I have just heard the very sad news that wargames designer John Hill had died. I did not have the pleasure of knowing him personally but he certainly had some influence over my gaming. John brought us such classics as Squad Leader and Johnny Reb, including the new Osprey version of Johnny Reb, Across a Deadly Field, reviewed in WSS 76.
Sometimes life is full of bizzare coincidences. Last Wednesday, the club storeroom was being cleared out. In there were several old boardgames which had been donated to the club some years ago. Knowing I had an interest in such games, the club chairman said ‘You might as well take those home with you’. Thus I found myself with worn and musty copies of the old Avalon Hill games Panzer Blitz, Panzer Leader and Squad Leader.
Seeing these old games reminded me of when I was a teenager. Then I wargamed with 20mm Airfix & Esci and 6mm minitanks (bought by trading some of my lunch money for lead). Then there was the odd boardgame, like World War 2; European Theatre. I remember finding a room in the house where my friends and I played out World War 2. The time for the main scenario Europe Ablaze was ‘one summer’ and we played it through to conclusion twice although we abandoned two other attempts. One was due to ‘cat attack’, scattering our precious tokens all over the board, the other to a sudden allaiance of Allies and Germans against the Soviet Union (I was playing the Soviets, was it something I said, comrade?). I also had a copy of Arnhem: A Bridge too Far. Sadly I lost my original versions of those games (probably left at a friend’s house or lost in one of the several moves I’ve made since then) but I found and bought a replacement copy of World War 2 when I saw one.
I’d seen Squad Leader (SL) and its supplements in play several times, even with 6mm models used instead of counters to represent the tanks and units on the boards. At Grammar school, some of my friends played it. My friend Eoghan K (a regular contributor to the magazine) has told me several stories of some of the excellent games he’s had.
The scenarios for the SL game were particulary good, each had all the information required for a game including detailed ORBATs (shown as the counters you needed) on a single sheet of A4. We’ve used them several times as inspiration for other game scenarios along with those from the Skirmish Campaigns books.
Eoghan has been saying for some time how we should dust off a copy of Squad Leader and give it a try. Now’s the time we shoud.