Lounging about at a Lard Day 

Too Fat Lardies, purveyor of many historical rulesets, has a unique way of trying out their games. I went to Lardwerp, an event that gave me a taste of some rulesets I was keen to try out in a relaxed and convivial fashion. Armed with nothing, in the sense of rulebooks, dice or other bits and bobs, but wearing a full set of clothes and shoes, I made the trip to Antwerp, where last weekend the Lardies made their roost for a day as some sort of groggy pigeon, probably wearing a little tricorne hat.  

A game of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum Credit: Jackie Daytona

The event site was a first time visit for me as well. European (and many UK) readers will undoubtedly know the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp, the wargaming club that organises Crisis, the biggest show on the continent (you can find more about their club days and events here). Unfortunately Crisis was cancelled this year, one of the reasons being Brexit making it very difficult for many UK traders to hop over to the continent to trade their wares. As a sort of compromise they organised Lardwerp, to wave out the past year and give people a way to spend a day playing some banger games on beautiful tables.  

A massive 1:35 table Credit: Jackie Daytona

The TSOA club house is furnished with tons of scenery and ample playing room. It’s spacious, boasts a nice bar and people who have met the members of the club know that they’ll be received well for a chat and a game. I was impressed with not only the number, but also the quality of the tables. People put a lot of love and work into making some of the most wonderful scenery and making it a joy to play games. It got fairly busy during the day, but there were plenty of different games and periods to try out.  

Bag The Hun Credit: Jackie Daytona

The first game I wanted to tackle was Chain of Command (check our review here) to try my hand at a scenario involving the British 1st Airborne division to stop a German advance at Oosterbeek, near Arnhem. Unfortunately my plucky Brits failed to stop the armour being sent in, which once again confirmed that a military career was never in the books for me anyway. Although I technically own a lot of Lardie rulesest already, they’ve never hit the table in force, something which gives other Goonhammer contributors Something To Go On About. Getting two hours of gaming in gave me a nice feel for the system, especially the patrol phase, a mechanic that adds a whole dimension and is a nice alternative to your bog standard deployment.  

A very clever Jump Off Point, I think Credit: Jackie Daytona

Between games I managed to pry Richard Clarke away from a game without using too much violence and asked him some questions about the event. 

Jackie Daytona: Could you tell us how the Lardy days came into existence? 

We were approached by a couple of guys at the same time and one of them said to me: “would you like to come and run a game in the midlands in the uk?”. They were looking to have a lardie games day where we all play Too Fat Lardies rules, and they asked if I’d  fancy coming along and running a game? I said to him, well, as long as there’s beer and curry afterwards, I’ll come! And I didn’t realise how prophetic that was going to be because if you come to a lardie games day in the UK, they tend to be followed by beer and curry, and that’s the only thing constant and consistent across the lardie games days! (laughs)

People play different games and organize the days in very different styles, but there’s usually beer and curry afterwards which is quite fun. At the same time I’d been approached by a gentleman in Scotland who was asking the same thing and I’d said to both of them that yeah, I’d love to come along. So it happened to be one weekend and the following weekend. So I’m driving all over the UK to get to these events, and they’ve all sort of sprouted up from there, we don’t actually run them as official events.

But we got maybe twenty on the calendar for 2023, we’ve gamed all over the UK and in certain areas of Europe. We’re looking to expand on that, which is why we’re here in Antwerp. We used to come over every year for the Crisis show, which was our favourite show of the year for many reasons. Not least because it was kind of the last show of the year, the end of the show season and we all used to come over as a club and really enjoy the city as well, it’s a great place to visit. It was a real great opportunity to end the year on a bang. And seeing as Crisis wasn’t happening this year, we had a chat with the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp and said, why don’t we come over and look at running a lardy games day here and that’s kind of how it happened! So we’re doing the show right here and now.

Dux Britanniarum Credit: Jackie Daytona

The lardie games day accidentally happened, and it’s grown and grown, and it’s fabulous, different events and different areas have different feels

Jackie Daytona: It doesn’t just stop in the Uk or EU does it?

They do organize Lardie days in the US, and we should be over for Historicon in 2024. We’ve got a lardie games day in Canberra Australia as well that’s going to be happening in January, and I’ll be going down under for that so we’re kind of spanning the globe like a colossus (laughs) or a rather small colossus!

Jackie Daytona: I’ve noticed that the games are very accessible and there’s a nice and loose atmosphere, a bit like a club night

I think that the ethos we’ve always had as a company is that we’re very relaxed. I rather like the anarchic idea of people turning up and saying “hey, do you mind if I jump in and play that game “ and I think there’s something very attractive about that. Some big games days are run a bit more formal and we’ll say “tell us in advance what game systems you really want to experience, and we’ll put you in a slot for those games”. Different folks, different strokes, but yeah, the nice thing today is just walking up and saying “I’m interested in the rules, can I play for ten minutes or can I play for the whole game”, and allowing people to do that is a great fun thing for us to do, giving people the experience they want to have for that particular game.

Sharp Practice Indian Mutiny Credit: Jackie Daytona

Jackie Daytona: I can see you’ve covered practically all the game systems, and almost every period from medieval to WW2

Yeah, right the way across the spectrum, which is fun because we also take the opportunity to take games we’re developing and put them in front of real people, rather than in front of ours in a rather sanitized office environment, where we’re playtesting something to get the concepts right. But you really learn the truth about games design when you put it in front of players. Because A, they do things you hadn’t expected and that can break the game, which is great, because you want to have that stress testing when you’re developing a game, and B, they do crazy things that you’d never even thought about and it gives you some ideas. They can inject their thoughts and ideas into the design process which is brilliant. So it’s great to have those games out and let people break them or have fun with them.

Jackie Daytona: Can you tell us a bit about what you’re testing out now? 

We’ve got two games on offer here, What A Cowboy, which is in development and we hope to have that ready in the new year.  We’ve got another Japanese samurai very small skirmish game that’s about six figures a side, and we’re working on that under the project name bonsai bonkers, which it definitely won’t be called! But Sidney, who’s developing it, finds the name very upsetting so the more upset he gets about us calling it a silly name, the more we call it that (laughs), but that’s going to have a different name when it comes out.

What a Cowboy! Credit: jackie Daytona

It’s based on a system he’s been developing that’s called “with flashing blades”, which is based on Alexandre Dumas and the three musketeers, for that sort of 16th-17th century European fencing individual heroic skirmish. One of the nice things about that game is that it’s designed to be played on an 18 inch square terrain tile (45 cms if you’re in the EU) and there’s a beauty about a game where you can invest a bit of effort into a tiny piece of terrain, and he’s built a board with a fabulous temple, gardens with koi swimming in the pool and created a beautiful scene. Because it’s on an 18 inch terrain tile, it’s not going to take you a lifetime to build it. And you can paint up a dozen figures and you’ve got a total period there that you can do. And who doesn’t want to be D’artagnan or Aramis or Porthos. It’s nice to have those games that don’t take up a huge amount of space. And it’s actually the type of game that you can play at home with members of the family who aren’t really wargamers. It’s a great opportunity to present it to people who are more used to traditional board games for example.

They’ll both get a release at some point next year I hope, and they’re just so much fun to do. If I’m in a bit of a painting rut I can put my current project to the side for a bit and paint up D’artagnan and listen to someone’s podcast, it’s a great way to clear your head!

Chain of Command Credit: Jackie Daytona

Upon receiving the information about a new skirmish samurai game, I hurried over to the next table and asked Sidney Roundwood, the game’s designer if I could have a go.  

I have a love of tiny boards and projects, something that scratches a particular itch, and Sidney’s board is one of those prime examples. “When the last sword is drawn” plays fast and furious, and gives the opportunity to engage in some light roleplaying as well. I decided to let the attack/defence strategy hinge on the traits my models had, which gave it that extra swish. Having the opportunity to talk to the game’s designer in the flesh, I asked him what the philosophy behind this new game is. 

Dux Britanniarum

Sidney Roundwood: Well, “Bonsai Bonkers” is the title for the game that my very good friend Richard Clarke likes to use.  But I’m more than a little bit nervous that naming a game based on Japanese samurai warfare “Bonsai Bonkers” is just asking for trouble!  One of the things I really like in a set of wargame rules is trying to create the theme of a particular period of history and also trying to be respectful of the people’s culture you’re trying to recreate.  And with that in mind, I prefer the title “When the Last Sword is Drawn”, or maybe just “The Last Sword”.  That different title might also just help Richard’s sales in Nagoya and Kyoto!

The ruleset is all about skirmishes between different noble families and adversaries in early modern Japan.  It’s set in the historical period which follows the Sengoku period, known today as the Tokugawa shogunate.  During the shogunate, a state of peace was intended to be in place throughout Japan, but there are plenty of references in historical accounts to noble families vying for power and resorting to violence to try and wrestle power from each other.  I wanted to try and create some of those rivalries on the tabletop, with also an eye to the different ways those engagements have been looked at by different historians, artists and creators over the years.  

credit: Sidney Roundwood

I hope that the game will be able to be played through a variety of themes.  I’d like the basic rules to allow historical engagements, reflecting the variety of Japanese weapons from the period.  I’d also love for the rules to be capable of recreating famous scenes from Japanese cinema, particularly the “chanbara” classics which feature elaborate sword-play.  And I’m hoping that part of the rules will help create the strange world of Japanese legends of the type which appear in Kabuki theatre – the sort of world where ghosts appear to terrify the actors on the stage and the hero can do a little hand-signal which enables him to transform into a toad.  Having rules for the fantastical elements of Japanese combat would be a lot of fun.

Mechanically, the game’s about two small groups of combatants facing off against each other in various typical locations in Japan. The game we’ve brought to Antwerp today features a skirmish between two noble families over the ground of a sacred temple. The Lord of one family has been dishonourably killed, and his sword stolen and brought to the rival family’s temple for re-consecration.  The family of the murdered Lord, now masterless ronin, have to stop the ceremony.  

Credit: Sidney Roundwood

One of the key themes of the game is portability – the table size is only 18 inches squared, with only six figures a side and a few non-combatants for both theme and plot-twists in the game.  That scale allows me to try and pack in lots into a small space, and to really focus on themes such as revenge, family, the lure of honour, possibility of disgrace and, like a lot of Japanese games, a lot of swordplay and a huge amount of blood spattered on the temple floor. 

Time to go home Credit: Jackie Daytona

The day flew by, and after making some happy mistakes (which for me involves buying models and adding to the painting and modelling backlog) I set off into the sunset. I mean this literally, since I have to drive west. On the drive back, I reflected on the day I had. The day had been fun, in a very particular way. It’s been the first real wargaming event I went to in the past couple of years, and it’s something I dearly missed. Playing games, talking about them, the projects you’re working on and all that entails the wargaming hobby, is what makes up a big part of the fun of wargaming in the first place.  

I can conclude that Lardie game days are a perfect day out, even if you don’t play their rulesets. There’s a fun and relaxed atmosphere, some excellent games, beautiful tables, and if you’re lucky, a curry afterwards. 

You can find out more about upcoming Lard Days near you here or join their facebook group for the latest.  

And of course a big thank you to Too Fat Lardies and Tin Soldiers of Antwerp for organising a great day!

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.