By Rob Morgan
These days, when reading most of the glossy wargames magazines, I come upon what can only be regarded as totally staged sets, where the figures take second place to a totally, 100% accurate depiction of a 17th century tavern (with waterbutt and authentic Olde English Inn sign), But for us veterans, wargames used to be more game and less pomp. When I first acquired the books of Don Featherstone, the land and naval books (I didn’t buy the air wargaming title) there were few models about, and some were damned expensive. These turned up again recently, when I was writing a note on a review I’d encountered. Haven’t used them for years, but I dusted them off and used them.
I wonder if anyone recognises these little models? These are the plastic pirate ships from Waddington’s 1960’s game “Buccaneer” and, if I recall, you got six in a box, used to carry treasure around the board. Several colours, green, purple, red, orange and yellow. Having carved galleys from clothes pegs and made balsa battleships, I thought the little one-inch long, half an inch wide, hollow plastic pirate ships would adapt to the wargames table. I tried it out with Don’s slightly adapted rules, and it worked. This of course was over 50 years ago.
I wrote to the company, and told them that their models had a wargames use, explained the basic idea, and asked, did they sell them separately? No, but the Customer Service chap showed a little interest, and said he’d send me a few, and would I let him know how I got on. A few days later a bag of about 50 arrived in the post, with compliments. They were indeed basic hulls, sailing ship shaped, but little else. I often gamed with them at home, easy and quick. I used them in school as well, nothing delicate to damage. The only modification was to paint an identifying number inside each of them, for obvious reasons. The game and models were modified at some stage, much later on, and a mast and sail was added, slotted into a central lug, the hulls were unaltered.
Here are my one-inch long pirate ships, three fleets in an early 18th century battle, Dutch, French and British, the ships with the blot of cotton wool are on fire, and I reluctantly sacrificed one of each colour to cut in half to represent a wreck or sinking ship. Sadly, I remember I didn’t have enough green vessels to use in a battle; there were only three of them.
I have always said, you can wargame with almost anything — like these models!