Once a month metros and other gamers gather at the club or his house to play wargames with Charles Elsden, long time gamer, rules designer, and 54mm figure collector--the "Lord Commander of Ten Thousand." Charley recently threw open a chance to play his various rules systems, which may soon be published by James Delson of The Toy Soldier Company, a leading East Coast distributor of mail order 54mm toy soldiers, equipment, and terrain (TSC can be reached at (201) 792-6665). These original rules systems provide for battle actions on a 9' x 5' table in this larger scale, as explained in a recent article with a summary of the new 54mm hobby activity ("Forward To The Past or The Second Golden Age of Toy Soldiers" in Midwest Wargamer's Association Newsletter #90, November/December 1997). Periods Elsden plays include Medieval, ARW, ACW, Early 19th Century, Late 19th Century, and World War II. He is currently researching the English Civil War/Thirty Years War era. "I don't do skirmishes," he says emphatically, "these really are battalion to brigade level actions using simple rules to really play with our old toy soldiers."

Charley has a huge collection of over 15,000 plastic 54mm figures from such countries as the US, Canada, Mexico, England, France, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, China, and others. "Every time I play with other people, almost every individual sees some figure or other toy which he had when he was a kid, so its lots of fun." He's also kept up his purchasing with all the new 54mm figures made in the last fifteen years by various mail order companies.

Naturally, his figures are organized into armies for his periods, with vehicles/equipment in proportion, so that he can fight realistic battles. By cutting down the ranges and movement distances below the figure scale but above the usual 25mm or smaller wargaming distances, he has been able to play both hypothetical battles and portions of larger historical battles, from the ARW Battle of Brooklyn to the First Day At Gettyburg to "Karlsgrad Bridge," a mini Stalingrad. Holding two degrees in History and with a long gaming history of his own, Charley has written relatively simple rules which have passed muster with experienced gaming club members. He believes that his rules can be used in the 'normal' wargaming scales as well, and some club members have plans afoot to try them out with their own smaller figures at the club house.

"But my favorite part of the hobby is designing unusual scenarios, which are well balenced but challenging to both sides." Recently at the clubhouse he hosted a Viking cattle raid in Ireland, where for one Viking player the planning was as much fun as the playing: "We really surprised the Irish guards, and were able to ambush the rest of the Irish as they stumbled out of their long house two by two. The local king will be so embarrassed by the loss of his cattle herd that he'll probably lose his throne--to the advantage of his neighbor, another Irish king, the guy who hired us."

Charley uses 1:1 (1 figure = 1 man) for Medieval, 1:4 for WWII, and 1:20 for ARW/ACW/19th Century. "One of the things that divides us in the hobby is the many rules systems we use. Inspired by the old systems used in the 1970's by Featherstone and Grant, I've taken simple ideas and updated them, then applied them more or less across the board--although each period has its own rules and flavor. So my credo is: 'Here's the only rules system you'll ever have to learn.'" One metro player who tried both Elsden's ACW and WWII systems said he could tell they were from the same designer by the way they played--there were many similarities. Charley notes: "I'm trying to bridge between the more complicated rules and the collector who is looking for 'the perfect one page rules system.'" Since many collect the 54mm figures but few seem to use rules to play with them, Charley's sessions provide an unusual opportunity. The more playtesters the merrier, says Charley Elsden. He can be contacted through the club. All players at his games will receive written playtest credit when and if those particular rules tested are published.