Thursday, January 05, 2012

Playing Favourites

We all have them; favourite games, periods, inspirations and so on.  The lull in gaming over the festive season gave me pause for thought on a few of mine, and since we are now in "awards" season, so I understand, I thought as a one off to herald the new year I could pass comment on mine.

Wargames Period

I'll play anything really, the blog shows that, but when it comes down to the periods I hold most dear it comes down to a handful.  The front runners for me would be Ancient, Napoleonic and The Second World War.  In terms of a variety of armies the Ancient world gets an early nod, and in terms of broader reading, and tying in to my other interests is probably the widest general subject; whereas the Napoleonic period is something I've only really taken a real interest in over the last three years, a tiny proportion of my gaming history.

Even as an eight year old boy I was, like many eight year old boys of my generation, fascinated with WW2; and it is a fascination that has stayed with me.  Both my Grandfathers fought in (and one never returned from) the war, and as a child the world seemed saturated with war movies, Battle Magazine comics, and Airfix soldiers.  My gaming began with the WW2 rules in Terence Wise's 'Introduction to Battle Gaming' and moved on from there.  Today I still own four 20mm WW2 armies, with plans to do one or two more small groups, plus two large 28mm forces.  As an enduring obsession and the one that lead me in to wargaming.  The second world war must stand as my favourite.

Where it all began

Incidentally, I love fantasy games, but they simply are not a 'Period' in this sense, just a genre of game; and you can't have a favourite in a list of one, can you?


Soldiers should wherever possible be about one inch tall; call that 25mm or 28mm as is your preference, it matters not.  There are exceptions, mainly for WW2 and onwards, where model availability and tradition dictates 20mm to be the appropriate height.  Everything smaller is a compromise, anything larger is a vanity!


Now This is not a difficult one at all, save for which version of a great core set of rules do I like the most?  Hail Caesar and Black Powder are both great games, and really give the feel of a traditional battle, as Charles Grant, Donald Featherstone or Brigadier Peter Young might narrate, but with the benefit of fifty plus years of game development and wisdom.  For me Black Powder opened up new periods in simple playable ways, and turned old material into vibrant and usable inspiration (as we'll come on to later)  It edges out its' newer sibling despite the latter probably being an even better rule set for this reason.

Honourable mentions must go to Warhammer Fantasy, Kampgfruppe Normandy, Donald Featherstone's Tank Battle in Miniature, Armati, AK47 Republic, Star Fleet Battles, Epic 40k and Hordes of the Things; all of which at times have been major obsessions.


Got a weekend to lose, try playing the original of Civilisation.  What a glorious game!  My memories of this now fade into the dim past as it is a good fifteen years since I last had a chance to while away the twelve hours or so needed to play it properly.  More recently I've become a fan of Eurogames like Alhambra and Carcassone, perhaps because they are distinct from wargaming, and readily accessible to non gamers.

Figure manufacturer:

Metal/Hard Plastic 
Obviously I'd considered these to be two categories, but on thinking about it, I could only pick the same for both - Perry Miniatures.  It is not like I exclusively buy their products, but I would consider the Perry twins pretty much the best sculptors in the business and their models to be pretty much the ideal.  And they remain well priced too!
Soft Plastic
What Perry are to 28mm, Zvezda are to 20mm; simply put, their models are beautiful works of art.  I should know, I've bought far more than I have to date used, and although I've built Republican Roman and Etruscan armies from them, I also have a Macedonian army and about 600 Samurai sat in boxes waiting to be used.


To be fair I've only attended five over the years, and as much as I enjoy my current group(s), I will always consider my time as a member of the Grimsby Wargames Society as the very best.  After all, few clubs can boast of their own property, with permanent tables, hundreds of terrain boards and pieces, an expectation that games will usually feature thousands of painted models, and whatever opening hours members may require.  Truly it is the best thing in Grimsby!


On from the above, my Games against Tim Walker at the GWS remain my favourites.  Whether Ancients, AK47 Republic, Hordes of the Things or random battles with Tim's vast collections they were always good natured, and depended on a natural narrative rather than the contrivance of winning at any cost in a points based fight to the death.



There are several films, which when they are on, they will always get watched - A Bridge Too Far, Spartacus, Tora Tora Tora!, The Longest Day, Full Metal Jacket, Blackhawk Down, to name a handful - But the absolute definitive war film, imperfect as it is, for me is Zulu.

I could probably watch it every month if I had to, and as a man who rarely puts a DVD on a second time, it's saying something.  It represents more particularly, an impression the British like to give of themselves, and for many can be considered fact, of stiff upper lipped stoicism and understated bravery, yes it has the colonial legacy worn without shame on it's sleeve, and it is a minefield of minor inaccuracies for the pedantic viewer, but by crikey it's a ripping yarn!


I'll be honest, I am not the sort to solely read books on military history, war novels and the so called 'fluff' of fantasy and Sci-Fi tie-ins.  Most of them don't catch my attention, and though I've tried many and finished a few, most get cast aside by about page 100.  (I hold a degree in English Literature and Modern History, and it has directed my reading since.)  That said I do have a interest in the classics, and have read Thucydides, Tacitus, Plato, Livy, Josephus and Xenophon amongst others; they are generally more accessible than you may think if you've never tried them.

I'm more inclined to reference that digest the background of armies and military campaigns into useful resources, in other words Osprey Books, The old Wargames Research Group series, Blandford Press uniform guides and so on.  Even with wider histories and so on I often only dip in for what I need.  Increasingly, the internet has provided some of this material; what can I say, I'm down with the kids.

But so far as wargaming specifically, there is one book above all that is essential to me, Charles Grant's Scenarios for Wargames.  It should be for every wargamer!


Angus McBride was the finest military illustrator ever, in my opinion, and his artwork is absolutely inspiring.  I came to it first via the cover art for the Middle Earth Role Playing Game books, and to me defined the look of JRR Tolkien's world.

On seeing his historical work I was blown away; it is fabulous, clean and vivid, with a real sense of a story within each illustration.

The Interweb

Ignoring the forum for my local club, which surely sucks away too much time, and the blogs I link via mine, that are all either useful or entertaining reading - thanks folks - the most useful gateway is for all its' faults, Wikipedia.  Google tends to lead here first on most research terms, and so I spend a lot of time looking through material of a wargames bent on it.  

And so that is probably long enough to go on, I could add a load of daft things too; favourite table size: 8x5 feet; favourite tank: T55, with M4A2 as a close second; favourite colour to paint uniforms: deep blue, it's too easy to highlight.  And as it's late and I'm mildly sleep deprived I could probably continue.  But I should stop.

If you like the idea, feel free to poach it for your own blog, but do let me know, I'd be interested to see what your preference are too...


  1. Mate,

    Thanks for the insight - well conceived and very similar to my own views.


  2. What a great post! Lots of similarities there for me too. The cover of the Terence Wise book really brings it back for me! I fought the battle of Bratwirst village many times and my friends and I made all the roads and buildings to reproduce the layout exactly.

    I also did the Romans v Carthaginian battle with amixture of Airfix Romans, Ancient Britons and red indians plus some Britains baby elephants with plasticard howdahs - none of them painted, of course!

  3. I am going to have a go at listing my favourites. It will give me a chance to try and import some images into my new blog, which will be something new. It will probably be the weekend before I give it a shot.

  4. Thanks for giving Grimsby the thumbs up - there is a valid reason for making that trip on the road to nowhere!
    Good post with food for thought.

  5. ...and so it starts..... :o)

    ....good post!

  6. A great post, with some very good ideas and answers. I might give this a go myself!!!

  7. My turn - loved some of your answers, BTW

  8. Very interesting, follwed your lead and put my version on my blog


  9. Good interesting blog post, lots of interesting stuff buried away there, and has certainly peaked interest and other (equally interesting) posts elsewhere. Good idea.

    Kudos to you.