Home Forums General Books and Magazines Solo Wargamers in Literature – No Honestly!

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  • #200383
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    The post on the ‘Solo Wargaming – A Practitioners Guide’ thread here segued into a discussion about the positive and negative aspects of solo gaming and whether it isolates middle aged men from friendship or provides a useful ludic relaxation for the temporarily solitary.

    Rather than hijack Whirlwind’s excellent review thread further, and not seeking to court controversy, I thought I would unburden myself of some of my resulting thoughts here.

    Amongst the detritus stirred up from the bottom of my mental midden by the discussion, two characters from literature who were wargamers, but apparently exclusively solo gamers popped up.

    One I think would fit Mick’s concerns about lonely men very well.  The other not so much.

    I last read Puckoon by Spike Milligan about the partition of Ireland around 50 years ago so cannot remember the name of the character, (I remembered Google – Neville Thwick) but he worked as a volunteer for the boundary commission drawing the new Free State/Northern Irish border (he worked in  a bird seed manufacturers I think). His hobby when he got home from bird seed or borders, was refighting famous battles on maps. No figures regrettably from memory but pin markers. I think his hobby gets him evicted as he makes battle noises to accompany his manoeuvres and he is obviously a figure of fun – but perhaps we should take him out for a pint rather than laugh at him?

    The other needs no sympathy nor help. He is successful, ambitious, possibly duplicitous and falls in love with a ravishingly beautiful fallen angel in female guise.  Lucas Corso from Arturo Perez-Reverte’s ‘The Dumas Club’ is a board wargamer and antiquarian book dealer who wheels and deals in the murkier end of rare books by day and refights battles by night. Unlike Milligan’s failing human being, Corso is wildly attractive to women (it’s the smell of Avalon Hill) and is paid to travel around Europe to find a book that summons the devil. Polanski’s film  adaptation ‘The Ninth Gate’ stars Johnny Depp as ‘Dean’ Corso, but for some unaccountable reason, as well as changing Corso’s first name, moving him to New York from Spain and omitting the entire parallel story about the Dumas Club, which gives the book its name, Polanski omitted hours of fascinating boardgaming play. Small wonder it only made $20 million profit world wide and bombed in the States. It has become a ‘cult classic’ – a horrid fate for a commercial film – no doubt reduced to such a fate by the machinations of the spurned solo wargaming community.

    Anyone think of any other solo wargamers in literature? Saddos like Neville or ruggedly handsome world travellers like me and Corso?

    #200391
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    If by Literature you mean ‘stuff in books’ – The Emperor in ‘The Belgariad’ was a solo wargamer, and a pitiable figure.

    even less expected, there is a nice poke at Wargamers (and A solo Wargamer again lol) in one of the very early Warhammer Novels. ‘Jack Yeovil’ was not a wargamer himself, and ‘Drachenfells’ was written early on when GW hadnt yet taken iron control of the brand. Not only is the Elector in question a pitiful, senile drooling self-soiling idiot, who takes his ‘General’ to bed with him, he finally dies when the figures come to life in his head and attack and bear him down to death amid fire and the tiny pin pricks of little toy spears.

    so that’s Saddos 3, Virile Manly Men 1 so far

    Edit – it must be 50 years since I read ‘Puckoon’ but the reference to making noises while he played makes me wonder if Spike was having a little jab at Michael Bentine….. surely ‘Michael Bentine’s Potty Time’ must count as wargaming of a sort…..

    #200396
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    If by Literature you mean ‘stuff in books’

    I was aiming for higher brow than ‘stuff’… but go on then!

    Bentine! I’d forgotten him. He did the little dioramas/sets with imaginary characters plays in ‘It’s a Square World’ (I’m older than you!) which he revived in ‘Potty Time’. Definitely some were some form of wargaming – an attack on a dam in one? A western shoot out in another?

    I suspect it we dig further that ratio of ‘saddos’ to ‘heroes’ is going to get worse.

    #200400
    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage
    Participant

    If by Literature you mean ‘stuff in books’

    I was aiming for higher brow than ‘stuff’… but go on then! Bentine! I’d forgotten him. He did the little dioramas/sets with imaginary characters plays in ‘It’s a Square World’ (I’m older than you!) which he revived in ‘Potty Time’. Definitely some were some form of wargaming – an attack on a dam in one? A western shoot out in another? I suspect it we dig further that ratio of ‘saddos’ to ‘heroes’ is going to get worse.

     

    Bentine was a friend of Derek Guyler.

    If you know, you know 🙂

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    #200402
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    If you know, you know how to spell Deryck

    #200403
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    If we keep digging it will probably come to light that ‘Little Wars’ was partly fictionalised.

    Wells just pretended that the other chaps were there. Really was just him, crawling around on the floor going ‘kapow! Boom!’ then swapping sides and pretending to be Jerome K Jerome.

    The Saddo.

    #200404
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    You’ll be telling me Lloyd Osbourne was RLS’s imaginary friend next.

    #200405
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    believe what you want to, Saddo 🙂

    #200409
    Avatar photoGeneral Slade
    Participant

    There is something approaching solo wargaming in Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar, though, as with most things in Billy’s world, I don’t think it ever gets beyond the daydreaming/planning phase.  It’s been a long while since I read it but I think he is planning to create a miniature representation of his fantasy world of Ambrosia and refight its famous battles.  He describes it all to Woodbine Liz, one of his three fiancées, and she gets enthusiastic about the idea but then I think some little oiks laugh at them and the idea is forgotten.

    Though he is one of my heroes I suspect that Billy Fisher is in the Saddo camp.

    #200414
    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen
    Participant

    Perhaps a bit tangential, but I was watching a presentation on something in WW2 and some of the small pictures used to illustrate this or that unit looked remarkably like ASL illustrations from the scenario cards 🙂

    #200420
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    Billy Fisher!

    If he was a wargamer, he was definitely a soloist of the sad variety.

    I probably overidentified with him because I grew up in a northern mill town, had an imagination and aimed to leave.

    But Billy? Aaargh!

    For God’s sake man stay on the train! It’s Julie Christie. What were you thinking?

    #200423
    Avatar photoGeneral Slade
    Participant

    But Billy? Aaargh! For God’s sake man stay on the train! It’s Julie Christie. What were you thinking?

    I don’t think Keith Waterhouse felt happiness was possible for Billy.  Reading the follow-up, Billy Liar on the Moon, is an incredibly depressing experience.  It ranks alongside Gregory’s 2 Girls (the follow-up to Gregory’s Girl) among the sequels that I wish didn’t exist.

    #200474
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    I hated Billy Liar on the Moon.

    The replacement imaginary American was not the same thing as the Ambrosian reveries, and Billy was already in hell and heading deeper. Redemption was a faded dream.

    The possible saving grace of either dismissal or heroic reward for being part of the exposure of the corruption both failed and he slithered into a morass of compromise and ensnarement in lower middle class horror. Poor wife. Poor child.

    I no longer felt ‘poor Billy’; he’d made the worse possible bed and he lay in it. I worried Waterhouse may have made it a trilogy and dragged us through the awfulness of late middle age and his own child’s teenage rebellion. One can only hope the young Fisher dumped his father in the worst possible nursing home and ran off with the proceeds of the house sale, to buy thousands of 28mm Napoleonics.

     

    #200479
    Avatar photoArthur Harman
    Participant

    Gentlemen, you all seem to have overlooked Uncle Toby in ‘Tristram Shandy’ by Laurence Sterne who, accompanied by his servant Corporal Trim, dug up a bowling green to recreate the siege lines in which he had been wounded during the War of Spanish Succession, and cast miniature cannon from the lead weights inside sash windows (the absence of which led to Tristram’s father suffering a grievous injury) through which they puffed smoke from clay pipes to indicate the guns firing

    Uncle Toby is portrayed as a gallant but eccentric officer – definitely not a ‘saddo’ to be despised; more a sort of 18th century Peter Young.

    #200480
    Avatar photoGeneral Slade
    Participant

    One can only hope the young Fisher dumped his father in the worst possible nursing home and ran off with the proceeds of the house sale, to buy thousands of 28mm Napoleonics.

    I like that ending.  I think a lot of novels would be better with a happy ending like that.  ‘Reader, I decided not to marry him.  Instead I bought a few boxes of Perry Austrians and a tube of Revell Contacta.’

    #200482
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better game that I go to than I have ever known using cardboard counters.’

    You’re right, it improves much literature.

     

    As for Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim – I wondered about them and am very tempted, but the thing is there are two of them. Unopposed yes, but ‘Solo’? Not really are they? Cooperative and also playing the sieges out according to the press descriptions of the action. Where is the essential ludic nature of the event – it feels more reenactment than wargame, possibly?

    #200483
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    I was also wondering about Max von Sydow’s contract killer character Joubert in the film Three Days of the Condor – he is painting model figures as he waits between contracts to kill.

    Problem – is he painting to play? Painting to play solo? And having read the book ‘Six Days of the Condor’ (time travels faster in film) from which the film is taken, I don’t remember any figure painting (Joubert is called Maronick in the book).

    Joubert may or may not be sad if a solo gamer but I’m not going to tell him.

    So any other solo wargamers in books? Or films if we’ve run out of paper characters?

    #200488
    Avatar photoRobert Armstrong
    Participant

    I’d have to dig out my ancient copies to be certain, but I remember Dorian Hawkmoon (one of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion characters) endlessly replaying the Battle of Londra with miniatures to try find any circumstance where the outcomes could be changed. Think it’s in ‘Ilian of Garathorm’, the first of the trilogy following on from the main Runestaff quartet,  and he’s in a pretty bad state – not a great example of wargaming helping a positive state of mind, he’s physically and mentally declined a lot and is pretty much a hermit by this stage!

    #200489
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    Films…. they love using ‘Paints Toy Soldiers’as a cheap shorthand for ‘Pitiful Loser’*.

    ‘The 40 Old year Virgin’ – He does pretty much everything solo.

    *Now GW has gone mainstream this may well change.

    #200499
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    It’s odd, but for a very brief period during the late 60s/early 70s wargaming and toy soldiers were used to convey something other than ‘sad’ in TV and Film.

    Joubert isn’t pitiable – he’s alone but not apparently lonely – he is well off and exercises the power of life and death over others. Although how he’d fit in down at the club is another matter.

    Callan was working class, a loner and trapped in a job he hated but his wargaming seemed designed to convey a sense of  agency and intellect beyond the reach of psychopathic upper class Toby Meres/Mears (Anthony Valentine) or the slightly rougher edged Cross (Patrick Mower) and an engagement with the moral world unfathomable to his boss ‘Hunter’.

    Jason King (Peter Wyngarde) from Department S played a 48 hour wargame with one woman (continuously he claims, although she mentions with a seductively raised eyebrow that it was not quite ‘continuous’) before welcoming Michelle Dotrice to stay in his guest bedroom – leaving the game set up in the living room. ‘Buried in the Cold Cold Ground’. You couldn’t get cooler than that in 1971. I think it was supposed to be sophisticated and show he’s interested in her tactical manoeuvres rather than simply her manoeuvres. Don’t judge me – I didn’t make it, and it was, ye Gods! 53 years ago!

    I wasted decades and thousands of pounds expecting beautiful women to fall into my lap at the mere mention of a +7 morale score Impetuous Charge. Hey ho.

    Neither Callan nor King appear to have been solo gamers however.

    #200502
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    – not a great example of wargaming helping a positive state of mind, he’s physically and mentally declined a lot and is pretty much a hermit by this stage!

    Hmm? Sounds a bit too close for comfort Robert. Thanks for that!

    There are great swathes of writing out there I have no knowledge of whatsoever. The only book of Moorcock’s I remember reading is ‘Wizardry and Wild Romance’ which is about epic fantasy rather than being (at least in theory) epic fantasy.

    Under duress I will also confess to never having read War and Peace all the way through (please tell me Pierre Bezukhov is a wargamer) in one go.

    So I was hoping for hundreds of solo wargamers of admirable social integration and happy demeanour to emerge from the page. Looking a bit thin so far.

    #200505
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    Under duress I will also confess to never having read War and Peace all the way through (please tell me Pierre Bezukhov is a wargamer) in one go.

    Pierre was a Furry, part-time Trainspotter and collected Pokemon cards. *

    *Not really. I haven’t ever got more than 4 chapters in, but he seems like a real nerd from the bits of the TV series I had to sit through to keep my wife company.

    #200519
    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen
    Participant

    Those 1812 Pokemon cards go for serious money on Ebay now 🙂

    #200530
    Avatar photoGeof Downton
    Participant

    I wasted decades and thousands of pounds expecting beautiful women to fall into my lap…

    Me too. Having succeeded, by unknown means, in acquiring a wife, (well two, but not at the same time) I have recently discovered, now that it is of no use to me, that the secret to the attraction of members of the opposite sex is the possession of a small dog or two. Never guitars, motorcycles, cars or toy soldiers!

    One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.
    Ahab, King of Israel; 1 Kings 20:11

    #200542
    Avatar photoOB
    Participant

    Moorcock’s Breakfast Amongst the Ruins a collection of his short stories has one that features a Wargamer.  Not sure if he was a solo gamer, I read it too long ago.

    Anyhow, he comes to a sticky end. Not an inspiring tale.  Unless of course you are a submissive into bondage.  Then it would be just the ticket.

    Moorcock seems to have been aware of Wargaming.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #200544
    Avatar photoOotKust
    Participant

    Interesting. Werry interesting…

    It may be a psychological step to the left – but have you forgotten ‘The Dice Man’? Auth. Luke Rheinhart or some such.

    Using the ultimate gamers tool, he re-imagines life going into different events- and a la gaming, lets the die decide. So solo applies in principle; other things that I can’t recall any more.

    Pretty sure I picked it up in 70s while scouring book shops for those British ‘historical’ repeats of warfare and seafaring in distant ages…

    ~dave

    #200555
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    The Dice Man – another artefact excavated from the ‘Things I ought to get round to reading/doing’ trench. Good input.

    Never read it – heard lots about it. Sounds fundamentally flawed. Who creates the list corresponding to the dice rolls? Or the choices or whatever? Who would make you go through with it? (All good questions for solo gamers).

    If I’m a cautious type I’m not going to put ‘Abandon safe well paid job in law firm’ on the list after an epiphany on a Friday night in the pub with other junior solicitors and articled clerks am I? No siree bob.

    And if for a laugh I did, would I go through with it with nothing worked out about what to do next? No. I’d say it was a mad idea and carry on in a well paid, secure, growing profession. And if I were a slightly jump first look second type would I need a list and a cube to do that? Prob not.

    Silly idea.

    As for being solo wargaming, not sure where the game is, beyond throwing dice? Unless life is a game and nothing matters. Now there’s pause for thought.

    Maybe Mick was right – solo gaming is bad for your mental health!

    Any more solo wargamers lurking in Dickens, Dorothy L Sayers, Alistair MacLean, Penelope Lively, Hemingway, Elif Shafik? Anywhere? Anyone?

     

    PS – Ivan, I can let you have a complete set of the 1812 Pokemon if you bung me  a couple of grand. Okay? (pounds not dollars)  

    #200556
    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage
    Participant

    Films…. they love using ‘Paints Toy Soldiers’as a cheap shorthand for ‘Pitiful Loser’*. ‘The 40 Old year Virgin’ – He does pretty much everything solo. *Now GW has gone mainstream this may well change.

    Brian Lane, Alun Armstrong’s character in New Tricks was married, retired and had kids. He was a bit neurodivergent though.

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    #200557
    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage
    Participant

    – not a great example of wargaming helping a positive state of mind, he’s physically and mentally declined a lot and is pretty much a hermit by this stage!

    Hmm? Sounds a bit too close for comfort Robert. Thanks for that! There are great swathes of writing out there I have no knowledge of whatsoever. The only book of Moorcock’s I remember reading is ‘Wizardry and Wild Romance’ which is about epic fantasy rather than being (at least in theory) epic fantasy. Under duress I will also confess to never having read War and Peace all the way through (please tell me Pierre Bezukhov is a wargamer) in one go. So I was hoping for hundreds of solo wargamers of admirable social integration and happy demeanour to emerge from the page. Looking a bit thin so far.

    Moorcock’s (who the hell has a name like more cock?) last Elric novel was published in 2o22, so he’s probably not that decrepit. There’s a new White Friars due this year.

    They could be ghost written I suppose.

     

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    #200558
    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage
    Participant

    The Dice Man – another artefact excavated from the ‘Things I ought to get round to reading/doing’ trench. Good input. Never read it – heard lots about it. Sounds fundamentally flawed. Who creates the list corresponding to the dice rolls? Or the choices or whatever? Who would make you go through with it? (All good questions for solo gamers). If I’m a cautious type I’m not going to put ‘Abandon safe well paid job in law firm’ on the list after an epiphany on a Friday night in the pub with other junior solicitors and articled clerks am I? No siree bob. And if for a laugh I did, would I go through with it with nothing worked out about what to do next? No. I’d say it was a mad idea and carry on in a well paid, secure, growing profession. And if I were a slightly jump first look second type would I need a list and a cube to do that? Prob not. Silly idea.

     

    Don’t waste your time. It’s up there with ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ in the Compleat Bolox lists.

    “Typical American ‘end of the summer of love’ nihilist tripe.” is my review. 🙂

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    #200560
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    Funnily enough an American gave me Zen and the Art of Boring People, he said it would change my life.

    He was right: I wasted hours messing about with engines I’d have been better paying someone who knew what they were doing to fix. And I never made a shim from a Coke can! The shame.

     

    I thought Moorcock was dead. Apparently  not.

    #200564
    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage
    Participant

    Funnily enough an American gave me Zen and the Art of Boring People, he said it would change my life. He was right: I wasted hours messing about with engines I’d have been better paying someone who knew what they were doing to fix. And I never made a shim from a Coke can! The shame. I thought Moorcock was dead. Apparently not.

    I read “Zen” and the “Dice Man” when I was an angsty teenager. Even the angsty teenager recognised that they were a bit rubbish, and not at all life changing.

    Years later, in my forties, I read them both again in case a few decades of real life had altered my outlook, and I’d missed some subtleties at 18. Angsty teenage was still correct at 42.

    Which, existentially, probably means I’m talking bollox 🙂

     

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    #200567
    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen
    Participant

    Theres an infinite number of those types of books, usually peddling the sort of faux-stoicism that seems very profound because most of us at the young age of 15 through 95 probably need to be told “sometimes things suck and you have to figure it out” but the rest is self-important twaddle 🙂

    #200574
    Avatar photoAdmiralHawke
    Participant

    So any other solo wargamers in books? Or films if we’ve run out of paper characters?

    I’m sure there was an American colonel with a big wargames table in one of the Bond films — but I can’t remember which one or whether he was playing solo.

    #200576
    Avatar photoOotKust
    Participant

    Never read it – heard lots about it. Sounds fundamentally flawed. Who creates the list corresponding to the dice rolls?

    It’s all in his head maan…..

    and choices were, like hits, from extreme to extreme… IIRC _

    #200578
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    I’m sure there was an American colonel with a big wargames table in one of the Bond films — but I can’t remember which one or whether he was playing solo.

    You appear to be right!

    Brad Whittaker from The Living Daylights – a Bond film I have not seen. He was kicked out of West Point apparently so the rank may be ‘stolen valour’ – surely deserving of being crushed by Bond (in a diorama of Waterloo) – as much as for his arms dealing.

    The Living Daylights is a short story by Fleming as well, but I have no idea (and strongly doubt)that the wargaming element was in that one – still – Good spot!

    #200579
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    Never read it – heard lots about it. Sounds fundamentally flawed. Who creates the list corresponding to the dice rolls?

    It’s all in his head maan….. and choices were, like hits, from extreme to extreme… IIRC _

    Yes, still a list in his head though.  And who … well its moot anyway. I think I am unlikely to need the d6 approach to life choices at my age – probably.

    A lot of my d6 choices would I fear now involve snoozing, playing wargames (I might need that one actually), writing a bestseller (tad late I suspect but you never know), hanging on long enough for me to fall back in love with rugby union, avoiding football with my seventeen year old son – we had a kick about in the local park this afternoon – I can barely move! Managing to slaughter the squirrels lurking in the garden. All a bit low key really.

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