Wednesday 19 April 2023
Gaming the Old West: A Personal History
A classic game and with figures!
Aside from watching the TV series the Virginian and the High Chaparral, as well the inevitable John Wayne films - the Spaghetti Westerns came much later - my earliest gaming experience of the Old West was via, you’ve guessed it, a board game. In this case it was The Battle of the Little Big Horn produced by Waddingtons. I can remember playing this game loads of times in the very early 1970s along with Campaign from the same publisher. I never really took this any further but the next step was a fairly big one when a gaming friend of mind acquired the original Old West Skirmish rules which introduced us to such exotic things as decimal dice. We gamed in 54mm and I have fond memories of painting and converting Timpo figures for use with the rules. All good fun but again, I never really pursued it with any degree of conviction.
When I moved to London in 1978 and started attending the Newham Wargames Club based at Eric Knowles’s shop in Manor Park, East London I took part in a number of games which were all highly entertaining and then a new set of rules came out that kind of took the edge off the genre for me. These were called Once Upon A Time in the West and seemed by comparison to be rather more complex than the original Old West Skirmish rules. This was the time when ever more complex rules seemed to be the way forwards but were inevitably at the cost of playability. As a result my interest withered on the vine somewhat although I did rather enjoy anything US Cavalry related - Pony Wars or B Troop Ain’t coming back were a club favourite and I am pleased that a new version has recently been released by Baccus, the 6mm people.
The latest version of Pony Wars in hardback
My recent and rather splendid acquisition of a complete 26 volume set of the Time Life series The Old West has certainly given me plenty of material to think about. There are now vast ranges of Old West figures depicting all manner of types from the period and in a variety of scales. Whilst it does not necessarily mean I shall be reaching for figure catalogues, a few figures for a skirmish style game would certainly not be a problem.
Time to watch some old Westerns again methinks - perhaps the Cavalry trilogy along with Rio Bravo and of course, the Spaghetti sequence.
Purely for research of course….