A bit of (wargaming) detective work

In his most recent blog entry, Wargame Hermit pondered on the rules used in the famous wargaming episode of CALLAN: ACT OF KINDNESS.

I have watched that episode many times, and a quick look at the scene of the programme where Heathcote Land and Callan meet at a wargame competition refreshed my memory; …

… the rules were the Napoleonic ones from John Tunstill’s book DISCOVERING WARGAMES.

This really wasn’t much of a surprise as his magazine – MINIATURE WARFARE – was featured in an earlier scene and both players were using order sheets and average dice. A still publicity photo for the episode was even featured on the cover of the magazine at about the time the episode was first shown on TV.

A neat bit of wargaming detective work on my part, even though I say it myself!

32 Comments on “A bit of (wargaming) detective work”

  1. A.W. KITCHEN says:

    Ah Callan ! , as a 16 year old he was my wargaming hero ! , great stuff , Tony

  2. A.W. Kitchen (Tony),

    Callan helped to make wargaming not only acceptable but also interesting to non-wargamers. I remember that a very attractive girl that I met at a party was intrigued when one of my friends told her that I was a wargamer. He thought that it would put her off … but it didn't, and we spent a very enjoyable time together afterwards!

    All the best,


  3. Well done on both counts! Its not often that we can leverage our hobby that way.

  4. Ross Mac,

    The young lady was an American student, and we spent a very enjoyable few months together before she returned to the US to complete her degree. I understand that she is now a senior partner in a Las Vegas law firm that specialises in human rights and employment law.

    All the best,


  5. jhnptrqn says:

    Bob, thank you for your fine detective work. I thought I had a copy of DISCOVERING WARGAMES, but after seeing the cover I realized I did not. That was quickly rectified by going to Amazon. Wither or not I will use the rules in my solo games, it is another addition to my old school wargame book collection.

  6. I have a copy, but have not looked at it in some time… Mr Tunstill is still about – last spoke to him a few years ago as he was selling some old copies of Wargamers' Newsletter – he was based in Italy, looks like he's on his way back to the Uk.. http://www.soldierssoldiers.com/

  7. Whiskers says:

    Gosh! Those were the first rules that I migrated to after Terry Wise's “Introduction to Battle Games” back in the late 1960s. I still own a copy.

  8. Norm says:

    I started out with the Tunstill book – but I am pretty sure that my copy had a green cover, were the different editions?

  9. Well, I say that was a fine piece of detective work too!

  10. Fitz-Badger says:

    Yes, nice detective work (and the story about the girl at the party and your friend thinking he'd put her off is a good story). It's cool that they were actually using known rules and not just going through the motions of some scriptwriter's idea of wargaming.

  11. Just a tad before my time but I do remember a repeat of this on TV. A great bit of history

  12. Jhnptrqn,

    Glad to have been of assistance. The rules are certainly worth looking at, and were quite popular in their day.

    All the best,


  13. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    I wonder how many wargamers of a certain age have a copy of this book somewhere on their bookshelves.

    I knew that John Tunstill had moved to Italy some years ago, but not that he had returned to the UK.

    All the best,


  14. Whiskers,

    Do you still have Terry Wise's book as well? I do … and still look at from time to time.

    All the best,


  15. Norm,

    I think that the Shire Publications wargames book with a green cover was Arthur Taylor's RULES FOR WARGAMING. I have a copy of them on my bookshelves.

    All the best,


  16. Jonathan Freitag,

    It helps that I have been involved in wargaming for so long that I was around when the rules were published and the TV programme was made.

    All the best,


  17. Fitz-Badger,

    Thanks for your congratulations. I understand that the TV company employed a wargamer (John Davies, whose hands are seen moving the figures during one of the wargames) to help set up the games, and that it was his input that made sure that they looked 'right'.

    All the best,


  18. Solo wargaming-on a budget!

    I was a great fan of the CALLAN series and have DVDs of all of the later programmes.

    All the best,


  19. Dur Ecu says:

    I was in London at that time. I well remember Callan. Also Hadley, if anyone else recognizes that. I have Arthur Taylor's Rules for Wargaming from Shire Publications. I gamed in Chelsea at the Duke of York's Headquarters. Looking back, it was quite an amazing venue. We got soldiers from Tradition and other places, but my favorite hangout was Suren's shop just off of Sloane Square. I considered him among my friends, and he and his charming wife were always good for a lively conversation.

  20. Gonsalvo says:

    Yep, have a copy of that book; part of my collection of rules, this one dating from the early 70's IIRC. Very small format (book size) IIRC.

  21. Stryker says:

    The book with the green cover was “Rules for Wargaming” by Arthur Taylor which was also by Shire books. It had 8 different rule sets in it. I believe that Tunstill was also part of the London Wargame Section and their Napoleonic rules are similar to the ones in “Discovering Wargames”. Although we all think of Peter Gilder's influence, John Tunstill was an important part of the wargaming scene in the late 60's. Not least because he produced Miniature Warfare magazine.

  22. Dur Ecu,

    I remember 'Hadleigh', mainly because it starred Gerald Harper, who had played the title character in the series 'Adam Adamant Lives!'

    I never wargamed at the Duke of York's HQ – although I did go there for other reasons – and I well remember visiting Tradition when it was located in Piccadilly, just a few doors along from Hatchards. I also visited the shop owned by the Suren's once, but by the time I was earning enough to afford a second visit, they had shut up shop and gone.

    All the best,


  23. Gonsalvo,

    I must have another look at Arthur Taylor's book, which – I seem to remember – contained diceless rules.

    Like all of Shire Publications books at that time, it was a very small format book, which meant that it was also relatively cheap to buy.

    All the best,


  24. Stryker,

    From what I can remember the London Wargames Section (which included John Tunstill, Ken Smith, Ed Smith, and Bish Iwaszko) were quite prolific publishers of wargames rules at the time (including Greek Naval, Samurai, Napoleonic, ACW), and I certainly had a copy of their World War II rules. They were written by Bish Iwaszko and featured a logarithmic ground scale (e.g. 10yds = 10″, 100yds = 20″, 1000yds = 30″) which allowed artillery to be used on the tabletop. He later went on to run Miltra, a military training aids company that produced detailed, metal recognition models for the British Army.

    You are right about John Tunstill's importance in British wargaming in the late 1960s, and his magazine was the first of what one could term the 'glossy' wargames publications.

    All the best,


  25. Rodger says:

    Nice work there. I remember Callan very fondly, my hero at the time!

  26. Norm says:

    Yes, thanks it must have been Taylor … I have been crediting the wrong person for introducing me to 'real' wargaming. My Green book had an army roster in the middle of the book and I think the example was for ACW units. All good stuff.

  27. Rodger,

    Cheers! Callan was a great series; rather low-key and a wonderful contrast with the other spy/secret agent films and TV series of that era.

    All the best,


  28. Norm,

    I must admit that I did find it a bit odd that one publisher would publish two books about wargaming at about the same time … but John Tunstill's was in their 'Discovering …' series whereas Arthur Taylor's book wasn't.

    All the best,


  29. TamsinP says:

    Excellent detective work Bob. However, I lay the blame solely at your feet (and not my nature) that I ended up watching all of series 3 of Callan, part of series 4 and the 1974 movie on YouTube yesterday whilst painting figures šŸ™‚

    I do remember watching some episodes (must have been repeats) and the film when I was younger. Callan was a great antihero.

  30. TamsinP,

    I am more than happy to accept the blame … just as long as you enjoyed the episodes that you watched.

    If you get a chance, try to watch the pilot episode, which was entitled 'A magnum for Schneider'. This story was later adapted to become the film.

    All the best,


  31. TamsinP says:

    I've only found the 3rd and 4th series (and the '74 film) on YouTube so far. I'll have to see if they have the pilot and first two series as well.

    And I have been enjoying watching them, so thank you for inspiring me to do so šŸ™‚

  32. TamsinP,

    Good luck with your search for the earlier episodes. I'm sure that you will enjoy watching them if you can find them.

    All the best,


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