The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! I hope you’ll like some of my ideas and quests.

I am Gerry Upton. I live in Ontario, Canada, and have been wargaming ever since I can remember. I can recall wargaming on a beach with shingle nails as soldiers and curtain hangers as trucks and tanks. (I hope I didn’t leave them there and have someone step on them.) I must have been about 6 years old.

I soon became aware of Airfix 1/76 ACW figures. I got infantry and cavalry for both sides and later – when they became available – artillery, the wagon train set, and even French Foreign Legion as New York Zouaves. I’m guessing that would be about 1957-58. I didn’t know any better, so the paint flaked off those figures about as fast as I put it on. I think I was using oil paints initially as I didn’t know about Humbrol yet. As I started reading about the subject I organized them into regiments, but never bothered putting them on common stands. I had lots of patience and persistence back then. I don’t think I ever used rules with them; imagination and my personal preferences worked much better and were a lot more fun.

I progressed on to Airfix Afrika Korps and Eighth Army figures and their 1/76 tanks. I’m sure I had Panthers and Sturmgeschuetzen in the desert battling Churchills and Shermans, with 6 pdrs knocking them out with ease. Still don’t recall using any rules. Vaguely-painted Spitfires and Messerschmitts battled it out overhead in my eager little hands.

Then in 1965 I discovered this great new board game: Blitzkrieg by Avalon Hill. That was followed by Afrika Korps soon after. Friends had Stalingrad, Jutland, Battle of the Bulge, Midway and Bismarck and we played them. Finally I could indulge in the strategic part of history. (I never thought of linking up the strategic board game to the tactical miniatures game, now did I?)

Also about this time, an unremembered aunt gave me a book for my birthday: The Campaigns of Napoleon, by David Chandler. I believe that was the second book I ever owned. (The first was Afrika Korps from the Ballantines Illustrated History of WWII series.) Read the thing cover-to-cover at least twice. Soon after I was given the American Heritage Picture History of The Civil War. (I still have all three.) After doing a little bit of comparative reading I discovered that I was playing ACW like the Napoleonic Wars, with great cavalry charges against each other and against the infantry, and infantry charging in columns and succeeding!

Just about then I somehow discovered a copy of Jack Scruby’s Table Top Talk magazine extoling the virtues of his new “n-scale” Napoleonics. (I still have that copy … somewhere.)  I could get a lot more on the small tables I was using! I plunged! I got some friends interested as well. I built up a French and a Prussian Corps for 1813, each in 1-10 ratio; a friend did an Austrian army while another did more French and some Russians and another did – I think – Confederation of the Rhine and French. We had some huge battles at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario and in my parents’ basement. Those were the glory days!

I also discovered another publication called Wargamer’s Newsletter by some guy named Donald Featherstone. I started corresponding with him and contributing to the Newsletter. Eventually I purchased all of his books that pertained to my area of interest. (He seemed particularly interested in British colonial wars and I could never get up any enthusiasm for this field.)

Then in 1971 I got married, and soon after that became a father and a bread-winner. Wargames had to be put away, although I did continue to buy and paint 9mm Scrubys in the basement. (I ended up with 7,200 painted Scruby Napoleonics, but most of them never saw the table-top battlefield.) Eventually I discovered some of the rudimentary computer wargames that could be played and saved in the little time I had available. That had to suffice.

In 1995 at the end of a nasty economic recession period I got a divorce and said goodbye to my long-term business in what must have been some sort of mid-life crisis purge. My ex worked for a lawyer at the time, so guess who got the house and the car. In compensation, I got my freedom. At the time, it was enough. (I later found out that a large part of the disaster of my business was faulty and rather suspect bookkeeping by my ex.)

I ended up teaching English in Thailand. Left all baggage behind except for a few books and CDs of classical music. In part I was there looking for one of those nice sweet slim young Asian women I’d come to appreciate. I found one and eventually brought her home. After the recession hit Thailand and left me jobless there I came back to Canada and lived in the back of the cab of a long-distance truck for several years. I did get to see most of North America in the process, which was a nice little bonus (on a good day.)

Eventually I stumbled on a forgotten little cache in a corner of my parents’ capacious basement. Two old Avalon Hill games (plus parts of others) and most of my Scruby Napoleonics!

In 2011 I became frustrated that I was missing counters from the remnants of one of my AH games. I decided to see if I could make some replacement counters on my computer and print them off. They were acceptable. I then began to wonder if other people might need replacement counters, and if they could appreciate mine. I started to market them thru eBay. They were indeed purchased and even appreciated. (They were garbage, but what did I know?)

I discovered some “improved” AH counters on the internet by a fellow named John Cooper. I got his permission to reproduce and sell them, and began redesigning my replacement counters to look better and more colourful. They not only replaced, they improved!

I also found a small printing company that would do small runs for me and produce a result immeasurably better than I could. Shortly after that I found another company that would die-cut them for me. Finally my counters looked professional and really good!

Now I am a mainstay on eBay and my replacement counters are a big hit and a small business in themselves. I can’t really play the games any more, but I can bring other affictionadoes joy by letting them play their favourite old games again.

In 2013 I became retired whether I wanted to or not (although my counter-replacement jaunt is working its way up into a full-time job.) I’m married with a family and a house again, but this time I’m not working. I’ve got a basement with a nice ping-pong table that no one ever uses any more. I can’t spend more than an hour a day painting (bad back) and I can’t stand by the table for more than about an hour either (bad feet.) However there are people who will paint the miniatures for me, and if I play solo then when I’m tired of standing by the table I can go away and come back whenever I feel like it.

Strangely enough I can’t work up too much enthusiasm for my Napoleonics. I have become much more interested in the period of the Eighteenth Century. The stately period of warrior-kings!

Solo wargaming has allowed me to do something I’ve always wanted to try: playing a campaign. I have always felt that just playing a battle was sort of dry. We have the miniatures; let’s play a battle. Okay, I win, you lose, so what?

For me, a battle needs the context of a campaign to really have meaning. So that is the “muse” I am pursuing. As I go I am taking pictures and writing it up. Initially this was for myself, but in today’s easy computer access I decided to electronically publish it in case anyone else was interested.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s