Episode first aired 23/02/1978 - Players: Royalists, Duncan MacFarlane; Parliamentarians, John Tilson.
I absolutely mean no offence to these players - I like quietly studious and gentlemanly deportment (and I kind of hope I lean that way myself) - but I must confess that I'm a little surprised the producers didn't start off with an episode that featured not only Gilder's great figures and terrain, but the man himself, as he is, in my view at least, easily the most TV-friendly, i.e. conventionally charismatic, of the gamers chosen for the series.
As Wise said in his piece for Battle, the programmes producers were contending with 'how to produce a series on a minority hobby which would sell to the commercial television companies, which must, by their nature, reach the maximum audiences possible.' In this context such a modest and unassuming start, most emphatically not brash in content, was bold in programming terms!
Apparently the select few who do feature in the series were chosen from a rather larger field, numbering about 100! In referring to the more robust performance of Gilder and Braithwaite in the Waterloo episode Wise says 'other players were more tense because of the circumstances'. Woodward of course was used to performing in front of the camera, and Gilder had some media exposure through his involvement in Callan, but the rest of the gamers would be in the glare of the studio, one assumes, for the first time, and it does show a little.
But, as I said above, this gentle seriousness locates the series in what may well be a decidedly bygone era, and I like those qualities, and lament the passing of them.
Addressing a theme close to the heart of this blog, Edward Woodward mentions very early on that the figure ratio is 1:20, helpfully explaining to the uninitiated what that means. He doesn't go into the other myriad aspects of scale, such as ground scale. This is, or rather was, after all, a show clearly intended to win the hobby new converts, not send them running with a mathematical migraine.
I must say that I like the feel, at least as shown on screen here, of the way they play, as it seems as naturalistic as a classic 'eye-in-the-sky' type wargame could be, without becoming so overly concerned with detail as to become unwieldy. But then again, these games were played over days, and what we see on the screen is a highly compressed version... so, who knows how the games actually felt to play?
Perhaps some more seasoned or experienced players, should they chance to read this, could enlighten us? I'd be fascinated to hear. One thing that's always bothered me, theoretically at least, is the omniscience an 'eye-in-the-sky' general has that a real commander on the ground, back in most of the eras Battleground covers, simply couldn't have had.
Can one, for example, do better than the legendary Napoleon Bonaparte - whose military prowess and other leadership skills were such that a whole era is named for him - and win at Waterloo? Well, rather neatly for my purposes, that's the very next battle to be fought on Battleground.