Death of Walter Simon aka Wally of the Basement 1934-2005
By Pat Condray
Reprinted from THE REBEL YELL (Number 31 – August 2005)
On the 30th of May this year Walter Simon Passed away in his new home, sitting in his armchair watching television. He had been in poor health for a number of years, and had recently moved from his last house with a basement to a retirement home—taking with him the minimum essential conflict simulation artifacts (toy soldiers and props). For some years he had been in poor health beginning with cancer and debilitating therapy in the late 90s. We were all worried when he attended COLD WARS but went home early due to exhaustion. To say that he is greatly missed by wargamers who knew him personally is an understatement.
Wally was best known for his role in organizing the Historical Miniatures Support Group, which became the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society at a series of meetings in his basement in November of 1981. He had long been the prime mover in Potomac Wargamers, and editor of the lively PW Review. In the former role he presided over the 3rd Friday game fests at the Church of the Pilgrim in Wheaton MD until his poor health shut down the club, which is being resurrected in his memory. In the latter capacity he brought a puckish sense of humor to the criticism of rules, inflated personalities, and other targets of opportunity. Qualified as both an engineer (with a mathematical flair and reverence for Dupuy’s History, Numbers and War) and a lawyer, he could be the ultimate rules lawyer, and was clearly more fascinated with the mechanics of games than the figures themselves.
Long president of HMGS, Unca Wally, feeling the corporation well launched, resigned in 1989 to free up time for gaming, and became what Socrates called the “Gadfly of the State” pricking the pretenses of his former colleagues. So enraged did the new president become that he cancelled his subscription to PW Review. Being as convinced as Wally that we needed criticism, I bought him a gift subscription.
Wally will not be forgotten as long HMGS is remembered.
A final comment from Arty
“Wally’s narrative style in his own informal rule sets was powerfully engaging to me as a young man in the 80’s (some were described in Gene McCoy’s ‘Wargamer’s Digest’). Wally’s game mechanics were off-beat, his articles so clever and flat-out fun, that obscure periods and venues could be made attractive to otherwise indifferent gamers. And with Wally as editorial critic, it was so entertaining being in his literary cross-hairs that it was worth any abuse he’d inflict! I miss him…” – Arty Conliffe.