Plaster Panzers and Plasticine Hills

While I am still not in a painting and gaming mood, I am continuing to read about playing with toy soldiers and military history. Indeed my last book was one that proved seminal to the rise of modern wargaming. A little while ago I was fortunate to secure on EBay a 1972 edition copy, in good condition, of Donald Featherstone’s 1962 book “War Games Battles and Manoeuvres with Toy Soldiers”. Reading it proved to be a fascinating journey into the past and the start of wargaming as a popular hobby.

War Games

After a foreword by the esteemed Brigadier Peter Young, the book explains what wargames are and how you go about setting them up. Campaigns are broadly described and solo games are also briefly covered. Having elucidated wargaming to the reader, Donald Featherstone provides a collection of five rules for gaming periods from the ancient world to World War 2 (or Modern as it is referred to in the book). The rules are supported with exciting battle reports and photographs showing how the conflicts play out.

The first rules, by the revered Tony Bath, cover ancient warfare. These are demonstrated by the fantasy battle of “Trimsos” between the Hyperboreans and the Hyrkanians using zinnfiguren. The second set of rules address horse and musket warfare. These are illustrated by an American Civil War battle called “Action in the Plattville Valley” where blue and grey shiny toy soldiers fight over hills made of plasticine. The venerable Lionel Tarr’s highly detailed modern (i.e. WWII) rules are the next to be explained, followed by a simplified set for less rigorous games. The simple modern rules are then exhibited through a WWII “Tank and Infantry Action on the St James Road” between British Grenadier Guards, with supporting miniature tanks, and the Herman Goering Panzer Grenadiers, with homemade panzers of plaster. The last set of rules, “Close Wars”, appear in the appendices and are designed for skirmish actions in the French and Indian War of the 18th Century.  The appendices also contain instructions for making Lionel Tarr’s wargaming periscope.

While “War Games Battles and Manoeuvres with Toy Soldiers” may not be as relevant to wargamers as it was when it was first published some 55 years ago it still inspires. It certainly gives some insight into the thinking of past wargaming worthies on rules and playing wargames. The rules supplied within the book are quite playable and the thrilling battle reports are still a pleasure to read. The book also demonstrates quite brilliantly that good fun games can be played without all the frippery and paraphernalia of modern wargaming. In short, the book is a word to the wise and a tonic for the jaded.

Games Galore

It seems that game shops in northwest Tasmania are like buses, none for years and then two come along at once. Two dedicated game shops opened in Burnie recently and I was able to visit them with my gorgeous wife just before Christmas. The first shop we visited was called Games on Board. We perused the many games on display that ranged from role playing games to board and miniatures based games. Tables were set out at the back of the shop for gaming and visitors could also try out some of the available games. We had a cordial chat to the owner and made a couple of purchases. The second shop is Mind Games and it offered more standard board games and puzzles that also appealed. Sadly we were unable to buy anything there as we had already spent our spare cash. However we did go back to Games on Board after Christmas and made a further purchase.

While I mostly play historical wargames my interests run to a wide variety of games and it is really great to see two game shops open in the region. While games can be easily browsed and purchased online it isn’t as satisfying an experience as going into a shop and seeing the games on the shelves like so much candy. Internet shopping can’t match the pleasure of picking up a game, handling and examining it before making your choice. There is also the advantage of being able to talk to the friendly shop staff about the qualities of each potential purchase. I wish both shops all the best.

My lovely lady wife and I purchased three games in the end. We bought “Cthulhu Fluxx”, “Firefly Shiny Dice” and “Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd edition”. “Cthulhu Fluxx” is a card game and “Firefly Shiny Dice” is, unsurprisingly, a dice based game. “Descent: Journeys in the Dark” is a fantasy miniatures board game reminiscent of “Dungeons & Dragons”. Of the three games, I have only had time to play “Firefly Shiny Dice” with my family. It proved to be a quick enjoyable game that captured the character of the Firefly television series and Serenity movie. “Firefly Shiny Dice” is not the only gaming I have done recently in the Firefly universe. My wonderful wife and I have just started playing the “Firefly Role Playing Game” with friends.

 

Firefly RPG and Cthulhu Fluxx

 

Descent

 
On a completely different note I was given a box of the old Airfix 1/72 WWI German Infantry for Christmas. It may prove to be the start of another new period. However, I think it will be a long while before I accrue enough painted figures to have a wargame using the Machine Age rules from One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas.

 

Airfix WW1 Germans