Magazine article in praise of imagi-nations

Over the weekend I bought a copy of WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY at the Bluewater branch of WHSmith. Unlike MINIATURE WARGAMES WITH BATTLEGAMES, which I get every month, I only buy WARGAMES, SOLDIERS & STRATEGY when it has a theme that interests me. This particular issue’s theme was Operation Market Garden … and as my father was a member of an airborne unit (but not one that took part in this particular military operations) I decided to buy it.

One article that was not related to this issue’s theme but which I really enjoyed reading was Otto Schmidt’s TO FOURDOOR WHERE THE SUNNY DAYS LAY. This is written in Otto’s familiar style, and extolled the virtues of fun wargaming using imagi-nations … something that I wholeheartedly agree with.

One thing that I particularly liked about this article was the photograph that accompanied it. The Freedonian tank is the sort of design that I would have come up with, combining as it does the hull of a Russian T-26 tank with the running gear of a German Pzkpfw III, topped off with a large cylindrical turret of unknown origin.

Simply marvellous!

The Portable Wargame revisited

I have been trying to free up some space on my computer hard drive, and during the course of this weeding-out process I came across an unfinished – and heavily modified – version of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I began working on them back in March, but for reasons that I cannot now remember, I never finished them. (This was during the run-up to the fitting of the new glass roof on our conservatory, and Sue and I were spending a lot of time sorting and clearing out its contents at the time.)

The rules seem to have been designed to match the following design specification:

  • The tabletop is a grid that is at least 8 x 8 if a squared grid or 9 x 8 if a hexed grid.
  • The basic units will have the following strength points:
    • Infantry = 4 strength points
    • Cavalry = 3 strength points
    • Artillery = 2 strength points
  • Figures can be individually based or fixed on multi-figure unit bases.
  • The rules can be used for solo and face-to-face wargames.
  • The rules use a single combat system for fire and close combat.
  • The rules use standard D6 dice.
  • The turn sequence limits the number of units a commander can activate at any one time.

Having re-discovered these draft rules I think that I should finish them … so I hope to do so over the next few weeks.

I have been to … The Milton Hundred Wargames Club Open Day

Besides organising the BROADSIDE wargames show in Sittingbourne, Kent, each year, the Milton Hundred Wargames Club has an annual open day that is held in their normal weekly club meeting venue, Iwade Village Hall, Ferry Street, Iwade, Kent.

I visited this club open day last year, and was struck by the very friendly reception I received. When Alan Abbey (an ex-pupil of mine and one of the driving forces behind the club) reminded me that the Open Day was today, I made sure that I made time to get there.

The venue is a typical small, late 1950s, single-storey, brick-built community hall.

There were three wargames taking place when I arrived.

There was also a table display of different sizes and types of figures as well as a trader’s stand that was being run by a locally-based online retailer.

The three battles that were taking place were:

A Napoleonic battle (fought using BLACK POWDER rules)

An Ancients battle between the Greeks and the Persians (fought using HAIL CEASAR! rules)

An eleventh century battle between Normans and Anglo-Saxons (fought using SAGA rules)

(This battle was staged by the Maidstone Wargames Society.)

I have not used any of these rules before, but the players all took time to explain the basics of each set to me. This was very encouraging, and had I just walked in off the street, I would have left much better informed about the hobby … and possibly a new recruit to it as well.

This Open Day was an excellent example of the sort of event that clubs can put on, and it was a great pity that it was not better attended.

I have been to … the Grecian Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, London

Last weekend Sue and I were able to visit the Grecian Masonic Temple in the former Great Eastern Hotel, London, thanks to the OPEN HOUSE LONDON event. This temple was built in 1912 and cost £50,000 … which is the equivalent of £4,000,000 in today’s money! This high cost was no doubt due to the use of twelve different types of marble to create the floor, the columns, and to line walls.

The Great Eastern Hotel flourished during the age of steam railways, but over the years it gradually became run down and the temple was taken out of use. It is reputed to have been ‘re-discovered’ when the old hotel was bought by designer Terence Conran for conversion into a boutique hotel. During the restoration the building engineers are supposed to have noticed several discrepancies when they compared the architectural plans of the original hotel and the rooms that they could enter. When they removed a wall that was not on the original plans they discovered a wood-panelled antechamber containing a studded double door … and when they opened the door they ‘discovered’ this Masonic temple.

It is a great story, but there are some doubts about its accuracy.

The Worshipful Master’s, the Senior Warden’s, and the Junior Warden’s chairs

Details from the wall frieze

The ceiling, with its plasterwork representations of the Square and Compasses and its marble lampshades

The central light with its five-pointed star and ladder going up to Heaven

The temple is no longer used for Masonic meetings, but is available for hire for functions.

Some more 20mm-scale German Colonial troops

One of the reasons why I wanted to visit the Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames Show in Sidcup last weekend was to meet David Crook and collect some painted 20mm-scale German Colonial troops from him. I already have some similar figures, and these additions will enable me to field quite a large German Colonial army … although I do have some other projects that they will also be useful for.

These figures will probably need to be re-based on individual bases, and that is a task that I shall probably undertake over the forthcoming winter months.

A clue as to the alternative uses these figures might be put to is in the following images.

They are stills from a film. No prizes for guessing the two names of the film. (It was released with a different name in the USA from the one that it is known by in Europe.)

A fleeting visit to Skirmish, Sidcup

I had promised my wife that we could visit at least one place during the OPEN HOUSE LONDON event that was on last weekend … and had not realised that it was on at the same time as the Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames Show in Sidcup. My visit to Skirmish was, therefore, a fleeting one … although I did manage a very quick chat with some of the members of Posties Rejects and to meet up with David Crook to collect some toy soldiers that he had for me!

I arrived just after the show opened at 10.00am, and the main trading hall was already beginning to fill up.

There was quite an impressive range of games on show …

… but the one that really caught my eye was a colonial wargame set in the Sudan.

This was being staged by the Rainham Wargames Club using 15mm-scale figures and BLACK POWDER rules.

I was only able to stay about an hour, and wish that I could have stayed longer, but a promise is a promise …

News that I did not want to hear

Yesterday I managed to pay a fleeting visit to the SKIRMISH show in Sidcup before Sue and I visited one of the many sites that were especially opened to the public as part of the OPEN HOUSE LONDON event … and I will be writing blog entries about these in due course. My day was, however, turned upside down by news that I really was not prepared for … the sudden death of Allen E Curtis.

I got to know Allen when he became a member of Wargame Developments. He came to two COWs (Conference of Wargamers) and delivered a memorable talk about the work of the NTC at Fort Irwin. At the time he was working there in a senior role after he had retired from the US Army. He also took part in two back-to-back sessions where several of us experimented with Chris Engle’s PBOM (POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS) Matrix Game combat rules, first with a battle set in the Sudan in the 1880s and secondly with one in modern-day Africa.

I also met Allen on several occasions when he visited London and the surrounding area, and he very generously gave me a large number of unpainted 20mm-scale metal figures and vehicles for my collection. Allen was a man of principle and did not tolerate fools gladly, and this often led to relationships with other wargamers that could be quite turbulent at times. That said, after the heat had died down he always seemed willing to rekindle his friendships, and I certainly always enjoyed talking to him and exchanging comments via the Internet.

He will be missed by all who knew him.

Allen Elmer Curtis
21st October 1954 to 16th September 2014

A Book of Remembrance has been opened at the Mead Mortuary, Barstow, California, and anyone wishing to leave a message can do so. The Book will remain open until 17th October 2014.