The idea of being able to take your wargame with you dates back even further. There's something in an early Don Featherstone book that talks of maps and talc and sticky units and chinagraphs to enable you to play solo when out and about. Anyway, although I haven't got my hands on a Perry Travel Battle set yet I'll share my thoughts with you at the end of this blog.
Personally I think that the most successful attempt at doing this sort of thing, - by which I mean a travel wargame that I actually made up and took places and played on a train with another real live person - dates back to the 1970s.
|A Retiuarius and a Samnite face up to each other|
The idea was that as arenas were often circular you could turn a biscuit tin lined with brick paper into a suitable venue for gladiatorial combat.
This idea was intriguing, and when my mate Derek & I went to the big military show at Aldershot (?) one summer in the very early 70s we headed for the Military Modelling tent to see what what it was all about.
The MM tent was a big deal in those days, and was the major show venue in the south, matching Northern Militaire at the time. We found the Paragon boys running the Gladiator game just outside the tent and sat down and played most of the afternoon. Frankly, I think, they got sick of us and eventually introduced the full rules so we got killed and then were encouraged to leave.
Undaunted we went and bought a copy of the A5 Gestetnered rules between us, and also split a pack of Garrison Gladiators in 25mm, which were the only ones available at the time.
We then went home and both made ourselves an arena (that's mine, in the picture above) and our local group of friends played it a lot. Massed combats with all of us in the arena at the same time, chucking nets, feinting this way and that and generally having a great time of it. Soon Minifigs had their gladiator range out so we acquired those, plus other assorted figures suitable for combat, from Lamming, Warrior and anyone else we came across.
The beauty of it all was that it was genuinely portable and it was lots of fun. The rules, copied out meticulously, fitted comfortably in the lid. All my figures, lovingly wrapped in toilet paper, fitted neatly into two old tobacco tins (my Dad was a pipe smoker). One summer Derek and I bought RailRover tickets for the Midlands region and we went all over the place, mainly visiting model and wargames shops. We took the biscuit tin and whiled away the long slow train journey into Birmingham from Rugby stabbing at each other.
I even took my version into school, where me and a small group of friends would disappear at lunchtime to the far end of the playing fields, next to the cricket nets, and happily play a few games. I remember it so well, along with the lovable rogues who threw a spare net over me and roughed me up, damaging my watch, and upending the whole ensemble into a ditch. Happy days.
So there it all sits up on a shelf in the study, still usable after over 40 years. I bought a copy of the 1977 rules reprint a few years ago, but now I want it I have no idea of where it has gone. Typical. No worries, still got all the original handwritten rules in the lid. Derek kept the Gestetner rule book, even tho' he moved on to Ian Beck's "Rudis" (a much more detailed and realistic portrayal of arena combat, but alas missing some of the charm of the Paragon game).
So, what of the Perry game? First off I can say that I won't be buying it. It fits no niche that I have. I can't think of where I would play it, and I'm not turned on by Napoleonics at the moment. On the other hand, I think that some of the press and comment on the subject has missed the point. Remarks that we can't judge it until we see the rules I think are wide of the mark. It's a full terrain board, marked up in squares 10 x 20 in size, with some reasonable sized Napoleonic armies. Although as the figures are 8mm, so you could probably paint or use them for any European conflict up to the 1880s, depending on how fussy you are about shakos. If you want this type of portable product and the rules are rubbish, scan the internet for some that work or write your own. There's loads of square based systems out there. And if you want to widen your horizons then the boards would work with 6mm or 10mm figures for other periods in modern Europe.
Secondly, there's fuss over the price. It's £50. Too expensive? It's a box with terrain boards and two chunky sized armies in it that is in a robust box so you can carry it about. No, it isn't too expensive. I've just ordered 20 packs of 15mm figures from Lancashire games and not got much change out of £50. And that's just one army, no terrain, no box. Get real folks. How much would it cost you to put this together yourself? Or, another way of looking at it, the Black Powder rule book will cost you over £25, and it isn't even complete. Okay, it is toppy compared to some board games, but seriously, Command and Colours is over £50 and isn't portable. The bottom line is that if you reckon you'll play this a lot, then the price point is reasonable. If it's going to sit on your shelf gathering dust, then it's not worth it.
So, if you want a game you can carry around, then it's worth it. If you don't then it isn't. But there are other options if this is an itch you must scratch, as I think I've shown.
Update: Bob Cordery has posted a proper review here: link