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AND THEIR HISTORY


AND THEIR HISTORY CHRISTOPHER GEORGE LEWIN


For Robin, Andrew, and Peter FONTHILL MEDIA www.fonthillmedia.com office@fonthillmedia.com First published by Fonthill Media 2012 Copyright © Christopher George Lewin 2012 All rights reserved Christopher George Lewin has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identi�ed as the Author of this work isbn 978-1-78155-042-7 (hardback) isbn 978-1-78155-189-9 (paperback) isbn 978-1-78155-142-4 (e-book)

No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the Publishers A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Typeset in 11pt on 13pt Bembo Typesetting by Fonthill Media Printed in the UK

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Contents Foreword

6

Introduction

7

1 Ancient and Medieval Games

15

2 Games Played between 1600 and 1800

31

3 Games for Military Training

40

4 Games for Naval Training

55

5 Games for the Public: 1800-1900

65

6 Games for the Public: 1900-25

107

7 Games for the Public: 1925-50

159

8 Modern Games for the Public

213

9 OďŹƒcial War Games in the Nuclear Age

226

Appendix 1: List of War Games

240

Appendix 2: Bibliography

262

Endnotes

267

Index

270


FOREWORD Major General Patrick Cordingley DSO DSc FRGS Commander of the 7th Armoured Brigade Group during the 1991 Gulf War I started war gaming early in my life; Draughts came �rst followed by Chess. And before being sent to boarding school at the age of six, I had been introduced to L’Attaque, a board game that is still popular with my family today despite the constant presence of the computer. To learn the geneses of these games in this excellent book is fascinating. Then at school my Dinky Toy air force, which consisted mainly of Hunters and Javelins, could take on the largest of tank based ground forces. By the time I entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, I realized I was no stranger to military tactics! The mid period of my military career coincided with the introduction of the Brigade and Battlegroup Trainer. Headquarters staff – the players – were tested over several days by scripted higher and lower controllers, engagements being resolved by a computer. It was outstanding training and this, coupled with Corps level map exercises at the Army Staff College, prepared us for the actions of the 1991 Gulf War. In fact, as far as war gaming was concerned, we were almost over informed. The Coalition was pitted against a moderately sized regional state. Now it is known to have been a very unequal contest with Iraqi strengths over estimated. But we had studied their success in a different kind of war against Iran and focused on quantities of manpower, artillery and tanks. These factors were fed into our war gaming computer at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment at Fort Halstead, ignoring the human qualities of the enemy. As a result we expected, when we crossed the border into Iraq, to meet all sorts of horrors, which did not materialize. So if that aspect was not that helpful, the training that we had received in the Brigade Trainer certainly was. It replicated to perfection the chaos that exists when �ghting continuously for four days. The lessons we learnt about war gaming preparation, building in confusion, noise and sleep deprivation, have been used and enhanced in the training now undertaken by brigades operating in Afghanistan. I commend Chris Lewin for giving us this remarkable book outlining the history of war gaming over the centuries. To read how it has developed and been used, not only to entertain all ages but also in helping to train armed forces throughout the world, is engrossing.


INTRODUCTION ‘Great princes have great playthings – But war’s a game, which, were their subjects wise, Kings would not play at.’ William Cowper (1731-1800), The Task, V, 177 & 187

War Games covers the many kinds of games connected with war and aims to show how they have evolved up to the present time. Serious war games are played by some of the most powerful people in the world nowadays – people who hold the power of life and death in their hands – and their experiences in the games may well in�uence their decisions in real life. As outlined in Chapter 9, these games often simulate major wars of the future that will use strategic or tactical nuclear weapons. While such games are in progress, ordinary people are no more than pawns on a complex, multi-dimensional chessboard, and their casualty rates mere statistics. An important question is whether the continual use of war games in official quarters makes it more, or less, likely that nations will embark on con�ict in the �rst place. Moreover, how far do the experiences within a game provide reliable insight into the prospects for military success? And might some games actually be misleading? The book follows the long history of war games, other than real-life military manoeuvres, from their innocuous recreational beginnings many centuries ago (often in highly abstract forms), through their greater realism and increasing use in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, right down to the multitude of war games that are played all over the world today – both by the public and by high-ranking officials. Not only will we get reminders of how warfare has evolved over the years, but also how the games themselves have changed; for example, by introducing chance elements and limited information, or by increasing their scope. As we shall see, one of the most important developments has been the introduction of electronic computers, which has made much more complex games practicable. Though many of the basic ideas of traditional war gaming remain unchanged in these electronic games, the very recent appearance of real-life cyber war has made it likely that new forms of war game will be developed in future. My father possessed one or two war games and invented one himself. Playing these games with him stimulated my own fascination with the subject, and at the age of ten (now many years ago) I devised one of my own, with little cardboard squares representing heavy tanks, light tanks and infantry, which moved across a large squared board and captured towns. As an adult I have always wanted to write on the history of war games, but apart from an article in an American games magazine in 1976, I had not achieved this ambition until now. The book starts by describing war games that were played in ancient and medieval times, and in later years down to about 1800. Soon after 1800 it was realised that games could play a useful role in training military officers and special games were invented for


8

War Games

the purpose. The book covers the development of games of this type, as well as similar games that were developed from the end of the nineteenth century onwards for training naval officers. It is possible, though we will never know for certain, that some of these games later in�uenced real-life battles in which the players assumed leading roles. In addition, one of the book’s primary purposes is to describe for the �rst time the full range of war games that were commercially produced for the public. Some of these games were intended for adults, to enable them to develop and practice strategic skills, or even to gain a partial insight into real-life wars, while others were aimed at teenagers or younger children, to give them a �avour of wars that were then in the news. In all cases the games provided opportunities for enjoyment and relaxation, in contrast to the actuality of war itself. Between them the published games represent a massive investment of human ingenuity, often combined with very impressive artwork that evokes some of the realities of war. There is, of course, no way that a game would ever show the true horrors of war, but a few of them do come close to portraying aspects of war in human terms, rather than just as blocks moving on a board. Other games, however, are almost entirely indifferent to the human consequences and view war more as an intellectual exercise in strategy and tactics. Very few games that I have come across make any reference to refugees �eeing from the �ghting, even though this is nearly always seen in real-life con�icts. The outbreak of a major war usually stimulated the publication of a fresh crop of war games. In 1898 the Spanish–American War produced an excellent group of naval games in the USA. At the start of the First World War there were many new games of a military or naval character, both in Britain and Germany. During the months following the start of the Second World War, new games included not only some based on military strategy but also several re�ecting concerns about the effects of the war on civilian life. In 1942, soon after the USA had entered the war, a number of military games were published there. The published games have usually re�ected the latest trends in the equipment with which the current con�ict was being fought. By 1891, when Modern Naval Warfare appeared, sailing ships had given way to battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo boats. During the war of 1914-18, games based on submarines appeared for the �rst time. Most of the other games published during those years were based on military or naval surface forces, and few took account of air power until the very end of the period. However, in 1939-45, aircraft �gured prominently, even in military and naval games. One or two games also concentrated on bombing raids, while naval games included convoys of merchant ships. Later, one repugnant game of 1974 was even based on a con�ict with nuclear missiles.1 The playing methods of many of the published war games were not based on original principles. There were numerous track games, where pieces moved round a track in accordance with the throw of dice, and the outcome was determined solely by luck. Several of the German games published in the 1930s and ’40s were remakes of games which had �rst appeared in 1914-18.2 It is also interesting that some of the German games of the 1930s and ’40s were the same as the medieval childhood game of Fox and Geese – only dressed up with warlike graphics. Nevertheless there were glorious exceptions, where great originality was displayed and excellent games were created. Sometimes we know the name of the game’s inventor, and where we do it is only right to give them the credit that is their due.


Introduction

9

Many original war games �rst appeared in Britain, Germany, or the United States, but the French invented at least two outstandingly successful war games. The �rst of these was L’Attaque, which was originally patented in 1908 but enjoyed great popularity in Britain from the 1920s onwards. Indeed, its close successor, Stratego, is still being made, and computer versions have also appeared. L’Attaque also strongly in�uenced the development of other games, notably Dover Patrol, Aviation, and Tri-Tactics. The second very successful French game was published by Waddingtons in 1957 as Risk, which was the English language version of La Conquête du Monde, invented by Albert Lamorisse. My own perception of war games is that the best of them provide a framework in which two people, or sometimes more, can have a friendly intellectual struggle that is stimulating and exciting in nature. While Chess – one of the earliest war games – is able to provide such a framework, its abstract nature and relatively simple structure mean that there is no sense of realism and that most of the possible strategies have already been studied extensively by Chess masters. Moreover, Chess has no element of luck, whereas some of the later war games speci�cally introduced a chance element, for example through the use of dice to determine the number of pieces that could be moved or the results of combats. Such games enable a weaker player to win occasionally, whilst also forcing the players to think about the likelihood of various outcomes before they make a move. The qualities needed to play all strategic war games well include forethought, the ability to make a plan and execute it, avoidance of the temptation to over-reach oneself when experiencing an advantage, and the courage to face unexpected adverse developments calmly and with resolution. These are some of the same qualities which are required of real-life leaders, not just in military jobs but as statesmen and as the managers of large companies. How aggressive are people when they play war games? In an experiment, 200 young men and women in the Cambridge MA area were paired off to play a simulated crisis game in a networked computer laboratory.3 Each participant, using his or her own private computer terminal, played the leader of a country that was in dispute with a neighbouring country about newly discovered diamond resources along the border. At every turn players could allocate funds to industrial or military strength, and they could either negotiate with their opponent or make war, the aim of the game being to gain wealth (one way of doing this being to achieve success in battle). Con�icts were determined according to the strength of the military resources committed on each side, combined with a chance mechanism similar to throwing a die. It was found that people tended to be over-con�dent about their chances of success before playing, and that those who were more over-con�dent (especially men) were more likely to attack during the game. One of the essential features of strategic and tactical war games is that they involve the capture of enemy pieces or territory. It is interesting to see the variety of methods of capture that have been employed over the centuries. Perhaps the most common is the replacement method, as used in Chess, where you move your piece to the location occupied by the opposing piece being taken. In the ancient Greek game of Petteia, the interception method is used, whereby you enclose the enemy man between two of your own men on adjacent squares. This is also one of the methods employed in the Second World War game GHQ, published in the USA by the E. R. Fairchild Corporation. In the ancient Chinese game Wei Chi, territory and opposing men are captured by surrounding them, while in Fanorona you can capture a whole line of men by approaching it. Some


10

War Games

games require captures to be made by two or more of your men acting together, as in the medieval Philosophers’ Game. In other games you capture an enemy piece by jumping over it, as in Draughts.What might be called the ‘artillery method’, which is used in many of the more modern games, is where your piece remains stationary and �res at the piece being taken, even though it is some way away. In some games dice are used to determine the results of an attempt to make a capture, thus introducing an element of luck. The results may be weighted, so that success depends on the strength of the forces involved in the combat, and it may even be the case that the attacking piece itself is destroyed in some throws. Occasionally you have to throw the dice twice, once to determine if you have scored a hit, and if so, another throw to determine the degree of damage. In some games hits are cumulative, so that the �rst hit on a piece reduces its �ring capacity only, and a second or third hit may be needed to complete its destruction. However, dice-throwing can become tedious if a large number of throws are required each turn – as sometimes happens in Risk, for example. One of the key assumptions in most of these early games is that your forces remain your own throughout the game. Even though real life provided many examples of troops who deserted to the enemy, this was not an eventuality that the rules of these games normally envisaged. No doubt it was felt that treacherous behaviour should not be encouraged. In most of the earlier games described in this book, you have full information about the location and identity of the opposing pieces, though this is not usually the case in real life. However, Kriegsspiel, a training game for the German army, �rst published in 1824, used an umpire to give the players only limited information about the enemy dispositions until the opposing armies came close together. L’Attaque and its derivatives were among the �rst games for the public that likewise provided only limited information to the players, achieving this by standing the pieces up in such a way that they were always facing their player, while having their identical backs facing the opponent. Although it is commonly believed that L’Attaque, which was patented in France in 1908, was the �rst game of this type, this is not in fact the case, since a little game on similar principles, called Bounce, preceded it and was marketed in England for a limited period from 1907 onwards. In the Second World War the unpublished game Navigation achieved a degree of secrecy by grouping ships before the game into �eets, so that you could see the location of each enemy �eet but did not know which ships were in it until battle was joined. In several published naval games, players were required to lay mine�elds secretly before the game started, noting down their locations so that they could be revealed when enemy ships sailed into them. In Diplomacy (1959), all the players reveal their moves simultaneously, so you have to make each move without full information about what other players are doing. It is only really when it comes to modern computer games that the ‘fog of war’ has been introduced very successfully. In Red Alert, for example, you can see on the screen the location in the area immediately round your base, but more distant locations are blacked out until you move your pieces into them. At the other end of the intellectual scale, some war games were entirely dependent on luck, with no skill required from the player at all. In the simple track games, where pieces moved along a track according to the throw of the dice, there were various hazards along the way if you landed on particular squares, and you hoped to be the �rst player to reach the end of the track. This was a familiar model that was common to many childhood games, not just those relating to war. In the case of war games, the track might represent


Introduction

11

From Little Wars by H. G. Wells, 1913.

a voyage or an aerial sortie. Alternatively it might represent a career in the armed forces, where the players started at the lowest rank and could eventually end up as ďż˝eld marshal or admiral. Such games familiarised children with the various ranks along the way and could perhaps encourage them to later take up such a career themselves. Most of the war games invented in ancient and medieval times were of an abstract nature, like Chess, and did not purport to represent reality. Until the nineteenth century, games depicting real-life campaigns were not available for the public. All that changed, however, when the Peninsular War was at its height in 1813, and the French army in Spain and Portugal was starting to be pushed back towards France as the Allies advanced. On 25 May that year J. Buckland published a game called The Peninsula, which was based on a map of the two countries and showed towns and rivers. The French army started in the top righthand corner of the board, near the border with France, and the Allies started across a broad front on the left-hand side of the board, representing the stage the campaign had actually reached. Players of this game immediately after its publication would have been uncertain of the eventual outcome of the real-life war, and were probably hoping that the game would give them an insight into the dangers and diďŹƒculties that lay ahead. They would have been excited when the Allies routed the French army at the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June, but despondent when the French soon fought back and defeated the Allies in two more battles. However, this despondency would not have lasted long, when they learnt that the French army had ďż˝ed after the Allies won the Battle of Sorauren at the end of July. The Allies then followed up with further victories, culminating in the Battle of Bayonne on 14 April the following year. Bayonne was marked at the top edge of the board of the game, so players would have been well aware that the real-life war had by then been won.


12

War Games

Whenever a real-life con�ict has occurred since then, it has usually prompted the publication of games that are based on it, so as to give the public a taste of the current situation or speci�c recent battles. Game designers have had to struggle with creating a good balance between the complexity needed for greater realism and the simplicity required for a practical game that can be played within a reasonable timescale, without requiring players to learn extensive rules. The descriptions in this book demonstrate that the extent to which realism was achieved in the method of play varied greatly from one game to another. In some cases, added realism was provided by the graphics used for the box lid and the board, whereas other games made no attempt to do so. In the years shortly before the First World War, the author H. G. Wells enjoyed playing home-made war games with his sons on a nursery �oor covered with linoleum or cork carpet, using toy soldiers. This was at a time when powerful nations were developing their armies and navies, and the whole idea of war games was very much in the air, with many board games depicting battles being published. The equipment used by Wells included toy soldiers and civilian �gures, a box of bricks, boards and planks, and a clockwork railway. The most important item, however, was a toy spring breech-loader gun, which �red a wooden cylinder about an inch long and was capable of hitting a toy soldier nine times out of ten at a distance of 9 yards. Houses, castles and churches were made out of cardboard. Some simple rules were gradually developed, for example that an infantryman could be moved up to 1 foot each move, a gun could only be �red if there were at least four of its men within 6 inches of it, and a gun could �re up to four shots per move. Unlike most of the games described in the present book, a degree of physical skill was required to �re the gun accurately. Wells comments in Little Wars (1913) that when any military person had played his war game, they soon got into difficulties and confusion, �nding it problematic to master even its elementary rules. He concludes that in real warfare, ‘Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most paci�c realisation conceivable.’ This all too true conclusion, given the millions who died in the war during the next �ve years, is just one example of how lessons learnt from playing war games could have a value in the real world – even today. Wells also mentions that he had corresponded with military people who believed his game could be developed into a vivid and inspiring game for training army personnel, and he suggests some extended game rules for this purpose. In the United States, Dowdall and Gleason described a game with toy soldiers that was very similar to the one played earlier by H. G. Wells, though theirs was played on a map drawn for the purpose and laid out on the �oor or a table, and had a greater emphasis on speci�c rules. Real projectiles were not used and con�icts were determined by the use of a spinner. It was not until the early 1960s, however, that war games with toy soldiers really took off, and many groups of players started to re-enact real historical scenarios, using model soldiers that were painted to represent the uniforms of the period. In England it was Donald Featherstone who most stimulated this development, writing more than sixty books that gave suitable rules for many different periods and battles. In Introduction to Battle Gaming (1969), Wise advises against laying out the battle on the �oor, saying, ‘not only do you get sore knees and an aching back but someone always manages to enter the room at a vital moment and tread on the forward positions.’ His book illustrates a dining table


Introduction

13

Detail from Jeu d’Assaut, c. 1900.

which has been converted into a battle�eld by covering it with an old tablecloth and making hills from cushions, books and a pullover placed underneath. Looking back at commercially produced war games over the last couple of centuries, we can see that many of them were ephemeral because they were often based on a war currently in progress, and interest in the game naturally faded once the war was over. One reason for this was probably that people had become tired of the horrors and hardships of war, and did not wish to be reminded of them. Another possible reason was that the game may have been seen as obsolete because it was overtaken by new developments in real-life warfare and weapons. As a result these games were often thrown away, or perhaps put into the loft and forgotten, only to emerge many years later and appear on market stalls and online auction sites. This means that, while many of the games have become scarce, there is still a chance that you may occasionally see an opportunity to acquire one that is interesting. This book will help you to decide whether or not to do so. Wherever possible, War Games provides illustrations and a brief description of the game and the method of play, together with a note of the equipment originally provided. If you come across an early game, do not worry if a few pieces are missing, as it is usually possible to improvise. The main item to look for is the game rules, usually printed on either a lea�et or a sheet pasted inside the game lid, though if these are absent you may be able to locate the game in a museum that is willing to supply a photocopy of the rules.4


14

War Games

Sometimes just the pieces will be offered for sale without the board, or vice versa, and it may be worthwhile to buy them cheaply in the hope of making the game complete by another purchase later. This book does not attempt to place �nancial values on old war games, but at the time of writing (2012) even the best games in good and complete condition are likely to cost no more than £300, and many can still be obtained for less than £100. Few new war games were published after the end of the Second World War until about 1958, when a large number of complex board games started to appear, in which participants usually re-fought historical battles with numerous cardboard cut-out pieces on boards that were marked off with hexagons rather than squares. (This was a separate development from the revival in the 1960s of re-enactments played with model soldiers.) Over 150 of these games were comprehensively reviewed by Freeman, who reported that more than 2 million of them were purchased in 1979 alone. They were largely superseded by later war games played on laptop computers, one of the �rst and best of these being Red Alert, which started the ‘Command & Conquer’ series. By 2009 over 30 million of the games in this series alone had been sold worldwide, and numerous similar games had been produced by other manufacturers. Nowadays it is possible to play many of these computer games over the internet with participants in any part of the world. However, an experienced author has recently argued convincingly that, while computers can be useful for tactical games – particularly the simulation of the fog of war, the use of arti�cial intelligence, and the ability to keep track of many units on the battle�eld – there are still some key advantages in relatively simple board games.5 The design of war games is more of an art than a science, and what matters most is to capture the key dynamics of a particular con�ict in a valid but playable simulation. The following pages outline many ideas which have emerged in the past for this purpose, the best of which have given rise to games that are still enjoyable, exciting and instructive today. So which war games can be described as being among the best? Even some of the most trivial games have excellent graphics, but I prefer games of strategy and tactics, which provide an opportunity for opposing minds to stretch themselves in friendly combat. My personal favourites include Chess, Waterloo (Parker, 1895), L’Attaque (1908 and later), Klar zum Gefecht! (late 1930s), Invasion (Dennis Wheatley, 1939), GHQ (Waddingtons, 1940), Risk (Waddingtons, 1957), Diplomacy (1959), Midway (Dr Peter Turcan, 1994), and Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1994). Many other games are of considerable merit, however, and well worth trying if you can �nd a copy. The result of the revival of interest in war games over the last 50 years is that many people alive today have experienced them in one form or another, but few are aware of their fascinating earlier history. For example, an article dated 2003 that appears on the internet commences, ‘Commercial wargames began in the late 1950s …’ This book is intended to �ll that gap. Some of the later developments, particularly the use of computers, would amaze and intrigue the people who used to play the earlier board games described here, but they would not necessarily regard today’s games as superior to the ones that they themselves had played.


CHAPTER 1

ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL GAMES ‘Let him who desires peace prepare for war.’ Vegetius, fourth century AD1

People living in ancient Greece and Rome played simple games that we can recognise as primitive war games. Petteia was played in Greece in at least the second century ad – probably much earlier. The details are not entirely clear, but it was a battle game played by two people on a board of some size. There were many men on the board, all of whom probably possessed a move similar to that of the rook in Chess, i.e., they could move any number of squares forwards, or to left or right, but not diagonally and possibly not backwards. Capture was by the interception method, meaning that you took an enemy man by placing one of your men on each side of it. We know that this was the rule for captures because a Greek writer of the second century ad, Julius Pollux, wrote as follows:2 The game played with many pieces is a board with spaces disposed among lines; the board is called ‘city’ and each piece a ‘dog’; the pieces are of two colours, and the art of the game consists in taking a piece of one colour by enclosing it between two of the other colour.

The interpretation of this important and interesting passage is discussed at length by Austin. He says that another writer, Eustathius,3 explains the term ‘cities’ as the old name for the spaces on the board, and there is a similar reference in a passage by Plato which may also relate to this game. The simplicity of Petteia probably arises because it may well have been played originally with pebbles on a board scratched in the earth or on a �at stone. The size of the board and the number of pebbles would have been chosen by the players, depending on the amount of time they had available. Modern articles on the internet have suggested some detailed rules, using either an 8 x 8 or a 12 x 8 board, though one article reports that its rules result in a game that lacks real dynamics. The ancient Romans played a war game called Latrunculi (referred to by some writers as Ludus Latrunculorum). The �rst mention of it is by Marcus Varro (116-27 bc), who commanded one of Pompey’s armies, in the tenth book of his De Lingua Latina, though the game may be much older. Latrunculi may originally have had playing pieces that were all of the same type, as in Petteia, from which it was probably derived. These pieces were no longer pebbles but were �at smooth stones or discs. However, archaeological �nds in Italy and Britain have suggested that, at least in later times, each game may also have had one extra piece of a different shape, which we may call a king. Boards that have been excavated are of various sizes, including 8 x 8, 8 x 12, 10 x 9 and 11 x 10 squares, though


16

War Games

Wei Chi − old wood-carving depicting a game in progress.

some may have been used for different games. A number of these boards have been found in Britain in forts along Hadrian’s Wall, suggesting that the soldiers at these remote outposts used the game as a recreation. The rules are unknown, though it is very likely that the moves and methods of capture were similar to those in Petteia. Again, modern articles on the internet have suggested rules, including the idea that the aim of the game may be to surround the enemy king with your pieces on all four sides. There is a very interesting passage in the Laus Pisonis, an anonymous work4 of the �rst century ad that relates to a war game (probably a version of Latrunculi), played on a board with black and white glass soldiers with the apparent aim of capturing a city when the rampart is down. The writer states that he is not yet twenty years old, and describes his feelings about the twists and turns of the game in graphic detail – in a way that is equally applicable to many war games invented since. He describes how a retreating piece may itself capture its pursuer. A reserve piece comes from afar and joins the battle, cheating the enemy of his spoil. When you are successful, your hands rattle with the crowd of enemy pieces you have taken. An entirely different kind of ancient war game was invented in China. This is Wei Chi (pronounced ‘way-chee’ and sometimes known as Go), which is played on the 361 intersections of a plain 18 x 18 squared board, using black and white circular stones. Just as in the case of other ancient games, it could originally have been made by using pebbles and a board scratched in the earth. You and your opponent alternately place a stone of your own colour down on the board (almost like paratroopers) and they do not subsequently move. The aim is to surround enemy stones, or blocks of stones, which are


Ancient and Medieval Games

17

thus captured, and to surround areas of territory. There are very few rules and the game is therefore easy to learn. Despite this, it is one of the great intellectual games of the world, because of the intricacies that can arise in the play. Today the Wikipedia website has a long article about the rules of the game of Go. The antiquity of the game is con�rmed by the discovery of a 17 x 17 stone board, dated to before ad 200, and a silk picture of a Tang lady playing the game, also on a 17 x 17 board, which is dated around ad 750. Moreover, full sets of boards and stones are said to have lain in the imperial repository in Nara, Japan, since the mid-eighth century, and written records show that the game was played in China, Japan and Korea well before ad 1000. This information about its origins comes from Fairbairn, who also quotes from a long poem by Ma Rong (?-ad 166) that commences by stating that the game is ‘modelled on our art of war’. It states that the board, just 3 foot square, is where a battle royal proceeds, as soldiers deployed in force oppose their foes and stand face to face. The poem then discusses strategy, recommending that the corners of the board are occupied �rst, to protect the sides. If you lack an aim, you will fail. Do not be too greedy to capture enemy soldiers, since this might give your opponent time to breach your walls and enter territory that you had considered your own – and once the dykes are breached, his advance will �ow onwards far and wide. More recently, an engraving, published in 1670 in a Dutch travel book,5 shows a Wei Chi game in progress in Japan. The two players are seated on the �oor of an open porch, which is guarded by two soldiers and where several people are carrying out various activities, and the squared board and the bowls for the stones can be seen clearly. We come now to Chess, a war game with which most readers of this book are likely to be familiar. It is played on a chequered board of 8 x 8 squares by two players, each of whom has an army of sixteen pieces. Half of each army consists of foot soldiers or pawns, and the other half consists of officers of various kinds, comprising a king and queen, two bishops, two knights and two rooks. Your aim is to reach a situation where the opposing king will be captured when it is next your turn to play, regardless of the move the opponent makes �rst. The foot soldiers and officers each have speci�ed moves, and you take an enemy piece by moving your capturing piece onto the square it occupies. Mark, in an exhaustive investigation into the origins of the game, states that evidence is sparse but concludes that the game clearly existed by the �rst half of the seventh century ad, probably originating in India at some point between ad 400 and ad 600. The officers had different names (and in some cases, more restricted moves) than those used today and may have represented particular units in the Indian army – for example, the rook, which could move right across the board as it does today, may have represented a chariot. Chess has proved an exceedingly successful game, providing the opportunity for strategic and tactical thought, combined with great intellectual challenges. Ladies were taught to play in medieval times, and many a knight must have visited his lady’s boudoir after supper ‘to play chess’. In its earlier forms the game was slower than it is today, but around ad 1490 the moves of the queen and bishop were extended, permitting them to range right across the board, rather than being restricted to nearby squares.6 This change, which probably originated in Italy, caught on immediately right across Europe, making the game much more dynamic and stimulating renewed interest in it. Even near the beginning of a game, it was now possible to impose a surprise defeat on an unsuspecting opponent. Chess was studied extensively in subsequent centuries. In 1817, for example, there appeared a thorough mathematical analysis of the values of the different chessmen.7


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War Games

Chaturaji is an interesting early war game which originated in India.8 One noteworthy point is the introduction of an element of chance by using dice, and another is that the game was played for money. The rules (and the year they were �rst composed) are not altogether clear, but using an eleventh-century source, the game seems to have been played by four players, each of whom had an army of his own colour that consisted of king, elephant, horse, boat and four foot soldiers. Each army started in one of the four corners of an ordinary chessboard, around which the players were seated, with the four major pieces being placed on the back row, to the player’s left, and the four foot soldiers placed in front of them. Starting with the corner square, the order of placing the major pieces was boat, horse, elephant, king – though this may not always have been �xed rigidly.The pieces had much the same moves and methods of capture as in Chess, the king travelling one square in any direction, the foot soldier one square forwards and capturing diagonally forwards, the elephant like a rook, the horse like a knight, and the boat moving two squares diagonally and jumping over the intervening square. Unlike Chess, you could not move any piece at will, but you threw a four-sided long die marked two, three, four or �ve. If you threw a two, you could move your boat, three the horse, four the elephant, and �ve the king or a foot soldier. It is unclear whether you could opt to forego a move, if it would be unfavourable to you. Some sources state that two dice were thrown simultaneously, in which case you could probably move two pieces in the same turn, although another possibility is that you had to choose which of the two numbers thrown to use. Your initial aim was to enter the starting square of another player’s king and gain

Great Chess, from a manuscript written in 1283 for King Alfonso X of Castile. The board has 12 x 12 squares and in addition to the 8 normal major pieces there are 2 Unicorns, a Counsellor and a Fool.


Ancient and Medieval Games

Above: The board for Tamerlane Chess (Forbes, 1860). Right: The Cameleopard (as envisaged by Hyde in 1694).

19


20

War Games

money from a pool. If the other king belonged to your ally (i.e., presumably the player seated opposite you), you took command of his army as well as your own. Kings could be taken in the same way as other pieces, and you played on against the other players until you had achieved total victory by capturing their kings, which entitled you to receive further monies from the pool. Some sources also state that players received money from the pool every time they captured any piece, the amount depending on its value. Despite the success of Chess as a game for recreation, it must have seemed insufficiently complex to represent real wars in any meaningful way, and the desire to try to do this may well have been the inspiration behind the invention of various enlarged forms of the game in the Middle Ages. For example, there was Courier Chess, played before ad 1200 in Germany on a 12 x 8 board with twenty-four pieces a side. Great Chess also had twentyfour pieces a side and was played on a 12 x 12 board. Perhaps the most interesting and well known of the medieval Chess war games is Tamerlane Chess, with twenty-eight pieces a side, on an 11 x 10 board with two additional squares (known as ‘citadels’) projecting from it, making 112 squares in all. The game was played in Persia around ad 1350-1400. and is named after Timur the Lame (1336-1405), who conquered the area. He was said by a contemporary biographer to love to play Chess, particularly an enlarged version. Tamerlane, like many great military leaders who came after him, was fond of war games – but what additional personal qualities did he possess to be able to make a success of real-life battles? The pieces on each side consisted of a shah, a minister, a vizir, two giraffes (also known as ‘cameleopards’), two vanguards, two horses, two rooks, two dabbabas, two camels, two elephants and eleven pawns. Each of the pieces had its own type of move. For example, the dabbaba jumped to the second square orthogonally and the giraffe moved one square diagonally followed by at least three orthogonal steps – and there were some complex rules about pawn promotion. The game was investigated fully by Forbes,9 while Gollon10 made his own set and described the game as playable and entertaining. The rules are summarised by Pritchard,11 and today there are useful websites devoted to the game. These enlarged Chess games can be regarded as an attempt to represent some of the complexities of war in a game, though players would have recognised that true realism was still lacking. One medieval game we must mention is Fox and Geese, even though it was not in itself conceived as a war game, since the board and method of play inspired many later siege games, right down to the middle of the twentieth century. Fox and Geese was played on the intersections of a simple cross-shaped board between two players, one of whom had a piece representing a fox, while the other had thirteen pieces, later increased to seventeen, representing geese.12 All pieces had the same move, i.e., one step along any marked line. Only the fox could make captures, which it did by leaping over a goose to a vacant space beyond, and it could go on to make similar captures in the same turn of play. The geese won if they managed to hem in the fox so it could not move. It is indeed extraordinary that this simple game, which was probably enjoyed by many an English child in the Middle Ages and later, should have been so enduring. With only minor changes, it turned into a battle game, representing a siege, at some point before ad 1800. The principal alteration was that the large square at the top of the board, containing nine intersections, was marked out as a fortress, and the single fox was replaced by two officers whose job was to defend the fortress against not seventeen but twenty-four


Ancient and Medieval Games

The starting position for Fox and Geese (Strutt, plate xxx).

21

Alquerque board (Fiske). This example has been numbered to facilitate the recording of games.

attacking soldiers. At some point it became compulsory for captures to be made by the officers whenever the position enabled them to do so. As we shall see in this book, the game went on appearing in different guises throughout the nineteenth century and the �rst half of the twentieth, though sometimes with enlarged boards and more pieces. It is an easy game to learn and quite fun to play when you �rst come across it. Alquerque is a simple continental game for two players, whose origin is lost in the mists of antiquity – it certainly goes back at least to medieval times, when it was featured in the manuscript written for King Alphonso of Castile in 1283.13 Take a board of 4 x 4 squares and rule in the diagonals of each of the four large squares (each containing four smaller squares) in the corners; play takes place on the twenty-�ve intersections (points) and the lines between them. Each player has twelve identical men that are placed on the points nearest him, leaving the middle point on the board vacant. Your aim is to take all the enemy men. On your turn, you may move any of your men along a line to an adjacent point. Alternatively, if one of your men is next to an enemy man and there is a vacant point beyond it in a straight line, you may leap over the enemy man and capture it, following this immediately with similar further jumps and captures in any direction if the position permits. If you do not jump when you can, your man who could have jumped is himself captured. The game we know today as Draughts (or in the USA, Checkers) was invented in medieval times by adapting Alquerque to the chessboard.14 In Draughts each player has a set of twelve identical men (one set black, and the other white) and each set is positioned on the three back rows at either end of a chessboard, using the squares of one colour only. Pieces only move diagonally, so the squares of the other colour are never used. Men can only move forward to the next adjacent square. Alternatively they can leap forward diagonally over any enemy man to which they are adjacent, if there is a vacant square immediately beyond in a straight line, in which case the enemy man is captured and removed. Repeated leaps forward, and hence captures, can be made in the same move, with your same man, if the position permits. If you fail to make a capture when you can,


22

War Games

The starting position in The Philosophers’ Game (Boissière). Alternative initial layouts were also practised.

you may be ‘huffed’ if the opponent so wishes, and your offending piece is removed from the board. However, if two of your men are in a position to make captures, either one may do so and the other is in no danger of being huffed. Once one of your men reaches the opponent’s back rank, it is promoted to a king, and a man who has been captured by your opponent is placed on top of it to signify this. Its move ends at this point, but thereafter it can move both backwards and forwards, and can leap (and thereby capture) both backwards and forwards as well. Kings can be huffed in the same way as men if they fail to capture when they can. The aim is to eliminate the opponent’s pieces or to reach a position where he can no longer move. Draughts is not only one of the longest-enduring war games, but it has also in�uenced the design of many later games that have employed the same ‘leap’ method of capture. We turn now to a game that was much more difficult to learn and play. Today it is known as The Philosophers’ Game, but in medieval times, when it attracted considerable interest in the universities, it was known as Rithmomachia, i.e., the battle of numbers. The history of the game is described in detail by Moyer and is thought to have been


Ancient and Medieval Games

23

The Astronomers Game, from a manuscript written in 1283 for King Alphonso X of Castile.

invented in Würzburg in the eleventh century ad. It was played on a double chessboard, like two ordinary chessboards placed side by side, giving a 16 x 8 board of 128 squares. Each player was provided with twenty-three pieces, consisting of �at circles, triangles, and squares bearing numbers. In addition, each player had a pyramid, consisting of �ve or six men piled on top of each other, with the principal aim being to capture or blockade the enemy pyramid. The pyramid could be captured as a whole but it was also possible for the individual pieces comprising it to be taken, one at a time. I have previously given a description of the rules of this fascinating, complex, and intellectually challenging game, together with some suggestions for strategy in playing it, in Games & Puzzles (August 1973). Enemy pieces could be captured as in Chess, but there were complex provisions regarding these captures – in some cases two of your men had to act together. For example, if you were white, two of your pieces were numbered nine and sixteen respectively, and if they were located on the right squares in relation to black’s piece numbered twenty�ve, they could capture it by addition.You could also take an enemy man by subtraction, multiplication or division. If you surrounded an enemy man so that it could not move,


24

War Games

you captured it by blockade. In more advanced versions of the game, two of your men could capture an enemy man by arithmetic, geometric, or harmonic proportion. Some authors stated that captured enemy pieces became part of your army. Curiously, once one side had won the game by taking the enemy pyramid, play did not stop, but both players continued moving, the aim of the victor being to set out some of his pieces in a speci�ed pattern as a ‘triumph’ in the enemy’s camp, to determine the degree of victory. This was perhaps inspired by the practice among the ancient Romans of allowing a victorious general to enter Rome in procession with trumpeters, the spoils of victory, the prisoners and the soldiers of the army. There were three different qualifying patterns, and you tried to achieve the one that gave you the greatest triumph. Although the game used military terms, and indeed its very name in Latin indicated a battle, it appears to have been regarded mainly as an intellectual exercise rather than a war game. It seems that some people sneered at it, as a thirteenth-century manuscript says: I think those must be considered unsuitable for this game who try to belittle the liberal arts because they themselves are not quali�ed to practise them – like the little fox, which, wishing to pick grapes and being unable to eat any because the vine was out of reach, had the effrontery to blame the grapes.

During the sixteenth century some attempts were made to popularise the game, initially in Europe and then in England. In 1563, Ralph Lever published the �rst description of the game in English. This excellent book explained the complicated rules in simple terms, with plenty of illustrations. Its printer, James Rowbothum, sold the board and pieces at his London bookshop under Bow Church in Cheapside. Unfortunately no original boards or pieces, whether made by Rowbothum or others, seem to have survived, unless they are languishing unrecognised in some museum store. Similar publications appeared in Europe. Nevertheless, the game did not become widespread and it seems to have died out in the seventeenth century. By then it was probably considered to be rather slow, since none of the pieces could move more than three squares at a time, unlike Chess which had been speeded up and made more exciting around ad 1490, by introducing new rules that allowed more of the pieces to roam freely right across the board. Lever states that the game has been ‘augmented by W.F.’. Moyer identi�es ‘W.F.’ as William Fulke (1536/7-89), a Cambridge academic and puritan, who later wrote the two important war game treatises described below. After the book’s publication, Lever and Fulke disputed which of them were entitled to the greater credit for it, and both argued that the publisher had issued it without their consent. Details of Fulke’s life and his later academic career as a controversial theologian are given in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, but here we are concerned only with his love of mathematics and of complex board games representing con�icts. In 1571 he published a manual on an astronomical game, Ouranomachia. This was a genuine if highly abstract war game, which could also have been aptly called, ‘The Battle of the Planets’. The origins of this game are unclear, though a different game with some similarities is described and illustrated in the famous Alphonso manuscript of 1283.15 That game was played on a circular board divided into twelve sections, each representing the signs of the zodiac. There were seven concentric circles, one for each of the seven heavenly bodies that comprised the game’s pieces.


Ancient and Medieval Games

25

Above: The pieces for William Fulke’s Ouranomachia, 1571. Right: The circular board for William Fulke’s Ouranomachia, 1571.

However, although Fulke’s game also uses a circular board divided into the twelve signs of the zodiac, it has only two tracks on which the heavenly bodies move, and the rules are much more complicated. The board is divided into 360 degrees, referred to below as ‘steps’, which necessitated a board 3 feet 6 inches in diameter so that each step was about one third of an inch in length. Such a large board was rather cumbersome, so Fulke says that the game may be played instead on a rectangular board of 30 x 12, equalling 360 squares. The differences from the game described in the Alphonso manuscript are so signi�cant that we must conclude that Fulke’s game was not directly derived from the Spanish game, but was an independent creation. Fulke states that his game is in its �fth year. He describes it as a �ght between heavenly bodies of various powers and movement, for people of well-ordered temperaments and for the exercise of practical skill, as well as the exercise of the mind and a relaxation from studies. He makes it clear that he was not the original inventor of this game but had discovered it in an old manuscript that was unfortunately incomplete. He has therefore tried to supply the missing portions himself, containing the methods of capture, the victory, the triumph, and the table of dignities. However, two complete copies of the


26

War Games

original manuscript can today be found in the Bodleian Library.16 They both date from the second half of the �fteenth century, and appear to be copies from an earlier original, since each one contains various mistakes that are not repeated in the other copy. Hence the date of invention of the game could well be around ad 1450, though an earlier date is possible. The discovery of these manuscripts means that we are now able to understand the game as it existed in its original form. Fulke asks us to imagine two suns, behaving like soldiers, and with the support of the planets, �ghting a decisive battle for the control of the world. They engage continuously in a prolonged combat until the commander of one army is defeated and the commander of the other obtains an illustrious victory accompanied with glorious triumph. There are seven men in each army, and Fulke envisages each man as consisting of a globe supported on a base and column. On top of the globe is affixed a small �gure representing the man concerned. The bases and columns of one army are painted with one colour and the bases and columns of the other army are painted with a different colour. The globes of each army are then coloured in the same way: • • • • • • •

Sun (the king of the heavens) – gold Moon (his august queen) – silver Saturn (the god of wisdom and time) – blue Jupiter (the god of majesty) – purple Mars (the god of war) – orange Venus (the goddess of beauty) – green Mercury (the inconstant �eet-footed messenger) – spotted with various colours

The board consists of three concentric circles, giving two zodiacs, one inside the other. Throughout the game one army uses the outer zodiac and the other the inner zodiac. When it is your turn to play, you move any one of your men and, following your move, you must then move any other men of yours who are obliged to move because of the move of your �rst man. You may then capture or despoil any enemy man you can, not necessarily with the aid of the man or men you have just moved. The board and pieces for Fulke’s game could be purchased at the London shop of William Jones, at the west door of St Paul’s church, but no copies are known to have survived. Even learned men attached considerable importance to the in�uence of the stars. For example, Jerome Cardan, the famous Italian doctor, cast the horoscopes of his patients, including Edward VI, the boy king of England, and John Dee was the court astrologer of Queen Elizabeth I. Whether he believed in astrology or not, the original inventor of this game was certainly very pedantic in representing the movements of the heavenly bodies as accurately as possible. There are complex rules governing movement, which normally takes place forwards in an anti-clockwise direction. For example, the sun moves one step forwards, representing one day of the year. Venus and Mercury must then move one step forwards also. As another example, Saturn moves forwards, half a step at a time. However, if he stands more than 110 steps from his sun in either direction, he can only move backwards, half a step at a time, until he is within this limit. Coming now to plunder and captures, the original rules specify that on joining battle with an enemy man, you either capture him or, if you are not powerful enough for that,


Ancient and Medieval Games

27

you despoil him of some of his strength. Battle is joined when the two opposing pieces are exactly zero, two, three, four or six signs away from each other in either direction, whilst occupying corresponding steps within the signs. Thus, for example, a man on the �fteenth step of Leo can �ght an enemy man occupying the �fteenth step of Leo, Gemini, Taurus, Aries, Aquarius, Sagittarius, Scorpio, or Libra. Alternatively, battle can be joined when a weaker man is within the ‘circle of projection of rays’ of the stronger, i.e., the weaker man is within a speci�ed number of steps (up to seven and a half) of the stronger man. A man’s strength depends on the number of ‘dignities’ he possesses, which varies according to which piece he is and what position he occupies on the board (look-up tables are provided for this purpose). You then look to see how many dignities he would have if he were standing in the place occupied by his enemy, and this is counted instead as the number of his dignities, if greater than his own strength. The stronger man then plunders from the weaker the same number of dignities as he has excess strength. For example, if your Saturn were standing in the twenty-�fth step of Sagittarius facing an enemy Mercury in the twenty-�fth step of Gemini, your Saturn would have three dignities in his own position but �ve in his opponent’s position, so this would count as �ve. The enemy Mercury has eight dignities in his own position and none in his opponent’s position, so this would count as eight. Hence the enemy Mercury is stronger than your Saturn and he plunders your Saturn of three dignities. Throughout the rest of the game the enemy Mercury has three dignities more than he would otherwise have and your Saturn three dignities less. Understandably the manuscript says that it is a good idea to make a note of such pluses and minuses to avoid disputes thereafter. Capturing occurs if your man has more than twice as many dignities as his opponent. For example, if your sun having seven dignities faces the enemy moon who has three dignities only, he plunders her of all her dignities, captures her immediately by moving into her place in the other zodiac, and thereafter has three extra dignities for the rest of the game. If one of your men is in danger of being plundered or captured, he can be supported by another of your men who is in the right position to do so, in which case the man in peril has his dignities increased by some or all of the dignities that his comrade would possess if he were standing in his place. However, the number of dignities which a man temporarily draws from his comrade is reduced if there is any hostility between them – for example, where your two men supporting each other are Mars and Venus, the number of dignities is reduced by two. These rules about plundering and capturing are modi�ed according to whether the steps occupied by the combatants are regarded as favourable, unfavourable or indifferent, as marked on the board, to provide helps and hindrances in battle. Neither sun may be captured. If, however, the enemy sun would have been captured were it not for this rule, he becomes ‘confounded’ and thereafter is unable to move, plunder, or capture.You win as soon as you have done this and have also captured two of the enemy’s other men. You then go on playing to obtain a triumph by placing three of your men in the right positions, with both sides moving normally. This rule must have been in�uenced by the triumphs required in The Philosophers’ Game. It is interesting to see that Fulke’s rules on captures and plundering have caught the spirit of the original rules summarised here, but there are naturally some signi�cant differences in detail. There is no doubt that either version must have demanded considerable intellectual effort – and a great deal of time – from the players.


28

War Games

Above: Fulke’s Metromachia, 1578. Part of one army at the start, standing in front of its own river. Left: Fulke’s Metromachia, 1578. One of the castles showing the gate and towers.

Fulke was not content to rest on his laurels at this point, and a few years later, in 1578, he published his masterpiece: a highly original war game entirely of his own creation, Metromachia. The �rst stage represents a pitched battle between two opposing armies facing each other across a river; the second stage is where the winner of this battle attempts to force an entry into the enemy’s castle. It is a pity that his love of mathematics and a desire to instil geometrical principles in his students led Fulke to base the pieces of this game on geometrical shapes, since this must have obscured his success in making the game more like real warfare than any invented previously. No knowledge of geometry is required for playing the game, and if the pieces had instead been given the names of soldiers of various types, with simpler rules for making captures, I suspect that it would have attracted many more followers. The extensive board consists of 52 x 33 squares. There is a river on each side, three squares wide, which can only be crossed by bridges placed in position by the players. Each player has a forti�ed camp or castle towards the rear of his own half of the board, consisting of three concentric walls forti�ed by projecting towers, with a central watchtower occupying the middle square. Each inner wall is deemed to be higher than the outer walls


Ancient and Medieval Games

29

surrounding it, and the watchtower is highest of all. A forti�ed gateway provides the only means of access to the castle until some of the towers have been destroyed. There are two identical opposing armies, each consisting of seventy-six �at pieces on which various geometrical shapes are depicted, representing soldiers and equipment. The two armies advance towards each other and �ght until, after one player’s commander-inchief has been captured, his army �ees and retreats to its castle. The enemy then storm the castle and win when they occupy the watchtower. There are seven kinds of piece in each army: • Twenty foot soldiers, consisting of ‘surfaces’ of various kinds, such as triangles, squares, circles, and various kinds of polygon • Thirty-two horsemen, consisting of ‘solids’ such as prisms, pyramids, oblong columns, and rhomboids (including globe, who is the commander-in-chief, and �ve other leaders) • Four siege guns • Four cannons • Four ladders • Eight poles for making bridges • Four casks of food The players move in turn. Each move consists of one of the following: • Moving a piece and following the move, if appropriate, with a capture involving that piece • Making a capture without moving a piece • Building a bridge • Breaking down a bridge The game proceeds through successive phases: • Both sides advance and no piece except the globe may move backwards • One side gives the signal for �ight (though not before his globe has been captured) and his pieces cannot thereafter move forwards until he announces that the �ight has ended – meanwhile the other side continues to advance • Both sides advance until either player announces another �ight When advancing, the foot soldiers and guns move one square, and the horsemen, other than the leaders, move two squares. The globe may move up to four squares and the other leaders up to three squares. The ladders, poles and casks are moved with the soldiers carrying them. When in �ight, the foot soldiers move two squares and the horsemen and the remaining leaders move up to three squares. The guns cannot move backwards when the rest of the army is in �ight but must remain stationary. Whether a move is orthogonal or diagonal varies according to the type of piece. No piece may move to or over an occupied square, except that a soldier may move to a square that is only occupied by a ladder, pole or cask belonging to either side, in which case he may move it with himself thereafter.


30

War Games

Each soldier bears a number, which is used in capturing enemy pieces, and the complicated methods of capture have some similarities with the methods used in The Philosophers’ Game. The �rst method of capture is by equality, when you move your piece to the square occupied by an identical enemy piece. The second method is by blockade, when you have two of your soldiers on squares from which they could, by a legal move, occupy the square on which the enemy soldier stands and at the same time satisfy certain other conditions of a numerical nature. For example, in one way of capturing an enemy foot soldier, your two soldiers must each bear a number equal to one half of the perimeter assigned to the shape shown on the enemy piece. You can also capture an enemy soldier by measurement, when you move one of your soldiers bearing a certain number to a square that is a prescribed distance away from the enemy soldier. Ladders cannot be destroyed, but poles are destroyed if the soldiers carrying them are captured. A cannon destroys any enemy piece or tower that is the same number of squares away, diagonally or orthogonally, as the number borne by the cannon (thirteen, sixteen, nineteen or twenty-two). A siege gun is only used to destroy the towers in the enemy castle, when the gun is the same number of squares away from the tower as the number borne by the gun (four, seven, ten or thirteen). To storm the enemy castle, you must �rst destroy one of its towers, using a siege gun or cannon, and the tower’s site then provides access to pieces of either side. Another means of access is to use a ladder to cross one of the walls. All the soldiers inside the besieged enemy castle die if their food supply becomes exhausted, after using up one cask in the castle every ten moves. A detailed description of the game (in French) is given in an article by Boutin and Parlebas. This article includes a translation of Fulke’s detailed rules, which were written in Latin, and also includes photographs of a set that the authors made, using a board measuring 1.5 metres long and 1 metre wide, with wooden pieces. They concluded, however, that the game’s complexity made it almost unplayable. Perhaps for this reason the game never seems to have become at all popular, even in the universities, but it nevertheless remains as an outstanding tribute to the genius of William Fulke, its inventor, who was a true pioneer in war games. Before we leave this early period, it is worth recalling that the continual struggle between good and evil was a recurring theme of the literature and religious teachings of the time. Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (c. 1518) envisaged that the inhabitants of his utopian land would have ‘two sorts of games not unlike our chess’. The �rst game is between several numbers and sounds like The Philosophers’ Game, as one number is said to consume another. It is the second game that primarily interests us here, however, as it can be seen as an imaginary allegorical war game: The other [game] resembles a battle between the virtues and the vices, in which the enmity in the vices among themselves, and their agreement against virtue, is not unpleasantly represented; together with the special opposition between the particular virtues and vices; as also the methods by which vice either openly assaults or secretly undermines virtue; and virtue, on the other hand, resists it.17

If we substitute ‘blue’ for ‘virtue’ and ‘red’ for ‘vice’, we have the principle of any modern war game.


CHAPTER 2

GAMES PLAYED BETWEEN 1600 AND 1800 ‘Appear at �rst as an innocent until the opponent opens the door. Then, act in a �ash so the opponent is unable to resist.’ Sun Tzu1

In 1664, Christopher Weickhmann published a large book entitled New-erfundenes Grosses Konig-Spiel. The magni�cently engraved frontispiece shows a game about to start, surrounded by a number of onlookers and presided over by a crowned king. Weichmann, born in Ulm in 1617, was a wealthy businessman with a sense of humanity, who invented optical devices and established a weekly concert in the town. Using his extensive worldwide trade contacts, he built up an exotic collection from many countries, which later formed the basis of the town’s museum. The game seems to have been a kind of enlarged Chess. There were fourteen types of piece, including kings, marshals, various other officials and army officers, and common soldiers. The main board, for four players, consisted of �ve large squares arranged in the shape of a cross, and each large square had 6 x 6 smaller squares in it, making 180 squares in all. However, the pieces (numbering thirty on each side), which each player initially positioned in his own arm of the cross, were not placed on the squares but on the intersections of the lines that marked out the squares, moving along those lines. The board was also marked with diagonal lines, so that at every other intersection there was the opportunity to make a diagonal move. Another board consisted of a rectangle holding 14 x 12 squares; this appears to have been for a game between two players, who had �ftyeight pieces each. There were also massive, complex boards for six or eight players. It is not known whether this game achieved any kind of popularity at the time, but it seems to have disappeared from view quite quickly. Another seventeenth-century war game was brie�y described in a French book of various table games,2 published in 1659. The game represented a fortress besieged on all sides, and comprised a central fort with four bastions, surrounded by the double trenches of the attackers. The outermost trench had eight little forts, linked together by eight redoubts, and it was joined to the inner trench by eight other redoubts. From the inner trench, which had sixteen redoubts, there was access to the four bastions of the fort. The defender had �ve draughtsmen, which were placed initially on the four bastions and the central fort, while the attacker had seven pawns and one draughtsman, which started from the eight little forts in the outermost trench. Moves and captures were made in much the same way as in Draughts. The draughtsmen could move in any direction and could not be forced to capture, while the pawns could move to right or left, or advance towards the fort, but could not retreat. The attackers won if they managed to enter the central fort and stay there.


32

War Games

Weickhmann’s game.

A few of the published war games appear to have had an educational purpose. In 1668, a game called Jeu de la Guerre or Das Kriegs-Spiel was published by J. Mariette in Paris. It was engraved by Gilles de la Boissière and had �fty-two spaces depicting scenes of war, with German captions. Boissière had created the game for the education of the Duke of Berry, son of Louis XIV, and players moved round the board according to throws of the dice. Each space was oblong in shape and clearly the sheet could have been cut up and pasted on cardboard to make a game of cards. Gilles de la Boissière invented and drew another game that was also published by Mariette in 1668: Le Jeu des Forti�cations. The game was in the form of a large sheet of paper (60 x 80 cm), with a board containing �fty-two spaces, each of which contained


Games Played between 1600 and 1800

33

an illustration of some aspect of forti�cation, along with a brief description. Like the previous game, these squares could be cut up and pasted on card, to be used as a card game, or alternatively the sheet could be kept intact and used as a simple track game, moving round the board using dice. It is dedicated to ‘L’illustre jeunesse élevée dans l’Ecole Royale Militaire’, which suggests that it was intended to be used for educating military students. Fanorona, the national game of Madagascar, is said to date back to about ad 1680. It is simple, but most interesting, dynamic, and enjoyable. The board has the form that would be produced if you joined two Alquerque boards together, to produce an array nine points wide and �ve points deep, connected by orthogonal and diagonal lines along which the pieces move. The game requires forty-four counters or pebbles, twenty-two on each side. Each player �lls his two back rows and places his remaining four pieces in the centre row, alternating with pieces of the opponent and leaving the middle square vacant. Players move alternately, one piece at a time, to a vacant adjacent point. Moves and captures can be made in any direction, including diagonally. The aim is to capture all the enemy pieces. However, the methods of capture differ signi�cantly from those used in Alquerque and most other war games. If an enemy group of pieces stands in a straight line, with no intervening points, you may capture the whole group by approach, moving one of your pieces along the same line so that it is adjacent to the end piece of the group. Alternatively, if your piece starts by being adjacent to the end piece of the group, you may capture the whole group by withdrawal, moving away from the group in the same straight line. You cannot capture two groups simultaneously, however, one by withdrawal and the other by approach – you must choose which group to take. Once you have made a capture with one of your pieces, it may go on to make further captures in the same turn if the situation permits, provided that it does not return immediately to a point it has just left – though this rule applies only after the �rst player has moved a piece, which can only capture once. Some writers claim that if you can make a capture, or continue making captures, you must do so. In 1762, Laurence Sterne’s novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy included an account of a war game that an elderly gentleman played in his garden, in an area of about three eighths of an acre. Although entirely �ctional, the account is indicative of a tendency to want to model wars, even at this early date. As soon as a town in a real war was besieged by the English, the old gentleman re-created an accurate plan of the town on his bowling green, and got his servant to dig ditches and erect the town’s walls as realistically as possible. He then built round it the besieger’s walls of circumvallation. As news came through in the Gazette of the town’s walls being breached, he took a mattock and breached the walls of his model, and eventually planted the �ag of victory on the town’s ramparts. In due course the game was expanded to include the model of a ‘standard’ town that could be re-used, with a church and with every house independently made, so that the model town could be adjusted to �t within the plan of any real town. Half a dozen brass �eld cannon that really �red were placed outside the town, to assist in simulating an attack. An unusual war ‘game’ that emerged at an auction sale3 in 2004 dated from around 1790. It consisted of a wooden box with a defective paper label, stating that it contained ‘Figures for the … tacticks [sic] [by] which the movements of a battalion [or other] body of troops may be … upon the present improved System’. The box held:


34

War Games

Above: Hellwig’s game – detail from title page of the Leipzig edition, 1782. Right: Hellwig’s game – the board (1782).

• Ten oblong wooden blocks, 4 inches long, for each of which a paper strip had been stuck to one face, depicting �fteen infantrymen standing to attention • Twenty smaller pieces, depicting individual soldiers • Five standing marker �ags The game was bought by the National War Museum of Scotland, whose staff believed that it was used for training junior British officers in wars against France.4 The blocks had pencil annotations on them, suggesting that they were actually put to practical use. Despite this evidence of some interest in England in using models for training purposes, the main developments in the use of games for simulating reality as far as possible took place on the European mainland, particularly in Germany. A classic war game was invented by Johann Hellwig, the Duke of Brunswick’s master of pages, in 1780. He gradually improved it thereafter, with help from Lt-Col. Mauvillon. The game was published at Leipzig in 1782, with an entirely different edition appearing at Brunswick in 1803. It broke new ground as an elaborate attempt to simulate real-life con�ict, and Hellwig believed that the game reproduced some features of warfare well, such as the need to protect the �anks of the armies and to have good communications. In 1803 he


Games Played between 1600 and 1800

35


36

War Games

Allgaier’s Kriegs Spiel, 1796.

said that, although readers might think there were too many rules, the pages of the Duchy of Brunswick, between the ages of thirteen and �fteen, learned the game from watching it, and then enjoyed playing it. Hellwig states in his 1803 book that three versions of the game are for sale – the �rst has a �xed terrain of 1,617 squares, the second has a terrain that can be changed in sixtythree different ways, and the third has a terrain of 2,000 squares that are put together by throwing the dice and can be changed whichever way you wish. The terrain includes mountains, marshes, narrow paths, water, buildings, towns and villages, forts, etc. The pieces include infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and each �gure portrays not an individual soldier but a troop. The forces on each side included:5 • • • • • • •

Sixty battalions of grenadiers Twenty-�ve battalions of pontonniers Eight squadrons of dragoons Ten squadrons of hussars Ten batteries of �eld artillery Three batteries of siege artillery Two batteries of mortars

The pieces were made of wood and mounted on circular bases made of lead, of a diameter nearly as large as the side of each square on the board. The 1803 rule book has 323 sections, dealing with every aspect of the game. For example, it prescribes how several pieces may sometimes be moved at the same time, how the artillery can turn around, how pieces can �re, how artillery can be destroyed by artillery, how squares may be forti�ed by placing markers on them, how forts can be stormed or destroyed, etc., etc. Infantry moved eight squares and heavy cavalry twelve.The whole board, and all the pieces, were exposed to view by both players, and in some ways the game was like a very complex version of Chess. In 1796 J. Allgaier published a new war game he had invented. He said that Hellwig’s game was too lengthy, taking up to three weeks to play, because it tried to imitate war too


Games Played between 1600 and 1800

37

closely. He had therefore produced a simpler and more playable version, with a board of only 600 squares, and the rules were comparatively simple. Viturinus’ Neues Kriegsspiel (c. 1800) was on an even grander scale than Hellwig’s game, with 1,800 brigades, 600 batteries of �eld artillery and 200 batteries of horse artillery,6 but it was too complex to play successfully. Other enlarged versions of Chess were published about this time, also designed to imitate warfare but not on nearly such a vast scale as Hellwig and Viturinus, or even Allgaier, had attempted. Examples include those by François Giacometti at Genoa in 1801 and by Bernard de Montbrison at Paris in 1818. These latter games were intended purely as recreations, though many of the players may well have been military men, both active and retired. François Giacometti, a lawyer, �rst published a war game in 1793. However, it had too many pieces and took too long to play, so he changed it and published a modi�ed version at Genoa in 1801, dedicating it to Napoleon Bonaparte. This version of the game is of considerable interest, because it is a workable early attempt to represent warfare in an enjoyable game which is playable within a reasonable timescale. Another interesting feature is that the same board can be used for games between two, three or four people. The board is nine squares wide and seventeen squares long, making 153 squares in all. In addition there are four ‘external’ squares outside this main array, one in the middle of each side. A river, nine squares long and one square wide, runs across the middle of the board. When two play, they are based at the narrower ends of the board, and each places a citadel in the ‘external square’ of his base (the other two ‘external squares’ not forming part of this game). In the two ranks immediately in front of each citadel is a fortress, and nine bastions are placed at the front of it to protect its outer rank. The object of the game is to capture the opposing citadel, by assaulting it with ladders. If there are two opposing players, you each place a general of infantry in your citadel and two soldiers, two cannons and a mortar in your fortress. You have a further twenty pieces in your army, which you place at will on your own side of the board – these consist of a commander-in-chief, a lieutenant-general, a general of cavalry, two generals of infantry, four cavalrymen, eight soldiers, two cannons and a mortar. In reserve you have eight trenches, four ladders and four bridges, which you place on the board when you need them. You play alternately, and you can move up to three different pieces when it is your turn. The placement, raising, or destruction of a trench, ladder, or bridge constitutes one of the three moves allowed. The pieces move and capture in different ways. Your cannons and mortars �re without moving, up to four squares in the case of the cannons, and exactly three squares diagonally for the mortars. When a cannon or mortar is taken by your opponent, he can use it himself, which can be very prejudicial, and to prevent this when it is in danger you can throw it into the river (if adjacent), or spike it. You �ght over the crossing of the river, you break down the bridge, and you fortify your positions with trenches, which are sometimes taken by assault and destroyed.You advance to open a breach with your cannon in the opposing fortress, or use your ladders to gain access to it. Finally you assault the citadel with ladders to gain the victory. Pieces can be promoted to be more valuable when they distinguish themselves by bravery, for example when taking a defended trench by assault. If you wish, you and your opponent can agree to exchange prisoners of equal value, which are then restarted on the board.


38

War Games

Giacometti’s game, 1801 – the board and pieces.

When four play, the two ‘external’ squares at the long side of the board are used for placing the citadels, with fortresses in front of them, and the two ‘external’ squares at the short ends of the board are disregarded. Each player has his own army, of half as many pieces as when there are two players, and two players on the same side play in alliance against the other two. At each turn the allied players have four moves in succession, i.e., two each. If there are three participants only, one of them commands both allied armies on one side. Giacometti gives specimen games, move by move, to clarify the rules, which are fairly simple. Altogether his book is a very clear exposition of a practical game, which overcomes the problems inherent in the huge size of many other games, before and since, whilst still preserving elements that introduce military features not present in Chess. He also suggests one or two modi�cations that would shorten the time to play the game, such as omitting the river and exchanges of prisoners. The full game may well end in a draw, with neither


Games Played between 1600 and 1800

39

side able to force victory, but he says that that is also true of battles in real life between troops of equal bravery, if reinforcements cannot be obtained. It is unclear whether the game achieved any popularity in its day, but it deserved to do so. At a much more mundane level, we know that the medieval game of Fox and Geese was still being widely played during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1688 some manuscript pages written by Randle Holme of Chester show an illustration of a standard Fox and Geese board with thirty-three holes. Holme states that the game is played with one long peg (the fox) and �fteen smaller pegs (the geese), with the fox being placed initially in the middle. He states that the boards for this and two other games are well known in England. Of great interest is his statement that there is another kind of board called the Double Fox and Geese, which has twice as many holes and is played with two foxes and thirty geese. Although Holme does not illustrate this board, I assume that it is still cross-shaped, but with four instead of three holes at the edge of each arm of the cross, giving sixty-four holes in all. He says that there is also a treble board, with three or four foxes and �fty or sixty geese – presumably this had �ve holes at the edge of each arm of the cross, giving 105 holes in total. In 1801 Joseph Strutt discussed and illustrated the standard form of Fox and Geese, but by then with seventeen geese.7 He says that he has heard that some players had found the game too easy for the geese and had therefore added another fox. We can see in these descriptions how the medieval game of Fox and Geese was gradually becoming more complicated, and at some point before about 1800 an unknown player had the bright idea of turning it into a war game representing a siege. Instead of two foxes, there were now two officers, who had to defend a fort marked out in one of the arms of the cross, and instead of seventeen geese there were now twenty-four attacking soldiers. The resulting game was called Belagerungs Spiel (‘siege game’), and the earliest surviving copies of which I am aware appear to date from around 1790-1800. As Strutt does not mention this game, I assume that it was developed on the mainland of Europe, perhaps in Germany. Later in the nineteenth century various enlarged boards were introduced for siege games, though their inventors would have been unaware that Holme had reported on similarly enlarged boards two hundred years before. Even as late as the 1930s and ’40s several German games of this type were published, some of them even using the simplest form of the board, with just the graphics updated to show scenes of modern warfare.


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War Games and their History  

Many people interested in military history know little about early war-games. This book fills the gap, starting with those played in ancient...

War Games and their History  

Many people interested in military history know little about early war-games. This book fills the gap, starting with those played in ancient...

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