THE DAIRY: Chairman of the board

Mike Hayes, of Ranmoor, with his Classic Warlord board game.
Mike Hayes, of Ranmoor, with his Classic Warlord board game.
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MIKE Hayes is a former member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a long-term peace activist and an all-round jolly nice fellow.

It is well to remember this as he sits in his Ranmoor dining room plotting the atomic Armageddon of western Europe. And the downfall, to boot, of your correspondent’s Spanish empire.

“It’s a peaceful game, really,” he says, looking at the board. “Ultimately, it’s about the futility of war.”

Then he explodes a nuclear bomb right over Madrid destroying several armies. Or small plastic counters, if you will.

Welcome, reader, to Classic Warlord.

It’s a game Mike, a retired Sheffield University business studies professor, invented himself some 50 years ago and which was something of a hit.

Games Workshop bought the rights. Some 20,000 copies were sold under the cheery name Apocalypse. And - that ultimate sign of success - a motion was passed in Parliament demanding it be banned for inciting nuclear war.

“I would suggest that playing Dr Strangelove on the dining room table was ethically better than whitewashing your windows, the official Civil Defence solution to Armageddon,” says Mike. “Fortunately, the motion failed.”

Now, after GW’s contract ran out, he and wife Mary, 69, are to bring the game back. They have produced 500 to sell online.

“I’m retired,” says Mike. “So it beats twiddling my thumbs.

“GW phoned me in May and asked if they could renew the rights. But I thought, well, if they think it can work, I’ll have a go at doing it myself.”

So he has done.

And it’s easy to see why it was once loved everywhere from the uni’s Bar One to Borstal (several copies were ordered by the young offenders institute).

Players start out with an empire and spend the next couple of hours invading, retreating, negotiating, double crossing and lobbing nuclear warheads about. If you’re not ruthless, you’re probably not going to win.

“Essentially it lets you become Machiavelli for a bit,” says Mike.

Back in the Seventies, he took his proto-version - knocked up in the cellar - down to the student’s union and played with the chess club. Several members liked it so much they asked to buy their own. One got in the hands of GW bosses and the rest was history. Until now.

“I forgot about it after that, really,” says Mike. “We were busy bringing up five children.”

Which paid off too - because this time he’s enlisted their help.

“One of our daughters is a graphic designer so she did the board and another is a web designer so she did the website,” explains Mike, a grandfather-of-eight. “We discussed it as a family and we decided it was disgraceful that I’d been a professor of business studies but never tried to market the game myself.”

There have been a couple of rule changes and the map has altered but largely it’s the same. And Mike is sure it’s still relevant in a post Cold War age.

“The threat never goes away,” he says. “With this game you see nuclear war’s futility. Whoever wins is left with a world devastated by radiation. The board asks the question: ‘Victory - but at what cost?’”

Pre-order Classic Warlord at www.classicwarlord.com