Sunday, 12 November 2017

Our Spanish Adventure - Part Three

Salisbury Wargames Room

Wargaming played a major part in our decision to move to Spain.   It had been a major part of our life for the previous 40 odd years, and it would certainly continue to do so in retirement.

When we house hunting in Salisbury we wanted to ensure that we had a suitable area for a wargames table.   We were fortunate to find a nice house with a very large outbuilding.   I think it was built as a garage, but it was solid and free standing.

It was our first permanent wargames table and we wanted to make it as big as possible.  We managed 12x6 foot.   We used it for 20 odd years and it was home to our weekly wargames for most of that time.  We provided all of the models and scenery and I organised all of the games.   Membership varied from four to twelve, and the large table allowed for quite complicated games.

When we started planning for moving to Spain we had to make some major decisions on the type of wargaming we would want to cater for.   We hoped that we might be able to form a similar club, but realised that it might not be possible given the much smaller population.   We never even considered a mixed Spanish and English speaking group.   We had tried it in Germany many years earlier and it just did not work.   We have no great language skills and could only master pretty basic Germany.   Ok for shopping and casual conversation, but not sufficient for complicated communication.   We expected that it would be similar in Spain.

House in Parcent

In 2004 the demand for new houses in southern Spain, at least the type ex pats wanted to buy, was at its height.  There were relatively few ready to move into, most had to be bought “off plan”.   This meant that the house would not be started until the builder had a deposit, and consequently it would not be ready to move into for at least six months.  Often longer if the site needed preparation, roads built, electric and water installed etc.   It could, and often did, take more than a year.  On the other hand because no work had been done, it was possible to discuss exactly what you wanted with the builder.  

Our house in Spain was “off plan”, and we were able to extend the plan to include a large under build.  This would add an extension to the master bedroom and, more importantly, a large utility room which would become our wargames room.

Our New Wargames Room

Once we had agreed the extension, and knew the maximum size of table, we could plan the size and scope of our wargaming.   We had already decided that if there were only two of us wargaming a 12x6 foot table would be too large.   So we were happy to settle for a 6x6 foot table in our new home.    This would be comfortable for two players and could cope with four at a pinch.

We had collected model soldiers to make full use of our larger wargames table.   And I had extended the original 25/28mm figures to include similar armies of 15/18mm and also 6mm.   However we agreed that they would have to be reduced by about 50%.  During the 12 month wait for our house to be built we sold off half of the collection on EBay.

I had also made a decision that I would no longer paint any figures.  This may seem strange, given that I had painted most days during the previous 40 years.   But I was finding it more difficult to paint, especially the smaller figures.   And I wanted to concentrate on wargaming rather than painting.

Even with the collection reduced by 50%, packing for the move would be a major operation.   We collected a large collection of ice cream boxes, the plastic type.   All of the figures were removed from their bases and packed carefully.   The ice cream boxes were then packed in large boxes provided by the removal company.   I got rid of most of our scenery, but that still left a lot of buildings in all three scales.  These required different size boxes, and they were collected throughout the year.   I was surprised, and not a little relieved, that they all arrived in Spain without a single breakage.

It was hard to get rid of the wargames table.   It had provided all of my wargames for almost thirty years.   It was hand built and the table consisted of 30 wooden squares each 2x2 foot.   I tried to sell it, but without success.  I then tried to find a good home if I gave it away for free.   Again no success.   Finally my son dismantled it and took it to Newcastle, where the wood was used to convert his outbuilding into a home cinema.   I was sad to see it go, but pleased that it would continue to provide pleasure for years to come.

Next week I will tell you about arriving in Spain and trying to establish our new wargame system.


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


As someone who is giving serious thought to moving at some point in the future (but probably not to Spain), I can barely comprehend how difficult it must have been to sell off part of your figure collection. I know that it is something that I will probably have to do ... but having to choose what to sell must have been very difficult. I know that it will be for me.

I look forward to reading more about your move.

All the best,


Willie Anderson said...

Another great read👍

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Bob

Over the years I had sold off parts of the collection to replace them with newer and better figures. But this was the first time that I had actually downsized the collection. I had just completed the latest update, and all three armies were just as I planned them. But they were collected for a 12x6 foot table, and I would now have to game on a 6x6 foot one.

I have always been very practicable about the soldiers. Jan is the sentimental one. She has never forgiven me for getting rid of the first figures I ever bought. They were Hinton Hunt Polish Lancers. We had our first argument because I could not fix the lance arms to painted figures with araldite. She rang her mum to complain that I had shouted at her. That wise woman suggested that we prop the figures in a baking tin and put them in an oven. It worked, and our marriage survived!

I don’t really regret reducing the collection. I would have needed twice the space I have now to keep them, and the current collection is just right for the size of games we now play.

But I appreciate that most players would find it very difficult to part with their much loved toys



thistlebarrow said...

Hi Willie

Thanks for your comment. Glad that you are enjoying it.



Jonathan Freitag said...

Another insightful post, Paul. Cutting back on my collections and gaming table/room is not a decision I have had to face (yet). I still maintain a 12 x 6 foot table but often only use a portion of it or have two separate games set up simultaneously. Having a permanent table is a big plus even if it is of smaller size.

Do you mind sharing the square footage of your house? I am trying to get a sense of comparative sizes of homes. In my travels, I find Europeans take up much less space than more ways than one!

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Jonathan

Thanks for your comments.

One of the reasons we reduced the size of the table was because Jan and I found it quite tiring to have to constantly move over an area 12 foot per side. Also the number of figures to use that size table was too large for comfortable gaming. We found that 6 foot per side was more than adequate for our personal taste.

I remember reading quite a long time ago the ideal number size of a wargame command. If I remember correctly it was command elements, rather than number of figures. And again if my memory serves it was something like 20 commands per player. The theory was that it does not matter whether they were battalions or corps, although I am not sure I would agree with that. But I do find that when we have a full army of four corps (24 command elements) on the table I am fully stretched.

According to the estate agents flyer the house surface is 13830 square meters on two floors. I have never actually measured it.



Jonathan Freitag said...

With nearly 14,000 sq meters, you must live in a palace, Paul!