ManifestoPosted: August 30, 2015
I didn’t get where I am today …
I cannot remember a time when I did not play war games. One of the first big presents I ever remember being given was a toy fort with a garrison of toy soldiers. It was not new (at the time the UK’s economy was just beginning to emerge for the aftermath of the Second World War, and lots of things were hand-me-downs or second-hand) … but I loved it.
As I grew older more soldiers were bought to expand my ‘army’, and I used to spend a considerable amount of time playing with my toy fort, my soldiers, my O-gauge Hornby train set (also second-hand), and my Meccano set. My soldiers rode into battle in my train set’s coal wagons and passenger carriages over bridges built from Meccano.
By the time I was ten, Airfix had begun to make and sell HO/OO-scale plastic figures … and my allegiance was soon transferred to them. I spent my pocket money buying Guardsmen and their associated bandsmen, followed – soon afterwards – by British and German infantry. My armies grew in size, and by my early teens I had quite a collection of infantry, tanks (Airfix and ROCO), aircraft, and warships with which I fought my wars.
The discovery of ‘wargame rules’ changed what I did with my collection. No longer did I just use them to re-enact scenes from the numerous war films that I had seen … they now moved about on the dining room table or the bedroom floor with a purpose, and ‘fought’ each other in accordance with rules. (My first contact with ‘proper’ wargames can about as a result of my discovery of Donald Featherstone’s book WAR GAMES in the local library. I had it out on almost permanent loan, and wrote my own rules based on what Don had written in a now long-lost exercise book.)
By the time I had reached the age of eighteen and left school, I was aware that there were metal wargames figures to be had, and I well remember travelling up to Camden Passage to buy my first metal figures from Hinton Hunt. They were British Crimean War infantry and cavalry … and I still have them!
I carried on building up my wargames armies and buying more and more military history and wargames books during the 1970s, and by the time I got married in 1982 I had built up large collections of both. I had also taken part in the year-long Madasahatta Campaign that Eric Knowles ran in the basement of his shop – New Model Army – in Manor Park, east London, and in 1980 I had been invited to attend the conference where Wargame Developments was founded.
I have been the Treasurer and Membership Secretary of Wargame Developments ever since that conference, and for the past fifteen years I have helped to organise the organisation’s annual conference. When I was made redundant from my teaching post in 2001 I used part of my redundancy money to have our house extended, with the result that I have had a dedicated toy/wargames room ever since. I continue to fight tabletop battles on a regular basis, either solo or with one or more of the many friends that I have made thanks to Wargame Developments.
I ain’t as young as I used to be …
One of the problems with getting older is that bits of you stop working as well as they used to. Inside you are still that eighteen to twenty year-old … but physically you are past your prime. In my case arthritis is gradually making its effects felt, and although I do take supplements that help reduce those effects, I have to accept that getting up and down stairs is getting gradually more and more difficult. This would not be too big a problem if my toy/wargames room were not on the top floor of our house. Likewise crawling around on the floor taking part in Funny Little Wars/Little Cold Wars battles is all right … until I need to stand up.
My wife and I have therefore decided that we are going to have to think about selling our present house and moving somewhere else, preferably to a bungalow. We could leave this move until we get older, but we would both prefer to move when we want to rather than when we have to. The house hunt has therefore begun … but not in earnest as yet. We are presently just looking at what is coming onto the market in the areas where we might want to live so that we can see what might be available that meets our requirements.
You cannot do everything, so what do you enjoy doing?
I have always thought that my main priority when it comes to wargaming is enjoying it. I have come to realise that unless I am having some fun doing what I am doing, then why am I doing it?
So what do I enjoy most about wargaming?
- Fighting campaigns (i.e. planning and fighting a series of interlinking battles that tell a story)
- Writing the ‘histories’ of the campaigns that I fight (I get almost as much enjoyment writing about what has happened on the tabletop as I do fighting the battles)
- The modelling aspects of the hobby (e.g. building the terrain and models that I use; painting figures and vehicles; basing figures and vehicle)
- Solo wargaming (I am not anti-social, and do enjoy fighting wargames with other wargamers … but I get the greatest enjoyment fighting solo wargames)
- Creating imagi-nations and their armed forces (Although I do enjoy re-fighting historical battles, I enjoy the freedom of fighting wars between imagi-nations more)
- Fighting wargames set in the period between 1880 and 1950 … although I am gradually beginning to stretch the boundaries to encompass the Napoleonic period as well
Downsizing and pruning
One thing that thinking about moving has made me done is to take a long, dispassionate look at the contents of my toy/wargames room. The chances are that where we move to is going to be smaller than where we currently live, and although having a toy/wargames room in any new home is an absolute necessity, there is no guarantee that I will have space for everything that I own. I have therefore decided that I need to set out some guidelines for what I am going to set aside as essential wargaming resources for the future, what will be optional (i.e. I’ll take it if there is room for it), and what I can dispose of as not likely to be used again.
From the point of view of my book collection, there are very few books in the naval section that are not essential, whereas the rest of the collection could probably be reduced by upwards of 25% without a great deal of difficulty. (I do seem to have acquired lots of books that cover the same or similar topics or information … and frankly they are taking up room that could be used for things that I will refer to on a regular basis.)
On the terrain front it is a bit of a no-brainer. I cannot foresee ever needing to give up my Hexon II hexed terrain. My wargaming has become so wedded to it that I hardly use anything else. The same cannot be said for my other hexed terrain system – Heroscape – of which I have several large crates. I may need some in the future, but certainly not everything that I have. As to buildings, trees, and other terrain items … well a little bit of pruning may be necessary, but not much.
The size of the table that I use for wargaming is something that I will have to look at … although I have already begun that process. Currently I am using two IKEA swing-top tables pushed together. Each table has a top that – when closed – is 2 foot by 3 foot. When opened the each table’s top is 3 foot by 4 foot. When the tops of both tables are closed and the tables are pushed together I have a tabletop that is 3 foot by 4 foot. When the tops of both tables are open and the tables are pushed together I have a maximum tabletop surface that is 4 foot by 6 foot or 3 foot by 8 foot.
(I have recently bought from Lidl a set of three fold-flat tables that are each 100 cm by 60 cm. The tables have MDF tops covered in a black finish, aluminium frames, and can take up to 30 kg in weight. Their legs can be adjusted so that they can be set at various different heights – 73 cm, 80 cm, 87 cm, or 94 cm – and clips so that they can be clipped together to form a variety of different layouts. If I do have to get rid of my existing tables, these will be a more than adequate substitute for them.)
I cannot remember the last time I had the tops of my present wargame tables open, and over recent years most of the wargames I have fought at home have take place on a tabletop that is 3 foot by 4 foot. More recently I have been fighting a series of mini-campaigns on a small 2 foot by 3 foot board made from an office whiteboard, which will hold a 6 x 8 matrix of Hexon II terrain boards. These battles have proven to be extremely enjoyable, quick to set up and take down, and have shown that it is possible to fight wargames in a relatively small space. It is interesting to note that my mini-campaign board fits very nicely atop one of my new Lidl tables.
The most difficult area that I have to look at is my figure collection. This can be summarised as containing the following:
- 54mm-scale Britains figures for Funny Little Wars
- 25/28mm-scale Del Prado pre-painted Napoleonic figures
- 25mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (Union infantry only … and painted in gloss enamels back in the mid 1970s)
- 20mm-scale World War I Colonial/Middle East figures (bought from another wargamer)
- 20mm-scale World War II figures (mostly organised and based for Megablitz)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing Austro-Prussian War figures (bought via eBay)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing First World War figures (originally painted in the late 1970s to represent the Bolivian and Paraguayan armies of the Chaco War)
- 15mm-scale Colonial figures (Mostly Essex Miniatures that represent the armies of Britain, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, the Sudan, and the North West Frontier of India during the late nineteenth/early twentieth century)
- 15mm-scale Franco-Prussian War figures (Prussian infantry only … and painted in the mid 1980s)
- 15mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (Union infantry only … and painted in the mid 1980s)
- 1:300th-scale Spanish Civil War figures (painted back in the early 1980s)
In addition there are various smaller groups of figures in different scales that do not form part of the above plus two large wooden boxes of unpainted 20mm and 15mm-scale figures!
I also own a large number of painted and unpainted ROCO, Airfix, and Corgi 20mm-scale vehicles and a number of 1:100th/15mm-scale Axis and Allies Miniatures armoured vehicles. There is also at least one crate full of unmade 1:1200th-scale model warships(!) and several that contain unmade Airfix model vehicles and artillery.
So what can I get rid off and what can I keep?
Here lies the most difficult decisions that I will have to take … and so far this is what I have decided:
- Definite essentials:
- 54mm-scale Britains figures for Funny Little Wars (this is what I started with … and there is no way I will give them up!)
- 25/28mm-scale Del Prado pre-painted Napoleonic figures (as I am still building up this collection and I have ideas for fighting a number of campaigns with them, they are a definite ‘keep’)
- 20mm-scale World War II figures (I hope to use these for my long planned-for Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign)
- 15mm-scale Colonial figures
- Keep if possible:
- 20mm-scale World War I Colonial/Middle East figures (these might be useable as an alternative to my 15mm-scale Colonial figures)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing Austro-Prussian War figures (these are nice figures but may need rebasing to make them suitable for the wargame rules that I am likely to use in the future)
- 15mm-scale Peter Laing First World War figures (I have an emotional attachment to these figures because I painted them at a time when I found painting to be very therapeutic; I may prune the collection but will not dispose of it entirely)
- Not likely to be used again:
- 25mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (I have never used these figures, and cannot foresee ever doing so)
- 15mm-scale Franco-Prussian War figures (I have never used these figures, and cannot foresee ever doing so)
- 15mm-scale Minifig American Civil War figures (I have never used these figures, and cannot foresee ever doing so)
- 1:300th-scale Spanish Civil War figures (they are not particularly well painted figures and do not fit in with the wargame rules that I am likely to use in the future)
As to everything else … well that is going to require a serious amount of thought as to what to keep and what to get rid of … and I have yet to make a decision as to when that will take place.
So what do I expect to be doing in five years time?
Assuming that nothing untoward happens, I expect that in five years time I will be:
- Fighting lots of solo wargames on a small wargames tabletop using very simple rules.
- Indulging myself with lots of campaigns, some small-scale and others quite large-scale.
- Concentrating on wargaming wars set during the period from 1800 to 1950.
- Mainly using imagi-national armies to fight imaginary wars.
- Indulging my passion for writing up the histories of my campaigns, and to fill them with loads of suitable photographs, maps, diagrams etc.
This then is my wargaming manifesto. Only time will tell if I manage to achieve what I set out to achieve.