Zebra Cavalry, Lee Tanks and Imperial Rome

The wargames club I attended as a teen did WWII and not much else. Fair enough and good fun, but I never had enough terrain or tanks for decent battles at home.  What I were some boxes of Airfix plastics, a mix of WWII, black powder and ancients (both kinds: Romans and Britons!).  So my brother and I made do and lined up across the floor with a sort of colonial-fantasy hybrid where columns of muskets would try to keep out sword wielding hoards!  Rarely balanced, but throw in a wizard or two and things evened out. No cannons? Doesn’t matter, a fireball will sort out those pesky Commandos trying to sneak across the river!

I wish I had some photos: Lego towns, paper roads and a beloved Airfix Roman fort.
Hills were the classic books under a blanket.  We even tried our hands at conversions. I particularly remember soft plastic zoo animals pressed into service as cavalry mounts. I’m sure they were just a bit crap, but one day my Zebra riders took out a tank!
Wargamers live for moments like that.

Of course, rules that covered such diverse situations didn’t come straight out of the box. We used a home-brew of some WWII rules lifted from a magazine (Battle maybe?) and a little tome by one Gary Gygax, Swords and Spells:


It is basically what is says on the cover – it is the D&D combat rules expanded to deal with big armies.  Forty years on I have to say that they are just a bit shit!  I think we even knew that at the time. It didn’t allow for panzers for one thing.

They do contain some really interesting ideas though. You don’t roll dice to work out combat. It acknowledges that with that many dice you are basically averaging things anyway, so it just calculates what the average would be and then applies that.  Needless to say, we largely ignored that bit and got on with the much more satisfying task of rolling dice.

All of this is a long way of explaining why I’ve never played a game of Warhammer Fantasy. By the time Warhammer came out I was roleplaying and when I started gaming again my friends were into 40K.

Never say never though.

What about you? What rule sets did you begin your gaming journey with?


6 thoughts on “Zebra Cavalry, Lee Tanks and Imperial Rome

  1. When I was a kid, I saw a book on wargaming at a local bookstore and bought it… can’t remember title or author, but I guess it was something by Don Featherstone. Alas, my brother didn’t want to play, so no gaming for some time. Until I got the first edition boxes of Space Marine and Adeptus Titanicus (their original Epic system) from Games Workshop. I convinced a friend to start an Ork army and that was that. We had many fun games for years, even branching out into historical wargaming a bit. Took a long break when I started at university and came back to wargaming about 3 years ago.
    Actually, I liked the Space Marines rules, especially their orders phase, and I used the mechanics again for my own sci fi rules.


  2. Rogue Trader for me. Played a couple of games with Eldar ordered fresh out of the back of the White Dwarf #127 that they first appeared in. One huge(?) battle we fought out on a friend’s pool table with the same sort of scenery as you were using! I remember hiding my Warlock, popping out and assassinating his general to win. Good times.
    It was a natural progression to Space Marine and Adeptus Titanicus, but the scale didn’t excite me. Once you’ve had 28mm, you never go back.
    Fast forward to working at GW and I sacrifieced paychecks to the Horned Rat to acquire about 5kgs. of metal Skaven. Played in one game, painted about five of them before being overwhelmed by ratness and they lived in a box until I gave them away to a friend of my Dad’s kids.
    And then there was the brilliant idea to play Iron Warrors and field nine Obliterators …


  3. Tunnels and Trolls. Back in the late 1970s, with some of the early solo adventures being “GMed” to me by my older brother. Sometimes he’d get out his Minifigs miniatures and we’d use those as well. Those fantastic days staying over at his place as a child really set the tone and key influences for my entire life.


    • T&T what was it with those early days and the need for alliterative titles? Brothers do frequently loom big, but for roleplaying my brother and I were fortunate to also have a coterie of fellow travellers despite the small town we grew up in. A fortunate thing in those pre-web days for a nerdy teen


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s