John Treadaway, the Editor of Miniature Wargames Magazine, on Inspiration

29 May 2022
John writes his own The Last Word piece for the magazine, offering us his thoughts on inspiration

was rereading some of the Last Word sections that a variety of contributors have written in the magazine, and it has occurred to me that they all have one thing in common. Inspiration. So what did generate interest in wargaming amongst those writers when they were younger? None have said what might, to an outsider, be ‘obvious’. No one has stated
“I really like war” so much that they want to portray it on the tabletop with small models. What they tend to nominate are works of fact or fiction – cinematic or literary – that made them think something to the effect of “that sounds exciting: I want to replicate that”.

As a youngster I certainly watched a lot of films and read a fair number of books. I have, over the years, enjoyed many a historical ‘war film’. I remember a family outing going to the cinema to watch the 1969 epic Battle of Britain after they had filmed parts of it in the street where I lived (on account of it being an actual bomb site and therefore needing very little set dressing...) That has an effect on a child (and on the number of Airfix Spitfires I went on to purchase and hang from the bedroom ceiling).

As I got older, however, I discovered fictional accounts of conflicts that jarred less with the (sometimes harrowing) wartime stories that my parents told me and I noted two threads: an escape into fantasy (first via Alan Garner and then Tolkien) and an embracing of ‘predictive fiction’. SF, Sci-Fi – whatever you want to call it – played a large role in my youthful development and it shaped some of my gaming future. Initially I was inspired by – of all things – a comic version of Julius Caesar: my first armies were in fact Romans and Ancient Brits (again from the ever reliable Airfix with the odd Bellona Marching Fort thrown in for good measure). Following Waterloo (with Steiger’s Bonaparte), I tried my brush at Airfix Napoleonics, and then (after lots of TV watching, I suspect) I went for WWII in both 1/32nd (Airfix) and 1/87th (Roco Minitanks). However I also tried out something else: I began experimenting with fantasy and SF figures and games.

The fantasy figures were – initially at least – entirely culled from the ‘not Tolkien whatsoever’ Miniature Figurines Mythical Earth range and I spent many a happy hour with a paint brush loaded with Humbrol enamels, but SF was so evocative and – frankly – it inspired me more than almost anything else. One of the things it ‘promised’ was that – soon – the world would be very different from the bomb site I grew up on. They even put dates on when this would happen. I sat and counted out how old I would be when 2001 came around and I just couldn’t wait. Anderson’s Space 1999 was slightly closer (and featured more punch ups I could ‘game’) and UFO was set in the early eighties and that was even closer still: I couldn’t wait! (and it’s probably why I’m still gaming that ‘genre’ now).

But there was sometimes a murkier side to SF and it’s fortune-telling, by which I mean darker even than all out war against aliens... Soylent Green (based on the excellent Harry Harrision novel Make Room, Make Room), was set in a dystopian future where shortages were so awful that cities became grim dichotomies of the have-and-have-nots, and rationing plus a corrupt government and police force ruled over society with an iron hand while the population – literally – fed upon itself. It all pointed towards a dire future that made a great wargaming or role playing setting. And it was set in... gosh: 2022. So... on that fairly ‘grimdark’ topical note, what else could be uplifting and inspirational, I wonder?

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Many contributors mentioned their love of Tolkien, as indeed have I. Twenty years ago I struggled through the films and accepted that – despite some epic moments – they were never going to please everyone. And that included me. When Mr Jackson then stretched the charming children’s story of The Hobbit into three films (at least two too many) I saw the writing on the wall and I avoided them like the plague, bunny-powered bob-sleighs not really being ‘my thing’.

But now Amazon have produced The Rings of Power. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. To paraphrase Orwell, “If there is such a thing as turning in one’s grave, Tolkien must be getting a lot of exercise”. We should congratulate ourselves, I guess: we have created a whole generation of viewers (and gamers) who will be misled by the cinematic travesties of both fantasy and historical movies! I guess Tolkien fans will just have to stick to the written word. 

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