‘Individual wargaming’

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.

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5 Responses to ‘Individual wargaming’

  1. Jim Rohrer says:

    Individual wargaming was not a term I was familiar with. Thanks for mentioning it.

    I agree that fewer figures is better for an exciting short skirmish game. Having tried different numbers, six seems to work best. With only six, a small board is better. I like a grid that is 20 inches by 20 inches, allowing each figure to move a certain number of grid squares, depending on its abilities. My old HO scale model train buildings make great terrain. One nice feature of a skirmish is you cannot expect each ‘unit’ to take a lot of hits. One hit would make me quit, if I was in the battle. However, a saving roll should be used to extend the game.

  2. dexey says:

    That WW1 scenario would be good with One-Hour Skirmish War-games rules by John Lambshead.

  3. Jim Rohrer says:

    I have reviewed Lampshead’s rules several times. He, like other authors, gives each figure individual traits. I might be able to remember individual traits for six figures, certainly not more than that. And the enemy would not have individual traits because my brain would not be able to handle it.

    Another problem with individual traits is my figures are 15 mm and I cannot see details unless I pick them up and examine them closely.

    So, I guess skirmishing with individual traits requires larger figures, perhaps 54mm.

    How many individual do you play per side? And, do you give individual traits to figures on both sides?

  4. Dexey says:

    I can see 28mm clearly but I confess that I play as few as possible figures and not always with individual traits.

    I have slipped away from OHSW lately as I try to prepare my sub-Roman Britons for OHW. Working on up to 4 bands of horse and up to two infantry plus up to two warband.

  5. David says:

    [Old Fart Memory begins]…. Way, way back, in the ’70s, when I still had hair, I was part of Paragon Wargames Group, based out of South London. We attended a bunch of shows each year and mostly did 54mm skirmish games, WWII being the fav. We used Airfix figures, Tamiya vehicles and scratch built terrain. say a dozen figures against 4 or 5 and a vehicle. These were demo and public participation games. Each figure had x or y amount of ammo depending on weapon and a bunch of pluses and minuses for certain actions. A better shot, a better runner, better HtH combat etc. Each player had a sheet to record ammo use and wounds.

    These skirmish games, like Gladiators or WW1 aircraft, are a great way of getting people into gaming. Keep the rules simple. Makes the turns quick, allow these total innocents a chance to beat the ‘experienced’ gamers. These games, where the stakes are easy to see, the objectives simple are, I find, still best way to draw people into the hobby. Do I play them myself? No. I prefer something at Division level, but I’ll turn out and support skirmish games for their value to the growth of the hobby.

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