By Rob Morgan
I took a look at some of that Wiki stuff Jim Rohrer mentioned. Well, Jim, don’t bother with it! The only decent starting point is still Don Featherstone’s opening chapter in his 1975book “Skirmish Wargaming.” He calls it ‘Individual Wargaming … what it is, and how it came about.’ His 10 scenarios in this excellent book range from the Vikings c850AD to Monte Cassino in 1944. Thet take in skirmish games from the Medieval, the Pike & Shot era, the Napoleonic and Colonial periods and both World Wars. He does, however, leave out the American Civil War (but not the English one). I sometimes felt when I first read it, that Don used rather too many figures and characters for a basic skirmish encounter.
In WWI, where Don gives a trench raid as a scenario — and this is by far the best in the book — a British squad of five infantrymen ‘raids’ a typical German four-man HMG nest. A group of German infantrymen are off table as support when called upon. In the 1970s, this was a short game I often played out with a small 3-foot by 3 table and Airfix plastic figures modified with clubs, shields and body armour. (I wonder what happened to those old converted figures?)
Peter Barkworth’s quite right, in Practical Wargamer and the other ‘glossies’ there are, or were in the case of PW, masses of examples of solo games, usually for small numbers of figures, and of one-page rule sets written by gamers for their own use, which worked. Often they were period or campaign specific, but some could be easily transposed to other eras; a favourite of my own was in Wargames Illustrated (No. 12) back in 1988, by Jim Wallman. He provided simple skirmish rules for Zulu encounters, but they could be used across the Colonial world for the late 1800s with no difficulty. Other members and readers may be able to suggest different skirmish sets from these sources. Don’t forget, this is still probably the only effective way in terms of space required and numbers to use 54mm figures.
Finally, I recall an old mate of mine, Jeff Davies, back in the early ‘70s, who used a handful of standard Roman and Ancient Briton figures from Airfix, the latter converted slightly, to game the fight between Romans and Etruscans for the Sublician Bridge; you’ll remember it from Macaulay’s ‘Lays of Ancient Rome.’ Jeff had the three Romans, Horatius, Titus and Spurius Lartius with a few replacements if needed, holding an old Bellona-made bridge against a succession of Etruscan ‘heroes’ led by Lars Porsena. Lord Picus, Seius, Aunus, Ocnus of Falerii, all ‘personality’ figures of the scratch ‘Britons’ semi-Gaul sort, while Astur, Lord of Luna was a beefed-up ‘Tarzan’ figure with shield and spear. I’m trying hard over 40-odd years to recall the rules, which I think used playing cards and a pair of dice as well. I knew I should have written them down!
It suddenly crosses my mind that a similar ‘skirmish’ set-up to that one could be played using the single Viking Berserker who held Stamford Bridge in 1066 against Harold’s Saxons and gained time for Hardrada’s army. He wasn’t as lucky as Horatius and his mates, no poet around.