Saturday 18 August 2012

A new history of wargaming

In a bit of a departure this week I received a complimentary copy of a new book by Jon Peterson, called Playing at the World a History of Simulating War, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role Playing Games.

As I understand it the book seeks to trace the origins of Dungeons and Dragons through to modern role playing games, from earlier games from chess, through kriegspiel, and wargaming with model soldiers.

I think I will have received this copy because of the posts of early material from Wargamer’s Newsletter here by Gary Gygax and others, the Wargaming in the Twin Cities post, and some of the material on the debate on the place of fantasy in wargaming.

My own interests are UK based, historical miniatures gaming; the focus of this book is US based, board games, fantasy and role playing. I haven’t read it all but I have read Chapter Three, which offers a history of wargames, from 1780 and before, to the appearance of Dungeons and Dragons.

My reading is that the narrative drive of the book is towards the emergence of Dungeons and Dragons, and this means its emphasis and interpretation can seem a little odd to someone reading it from my perspective. It seems to me, for example, that it gives slightly more emphasis to the role of Tony Bath than others may, as the thesis is that Bath’s medieval rules from 1966 contributed to Gygax’s development of his Chainmail medieval rules, which in turn influenced the development of Dungeons and Dragons. There is also a considerable discussion of Bath’s Hyboria campaign. The author’s description of Tony Bath as among the most influential British miniature wargamers may read a little strangely to UK eyes – perhaps because he did not publish as widely as others; although Hyboria was certainly much admired.

This emphasis means, for example, that while Charlie Wesencraft is referred to three times, on each occasion it refers to his rules on mercenaries which influenced Gygax.

This isn’t a light read – it is written in the form of an academic work, with quite dense use of primary sources. It is particularly strong on collections of wargaming periodicals – more on the board gaming and fantasy side, but for example referring to several key articles in the BMSS’s Bulletin.

The general history of wargames it presents is interesting and contains a fair amount of material that is new to me. There is a very detailed account of the various versions of Kriegspiel and its antecedents, with interesting accounts of Robert Louis Stevenson and hG Wells. I was particularly pleased to see reference to Bob Bard's Making and Collecting Military Miniatures and a picture of rather better copy than the one I used of the Wargaming in the Twin Cities article from 1966 featuring Dave Arnesen and David Wesely.

If this all seems a little half hearted, it isn’t meant to be. The author’s interest in wargaming is substantially different to my own, but there is much interesting information here. some of which was entirely new to me. It isn’t an easy read along the lines of Achtung Schweihund! but if you are interested in the fantasy and role playing side of the hobby it may be just the thing for you.

The book is clearly the result of an immense amount of research and hard work. In the spirit of Blackadder III reading Dr Johnson's Dictionary,

I will only mention that I found it surprising given its interest in Kriegspiel and military board gaming that Guy Debord's Game of War makes no appearance. (I must admit I am relying on the index for this assertion as I have not read all 698 pages.

The book can be found on on Amazon UK here and you can use the Look Inside feature to see some of the content – if you think you may be interested in it I would suggest having a look at Chapter Three and seeing what you think.

Friday 3 August 2012

Le Kriegspiel - Part 1 - Foreword, Introduction and Terrain

I am grateful to Pat Condray for his permission to post his 1969 translation of Pierre Foure and Jean Belaubre's Le Kriegspiel rules.

I have split it into five sections to make it easier to use.

My apologies for the quality of the scans - these have been taken from a slightly dodgy photocopy, rather than an original of the book.

Le Kriegspiel - Part 2 - Tactical Units

This section contains rules for infantry, cavalry and artillery units within the game.

Le Kriegspiel - Part 3 - Combat and Situations

Two further sections from Pat Condray's 1968 translation of these rules - thanks again for his permission to post these.

Le Kriegspiel - Part 4 - 1680 Variant

Le Kriegspiel - Part 5 - American Civil War variant

I'm not sure whether this is complete or if my photocopy is missing the last two pages of the book.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Obscure rule set #1 - Le Kriegspiel by Pierre Foure

I have a photocopy of Pat Condray's 1969 translation of these rules, published by the Armchair General. It comprises a series of games (Napoleonic; then 1680 and American Civil War variants) which were originally devised by the Societe de Collectionneurs de Figurines Historiques. They were edited by Pierre Foure and first translated into English by Pat Condray in 1964. The 1969 version contained a revised translation.

They are noteworthy for a number of reasons:

a) they are not well known
b) they are unusual because of their French origins
c) they are designed for use on a hexagon based board
d) they could be used with figures or with bases (playing pieces)
e) they contain short adapted versions for two further periods.

Given the current interest in playing Command and Colours Napoleonic with figures, perhaps they deserve to be better known.

I would be interested to know if anyone out there is familiar with these rules or has indeed played them.

They also contain some interesting line drawings in the section on the 1680 variant of a line of 20mm figures. Again, I would be interested to know if anyone can identify this range.

Apologies for the quality of the attached pictures - they are scans from a not very good photocopy.