Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Why Wargaming 4

Just as things were cooling down at the club and games were becoming harder to get as WRG 7th edition did not go down well the hobby as a whole was expanding and some of the other members to my horror turned to Star Fleet Battles and the growing Games Workshop hobby. Also some of my long time opponents were leaving the nest to make their way in life and wargaming was a poor second to girls, money and booze, but I was a stick in the mud and found myself floundering, it had to be big armies and big battles for me, I refused to go boldly into space at warp factor five.

7th Edition ended ten years of medieval gaming.

My saviour turned out to be my cousin from London, you remember him from Part 1, well John had not been put off by my shenanigans with the wagons and had built himself up a couple of 25mm brigades of American Civil War figures. I played a couple of games on his bedroom floor while visiting from Portsmouth back in the days when you needed to be Alan Turing to work out when you fired a musket if you had actually hit anything, as you seemed to factor everything in from the wind direction to what the soldier had for his breakfast. John had moved to nearby Kilmarnock for a time and invited me through for a game now that I was a real wargamer, I duly went and we played a game in his garage, he had more troops but they were still 25mm, however the rules were a revelation to me, they were American and were perfectly written, no ambiguities and loads of examples of how to do this or that and they did not give me a headache or had me reaching for one of the new fangled pocket calculators which I had although I hadn't been to school in twenty years.

I immediately bought a set and jumped into the American Civil War with both feet, albeit I would do it in 15mm, little did I know it would be the death knell of my medieval armies and to all intents and purposes for them 'the war is over.' You really have to say that in a leering faux German accent for it to work.

The Battle of Newmarket with a fraction of my troops, and one of my best scenarios.
 Only one guy at the club wanted to play ACW and he gave up when he fell out with me after we had a shouting match over something or nothing, he was no loss as he once turned up to fight a campaign battle with 33 men, half unpainted, crammed in a margarine tub against a fully harnessed Imperial German army, I got the win by default. I then made the decision to bid adieu to the club which had introduced me to real wargaming and which had given me ten years of battles and enjoyment, but like the Navy it was no longer the place I had first joined.

I had just moved house and the new one had a huge floored loft area, I built an eight by five foot table, it had all the room I needed to store my large collection of terrain and my growing collection of ACW armies and everything else. I made it comfortable with flags and posters around makeshift cardboard walls, putting anything else up would have involved DIY skills and I do not possess them although my table lasted well. We sweated in summer and froze in the winter, but it was marvellous. I still had one regular opponent who was happy to play so although every Saturday was now out I always managed one while onshore from the rigs.

I needed to find out the colour of Union or Confederate guns and limbers so I put out a question in an ACW magazine, I got two replies and I am still in touch with both of these men after twenty seven years, however one in particular had a huge impact on my wargaming. Ryan Toews (pronounced Taves) a Canadian is an expert in all things ACW and if there is something he doesn't know he will find out, as well as tactics and uniforms his knowledge of ACW flags is second to none, he can look at one and tell you which depot made it. The colour is an olive green and the top of limbers should be copper by the way.

Ryan invited me to take part in an ACW re-enactment at Perryville in Kentucky, the uniform etc. would be provided and I would be enlisting in the 17th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. Having never met any of these guys I turned up at my American friends house and he put on an excellent game for me with his mates and looked after me. I then made my way to Chicago and met up with the Canadians outside "The Emperor's Headquarters," a legendary wargame shop the likes of which I had never seen before. The story was that the owner had made millions on property deals and started this shop as a tax loss or some kind of scam and that therefore he wasn't bothered whether it made money or not, I am wiser now and don't think this was the case. I duly met the Canadians and from the first moment they treated me as one of their own, we trotted into the shop and spent time and money over an hour or so. I picked up my first pack of Old Glory 15mm, probably one of the first ever to be brought back to the UK.

My third re-enactment as a Yankee, Ryan is in the middle to my left.
 The re-enactment was a fantastic experience, we were cheered through Perryville by the locals as we took on the dastardly Yankees and were offered jugs of iced lemon water as we lay about on their lawns. I saw a van covered in Scottish flags and heard bagpipes later that evening, I moseyed over to the said gentlemen who was in a kilt and a Confederate jacket, I spoke to him with an over the top Scots accent only to be answered in a southern drawl with "Gee, you're Scattish too!" I beat a hasty retreat. That was the first of three re-enactments I took part in.

As I buried myself in the American Civil War I had an idea that I could write just as good scenarios as those which came with the Johnny Reb rules, Ryan provided maps for the locations and information on numbers and weapons, I did my bit on this as well, drew the maps and wrote the introductions. I then took the finished product to a small printer and had him run off five hundred copies, that one book grew into a series and we sold several thousands over time and it was very lucrative, I am biased of course and still think they are the best on the market for the price.

As for wargaming the ACW my armies grew apace as I took literally thousands of figures offshore to paint during my two week tour and I could turn out a brigade in that time. I met some guys at a show and found that they had a club about half an hour from Carluke in Airdrie and they were just beginning to show an interest in the Civil War with Johnny Reb rules, I decided to go along and was very grateful I did.

Ninian Central, my painting platform geddit?


  1. The suspense George...hope there's many more episodes to go 😀

    1. We are up to early nineties so yes, a wee bit to go yet, cheers.