My Wargaming History

I find it fascinating to hear how wargamers got into the hobby and how their interest developed over the years. The profile section of the blog is limited, so to give readers an idea of my wargaming background I provide this history of my hobby.

I can probably trace the start of my wargaming to the mid 1960's when, as a 7 or 8 year old, my pocket money was just enough to buy a box of Airfix figures. My friends did likewise and we had some rather violent battles in the garden rockery or in sandcastles made in our sandpit. This normally consisted of us throwing stuff at them. As technology improved we introduced a rather more sedate rolling of marbles. This was followed by the discovery of cannon that fired matchsticks in our local toy shop. Life could not get any better!  

Then for Christmas 1970 my Grandparents bought me Introduction to Battle Gaming by the late Terry Wise. This was a revelation to me. I read the book in its entirety several times marvelling at the games Terry was playing and the rules he used.

This kickstarted my 'serious' wargaming. No more subjecting my figures to various missiles. It was dice and tape measures from now on. My early games attempted to emulate those in the book and using Terry's rules. And those periods in the book, Ancients (Romans and Carthaginians), ACW and WW2 have been a constant for me ever since.

I had an 8' x 4' board in a draughty cold garage which was fine for me. I was young and immune to sub-zero temperatures! Here my WW2 is mostly Airfix with some Minitanks thrown in. I had Centurions and Leopard tanks standing in for anything British or German in good old Hollywood style. 

ACW featured heavily in my games. In these early days I played solo as well as with friends. I quickly found that using your imagination can be just as much fun playing solo, and this is one such game. I believe it was my poor depiction of First Bull Run. Hardly any of the figures were painted. The grey and blue plastic was sufficient for me. A few yellow and brown figures from the Airfix Cowboys and High Chaparral boxes provided an irregular look to my Confederates.

With the film 'Waterloo' coming out in 1970 I became hooked on Napoleonics. Here Airfix Napoleonics in battle on the floor. I regularly used playing cards to lay out the road system!

In the early 70's I was involved with my friends in forming a club in Hemel Hempstead, Herts. We met at a local school and it quickly took off. Adults took over the reins in running the club and one of our more prominent members was Ted Herbert. The author of a set of Colonial Wars skirmish rules which was quite prominent at the time. I bumped into him at Salute 3 or 4 years ago and he was still playing the same rules!

More books followed, the most notable being 'Battle Practical Wargaming' by Charles Grant and 'Sea Battle Games' by P Dunn. Both heavily influenced me at the time with the latter introducing me to Naval gaming.

There was little around in the way of commercially produced 1/1200 waterline models so I and one of my friends built them out of balsa wood and pins for barrels. We actually did pretty good helped by a couple of books I had with 1/1200 scale profile plans of WW2 ships. This is part of my fleet in harbour consisting of spare pieces of balsa wood on the carpet floor. An Arfix plane flies menacingly overhead. Not sure what the two feet represents!

The rules used were Mr Dunn's taken from his book. They were card based and damn good fun!

In 1971 I joined an ECW re-enactment group, The Sealed Knot. I was a pikeman in the Parliamentarian Sir William Waller's Regiment of Foote. This brought an interest in wargaming the ECW. No Airfix figures for this period! I therefore, turned to Minifigs and Hinchliffe in 25mm. A local toy and model shop stocked wargame figures on the 1st floor alongside model railways. I can clearly remember staring longingly at the shiny metal figures ranked up in glass cabinets. You literally bought them off the shelf, or in this case out of the cabinet, using as much of the minimal money I had to buy a handful of figures at a time.

The first rules I used by a Mike Wall. They are pretty basic but I found them to be fun to play. No hardbacked tomes of colour in those days! 

In the back are advertisements for Minifigs, Hinton Hunt Figures, Les Higgins Miniatures and Hinchliffe Models. 

My early collection of mainly Minifigs and some Hinchliffe ECW 25mm figures in my front room. By now it was 1973 or 74 and I was about to leave school. 

Although I continued wargaming, it was very sporadic. I joined the Merchant Navy as a Deck Cadet in 1975 which meant being away from home for much of the time. A 2nd Mate on one of my ships was also a wargamer and I can recall him lining up his 25mm Greeks for painting in his cabin.

When I was home on leave I spent most of my time in a drunken state out with my mates! I was still in Sir William Waller's Regt which was now part of the breakaway English Civil War Society having risen to the lofty heights of Lieutenant. Sadly I was also in a drunken state for many of the battle re-enactments!

On leaving the Merchant Navy in 1977 it enabled me to spend more time on wargaming graduating to WRG 6th Edition and WRG 2nd Edition Renaissance rules.

My Ancients collection was still Airfix at this time with just a small number of Minifigs 25mm Greeks and Persians. 

In the early 1980's my interest in Napoleonics was in the ascendancy using the WRG rules 1685 - 1845. It was at this stage that I intended to refight Waterloo using 6mm figures. Or in this case 5mm from Heroics and Ros. 

The figure scale was going to be 1:25 rather than the 1:50 in the rule book. Throughout the early to mid 80's I continued to build this collection and fought many battles solo or with friends. 

This was my second experience of wargaming in the micro scale having played WW2 using Heroics & Ros and a small number of GHQ tanks in the 70's. 

I unfortunately took very few photos of my 5mm Naps but here is a rather blurred picture of a game I played in 1983 against a friend who was collecting the Prussian army at the time.

The early 80's also saw the last outing for my 25mm ECW figures before I stupidly sold them! Here I fought the Battle of Newbury solo. As you can see I had no pride and fielded plenty of unpainted figures.

From 1988 to 1991 I took a break from wargaming replacing it with model railways. This brief flirtation with another hobby ended when I realised which one I preferred. It also coincided with the introduction of DBA and then DBM. DBM in particular had me hooked. Throughout the 90's most of my wargaming involved DBM Ancients and it included some competition play. I bought my then young sons Warhammer Fantasy and 40k figures but found that I could not get into that universe myself, although I did enjoy playing Heroquest.

This is an Early Imperial Roman army (Minifigs) that I used in my early competitions.

I later built Carthaginian (Essex), Polybian Roman (Donnington) and Wars of the Roses armies (mix of manufacturers) for competitions. The last army was to be a competition killer Neo Assyrian which I started but never completed. It has now been sold as part of my clearout of 15mm.

During this period I was fairly heavily involved in club games.

In the late 90's I grew tired of DBM and began exploring other periods again. This consisted of 15mm ACW Fire & Fury, 15mm WW2 Rapid Fire, 28mm Darkest Africa and various other odds and sods.

In the late 90's I sold all my Heroics & Ros Napoleonics to buy a computer! However, I restarted this period using the fantastic AB Figures 15mm (18mm) with the new General de Brigade rules. Throughout most of the following decade my wargaming was dominated by ACW, Napoleonics and WW2 all in 15mm. I also dabbled with Warhammer Ancients, ECW, Wild West and Pirates.

I attended Historicon in 2004 which coincided with an upsurge in interest in Colonial. I had acquired some 28mm figures to be used with The Sword and the Flame rules. By Historicon I had downsized to 15mm. I went bonkers in the trade hall and bought half a ton of 15mm Colonial lead, 3 Sudan steamers and various other craft and terrain. My son bought a guitar while we were in the colonies and I still cannot work out how we managed to fly home! That lead pile and river craft are still sat in boxes unpainted.

ACW using the original Fire & Fury Brigade level rules featured in a good deal of the few games I was able to play during this decade, mainly due to my job taking up so much of my time. My house at the time had an integral garage which I crudely converted into a wargames room.

A Napoleonic campaign with my son and a friend of his using General de Brigade rules and the Warplan 5/5 system proved to be a forerunner of the current Napoleonic campaign I am running in 6mm. This campaign was never completed but it did provide for some fun games.

A couple of WW2 projects began this decade including Op Market Garden from the Rapid Fire scenario book. Figures and vehicles were mainly from the Peter Pig and Battlefront ranges. This is a photo from the XXX Corps Breakout scenario using Rapid Fire rules. This is now the basis of a new project but in 6mm using Blitzkrieg Commander rules.

By now I was increasingly playing solo apart from the odd game with my sons.

Another project that has technically not finished is Op Nostalgia which featured in a couple of Miniature Wargames magazines in 1994. It is a fictional allied invasion of Greek Islands in the Aegean and includes air, naval and land wargames. Whether I continue this or start afresh in 6mm remains to be seen.

The photo is from an invasion of Rhodes game.

Towards the end of the decade I finally launched a fictional Colonial Wars campaign in 15mm loosely based on a map of Sudan and using The Sword and the Flame rules. I have yet to decide whether to continue this campaign or start afresh.

A house move in 2009 also heralded a change in direction for my wargaming. Refighting Waterloo was back on the cards when I discovered Baccus 6mm figures. In September of that year I began painting my first Napoleonic 6mm figures for my Waterloo project. Running in tandem would be a Peninsular War project and a fictional Napoleonic campaign.

My first campaign with one of my sons used Grande Armee rules by Sam Mustafa with figures on 60mm x 30mm bases. We had great fun but for me something was missing. I have always felt that element based rules were too much like boardgames. I like single figure casualties with units reducing in size due to attrition and the use of formations. Additionally, although the bases looked great, they tended to sit on top of terrain rather than within it which took something away from the appearance of the game.

I went through the laborious process of rebasing all my Napoleonics to small bases to be used predominantly with GdB rules. A new Napoleonic campaign was started which is detailed elsewhere in the blog.

My ACW and WW2 followed the route to 6mm. ACW figures were based similarly to my Napoleonics for use with Fire and Fury rules. A few games later I settled on GdB's stablemate, Guns at Gettysburg for ACW. I have yet to settle on a Campaign for ACW so presently all games tend to be scenarios based on historical battles.

Most of my WW2 had been using Rapid Fire rules which are themselves inspired by those earlier rules by the likes of Terry Wise. However, for 6mm I have gone with Blitzkrieg Commander 2. Although these are element based I can live with it for now as I find the rules themselves highly enjoyable.

It had always been my intention to play AWI and about 10 years ago I flirted with 20mm plastics. Then I came across the magnificent 10mm AWI range by Pendraken. I sold my 20mm and have now painted a few hundred 10mm. Like many of my scenario based projects, they follow as much as possible a chronological order of battles. So far only Concord and Lexington has been played which will be added to the blog in due course. I had considered switching to 6mm to standardise my figures and terrain but I just cannot bring myself to sell my 10mm. I have resigned myself to having to buy a few 10mm buildings and using my existing 6mm and 15mm terrain whenever possible. The rules used are another of the GdB family, British Grenadier.

I also turned to 6mm for my Ancients with Early Imperial Roman and Ancient British armies constructed. I test played a number of rules including Hail Caesar, WAB, War & Conquest, Impetus, Command and Colors, and in the photo, Sword & Spear. Sad to say none did it for me. I even considered a return to WRG 6th Edition or DBA and DBM. They all had their merits and I can understand why gamers enjoy them. Just not for me.

My ancients were rebased following the convention of my Napoleonics and ACW. So far I have given up on the commercial sets of rules. I am currently creating my own using the GdB engine as the basis. A couple of test games so far have proved to be highly enjoyable and more in tune with my taste.

This is very much a work in progress and the rules will be used in the new Kingmaker campaign that has been started.

Over the past year it has become increasingly apparent that 6mm had become my scale of choice and it was time to clear out my 15mm collections to make space for the newcomers. Many of these 15mm figures had not seen a tabletop for many a year.

It is now 2020 and all my 15mm collections has been sold. I have briefly flirted with 2mm Napoleonics over the past year which diverts from my intention to concentrate solely on 6mm. This though has been put on hold as has my 10mm AWI, both of which may make an appearance in the future but for the time being it will be 6mm all the way (apart from Naval and Air warfare that is!).

A house move has delayed progress on the hobby this year but at the time of writing this I should shortly be resuming with my projects with WW2 receiving most attention for the immediate future.

This brings me up to date. This will be updated as my history progresses.


  1. Fantastic read and brought a smile to my days of throwing missles at my poor airfix figures.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ricky. Ah the good old days!

  2. A great read Jon, very similar paths through the 60's 70'sI have to say but I gave in to family matters in the eighties. Have returned very recently taking up 6mm as I was handed a metal mountain of Adler and Heroics Napoleonic's.

    1. Pleased you enjoyed reading it Peter. As you have probably gathered from the rest of my blog, I am pretty much sold entirely on 6mm these days. I am sure you will find it as enjoyable as I do.

  3. An interesting journey Peter. Had me thinking of my early days with Airfix and Esky on the floor playing Grants or Featherstone simple rules. Unfortunately I tend to overcomplicate things too much nowdays, spend more time searching for the 'perfect' set of rules, rather than actually playing. Have decided to just go with simple, bugger the simulation, and have a game with my boys before they grow up!

    1. I too have given up accumulating rules. My bookshelves are groaning with them! Settled on a handful that I enjoy and it would require a very special set of rules for me to deviate from them. Agree that having fun is the priority.

  4. I have just stumbled on this page and devoured it!
    Such similar "roots" into & through the hobby.
    You wouldn't believe the amount of similar posts I have started & then abandoned.
    One day I'll write my version - I am inspired!
    Best wishes,

    1. Really pleased you enjoyed the read Jeremy. Us oldies do appear to have a very similar background to the hobby.
      All the best

  5. One big difference with our minuscule wargaming group (started in the early 70s) is that we have stick to 25mm armies and we haven't sold any armies. We keep painting minifigs, hinchliffe and the like

    1. Now that's a trip down memory lane. I still have a handful of Minifigs Ancients which I keep for nostalgia purposes. I just wish I had the storage capacity to have kept my entire collection through the years.

  6. Jon, having come back to wargaming after several decades away and coming across your great blog posts I now find myself adding to an ever-growing list of wargaming plans/projects. Although my 2 Minifig ancient army's all 6,000 of them along with the Shock of Impact rules might stay in their boxes (would bring back too many memories of discussion around WGR or SI).

    1. That's in impressive collection of ancients. A period I find fascinating and one that I am perpetually promising to myself to spend more time on but always seems to be shunted aside in favour of the latest urge!