The club began in 1972 with seven founding members. It was known as the Wellington Wargames Section until 1979.
The first meeting of the club was held at founder member Paul Stairs’ house at The Ridgeway in Mornington, Wellington on 17 March 1972, which happened to be St Patrick’s day. The first and only game played at this meeting was a multi-player American Civil War game using Airfix plastic figures and Donald Featherstone rules. One of the seven founders is still a member today. The second meeting was held at Weir House, a student hall of residence at Victoria University, and the third was held at St Lukes Church Hall in Pitt Street, Wadestown. From that meeting onwards, the club continuously met in Wadestown on the first and third (and later fifth) Saturdays of each month until March 2002. At that point St Lukes decided to demolish the hall and sell the land it was on, rather than bear the cost of strengthening the building. The club then moved to the Khandallah Presbyterian Church Hall and has continued to meet there to the present day. At various times the Warlords also held Sunday meetings at different venues to cater for members who couldn’t make it on Saturdays.
The club initially remained small in size but rapidly expanded after about a year, largely due to a wargaming display put on by the club at the Wellington Public Library. This was shown on TV and the ensuing publicity from this event led to the club growing to well over 100 members. This also had a significant impact on the club’s demographics and brought in an influx of new younger members.
The ‘Great Schism’
In August 1973, the Wellington Wargames Section split into two parts due to a disagreement over its membership. Some wanted the membership restricted to a minimum of 18 years old, while others saw a need to accommodate the influx of younger members. The result was a section of the membership splintering off to form the Wellington Wargames Society, which constituted the ‘old guard’ faction. The Society’s stated aim (in its constitution) was to “provide opportunities for more senior players to meet, play wargames and discuss the hobby”. Its founders were described by one former member as ‘rather British gentlemen types’ with a ‘children should be seen and not heard view’. The Society’s core was a group of 25mm Napoleonic players who were competitive and a strong presence at early New Zealand wargames conventions. The Society hosted New Zealand’s first national wargaming convention at Easter 1975 in the Avalon Public Hall in Lower Hutt, which was a great success. Somewhat ironically, age ceased to be an issue within a few years and the Society eventually accepted younger members as the old guard’s dominance gradually declined. The Wellington Wargames Section continued on, less the 25mm Napoleonic ‘old guard’ faction, and was dominated by ancient and renaissance players using Wargames Research Group rules. Other niche periods were played including fantasy, although there was at least one attempt to ban fantasy roleplaying at the club by a faction of historical players in the early 1980’s. In 1979, the Wellington Wargames Section became an incorporated society and was renamed Wellington Warlords Inc.
During the period of the ‘schism’, the Warlords and the Society generally catered for different wargaming interests and were not directly competitive with each other. Some people belonged to both clubs, the Society held its meetings on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month to avoid clashing with the Warlords’ 1st and 3rd Saturdays and there were even some joint meetings and events. On occasions, however, some differences of opinion and petty politicking between certain members of both clubs occurred, sometimes openly expressed within their respective club publications. On at least one occasion the Warlords were not permitted to attend the Society’s meetings. The Society continued as an alternative Wellington wargaming club to the Warlords but it went into gradual decline in the 1980’s as interest diminished in Napoleonic gaming. It last met in February 1988 and was wound up later that year.
The Wellington Wargames Section’s club newsletter was called ‘Dispatches’, which was produced from 1972. After the ‘schism’, Dispatches was continued by the Wellington Wargames Section, while the Society produced its own club magazine called ‘The Musket’. Dispatches later grew beyond a club publication and developed into a magazine and was renamed the “New Zealand Wargamer’. This was New Zealand’s first and only national wargaming magazine, which was intended to bring various regional club newsletters together under a single national publication. It was reasonably successful, although support from the Christchurch Wargaming Society was often lukewarm and this club continued to produce its own magazine called ‘Southern Sortie’, ostensibly for the South Island readership. The Wellington Wargames Society also declined to become involved in the NZ Wargamer, which caused some resentment at the Warlords. The NZ Wargamer was produced from July 1980 and a subscription to it formed part of the Warlords’ membership fee. Due to some members’ objections, it was eventually dropped as a compulsory component of the club membership fee, which ultimately had a negative impact on its subscription base. From January 1984, ownership of the NZ Wargamer transferred from the magazine’s editorial committee to Warlords member Steve Sands and was produced outside of the club. It continued until early 1987. The Warlords reverted to producing Dispatches as a club newsletter until about 2007. By that time a club website had been established, including a forum, which was intended to become the club’s main mode of communication. As well as newsletters and magazines, members of both clubs produced rules, army lists and various other publications. Rules included the RDC series in the 1980’s for which there were Colonial and Renaissance sets. The latter was intended as an alternative to WRG (Gush) Renaissance rules and was used at several New Zealand conventions.
Warlords Name and Logo
The name ‘Warlords’ appears to have been influenced (or borrowed) from the South London Warlords, which was a major English wargaming club formed in 1971 (originally as the South London Wargames Section and later the South London Warlords). The club logo of a Dark Ages warrior was adopted in 1979. It was based on a Rick Scollins illustration in Military Modelling magazine (produced in Britain), which was one of the first magazines that directly catered for the wargaming hobby.