Wargaming in HO Scale
HO scale wargaming in the United States got started in the 1960s when AHM started importing Roco Minitanks. They were sold in probably thousands of stores all across the country, in small owner-operated hobby shops and even in chain stores.
|Roco Z-101 Sherman tank. Well undersize at about 1/100th scale. Most of the first Roco vehicles were underscale.
Some of the least expensive vehicles were sold for as little as ten cents each! The average tank or truck was only 49 cents and the most expensive vehicle for years was the M26 tank transporter at 98 cents each. They were often displayed in a circular display rack and the clerk would have to get the model out from behind the counter for the customer. Little boys would spend a long time rotating that circular display trying to find just the right vehicle to buy with their one dollar allowance.
|Roco SdKfz German halftrack with quad 20mm guns.
Having a whole dollar was important because with that much money in 1963 the little boy could buy one Roco tank, and one box of Airfix HO/OO soft plastic figures with 48 pieces. Sometimes that meant 48 actual figures, but it could mean two horses with a rider for each and separate base for each horse. That reduced the figure count to 44 people and two horses. Back then American kids had a certain understanding of World War Two; it was the Americans, British, and French, against the Germans and Japanese. Most boys had a father, an uncle, or a neighbor who was in the military and would talk at least a little bit about the war. There were also plenty of movies and television shows about the war. So over a period of a month or so, a boy could get a Roco Panzer III, A Tiger II tank and SWS halftrack to face off in the North African desert against an American M60 tank, a 2 ½ ton truck, and an M47 tank, or maybe a British Centurion tank.
Roco SWS cargo halftrack. Often used in lieu of the SdKFZ 251 which Roco never made!
Their troops consisted of Airfix soft plastic figures, typically one box each of USMC, British 8th Army, and a box of French Foreign Legion. They would face off against the German Infantry Combat Group, the Afrika Korps, and the Arabs. Nobody was exactly sure the Arabs were on the German side, but since we saw in Beau Geste that they fought against the French Foreign Legion they must have been on the German side. Since North Africa was in Africa, a set of the Airfix Tarzan was also sure to make an appearance. All those great Johnny Weissmuller movies with him as Tarzan took place in Africa often in jungles that bordered the desert. So naturally they all had to be used together in the miniature battles boys had in those days. Over time great writers like Donald Featherstone, and figure makers like Jack Scruby came along and helped professionalize miniature wargames.
|H.G. Wells is known as the Father of Modern Wargaming with the publication of his book Little Wars.
The big breakthrough came in 1968 with the publication of Angriff! Wargame rules by Angriff rules, by Myers and Zimmermann. Angriff! had rules for tanks, artillery, and infantry. The infantry were mounted on little trays in squad size elements to facilitate rapid movement and quick game play. In the back of the book there were charts that showed how much armor each tank had in different places, and how much armor each gun could penetrate at a given range. The charts also showed the percentage chance to hit a tank size target at each range. These were very popular and a second edition was printed to keep up with the demand. The big breakthrough came in 1968 with the publication of Angriff! Wargame rules by Angriff rules, by Myers and Zimmermann.
Angriff! was the first major set of World War Two miniature wargame rules published in the USA.
Later their game was expanded with a set of rules aimed at the Pacific Theater of operations. Banzai! Used the same play dynamics as Angriff! but added many new vehicles, primarily Japanese, and amphibious invasion rules.
|BANZAI! followed the same format as ANGRIFF! and allowed players to expand into the Pacific war.
Later the team of D. Myers and R. Zimmermann wrote Total Conflict where the focus was on modern warfare of the Cold War gone hot. By that time other companies had entered the historical military miniature wargame scene. One of the first was Tractics. Published by TSR they were much more detailed than Angriff! and they spanned the period from the Second World War to the Cold War.
Tractics came in a boxed set with three rule books and a mass of charts. In the charts you had all the data you needed to push your 1980 Soviet Guards Tank battalion to the English Channel. They even included rules for nuclear weapons!Later the team of D. Myers and R. Zimmermann wrote Total Conflict where the focus was on modern warfare of the Cold War gone hot. By that time other companies had entered the historical military miniature wargame scene. One of the first was Tractics. Published by TSR they were much more detailed than Angriff! and they spanned the period from the Second World War to the Cold War.
TRACTICS was a major innovation when first published.
Gary Gygax went on to write Dungeons and Dragons.
Tractics cost the astronomical price of $10.00. At the time it seemed quite the investment. The cost of ten or even fifteen tanks!
Donald Featherstone, himself a World War Two veteran of the British Army published scores of articles and even hard cover books on miniature wargaming. His works were typically filled with wonderful conversions of painted Airfix figures.
WRG 1925-1950 rules were another set of influential rules, widely played in the UK. It covered primarily World War Two but was followed by additional rules for the post war era.
Then we got the fantastic magazine, Wargamer's Digest, from Gene McCoy. Many of his articles were about real warfare, mostly from World War Two. The photos in the magazine were black and white but fascinated us with Roco and sometimes other models in 1/76th scale to supplement the selection of available Roco kits.
Along with new sources of information came new sources of models. Roco Minitanks were still going strong but along came Trident Models with HO scale kits. Trident had been well known for making high quality 1/1200 scale waterline warships in soft metal, but now they were making HO scale soft metal military vehicles. These were often from the old Soviet Union and gave new life to those Roco NATO vehicles, mostly US Army and West German Bundeswehr.
Eventually, Trident discontinued those metal kits and began making high quality plastic models, including many from World War Two.
Paul Heiser from Lakewood, California started making HO scale resin kits, eventually making a line of over 200 highly detailed models. All hand crafted from molds made out of masters that he sculpted himself.
Heiser Models did include three different versions of the American Sherman tank in HO scale. They were sorely needed as the old Roco Z-202 and Z-101 Shermans were inaccurate and in the case of the Z-101 undersize. Paul added many resin parts to eventually make at least 22 versions of the Sherman tank.
Eventually we got beautiful glossy, color wargame magazines, usually published in the United Kingdom. They often had splendid photographs of magnificent set ups of solders and terrain that looked too nice to actually be able to play on!
Then one day the Internet came along and information just exploded. Now we could talk to people all over the world in real time and discuss important topics like the front slope of an M4 Sherman tank, or what model paint best depicts World War Two olive drab!
Through the Internet we discovered a whole cottage industry of companies in Europe making resin kits that were finely detailed and often accompanied by photo etched brass parts. While these models were expensive and heavy to ship, they provided us with the Maus, and many other rare, experimental, or paper panzers we never dreamed we could get in HO scale.
Today between companies big and small there are perhaps as many as 10,000 different HO scale military vehicles available for sale. 3D printing is already making more new and unique vehicles for us to enjoy in our wargaming, model building and model collecting.
Today there are wargame and model groups on line that number in the thousands. Fidelis Models has a few of those groups, and has had an on line presence since the last century! Thank you for visiting Fidelis Models. Come back often as our inventory is ever changing. And join us on line on Facebook and MeWe.