The first broadcast TV show about Wargaming debuted… in 1978!
Let me take you back to the days of yore, of epic adventure and brave pioneers. Let us travel to the heady days of 1978 to explore a rare and wonderful gem of wargamming history. The 1970s were a heady time for table top gamming. While wargaming had been around for decades at this point, it was only in the post WWII era that really began to gain a lot of traction. By the 1970s it was starting to come out of the basement and make its first forays into mainstream. Dungeons and Dragons was first published and over the decade evolved into a popular, if sometimes disreputable game. Games Workshop was founded in 1975 and began it’s rise to dominance. In many ways it a was golden age for wargames, especially historical which were still the focus of the hobby at the time.
A TV show for the age
In to all this was born the idea for Battleground, as show that would bring historical wargames to broadcast TV. This was the first, and only time as far as I know, that a TV show was to be based around playing war games. The idea was to film a number of historic battles played out as wargames on a full set. Each battle would be accompanied a discussion of the historical battle and some visual effects showing what had happened in real life.
The show was hosted by the talented British star Edward Woodward. Woodward was the star of some pretty big shows and movies during his life, including the Wicker Man, Callan, Breaker Mortant. He even showed up in Hot Fuzz. In fact Woodward had already had a brush with wargamming as both the show and movie of Callan had involved wargamming. Woodward proved to be an engaging host, narrating the show with gravity and levity as needed.
Clash of Titans
Many of the players featured on the show, which aired on Tyne Tees Television in 1978, were titans of the English wargaming community. These were players, and designers, who had invented many of the wargames of the period. Though there names are no longer familiar to us today they are the giants on whose backs we stand. Watching them play on the gorgeously done tables is a true joy.
A Season for All Ages
Sadly the show only aired for a single season of six episodes, though in some ways the fact it got that many is a miracle. The six episodes covered:
- The Battle of Edgehill during the English Civil War
- The Battle of the Nile
- Chalons sur Marne, a battle of the Roman period
- France, 1944, an invented battle taking place in France after Normandy
- The Battle of Gettysburg
Overall the season spanned 1700 years of military history and included both land a naval battles. The battles picked are some of the most famous and they do a great job of showing off the breath of the historical gaming community. Currently we have access to four of the episodes, with the Nile and France being lost, once more, to history. If anyone out there has any information about where we might find the two missing battles, we would dearly love to hear it!
The battle of Edgehill was first major battle of the English Civil War and has been a stable of historical wargamming. And yes, right now, you can watch this amazing and classic battle played out in what might be the first ever film battle report. So without future ado, I give you Battleground Edgehill:
Note: These videos can only be viewed on YouTube, so click the link and head on over. It’s worth it.
~That’s all the Battleground for today folks! Tune in next time for Waterloo!