Wednesday 24 December 2014

New book by Charlie Wesencraft and new book about early naval wargames

I am very pleased 2 more books have gone to print.

Charlie Wesencraft's Seven Steps to Freedom: Wargaming the French and Indian War and the American War of Independence is a new book. Started a few decades ago, I provided a bit of help to polish the book to get it ready to print. About the French Indian Wars and the AWI it has a foreword by Henry Hyde, This is the third book by one of the real gentlemen who helped launch modern wargaming with toy soldiers.

The second book is Over Open Sights: Early Naval Wargaming Rules 1873-1904 Early Wargames Volume 6  Dec 2014 by Fred Jane, Lieutenant Castle R.N., Captain Colomb R.N.Lieutenant H. Chamberlain R.N. and me

This aims to play Fred Jane in his correct place as part of sequence of professional Royal Naval late 19th century wargames. Jane's innovation and imagination were huge, but he built on the work of others.

So what next? Donald Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers, a new book Sue Barker 'An Introduction to Ancient Wargaming, a new book by Phil Dunn about his massive global wargame, a new book about using serious games in emergency planning in the health service by Russell King and a new book about a very important wargaming campaign- details to follow.

I continue to get random but important contributions. Tim Gow has found a set of amendments for the WRG 2nd edition ancient rules to convert them to medieval use. I will add them as a pdf to my site shortly. Someone else sent me stuff that included some military wargames and I am seeking permission to reproduce. I have another 40 books in my production schedule...

Monday 29 September 2014

Monday 1 September 2014

Wargaming the ISIS Crisis using the Matrix Games Methodology- August 2014

The wargame was carried out at the Defence Academy, UK at the end of August 2014. The participants were military, academics and specialists in international matters from Canada, USA and the UK. The session is reported under 'Chatham House Rules', where individuals may not be attributed.
 Although the term ‘game’ is in the title, the wargame was played to explore the situation and the test the methodology of Matrix games. The game was in the serious game space and was not being played for recreation.

The ‘flavour’ of matrix game being used was: Player’s stating action and its outcome, with as many supporting reasons as possible, these were others allowed to give arguments to increase or decrease the chance of failure. Strict umpiring stopped the situation turning into a debate. To succeed matrix games need to move quickly.
For further explanation of Matrix Games and further examples see Matrix Games for Modern Wargaming Developments in Professional and Education Wargames, Innovations in Wargaming Volume 2

What to include on the map and what not to is a critical pre-game decision. 
The map was populated with counters as narrative devices; visual aide memoires rather than accurate statements of military units. The choice of map and counters influence the direction of the game. E.g. Syria was not really shown and so the game failed to reflect the strategic depth of ISIL in Syria.

Players could argue for additional counters to be generated upon demand, such as mobilising more militias.

The decision was to represent the USA/ Iran/ IS/ Iraq Prime Minister/ Iraq Shia’s and the Kurds in this particular game.

The game director also threw ideas into the situation, for example representing non-player assigned factions. The aim of the game was for players to attempt to create a narrative and if possible build onto the existing narrative.

The players read their hand-outs and then set their own objectives, based on discussion as each faction was represented by two people.  The dynamic of introducing a 2nd player into each role was a useful one, but it needs strong moderation to keep the momentum of the game up.

Game Turn 1: The amount of time each turn represents was abstract, but the players generally understood that in this game, each turn was a few weeks.

The Americans opened the game by failing to launch airstrikes against IS forces. Political indecision, lack of clear targets, no forces on the ground to direct the strikes etc… (Perhaps reflecting the real world current indecision of the USA). Iran was the opposite and they started to deepen the relationship with Iraq by dispatching another ambassador, clearly they had some long term plan.

IS decisively moved on to Karbala, despite logistics problems caused by bypassing Ramadi, they rolled a double 6 on two dice and the outcome was the Iraq army fled and a very surprised IS was in charge of the town.

Although the Iraq Army had fled, IS was still faced with local Shia Militia. After the game, it turned out this was actually a feint by IS to distract attention from their real plan of spreading their influence into other countries starting with Jordan.
The Iraq Prime Minister continued to attempt to form a government of national unity, they felt it was essential to get the government working efficiently if they were to deal with the growing crises.

The Sunni minority carried out a somewhat random attack on a US warship in port with the somewhat optimistic aim of keeping the USA out of the Iraq civil war. Historically, such minor attacks have been ineffective politically, but the Americans never forget those who have attacked the.

The Kurds argued that British and NATO Special Forces moved into the Kurdish region to liaise with them. They were clearly thinking a few moves ahead. One of the ways of success in a matrix game is to spend one or two arguments laying the foundation for future moves. In this case, the Kurds want to attack but were making preparations first.
One of the advantages of matrix games is they allow the players to alter the game beyond that of the original design. In this case the player argument for French Special Forces forced the game facilitator to improvise a new counter.


 Game Turn 2 One of the post-game discussions was the idea that the game could be run for one turn to allow those who are unfamiliar to have a go at the game, then the clock is reset and the game starts again, with everyone familiar with the game methodology.
The USA dispatched its special forces into Iraq, but the state of the Iraq government meant they only got as far as Bagdad with no authorisation to enter the rest of the country.

Iran introduced rumours their troops were entering Iraq to provide support to the Iraq government.

IS took the opportunity to secure Karbala. In game terms this was resolved using the SCRUD method of combat (basically comparing dice rolls), but whether a simple dice roll would have been enough to achieved the same outcome was discussed.

The photo shows ISIL in control of Karbala. Note the attack counter to act as a visual reminder to players. Refuge counters in white indicate local people fleeing the fighting .

The Iraq PM, now a coalition government of sorts had been agreed, mobilised Shia militias to retake Karbala. The Sunni minority also tried a call to arms, but disorganisation and fear led to a poor turnout.
The Kurds received heavy weapons from Iran, with military advisors to help them use their new weapons effectively. The Kurds were now ready to drive ISIl back.

Photo showing Iranian heavy weapons being supplied to the Kurds. Their advisors are represented by another counter.

 Game Turn 3

The USA finally deployed Special Forces to Western Iraq to gain intelligence. This successful action could give +1 on future dice rolls for other arguments.
Iran, clearly moved by the humanitarian crisis started sending aid convoys. Obviously to ensure the safe passage of this aid, Iranian regular army troops escorted the convoys into Iraq

ISIL successes saw a flood of foreign fighters arriving to boost their ranks.
Iraq moved troops towards Najaf ready for an offensive.

Sunni militia moved into Karbala, while the Kurds launched their attack on Mosul. IS fled from the Kurds, but strangely enough a retreat route had been left open by the Kurds.
At the end of the game, there was a general pause for discussion in the game. It was obvious that IS had lost momentum.

Game Turn 4

The USA realised that the mobilisation of Iraq army units protecting the oil fields in the south left the flow of oil very exposed. So they reacted by sending in international security forces. Of course, in reality, such forces take a great deal of time to organsie. Iran was very keen to deploy troops as part of the UN forces, but for some reason the Iraq PM was not so keen.

UN forces to help secure the oil facilities around Basra in the south. This was fortuitous ad IS attempted to launch attacks against these targets shortly afterwards.
 Iraq launched “Revenge of the Prophet” offensive in an attempt to cut supply routes to the IS held town of Karbala, but a giant traffic jam delayed their efforts. (The last time the Iraq army had a large scale move was into Kuwait).
The Sunni minority suddenly leapt into action and seized Al Qa’Im,cutting the IS supply route from Syria. The Kurds were continuing to drive west, pushing back IS.

Game Turn 5
The USA failed with its cyber-attack v IS.
Iran helpfully starting training and equipping Shia Militias.

IS sent a column out of Tikrit to retake Al Qa’Im (their main supply base), but American air strikes hit them hard on the approach. However, the remaining IS forces still managed to retake Al Qa’Im.

Forces strung out in the desert are very vulnerable to air strikes, if America has the political will.

Iraq forces finally launched a new operation “Son of Heavenly Sword” to retake Karbala.

Karbala, the scene of heavy fighting- note the weapon counters on the Shia Militia’s to show they have been equipped with extra weapons.

The Sunni’s moved their forces to Rutbah. While others were involved in military action, the Kurds held a snap election to reinforce their position an independent region within Iraq.
The end of turn discussion centred around how the Iraq government was finally becoming effective, even if the Shia Militias were starting to get out of control.

Turn 6 the Final Turn there often comes a point in a matrix game where the situation is heading towards a new stable situation. IS had been forced back, Iraq had a government, the Kurds had secured their region and Iran had increased its influence in Iraq at multiple levels. However, to drive IS out would take massive preparations and would be another matrix game.
 The final actions were:

·         The USA air dropped weapons to Sunni Militia, largely as something to do.

·         Iran argued for the UN to condemn the USA for airstrikes in Iraq, but the game facilitaror felt this was so unrealistic, Iran was allowed to make another argument.

·         ISIL then finally carried out its master plan and Sunni militants took to the streets in Jordan and suddenly IS had a new area to start operating from.

·         The Iraq PM argued for a ceasefire offer and a meeting about creating a council of national unity, but with ISIL represented indirectly by a 3rd party. It was finally balanced if the rest of the government would support the PM, so the facilitator got all the players to vote as it they were part of the government. The PM’s idea was only just carried through and the conference was going to happen. Of course, the various militias wanted to use the final opportunity to retake territory and seek revenge.
Post-game discussion, the Hot Wash Up

Those with relevant experience said the idea of government handling hopping from crisis to crisis was very realistic. One of the challenges of such games is moderating player inventiveness, which is essential to allow them to discover unconventional strategies or ‘black swans’, versus keeping them to exploring the most likely options for each role. “Should the umpire nudge the game back onto the expected narrative?”
Other questions included, “how can a power shape the narrative in the information age?” “Is there a conflict between bringing the game to a satisfactory narrative conclusion and breaking the game earlier when the makings of a key discussion appear (e.g. in this instance IS motivation)?”

The players all agreed that in the end the Iraq Civil War would only be solved by secret deals to conclude a peace.
“It was a good demonstration of the utility and of the capability of such a tool. A learning experience, really!”

The final words go to a specialist in international matters: “I'm not a huge fan of Matrix games but I felt the level of buy in and expertise really pushed this one along, with some great ideas for further development. I'd definitely play this one again.”
Notes: this game was run for the purposes of increasing understanding of a complex, difficult and terrible situation. It was not run for recreational purposes.

Friday 29 August 2014

Matrix Games for Modern Wargaming

“In Matrix Games, knowledge, imagination, and persuasiveness dominate. Both the referee and the players find their greatest success by drawing on their storytelling skills. In many ways, Matrix Games boil down the art of gaming to its essence”. Peter Perla

The project aims to document the development of wargaming, including current developments in professional wargames.

Invented by Chris Engle, Matrix Games are an innovative way of wargaming situations and conflicts that traditional wargaming methods find hard to model. This book was written as a manual to help develop and run matrix games about modern conflicts. The examples included have all been used for real military training to develop understanding of complex confrontations.
This book includes:
A foreword by Peter Perla, author of the classic Art of Wargaming.
An introduction to Matrix Games       
S.C.R.U.D. Simple Combat Resolution Using Dice

The five scenarios are:
The Falklands War (1982)
Chaoslavia- Former Yugoslavia (1993)          
Crisis in Crimea: A Counter Revolution (March 2014)           
The Red Line- The Civil War in Syria (August 2013) 
Lasgah Pol- Peace keeping in Afghanistan (2008)

Saturday 28 June 2014

More wargaming books about to go to print

The first book will be a new book on wargaming the American War of Independence by Charlie Wesencraft. The book is being proof ready before being sent to Henry Hyde to add a foreword.

The next will be a book on Matrix games as used for professional modern wargaming. Matrix games were the clear innovation of Chris Engle and they allow the new generation of wars to gamed for operational analysis, training and professional development purposes. They are also a lot of fun.

The long awaited book on early naval wargaming is almost ready. 5 years and a £1000 later all the materials are ready and I am just adding commentary.

Phil Dunn's new book, Your World War, has been typed up, formatted and is now just being checked. It was a challenging job to bring together a stack of material from campaigns he ran 1950-1970 into one cohesive rule set. They key task has been not to alter the original, but just format it so all the rules relating to each subject are together.

Just received another small wargaming archive. One of the best bits of the project is the excitement of finding previously unknown wargaming material and getting it to print.

Saturday 24 May 2014

New books

I finally got around to doing a new edition of Donald Featherstone's classic book war game. This was the book that did more to launch modern wargaming than any other. I have learnt a lot about editing over the last few years, so I was pleased to have found the time to revisit one of my earliest books.

Donald Featherstone's tank battle series is nearly finished. I have now published volume 3 which is about battles on the Western Front 1944-45. Bruce Quarrie's book is still a classic.

The third book this month is about collecting 1/32 scale figures for the Alamo. Toy soldiers are an essential part of our hobby and I decided to take the opportunity to include 5 books on this area in the project. The Alamo book is the 2nd book about toy soldiers, and the next will be on Airfix.

My next three books are on early naval wargames, Phil Dunn's World War rules (the rules that he used to fight global wargames) and a new book by Charlie Wesencraft. Actually, the latter was lost and now its found.So I am aiming it to get to print in the shortest possible time. Of course, I may get distracted and another book could jump the publishing queue.

Saturday 17 May 2014

The British Army Rediscovers Wargaming May 2014

At professional wargaming conference Connections in September 2013 at Kings College London, it was a little embarrassing to have the four British Army representatives heavily outnumbered by those from foreign armies. The visitors were perplexed where the centres of excellence were in using wargaming for training. People asked about who ran the games at Sandhurst and they were perplexed with the answer of no-one. All the other major military academies, including China, are using wargames.

So the great and the good, largely from the Army, were gathered at one of the homes of innovation in British Armed forces at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham. It was a day in the history of wargaming.

The problem with wargames is they have an image problem for officers involving in gaming, wargaming will never be cool, but will be necessary. Wargaming is technical and requires understanding of the art of war. During the Cold War, there were many innovations from games. Some of these large games, like 1940 Sea Lion by Dr Paddy Griffith [see Sprawling Wargames published by this project] were major events and had many beneficial spin offs.

Wargaming helps develop agile leaders. The games are competitive and they help develop the competitive instinct; war is all about winning. There is time pressure, there always is, but as part of the review of the commissioning course at Sandhurst, they are going to include a pilot study using wargaming for the young officers. The officers will enthuse about such games, but the problem is likely to be some of the permanent staff who will not engage.

Graham Longley Brown then talked about what wargaming is and why the armed forces should do it. In summary, effective training saves lives, it saves money but currently not enough wargaming is being done, it is not being done well enough.

Although a game, it is valuable. Peter Perla, the pre-eminent wargamer of our time, was quoted as saying ‘a wargame is a warfare model…’ Those who dismiss wargames are demonstrating their ignorance of military history and current practice in armed forces around the world.

Although many are obsessed with computer simulations, manual wargames are complimentary to the PC based software. Manual wargames are cheap, flexible, transparent in their assumptions and easy to modify. They can also game effects based operations that are only poorly simulated using computers.

If you trying to predict the future, there are many methods such as experts, unaided judgment, committees… and games. Research has shown games are not that good at prediction, but a game involving role playing the enemy gives double the predictive accuracy of other methods of prediction. Wargames are twice as accurate.

My own view is that a problem with the British Army is that has become very effective fighting a war in a mountainous country in some ways that the British Army of the late 19th century would recognize. Now the commitment to Afghanistan is winding down the Army needs to relearn some of the skills that would be needed to fight a modern armed forces. One of those tools to help develop the craft of the warrior is going to be wargaming.

Thursday 24 April 2014

The knight who saved England, William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 by Richard Brooks

Published by Osprey in 2014 retailing at £12.99
Richard Brooks is a free lance military historian with a reputation for writing analytical military history based on fresh research of original sources. One of his previous books, The Battlefields of Britain and Ireland, is considered the definitive work on the subject. His biography on Fred Jane (founder of Jane’s Fighting Ships and the Fred Jane Naval Wargame) is recognised as outstanding. Therefore, I was very interested when I heard about his new book by Osprey.

This book covers one of the lesser known heroes of the medieval world, William Marshal. He was a right hand man for three kings and the regent for a 4th. He was loyal to kings, respected by practically all, a fearsome knight at tournaments and a formidable general. His achievement in preserving England as a separate country is important today.
Based in part on The History of William Marshal, the first biography of a non-royal layman in medieval times, the work weaves a complex and detailed tale about the life and time of William Marshal. It covers the tournaments, the intrigue and politics, populated by accounts of the sieges and battles.

There are a number of factors that (to me) make Brooks’s style so interesting. One is his ability to bring together discussion of competing historical sources. Some historians simply state this is what happened, but Brooks outlines if there are different views before giving a reasoned decision which account he deems most likely. Another aspect is the narrative is interspersed with detailed analytical work on the technical aspects of early medieval warfare. Brook’s wider military knowledge is used to place this in a more general context, such as the analysis of the rate of march set against that achieved by armies from other periods of military history. Basically, in times of need, medieval armies could move very rapidly.
I have taken a close academic interest in the critical battle of Marshal’s career, The Battle of Lincoln (1217). This was a very important battle for England in the medieval era and 36 pages are devoted to a detailed investigation of this urban battle. Brooks has done some detailed battlefield walking and this is reflected in his excellent account. A criticism of the book is perhaps the map of Lincoln should have been included in with the chapter about the battle, rather than at the front of the book. I read half the chapter before I remember to check for the map in the front. Perhaps there should have been a note at the start of the chapter reminding the reader of the location of the map. However, this is just a minor point in a very enjoyable book.

 For those interested in medieval history, I whole heartedly recommend this particular book.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Donald Featherstone Memorial Weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre March 2014

Since Don Featherstone, one of the founding fathers of wargaming left the field of play, there have been a lot of memorial events to mark his passing. For example, Christ Scott, Michael Curry and I ran a stand about his books at Warfare in Reading last year.

Don's life long friend, Ron Miles, wanted a trophy to be awarded annually in Don's name. So in collaboration with Henry Hyde (editor of Miniature Wargames), Mark Freeth (the Wargames Holiday Centre), Chris Scott and I, a plan was hatched to run an annual weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre Basingstoke . It fell to Henry and Mark to organize the detail and make it happen.

The event was run in March 2014. 28mm figures, huge terrain boards, rules pasted onto the walls, the event was run in a friendly style that the early wargamers would have valued.

At the end of the event, the trophy was awarded unanimously to one of the early wargaming legends, Charlie Wesencraft. In his eighties, the spritely Charlie was energetically engaged all weekend (even if his character figure was killed). Don's daughter Jane presented the award, which also included Don's lucky dice, a free subscription to Miniature Wargames and a free return to the holiday centre next year. Two runner's up received copies of Don's last book on Wargaming Commando Operations.

The presentation was captured on video and is On YouTube.

Good one Henry Hyde and Mark Freeth, Don would have been pleased with the event.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Looking for early wargaming rules from 1960's and 1970's- can you help?

During the 1960's, 1970's and early 1980's, there was a large range of short, usually A5 wargaming rule books. Some were produced by Skytrex, Navwar, Minifigs etc.. but others were individual wargamers sharing their creations with the wider world. There was one about roleplaying bunnies, wargaming with dinosaurs, early attempts at ACW, medieval and ancients.

My quest for these old rules suddenly started with  the realization if I do not capture some of these now, within a very short space of time, the majority will be gone for ever. In some ways, the history of wargaming project has been a race against time to find some 'lost material'. I ordered a copy of Tacspiel (an unplayable wargame used by the USA in Vietnam War to devise tactics). After I published this obscure text, the archive contacted me as they had lost their copy. If I had not got it to print, it would probably have been lost. It has since been used by various military historians for the operational analysis data it contained.

Some of the classic lost material the project has published includes:
   Donald Featherstone's Wargaming Commando Operations, the book was never published before my edition.

   The Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame, we had all been using the 1933 version of the rules, not the 1939-45 previously unpublished version.

   The various professional wargaming rules on my site,

    The story of DBA, the list goes on, with many of my books having various pieces added to them. .

Future classic material will include a lost book by Charlie Wesencraft (ACW) and a lost set of rules by Phil Dunn (world war). I have many more 'lost' sets of professional military rules to produce, some of which I suspect I have the only copy in the world. Some were given to me as they were throwing them out of the archives into the bin and a few vigilant wargamers thought of me in time to intercept them.

So my hunt for the early wargaming rules from the 1960's and 1970's is now on. They will be added to my digital library, but I cannot imagine most to them being posted on the internet for the foreseeable future due to copyright issues. The History of Wargaming Project reproduces old material with consent of the estate or the author. The only exception are short extracts as permitted by UK copyright law (and generally accepted by most countries around the world).

In addition to the published material in the more than 50 books/ rules sets, I have a growing digital archive of huge amounts of wargaming material. This is not for publication, but bona fida researchers (e.g. a wargamer producing new rules) can have access to assist them in their work. One day, a university will have this material in their archive to assist war studies students. Well, it is nice to have a dream.

Friday 7 March 2014

Table Top Sale and Game 11 May 2014 Bristol

On Sunday 14th May I will be selling books etc at my local wargaming Club's Table Top Sale. This is basically a wargaming carboot sale. After the sale, at around 1.30pm, I will be putting on a participation game. I will have my latest new books for sale and will be happy to chat about the History of Wargaming Project.

The sale details will be posted at Bristol Wargaming Club

Friday 28 February 2014

When a modern wargames becomes real - Ukraine Crisis 2014

For interest I was gaming a potential crisis in the Ukraine. The scenario was an East West confrontation over dividing the country.

At that point I did not know that Ukraine, while not a member of NATO, had a memorandum of understanding with NATO. The question of whether this is legally binding to commit NATO to military action if Ukraine is attacked is one for international lawyers. However, there would be huge moral pressure on NATO to support an ally under attack.

So I was a little surprised to find the real world crisis is starting to resemble one of my wargames. Obviously, in my game, Russia could not stand up for long against a determined effort by NATO based in Poland. When faced with defeat, Russia started to deploy its heaviest weapons and my game stopped at the point of the crisis becoming Armageddon.

It is a somewhat surreal experience to see one of ones wargames played out in the real world. I just hope the politicians are operating at their finest to avoid this crises escalating down a one way path to a confrontation neither NATO nor Russia wants to face.

Friday 31 January 2014

Cyber Wargaming at CDANS Conference January 2014

The situation. I was at a major IT security conference that focused on strategic issues including cyber-warfare. The first three days demonstrated most countries are developing plans to deal with the threat and many, including the UK, are building cyber weapons as fast as the programmers can go. A new cold war based in the cyber world has started.

The conference organizer strode up to me with a look of despair. One workshop presenter was still on the plane between Switzerland and the UK. So with an hours notice to prepare a session, what could I do? The answer was play a cyber war matrix game.

International audience, most not gamers, generals, civilian analysts all grappled with the idea of playing a game. Fortunately, I had the second edition of my latest book with me. Co-authored with Tim Price, Dark Guest, Training for Cyber War, gaming internet based attacks, vol 1 has the simplest possible training games around this new domain of warfare. So I pulled the matrix game out of the book, prepared some briefs and off we went.

The game was loud, confused, engaging, the audience loved it. They asked me back next year to present some more cyber wargames. My only comment is that some of the countries representatives were very quick to think of offensive cyber war tactics...

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Trading at the Penarth Wargaming Show, wales UK, Sat Jan 25th 2014

I will be at this show with a large range of wargaming books.

25th January 2014 at the Cogan Leisure Centre, Cardiff - See more at: Show website