VCOW 2021.

Last weekend I attended the Virtual Conference of Wargamers put on by the Wargames Developments group.  There have been COW events run annually since the early 80s but last year, because of covid19 it was run as a virtual conference over Zoom. That was such a success that they decided to run another virtual conference 6 months later. The conference was a mix of speakers giving lectures as well as gaming sessions; I had put myself down to give two talks. Games had to be prebooked in advance, with the weekly gaming sessions I’ve been having online with the Sheffield contingent of WD I had played a few of the games already. This meant that it simplified my choices somewhat.


Before the conference proper started there was a virtual battlefield tour. An expat member of WD walked us through the Breacourt Manner battle where Lt. Winters took out German artillery on DDay- known to most people through the excellent Band of Brothers TV series. It was nice to see the pictures and videos used for the presentation; they gave a real sense of the nature of the flooded ground that characterised the area inland from Utah beach.

The conference kicked off with a talk on modern Counterinsurgency gaming by the always knowledgeable Brian Train. This was followed by me with my PhD student hat on giving a lecturer on the use and development of counterinsurgency games. I was fairly nervous following Brian given that I am at an early stage of my research and he pretty much is the authority on the subject having designed many games on the subject. I was quite pleased with how it went overall.

After those two talks I played in an excellent Traveller RPG set on a cargo freighter. I don’t get to roleplay much and sci fi roleplays even less, so I really enjoyed this one. It was a playtest for a module that should be released fairly soon. I intend, having now played it myself, to pick it up and give it a run for other in the not too distant future.


An early- ish start saw me at the computer to listen to my fellow PhD research Nick give a talk on tactical games. His talk was excellent and covered the analytical studies of low level combat very well.

I then followed this up with a talk on 3D printing for Wargamers. I didn’t try to be too fancy but just outlined what I had learnt in the year that I have had mine. It is clear from this blog how much use I’ve got out of it and the cost savings I’ve made, and I wanted to get that across to the fellow WD members.

I then played in a Napoleonic skirmish game using Table Top Simulator. As the name suggests TTS is a program that allows users to recreate a virtual table top that can be used for either miniatures of board games that can be manipulated just like a physical set up. The camera view for this skirmish game was kept fairly low down so you could only see what your character could see leading to a surprisingly tense game. It was great fun even if I kept getting my characters killed.

Following this I played in a planning game where, as part of the British team, we had to plan the defence of the Isle of Wight. The scenario was 1941 and the amphibious assault on the little island was to be a diversion for the main assault on mainland UK. I really like this sort of game, looking at maps and debating deployments. Once the planning was done the 2 German planning cells presented their plans and by way of assessing all of them, they were all quickly played out using a simple system.

Finally I played in a Operation Valkyrie game about the events of 20 July and the bomb plot against Hitler. For some reason in this I was oddly restrained to the point of timidity, my ‘good idea’ in the game coming too late to be implanted… still it was a fascinating game and one I learned quite a bit from.


The morning started with a fascinating talk on wargaming the 1960s- looking at different way that turbulent and important decade. Clearly, for a lot pf the attendees it was their childhood/ youth so there was a degree of nostalgia creeping in. I really enjoyed the group ideas part of this session.

The last game of the weekend was an excellent committee game. This time defending Estonia from cyber attack in a grey zone/ hybrid warfare type scenario. I love these sorts of games that could easily come from tomorrow’s newspaper headlines.

The weekend ended with the AGM.

All in all it was a great weekend’s event. The hosting and sessions were all of top quality and I can’t wait for the next one.



25 comments on “VCOW 2021.

  1. Your PhD talk was really good, despite your nerves. Hugely proud of you x

  2. brtrain says:

    Your talk was great!
    You are a far better presenter than I am, I am always too tied to my script and my body tightens up to the point that I hate my recorded voice more than usually.

    I was surprised to learn from John Curry that first, that you were working your way towards levering a PhD on this subject and second, that PhDs could be levered on this subject.
    If you are willing to talk to a lowly BA (Poli Sci, 1987) I’d be happy to help you with your work.
    But not the writing, I have enough of that to do….

    I was sorry that the talk was the only part of VCOW I could manage, with the 8 hours time difference.
    Would very much have liked to listen in on the Gaming the 60s topic.
    Insofar as I have a “bucket list”, I would like to attend an in-person COW one day… as I said, y’all are my favourite lot of madmen.


  3. Sounds like you enjoyed it, Pete!

  4. Glad you enjoyed it Pete, sounds like it was a nice escape for you. 🙂

  5. Wow that sounds like it was very interesting and a lot of very good topics covered, plus some great sounding games too.

    Cheers Roger.

  6. Extremely interesting and congrats on doing it well. Btw I just bought Zoom for a year and will at some point be inviting you to a game like we discussed – once I resolve my contest of course!

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      Thanks Mark.

      Really looking forward to the game. In a way the pandemic has brought people closer together in that the VCOW weekend had people from US/UK/Europe/Australia attending virtually in away that time and finances wouldn’t have allowed physically.



  7. Cool man. It sounds like a fun and very interesting time. Well done on the talks too mate

  8. Mark Flanagan says:

    Great talk Pete, keep on playing the games mate .. don’t forget the importance of Peter Perla’s cycle of research 😉

  9. Marvin says:

    Wow, you do “talks”? Am very impressed, well done. 🙂

  10. Nigel Drury says:

    I found the 3D printing session fascinating and I think quite a few others might be looking into this further.

  11. patmcf says:

    shit mate ! so much has happened while I been busy! From what the lads have said you have done well,and knowing them I wont argue! looking forward to rejoining the crew in a few weeks Pete!

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