15 May 2023
The Last Word in Miniature Wargames from Dave Tuck, contributor and rules writer.
“My name is Dave and I am a wargamer”: these are the opening words usually spoken at any addiction meeting, with the name and addiction changed to suit. I have just been re-reading Harry Pearson’s book Achtung Schweinhund! and it made me think about how I got into this hobby 50 years ago. As a child in the 1960’s it was a glorious age for Airfix, military kits and soldiers, and even trains. Who else had the exploding red ammunition carriage and the green anti-tank rocket firing missile carriage? My generation rubbed shoulders with people who had seen war, and in my case, actively encouraged interest in military history. The public library was still a thing, and on its shelves resided copies of books by Messrs Featherstone, Wise and Grant.
At the age of eleven I went to the local Grammar school and my biology teacher, Mister Morris (who I still keep in touch with), introduced me – amongst other things – to wargaming. I did an A level project on How the Prussians lost the battles of Jena and Auerstadt but my local wargames club (bizarrely named the Grimsby Horse and Musket Society) introduced me to big games: battles on 15 foot tables, groaning under the weight of thousands of white metal castings were regular features. The club purchased a run-down stable block and gradually built it into a decent clubhouse but its choice of names did not improve (the next iteration being the Grimsby Military Society, conjuring up images of neo-Nazis rather than gentlemen wielding dice and tape measures).
During an accountancy foundation course I met Peter Gilder at his Wargames Holiday Centre. Dennis Coleman – the founder of Hovels (a resin building manufacturer) introduced me to Peter who lived in Hull at the time. He was a great guy, and he and Doreen, his wife, were very kind, inviting me round to wargame, and even feeding me on occasion.
My love of the hobby never waned despite all the usual real-life distractions and – meanwhile – the club I’d joined finally rebranded itself sensibly as the Grimsby Wargames Society so... it was clearly time to leave! A variety of unsavoury events soured my relationship with the club, but as luck would have it, I was then diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This forced us to move back into town in case my eyesight suffered (it hasn’t so far) which would mean that I would no longer be able to drive or walk (again, not yet). The plus side of all of this was that I had a decent critical illness policy, and so that released enough money for my wife and I to buy our dream house, and for me to have built, a five and a half metre square wargame bolthole, in the garden, complete with 12 by 6 table.
My gaming colleagues – Malc, Ade, Mark, Rob, Martin, Cameron – and I meet nearly every Thursday and have a fine old time. Our meetings are better than any therapy session, and have seen us all through some particularly bleak times. I cannot imagine another hobby allowing us all to develop such deep bonds of friendship and loyalty. That alone makes the hobby priceless.
One part of Pearson’s book struck a chord with me. He mentions J R Granville Bantock: this gentleman’s father knew H G Wells and he had played Little Wars type games, in the period leading up to the Great War. He served in Flanders and apparently his pocket-book was full of wargaming stuff, including notes on how to play aerial combat, including Zeppelins and what have you. Even while in the trenches he was dreaming of turning a real war into a wargame. Why had Bantock done that? Arthur – one of Pearson’s literary characters – has the answer on page 133.
“Take his mind off things, I should imagine. Man cannot stand too much reality. Especially when the reality is as bloody awful as that one was.”
I then thought about the ten hours I spent waiting for my wife to come through surgery, the lumbar punctures and MRI scans (with and without contrast) I had endured, and could in a small way identify with that mindset. Yes, wargaming provides me with the noise I need to blot out some parts of reality, and as such I confess, that I am an addict.
Am I looking forward to more gaming in the future? You bet I am! Roll on Thursday.
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