Wednesday, April 04, 2012

South London Warlords Wargaming Club

Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, I got a copy of The Encyclopedia of Military Modeling, published in London by Octopus Books in 1981. It was on a bargain books table at Ayr-Way (which later became Target). Building model kits was a hobby of mine as far back as I can remember -- even if I wasn't very good. Lots of cars, tanks, planes, the USS Enterprise (and the bridge kit, and Mr. Spock firing a phaser at the alien snake creature) and others were hastily assembled at my house in those days.

When I saw The Encyclopedia, then, I was naturally intrigued. This was relevant to my interests, and did it ever deliver. Many a day was spent pouring over the color photos, reading about the histories of model kit and figure manufacturers, and the instructions for creating detailed dioramas.

This was right before I had my first experiences with The Gaming Hobby™, and it's easy to see how this prepared me for it. Step-by-step instructions are given for scratchbuilding models, conversions, creating molds and casting. I studied the two-page spread on model scales when I started to look at what kinds of military model kits I could use for my own Warhammer 40K conversions.

In the introduction, there is some discussion of the wargaming hobby. What really struck with me -- and one of my main memories of the book -- is the photo of an example wargame in progress. I'm not sure if it captures a actual moment of the game -- it strikes me as being posed for the photographer. Even so, what I love about it is the overall feeling it conveys, encapsulating much of what I remember about seeing historical wargamers at conventions around that time. Even better, I wanted to think that there were cool gaming clubs out there where players wore ties, or sweatshirts with club logos.

I had a little story about the photo that I made up in my head early on. I got the sense that the gent in the suit jacket and tie is measuring the distance to move his unit of figures, while the fellow next to him is pointing out a place in the rules that counter-acts what the first is trying to do.
"I'm going to move this unit 15cm forward!"
"Hmmm... according to the rules, that unit can only move 12cm!"
This matched up with what I saw on our own 40K tables at various times.

I also love the "British-ness" of the book, if you will excuse the term. It uses those spelling conventions of course (influential on a young impressionable American lad) and mainly covers the military modeling hobby in England, reinforcing my idea about it being a place where everyone took part in intellectually stimulating hobbies like military modeling and wargaming. The Encyclopedia of Military Modeling, along with Warhammer 40K, White Dwarf Magazine, 2000AD and others ensured that my early days in the hobby were heavily influenced by the British gaming scene.

The South London Warlords are still an active group and run Salute, the largest wargaming convention in the UK (the 40th anniversary show is later this month). You can read a short history of the club, with more great photos, on their blog.


Lowell Francis said...

Thumbs up for Ayr-Way reference.

Victor Von Dave said...

You know, I don't think I've ever seen anyone at a convention wearing a jacket and tie before, I guess it was a more civilized age :)

Cool stuff. It's funny, my early gaming days were also heavily influenced by the brits as well, but for me it came by way of Doctor Who (which my whole family gathered together to watch), Fighting Fantasy, Citadel miniatures and the tower of london exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Kaiju said...

@Lowell: One of my other favorite stores was Brite-Way (sp?). All sorts of strange tools and toys, like a big flea market.

@Victor Von Dave: We often watched Benny Hill and Monty Python (of course), and on PBS Sunday nights was Dave Allen At Large, The Two Ronnies, and Doctor Who. That's very cool about the whole family watching with you.