Operation Nostalgia

A couple of months ago one of my opponents turned up at our regular gaming evening with a newspaper clipping from the 1970s. The article was of course about our gaming in our younger days, we both were wargaming together in that decade and still do. The article formed part of our drive to recruit new members our fledgling local wargaming club. Clearly we convinced a local reporter to do a small article, possibly not to hard as I recall the reporter was himself interested in military history and modelling. Anyway, many years later the article proved both entertaining and kicked of some reminiscing of wargaming from the past.

Like many readers my interest in military history and wargaming started many years ago when I was at school. Now in small town New Zealand wargaming books were not to be found in local bookstores. However, the local library proved to be a wonderful source of inspiration. Almost on continual loan were the books by Featherstone and Grant, and as you can imagine they proved indispensable.

In those days Airfix plastics were a major part of my gaming. Plastic Churchill and Sherman tanks, supported by infantry of course, advancing across battlefields were engaged by Tigers and Panthers. These Germans were tricky opponents, but a Matchbox Sherman Firefly could even the battle. As to rules, well we used “Battle! Practical Wargaming” by Charles Grant for a number of years.

The book seemed to cover everything that was needed. There were the critical play aides like the “cones of fire” so important to the game, as well as the deflection protractors needed to determine the angle of fire. Then of course there were the battle reports. Outlining the concept of a scenario, which was all new to me at the time, they also provided that much need instruction on the rules in action. Lastly, and certainly not least, were the inspirational photos. Stirring stuff indeed.

In time our World War II games were supplemented by battles from the Ancient period. Now, our Airfix Ancient Britons complete with chariots, with solid wheels of course, engaged Romans in dramatic games. Next, at least for me, was the American Civil War. I recall having painted many ACW figures in my younger days, though in reality I suspect the number was far fewer than I now recollect. Such are the tricks time plays on us.

Soon my plastic warriors began to be supplemented by metal. Initially World War II naval in 1/4800th. This was expanded with orders to the United Kingdom for World War II and Cold War forces in 1/300th. Though I recall being sidetracked by Ancient naval at one point.

The 70’s were clearly vibrant times and today carry a degree of nostalgia, even if some of the detail is lost. I wonder how many readers can recall similar experiences in their early days of wargaming?

More recently, and clearly inspired by the newspaper article, I decided to keep an eye on the local secondhand book market. So began what I will call “Operation Nostalgia”. In an occasional series on Twitter I will explore a few of these books, as well as other aspects of my early wargaming. If you are interested keep an eye out for these posts. You can find them under “Odd Ramblings & Short Game Summaries” on the right, or alternatively follow me Twitter @Thewargamesroom

I hope the series brings back some memories for you and perhaps encourages you to share some of your own.

17 thoughts on “Operation Nostalgia

    1. Extremely interesting posts to Ed, thanks for posting them. Your memory is obviously clearer than mine as you can even recalling some of the prices!

  1. A great blast from the past! I can remember how thrilled I was that there were three or four wargaming books for sale on the shelves of my local bookshop!

    1. The closest I came to a books for sale in a local bookshop was later when Military Modelling & Battle Magazine became available in the local magazine shop.

      1. I’m still getting over the amalgamation of Battle and Military Modelling!!!!! I may be turning your thread into “ these youngsters don’t know how lucky they are!!!!! “

      2. They were certainly different times, though I think we are all fortunate to have so many resources available these days. Though perhaps we take it all for granted?

        As to Battle magazine, it was a great read. I never liked the combined version that much. Perhaps because I was getting less wargaming material.

      3. That’s another great discussion topic- I know a good ten gamers who spend so much time on YouTube or online gaming that they never actually paint or collect!

      4. Indeed it is.

        I was thinking, as I wrote my earlier comment, that as we have so many resources it is easy to become distracted by “new” projects. For example that new set of rules or that new period. Though looking at my original post I can see in my younger days I was often distracted. I still have too many projects but these are at least within the rules I use, rather than new interests. These days I too often decide to build that new army, when I should be focussing on the current army, though at least this new army will be used with the existing rule sets. Among other wargamers I can see that is not always the case, with the distractions being across rule systems.

        I am intrigued by your comments around YouTube. I am rather selective on what I watch via this medium as my hobby time is limited. That said over the last year I listen to an increasing number of podcasts while painting.

      5. Good points all! The constant flow of “ new shinny” is what I’ve tried to stop myself this year. Whether it was easier when there was literally Airfix or one of five books?
        Having a podcast on whilst doing hobby stuff can be a great way to multitask. I do think that passive gamers are missing out but it seems to be a trend; witness all the programs on baking , cookery and even fishing!

  2. Such a great post Keith! I still remember reading my first wargaming book – spotted by chance in a school library. It was “An introduction to battle gaming: by Terrence Wise. Great little book. I had a lot of fun games with friends with those rules and ended up buying a copy a few years back. Two of my favourite wargaming books date from that period – “Charge” by P Young and J P Lawford, and “The Wargame” by Charles Grant. Still enjoy reading them, and the rules are still eminently playable


  3. What’s your Twitter handle? We also got a few articles in the local newspaper. They were always desperate for something to fill the space. My book on the early days and then my time at Judges Guild is never-ending nostalgia.

    Though we started with Avalon Hill games in the 60s, I got into miniature via Fast Rules in 1970 and then Tractics. After 70 games of the latter thru 1976, I recently wanted a copy of each ruleset. But not willing to pay collectors’ prices, I am putting out updated, 2nd editions of those rulesets now at combatrules.com.

  4. I think it’s one of the symptoms of getting old!
    What we yearn for is that wide-eyed optimism and enthusiasm we had back then, coupled with our current adult spending power…..
    My Soldier King project is an unashamed homage to seeing Charles Grant’s The Wargame in my school library. By chance I came across a copy in around 1995 and this kickstarted all the old longings for imaginary armies. Add in Tony Bath’s Hyboria and I had to do something with it all.
    At the time, I rediscovered the GDW Soldier King game and found out about these new rules Volley & Bayonet…..
    Sadly it’s taken longer than I thought it would!

  5. Wow those rules take me back. Early 80’s for me, still using Airfix and also matchbox plastics then onto metals in the form of 15mm Donnington Ancient Germans (which I still have and used not that long ago in a HOTT tournament)and then into 6mm Heroics and Ross (again which I still own).

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