Sunday, August 16, 2009


This was the second wargames book I ever read.

I was all of eight or nine years old, it was the late seventies, a time when wargaming books were still in libraries; I was an avid reader, and for my age a prodigious one too. I'd quickly discovered that children's stories didn't interest me much, I preferred history books, tales of war, foreign countries and aliens. Browsing the shelves I came across a copy of 'Introduction to Battle Gaming' by Terence Wise one day, and so ended up as the sad gaming geek I am today.

By my next visit to the library, I had a box of Matchbox Commando's, and was saving for their set of Afrika Korps (no logic to those choices beyond which looked best!). Sticks, pellet firing cannons and 1/32nd scale toys had been replaced by the d6 in all my unwanted board games and the local model shop.

On that next trip to the library, I found a copy of 'Battle' where the other book had been before. Naturally I took it out and started to use it; not just reading it, pouring over the photo's obsessively, reading and visualising the engagements that Charles Grant described, and hoping one day (after a Christmas no doubt, or during some long summer holiday) to emulate them.

Of course I was still only eight, and I'm pretty sure that only the basis of the rules made any sense to me at the time. Also I didn't get to hang on to the book for more than three weeks. So I set about scribbling down the bits I needed in a brown scrap book, and they went on to serve me well for the next few years of playing on the spare bedroom floor.

Fast forward thirty years.

I found an account of a game played with these very rules in the Battlegames TableTop Teasers book, written By Charles S Grant, Son of the late Charles. Now that sparked some memories. And so, good old eBay eventually provided a copy of my very own.

And do you know what, their actually a pretty good set of rules.

Alright, they don't contain a lot of the finesse that newer sets do, but there was an expectation at the time that if you yourself didn't fight in World War 2, and have some idea about how thing worked, someone in your family would be able to inform you. Such was the world back then, when these rules were written the war was only as long ago as the Falklands War is from us Brits today (foreign readers insert your own relevant event from the mid eighties as you wish). So far as rules go Mr Grant had a lot of things simply but effectively covered, given the intention to cover company sized actions with artillery and armoured support it's all very workable.

Simultaneous movement, an easy firing system, integrated communications, a reasonable morale system; it's all there. Of course a mixture of reasons must be behind the assemblage of forces in the book; Mr Grant's Russian infantry attack the Germans in the classic 'Action at Twin Farms' from the back of a platoon of German half tracks, and every side has access to an unlimited supply of Willy's Jeeps for transport. At the time it was written the only decent suppliers of military models in a suitable scale were Minitanks and Airfix; neither range even close to the completeness we are familiar with today.

But ultimately it's the nostalgia that really wins my heart with this one. The text is simple, and clear, and if a little patchy in the sort of all encompassing detail gamers expect nowadays, remains usable and evocative. The write ups of battles used as instruction on the rules fill in the details of a narrative account. And the numerous (if sometimes rather indistinct) photographs, look more authentic than many modern shots of over cluttered games, with too many models crammed into the space and counters everywhere (Flames of War, I'm looking at you here!)
If you have the good fortune to come across this book, I urge you to grab it; it'll take less than a day to read, and whilst you may never decide to use the rules themselves (a mistake I'd say), it is a real reward and a joy to read; to see part of where our hobby came from, and I'm sure for many of us from before the Games Workshop era, a chance to return to our youth.


  1. It is indeed a lovely book. I came to possession of it pretty late, but thoroughly enjoyed the read and have gone back more than a few times.

    If you haven't read it, you should find a copy of Operation Warboard by Gavin Lyall. You'll find it quite similar, a little more extensive on the rules, though I have wondered what would happen if you took the morale rules from Battle and tacked them on, as Warboard just uses the 50% rule.
    But Warboard was one of my first books and the one that probably most captured my imagination with its battle accounts.

  2. Hear hear... couldn't agree with your review more!