Thursday 18 July 2013

The History of Wargaming Project and naval wargaming

I played the Fletcher Pratt naval wargaming rules over the years and did some work on the rules. For example, I created a program to create the ship cards needed to play the game. Sometimes, when I mentioned the Pratt rules (and the fact I had modified them), I was asked for a copy. John B. and Tony Hawkins advised me to try and sell some copies of the rules. So I produced a fairly amateur version, which to my surprise sold.

Over a year or so I started to proof read the rules, improve the layout and got the rules printed and bound cheaply by a local printer. Thus started the history of wargaming library project. Rather than just reproduce the originals, I decided to try to make the rules usable for a modern audience. The Fred Jane Naval Rules had an excellent fast play version in them (which allows a novice to quickly get into a game). The book was produced casually and really needed further work, but as I thought 10 copies would sell, and I would know 6 of the purchasers, I thought it was not worth the effort. I was a little surprised to find that when the Fred Jane Naval Wargame (1906) including the Royal Navy Wargaming Rules sold 11 copies, I knew none of the buyers. It has continued to sell.

My next naval wargaming was the classic Donald Featherstone's Naval Wargame. This was the book that did more to launch modern naval wargaming than any other. Its key feature was re-introducing the Fred Jane and Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame, as well as simple naval rules by Tony Bath for ancient ship battles.
I realised that the version of the Fletcher Pratt game we all used was incomplete. It lacked a campaign system, examples of scenarios and rules updates that I knew existed. So over a year I set about tracing the owner of the Pratt game and she did have several boxes of previously unpublished stuff. The Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame was a new book, full of additional material. I was also surprised to find that Pratt’s loyal fan base were eager to buy the book, not to play the game, but to learn more about Pratt.
When I did Phil Dunn’s Sea Battles revised edition he offered me new material for a couple of chapters and then Paddy Griffith (a big fan of Dunn’s book) offered a ‘Hunt the Bismarck Game’ as an appendix. The additional material added to the book and I was amazed that the book apparently launched several hundred solo naval wargaming campaigns.

Several other books have included naval wargaming material. Innovations in wargaming included a naval kriegspiel by Paddy Griffith; Bruce Quarries Napoleonic Campaigns in Miniature had a chapter on sea battles.

One advantage of being editor is the ability to commission more naval wargaming books. The next to go to print is Phil Dunn’s Fury at Sea, which is full of ideas for large scale simple naval wargames. Also included will be the Napoleonic naval rules of the Sandhurst Wargaming Club, written by Paddy Griffith and David Chandler at this semi-legendary club.

The project will include more naval wargaming material, with at least two more books on the subject (in addition to Phil Dunn’s) over the next 12 months.

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