Wow what a great extended weekend James and I just had.
On Thursday evening I left work and by 17:00 had picked up James and we were on the road to Kent. We stopped at Chiquitos in Rochester for some supper and then were soon bedded down in the Dover Ramada.
The alarms went off at 06:00 and we again back in the Mini and soon boarded the P&O Ferry "Spirit of France" where it was upstairs for a bite of breakfast. I do like to start a trip to the continent with a breakfast, so much more civilised than sitting in your car in the Tunnel.
It was a beautiful crossing and the English Channel was like a millpond.
We were soon in sight of France.
Disembarking in Calais we were soon on the highways to Brussels and despite a bit of congestion in the city and a couple of wrong turnings it only took about two and a half hours before we were parked up in the grounds of the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History in Brussels.
It's at this point I'll give you an idea of the amount of kit we were packing in the boot of my Mini Cooper!
As you can see, a serious amount of stuff, indeed James and I were squeezed in with the whole Keren table, the covering sheets, plus several boxes of terrain, figures and presentation material. We only had room for an small bag each for our clothes and toiletries.
The museum is on a fantastic site and as you can see for the 31st October the weather was fantastic, bright and sunny and 18C.
Looking at the entrance the museum does not seem that large. It's free to enter the museum, and once inside the scale if the thing is immense. Belgium has only been an independent state for a couple of hundred years, so the first thing you hit as you come in is the Napoleonic displays, here is some Cuirassier armour.
There are some great colonial exhibits, too although the history of the Belgian Congo is rather glossed over.
This is a banner presented to the Garde Civique by Leoplold II in 1885, less than 130 years old, but the silk is almost entirely degenerated. The exhibits could use a bit of TLC too, the spears surrounding this were very dusty.
At this stage James and I bumped into super sculptor Paul Hicks who accompanied us on the rest of our tour.
We then paid €12.00 each to enter the 1914-1918 Expo, like a doofus I didn't take any pictures in this part. It was well worth the money though considering the rest of the museum was free, lots of really well presented exhibits.
Coming out of the 1914-1918 Expo we then went into another hall full of 1914-1918 exhibits. In one half of the hall is a huge collection of artillery pieces, probably at least 50 or so.
This is just a small grouping of them.
A MKIV and a cupola among other things.
All around this hall are hundreds of display cabinets containing mannequins dressed in WWII uniforms of all nations, again, like a Doofus no photos of those, but I did take one of each of the three German Pickelhaube display cabinets.
If you want to see Pickelhaube and other WWI German headgear then this is your place.
From the WWI exhibit we wandered the Aircraft hall, packed with loads of aircraft in quite a small space from pre-WWI to modern. I counted two Spitfires in this hall alone.
We then made our way into the WWII hall, passing on the way a Kubelwagen
And a scout car
I say WWII it is really post WWI they have some great Interwar stuff including a couple from my current favourite gaming period, the Spanish Civil War. First a Nationalist exhibit
Then a Republican
This hall also contains another Spitfire, that is three in all in one building. After this hall we had a look at the Medieval / Renaissance collection. We had allocated three hours to look around the museum and has spent four and I think that there is so much stuff we could have easily doubled that time.
We drove towards the centre of Brussels, parked up next to Botanique then walked along Koenigstraat and into town. First stop was the TinTin Boutique where we had a good browse around but did not make any purchases.
We then went into probably the best toy shop in Europe, The Grasshopper, loads of lovely traditional toys and not a plastic tat movie or television tie-in to be seen. Well, apart from a small display of Smurfs, they are Belgian after all! James and I both bought quite a few gifts for our respective families.
Then it was on to my favourite bar ever. Delerium. It's both a good job and a shame I was driving as I could have gotten really stuck in. As it was I had a small Floris Mirabel while James had a Delerium Red. This was my first drink of any kind since breakfast.
It was getting quite late so we set up the tables but left the figures for the morning.
It was €17.00 to park the car at the hotel and free at the venue and only about a ten minute walk. A no-brainer in my book, on the way back we stopped at a Fritterie for some Frites and Mayonnaise, when in Belgium and all that.
We then met up with Jasper and Leo from Wargames Soldiers and Strategy and Henry Hyde from Miniature Wargames and had a beer before back to the hotel to meet up with a load of other gamers staying at the Holiday Inn.
In the bar, Richard Clarke challenged me to a new game TFL were developing, He only needed one more kill to become an Ace. I refused to lie down though and won the game prompting a rather surprising outburst from Rich - buy me a beer and I'll tell you all about it :)
It was quite an early night in the end, only four beers all day, including the one in Delerium.
Saturday morning we arose early and got a lift to the venue with Jasper and Leo from WSS magazine. We soon completed setting up the resource table.
And the figures were deployed to start their assault on Fort Dologorodoc. Fortunately we were right next to the spiffing chaps from Too Fat Lardies with their excellent Lardiville game and across from Jasper and Leo on the Karwansaray Publishers stand.
Here are some photos of the excellent 'Broadcasting House' that Martin built for the game, I don't think I had many images of it before, so here is a visual feast.
Soon our first batch of players arrived. James and I could never hope to play the game ourselves so Jasper had arranged two teams of gamers from the Netherlands to participate.
First up James umpired while Rene and Kristof attacked Jan-Willem. I did not realise it at the time, but Jan-Willem is Pijlie. During this time I looked after the resource table and tried to help anybody with any enquiries about the game we were playing of this oft forgotten campaign.
Kristof was the first to the summit in this game, but in his own words he had some fantastic luck.
After a look around the show and a small bite of lunch it was now my turn to umpire a game. Jurgen and Peter would attack against Jan, Luke and Thijs in this one. The first command roll of the game was four sixes!
This was a very hard fought game and the Askaris held on grimly, in fact at one stage James and I did not think that the Empire forces would make it to the summit, but Jurgen with the Frontier Force eventually broke in and the game was over. Not before he had rolled another quadruple sixes!
The show was now wrapping up, and Willie was making his presentations. We were very proud to have been nominated in all three categories and won the Most Innovative game award. Here are James and I at the top of Fort Dologorodoc with the trophy.
It's not very clear in that shot so here is another. Our chums from Too Fat Lardies took the Best Participation Game award.
It was good to see that Stefan and the nice fellows from Team for Historical Simulations took the Best Presented award for their Maximilian Adventure game.
Crisis really is a most excellent show, very large, very friendly, and I must say very well lit. The Tin Soldiers of Antwerp really do a fantastic job and I am already planning next years visit.
We packed the game away in the car and had a short drive to the Holiday Inn. After a quick wash and change of clothes we arranged to meet the Lardies in town. They were going to De Peerdestal for some horse steak, so James and I had a pizza in the restaurant opposite; There was not much for a veggie in De Peerdestal, however we met for desert and drinks afterwards followed by a short walk to a lovely Belgian bar where some beers were drunk in excellent company.
We caught taxis back to the Holiday Inn and after a final Leffe in the bar with the chaps from Leicester Phat Cats, crashed out for the evening.
Sunday was the long drive back. After breakfast we set out for Calais only stopping for fuel.
We had an hours delay bobbing around in the English Channel but after dropping James into the bosom of his family I was still home to Victoria for 8PM.