I have a friend called Mal who has been wargaming from before I was born. He has been gaming since the early 1960s (he’s in his seventies). Naturally in that time, he’s seen a lot of changes in the hobby. His experience makes him into a gold mine of knowledge, particularly where it concerns some of the older ranges of miniatures. He used to be part of the Grimsby club in the ’70s, but now resides here in Devon. For a while now, he’s been inviting some of the clubmembers to pop over to his place. Last night Martin and I finally did so.
We’ve converted Mal to playing our preferred ‘modern’ rule sets, such as Black Powder and Lion rampant, but he has plenty of old rules to flick through - ones we must try. These included Charge, or how to play war games, a very simple and clever set of Napoleonic rules and the original World War 2 rules set which evolved into Rapid Fire - I could write a whole blog about these alone. As Mal declared: ”You can keep your Priestleys, my rules are written by Brigadiers and Lt.Colonels!”
Now Mal is quite the wargames collector. He regularly turns up with his original Hinchcliffe 25mm armies to play our 28mm units - the models of his army are almost as old as I am! To be honest, nobody notices or cares that much as the size difference is negligible from three feet away. What I didn’t know is he has two entire painted Napoleonic and ACW armies in ‘S’ range (roughly 20mm), plus probably enough for another two armies in unpainted lead in both S range and 25mm (I’m glad I’m not the only one who hoards ‘reserves’!).
Then Mal showed us his book collection… incredible! He has old magazines and periodicals including one called TRADITION, dating back to the earliest editions - each containing some excellent colour plates. There were various wargames magazines (including Wargames Soldiers & Strategy, thankfully!) and a large selection of books of every description - Ospreys, uniform guides and a set of the old Airfix books. Mal has a veritable wargames library.
His really old books were kept safe, out of reach of grubby wargamer fingers. These included an original copy of the Peninsula wars volume published soon after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The highlight of the night was seeing his copy of the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant - first edition, mint condition and signed and dated by the author… WOW. The writing was very scrawly but I could make out “Dedicated to the Soldiers and Sailors of the United States.” Now that was holding a piece of history… We’ll be back to Mal’s again for a game and to swot up in his extensive library. If you think you are an expert collector - I suppose that’s what I imply here - there is always someone whose collection will make you look like an amateur! I feel suitably chastened.