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May 29, 2012

1938 : A Very British Civil War is a wargames setting from Solway Crafts and Miniatures detailing what might have happened if Edward VIII had refused to abdicate, dragging the nation into a civil war in 1938, published over a series of system-less books allowing gamers to adapt the setting to whatever rules and scale they wish. The books are available direct from Solway Crafts and Miniatures or from gaming shops such as Orcs Nest and Leisure Games.

The Setting

The combination of the political crisis arising from the refusal of Edward to abdicate and an incident at the coronation that led to part of the army coming under suspicion of treachery, resulted in Moseley being appointed Prime Minister and the British Union of Fascists becoming a key component of the state’s security forces. Naturally, there was a backlash from the Left, but the Anglican Church was the major source of opposition to the King, and various local and Nationalist factions also came into being, all pitching into a multi-sided conflict.

Borrowing heavily from reality and the many possibilities hinted at by both the Spanish Civil War and the Home Guard, A Very British Civil War appeals to both the historical gamer and gamers who want to let their imagination run wild, all sufficiently grounded in real history to be plausible.

The setting is quite well detailed across the various booklets, but remains vague enough that players can develop their own corner of the UK without feeling too constrained, whilst the details are restricted to no later than the end of 1938, allowing campaigns to develop freely as time goes by and without worrying that the war will end, bringing things to a halt.

There are plenty of factions and sub-factions, allowing players to tailor their forces however they wish. The Fall of the Empire sourcebook even allows options for taking the fight to other corners of the world if Britain seems a little too parochial for your warmongering needs. There is even civil war in Belgium for those who want to go beyond the British sphere.

Although best suited for small-scale actions, such as skirmishes on a local level, and appealing strongly towards the eccentric, Dad’s Army-style of willing amateur, it is entirely possible to raise a force of trained soldiers equipped with tanks or to fight large-scale battles, or even take to the sea or skies. Whatever themes you enjoy in wargaming, you are almost certain to find it here.

Being system-less, the setting could also be adapted for roleplaying – and would make for an excellent roleplaying game – although the factions might need to be simplified a little. The article on Espionage in The Gathering Storm, Part Two would be perfect for a roleplaying campaign.

The Books

I have purchased the following volumes :

  • The Concise Sourcebook
  • The Gathering Storm, Part One – Scotland and the North
  • The Gathering Storm, Part Two – The Midlands and the South
  • The Fall of the Empire
  • A Guide To The Anglican League
  • A Guide To Royalist & Revolutionary Forces, Part One – The Army of the Severn Valley
  • A Guide To The People’s Armies

The Concise Sourcebook replaces the original A4 booklet with an updated A5 booklet in the style of the Guides. Compared to the more-detailed write-ups in the other volumes, it seems a little lacking, yet is where you are going to want to start for an overview of events. Not having seen the original first volume, I cannot comment on how the two compare, but I get the impression that, if you have the original and the later sourcebooks, you don’t need to replace it with this.

The two volumes of The Gathering Storm and The Fall of the Empire are all A4 booklets giving more details on what is happening in the civil war across Britain and the Empire, as well as articles on the different factions, how the army, navy and air force have aligned, and specific aspects of the war such as the use of trains and espionage.

The three Guides are A5 booklets going into more detail about each of the main factions, their aims, philosophies and armies. There is some overlap with The Gathering Storm, meaning you don’t necessarily require them to play in the setting, and it is possible for individual players to buy the appropriate booklet for their faction rather than a complete library.

Other books, detailing military vehicles, flags and uniforms, and campaigns also exist or are due for release, along with more expanding the factions, none of them vital, but all offering greater scope for those players who do want more. This is one excellent aspect of the setting – you can buy as little or as much as you wish, reflecting your interests and budget.

In addition, there is also Brigadier ’38, a set of Brigade-level rules specially designed for the setting and available from Solway Crafts and Miniatures. These “jolly sporting wargames rules” are simple, yet intended to reflect the setting. They are not necessary to play, as players have made use of a wide variety of skirmish rules systems, but do give an extra option, especially for those envisaging larger battles. I haven’t played the rules, but they seem workable and evocative. Whether they will be of use depends upon whether you already possess a suitable rules set.


Having read so much good about 1938 : A Very British Civil War, I had to get my hands on as many volumes as possible. You may wish to start with just The Concise Sourcebook and take it from there, as multiple volumes soon add up in terms of price. That is both the strength and the weakness of their publication as multiple small volumes – individually, the booklets are cheap for gaming products, but, when you buy several, the price rises dramatically despite the total page count remaining low. For a club, however, pooling resources to purchase the core books and any rules, and having members purchase their own faction books, this may work out well.

The booklets are relatively basic, ‘small press’ publications, but of a quality level above the simple pamphlet that might imply and are full-colour. Although there are a variety of contributors, some better than others, the overall quality of the writing is quite good, largely written from an in-era perspective and sometimes written as fiction rather than (pretend) fact, although there is a tendency to grammatical and spelling errors, as well as typos, with some writers being quite distracting due to the number of errors. Whilst none of these problems severely derail the writing, it can be quite distracting and better proofreading would have made for a stronger product.

It is understandable, given how it has slowly evolved from a basic idea to a complete range, that it would take this modular format, but having all the information in a single, higher-quality volume might have been an improvement, although it would then have lacked the appropriately eccentric and amateur (both in a good sense) nature of the books that adds greatly to the feel of the setting. But, lacking that option, the line of booklets is a perfectly good, even if the division between A4 and A5 is a little irritating on the bookshelf!

The booklets are full of useful information and excellent ideas and defy anyone to read them and not come away fired with ideas of their own for gaming. There’s probably nothing here that you couldn’t find by researching the era yourself, but why spend time on that when you can buy the books and get on with gaming? The Fall of the Empire even contains a convenient listing of companies that make suitable models, if you need a little assistance to get gaming.


The booklets are an enjoyable read and contain all you need to recreate the battles of the Civil War. Having been assisted by Osprey Books and emulating their format, the Guides are, perhaps, most interesting of all. I really enjoyed them and would recommend them for entertainment value alone, but, with just a little effort to adapt the setting to whatever rules set you wish to use, they would make a marvellous campaign setting. The only downside is the cost, but, the low individual booklet cost means you can dip your toe without blowing a lot of money until you are certain you want to commit to the setting. Highly recommended.

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