As I’ve never been to Greece, K. suggested we should spend this year’s holiday there. Being an avid reader of Miniatures Wargames and enjoying the Tales of a Wargames Widow series by Diane Sutherland, what would be more obvious than to include a visit to the Sutherlands’ Wargame Holidays Centre on Crete? K. was easily convinced and we booked two days of gaming: one for the Battle of Hastings and the other for a pirates game.
Jon and Diane Sutherland have been running the centre for four years now and offer a great variety of games, among others Indian Mutiny, American Civil War, French and Indian Wars, Zulu Wars as well as – fitting for the location – Crete 1941. Jon told us that the whole thing started basically as a way of coping with the space problem his huge collection posed for his home in England – shipping it out to Crete, where Diane has friends who rent out apartments, seemed like a reasonable idea. Of course, new stuff started to accumulate immediately…
One thing you have to know about Jon is that he thinks big: When he starts a project, he doesn’t collect a couple of hundred figures but a couple of thousands. And who else can boast of a table that is 15 meters by 2 meters? However, he takes great pride in doing everything by himself. As unbelievable as it may sound, all the figures are painted by himself while Diane does most of the terrain. This spirit of doing-it-yourself is clearly present on Crete. Jon is happy to explain how he painted and converted a particular figure or how a specific piece of terrain was made. This resonates very much with our own approach to gaming and adds immensely to the experience!
On the first day, we did the Battle of Hastings, which is a new offer this year. We have never before played a big battle, so we were quite apprehensive about how we would do. However, the rules Jon provided (he exclusively uses home-made rules as commercial ones can’t cope with the scale of his games!) were easy and fast and posed no problems. I for once decided to join the winning team and allied with K. to play the Normans while Jon got the Anglo-Saxons. The game was very exciting: We managed to disrupt Jon’s left flank while he was trying to shuffle his troops there to Senlac Hill and then closed in on his right flank.
We used the cavalry rather conservatively as we always feared a counter attack, especially as our middle was quite thin. When Jon finally charged down the hill with all of his troops we had some tense moments, but our superiority on the flanks meant that we managed to keep the momentum. That Harold got hit in the eye by an arrow was also helpful! Yes, we did strive for historical accuracy.
The second day saw me and K. take command of pirate vessels while Jon was the umpire. His pirate table is a work of art: There are numerous ships, islands, three ports and a plethora of small scenes and vignettes to explore. Both of us had a couple of objectives that, not surprisingly, clashed and led to some ferocious fighting.
I’m not going to go into more detail, as other people will play the game this year and I don’t want to spoil any surprises – sufficient to say that K. ended the game with more gold while I had more ships. It’s incredible fun to push the big ships around and explore the board – and where else can you play naval engagements in 28mm? Jon is a great game master for whom the narrative and the smooth flow of the game is more important than rules minutiae, also something that corresponds with our style of playing.
We had a great time during our stay at the Wargame Holidays Centre and can wholeheartedly recommend a visit. The gaming room is spacious and cool (a nice thing in the Greek heat!), the apartments are nice – there is even a swimming pool for taking a dip in between gaming – and the hospitality of Jon and Diane, as well as Maria and Antonis, the couple who run the apartments, is extraordinary. We already took the decision to come back – maybe we can even convince some friends to accompany us…