Relax, you haven't been redirected to a tabloid, this is merely a post about the convoluted and intertwined background to the matter at hand.
Now, where to start?
|A GM + 6 player original or Colonial MacDuff game from the turn of the century on my old 6ftx10ft table circa 2000. Each player had his own secret victory conditions but could have a private parley with another player if their figures were together. In one case, one player realized partway through the conversation that his opponent's mission involved capturing him and dispersing his rebels, so he pulled a pistol and fired at him point blank range, unfortunately for him, he missed! The battery powered train was operated by the player calling go and stop with me switching it on and off. Alas, the young fellow playing the Midshipman in charge of the train, panicked at the near approach of angry natives and sped off abandoning the civilians at the little red station which he was ordered to take to safety. Neither his father nor the abandoned passengers were impressed but an expedition to rescue the captives became the storyline for the next game.|
I had been aware of Colonial wargaming since my first Featherstone book and had been fascinated by the Boer Wars since I was old enough to pull the History of the War in South Africa off the shelf to look at the pictures. It had been published in 1900 after the fall of Pretoria had ended the war....OOPS! (It was a gift to my mother from her father who had enlisted in the British army when the Boer War broke out but was judged too young to go overseas, he had to wait 14 years for that. All of which says something about my heritage and moulding l suppose.
) Upon my reentry into civilian life in '81, I spent a year proving that I wasn't very good at running a game store either but it did introduce me to Larry Brom's The Sword & The Flame.
I even got to read it when a friend bought it, but he got posted out before he got a force painted up so we could try it. When I finally got a real job and shut down the shop, the leftover stock included some packs of Mike's Models 15mm Colonials so I had my first Anglo-Boer skirmish. A score of figures per side didn't make for much of a game and I had neither cash nor desire to buy more of those chubby little dwarves and there was so much else to do, like 25mm Persians and 15mm French Revolution and Napoleonics and microarmour and ........
|Actually I suppose this article in a Scouting magazine from '69?.'70? was my first look at Colonial Gaming as well as homecasting. It gave me hope but no rules. |
Time passed, friends came and went and eventually in the late 80's Ron, a fellow alumni of the Montreal Wargaming Club from my college days, arrived in Nova Scotia. We've been gaming ever since in various scales and periods but of interest here was his collection of Ral Partha Colonials. The rules he had brought with him from Montreal were a sort of mashup of Space 1889 and TS&TF which sort of worked. Ron was trying to tweak them and I started painting up Frontier 25mm British and Mahdists and then...ummh..... offered to help with the rules. The result was With MacDuff To the Frontier.
|One of the few pictures I have of Ron's 25mm figures on his old table, full of Geohex terrain.|
Why MacDuff? Blame my roommate who I shared my first real apartment with after graduation. We had spent 7 weeks in the summer of '74 backpacking around Europe by rail pass and thumb, sleeping at youth hostels and sometimes, in the open air; like the night we crept through the hedge and slept at the foot of the Lion Mount at Waterloo. (That summer was also the closest I came to attending a British Wargame Show when I took an impromtu sidetrip upon seeing an add for a Wargaming tent at some sort of Aldershot military show on the coming weekend. It was the best weekend of the trip, even over the co-ed hostel in Copenhagen, the two Swedish girls and..well, never mind. I mean I walked in and there was Peter Gilder playing a WRG Ancients game with figures I'd seen in a book, and there was Phil Barker and a Minifigs stand! It was also the only time I have slept in a jail cell, not locked I hasten to add. There was not a hostel, hotel or motel bed to be had. An old feller in a pub told me to find a copper, show him a shilling, tell him I couldn't find a bed for the night and ask if he could direct me to somewhere to sleep, and he'd let me sleep in a cell. It worked like a charm but on the next night I found better accommodations by being invited to join the gamers in the Wargaming tent for supper, join in a test run of a chariot racing game, and roll out my sleeping bag there but now I'm really off topic.) Anyway, on that trip Eric would often say to me "Lead on MacDuff" and he kept it up when we were roommates later on. I guess that misquote stuck in my head.
By the mid 80's I was working in the regional IT department of Canada Post where mainframe terminals and new mini-computer terminals were mixing with the even newer microcomputers, so I was learning as much as I could as fast as I could. At college my exposure to Cobol programming and punch cards had not been inspiring apart from the ability to go have a beer at the mess in between feeding in the cards and getting the output. When I did an exchange tour on the USS WV Pratt in 1976, a tour of the Ops room with CRT displays, keyboards and trackballs was like something out of StarTrek. Now some of that handy stuff was spreading rapidly and I was learning fast. So it was that in the early 90's we bought a home computer so I could do the books for the Kennel that Kathy & I were then running, 365 days a year, on top of my day job, travel, overtime, call ins....... OK now I'm just whining; apart from the accounting and wordprocessing, my brother had been urging me to try bulletin boards and email as a way to keep in touch, so we also bought an acoustic coupler modem, you remember, the type where you take your analog telephone hand set and plug it in to the cradle on the.....OK, never mind.
Now, at last, the threads are starting to come together. It didn't take long to find 'rgmh', you know, that old internet bulletin board: rec.games.miniatures.historical. You could make posts and could browse through, reading posts and replying to other posts. Later you could even upload small grainy pictures. It was amazing to connect to gamers around the world. I still remember posting a question about Yugoslav partisans when I was building a 54mm force to face Ron's Germans and I received an answer that started "When I joined the partisans..".
|A few of my 54mm Partisans, all conversions.|
I also remember a younger Yugoslav wargamer whose father had been a partisan. He sent me pictures from the war, scans of illustrations from books, with some translations, and pictures of his 25mm minis. For someone who had been a kid during the Cuban Missile crisis and who had enlisted in the Canadian forces while the US was still at war with North Vietnam, it was amazing. The last time I heard from him was 1995 when NATO was bombing his home city but he and his friends were not going to be intimidated and he was going out despite the raid to play an ancients game. Every now and then I wonder what became of him.
Anyway, around the same time, someone who was writing a set of rules posted a question about something and I responded and offered to send him a copy of my in progress MacDuff rules for him to pick over. It was a surprise to get a response from Dick Bryant asking if I would send him a copy for possible publication in The Courier. I did a quick edit, formalized them a bit and sent him both the Colonial version we had been using and the French & Indian version which hadn't even been play tested yet!
OK, now we are approaching the last steps on this long trail. B this time, rgmh was being supplemented by email lists like Onelist and since Ron and I were playing the new Armati rules, I signed up to the email group. In 1996 I had to suffer through not being able to join in the first Armati "Arena" at Cold Wars and I decided that I would make the 4,000 km round trip next year to join them. That Armati event was a complete success for me, the format had allowed not only for tournament games, but also for scenario games, as long as you brought both armies, terrain etc and gave the other player choice of sides. I brought two 25mm Scots armies, Lord of the Isles vs Lowland Barons and wrote up two fictional scenarios set in the 1411 Red Harlaw campaign. It turned out that I was the only one used to scenarios but several were quite interested in something more than line em up and go at it, so after I played one game, I GM'd two others. A good time was had by all.
|My 25mm Scots facing Ron's English in an Armati scenario game.|
Prior to Cold Wars, Pete Panzeri had put out a call on rgmh for anyone with 54mm figures suitable for a Waterloo game to help him out. I was in the process of building my first 54mm War of 1812 armies so I volunteered to bring British infantry and some US and Canadian units to serve as Dutch Belgians and KGL Riflemen. While I was building my 1812 force, I had found some old boxes of OOP Airfix 54mm figures at a comicbook/game shop in Halifax. The owner offered me a good deal if I would take them all so I kept what I wanted and had some to sell. I posted about the WWII Russians on rgmh and got a response from some guy named Rob Dean and agreed to meet him at Cold Wars.
|Pete Panzeri's Haye Sainte game (buildings by Tom Milmore). |
The greencoats in the sandpit are some of my lads.
To my great surprise, the 54mm Haye Sainte game was over crowded with many new players including lots of kids. Pete was soon over stretched and asked if I'd run one end of the table. Well I'd done plenty of that at Cangames as well as Dalhousie game days and the rules were simple, so I jumped in, only slightly distracted by things like chatting with Rob about those Russians which he decided not to buy and then with Frank Chadwick who was showing some of his newest 54mm Volley & Bayonet ACW units.
It was a great weekend but I had barely gotten home when I got an email from Arty Conliffe, he had been into the printers and had seen the latest Courier magazine:
|The almost completely untested F&IW With MacDuff To The Frontier was first to print!|
Before long, I also got an email from Rob. He and Chris Palmer were planning a 40mm homecast F&IW convention game and had decided to try the new MacDuff rules from the latest Courier. Rob recognized my name and had a few questions. I was already decided that I was going back next year so I decided sign up for their MacDuff game and to use MacDuff for my planned 54mm Chateauguay game instead of the proposed regimental level variant of Volley and Bayonet that was being discussed on that email group.
How did it go? Well 25 years later, having co-hosted scores of various convention games including one Best In Show at Cold Wars, and various other smaller awards, as well some of the other things friends do, Rob and I are still at it!
|Huzzah 2019: Our Sittingbad using a fastplay version of MacDuff and some of our Not Quite The Seven Years War, Prince August homecast armies. |
So it was that the internet became one of my major connections to the hobby, leading me to start the Littlewars email group and then set up a Webpage which eventually became this blog, but also helped me form friendships around the globe and made my remote corner of the world a little less remote.
In the next post, I'll talk about developing the rules itself and the dangers of not knowing when to stop!