Saturday, 15 June 2019

Glasgow: The Great Game


This weekend, the University of Glasgow plays host to one of the biggest wargames ever played.  Indeed, some have claimed that this could be the biggest game ever, though I'm not at all sure what the contenders for such a title would be and whether this game would top them all.  Anyway, here's the official website for anyone who wants to find out more: The Great Game: Waterloo Replayed.

My son and I visited as spectators; we've just returned home.  Casual visitors are allowed in the gallery that overlooks the main event, though numbers are limited and therefore they requested that visitors spend no longer than two hours.  This was enough for us anyway; we were quite tired of the heat, the noise and the sounds by the end of our time.

The Waterloo Game

So, here's a photo dump.  I've very little idea what is going on here, though I was told that the players in charge of the French are wearing blue and the guys commanding the British are in red.  Makes sense...  I don't know about those in white, though I'd hazard a guess that they were umpires.

Note that there were 3 tables, each 6 feet wide and 80 feet long.  I believe that they are conceptually meant to go end-to-end (thus forming a "front" of 240 feet), rather than having the gaps close up to create a playing area of 80 feet by 18 feet.  [Edit: the 240x6 layout is based on a conversation with another spectator who seemed plausible at the time.  However I think this opinion is probably mistaken and the correct topology is indeed the 80x18]

There were announcements occasionally, but some form of commentary and/or diary of game events would have been very useful to us observers.  If anyone is ever planning something similar to this event then I would suggest that more connection with the public would be very useful.  Tell the viewers what is happening ­čśâ!

Rules were Black Powder, figures are 28mm.

Prussians, waiting to arrive at just the right time.

A massive French attack (top) is developing on Hougoumont farm/chateau.

The Gallery

As well as the huge game on the floor of the chamber, the gallery was filled with stands.  There were a number of demo/participation games, scale model displays, many reenactors and their kit laid out, plus representatives from the archaeologists who fund and veterans who benefit from the charity in whose name the entire event was staged.  Apparently some of the veterans at the Erskine soldiers home paint figures as a form of relaxation, even if they don't play games themselves.

Here's a selection of photos from the gallery tables:

A Viking raid participation game.  Sadly we didn't get to try this.

A very helpful reenactor from a French ligne regiment (the 21st?)

Model from the archaeologist's exhibition.

"Muskets and Tomahawks", hosted by Flags of War using his own beautifully-painted figures.
We did play this game: my Government troops raced my son's Jacobites to find some hidden treasure.  This picture was taken just before a volley from my redcoats almost wiped out the highlanders.

On the other side of the table, 2 groups of my son's R├ęgiment ├ęcossais decimated a column of redcoats.  However, they were too gentlemanly to fire on my lone hero as he questioned a couple of women about the hidden treasure. 

In the race to find the gold behind a rocky outcrop, the redcoat officer just beat the Jacobite leader.  Having recovered the treasure, I reckon that he would immediately seek ship to Barbados and live the rest of his life in luxury.  Or he could give it all to King George... 

A rather nice Bolt Action table from Warlord Games.  Interestingly, it contained a Stug III (out of shot) and a British Mk IV (male) - so I'm not really sure whether it was WWI or WWII.  The host was too busy to ask, so I never found out...


This was very different from any other wargaming event I've attended.  It's been quite well publicised and I know that at least one news organisation (the BBC) was in attendance.  I suspect that most of the media attention will go on the great game itself (i.e. Waterloo).

We did our duty as spectators and watched what was happening on the main floor.  However I think that as non-participants we actually had more fun in the gallery by talking to reenactors, looking at exhibitions and playing demo games.

Finally, anyone who filled out a show feedback form was given a copy of the Black Powder rules (1st edition).  Since I already have the subtly different 2nd edition I declined, but my son accepted this offer with glee!

The Great Game continues for the rest of the weekend, so if you can get to Glasgow for a couple of hours tomorrow then I would recommend it.


  1. Thanks very much for sharing your experience of this event.

    All the best,


    1. You're welcome, Bob! The son and I had a very good time at this event, though I realised half-way through that he had no idea at all what was the significance of Waterloo. He's only studied WWI and WWII in school history, though at least he had *heard* of Napoleon!

  2. "Note that there were 3 tables, each 6 feet wide and 80 feet long. I believe that they are conceptually meant to go end-to-end (thus forming a "front" of 240 feet), rather than having the gaps close up to create a playing area of 80 feet by 18 feet."

    I think you have it backwards, 80 by 18 makes for a much more realistic "depth". You might also reference the "assembled" map on their website where they had it all laid out before separating into tables

    1. You know, 80x18 sounds much more likely and that is what I had thought initially. The 240x6 version was something I had been told by another spectator; at the time he seemed to know what he was talking about and I didn't think to double-check. Perhaps this backs up my point about there being little interpretation of the game for spectators on the day?

  3. Replies
    1. Hmm. From the gallery, it was difficult to see anything other than the 2 central tables. I certainly saw a third table on one side of the hall, but I don't remember a fourth one. Doesn't mean it wasn't there, though :-) ...

    2. I was one of the allied players (Red shirts) There were four tables. Each was 6' across but because tables 1 & 4 were under the gallery only 3 were visible from the galleries. You actually got a picture of me that didn't show the gleaming bald patch so thank you

    3. Thanks for that clarification! I did wonder if it was something like that, but I couldn't see 4 tables in any of my photos (including the ones I didn't bother to post).

  4. Thanks for posting about this. As someone who aspires to run larger (but not this large!) games, I'd like to know more about how they actually coordinated the players and referees, how they wrangled all the figures, etc.

    1. Well I was just a spectator who turned up for the day, so I can't tell you anything much about the organisation (though they did have a number of people in event tee shirts directing visitors at every intersection from the main university entrance onwards. Very efficient).

      If you look at the official website ( then you should be able to find contact details, I imagine. With luck, someone there can answer any questions you may have.

  5. I like the reenactor picture. "Sacre bleu!" - declares the veteran - "If only we had those fleeces during the retreat from Moscow".

    1. The cloth of the reenactor's uniform was surprisingly thick. I would possibly class it as a heavy felt, though I daresay it was really woven rather than merely pressed.

      This guy really knew a lot about musket drill (in French, of course) and explained it very well to us. I was extremely impressed both with his depth of knowledge and the manner in which he imparted it to us (and the occasional other spectator).

  6. Wow looks very impressive. Glad you had fun!

    1. Thanks, Simon. It was very different from other events I've attended, but definitely worth the effort.

  7. That's a really long wargaming table. You mean to say they are all playing the same game concurrently? O_O

    1. There seems to be some confusion, but I now believe that the correct configuration for the tables was 80' x 24' (or about 25m x 7m, if you prefer). Yes, that's a big table. Yes, it's just one huge game, with all the players playing at the same time. Took 2 days, mind...