Interview with: David Edgington

How did you get started in war gaming and what were the kinds of games you played?

Of course I had toy soldiers and cowboys when I was little. I think I was more interested in them than most of my friends, in part because I was really interested in history, even then. I also enjoyed making up countries, building forts and whatnot. At any rate, I still had my 54mm figures and a bunch of Airfix 20mm figures into my early teens.

I suppose that would soon have ended, however, one day I was looking through the fine arts section of the public library (no idea what I was doing there, since it was upstairs in a separate room) when I found a copy of Don Featherstone's How to go Wargaming. This led to a homemade set of rules with infantry, cavalry, artillery, tanks, etc.. Highly unrealistic, but one of my friends and I had fun.

Later my friend moved away and I went to college. There I had access to a big city library with a few more Featherstone books. One summer I visited Denver and bought a copy of Young & Lawford's Charge, or How to Play Wargames.That got me going with more historical armies, instead of all the green Airfix figures versus all the brown Airfix figures. I painted up Airfix AWI figures in uniforms of fanciful and imaginary European powers and had at it on the pool table while my step-father was out.

I then came across Wargames Digest, which was certainly inspiring. It had advertisements for figures and places I could write to get a catalog to order figures! I started building WRG armies, Byzantines, Greeks and then Sub-Roman Britons. When TSATF came out, along with the lovely Ral Partha figures, I bought figures and rules.

There have been some distractions along the way. Patrick Leigh Fermor's travel book Mani inspired me to convert RP bashi-bazouks into Greek Maniots to fight Minifig Turks in a modified version of TSATF. I have some fantasy things, I've dabbled in WWII (Operation Warboard, and later Command Decision), and done a little bit with the Civil War. My main interests have been colonials of several varieties, and more recently, Vikings, inspired by the sagas, which I play using Pig Wars.

Tell me more about the Vikings project. Why does it interest you? What were some of the more recent game scenarios you've played? What are some of the challenges/facets particular to playing Vikings games?

It has taken me a while to find my way to Vikings as I have them now. Way back when, I built a WRG Ancients Viking army. It was made up of true 25mm figures, from companies like Citadel, Ral Partha, and Frontier, and all the spearmen were in the same position. I had no army for them to fight, and didn't know any gamers in the area. Ultimately, I realized I wasn't interested in fighting big battles, like Stamford Bridge, anyway. I wanted to game the small battles I read about in the sagas. So, several years later, I went through the Vikings, picked out my favorites, and traded off the rest.

Then, I bought some Old Glory figures, where everybody was in a somewhat different position. A much better look for small actions, I think, and started searching for appropriate rules. Among other things, I tried making a Viking version of TSATF, which my son and victim did not like. Ultimately, I found the Pig Wars rules, which work pretty well. We usually do games with two or three 12-15 figure bands on each side. I realize many of the fights in the sagas are smaller, with two or three guys per side, and I'm looking for a rule set that will do that well. I'd also like to try WAB, which I see as simulating a war band of 200-300 raiding the countryside.

Why do I like the period? There is the flexibility of the period, with different sized battles ranging from one on one to armies of 8,000 or so men. Battles can be by land or sea, in all sorts of different terrain. I've gone with the skirmish level games. Gaming on this level makes the game more personalized, and probably more cinematic, since movies tend to tell stories of individuals better than they do mass movements. During one game, a beardless figure, a mere lad no doubt, would come up behind his enemies and bash them in the head, a heroic legend in the making.

Vikings have pretty good inspirational support in print (sagas, historical accounts, historical novels) and in the movies (The Longships, The Vikings, Erik the Viking, etc). This comes across as heroic and adventurous, and yet manages to have an element of ironic humor and sometimes even whimsy, which I like. The first battle we gamed with Pig Wars involved a fight over who got to cart away the meat from a whale that had washed ashore. Naturally, all the pencil necked desk pilots I game with chose the muscular, bare-chested Viking warriors to lead their band and represent them! We had rules for movement and fighting on the whale. Different from the serious issues of weltpolitik nations have claimed to fight about for the past 250 years. As you said the other day, this is supposed to be fun.

Note: In reference to a comment If you're not having fun, then you're not having fun. Change the rules or game as needed to have it be enjoyable instead of true to history or the rule set.

Vikings can fight many different enemies. I've done several of the saga battles, and some scenarios I invented based on the society in the sagas with Viking versus Viking battles. I'm working out from there, with a battle against the Welsh, and some Anglo-Saxons on the painting table. I'd like to add some Slavs and Khazars to attack my Vikings while they portage their boats around the rapids on the Don or Volga. This year, I hope to add a band of Indians/Skraelings for fights in North America. Vikings worked as mercenaries, too, and I've thought about doing the battles from MacBeth.

Of course, Vikings are colorful. Maybe you saw my e-mail to The Miniatures Page last week about their use of pink? There are lots of lovely figures out there to paint to include women, children, old guys, shepherds, priests and laborers. All of these you can build a scenario around.

I've also been interested in Norse mythology and folklore. Vikings could easily morph into a fantasy game one day, or something that stands on the boundary between history and fantasy. A toy coelacanth, as long as a Viking boat, I saw at the dinosaur museum was awfully tempting! There is a seamless transition from history to fantasy. A fairly historical saga has a guy jumping across a chasm at the Althing. I haven't been there, can't judge the historicity, and the editors make no comment, yet I wonder. Ghosts figure in one or two of the sagas as well as fortune telling. I've been thinking of a scenario that uses an old crone predicting the future as the driver to bring about a battle.

Maybe some days, I just want to be the muscular, bare-chested axe-wielding warrior hacking my foes into little pieces, and looking death in the eye!

What is it you love about the hobby and what would you like see happen with the hobby?

I probably like the intellectual aspects best. I enjoy reading and researching about my chosen periods, looking up organizations, checking uniform and dress details, investigating weapons. While I've never written my own set of rules, I like to adapt other rule sets to new periods and tinker with rules to achieve more period flavor. I would include actually playing the game, figuring out the tactics and strategies, in the intellectual category.

I usually like painting, too, but it can be a real downer. You work hard for a month, painting a bunch of figures to achieve an almost jewel-like quality. They are carefully, lovingly transferred to a tray to be sealed. Then you plop a bunch of solid white (or gray or black) figures down on the desk and start all over again. Couldn't bring myself to start the February unit last night, and painted other things instead.

I've been happy with the way the hobby is going, spreading out to provide an incredible variety. There are so many more books and research materials available, wider selection of figures, more rules out there, and world wide access to all of it through the internet. The figure makers have been fairly responsive to what we want, to the point that Eureka has the 100/300 Club and Wargames Factory has its Liberty and Union League. There are figures I'd still like to see somebody make. Byzantines for the 1444 campaign come to mind and a few figures I'd love to commission, like Foreign Legion characters. These could include a dashing officer, sadistic sergeant, weasel corporal, heroic legionnaire, or comely vivandiere.

I'm interested in the new plastic figures, and have considered buying them for the American Civil War or the War of 1812. I realized however, that for me the bottleneck isn't having money to buy figures, but having time to paint them, and I've already got too many unpainted figures. Still, I like the idea, and may ultimately buy into plastic armies, since I'm starting to contemplate retirement in about 10 years, and that should reverse the equation, giving me more time than money.

One thing I would like to see is more people involved. In part this is because I've spent a lot of time in relatively small towns, with no opponent. The place I'll probably retire to falls into that category. Another thing I'd like to do is attend one or two of the big gaming conventions back East. I've spent most of my life out in the West (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming) and conventions are few and far between here.

© 2010, Gabriel Landowski