Brian Carrick’s Big Wars

IMG_0135
Impressive Elastolin knights and castle pictured here.

“I can trace my Wargaming origins, as I suspect many of my generation can, back to the days of plastic toy soldiers and cannons that could fire matchsticks being sprawled out in full battle array across the living room floor. The days when Confederates and Germans (both being grey) took to the field against anything in green!”

So begins Brian Carrick in his article on “Big Wars: Nostalgic Wargaming”. He then went on to summarise H. G. Wells’ Little Wars rules, useful at a time when reprints were hard to come by and then outline the current erratic  state of figure availability.

I was intrigued by photos of Brian Carrick’s village of  Airfix Jungle Houses, Britain’s Deetail British Infantry Attack Boats  and a scratch built gunboat with Britain’s Lifeboat sailors.

IMG_0186
Close up of Brian Carrick’s scratchbuilt gun boat with Britain’s Deetail Lifeboat sailor crew, Deetail British Infantry attack boats and Airfix Jungle Outpost village.

I found this article in the Battle for Wargamers Military Modelling Extra Wargames Manual  really inspiring at the time it came out (1983) as I had not come across any serious adult gamers who used 54mm figures or the garden.

Gunboat envy and ‘whole village of Airfix jungle houses’ envy ensued.

Donald Featherstone’s Skirmish Wargaming,  borrowed from the local branch library, was too much of a mathematical rules puzzle of charts to me but I loved the illustrations, scenarios and photographs. They featured Airfix and other plastic figures that I had. I could one day sort of be like these giant gamers and gaming authors.

IMG_0171
I had the remains of one of these Airfix houses and the Figure. Britain’s Deetail Japanese?

Little did I realise at the time that one day 35 years later that I would be chatting on blog comment sections  about garden games  with the article author Brian Carrick through his fabulous Collecting Plastic Soldiers blog and the 54mm forum Little Wars Revisited.

Brian’s blog Collecting Toy Soldiers is at http://toysoldiercollecting.blogspot.co.uk

http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net

Blog? Websites? Internet? Surprisingly this 1983  Wargames Manual did mention the word “Computer” on the cover and listed “machine gaming” amongst the articles.

IMG_0128

For me then, (war) gaming in many books and magazines was unattainable, glossy, expensive and for grownup wallets, a far cry from playing with the bashed-up Airfix at my disposal. A lot like the eye-candy front cover of this interesting manual / magazine extra.

Today there are a good range of 54mm plastic figures in many historical periods and still affordable buckets of Green Army Men. Despite the disappearing  number of toy shops, there are in pound stores or online lots of  ‘pirate’ or pound store figures (soldiers, cowboys, Indians, knights etc) at entry level cost for youngsters.

An impressive author’s list for this 1983 special edition edited by Stuart Asquith:

IMG_0132

IMG_0151
My surviving uncut Free Cut Out Saxon Army centre insert from Standard Games.

At least there was a free Cut out Saxon Army – too precious to cut out at the time – and one lacking any opposition without buying more card warriors from Standard Games (a range now vanished?)  One day I will scan and make these Saxons. Paper soldiers have returned recently with Peter Dennis and Andy Callan’s attractive colourful card soldier series for Helion books.

IMG_0065.JPG

Inside were tempting adverts, the lure of grown up metal. I had already made my first forays into Peter Laing 15mm figures, a few English Civil War figures with my pocket money each month. I went for a historical range that Airfix sadly did not do.  Peter Laing kindly did not mind such small orders but I later bundled up several months pocket money worth of orders to save postage.

IMG_0102

Unattainable in price at the time were the home cast Prince August Moulds – “send £3.95 … for an 8 days trial …” These had to wait another 30 plus years until I stumbled over them again in a craft shop. Their range of “mould your own 54mm traditional toy soldiers” that I eventually fell for  was not yet mentioned here.

A fan of the Fighting Fantasy books from the library (“to take the left hand door to uncertain death, turn to page 37”), there was also the lure of Dungeons and Dragons. I was bought a D and D boxed set which I never understood. Interesting to see the introduction to Fantasy Wargaming article by a young John Treadaway, now Editor of Miniature Wargames. 

IMG_0113

This is a lifelong hobby, or one that you can return to throughout life. Although I have still to obtain the desirable games room and hex table shown here:

IMG_0143

Here to conclude is the whole article by Brian Carrick, reprinted with his permission:

IMG_0162
Big Wars – clever play on words on Little Wars and the by now enormous 54mm figure size.

Brian’s comments on erratic or faltering plastic 54mm figure availability were sadly true for many years until quite recently. “The decline of Airfix … the demise of Timpo … Britain’s  once famous range of guns now badly depleted.

IMG_0184

As Brian Carrick concludes his article,  Big Wars:

“… I should point out that there will be as many differing views as to the value of such games and how they should be played as there are 54mm gamers. I imagine this is largely because there is no representational body that I know of to develop this section of the hobby by the exchange of participants’ views.

I hope that this article will have provided the spark to kindle some interest in potential recruits to the ranks of 54mm Wargamers and perhaps provoke some comment from existing enthusiasts who, in the past, have had little voice in the hobby media.”

 

Big Wars PostScript:

When I contacted Brian to ask if he was happy for me to reprint his photos and article, he replied: “Gosh is it really 35 years since I wrote that! the pics weren’t very good I’m afraid …” but they made a big difference to a young gamer like me. They stopped me throwing out many of my childhood 54mm figures and chasing  proper small scale shiny fashionable metal as I got older, even when I stopped gaming for a few years (college, first jobs etc – usual story).

Thanks Brian for all you have done for 54mm gaming for many years past and for many years to come.

Blogposted with gratitude and reprinted with permission  by Mark, Man of TIN, June 30 2017

Advertisements

Dumb Soldiers: The Past and Future of Garden Wargames?

image
My Garden War (Games) Correspondent – great 80mm Prepainted Papo ranger figure (with aquarium castle in distance) 2016 

Knee pads out, the summer is on its way. The sun is shining. I can look back towards the garden games of last year and plan those for this year.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

I have just bought a new set of “Moss Green”  Kneelo knee pads from garden suppliers  Burgon and Ball. At £15,  these really are the business (or the bees knees?)

https://www.burgonandball.com/shop/scripts/prodList.asp?idcategory=156

I tested these out today in the sunshine on a duel game in my ground level sand table (also known as the sandpit) using Gerard Du Gre’s Duelling rules Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust  reproduced in ‘Wargaming in Bed’ –  my favourite simple ideas chapter of Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming (recently reprinted by John Curry). More about these duelling games in another post.

IMG_0308
80mm Pirates of The Caribbean female action figure  (£1 bag charity shop bag find)  versus Papo peg-leg pirate duelling in the sand pit – more in a future blogpost. Flamingo score points markers and palm trees – £1 bag Tiger.com stores cocktail sticks 

I was delighted to see an article on Garden Wargaming by Conrad Kinch in the most recent edition of Miniature Wargames 408, April 2017 Issue. It was enough to persuade me to buy the magazine.

The lack of coverage of Garden Wargaming is one thing I have been thinking about over the past year, especially  as it turns again towards warmer weather.

Lovely to hear from fellow blogger Alan the ‘Tradgardmastre’ on my comments page about a recent Garden Wargames post https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

I really enjoyed the garden wargames in the last post (14 September 2016)

Many a plastic fellow was lost in the trenches of my garden in the 1960s,many of whom had come free in Kellogg’s packets.

We had two tiers to our back garden separated by steep steps flanked on each side by a rockery. The bottom tier was where the trenches lay. The plastic soldiers would sometimes ascend the rockery and get lost amongst the summer snow ( white cascading plant) covering much of the rockery.

Comment from Alan, Tradgardmastre blog 

Alan wins my “Best Garden Wargames Pun 2017” award for registering a blog page name for future posts about Garden Wargames called  “By the Sward Divided“.

In keeping with the pound store plastic theme, this award medal for Alan should be shiny gold plastic and inscribed “Made in China”.

If you don’t instantly get the pun, there was a colourful but clunky BBC TV drama produced in Britain in the 1980s  called “By The Sword Divided” about the English Civil War. This was around the time (and possibly the reason why) I started collecting Peter Laing’s 15mm  English Civil War figures.

image
One of my  outdoor three man patrols – Pirated BMC seaside pound store 54mm US marines

We must all have those early memories of ‘Lost Legions’ in the garden rockery and sandpit.

You must also be of a certain age to remember the free plastic figures in cereal packets that Alan mentions. Most of my cereal box figures handed down by family members were red guards and bandsmen, still in use in my 54mm games.

Alan’s comments about trenches and lost figures also remind me of an interesting poem in The Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the Yallobelly Times (described in Stevenson At Play) and other gaming inspired bits of writing.

The Dumb Soldier Lost and Found 

I was reminded of the lost and found figure on Tony’s Tin Soldiering On blogpost, a homecast lead figure http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/lost-and-found.html

I have in my collection a equally battered and soil stained WW2 figure of this type found and sold by someone in the Bristol area.

One of RLS Robert Louis Stevenson’ poems is about a lost soldier (or a one man version of my three man patrol thing), a poem called The Dumb Soldier

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/stevenson/dumb_soldier.html

The Dumb Soldier

When the grass was closely mown,
Walking on the lawn alone,
In the turf a hole I found
And hid a soldier underground.

Spring and daisies came apace;
Grasses hide my hiding place;
Grasses run like a green sea
O’er the lawn up to my knee.

Under grass alone he lies,
Looking up with leaden eyes,
Scarlet coat and pointed gun,
To the stars and to the sun.

When the grass is ripe like grain,
When the scythe is stoned again,
When the lawn is shaven clear,
Then my hole shall reappear.

I shall find him, never fear,
I shall find my grenadier;
But for all that’s gone and come,
I shall find my soldier dumb.

He has lived, a little thing,
In the grassy woods of spring;
Done, if he could tell me true,
Just as I should like to do.

He has seen the starry hours
And the springing of the flowers;
And the fairy things that pass
In the forests of the grass.

In the silence he has heard
Talking bee and ladybird,
And the butterfly has flown
O’er him as he lay alone.

Not a word will he disclose,
Not a word of all he knows.
I must lay him on the shelf,
And make up the tale myself.

RLS Robert Louis Stevenson, from A Child’s Garden of Verses

Maybe these figures were lost during childhood games or  maybe this RLS poem encouraged children to try this hide and seek mission. From which deep cover they never returned until recently …

I have only ever been lucky enough to  find modern plastic figures on the beach:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/lost-legions-1-fighting-on-the-beaches/

Why So Little Garden War Games Coverage?

I am quite puzzled why there are so few “garden wargames” blogs or blogposts out there and posted a thread about this on Mike Lewis’  Little Wars Revisited 54mm figure gaming forum http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net

http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net/thread/28/little-outdoor-garden-wargames-coverage

The various responses suggested it may be because of:

1. the indifferent and unpredicatable weather

2. the lack of garden space or being overlooked. Would I crawl round at ground level where the neighbours can see? Or less overlooked in the back garden?

3. What Elvis McGonagall called  “He fights them on the beaches / He fights them on the seas / He fights them on the carpet / Despite his creaky knees” in his Soldiering On poem. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/soldiering-on-wargames-poem-by-elvis-mcgonagall-2007/

4. 54mm is a marginal scale in gaming anyway, therefore less coverage.

5. Cat poo.

5. Gaming  in the local park has its associated problems.

The rebirth of H.G. Wells type gaming was celebrated or covered in a recent Miniature Wargames magazine  article “Little Wars Commemorated” (Issue 402)

I wonder if Garden Railroaders or Garden Railway enthusiasts would get the same reaction? They even have their own magazines including Garden Rail published by the same group as Miniature Wargames.

image
John Ruddles’ wargamers garden – image taken courtesy from Wargaming Miscellany / Vintage Wargaming blogs.

The Future Solution? 🙂

We are currently redesigning our small garden for all the family and the local wildlife, not forgetting garden games. For now it will be knee pads on.

Maybe as we all get older and our collective wargamer’s knee problems develop with age, we can adapt the idea of those “raised bed gardens” for the aged or disabled gardener into chair height islands.

Boats and planes could be mounted on stands to travel amongst the ‘islands’.

Could this be the future for Garden Wargames and ageing garden wargamers?

image

The perfect way to build in a John Ruddle style Wargames garden at accessible height?

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

Tell your neighbours, if you must, that it’s a disabled accessible model village. That covers the “shame or chutzpah?” issue of being overlooked or literally looked down on by the neighbours, raised in the garden wargames questions and answers on the 54mm forum Little Wars Revisited.

Plenty of ideas on how to make your own raised beds in your garden / yarden: http://www.livinggreenandfrugally.com/18-easy-to-make-diy-raised-garden-beds/

http://www.livinggreenandfrugally.com/easy-access-raised-garden-bed/

http://www.carryongardening.org.uk/files/documents/how%20to%20build%20raised%20beds%20final_nov08.pdf

http://gardeningfordisabledtrust.org.uk/the-garden-club/picture-galleries/gallery-raised-beds-and-borders/

The alternative: mess tables and Astroturf. The Australian Colliectors of Toy  Soldiers (ACOTS) seem to do this mess table thing outside well for the impressive games shown on Quantrills Toy Soldiers blogsite: http://quantrillstoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/acots-2017.html

More from the (garden) war (games) correspondent over the next few months till rain and cold stop play again.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 23 April 2017. Happy St George’s Day!

image
Ambush at Bottom Step … Papo 80mm prepainted cowboys. This bandy leg pose also helps them sit on horses. 

Garden Wargames # 1

image
Not quite got (permission for) this John Ruddle setup in my family garden – yet.

 

 

 

 

A large part of my childhood was spent on my knees.

No, this is not as pious or religious as it would have sounded in Victorian times. I spent a lot of time crawling around on the floor, lawn and flowerbeds in epic battles with tiny men.

When I first saw John Boorman’s WW2 childhood autobiography film Hope and Glory, I immediately identified with the opening scene when war is declared over the radio on that first Sunday of the war. The young boy / Boorman is at lawn and flowerbed level, playing with a tiny Britain’s style metal knight and an odd wizard figure (a filmic nod to Boorman’s Excalibur movie?) as the Sunday lawn mowers stop and the radios are switched on for Chamberlain’s speech. It’s that playing with real plants and pretend characters, the play with scales, which says something about the make-believe between acting, film making and playing with colourful toy soldiers (which remains the heart of our hobby).

From tiny Airfix HO/OO  (or 1:72/76) which were really too tiny for outdoor use (many of them went ‘missing in action’ and perished  in the pile of builder’s sand in the garden that passed for our sandpit or sand table) to the much more practical 54mm plastic figures (or 1:32) that could stay out at night, throughout the week and resume action next weekend or the next spare teatime or evening.

I can recall parts of my childhood garden in tiny texture and colour detail inch by inch. More than I can the house, my schooldays or many people.

image
I can still recall in great detail these childhood  flowerbed jungles, open grassland airstrips, rocky cliff steps to the right and useful path (airstrip, road, town). A pond (river / lake) lurked amongst the top flowerbed area. (Photo:Man of TIN)

If I obeyed the rules, Knights, Soldiers, Cowboys were welcome.

Simple rules: Keep them clear from blocking paths, not left out on any lawn that was to be mown (death by flymow didn’t just happen to tortoises in the 1970s) and above all, not to damage any plants.

Other than this,  I pretty much had free rein to invade the flowerbeds, rockeries and wilder more overgrown areas of our thin uphill sloping  back garden.

Rocks, twigs and stones, collected but not broken off, were all useful for making tiny camps and fortifications.

Flowerbeds were forests and jungles. Lawns were seas  between flowerbeds and rockery cliffs. Or open fields, airstrips … Whatever game life your current figures and imagination breathed into them.

Oddly it’s a habit that has never gone away. Following my late dad’s playful instructions, you should always  post a three man patrol out in the garden equipped with a radio (radioman were often scarce plastic figures) or signalman, depending on the period. I still do.

image
Three Man Garden patrol from pound store plastic warriors (pirates of BMC figures?) – officer, radioman and heavy firepower.

The radio or signalman is so that they can contact back to base and summon up air strikes, rescue and reinforcements depending on period. Ideally you should have another patrol elsewhere within flag, beacon or radio range either indoor or outdoor to pick up this intelligence and reconnaissance info.

Don’t forget to change patrols over regularly otherwise they get sleepy and inefficient. Rest in billets required!

Alongside the radio man, ideally you should have some kind of patrol leader or officer with binoculars. They can then observe all possible troop and wildlife movements, hostile natives, cats, snails etc. This was probably a tiny toy soldier precursor of today’s BBC Spring Watch or the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch?

image.jpeg
My portable three man patrol and their travelling box.

When I am away travelling, I still have a tiny wooden box with a three man garden patrol  that often goes with me, just to keep me in touch with the (tiniest) folks at home.

image
One on the left: “I cannot tell a lie. It was him over there”. A sort of travelling bunker for the three man patrol …

What is it about garden wargames?

Is is it the texture and smell of real mud and wet that makes this garden patrol and Yarden / garden gaming thing an attractive memory and occasional current pastime?

Is it the heady effects of the free burst of Vitamin D from the sun on your skin?

Is it the not quite having to grow up and have a ‘sensible’ garden?

Is that the same attraction of the more complicated process of running a garden railway or creating a model village with its dwarf plants, deadly ponds and the interplay with scale and reality?

Is it that Borrowers tiny people thing who are really alive and tweeting when you are not looking?

Who knows, but despite the older I get and the creakier the knees (maybe knee pads would convince people I really was sensibly gardening), the attraction and the wonder still lurks out there – under a bush, behind a stone – playing at toy soldiers down at ground level in the mud.

image
Cowboy Ambush! Schleich, Bullyland, Safari and Papo prepainted 60+mm figures aren’t cheap at £5 a pop but they are fantastic for hate. Games  There are plenty of cheaper versions out there, big enough not to lose on the beach or in the garden. More on these in another blog post …

Garden or Yarden Rules 

You can pretty much use any game rules in the garden, scaled up to your figure size. I use scaled up period versions of my Close Little Wars rules (my version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix to his 1962 War Games):

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

H.G. Wells’ Little Wars are another choice, recently republished by John Curry or available scanned online: https://archive.org/details/littlewarsgamefo00well

Track down the Funny Little Wars rules and forums or Tim Gow’s Little Cold Wars rules (below).

Alternatively, head for the Sheil’s Sandpit Rules for pound store figures in many period variations beginning at:  http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/wargame1.htm

Interesting garden wargame links:

More inspiring pictures of John Ruddle’s garden wargame here: http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/john-ruddle-and-garden-wargame.html

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/more-about-john-ruddle-and-garden.html

http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/unidentified-john-ruddle-article.html

Some interesting modern games out in the garden:

Tim Gow and his Little Cold Wars garden games http://megablitzandmore.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/little-cold-wars-published.html

The lovely Shandyesque garden siege game:

http://shandyandvauban.blogspot.co.uk

The Wargames Hermit John Patriquin’s blog:

http://wargamehermit.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/garden-wargaming-with-30mm-sae-figures.html

The Playmobil version:

http://www.gardenwargaming.com/intro/intro.html

The extraordinary Peter’s War setup: http://peterswar.com

Notice the very practical ground or base lawn spike seen here on Orun’s blog:

https://orun.wordpress.com/category/garden-wargaming/

and overall I blame H.G. Wells for starting it all.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22777029

Lots more garden gaming riches out there to find!

Happy gaming outside in the garden / Yarden (when the British or wherever weather allows!)

Posted by Man of TIN, 1 September 2016.