War game fans heading to Falkirk

War elephants by Glasgow Tradeston Wargames Club members William Wilson and Simon Watson
War elephants by Glasgow Tradeston Wargames Club members William Wilson and Simon Watson

Hundreds of wargamers from Scotland and across the UK will descend on Falkirk’s Graeme High School next Saturday for the annual Carronade show - rated one of the best in the country.

Run by Falkirk and District Wargames Club, the event sees gamers pitch miniature armies against each other in closely-fought battles, in periods ranging from Ancient Sumeria through to the world wars and beyond.

Now firmly established as one of just two “premier league” events of its type in Scotland (the other is in Edinburgh in early August), Carronade takes its name from the eponymous piece of naval artillery once produced for 19th century British warships at Falkirk’s famous Carron Iron Works.

Besides the dozens of individual displays - which include several easy-to-join public participation games - the event also hosts a galaxy of traders from all over the UK selling metal and plastic miniatures and accessories, from First World War aircraft to battlefield terrain.

Wargaming has a very long history, and in modern times is still used as the term for exercises - ranging from military to civil aviation and crowd control - designed to find whether planning for emergencies is up to scratch.

But as a thought-provoking pastime for people interested in military history it probably dates from Edwardian times, when author H G Wells wrote his groundbreaking “Little Wars”.

In the 60’s and 70’s it became a niche hobby in Britain, and later the USA, popularised by enthusiasts like the late actor Edward Woodward (who featured a large battle display of Gettysburg in the 1974 movie Callan).

Now, despite soaring enthusiasm of computer games of all kinds, tabletop wargaming is more popular than ever, and many or even most of the top metal figure manufacturers and - crucially - authors of wargame rules are in the UK.

Dice typically play a major role in wargames, providing a carefully defined element of uncertainty that can wreck even the most Cunning Plan.

On the other hand “bad dice” is the textbook lame excuse for a battle that has gone horribly, disastrously wrong.

Far from glamourising war, many gamers feel the process of trying to recreate real life command decisions can bring home with startling clarity the appalling consequences of a foolish order - like the one which notoriously consigned a whole brigade of British cavalry to pointless destruction in the Crimean War.

Meanwhile the answer to the often-asked question: “Could Napoleon have won at Waterloo?” is always an emphatic “yes” - because with the benefit of hindsight all of the historic mistakes which led to the downfall of history’s greatest general could easily have been avoided.

The most popular wargames periods include the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War, but, history aside,

“Game of Thrones” style conflicts set in fantasy worlds (complete with wizards and monsters) are also popular with the younger set (if you have seen the Warhammer shop in Falkirk you’ll get the idea).

Veteran “history” wargamers sometimes look askance at these, while the fantasy fans quietly note that the “old-timers” obsessed with real events of long ago are dinosaurs ... and, perhaps inevitably, there are wargames involving model dinosaurs too.

Carronade runs from 10am to 4pm at Graeme High School; admission £3 or £1 for under-16’s and over-60’s.

For more details, visit http://www.falkirkwargamesclub.org.uk/Carronade2018home.html