Wednesday, 29 March 2023

New Book: Blockbuster Wargame (1984)- American Army Wargaming Rules for Military Operations in Urbanised Terrain


Developed and played during the Cold War, BLOCKBUSTER, is a set of professional wargaming rules written by the American Army. Along with the better known Dunn Kempf wargame rules, they were tools for training soldiers in the 1980’s in the profession of arms.

BLOCKBUSTER is a three-dimensional, manual, battle simulation system designed for the purpose of conducting leader training in Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT). Players employ miniature vehicles and dismounted units on a scaled terrain board according to the Rules of Play. The Rules of Play are designed to accurately simulate the capabilities of vehicles, weapons systems, and personnel. A 6-8 hour BLOCKBUSTER exercise can represent approximately 15-30 minutes of battle. BLOCKBUSTER trains company-level leaders from the squad leader and tank commander up to the company team commander.

The rules are published by the History of Wargaming Project as part of its ongoing work to document the development of wargaming. They are edited by John Curry and David Burden 

Thursday, 9 March 2023

New Book- Battle in the Vietnam War: including Buckle for your Dust! and other wargames by Paddy Griffith and Greg McCauley


I am particularly excited to announce a new posthumous book by the late Paddy Griffith. There is still so much more to publish from his archive.

Paddy was the UK’s tactical historian of his generation. He was particularly interested in the face of battle, what happened when forces met on the field of battle. This book is an attempt to assemble his key writings and wargames around the Vietnam War into a single work, published posthumously. Written over a number of years, most of it was never published.

This collection of writings and musings begins with a brief review of the history of the war and delineation of some of its key features and themes. Especially intriguing are the essays about the birthing pains of the so-called electronic battlefield;” the role of the helicopter; the still evident American predilection for assuming fancy technology will work as advertised, and reduce the mortal dangers faced by troops in combat; and the natural consequence of that attitude, the still amazing distortion of battles created by the pressure to and success in evacuating casualties. But the book goes beyond raw historical analysis to dive into the question of why and how we can recreate aspects of the war using a wide range of wargaming techniques.

Also included is an account of Memphis Mangler IV, the first hobby megagame. From the perspective of wargaming history this was the game that launched the new genre of megagames; multiplayer wargames that attempt to represent a piece of history including command and control issues. Close reading of the detailed briefs for the roles in this first megagame is an excellent way to learning about Paddy Griffith’s understanding of the Vietnam War.

Monday, 27 February 2023

Wargaming is Changing


The nature of hobby wargaming is changing, as all hobbies do. As an academic, author, professional gamer, publisher etc. I try to keep informed about the trends. Of course, of more importance is perhaps playing games on a Sunday afternoon at my local wargaming club, Lincombe Barn in Bristol (UK). Rarely a meeting goes past without someone opening up a new rule book or game and apologising as this is the first game with the rules.

A generalisation is that younger games often include computer games and virtual games as part of their hobby; they are not fixated on only playing with toy soldiers on a table top covered with terrain. Most clubs will have members who are playing some game virtually most weeks in addition to the traditional face to face meeting.

Already the new wargaming figure manufacturers are struggling in the face increasing range of cheap alternatives in every scale and period; compounded by almost every wargaming show having one or more tables selling off an entire collection of a wargamer who has moved on to pastures new. Talking of terrain, 3D printing and laser cut MDF kits are flooding the already crowded wargaming terrain market. Wargaming terrain is an environmentally friendly product as good quality scenery has a long life, some pieces passing from wargamer to wargamer for decades. We have some robust wargaming scenery in my club store that has been in use for decades.

At some point you will not be able to give wargaming scenery away at a wargaming show, with the proliferation of robot ready painted scenery. Along these lines it is likely that vehicle and miniature figures will also be produced almost on demand. The only requirement will be to base the figures. I can see a wargamer of the future waking up one day and saying I want to play with 10mm Aztecs on Sunday, then the army arriving all painted within 48 hours. I think it would take a university department perhaps five years to come up the prototype figure painting robot, all using existing technology and software.

Most wargames rules and board games will continue to be relatively straightforward to learn and play. Wargaming competes with other time pressures of life for many people. Therefore games that can be picked up and enjoyed rapidly will continue to dominate the games market. Modern wargamers play a far wider range of games and scales than those of even 10 years ago. Older wargamers can all remember people who used to say I am a Napoleonic Wargamer or I am an Ancient Wargamer (no pun intended), and that is all they used to play, every week. These people had nothing in their collections outside their chosen period. In the future, wargamers will have preferred periods, but most will play a very wide range of wargames.

One of the urban myths of our hobby is no-one makes money out of wargaming. This is not true. Games Workshop is bigger than Marks and Spencers in terms of stock market value. There are a lot of people out there in small pockets making a sensible income from wargaming. You see them on eBay (with the 100,000+ feedback scores). Some second-hand dealers are proactively seeking out wargaming collections that suddenly become available, snapping them up at a bargain price and reselling at a viable profit (of course they also get landed with large amounts of stock they cannot give away, e.g. some old figures). My best guess is there are some who are on the crest of the MDF printed scenery wave, followed by those printing unusual 3D scenery, who are earning good money at the moment. Of course, at some point the sales wave will break and the opportunity for a good return will have passed.

Rule writers are in a financial quandary. High production value, hard back sets of rules grab the market attention for a short while, but the financial risk behind them is large. If you print 30,000 sets of rules (to get a good price from the printers), you may need to sell 15,000 in order to break-even. As the market moves onto to the next new product, the suppliers can be left with large amounts of stock that they cannot give away (I know, as occasionally box loads of unsold rules arrive at my door). Osprey’s solution is to go for a reasonable standard production value rulebook, not too long. Print run of perhaps a 1000 and a huge warehouse to store them in for the next 20 years if necessary. Of some good rules sets such as DBA, HOTT, Alien Squad Leader, the Portable Wargame sell despite the lack of gloss; quality of rules trumps the lack of high-cost graphics.

In 10-20 years time, I think that the local wargaming UK clubs will look much the same. Mostly figure games, some roleplaying, some board games. The figures and scenery will be uniformly excellent, nearly all at what we call display standard now. They will be playing with elegant rules, full of clever mechanisms, but not too long to learn. Who will be supplying (and making a profit from this)? Firms with small staffs, but with teams of robots and printers. These businesses will supply figures, terrain mats, scenery in every scale. A handful of these firms will be the new Games Workshops of the wargaming world- but which firms they will be will depend on which businesses can invest with enough capital (at the right time) and provide world class quality service.