Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Playing With Toy Soldiers

This has been a long time coming.
I remember my first set of toy soldiers (more accurately, plastic army men). It was back in 1970, and they came to me with some model tanks that somebody had built. I was seven, and they kept me busy during a rough time in my childhood. I was even playing with them on a Sunday in April that year, when a Cessna 172 ended up on its back in our backyard.
We did a lot of moving over the next few years, so it was no surprise that my first soldiers disappeared into the fog of history. I wouldn't have my next set until the summer of 1975, and again those were your usual plastic army men. Soon on their 54mm heels, though, arrived Airfix 1/76 troops. I had discovered scale modeling.
The toy soldier bug bit again, but not as hard as it did during the summer of 2010. I had known of H.G. Wells' "Little Wars" for sometime. As a teenager, I did a little wargaming and it is revered amongst some participants. After finding an online copy and reading it, I was struck by its simplicity, its near naiveté.
It's hard to apply the rules for "Little Wars" to anything post Great War. In fact, the book was published just a short time before, in the relative calm of 1913. This was during a time when infantry and cavalry charges were still common; the early months after the start of the Great War saw the end of that style of combat. War is hell to begin with, but any sense of nobility there may have been in combat soon faded in the trenches of northern France under a barrage of heavy artillery.
In fact, that war is hell was what Wells was trying to convey in play. Compared to the wars to followed 1914, the sort of combat depicted in "Little Wars' is manifestly childlike.
That is where the interest is for me.
So, with that in mind, I'm setting out to build miniature armies in 1/32. I doubt I'll go any further past 1917, when the first tanks rumbled across the no-man's land towards a rather surprised enemy. There may be some other deviations and scenarios, but the horrors of the Great War and the coming wars will be, hopefully, neglected. Besides, trench warfare in miniature plays hell on the flooring.

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