Monday, 28 September 2015

Why Wargaming 2

What I forgot to mention in part one was that apart from knocking down or blowing up soldiers and models the only other interests I had were comics, especially anything by Marvel or DC and Commando, no sport at all of any kind.

Having signed my young life away at the tender age of 15 to serve Queen and country there was no time at all for hobbies apart from drinking huge quantities of alcohol while visiting numerous bars from Vera Cruz to Singapore. I did however meet two guys who did play real wargames, I saw them peering over maps one evening on watch at a secret location outside Rosyth and knew right away that looked good. Back at camp one even showed me his large locker full of Napoleonic troops and I was astounded and dropped numerous hints that I too was a wargamer, which I wasn't really but I knew about it, these fell on deaf ears and I have had an aversion to Napoleonics ever since. It did show me a new world of figures made for fighting battles and not made of rubbish plastic, but metal of all things.

A lot of things change when you get married but one of the biggest changes for me was that I now had time to paint and a place to actually store wargame figures not only that more and more manufacturers were concentrating on providing said figures and rules, clubs too were beginning to start appearing. I continued off and on with my WWII interests but I had turned a corner and began to think of leading the Scots against the dastardly English. I heard about acrylic water based paint around this time and took a special trip into the dark outer reaches of Glasgow to find some, all that was available looked pretty fluorescent to me so this was knocked on the head and I continued like everyone else with Humbrol enamels. I also found a shop called the Dragon and George which sold wargame figures, the problem was the proprietor only opened when he felt like it and if you wanted twenty of something he had fourteen or if you came back in a couple of weeks he might have eighteen and he wouldn't stock such and such a range as they were rubbish, which translated as he couldn't be bothered. I have no idea what kind of business plan he worked to it certainly wasn't one which was supposed to make money. The bloke was a nice guy, maybe he just liked the idea of having a wargame/games shop but he was certainly of no use to me, despite this I regularly made the journey just to see the shop window.

Despite still having no opponents I built up Scottish and English armies and started gathering rule books, which of course in the old days were photocopies in A5 and cost no more than a couple of quid. I eventually settled on WRG 3000BC-1485AD I can't remember the edition number but these went everywhere with me, I was still involved in holding back the Red Menace and Yellow Peril on the high seas remember. I also had passed that point where I had 'come out' as a person who played battles with toy soldiers and suffered the slings and arrows etc. of barbed wit when I attempted to get someone else interested.

I had success in this endeavour at last when I joined the 'Sheraton' I actually took figures onboard to paint while at sea, we had a lot more personal space on a minehunter than a frigate, and I had started collecting some ships for a set of coastal actions, I can't remember the scale but some of the lads showed an interest. Two actually bought ships of their own and we had German, British, American and Japanese fleets, in between our normal duties we played games on the chartroom table and a couple of times on the bridge roof and foc'sle. I was still fighting medieval battles on my own on the floor of the married quarter as there was a limit to what these guys deemed a game, ships yes, toy soldiers no.

I think by now I had joined the Society of Ancients and also started my writing career with a three part history of Robert the Bruce along with thoughts on Scottish and English armies of the period, I still had not fought against another wargamer. I had bought a book on heraldry and there was a beautiful pull out of French coats of arms for the early 14th C so I began a French army, this was to be my most professional yet. Block painting, enamels, flags and banners done by hand and no washes or inks in them days but it still looked good. Figure manufacturers were beginning to put more effort into soldiers which were not Napoleonics and the WRG Ian Heath books had a large effect on this, there were some dreadful attempts at medieval troops back then, the best were Ral Partha which I think became Citadel. My Scots contained a lot of these with their hands drilled out for spears, a drill for heaven's sake, I had to get a mate to do that for me it was so specialised, I never dreamed of doing it myself.

I was so proud of my French that I took a mounted knight unit along to one of the first wargame shows I ever attended at the MacLellan Galleries in Glasgow, a unit should have been no more than 30 figures, one prat laid out an entire Ottoman Turkish army against which my poor knights looked pathetic. To make matters worse I later overheard the judges say that up until the Ottomans turned up my knights were going to be first, I slunk back to Helensburgh gutted.

So, as I approached demob having done my bit with the Iron Curtain teetering and the Navy not being what it was when I joined up I had three armies and no opponents but yet still a burning desire to be a proper wargamer.


  1. That 'burning desire to be a proper wargamer' must be getting right on your nerves after all this time George!!!!!!!! ;-)

  2. I have to give you that one Dave, a well aimed kick in the backside :)

  3. Great stories George! Really enjoying reading these. Particularly liked the 'entire Ottoman army' anecdote!


    1. Thanks Aaron, thankfully 'Ottomangate' did not dent the fighting abilities of my French nobles, more of that later, cheers.

  4. Enjoying these reminiscences a lot! I still don't think that I am a proper Wargamer (I have no focus, so no completed armies!) but a t least I do get a few games in a year now!

    My own influences are listed here!

    1. Thanks, I still have a large hard back book on the founding of the Trigan Empire, great stuff. Those Airfix soldiers kick started a lot of us back in the day.