This post really is just a collection of bits. I was going through a file of old paperwork connected with my wargaming past – nothing very distinguished, but I was reminded of a few things. Sadly, the accompanying photos for the first item were lost ages ago, during the hostilities which followed my split with my first wife (which almost certainly serves me right).
(1) Waterloo Day – yes, today is the 199th anniversary of Napoleon’s Really Bad Day, and one of the items I found in the file was a sheet of scribblings from a 160th anniversary Waterloo game I played at my old flat in Marchmont, Edinburgh, with some friends [that’s 1975, ladies and gentlemen]. The first thing that struck me was that, of the players involved – Philip Snell, John Ramsay, Dave Thompson, Alan Low, Allan Gallacher and myself – I am the only one still alive. Good grief – I hadn’t thought of that before. The game was considerably scaled down, but still used inappropriately detailed rules (around about this time I started using Charles Wesencraft’s rules, with all distances halved, but June 1975 is just a little early for that, so I guess we were using a hybrid game which was mostly Tunbridge Wells [George Gush?] with some bits of South-East Scotland WG thrown in). This was probably one of the last biggish games I staged before I started painting hexagons all over my tabletop – we hadn’t thought of Old School yet, though there was definitely some creaking associated with our enthusiasm for what we naively regarded as increased realism.
One thing I remember fondly was that Allan G was supposed to bring the Prussians, since otherwise we didn’t have any, but he actually turned up with Russians, since he didn’t have any Prussians either but hadn’t the heart to tell us. Thus this particular version of the B of W was notable for an unusual lack of authenticity in the OOB. The battle staggered on all day – eventually we agreed that the Allies were beaten, and that was that – we caught the last orders for drinks at the Bruntsfield Hotel and got into the obligatory justificatory arguments. We had decided that the [P]Russians would arrive after 2pm as soon as Wellington threw 11 or better on 2D6 (or “two dice”, as we would have called them at the time) at the start of his turn. As soon as they arrived, Napoleon would start rolling dice each turn, and a French reserve force under Grouchy would arrive on a 9 or better. Don’t ask me where these scientific probabilities came from, but – anyway – it’s academic, since Wellington never managed the requisite dice roll, and his bewildered Russian allies were not called into play, and eventually returned to Dunfermline in their toolbox – I’m not sure if they were relieved or outraged.
(2) Having mentioned the South-East Scotland chaps, I am delighted to have had an email from Mark, in Canada, who knew the notorious George Jeffrey back in the 1980s (rather after I knew him), and was, for a while, a disciple of George’s famed (but little understood, especially by me) Variable Length Bound system, or VLB. This, in theory, is the answer to a great many problems which wargamers have struggled with over the decades, but is reputed to suffer from the slight problem that it doesn’t actually work. Whatever – without making any pre-emptive judgements – I have invited Mark to contribute some notes about VLB, which we have briefly mentioned here before, and he hopes to send me something – excellent.
(3) I found a bunch of photos of my old (early 1970s) Ancient armies, which were dreadfully crude but served me for many years. Now gone – a nice chap in New Zealand bought them on eBay some years ago – their only claim to a place in my heart is that they are – like my Waterloo collaborators – no more. I don’t expect anyone to be excited by my crap painting or my very basic Airfix + Garrison + Atlantic armies, but – if we are to preserve a hallowed whisper for Old School – it is as well to remember that this was the reality. You may notice that my dread of paint-shedding by plastic figures was such that I kept spears and the wobbly bits of chariots etc in the raw plastic, which explains the distinctive vibrant orange preservative obviously employed by the Celtic chariot builders.
I am still quietly pleased by the onager, which I built from balsa, with shirt button wheels (all right, all right), based on the drawings in the WRG’s nice little book. Purists will protest that the Romans did not have shirts, never mind shirt buttons.
|Note early view of The Cupboard - I didn't have so many figures in 2001|
The occasion commemorated by the first few photos is my first wargame in my present house, New Year 2001. The room is what was the dining room at that time, which has subsequently become the downstairs shower/toilet (so wargames in the bog almost took place here), and my opponent was Malcolm Turner, who – now I think about it – is also dead now. Maybe it’s me then? That will have cut the queue of people wishing to visit Chateau Foy for a wargame, I would think.
The remainder were taken 5 years ago, when I was proposing to sell them.
(4) I also found some vintage, typed casualty tables I derived from the kill rates in Bill Leeson’s reprint of Von Reisswitz’s Kriegsspiel rules, which I am still poring over. These may be too dry even for the standards of this blog, but I’ll see if there is something useful which could be put here.
I think that’s probably quite enough of all that…