Märklin track

Over at the competition tables, many of the figures looked superbly painted although with a few exceptions, such as the Aegyptus competition, the terrain was very drab and plain.

However, there were some demonstration games where the scenery was much better. One that took my fancy appeared to be a World War II game set around capturing and holding a dock area. The time was winter, and the scale was 28mm. This was especially memorable as the buildings and machinery areas were made from Lego bricks and the railway tracks were from the Märklin System of model railway tracks. It was an impressive looking game and the Lego actually worked well to help the appearance of the game.

The attacks go in
The attacks go in

Speaking of good scenery and pretty figures, there was a demonstration game based around an amphibious assault of a fortified position. It appeared to contain British and Russian forces (although I will happily be corrected on that). There was a nice headland with beachhead areas, beautifully painted figures and some wonderful scratch built boats and ships. There were the whale boats that were being used to bring troops ashore as well as naval vessels to bombard the position from the sea. Rounding that off were some torpedo boats as well.

The pièce de résistance however of this game was the large cruiser built, I guess, to 28mm scale, that was providing the bombardment of the shore positions. I’ll leave you with that picture, just noting that this Cancon was perhaps the best I can remember and one that will see me heading to Canberra around the Australia Day long weekend in 2010.

The big cruiser, sunk, is removed from the playing field by the hand of god
The big cruiser after being severely damaged in the battle is returned to dry-dock for repairs - actually, this was a very impressive model.