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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Stuart Asquith and Terry Wise’s Wargaming 17th Century Battles

Stuart Asquith is a key contributor to the development of modern hobby of wargaming. His extensive work included editing Practical Wargamer for 12 years, authoring over twenty books and editing many more. This book focuses on one of the Stuart Asquith’s key interests, 17th century warfare.
This book aims to bring together some of Stuart Asquith’s work, focussed on this era. Other books in the series cover his writing on other wars. The book has 20 scenarios for wargamers including:

Edgehill (1642)   The Storming of Brentford (1642)             
The Battle of Lansdowne (1643)
Roundway Down (1643)
The First Battle of Newbury (1643)          
The Relief of Newark (1644)
Cropredy Bridge (1644)
Marston Moor (1644)    
The Battle of Nasby (1645)
Dunkirk (1658)
Medway (1667)
Drumclog (1679)7
The Battle of Sedgemoor (1685)

Of course, the book would not be complete without a set of classic ‘Old School’ wargaming rules. The obvious choice was Terry Wise’s popular wargaming rules for the English Civil War and the Thirty Years War circa 1618-1651.
This work is published as part of The History of Wargaming Project range of books that aim to document the development of wargaming.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

United States Naval War College Rules 1936, now in print

The famous Unites States Naval War College wargames have been seen as an important part of the US Navy’s preparation for war with Japan. The actual naval commanders took lessons from these wargames into the conflict in the Pacific 1941-45. 
This book makes the 1936 edition of the tactical rules readily accessible for the first time to the public. It includes the detailed rules for movement, gunnery, damage and other aspects of real naval warfare from the big gun era. The object of these games was to aid students of strategy and tactics in the comprehension of these complex subjects.

The foreword is written by Jeffrey Harley Rear Admiral, USN, President U.S. Naval War College, who celebrates the contribution of these interwar wargames to eventual victory in the Pacific.
The book includes:

     Original guidance from 1922 on how to play the game

     Sample gunnery tables

     Torpedo fire cards

     Rules for visibility and smoke

     Details about speed and fuel

     Sample ship cards to illustrate how the rules worked

Further supporting material is available from the History of Wargaming Project website.

The book is published by the History of Wargaming Project. It is part of a series to document key steps in the development of modern wargaming.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

New book: Pentagon Rural counter insurgency game (1966)

This is an example of an early professional counter insurgency game written for the Pentagon to explore a rural based insurgency through a wargame.
America was engaged in a strategic counter insurgency in Vietnam. On one side was the government of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) supported by America and other Western Allies. On the other side was the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) supported by Russia, China and other communist countries. The stakes could not have been higher. In America, every effort was being made to wage war more effectively in the conflict. One of the tools applied was wargaming, such as this game.

The game is a multi-player megagame with players representing the government, the insurgents and the sample villages at the centre of the battle for control. The game allowed the players to explore the asymmetrical conflict from a different perspective, using the prism of wargaming.

Agile/COIN was played in a number of key establishments in America and clearly had some training value. One success was pulling special forces soldiers away from their normal military skills focussed training and asking them how would they actually influence the hearts and minds of the people in the villages of rural South Vietnam. 
This book includes after action reviews of twelve games with the lessons learnt. What is also interesting is the examples of the American players committing atrocities against the civilian population as an in-game strategy.

The game was developed until it was turned into a computer-based game as part of the appliance of science to war movement. Ironically, whilst this may have increased the operational analysis value, it also reduced the training value of Agile. 
This book is published by the History of Wargaming Project as part of its ongoing efforts to document professional wargaming.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

New Book: Francis Chichester’s Pinpoint the Bomber- Bomber Command Air Navigation Training Wargame (1942)

Francis Chichester’s Pinpoint the Bomber

Bomber Command Air Navigation Training Wargame (1942)

The games in this book were made to help the navigators of Bomber Command improve the chances of locating their target. Written by Sir Francis Chichester, the games reflected his vast experience at the exacting art of pinpoint navigation.
This book was first published in 1942 at the heart of World War II. Bomber Command was flying regularly to hit targets on the content, but the navigators in the individual bombers were struggling to find the targets. Using his experience of long-distance flying, Chichester created three games to help the navigators improve their skills prior to operations. Game 1 was a game of chance, game 2 involved finding the correct longitude and latitude, but game 3 required the player to correctly locate themselves on the map. Reading the paragraphs that describe the situation, then studying the map for clues offers insight into the difficulties faced during the early stages of the bombing campaign, before electronic navigation aids became widespread.
Further supporting material is available from the History of Wargaming Project website.
The book can be purchased from link . It will be available from the online book stores shortly.
 The book is published by the History of Wargaming Project as part of a series documenting key steps in the development of wargaming.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Desperately seeking live politicians for our wargames

I play wargames as part of my learning. If there is a crisis or potential crisis that takes my professional interest, I print out an A3 map, do some counters and use a variant of whichever set of rules seem to work from my archive. I spend a few hours on the game and as a result my understanding is always moved to a new, deeper level. However, I have noticed that actual politicians are absent and so are missing the opportunity to learn from our professional wargames.

Those operating at such a significant level of decision making are exactly the kind of people you want to be "gamers", those who've played through the situations they're having to handle in the real world many times before.

By wargames, I mean contested conflicts, where the red team is doing their best to win and the outcomes are not pre-scripted. These are different from exercises which are to test/ teach procedures, rather than decision making.

There are three parts to the enigma of the missing politicians. The first is our political system encourages the selection of the popular, which may or may not qualify them to make analytical rational decisions in the unexpected pressure of a crisis. (This is not an argument to suggest an alternative political system. As Winston Churchill said “democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”)

The second part is that games highlight performance issues. Sometimes politician and their political advisors’ performance are inadequate and the spotlight of the game makes this abundantly clear. I ran a game and a really important senior manager’s performance in the game was so bad, even the butler noticed (yes, sometimes I have a butler and domestic staff when running games for a certain level of player). So, I conclude, that sometimes a politician does not want the spotlight on them or certainly not on their advisors.  Not all advisors are appointed for their subject matter expertise in political matters.

The third part is the politicians fear of leaks. Games are just games and can be vehicles to explore all sorts of events, even the unlikely. E.g. what happens if NATO does not support the Baltic Republics against Russian aggression? Obviously, they get occupied, but what are the second and third order effects? A game is an ideal tool to explore this complex situation. However, the media will happily seize any game story and misrepresent it as news. The media understand wargames i.e. they are used to explore, outcomes can depend on chance etc., but they will put a spin on newsworthy games in their continual search for ratings.

Why are their leaks from confidential games? The world of cyber security gives us some clues. Some participants do not believer in leaks, on the grounds everyone they know in life is honest and would never gossip. Some just go to work for money and are not really that bothered about the wider ramifications of a leak. There is also a very small chance of being detected when leaking a story. Journalist sources have some legal protection if the story is in the public interest (journalists interpret this as any story the public are interested in is therefore clearly in the public interest). Secondly, politicians are rightly wary of unleashing the computing forensics dogs of war in a leak enquiry. The thought of Special Branch trawling through email boxes is frightening; who knows what stories of corruption, classified information sent through private email, affairs, harassment, bullying or perhaps just general verbal abuse of colleagues that might emerge?

To my knowledge, the last UK politician to periodically attend and participate in wargames (as opposed to scripted exercises) was Margaret Thatcher. Some might contest her ‘legacy’, but she did occasionally harness the power of games as part of the cycle of learning. For professional wargaming to have greater impact, politicians need to play.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Duke Seifried 1935-2018

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.

Donald Featherstone considered that Duke was "The showman of modern wargaming".Hard to argue with that.

Duke is survived by his second wife, Annette, six children and two adopted boys.

I have included a couple of photos of some of Duke’s 46 extravaganzas


Sunday, 9 September 2018

Professional Wargaming Reaches Escape Velocity in the UK

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.