Interview with New Zealand player Rob Shirley in Prague

 26.5.2015, Ogri Doupe

Q1: Hi Rob, can you introduce yourself a bit, please? 
"Rob Shirley, 60 years old, travelling round the world with my wife, the two big reasons were the 100th  Gallipoli and 200th. Waterloo Commemorations.  We left NZ and flew to Perth, Western Australia (7.5 hour flight) on 26 March. With 2500 other Australians and New Zealanders travelled by Cruise Ship on the original WW 1 route that the 1st ANZAC’s travelled to Gallipoli. 25 April 2015 was the 100th commemoration of the landings on the Gallipoli Penninsular. The ship was chartered by a travel firm in South Australia.  We called into Sri Lanka, Egypt Turkey, Greece (including Santorini and Mykolas), Sicily and we got off the ship in Naples.  We had been in Italy for a month about 4 or 5 years ago.  The next phase was visiting some of the WW2 Battlesites where NZ troops fought at in 1944 and 1941.  Monte Cassino, Crete and Mt Olympus in particular.

We also visited the Mt Thermopylae Battlesite.  Then we flew to Venice and picked the car up (until 18 June). I played at a Flames of war Tournament in Perth, and have now played in a one day event in Verona, Italy.  I played Karel in Prague on Sunday. On 30 and 31 May I play in Wroclaw, Poland.  Later I am in Cardiff and then in the USA at Histoticon playing in the US Early War Nationals.  Finally I am picking up a game in Sydney, Australia before arriving back in NZ 26 July, 128 days after we leave home.  Between then we are in Germany, at Arnhem, the WW1 Western Front, Dunkirk, Normandy, Paris and Waterloo.  Then 12 days in the UK staying with friends and visiting BF UK and my families ancestral roots.  I am 5th generation born in NZ and no-one has ever been back.  We then fly to the USA, land in Boston on 5 July, and drive down to Tennessee to see our youngest son and his family.  Including our first grandchild who will be 18 months old when we first see her.
Q2: How long have you been playing Flames of War? How you begun to play?
I started playing Flames in January 2001.  I had played Napoleonics for about 5 years before then. I was the organiser for the National NZ Championships(Easter)  in 2002’ish, and that was when Battlefront had a big success selling their stock.  At that stage we were playing Version 1.  I was attempting to not play any game that was “in the same century” so in 2000 I tried a game that was a 15mm Company sized one.  It was being offered at NICon (North Island Convention played in
June), but it was not a good set of rules. Phil Yates was also offering a game at that tournament.  He called it Warhammer Panzer Battles and they were playing with 1:72 scale tanks.  At our own club convention (November and it was an Early War event) Phil came and stayed at my place as we fiddled with points values.  Since then the number of events in NZ have grown, and having the dollars and time I  was playing in 10-15 multiday events in NZ.  NZ has a strong “Club based culture”, and I remember being at the NZ Universities sports Tournament in the late 1970’s and seeing the NZ NatCon being held.  I now know that it was primarily DBM that was held.  I have only played in four Australian events.  2006, 2008 and 2013(3 days), and a one dayer that was held in Perth (Western Australia) the day after I arrived.  I also played in the Italian event in Verona earlier this month.

Q3: Can you tell us something about your club and community around you? 
My club is the Hamilton(NZ) Immortals, we meet on a Monday night at a local hall where we store our tables and terrain. We play any events we host at a local Secondary High School where we store another 100 tables.  We have 50 local members of which about 50-70% usually attend on any one club night.  We mainly play FoW and 40K, but Warmachine, Fantasy, Lord of the Rings are often played, with Dystopian Wars, Saga, etc making appearances.  Our FoW club championships are
being played while I am away and I think there were 22 playing in that.

Q4: How you managed to grow community in New Zealand? Any tips how to start and then run the circus?
As a club (I was President at the time) we often travelled as a group (not just FoW) and stayed at the same accommodation. It exposed us to a variety of gaming styles – and as the personal relationships were built, our own events increased in size as players from elsewhere ended up staying with our club members. At the same time I attempted to get a NZ Federation off the ground – it was a second attempt and it (like the attempt of 12 years earlier) it failed on the silly fears of some people that it would “tell people” what gaming systems would be held, etc.  The rise of the internet, the increase in the one-off/short lived events has increased and so the whole pattern of things is a lot more dynamic than it has ever been before.  I usually put out a documnent (attached) that is an monthly update.  The most useful thing is the dates.  It is based on organisers supplying me email contacts.  I am not interested in a blog, but others exist.  The NZ Ranking System for FoW, 40K and Fantasy is run by a person who also runs the NZ Masters Lists.  That is held in early December each year, and is an 12-
person (maximum) invitation only event restricted to the top 20 ranked persons up to 31 October each year.  It has fallen into a pattern of year about in the northern part of the country and the central part.  Our National (3 day) Easter convention has circulated North(of the North Island), Central (South of the North Island) and South(South Islnad) for the past dozen or so years.  The three day event is reducing in numbers.The Immortals Club was based on meeting and playing every second Sunday of the month for about 8 hours, so that allowed two DBM type games to be played a club day. The number of 2-day long  tournaments a number of us were playing in badly affected the number of people playing at the club, and as the older members of the club graduated into the cycle of life of relationships/children/mortgages they were moving on.  At the same time the rise of GW games and the much shorter game time it bought was rising.  The club days became so small in terms of attendees that the club was almost defunct we changed to meeting on a Monday night, and became a more bureaucratic organisation.  It was helped along by a large amount of money being unaccounted for when the club first hosted NatCon in the late 1980’s and a sudden decision that our club venue was to be remodelled and it would not be available to us anymore. I then was elected as President, and we then changed to a different venue, and moved the club meeting to Monday nights.  Effectively we lost all of the remaining Ancients/DBM players who went to a different venue and remained on a Sunday, and the number of 40K and FoWers soared. On a personal basis we work on identifying new people when they come in, explaining the financial set-up (two free visits and then join the club or cease coming), and getting their email so that they can arrange matches with the people who play
that genre.  Personally when we get a person interested in FoW, we arrange to lend them an army for the next time they will be coming in.  One of us most experienced people then “adopt-them” until they get to their feet in terms of who they enjoy playing, and repeatidly lend them stuff until they get enough figures to start playing.  All of us have multiple armies available.

Q4: What armies are you prefer to play and why?
I have never collected armies, I collect platoons.  If you take a footprint of 40cm by 25 cm, I have 79 trays that size of painted German models and 24 trays of painted Russian Models.  Much to the annoyance of some of the Battlefront Staff, particularly Evan the Sculptor, all my German stuff is painted Panzer Grey.

Q5: Can you share with us your plans for 2015? (personal & club)
I have already replaced the Early War 2 –day event that I have been running in April with a one day Mid-War event in January.  I am away for the four months on this trip. In terms of Tournament play;
In March I played a 1 day MW event in Perth, Australia In early May a 1 day LW event in Verona, Italy and then the 2-day EW 1550 event in Wroclaw, Poland. In late June, the 2 day 1675 LW event in Cardiff, Wales. In mid July  I am playing at Historicon in Fredricksburg, Virginia.  It is the BF EW Nationals at 1390 points. In late July I think I am playing in Sydney – but that is a bit up in the air.
After I get home to NZ, it is likely that I will be playing in Whanganui, 1 day, 5 x 650 point LW in early August. Getting a new job will be the task that will start to bite for when I get home.
In October I definitely will not be at my own club tournament, my wife is judging at a Cat Show in Australia, and  as it is the middle weekend of the school vacation we will be travelling early and late.  I am doing some bits with a friend I met on the ship on the way over to Europe.

Q6: What is your experience with Flames of War during your epic trip from New Zealand to UK so far?
Really limited, as it just involves playing in the Italian tournament, so it a bit early to answer that question.

Q7: You have mentioned some criticism with Battlefront in New Zealand. Could you kindly share, what are pluses and minuses, when dealing with Flames of War producer?
BF is in a real state of flux about what it is up to.  It is also run in a very “hands-on” way by the majority owner.  He and JP seem to run on different tracks on a regular basis.  They still produce quality models and terrain, but are learning the bitter experience of dealing with “Lowest bidder” type over-seas contracts.The staff at BF in Auckland are virtuallty all gamers, some of them have been playing a lot longer than I have. Their ability to run tournaments is a lot less than they portray.
The differences between the NZ, US and UK offices surprise me.  I suppose the local guys are meant to be experts in their market.

Q8: Can you share with us photos of your armies you packed to your Flames of War bag and of course your army lists, please?
I  only have the ones from the Italian event, plus what you have from when we played.
Attached is the lists.



I have kindly asked Rob to make answer my questions after having beer in local pub. For those interested, I have lost to Rob my game due his great skill with German Infantry Early War army. Thank you so much for having you in Prague Rob. Take care on your epic journey and see you soon!

Historicon, USA


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Write comments
21 October 2017 at 12:07 delete

Rob Shirley is like an icon and a role model for me. I loved reading about him in this interview. Thank you for sharing.