What is Virtual COW?

Virtual COW (VCOW) has been set up so that Wargame Developments can run its annual conference - the Conference of Wargamers or COW - during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It will consist of a programme of talks, lectures, online discussions, and even some games, and will take place over the traditional COW weekend.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Session List Latest!

 LIST UPDATED 18 January 2021

The full list of sessions for VCOW is as follows:


Brian Train


45 minutes                                                                                                                   any

Brian has been designing conflict simulation games for the civilian market for over 25 years, with over 50 published designs to date. His articles and games have been published by a wide range of large and small firms. His special interests in game design are irregular warfare, "pol-mil" games, concepts of political influence in games, and asymmetry in games generally. In his spare time, he is an Education Officer in the Ministry of Advanced Education of British Columbia, Canada.

In this presentation, Brian will speak briefly about his work in designing asymmetric games on irregular warfare and how this has contributed to the origin and development of the popular "GMT COIN" system. Brian co-designed A Distant Plain (Afghanistan 2003-13) with Volko Ruhnke and designed Colonial Twilight (Algeria 1954-62). His third game using this system, China's War (China 1937-41), is currently under development.


John Bassett


2 hours                                                                                                                        8-12

A game in finest WD taste about testing the British H-bomb in the 1950s.  Features boffins, Valiants, the last generation of imperial administrators and a trusting but slightly anxious local population.


Pete Sizer

Both sideS of the COIN: An overview of Counterinsurgency games

30 minutes                                                                                                                   any

Based on research undertaken for a PhD this talk will look at the commonly fought but infrequently gamed issue of counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare looking at those games that have tried to simulate this complicated environment.

Pete Sizer is a gamer of 30 years’ experience with an special interest in guerrilla warfare, counter insurgency and asymmetric warfare. He is currently doing a PhD in Wargaming at Bath Spa University, supervised by John Curry and Dr. Clifford Williamson.


Pete Sizer


1 hour                                                                                                                          any

A beginner's guide to the technology that will change wargaming. An introduction to choosing a printer, finding models and printing toy soldiers, tanks and terrain.


John Armatys


2 hours                                                                                                                        4

A simple refight of the Battle of Dettingen (1743) using Brown Bess Squared (a gridded version of my Brown Bess rules - see Nugget 317) on a PowerPoint table with toy soldiers and terrain mainly from Tom Mouat’s Mapsymbs range.


John Bassett, Ian Drury, Russell King


90 minutes                                                                                                                   any

A panel discussion on wargaming the decade of Algeria and Vietnam, the Berlin wall and Cuban missile crisis, OAS and UDI, Selma, Detroit and Chicago.  John, Ian and Russell are inveterate 1960s gamers and will discuss approaches to recreating the era using toy soldiers, board games, free Kriegspiel and role play and will address both the attractions of this decade and what makes a good 1960s wargame.


Nick Riggs


1 hour                                                                                                                          any

In this session I will present the first six months of my PhD research into squad-level infantry combat in the 20th and 21st centuries, and how best to represent it in a wargame, via Tabletop Simulator.  The session will end with Q&A and a general discussion on what wargaming on this topic does well, less well, or not at all (but should do).


Graham Evans


3 hours                                                                                                                        2-4

A game of the Taiping Rebellion. In the vicinity of Shanghai the Ever Victorious Army bid to free a village from the clutches of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace. This will be a proper toy soldier game run using video streaming. Marvel at the marvellously detailed 15mmm figures, which you won’t be able to touch, as the puppet master pushes them across the table, liberally interpreting your instruction. Using the “Taiping Era” rule set, (trialled at previous COWs, and now available for purchase), this game will provide a unique opportunity to participate in a game at the legendary Shedquarters.


Evan D’Alessandro


2 hours                                                                                                                        2-5

Tallinn, Estonia: A statue put in place by the Soviet Union in 1955 that commemorates the Red Army has been deemed inappropriate to have so near to Parliament. The statue is removed at midnight from near parliament to a suburb park. Due to the violence in 2007 over a similar statue removal, the plans were filed a week in advance and only a small public works crew was briefed. Last night the statue was moved without incident, however, someone got knowledge and social media is quickly aflame. As the morning breaks, a protest is being quickly organized and fears of a second Bronze Night are palpable. As the Russian bear watches from across the border, the question is open: will the situation be defused, or will 2007 repeat?   Players will play real life characters, representing the government of Estonia and Tallinn, but need not stick strictly to their roles.



John Wilkie


2 hours                                                                                                                        4-23

It is August 1492 and Innocent VIII has finally done the first honest thing in his life and actually died, though there are those who were not convinced he had even managed this. But he is now in the ground and so it is time to elect a new pope, to banish the years of misrule and to tread carefully along the tightrope of 15th century Italian politics while not upsetting the French, Spanish, Neapolitans, Venetians or Turks.

As a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church you have been charged with the task of electing a man to take on that role. You may even fancy doing it yourself.

The game is played in accelerated real time with 15 mins covering 1 day, 1 vote per day and as much plotting, scheming and back-stabbing as you can fit in, all conducted on zoom using chat messages, break-out rooms and announcements to the assembled Cardinals. No mobile phones or whatsapp - it is 1492 after all.


Jonathan Crowe
In the heart of America: buffalo hunters
90 minutes                                                                                                                   2-6
A game based on the Plains Indians’ (Native Americans’) buffalo or bison hunts.  Players take the role of a Native American buffalo hunter. Their aim is to gallop alongside one of these magnificent animals and bring it down.  Everything about it is then usable. Meat, sinew, hide, hair, hooves, horns. To sustain the tribe.
The plan is to play the game over Zoom, but with a real table with toys (bison and hunters) being manoeuvred by me, plus screen layouts so players can see where they are and what to do next to bring down one of the big beasts. Hoka hey!
Russell King
The Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee 1986
1 hour                                                                                                                          8-10
Nuclear crises come and go, but yet again the great and the good of the Eastern Bloc get together to mull over key issues and the plans for progress in their countries - and the inevitable march to Full Socialism. Your speech will be provided to you by your friendly domestic political adviser shortly before the meeting. The minutes of the meeting, and the success of the meeting, have been agreed in advance. Presided over in the beautiful Socialist city of Budapest by the youthful - and relatively sober - team of Gorbachev and Shevardnadze.
John Curry
The six-week naval war, 1789
2 hours                                                                                                                        3-15
It is 1 May 1789, and a new war has just broken out between Britain (and her Portuguese allies), and France (and her allies Spain and USA), over the vexed question of the Andorra Succession (the sordid diplomatic details of which need not detain us here).
Britain is thirsting for revenge after her defeat in the American Revolutionary War, and her fleet is in good order, maintaining an open blockade on all enemy ports.
The French Alliance also has a number of old scores to settle, such as regaining Gibraltar, subduing Portugal and wiping out the British sugar islands (or preferably, the City of London herself).  The French Alliance can muster more and better ships than the British Alliance; but they are not in such good order.
Every one knows that the war will be over quickly as all three of their governments are nearly bankrupt.
The players represent the naval committees of Spain, France and England. Using a hex based map, the game is run using a semi rigid kriegsspiel.

John Curry
The Farm
90 mins                                                                                                                       1-6
The British army has advanced over the Pyrenees into France in 1814 and the long war is about to end. After a small misunderstanding over goods belonging to a French farmer, you were given an option to prevent a court martial; retrieve a cannon that was left behind in yesterday’s skirmishing by a farm over the next ridge.
Players represent one character in the game. Using the Tabletop simulator software, you can only see from ground level, the game is using the Donald Featherstone Skirmish rules. An Irish soldier, a Scottish soldier, an English soldier etc. led by an upper-class English officer. What could possibly go wrong? The game is a manual first person shooter.


Martin Rapier
WW2 Brigade Commander
2 hours                                                                                                                        4- 7
Ever since Tim Gow brought NATO Brigade Commander to COW many, many years ago, we've been using it run games at the Sheffield club. These have ranged from very modern (Gulf Wars 1 and 2), through traditional Cold War games and also many WW2 games.
During lockdown we've found it works very well for remote gaming as it is grid based and combined with its 'unit at a time' activation mechanism, it helps mitigate the issues of large groups trying to communicate over Zoom.
I'll be running a small game, typical of the ones we've been running since March, which covers the US 84th Infantry Division attacking the Westwall in late 1944. 
Active roles for up four US players, three German players and as many observers as can be accommodated sensibly. 
Potential players should indicate a preference for sides when booking so I can send out the right briefings.

Tom Mouat
3 hours                                                                                                                        3-5
A one-shot RPG session for 3-5 people set in a 1980's vision of the far future. The players are new crewmembers on a 5,000 ton transport ship, the TAKAGI, heading out from Nakmoye Highport, to the Belter Colony around Jak, then off to the Imperial Naval Base around Adamanthea. They have a mixed cargo of electronics, chemicals, bio-nutrient paste, medical radioactive isotopes, and some newly made ship's boats... What could possibly go wrong?  Soon to be published by Drive Thru RPG.
Bob Cordery & Gary Sheffield
90 minutes                                                                                           2-6 plus spectators
A session on the Portable Wargame and how it can be used virtually during lockdown. In the first part of the session Bob & Gary will talk about the origins of PW, variations on the original (Bob’s idea being that it is a toolkit which can be amended in all sorts of ways), PW campaigns, and above all, how they have adapted it for use online to play virtual games during the lockdown.
In the second part, there will be a Portable Wargame based on a simple scenario. Players will need to equip themselves with a gridded board (easily improvised from Christmas wrapping paper, which has a grid conveniently printed on the back). The organisers will provide a QRS for the rules, and counters (or players can provide their own toy soldiers)’.


Jim Roche


1 hour                                                                                                                          any

A Singalong review of Historic Plagues and Flu, with Karaoke videos.  This short exploration of pandemics past, will feature politics and military events.  Plus a rewritten version of the 1960s hit from Bob Dylan  Corona, Corona, You are on my mind


John Bassett


2 hours                                                                                                                        5-10

A game of the attempted Berlin putsch against Hitler on 20 July 1944.

"That's the last thing I need" - Albert Speer, 20 July 1944.


Gary Sheffield


2 hours                                                                                                                        6-10

The game is about British strategy in the earliest days of the First World War. Each player role plays a major figure (Kitchener, Churchill, Lloyd George, French, McKenna, Jellicoe, Haig, Grey, Spring-Rice) and has to arguing their particular case (e.g. a maritime strategy, or deploying a big army to France, or attacking Turkey) over a series of turns trying to win over waverers, especially the notoriously laid back and indecisive Prime Minister, H.H. Asquith, played by the umpire (Gary). Each player also has personal aims (e.g. you hate X and will try to undermine him at every opportunity).

The umpire will also feed in various bits of news at intervals, which might influence the various arguments.

Each player is allocated a role & given a brief in advance. At the end of the game there is a vote which will influence (but not necessarily determine) Asquith's decision as to the correct strategy to pursue.


John Curry


90 minutes                                                                                                                   any

Germany is about to launch operation Sealion in July 1941. Your task is to plan the invasion of the Isle of Wight as the precursor to the Luftwaffe establishing airfields to support the invasion of England. You have paratroopers, gliders, swimming tanks, infantry, air support to help you seize this strategic island by storm.  Based on excellent German intelligence and a 1940 map.  There will be several German teams. and a British team will plan the defences.  


Jonathan Crowe

VIRTUAL Battlefield Walk: Brécourt Manor

1 hour                                                                                                                          any

The small scale action inland from Utah Beach in Normandy on June 06 1944. Lt. Dick Winters and a small band of paratroopers from Easy Company, 2nd Battalion 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, attacked and disabled a battery of 4 German 105mm howitzers that were firing on the invasion forces landing on Utah Beach. As featured in the HBO series ‘Band of Brothers’.

My aim is to put it into the context of the overall objectives for the US paratroopers and show the relevant locations. Some still pictures, some maps, some video footage.


Mark Flanagan

Politics by means of Pointy Sticks

90 minutes                                                                                                                   4-8

The Peloponnesian Way of Diplomacy.  An introductory level wargame using Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargame Rules, which as the name suggests should play in an hour. A figure based stand up battle that starts with an unruly display of ritualistic Greek posturing to gain sway in the Aegean.  It is the tenth summer of the Peloponnesian War and goaded by their superpower sponsors two small city states do battle.  Ostensibly at stake is access to the local ancient shrine of Artemis, but this is war-by-proxy, as in reality it is Athens or Sparta that will triumph.


Nick Luft

Seize Warsaw

3 hours                                                                                                                        5-10

An operational / tactical attempt by the 4th Panzer Division to Seize Warsaw on the evening of 7th September 1939.  It uses Discord for comms, Google docs for briefings and ConceptBoard for the interactive whiteboard, map and counters.