The Waving Flag: Tournament Preparation

Thursday 17 August 2023

Tournament Preparation

I have a two-day competition in October: "The King in the North" held in Haxby, a small village outside York.  As the day draws near I've begun getting things ready.  To be honest I've been getting ready for a while now.

I've been surprised at just how much preparation is required so I thought I'd record what I've been up to.  I suppose one of my former professional roles, as a project manager, is well to the fore in what follows.

The theme problem
I played in last year's tournament and was pleased to see that I had an army (in preparation) for this year's theme of "Vikings! 790-1049AD".

Lots of UK tournaments are themed, and rightly so, but it's a problem for me because, until recently, I've only had armies for the Late Medieval and Feudal periods.

The good news is that my recently completed Arab army gives me a Dark Age army and just sneaks into the Vikings! theme thanks to the Andalusian Arabs (ADLG list 133).  Phew!

Booking in advance
The theme was announced in February and the venue in late April.  I paid my entry fee almost as soon as the venue was announced; despite not having completed my army.

The early announcement of UK tournaments is increasingly common.  This helps if you are working on an army, if you need to book (cheap?) accommodation or if you need to travel by public transport.

On the downside, I've noticed that many of the bigger tournaments "sell out" quite quickly preventing last minute entries.  Personally, I'd prefer to be a little more spontaneous.  Moreover, I've been wary of making commitments as I've had far too much else going on (despite being retired).

Where to stay
Once I'd entered the tournament I booked into the excellent B&B we stayed in last year and my wife is more than happy to spend another weekend in and around York while I play with toy soldiers.

Accomodation in the UK seems to have become very expensive in the past couple of years.  Of course this adds to the cost of the event but there's no way round this unless the tournament is a one day event or it is close by.

Last year we travelled by car and we'll be doing the same this year.  Sadly, there aren't any viable alternatives.  Using the railways (the next best option) in 2023 is both expensive and unreliable.  Currently, there are frequent strikes and many are called at short notice.  Making an advance booking is a lottery.

I've been working on my Arab army since early last year.  I finished the first units in February 2022 and the last core unit in late April this year.

Arab Heavy Cavalry
Arab Heavy Cavalry

Apart from the normal grind when you're close to finishing an army, there was a little additional pressure to finish the army early enough to arrange some practice games.

Army list
The first time I used an Andalusian list was in Round 2 of the Northern League.  I did alright but the list needed a few tweaks.

Of course I ended up painting some extra units.

I've since managed two further practice games, against armies I'm likely to face in Haxby, where things didn't go so well or could have gone a lot better.  After that the tweaking began in earnest.

I have a third, and probably final, practice game coming up at the end of the month and decided to seek "professional" advice.  Enter Tim Porter of madaxeman fame.  He kindly made one or two suggestions to fine tune my list.

We'll soon see if this is to be the list I'll submit in mid-September.

Troop transport
I use a multi-box approach to get everything to a tournament.  For some reason there seems to a lot of things required:

  • Scenery, road, village, trees etc.
  • Bits & bobs like measures, dice, markers, dice tray etc.
  • Troops.
  • Rule book, play sheets, army list, notebook & other paperwork.
  • Camera (no smart phone for me).
  • Game mat (just in case).

For years I've struggled to reduce the above to the bare minimum but I've now given up.  As long as it fits in my trolley (see below) I'm not going to worry about it.

After much experimentation I use a stack of 4 litre Really Useful boxes.  There are two for the scenery: one for the flat pieces and one for trees village pieces etc.  The bits and bobs are in the third box with an "organiser" insert:

A box of bits & bobs
A box of bits & bobs

In the past, these three boxes have been ruthlessly weeded to remove the unused "stuff" that accumulated over the years.  Where does it all come from?  They are permanently packed, and stored in the garage, ready to go.

The army fits in the fourth and final box.  It is lined with heavy duty magnetic vinyl which ensures the units don't move around in transit.  So far it's not proved necessary to stick the vinyl down.

All the above, and a folder containing all the paperwork, fits nicely in a cheap, collapsible wheeled trolley.  All I have to do is I pack the trolley and place it in the boot of my car.  This is my new one:

My new wargames trolley
My new wargames trolley

It's an eBay bargain I bought yesterday to replace my old one which is knackered after years of use. Plus this one has a lid (seat?): such is progress.

Closing remarks
It's a good job I enjoy tournaments.

When you break a weekend away down as I have, and you add in all the hobby related extras, it does seem a long "todo list" for a short holiday weekend.

Perhaps, if I did this more frequently, rather than annually, I'd get in a groove and things would become routine.  I hope so.  Here's to more tournaments in 2024.


Vexillia said...

An update on the trolley.

It arrived promptly but the edges of the lid were broken due to inadequate packaging. I agreed to, and received, a replacement. The supplier was very quick to respond and dispatch so I've no real compliant.

One word of warning: these Makro branded trolleys have parts made of soft plastic: all the orange parts in the picture above. Overall it feels a bit cheap; which it was. Don't pay more than £15-20 for one.

I have my doubts about how long it will last especially the clips that hold it closed when it's folded. My old one was made of sterner stuff, and is heavier as a consequence, but is more than ten years old. Time will tell.

Vexillia said...

A further update on the trolley.

The Makro trolley has been replaced by a far more sturdy version from Lidl (£17.99).

The plastic of the former was just too soft for long term use. Every time I removed the lid I feared it would break. I also felt that the side clips were going to snap off at some point because they wouldn't stay out of the way when the trolley was in use. Finally, the internal space was a touch smaller (a matter of millimetres) making it awkward to use with Really Useful Boxes: I was always catching my fingers.

I've now got to find a use for the Makro trolley.

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