Sunday, 30 September 2018
Sadly, Duke Seifried, one of the great pioneers of American miniature wargaming has passed away. He was not just a pioneer of American miniature wargaming, he was a key figure in helping raise the status of wargaming with miniatures in the USA. Without his efforts, the American wargaming scene would largely consist of boardgames and computer games. He travelled from show to show across the continent with his huge extravaganzas consisting of beautifully sculptured terrain and thousand of figures. Since publishing the book Duke Seifried and the Development of American Miniature Wargaming in December 2017, I have continually received letters from those who met him and were inspired by his efforts to create their own multiplayer extravaganzas.
While lesser known in Europe, his importance for wargaming should not be underestimated. By raising the profile of miniature wargaming in the USA, he helped create the global market for miniature wargaming that we now enjoy. The UK and Europe were just not big enough markets to enable production of miniature wargames products to move from cottage industries to global brands within our hobby.
Sunday, 9 September 2018
UK Connections 2018, the professional wargaming conference
Around the western world, there are a series of professional wargaming conferences where the great and the good of that world gather to talk and play games. Involving a complex mix of games and traditional lectures; the conferences aim to promote and develop the use of wargames for education, training and learning. The UK one is held in London at Kings College London in September each year. The History of Wargaming Project has offered me some insights into this growing community, as they routinely ask questions as they buy books from the ever-growing publication list.
Just a few years ago, if you assembled those directly involved in professional wargaming in the UK around a large table, perhaps 6 large pizzas (with stuffed crust) and some garlic bread would have fed them all. Until perhaps 12 months ago, it was possible to more or less keep track of the main professional wargamers in the UK, what they were focussed on and how this work was progressing. This is no longer possible.
DSTL, the scientific arm of the MOD, has a wargaming team and has other staff that also use wargames on occasion. However, there are now wargamers scattered throughout the MOD, individuals and small clusters, working on a range of wargames. The RAF, Navy and the Army have wargaming teams. Individual serving officers, including in the reserves, use wargames on occasions, as just another teaching method. The Defence Academy and Cranfield University use games. The number of academics using wargames for teaching history, international relations, peace and reconstruction studies and business studies is now many dozens, probably over a hundred. Kings College London, sensing financial opportunity, is in the processing of establishing a wargaming centre. Business is using games for financial advantage. Cyber wargames are routine. Emergency planners use them all the time, for example with the emergency services, hospitals and local authorities.
There is now a pool of commercial talent to support professional wargames in the UK, notably computer software from SCS and Matrix/ Slitherine Games. Both of these companies are of a scale to be dynamic and respond to customer needs.
There is a growing pool of accessible wargaming literature and wargames for people to take up and learn from without consulting the existing wargaming community.
Even more shocking is the rise of European professional wargaming, in particular Germany, France, Sweden and boardgames in Spain. They are not just following the lead of the UK and North America, but are building on the former’s games to make their own purpose-built products. I would suggest that these European countries are rapidly developing their own professional wargaming culture that while not completely separate, is more like a distant cousin. I will give just one example, Urban Operations, designed by Sebastien de Peyret. This is published by a French gaming company, Nuts. It is a detailed modern Fighting in Built Up Areas game that is far in advance anything I have seen in from the UK and North America ().
My first conclusion is that UK professional wargaming now has a critical mass and so the method will not disappear. It is too well ingrained as a valuable tool to be neglected. As General Sharpe said, once people feel they have permission, their pre-existing inclinations are released and they can move ahead. My second conclusion is the scale of the development means it is impossible for any one individual to blithely assert they have a good working knowledge of professional wargaming. It is now just too diverse. So, if you meet anyone who says they know all about UK professional wargaming, remember, they don’t.
Wednesday, 25 July 2018
This is an early example of an early professional counter insurgency game written for the Pentagon to explore gaming an uprising in an urban area.
The game is a multi-player megagame representing a growing urban crisis. The government have their police and the general support of the population. The key is to position the guards at the threatened critical urban infrastructure to increase the chance of detecting bomb threats. They also have their secret police to attempt to discover who the insurgents are.
The players representing the public have roles from factory owners to middle class shop keepers.
They have to maintain their income, in the face the growing insurgent threat. At the end of the game, they decide the winner by pledging their support either to the government or the insurgents.
The insurgents have to try and sway the population, but at the same time, disrupting the cities economy. Of course, they can only do this if they remain undiscovered.
Included are detailed briefings for the government, the public and the insurgents. The book also contains after action reviews from the games, along with an analysis of 20 key uprisings.
This book is published by the History of Wargaming Project as part of its ongoing efforts to document professional wargaming.
Wednesday, 18 July 2018
New book: The Matrix Games Handbook: Professional Applications from Education to Analysis and Wargaming
This is the latest book to be published by the History of Wargaming Project
Matrix Games are an established way of running seminar type narrative games in the professional environment. This handbook is the most comprehensive set of papers to date on their use in education, training, research and innovation.The book starts by exploring the origins of Matrix Games, with contributions on the development of the method.
The second section of the book has a sample game about NATO and Russian posturing on the Baltic Sea. Many wargames explore war in this contested area of sea, but a Matrix Game is used to explore a conflict short of kinetic.In the theory section, some of the underpinning philosophy of Matrix Games is outlined by Chris Engle, the inventor of the method. Along with some of the emerging themes from using narrative based games.
Education has applied the technique of Matrix Games in teaching. This section includes examples from around the world from language training to military education.The final section outlines more applications of Matrix Games including operational analysis problems, innovation and using a Matrix Game to explore contemporary conflict by Professor Rex Brynen.
The chapters include
Section 1: The History of Matrix Games
The Early Days of Matrix Games in the UK by Bob Cordery
The American History of Matrix Games by Chris Engle
The Rise of Professional Matrix Games by Tim Price
Section 2: Practical Advice
Running Matrix Games by Tim Price
Checklist by Tim Price
Sample Game: Baltic Challenge: NATO and Russian posturing in the Baltic Sea
The Australian Perspective by Todd Mason
Section 3: The Theory of Matrix Games
Walking in the Dark: An Allegory of Knowledge by Chris Engle
The Intellectual Underpinnings of Matrix Games by Chris Engle
Verbal Algorithms and the Human Machine by Chris Engle
Emerging Themes from the Matrix Game Based Narrative Methodology by John Curry
Section 4: Matrix Games and Education
Gaming Multi-Agency Responses by Helen Mitchard
Using Matrix Games in the Classroom by Dorian Love
Effective Learning at the Swedish Defence University by Johan Elg
Language Training by Neal Durando
Reflections on Military Language Training by Jose Anibal Ortiz Manrique
Section 5: The Professional Application of Matrix Games
Gaming the Wars of the Future by Chris Engle
Operations Research Tools by Ben Taylor
Building Boyd Snowmobiles: Matrix Games as a Creative Catalyst for Developing Innovative Technology by Paul Vebber
Using a Matrix Game to Explore Contemporary Conflict by Rex Brynen
Monday, 4 June 2018
Wargaming used to be an obscure hobby, but now the UK's population has some awareness of wargaming.The evidence for this:
The BBC mentions wargames once a month- in the context of cyber wargames e.g. in City of London, military wargames e.g. gaming threat to Baltic Republics.Over 90% of the 24 to 38 years olds (so called Millennials, Generation Y, Gen Next, were aware of role-playing e.g. Dungeons and Dragons). Sales of Dungeons and Dragons are seeing resurgence.
Practically all large business run business wargames (i.e. business continuity exercises).
Many UK bookshops sell Euro type board games that are certainly in the wargaming space.
The UK Health Service, local government and public utilities, run wargames in the form of emergency planning exercises at least annually.
Games Workshop and Warhammer are a high street brand image- currently valued at £962 million.A local wargaming show at Devizes (which is a rural area of Wiltshire, UK) had attendence of 1,100 people.
Wargaming seems to be established in the UK as a cultural norm. Who could have predicted that ten years ago?
Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Having established the fact that many of the early wargamers were at war with each other in a loud, aggressive and often abusive manner, what were the consequences? When wargaming emerged in the 1970’s as a new hobby, it was considered by some a potential educational tool. One to transform the study of history, politics and international relations. If you played a committee game in French, it could be used in language classes. However, this was not to be. From my random sample of correspondence in the History of Wargaming Project archive, I found that teachers, academics, several clergy and historians had unfortunate encounters with the hobby during the 1970's.
They went along to their local club and were soundly thrashed by competition gamers who were interested in the rules and winning, and with scant regard for history. Perhaps they even took pleasure in shredding an interested academic just to demonstrate that the academic clearly knew nothing about history (and therefore did not deserve their job). These professionals, who could have been champions of the hobby, became the reverse and the hobby suffered. Even RMAS got rid of its wargaming club due its treatment of visiting senior officers and academics.
Fortunately, the hobby has largely changed. There is the competition set, but most wargamers at most clubs play games, enjoy chatting about some history and sometimes they win. At large conventions, there are the battles to win fought by uncommunicative wargamers, but most people putting on a game are happy to stop to chat about the game, the rules, the scenery, the makes of figures etc. Stop by the Society of Ancient’s stand at a show and the people manning the stand will be happy to discuss the detail of ancient warfare with knowledge equal to any undergraduate on an ancient history degree. These ‘average’ wargamers have finally managed to overcome the historical stigma of the competition gamers of the 1970’s. Wargames are flowing into the curriculum at all levels.
During WWII the Fletcher Pratt game in New York was visited by the Admiral of the South Atlantic and his staff. They took command of one side and their fleet of 45 ships started to get hammered by the female curtain makers on the either side. They were up against a profession that estimated distances in inches for a job. Although only a game, an admiral and his staff + his team of 40, losing a naval wargame would not be a good idea. So, Inga Pratt (her husband being on a carrier in the Pacific) grabbed the RN destroy captain from the bar. The captain took command of the destroyers on the admiral’s side and launched a brilliant and devasting torpedo attack. The Admiral’s side won. Honour and face was saved. Perhaps this tale gives some idea why the fletcher Pratt Naval game attracted 200+ people in the evening in war time New York. Modern hobby wargaming could learn something from this historical example.
Friday, 16 March 2018
A game for 1 to 6 players about the experience of flying bombing missions over Germany 1942-44.
The RAF and the USAAF dropped 1.6 billion tons of bombs on Germany between 1939 and 1945. The impact on the German war machine was huge, but so was the cost. Over 55,500 Bomber Command crew lost their lives during this campaign.
Each morning the weather and moon state were suitable, target(s) were selected by Bomber Command. Often the orders included the phrase ‘Maximum Effort’ that meant all bombers that had crews were to be part of the attack. A complex series of steps were then initiated to ensure the bombers were in the air, over the target at the appointed hour to deliver their bombs in the shortest possible time. Concentration of the bomber stream was designed to overwhelm the enemy defences.
The game allows the player to assemble their crew, select their target and go through the various stages of the mission. From take-off, over the enemy coast, through the flak zones and onto the target. Key to returning home was avoiding the enemy night-fighters.
The rules are embedded in historical research and include briefings, aide-memoires, maps and period material. Playing the game aims to help the player(s) understand the experience of the crews of Bomber Command a little better.
This book is published by the History of Wargaming Project as an example of experiential learning in the form of a hobby wargame.
The book is available from link and will available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc in due course.