Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Farewell, Sgt. Brom...

As many if not most of those reading this blog probably know already, Larry V. Brom, author of The Sword And The Flame rules set, passed away a little over a week ago, on November 4th, 2015.  I will be posting on the recently completed Colonial Barracks V convention and the Battle of Charasiab game I ran there, but before getting to that I felt compelled to put this post up in honor of the man who made such a great impact on the niche area of a niche hobby which I call my own -- namely, the Colonial period of Historical Miniature Wargaming.

I'll always remember the day I walked into The Complete Strategist in midtown Manhattan and discovered a new, large sized rule-book devoted to the late 19th Century Colonial period, including background and stats for Pathans (1878), Zulus (1879), Boers (1880), Egyptians (1882), and Dervishes (1884).  I can't remember what it cost -- maybe $9.99, which was not cheap in 1979 -- but I bought it on the spot.  I was a 14 year-old without a lot of disposable income, so my first TSATF armies consisted of Airfix HO scale WWI Germans converted into British and Confederates converted into Egyptians, plus some Tarzan African tribesmen converted into Zulus.  Then Mikes Models USA arrived and I down-sized to take advantage of their 15mm Zulu War range, which soon expanded to cover the Sudan Campaigns.  For my favorite theatre of operations, the North-West Frontier and Second Afghan War, I used Mike's Models Eastern Renaissance Ottoman Turkish Azabs with muskets and swords-&shields, plus a mix of various other odds and ends.  In some ways it seems like that was only yesterday, but of course it was more than 3 decades ago.

TSATF quickly grew in popularity and ushered in an era of great growth for Colonial gaming, with Ral Partha designing and releasing an excellent range of 25mm figures to take advantage of the marketing opportunity this presented.  Meanwhile, Colonial wargamers such as myself, who had gamed in obscurity, using either home-brew rules or one of a few available commercial rules sets that felt like black-sheep cousins of Napoleonic or American Civil War rules, revelled in having a game of our own, both to play with at home or the club and also to see up on the shelf of every gaming store, next to all the Ancient, Napoleonic, ACW and WWII rules.  Then came "The Heliogaph," a xerox copied fanzine devoted to expanding and perfecting the rules and also sharing research into more obscure Colonial campaigns and ideas on how best to translate the forces involved into TSATF terms, so we could recreate them on the tabletop.

While all this was going on, Larry was busy living his life, playing wargames with his buddies and writing various other rules for the many periods his interests covered, including just about everything from The French And Indian War to Korea, where he himself had fought as a US Marine.  But he never forgot about The Sword And The Flame, which I believe held a special place in his heart, thanks to the fact that his father had taken him to see GUNGA DIN when it was first released in 1939 and he had loved the movie.

When the 20th Anniversary of TSATF rolled around in 1999, Larry released a revised set of the rules which included some major adjustments like changing from the D6 fire system to the D20 system, as well as a brand new "variant" of the rules, designed for smaller scale, more "pulp" style games set in the world of late 19th Century African Exploration, titled "The Sword In Africa."  In a way this was a bookend to when Ral Partha released their Colonial range to take advantage of the popularity of the original TSATF, as Wargames Foundry's new "Darkest Africa" range had just been released and started to take off in popularity.

The new version of the rules took off as well, and have been going pretty strong ever since, with multiple variants covering all manner of Colonial campaigns, as well as a few distant eras that fit well with the "Native Hidden Movement" aspect of the rules, such as Romans vs. Gallic Tribesmen, and Conquistadors vs. Aztecs.

I was a somewhat devoted TSATF player for many, many years, starting with their original publication in 1979, but had never met the man himself... until someone read this blog and suggested I take my Maiwand game to the first ever Colonial Barracks convention back in November 2011.  It was a crazy idea, as in order to bring all the terrain and figures I would have to drive from Los Angeles to Louisiana... but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it, more than anything else because it would finally give me the chance to meet Larry Brom and thank him in person for all the hours of fun his rules had given me over the years.  Attending that first Colonial Barracks con was one of the great hobby experiences of my life, and I'll always remember the conversation I had with Larry.

Returning to attend Colonial Barracks V this past weekend was bittersweet, as circumstances had changed the event from a wargaming convention to a combination wargaming convention and memorial/wake.  But as my friend Jeff "Sgt. Guiness" Baumal has already said elsewhere, I believe it was a positive experience for everyone involved, including Larry's daughters, Lori and Christy, who seemed to truly appreciate the outpouring of sympathy, respect, and even love shown for them and their newly-departed father by everyone there.

Again, I am very happy I could manage to get away from my day-to-day life long enough to be part of this event.  Of course when we planned to attend the con, I had no idea it would turn out that way, but in addition to seeing old friends and playing great games, being there made it possible for me to pay my respects and say my farewells and thank yous to Larry Brom in the company of like-minded friends and fellow gamers.

All that's left for me to do is repeat something I've said with heartfelt sincerity many times over the years: thank you, Larry!


  1. It was good to see you again and hope you are able to return next year. We will always miss Larry but his presence will always be there when the Queens troops go forth to deliver a salutary lesson upon the natives, so grab your dice and ruler to keep alive "The Sword and The Flame"

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  3. Good to see you too, John, and thanks for taking the time to leave your comment! Too soon to know if I can return again next year, but until then I'll do as you suggest and keep my dice and ruler handy, along with my copy of TSATF...

  4. I hope you can make it next year even if your games stay home.

  5. I hope you can make it next year even if your games stay home.

  6. Guru, That was a very eloquent post. Heart felt and sincere. It was a special weekend, we came to play and have fun only to be demurred and saddened. Larry’s daughters lifted us up and together we all celebrated his life rather than lamenting and it was a very positive way to say good bye, thank you, and pay our respects to Larry all at the same time. We were doing exactly as Larry would have wanted us to! Playing wargames, rolling dice, and having fun with our friends…..He will live on within us all as we play his games and remember the good times we had together. And we did have good times my friend and I’m so glad we could all get together for the CBV weekend.
    As my friend Marc had said, “Rest easy Marine, you are relieved”!
    I still to this day I still remember the first time I met Larry and “his girls”. It was at the Pen Harris Inn in PA in 1985. It was my first Historicon AND my first game of TSATF. That fateful day started a 30 year love of colonial gaming. I too was enamored with Gunga Din, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, King of the Kyber Rifles, etc. so this was just a natural progression that my gaming would include and soon become dominated by colonial gaming. Larry was running the game and Lori was playing. She gave me hints and tips and help to teach me the rules. I was instantly hooked! As soon as that game session was over I ran to the flea market and dealers hall to purchase my first set of TSATF rules as well as several units of 15mm painted Minifig colonial troops that I’ve kept until just recently.
    Until next time we meet my friend……

  7. @John: Appreciate your sentiments!

    @Jeff: Holy-Moly, dude -- you first met Larry & his daughters IN 1985?!?!?!?! That's crazy -- and fantastic!!! I had no idea you'd known them for such a long time. Funny you started out playing TSATF with 15mm figures... just like me! Yet another way our wacky lives mirror each other.