Thursday 21 November 2019

Seven Years War Rules - Post of Honour v.6

Seven Years War fans might like to know that I'm still improving these rules, and the latest version is now available for free download at the links below. Hope you like them!

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Farewell Stuart Asquith

So, on Monday 18th November, I attended the funeral of Stuart Asquith. There was a beautiful service at Cheltenham Crematorium, when heartfelt and moving tributes from two of Stuart's children allowed us an insight into the much loved husband, father and grandfather. There was also a speech from Charles S. Grant, who explained how Stuart's 'life in wargaming' was so significant to thousands of wargaming enthusiasts worldwide.

We then proceeded to the wake. At the family's request I had set up a display intended to reflect Stuart's wargaming hobby, as well as his love for toy soldier collecting. On one side a stylised Napoleonic wargame, on the other his magnificent toy castle ('Castle Stuart') surrounded by some (in fact, less than half) of his astonishing collection of Britain's figures.

The castle was actually a gift from Charles S. Grant from many years ago, and one of Stuart's prized possessions.

Just a couple of close ups of the 30mm wargaming figures, which exemplified Stuart's wonderful painting style which brought out the colour and drama of the Napoleonic uniforms.

Wakes are funny things. You are there to grieve and remember, but (particularly with someone like Stuart who was so loved by his family and was such a dear friend to so many others), you also celebrate a life. And so I hope a few smiles will be excused. 

Wargamers and cake? Who'd have thought it.
We both knew Stuart would have approved. Myself and Dave Ryan.

The photo above shows the wargaming contingent of the gathered mourners. Sadly, Charles Grant couldn't make it to the wake as he had to fly back to Scotland the same day (via Amsterdam, as the schedules would have it). The very fact that he had made it to the funeral at all was evidence of his great determination to be present.

Left to right:
  • John Curry, History of Wargaming project.
  • Some wargamer much smaller than John Curry.
  • Roy Boss, President of the Society of Ancients.
  • Phil Olley, well known proprietor of the 'Classic Wargaming' and 'Phil's War Cabinet' blogs.
  • Dave Ryan, owner of Caliver Books and Partizan Press
  • Henry Hyde, who hardly needs any introduction.
And so we went our separate ways, and the figures were tidied away. I was honoured to have been invited and to make some small contribution to the event. Stuart was a great inspiration to so many wargamers and a great ambassador of the hobby. He was also a great pleasure to know. He will be sorely missed.

Friday 8 November 2019

Stuart Asquith, 1946 - 2019

Most readers of this blog will probably already be aware that one of the great figures of our hobby has recently passed away - Stuart Asquith, who died a few days ago. As this blog has recorded, I was lucky enough to find myself living in the same small town as Stuart, and we first met nearly three and a half years ago. The photo below was taken during our first wargame together. A bit of pointing action is taking place for the photographer - which became a bit of a standing joke between us.

A Life In Wargaming
Stuart was already a keen wargamer by the time of his marriage in 1966. Like so many of us he seems to have started with Airfix ACW armies, but in 1967 he discovered the book Charge!, by Lawford and Young, and essentially never looked back. I have lost count of the number of times he has told me that that particular book would always be his favourite, and the rules within were the ones he most enjoyed playing. Many of our games on his 6' x 3' dining table were fought with stripped down versions of the Charge! rules.

The cover of Battle seen below has Stuart in the blue shirt on the left, sporting what he used to call his 'porn star moustache'. By this time (1978), his writing career was already well under way, and within the magazine was the latest in his 'Battles of the ECW' series. He was eventually to take over Terry Wise's iconic 'Observation Post' column, which moved to Military Modelling when Battle was incorporated into that magazine. Terry was one of Stuart's colleagues in the famous Rayners Lane Wargamers Group, which Stuart founded and which included many well known wargamers, including Donald Featherstone and Charles Grant (senior). The group lasted from 1978 to 2001. Charles Grant's son, Charles S. Grant, became a life-long wargaming partner and friend of Stuart's.

Stuart's first book was out in 1979 - The Campaign of Naseby, published by Osprey. Since then Stuart has had over 20 books published, the last of which (Stuart Asquith's Wargaming 18th Century Battles) was published by The History of Wargaming Project in 2016.

Apart from the books, Stuart's greatest publishing legacy is undoubtedly his editorship of Practical Wargamer magazine, which was published bi-monthly from 1987 to 1999. Alongside Practical Wargamer, Stuart worked for the same publishers as editor of Regiment magazine.


Sadly, the cut-throat world of publishing saw both the above magazines stopped in 2000. This was a considerable blow to Stuart - his own words from 2016 demonstrate the consequences:

"Suddenly my wife and I had no income and a mortgage on a large London town house still to pay. So for about 5 years I was at a low ebb with the hobby. I gave away all my 25mm figures; my terrain boards, formerly belonging to Terry Wise, went to the tip. I thought I was selling my books, but the buyer defaulted on payment..."

Temporarily disillusioned with the hobby, Stuart moved to Northleach in the Cotswolds, and for about 5 years did little or no wargaming, until gamers from the nearby Cirencester Wargames Club brought him back into the fold. He rebuilt his collection as his painting mojo returned, maintaining a prodigious output of excellent figures, and we met a few years later.

Stuart was always an Old School wargamer. Mainly he was a strictly historical gamer, but he was also dismissive of those committed to pedantic detail. He was a firm believer in simple rules - he said my Honours of War rules made his brain hurt! As for figures, it was the 25-30mm 'Willie' figures of Edward Suren and the work of Charles Stadden which particularly inspired him, right through his wargaming life. He was never shy of calling his beautifully painted collection 'the toys'.

When I first met him, Stuart was still bubbling with ideas for games that would get his collection out on the table. I treasure the memories of the gentlemanly and relaxing games we played together, when winning hardly mattered and the pre- and post-game discussion would include ideas for the future and stories from the past. You can get the flavour of those games from the posts HEREHERE and HERE. Those were days when my wall calendar was graced with entries such as 'Wargame with Stuart' or 'Stuart - Black Cat Cafe'. Now I have had to make a final and very sad entry - 'Stuart's Funeral'.

The photo below shows Stuart, with his friends Steve Gill and Phil Olley, on 1st September this year awarding prizes at the Cotswold Wargaming Day held in Northleach. His last wargaming event. As usual, everyone was keen to speak to him, and he always had something interesting to say.

I'm going to miss that guy. Stuart is survived by his charming wife and three children. My sincerest condolences to any of his family who may read this. We have lost a giant of the hobby - rest in peace my friend.