That Easter dilemma …
Easter egg or tiny tin men?
I chose wisely, the long lasting, low calorie, diabetic friendly option. Instead of chocolate or chocolate egg, I received from my family twenty tiny Boy Scouts from the Spencer Smith Miniatures (LBB30) from the 42mm Shiny Toy Soldiers Little Britons range.
The trigger for this non-chocolate choice was picking up a 1942 wartime copy of Wide Games from a seaside vintage shop. £4 well spent!
Flicking through this well used 1942 paperback, I noticed lots of Wide Game scenarios with maps. They are almost like Neil Thomas’ One Hour Wargames, but 1:1 scale in the outdoors.
Could these scenarios and maps be turned into “non violent” war game or figure gaming scenarios?
Could I in future adapt or create some rules that would work?
Could this work as a solo game?
Would it work on a grid system like my large hex game board?
Would it work better as a garden game than a tabletop game?
One of the interesting chapters is The Cloak of Romance, about turning Wide Games into imaginative role playing games through the addition of narratives, an aim or quest and characters or groups from history or popular literature.
Pirates? Cowboys and Indians? Frontiersmen? Smugglers? Cops and Robbers?
Wide Games on a small scale?
My late Dad was a wartime evacuee as a small boy from London to coast and country, told nostalgic tales of playing Cowboys and Indians after the war in some of the wild spaces and parks still left around London, and was obviously influenced enough by this freedom and National Service to go on to become a Cub Scout leader as an adult.
So I grew up with all this, and as a result didn’t stay in cub scouts beyond the early months of gaining a Bronze Arrow. Instead I went for long walks and dens and bushcraft alone with my Dad.
For some while, I have had pencilled in my notebooks some ideas about a ‘war game’ based on these Wide Games.
The last attempt was in OOHO railway scale attracted by the railway figures of trekcarts and tiny Boy Scout figures to give a big groundscale. Various companies do this including Langley Miniatures OOHO and N Gauge, Preiser OOHO (European / American – looking a little like Hitler Youth) and OOHO scale cubs and guides from Richard Harris at Looks Like Repros.
Sadly sculptor Tony Burley’s attractive cub scout and guide figures in 54mm are no longer available.
First I have to paint my Boy Scouts.
There was lots of interest in Boy Scout history and uniforms during the Boy Scout centenary anniversary of 2007. The original Scouting for Boys book (1908) was republished and I have a copy of this with its additional Scout Games and Wide Games ideas.
William Britain’s quickly issued c. 1911 an attractive glossy range of 54mm scale Boy Scouts, which are good for paint scheme ideas. Different patrol colour scarves etc?
Interestingly A. J. Holladay, a sergeant in the Volunteers in 1910 published rules for War Games for Boy Scouts played with Model Soldiers.
Judging by photographs of WW1 era and 1920s in my village history book, in reality a cub cap for boys or brownie headscarf for Girls was about as much as many ordinary children could afford.
The Little Britons figures I have in lieu of Easter Eggs remind me strongly of the Peanuts / Snoopy / Boys Scouts of America cartoon strips, each of them with their lemon squeezer or doughboy hats.
That comic genius Schulz has created a dog with a vivid Baden Powell / Wide Games “Cloak of Romance” about his every day adventures with Woodstock and his tiny feathered gang – whether it is escapee WW1 pilot, shot down by the Red Baron, Foreign legionnaires in the sand pit or an adventurous Boy Scouts of America troop. These are by far my favourite element of the Peanuts cartoons …
Thankfully some of the associated Shiny Toy Soldier 42mm range bought with such hats and arms with no rifles should work as Scout leaders and adults if required.
Colour scheme inspiration!
I suddenly remembered that amongst my few Victorian and Edwardian scraps of street life and military themes I have some Edwardian Boy Scouts. They have different patrol flags, something I could put onto some of their staffs.
The brother of James Opie the toy soldier collector is the packaging historian Robert Opie (their parents were Iona and Peter Opie, the folklore collectors of children’s nursery rhymes and playground singing games). A family of collectors!
If you have not come across Robert Opie’s Museum of Brands and Packaging in London, you might know him through his published scrapbooks including the WW2 Wartime Scrapbook and The 1910s Scrapbook which covers WW1 – and Boy Scouts, including the many board games cashing in on the Boy Scout craze.
Various cigarette manufacturers issued sets of Cub Scout cigarette cards with many attractive themes. These can be expensive to collect in sets but some can also be found reprinted in book form such as Boy Scouts Series 1 to 5 in Paperback 2013 by Trading Card Enterprises LLC (
There is much rich Cub Scout history out there
including about the military and Imperial origins of scouting and the complex character Robert Baden Powell, popular hero of the disastrous Boer War.
So there you are – lots of gaming scenario ideas, 20 Boy Scouts, and no calories.
I wonder how this renewed attempt at a Wide Games project will turn out?
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN (Bronze Arrow, retired) 27 April 2019.
28 thoughts on “Easter Eggs, Wide Games and the Cloak of Romance”
This is a most exciting post. A great choice of Easter gift btw. In my teens l helped out at boys camp. We played what we called Wide games. The boys were told a scenario ( which many believed amazingly enough) about lost secret equipment or such a conceit. Other leaders were in character as for example spies/ scientists etc. The boys were divided into teams and given a band of wool in a particular colour to wear on their arm. If it was ripped off by the other team they had to return to base camp to get a new band ( life) before venturing forth again. The game went on for hours across the grounds of the school we were staying in. The boys had to collect things and bring them back. There were red herrings and confusing sub plots. All great fun for everyone concerned. I will be really interested to see where your gaming,planning leads with this,do please post more on this as things develop. Alan
Aha! return to base camp and resurrected. That deals with wounded. Captured has its own Wide Games Rules. Lots of rule challenges thankfully but only wool lives lost.
Thanks for sharing this – I wonder if wide games were probably the first LARP or 1:1 such role play games?
I have been tempted and just bought my own copy from Amazon, less fun than finding one at a jumble sale,charity shop etc but beggars can’t be choosers. What fascinated me in the wide games l participated in was the way that people entered into the reality of it without props beyond a hat or odd scarf. The object to be recovered,protected or located was simple too ,just a n old case or box. The games were played in real time in a real environment,ie where we were staying. I recall leaders meeting beforehand to work out the plot characters etc. This was an enjoyable part of the process each chipping in their ideas and playing to the strengths of the individuals .
I would be interested to see what you make of these in rules terms.
IRL In real life, It is almost interwar or Very British Civil War territory with their coastwatch / messenger / early Dads Army WW1 role, Invasion Scares, Hitler Youth scouting or spying trips …
On dual Wide Games level, donning the cloak of romance, it is cowboys and injuns, swallows and amazons, smugglers and customs men, cops and robbers. Just William, the Machine Gunners, the Famous Five, lashings of ginger beer and jumpers for goalposts ….
Fascsinating- I’ll follow this with interest.
Thanks, another new project (literally distracted by Shiny Toy Soldiers ) – just what I need … 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Get some Irregular Miniatures 42 mm German paras or infantrymen and some Home Guard and you have a game with your scouts.
Oddly you are attuned to my thinking as some Irregular Miniatures 42mm German paras are already on my wish list with the odd Irregular 42mm Home Guards to join a prepainted rifle platoon of Irregular British Infantry that I picked up last year.
A rifle platoon level Operation Sealion / Home Guard scenarios is on my reading and figure painting list at the moment both in Peter Laing 15mm and in metal and pound Store Plastic 42mm.
I hope to save some figure money (those 42mm metal figures don’t come cheap) by using the roughly 40- 42mm plastic pound store pirate Airfix clones of German infantry painted correctly, not as in my Blue or Red Army Imaginations version but as shown here: https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/pound-store-42mm-spy/
I think that a Boy Scout coast watchers version would also work quite well in a WW1 version so some platoon level 42mm WW1 early Germans and early British Infantry might be needed too. Lots of Shiny Toy Soldier or Irregular Miniatures possibilities. Mark
The Wide Game book arrived and l have had a chance to have an initial look. There seems to be much that can be translated into rule terms. I am less successfully tried to locate my scout figures, they must be experts in stealth and use of cover. I have been thinking of giving each scout ratings for things like stealth, speed, detection etc . When trying to spot a hiding scout figure compare the hiding rating against the spotting rating adding the score of a dice. If the the result is higher than the hiding rating the figure is spotted. I felt this method could be used also to represent the removal of a “wool life” . I like the idea of each scout being different in his abilities adding a sort of role play vibe. I really must scribble these ideas down in a more coherent manner.
Aha! Minds attuned as the list of a scouts skills looked like a character card or RPG character.
Badges acquired or skill numbers would help resolve some non combat issues – visibility (stalking, camo , use of cover) listening skills etc
Wide Games no. 3 Staffs has a hidden numbering system (maybe on their base).
The Ogdens cigarette cards of scouting reproduced in book form shows quarterstaff fighting – reproducible through my Gerard De Gre / Featherstone duelling cards Lunge and Parry (past blogpost)
The “wool life” or colour to be taken can be represented by a thread or circle of wool over their shoulder like a sash. Restored to life by reaching the designated base / healer / ambulance station.
Speed of movement could vary with stealth 1 rate for quiet moving through a wood etc, another for pursuit rapid noisy movement. Rates needed for crossing streams, uphill, bicycle scouts, along with bridge building etc.
Walking pace or Scouts Pace?
There is a concept of scouts pace referred to in Wide Games is hybrid pace of twenty paces running, twenty walking (as a rest break) meaning you can go faster and further for longer.
Early Scout Patrols were of eight (patrol leader with patrol flag, corporal, 5 Scouts and a bugler.
Four Patrols equals one Troop.
Still reading through Wide Game scenarios for rule clues.
What an impressive find! Reminds me very much of playing Capture the Flag in childhood. I was extremely good at playing it on the school’s open field, but only once had the opportunity to play it on a large scale in varying terrain. It sounds a very interesting book.
Paddy Griffith’s book on Napoleonic wargames has an interesting ruleset that is basically the military reconnaissance ride – players wander around a potential battlefield and discuss how a battle might go.
I had no idea the Opies were known in the toy-collecting community; must look them up.
Capture the Flag is in the Wide Games scenarios somewhere.
I think a large part of gaming is trying to recapture on the tabletop that strange scale mix of both floor games with toy soldiers in miniature and 1:1 wide games, playground cowboys and injuns etc., all wrapped up in the Cloak of Romance. I think Wide Games were just early LARPing and paint balling without the Tolkien, the gasguns and the rubber swords …
Thanks for the Paddy Griffith tip – I shall track this Napoleonic book down (our local library service has many of these once much borrowed 1960s-80s classics now less accessible “in HQ store”, the dead zones for any book showing its age.) This may solve one or two of the rules and game mechanisms challenges (surprise, camo and concealment) etc especially at solo level. Featherstone’s Skirmish Wargames chapter of a Trench raid etc (without the machine guns or death) might help too.
The great thing about scouting being international in all but hardcore communist and fascist regimes (with their own dodgy separate “youth movements”) is the possibility of ImagiNations Countries with Scouts. The Brontes! Boy Scouts of Angria? Girl Scouts of Gondal and Gaaldine? All with a dash of Edwardian steampunk?
Generally Countries with no scouts and guides and international exchanges are usually an indicator of a problem government or regime. Many are the anecdotal spy tales of visiting Hitler Youth recceing the British landscape, beaches, harbours and townscape prewar on ‘innocent’ friendly exchanges with Britain in the late 1930s. British scouts performed valuable coastwatching and almost home guard duties patrolling railway bridges etc in WW1, another opportunity for an Invasion Scare scenario.
Before the Girl Scouts of America (fear those fundraising gangsters in skirts unless you buy their peanut butter cookies! I took the safe route and bought some) and British Girl Guides existed, in the first year or two of Scouting c. 1908 Plucky Edwardian girls joined and formed their own (sometimes possibly mixed?) Girl Scout groups. They had similar uniforms just with Edwardian fullish skirts. Should be easy to add tissue paper skirts and some suggestion of longer hair to the LBB30 Boy Scout figures I bought.
I also want to file the hats or swap heads to navy rating hats to make a patrol of sea scouts. Should be fun!
The Opies are an amazing family. Father and mother Peter and Iona Opie collected and recorded British children’s rhymes and playground games as folklorists up to the 1970s and 80s. They had several published book collections. There are also oral recordings available on CDs or through the British Library etc. Son James is an authority on toy soldiers and Robert on British packaging and adverts etc, his published scrapbooks are wonderful.
Mark Man of TIN (Cub Scout, Bronze Arrow, retired)
In contrast ,in our all concrete/ tarmac playground they played what was known as “The Wall Game” on what was a narrowish concrete ledge a few feet above the playground. Very simply the defenders had to stop the attackers get up onto the platform. No holds barred and no imagination as background. l didn’t take part. It looked too scary for me as a boy. It was an all boys school and l am surprised that no one got really badly hurt or perhaps l have just forgotten.
This game was in contrast to my primary school where complicated games with paper medals and ranks ranged around the larger, mixed terrain playground. The school where the wall game took place was so short of playground that everyone was made to walk round the block of houses and shops once before entering the playground. Prefects was stationed in order to stop us buying things from the shops.
The laws of the Jungle and Playground – proper Jungle Book / Mowgli Stuff.
Concrete (ouch)Tarmac (ouch) and gravel (ouch). Playgrounds in my primary school were mixed as infants (lots of marble games on drain covers), separate boys and girls as juniors (lots of useful sports lines marked out which formed roads / rails / tram lines for games). Football for the older boys.
I remember the prestige or the shame of not being able to do a good noisy muddy death in gangster or cowboy or war games. Some people just wouldn’t die if you shot them (“Shot you!” “Did not! Didn’t count!”) or would only ‘die’ against a convenient wall. You formed your character judgement of people and their sense of fair play and rule breaking from these things, which often stand muster pretty well years later. We had a low mud and stone wall running the length of the playground which was ideal for toy cars.
Not many rhyming games for the Opie parents to collect in the boys playground.
Playgrounds became less interesting as you got older. My 14-18 boys school had a strong scratch football and playground culture, game squares marked out in chalk on tarmac for hand ball or wall ball played with tennis balls etc. By then however I had discovered the drier option of the school library with its Military Modelling mags, Donald Featherstone, Peter Young and Charles Grant books …
My final sixth form year – an antiquated prefect system had survived in our ex-grammar turned comprehensive school which finally closed shortly after I left. On non sports practice days, I had on rare occasions to do point duty at break and lunch, stopping more than two boys at a time going into the sweet shop, checking paperwork (lunch passes out of school) – all unpaid labour now known as internships.
Prefect systems – You learnt a lot about how even a small petty amount of power changes people, brown nosing, informants, black marketeers, rules lawyers, turning a blind eye, sticklers for rules, settling scores, patrols tracking down smokers and all that. My friends who did A-level history said that the decaying prefect system and Head Boy nonsense taught them more about collaboration and resistance than their syllabus topic of Life in Nazi Germany and the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party.
I’m sure that many Wargames clubs have their mixture of rules lawyers and sticklers. How you “play the game” says lots about you, Boy Scout or adult gamer.
My unofficial gently satirical underground “samizdat” school magazine thankfully did not get me expelled, unlike some of the other more ribald ones. I still know who snitched or grassed up the editors or makers of these others school comic rags risking their expulsion in our closing school days (P.S. met him years later, he went on to work for HMI or OFSTED).
That’s things I learnt from the lore and the law of the playground. Happy days! Mark
Great choice of toys over chocolate Mark.
What an amazing book! Great find. I’ll be interested to see where it may lead your gaming.
Still have the toys, the chocolate would be long gone by now!
Congratulations, another post packed full of imagination and interesting leads. One thing caught my eye – A J Holladay? That name sounded familiar… Sure enough, a bit of research confirmed that the AJH that wrote the wargames book was the very same man who founded an eponymous toy company in 1916, and in the 1930s enabled the start-up of the famous Skybirds range of wooden aircraft kits in 1:72 scale. The Skybirds range eventually included vehicles, figures (no scouts!) and airport buildings.
In one respect Holladay was very hands-on with Skybirds, and this brings me back to the subject of your post. He set up the ‘Skybird League’, a club for aero-modellers with a journal, meetings and even a rather snazzy set of badges. Remind you of anything? Apparently by 1945 the League was 18,000 strong!
Fascinating, and really wonderful to read while munching on my Cadbury egg (whoops, sorry!).
The Skybirds League – this must be a future air scout patrol name with the lovely 30s design logo on their patrolflag.
I have a few old Skybirds figures, recognised from the recent rerelease on skybirdsuk
that was flagged up by Alan on his Duchy of Tradgardland blog
Thank you very much for the A J Holladay information, very interesting. Enjoy the chocolate!
Loads to get your teeth into there. Looking forward very much to see how this develops!
Should be fun figures to paint and hopefully simple fun rules (but a lot of thought required). The challenge will be the solo game not an umpired role playing one.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wide Games were popular in the late 70s/early 80s when I used to go to camps with my church youth-group. The only one I can remember with a backstory, though, was one from 1980, where we were representing two teams in the Moscow Olympic Village, each attempting to rob the other of their supply of Anaballic Steroids (which looked suspiciously like tennis balls). Such innocent, drug-inspired fun 😀
Excellent – the simple fact you remember this almost forty years later shows how strong the cloak of romance and of storytelling was (mixed with the adult sense of comedy looking back).
I played many of these in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s as a member of the Scouts and again in the mid ’60’s as a Boy Soldier. As the latter they had a different name but were just Wide Games with extra violence.
Thanks Nobby – “Wide Games with Extra Violence” has to be a new blog (post) title. Or an extension chapter to the rules.
I am already considering Boy Scoutes or Girl Scoutes versus Zombies as an extension. The “Extra Violence” might come in handy here. 🙂
I got smacked full in the face with an assault boat paddle.
My mother said it improved my looks, but she was a notoriously hard woman.
Today was my day for volunteering in my old place of work. I spoke to a colleague whose husband is involved in running scouts as to whether they still do wide games. She said that they indeed do . I wonder if there are individuals currently involved in Scouting or current booklets ( probably now online resources) that could be drawn upon to provide input for rules?
Good to hear they still do these Wide Games.
That modern link might help to fill awkward rule gaps – first off, I want to try to get into that Edwardian / interwar mindset / spirit of Wide Games, wrapped with the ‘Cloak of Romance’.
Wide Games refers to ‘Scouting for Boys’ in places: more scenarios! I have ordered a second hand paperback reprint of the Baden Powell Scouting for Boys 1908 book from Amazon for a few pounds.
Enchantingly, there are still a tiny handful of “British Boy Scouts and British Girl Scouts” troops in the UK and round the world who still wear the traditional Edwardian to 1930s uniform etc https://www.bbsandbgs.org.uk/
I looked like this briefly as a 1970s cub. https://www.bbsandbgs.org.uk/cubs.php