Article – 1972 Gary Gygax Wargamer’s Newsletter

Source: Rogue Games Tabbloid — December 3, 2009 Edition – Link here.

Reader Jervis Johnson kindly sent along the following short article by Gary Gygax, published in the October 1972 (No. 127) issue of Wargamer’s Newsletter. There’s no copyright statement on the issue from which this is taken, but it’s assumed to be copyrighted to Donald Featherstone, who began this venerable periodical in 1962.

Here’s the text of the article, typos and misspellings included:




I offer the following details of our fantasy battles:

The rules used are those designed by Jeff Perran and I – CHAINMAIL, Guidon Games, P.O. Box 1123, Evansville, IN 47713, U.S.A., at $2 plus postage. The revised and expanded version should be available by the time this is read. The booklet contains brief information about the scales used for different figure-types, and the expanded edition has things like how fast goblins, orcs and dwarves can tunnel under the walls of a besieged stronghold.

Tolkien purists will not find these rules entirely satisfactory, I believe, for many of the fantastic creatures do not follow his “specifications”, mainly because I believe that other writers were as “authoritative” as he.

Because I have a large force of 40mm Elastolin figures, we use a base 40mm as man-size, but 30mm will do as well. Regular troops have only a few added touches of paint, but hero-types have such things as gilded or enamelled armour, jewels, and carefully painted devices on their shields.

Orcs and elves are 30mm – that is what it says in our book. However, because we have not got around to preparing them, Orcs are 40mm Turks and Elves are bowmen of the same scale.

Trolls and ogres are 54mm. I located some inexpensive plastic Indians in this scale, and a bit of conversion has produced sufficient numbers of black, grey, green and purple creatures of this ilk.

Metal mediaeval figures in 25mm scale can easily be painted up to make goblins and dwarves, while converted Airfix “Robin Hood” men serve as Hobbits.

Giants are made from the 70mm Elastolin figures. At the moment we have only a pale blue fellow with a head of bushy hair (snipped from one of my daughter’s dolls when they weren’t looking), who is brandishing a huge club. He was originally a Viking with a sword and shield, but the shield was stripped off, the sword removed and a puttied matchstick became the bludgeon.
The Balrog has caused considerable problems, and right now we are using a giant sloth from an assortment of plastic prehistoric animals, which (converted) makes a fearsome looking beast, albeit not quite as Tolkien described it.

Nazgul, like the Balrog, are also difficult. Presently we are employing unconverted 40mm Huns on black horses, but we would like to put wings on the steeds and cloak the figures riding them.

There are two dragons in our force of fantasy figures. One I made stegosaurus: First, the head was enlarged with auto body putty, a wire was inserted into the tail and puttied to make it longer – and barbed, the spikes of the tail were clipped off and added as horns to the head end, cardboard bat wings were puttied into place, and finally the entire affair was given many coats of paint, gilding and glitter (as sparkling gems on its belly). The other was made by Don Kaye using a brontosaurus, with two smaller heads added to the long neck, spikes along the back, wings, and so on.

A large stock of plastic wolves, bears, vultures, and the like are used for lycanthropes or whatever other fairly normal looking creatures are called for. Soft plastic “horrors” and insects from the dime store serve as elementals and giant insects.

Perhaps the best part of fantasy wargaming is being able to allow your imagination full rein. Whatever the players desire can be used or done in games. For example, for one match I built a chest of jewels as the object to be obtained to win. However, I did not mention to either team that I had added a pair of “basilisk eyes” (large pin heads dotted appropriately) which immediately turned the first ogre who opened it to stone. The possibilities are boundless.

The way the rules are selling here, it seems a good bat for some model figures firm to start producing a line of properly scaled fantasy figures!

Mr Botham’s observations about the possibilities of Airfix “Astronauts” as Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” (or other future warriors) has also crossed my mind as a fair possibility. In fact, if Mr Botham eventually puts his ideas into a set of rules I can state, as Rules Editor at Guidon Games, that I would like to see them with eventual publication in mind.

It’s an intriguing article for a number of reasons, not least because of his comment about other authors being as “authoritative” as Tolkien when it comes to describing fantastical creatures. That ought to add more fuel for the fire of future discussions on that topic.

Thanks for sending this along, Jervis!

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