Friday 11 March 2022

Meandering reminiscences: wargaming 1972+

And now for something a little different, a spot of wargaming reminiscence from Mark:


Fifty years ago this month I was one of the small group who started the Wellington Warlords club (in New Zealand). I’d been pushing Airfix soldiers and tanks around since the mid 1960s, and even experimented with shooting marbles at them, but nothing that in retrospect really counted. But in early 1972 I left home and enrolled at Uni in Wellington, and by the end of March the tentatively named Wellington Wargames Section was in existence. It’s still going strong judging by its web page, tho I haven’t been involved since the early 1980s.

I soon switched from Airfix WW2 to Airfix Ancients, and - as you did, back then -  got involved in correspondence with Phil Barker (Wargames Research Group) regarding interpretations of the WRG 2nd edition Ancient rules. In those days Phil would respond to letters by writing comments in the margin and mailing back the original. You needed patience though. NZ-UK return mailing times were measured in months. And the long-awaited pronouncements were likely to be both acerbic and Delphic.

Anyway … I used an Early Imperial Roman army for most of the 1970s, then briefly switched to Sassanid Persian, then Basilian Byzantine, then to 15mm Renaissance Ottoman Turks & Mughals. Then in the early 1980s I drifted away, as a new career began to absorb all my time and interest.

I was never a very successful commander with most of these armies and the WRG 2nd to 5th editions. Though my brief career with the Basilian Byzantines was a standout exception I still recall fondly. They were Dixon figures, an all-mounted force comprising a wedge unit of cataphracts, 3 x tagmata of line cavalry, and some units of mercenary steppe light horse. Lovely figures, in my mind they would still be considered of respectable quality today.

I played with them 9 times over a two year period, losing only 1 game. Here’s the relevant page from my game diary. 

Apart from the success rate, one thing that leaps out from this page is that playing historical opponents was not a thing. Perhaps because building an army was so expensive most people had only one or two, so limited options.

I have only a few photos from my ‘NZ period’, none of good quality. This one ⬇️ Is from 1984 when I was learning (can you tell?) how to use an SLR camera. It shows my 15mm Ottomans in battle against some imagi-nations c18 infantry (also mine). I think I might have staged the scene rather than shot an actual game. 

Fast forward to 2003. Now in Australia, I received a small packet in the mail, totally out of the blue. It contained this -

It’s a 28mm Sassanid elephant by Hinchliffe, a remnant of the Sassanids I had used back in 1977-78, and it had been sent to me by an old friend (Al Duncan), who had come across it in the back of his collection and decided to send it back.

It didn’t look quite like this when it arrived. The original crew were still in place, and my original paint job, looking even more ordinary (and much more battered) than I remembered. I kept it as a memento, but after a while started looking for wargames activity in Sydney. It’s now part of my DBA Marian Romans, though it doesn’t get out much. I’ll make an effort to use it more, as it’s really where my return to wargaming started, after 20 years off.

Cheers from Pattaya


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