Thursday 31 December 2015

Another Year in the History of Wargaming Project

Over the last 12 months, the Project has seen many people kindly donating material to the History of Wargaming Project. Some of the highlights include:

     Douglas Inglis (Director and Research Professor. The Texas Tech University Center in Sevilla) donating a huge collection of board games that document the development of modern wargaming. It will take me several more years to sort this lot out.

     David Bradley, Essex UK, for donating a collection of unpublished material about Lionel Tarr

      Isaiah, Athens for inspiring me to start the production of Featherstone's Wargames through the Ages series vols 1-4

     Peter Perla for supplying some early USN wargaming rules

     John Davies, with the assistance of Iain Russel Lowe, donated further material about Paddy Griffith's Wargames.
     and many others...

Plans for the next 12 months? I am always somewhat guarded about my publishing plans as wargamers can get very disappointed if there are unavoidable delays in a publication schedule. An example is when I discover at the last moment, just days before a book is about to go to print, that I have a lead on lost material and perhaps, with effort and a bit of luck (and perhaps the assistance of the Oxford Detective Bureau), I can track it down and insert it as new book chapter.

However, there are some works that are definitely going to print in the next few months:

1) A new book, It Could Happen Tomorrow: Emergency Planning Exercises for the Health Service and Business- after 4 years of hard graft it is going to print.

2) A new book by the semi-legendary Stuart Asquith on wargaming 18th century warfare

3) A new book on Confrontation Analysis with Mike Young- a way of modeling real world conflicts.

4) A reprint of another naval wargaming book.

5) A work on military history with Charlie Wesencraft- a previously unpublished diary of a WWI cavalry man.

One of the moments that make it all worthwhile is when I receive an email from a fellow wargamer, who kindly takes the time to thank me for my efforts. For example, I received this from Larry Foster (USA) "I also want to thank you and let you know how much I appreciate all the work you've done editing Don Featherstone, Charles Grant, and all the others and their works on wargaming.  It has been a huge impact and help to me."

I wish all my fellow wargamers who enjoy our diverse hobby, a happy and peaceful new year. I hope to continue to provide more interesting material for your book shelves.


Monday 26 October 2015

Reveille, Bristol (UK) Wargaming Show Sunday 29 November 2015

My local wargaming club's show is on 29th November 2015 at Lincombe Barn, Overndale Road, Downend, Bristol, BS16 2RW. Link

The usual mix of traders and participation games will be there between 10.00-4.00pm.

I will be there selling wargaming books and running a participation game about modern warfare. The game demonstrates the future development of the modern British Army. The game is designed to be straightforward representation of how the British Army is changing the way it is organized in the light of defence and manpower cuts.

Friday 4 September 2015

The Relationship between recreational and professional wargames

I am speaking next week at the UK Connections Conference at Kings College London

Connections Conference

I am talking about the tricky subject of the relationship between recreational and professional wargames.

I am wrestling with tricky questions such as can recreational games be used for military training? What problems might occur?

If anyone has any thoughts, I would be most interested.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Celebrating WRG’s contribution to Wargaming

Bristol Wargaming Society, my local club, were pondering the world of wargaming; who had contributed to launching the hobby we all enjoy? Actually, there are only a dozen or so people who were instrumental in those pioneering days of the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. The club wanted to arrange a local event to celebrate the contribution of WRG, in particular that of Sue Laflin-Barker and Phil Barker. So I found out when Phil and Sue were passing Bristol and invited them along to the day’s celebration and to mark the launch of Sue Barker’s new book, An Introduction to Ancient Wargaming using DBA 3.0.

The centre of the day consisted of a small DBA competition using DBA 3.0. DBA is very suitable for multi-game competitions, the games do not take too long and so the loser can rapidly field another army in another game in an attempt to exact their revenge.
DBA 3.0 game being played under the watchful eye of Phil

The day was also the opportunity of people to play DBA against Sue Barker in some friendly games (She used the figures and scenery from her new book). Sue demonstrated that German warbands were a formidable force against Roman blades. (If a blade is forced back by a warband it is destroyed). There were also tutorials on DBA 3.0 for the uninitiated.

Nick Pope, the club chair, looking despondent after being beaten by Sue
Some local clubs put on DBM participation games to demonstrate the rules and to encourage people to have a go.
One of the DBM games put on by the Abbywood Irregulars
The Hordes of the Things (HOTT) is a popular micro game, allowing fantasy armies from all genre’s to fight it out on the table top. The club expert spent the day showing people the rules and playing a series of friendly games.

Playing HoTT against Sue and Phil
The Barker’s wandered around the event chatting to people in the way that dedicated wargamer’s do, browsing the various trade stands. People took the opportunity to get them to sign various books and rules by them to the extent their arms started to get tired!

One table that caught everyone’s interest was the display showing a portion of the 55 set of rules/ books published by WRG from 1969 until today.

Some of the 55 books published by WRG
The event was only designed as a local event, and it grew somewhat beyond the original plan. Many people contacted us afterwards and asked if we could repeat the event, on a larger scale, with more publicity. Several WRG 6th edition ancient enthusiasts were particularly ‘miffed’ they were not able to demonstrate one of the classic games of ancient wargaming.

It was very successful day, Phil and Sue enjoyed themselves.
Thanking Phil and Sue for the contribution of WRG

Saturday 23 May 2015

Wargaming at the RSA at Cities 2050 Conference, UK

When asked if I knew anyone who could run a game about the resilience of cities at an invite only conference, I jumped at the chance. I recruited Tom (SO2 Simulations, UK), Stephen (futurologist who deals with the weird as a career) and Russell (disaster planner of apocalypse proportions). The attendees were senior; a few MPs, top executives of major companies, emergency planner for the Nat Grid, Caroline Wyatt (BBC), emergency planner of London, someone from COBRA… The theme of the conference is our cities are getting to become very fragile systems. One problem and the city descends in chaos. The water stops and within 2 days the city will have to be evacuated as it becomes a waterless desert.
An extreme example was the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan was protected by a 10m wall, which was good, except the tsunami wave was 12m. In the ensuring disaster, the reactor came close to becoming Chernobyl. If it had, Tokyo would have had to be evacuated- all 30 million people of it.

Rather than death by PowerPoint, the conference organisers (Anquan Ltd) wanted some lectures, followed by some interactive exercises. We provided two of the exercises.

The first exercise was considering how cities could be adapted to become more resilient. The player teams were given a giant map; aerial photo of a city, with hexes on it. The terrain in each tile was the predominant use of that area of the city e.g. middle class housing, retail, slums, etc… That was not to suggest each hex only had one type of terrain in it, it was just the main feature. The photos came from Google Earth and standard software was used to superimpose the hex grid. The hotspot tiles were about the size of a UK beermat, as the map was very large. The players had additional tiles they could add to their city, such as mega blocks (dense concentrations of people living in a single building the size of a small town). They were also given examples of future technologies overlays that could help the city function more efficiently.
After exploring their city, they were faced with a problem. Due to rising sea levels, the lower regions of Bangladesh suddenly flood and the UN is faced by 85 million refugees. The UK is allocated 850,000 and each UK major city has another 100,000 people arriving over the next two years. The player teams were faced with the unenviable task of dealing with this crises. Due to their expertise, the problems of where to house, how to provide jobs, health care, education were not abstract to them. They understood the complexity of the challenge. Each team then presented their solutions, some hoping near future technology could be their salvation.

The afternoon session was a red teaming session. The groups all moved round one table (except for one person to explain the city to the new group) and then they had to devise strategies to break the city. Most of the participants were taken aback at this twist, but threw themselves into the exercise with gusto. It would be inappropriate to discuss how this assembled mass of expertise identified weaknesses in our city infra-structure.

The conference then carried on, with the delegates having the example city they had developed (and wrecked) to relate back to. What became apparent was the interdisciplinary nature needed to find solutions to the growing problem of city reliance.

So what are the general lessons? Conferences have to develop from the traditional model of one lecture after another; this fails. Devices from wargaming- the hex map, with abstract terrain based on the predominate usage, worked as a tool for visualisation. Adding counters to the map was an efficient way of communicating. Playing the enemy is a familiar concept to any wargamer. It was a wargaming hex map, with counters and an enemy side. Some elements taken from wargaming had made the leap into a mainstream conference.

Sunday 26 April 2015

Future Directions for the History of Wargaming Project (Part II)

After many people taking the time to give me online (and offline) feedback I have sketched out the next 12 months for the future of the project.

There is clearly more to do about the development of the hobby, so I will start work with Stuart Asquith to produce some of the very best of his work. At the time I will include some of his great friends work, that of Terry Wise. I will aim to produce two books of their work and next year, perhaps produce two more. Stuart Asquith was another of the key figures whose tireless writing helped the hobby grow.

I have some done further wargaming archeology from the Cold War and I will produce one, perhaps two, more professional wargames over the next 12 months. Some key wargames have been already lost and I am aware that the Project is a golden opportunity to preserve more of the key wargames from an era when the world faced nuclear Armageddon.

Professionally I use wargames for analysis and education. I would like to document some of my ideas and work in an area where almost no-one publishes their methods for fear of others taking up their ideas. There are going to be two books in the professional wargaming space.

I have decided that next year I must seize the opportunity to start the massive Paddy Griffith archive.

Having made a plan, I may need to be flexible. I am in touch with many of the early key wargamers and if they are inspired with a project, I will seize the day and help them get it ready for market.

I have three books about to go to print. Donald Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers (a nostalgia book rather than anything ground breaking), Your World War by Phil Dunn (his lifelong WWII campaign game) and an American Cold War wargame from 1989.

Monday 6 April 2015

Future Directions for the History of Wargaming Project

The Impact of the Project (2008 to March 2015)
The project to date has made available 4.5 million words about wargaming, through 60 publications, 23 of the books are new wargaming books, 37 are second editions.

Five books contain sets of professional wargaming rules from the Cold War that have not been previously published before. (British Army Tactical Wargame (1956), British Army Desert Wargame (1978), Canadian Army Tactical Training Wargame (1980), Dunn Kempf, the American Army Tactical Wargame (1977-1997) and Tacspiel: American Army's Vietnam War Game (1966)).
While all the books in the series contain supplementary material that has not been previously published e.g. new chapters, rules and commentary, it is worth highlighting 3 works in particular that have added to the history of wargaming.
·         Fletcher Pratt’s Naval Wargame: Wargaming with Model Ships 1900-1945- Contains extensive previously unpublished material by Fletcher Pratt and material from an interview of the last surviving Fletcher Pratt player, Commander Bothwell.

·         The Wargaming Pioneers Including Little Wars by HG Wells, The War Game for Boy Scouts, The War Game by Captain Satchs Early Wargames Vol. 1 placed the innovations of HG Wells in a sequence of early wargames.

·         Over Open Sights: Early Naval Wargaming Rules 1873-1898 Early Wargames Vol. 6 placed the innovation of the Fred Jane Naval Wargame in a sequence of early Royal Navy Professional Wargames.
The annual plan for the Project is largely based on an annual 3 hour discussion with a professional and hobby wargaming veteran, during the car journey to the Conference of Wargamers in July. The journey involves a battlefield tour or a military museum and (a pub lunch), but lays out the priorities for the Project for the next 12 months. The project also receives regular editorial input from Major Mouat (Defence Academy) and the veteran wargamer Arthur Harman (friend of Paddy Griffith, author of staggering numbers of wargaming articles). There are many others such as Peter Perla, Tim Gow, Michael Curry, Charlie Wesencraft, Phil Dunn and others who kindly offer advice.

     The question is what should the Project prioritise for the next 60 book?

Hobby Wargames:  There are a number of books/ articles that need to include in the project. There is also substantial new material to bring into the public domain, largely from the archives of key wargamers who have helped turn the obscure hobby of wargaming into a major hobby. In the last 12 months the Project has published a new book by Charlie Wesencraft, Phil Dunn and Sue Laflin-Barker.

Early Wargame History: The project has already doubled the number of words in print about wargaming pre- 1960, but there is still some major (and minor) publications to get into print.

Wargaming History of the Cold War: Reading the work of Peter Perla (and others) highlights the importance of wargaming in the Cold War, but almost none of the wargames mentioned have reached the public domain. In some ways it is a race to find them before they are lost and no-one who played in these games is left to help.  

Innovations in current professional wargaming: There are some very interesting developments in the military application of wargaming, but the problem is almost none of this is captured, recorded and disseminated. The new book on Matrix Wargames was an example of a hobby technique that leapt into the professional arena and is being used for training and analysis.

Serious Games- Wargaming in education: Wargaming techniques can be applied to transform education. The Project produced a new book on gaming Cyber Warfare and will soon publish one on how games are used for emergency planning in the health service, but there is scope for producing a whole series of books that illustrate how wargames can be used as part of a wider curriculum.

The Paddy Griffith Archive: The Project holds key material, sufficient for many books of unpublished serious games created by one of the key figures in wargaming in UK, the late Paddy Griffith. This is going to take perhaps a year’s work to sort the material into a structured format before producing the first book.

Toy Soldiers: Last, but not least, is the history of Toy Soldiers. These have been an integral part of the development of the hobby, but their history needs to be documented.

So the question I am currently considering is, “What proportion of editorial effort should be directed against each of the key themes above?”

Sunday 22 March 2015

Charlie Wesencraft Refights Arnhem at Wargames Holiday Centre

This year the Donald Featherstone Memorial Weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre UK involved refighting the Battle of Arnhem.

Charlie Wesencraft surveying the Arnhem town where he defeated the British Airborne.

Charlie Wesencraft and Mark Freeth (owner of the centre) commenting on the German recce adancing over the bridge at Arnhem. Lionel Tarr, the first wargamer to devise modern wargaming rules for recreational use, was there (See Early Wargames Volume 4 for Lionel Tarr rules).

Charlie Wesencraft now has 3 wargaming books in print through the History of Wargaming Project:

Practical Wargaming

With Pike and Musket

Seven Steps to Freedom Wargaming the French and Indian War and the American War of Independence

Sunday 22 February 2015

Sue Laflin-Barker's Introduction to Ancient Wargaming using DBA 3.0

DBA is amongst that rare breed of wargaming rules; it has been enduring and popular for over twenty five years. Written by a team effort of Phil Barker, Sue Laflin-Barker and Richard Bodley Scott, it was a radical shift from the wargames that had gone before. The interesting story of the DBA rules was included in the book DBA 2.2 Simple Ancient and Medieval Wargaming Rules (also published by the History of Wargaming Project). DBA has developed from the first edition of the rules presented at the Conference of Wargamers and the Society of Ancients Conference in 1989 and now, in 2014, the rules are version 3.0.

When the WRG Ancient Rules were first published in 1969, they were soon very popular amongst the tiny number of wargamers in the world. As the hobby of wargaming expanded, there were new players who were keen to start, but who needed a guide to help them get started in ancient wargaming. There were calls for a book about ancient wargaming to accompany the WRG rules. In 1975, Phil Barker answered this call and wrote The Airfix Guide to Ancient Wargaming; this so called 'The Purple Primer' provided such a guide and was sought after second hand long after it was out of print.

The aim of this new book by Sue Laflin-Barker is to provide a new 'Purple Primer' for those starting the hobby of ancient and medieval wargaming with the DBA rules. It covers a range of topics from choosing and assembling an army, to a discussion of the rules and sample army lists with explanations. This guide has been written for the current version of the DBA rules, version 3.0 and it is hoped this book will be of equal utility as its predecessor, The original ‘Purple Primer'.