Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Unmitigated Nostalgia

I found an old friend recently.

I think this is the first wargaming book I ever bought. It’s Charles Grant Snr’s “Battle – Practical Wargaming”. It’s a set of wargaming rules, supported by a large amount of explanation and discussion, for WW2 combat.

If my memory serves me correctly the book is a “fix-up” of a series of articles that first appeared in Meccano Magazine. I remember seeing it advertised in Military Modelling, I think, and resolving to buy it (my friend had just bought “Introduction to Battlegaming” by Terry Wise which was from the same publishers in the same format) as it we were thrashing around with some fairly rudimentary WW2 rules. I was probably 12 years old.

I bought the book in a small bookshop in Worthing whilst on holiday with my Grandparents. It was a traditional bookshop with shelves stuffed full of all sorts of books, stacked floor to ceiling. They had one copy, on the top shelf. I don’t know how lucky I was to find it, but I don’t recall ever seeing it in another shop.

Our local group of similarly aged wargamers got a lot of mileage out of these rules. From the basic framework in the book (Panther, T34, Sherman) we added every tank Airfix made, and anything we could pick up from the local shop which stocked the odd Minitank, and a range of friction engine powered King Tigers. Not lots of detail in our research, but we sort of knew how relatively powerful the vehicles were and tweaked the numbers accordingly.

I re-read several chapters of the book and found that as a book it holds up really well. Far superior in its structure and writing than, for example, Don Featherstone’s “Wargames”. Each chapter addresses a particular subject, - artillery power, defensive value of armour and so on – building on what has previously been written. The thinking behind the rules and the research process that lead to them is covered pretty well, and each step of the rules, - the infantry game, the armour game and the final all-arms struggle – is illustrated by a well written battle report that makes perfect sense.

The rules are probably a bit more fussy in certain areas that modern sets, and there’s a lot of templates needed for artillery strikes and HMG fire and so on. My copy still has my most recent versions of these cut out of clear plastic tucked inside the rear flap of the dust jacket (which I hasten to add is in fairly good condition as it’s been in a removable book cover for most of its life).

Anyway, I picked it up to see if I could get any inspiration for my armour rules, along with several other sets I have lying around. Most sets, when you boil them down, compare a strike value based upon the quality of the gun firing to the strength of the armour plate on the target. This can be as simple as classifying everything as “Light”, “Medium” or “Heavy” and so on. “Battle” goes into more detail, with defence values by vehicle, and attack values graded by range and weapon type. Take one from the other & make that score with 2D6 & “Hey Presto!” the target brews up. Oh, subject to another “spotting” dice roll beforehand.

I realised that I could combine both the dice rolls into one and produce a simplified hit-roll table, aided considerably by the fact that the armour of most tanks in the SCW is pretty much the same. So that’s what I’ve done ahead of Thursday’s game.

On a side note I looked up the book on abebooks.co.uk today. There were 7 copies available, and you won’t get much change out of £25 for one. There are a few cheaper on Amazon, but they’re still a tenner.

I’m keeping mine.


  1. Trebian,

    I also have a much-thumbed copy, and still look at it every so often. I also used them as a basis for a set of modern rules that I used for some time during my youth ... and if memory serves me correctly, the armour rules will probably work quite well for your purposes.

    All the best,


  2. Loved the SMG cone and 'the angle of strike protractor'

  3. I have a friend who, at the age of c13, very proudly made the angle of strike protractor. We very rarely used it, and it fell out of use quickly, - both the protractor and the rule.

    We also dispensed with the "rolling to hit" aided v unaided vision roll, and used estimating the distance.

    As you say, Bob, a version of these will do me fine.

  4. Me too. Im taking my copy to my grave.


  5. We share a common lineage. I found a copy of Battle in the public library when was looking for another (now forgotten) book at about age 10. It kinda leaped off the shelf into my hands. That was my introduction to wargaming and synchronicity at the same time.

    An abiding interest in SCW would tend to mark as on the same orbit even now. Very interesting.

  6. Good to see that this old book has provoked a warm response. Perhaps we should lobby John Curry to reprint it?

  7. Thor at the Army Men Homepage has come out with a number of rules sets, for various periods, based on Battle, yet one more way in which Grant's legacy lives on and on.

    Best regards,