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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Early Wargaming Rules

Following the discovery of Colonel Oliver Keef’s collection of lead soldiers and wargaming campaign diary from around 1882, there has been some interest in early wargaming with model soldiers.

Many people think HG Well’s was the first with his classic book Little Wars in 1913. Some know about the classic article about Robert Louis Stevenson’s toy soldier game from an article in the Scribiner dated 1898. My book on Early Wargames volume 1 has some further details about the Stevenson Game. It is possible that the actual Stevenson rules may yet reach the public domain. Both The Great War Game (1908) and The Game for Boy Scouts (1910) predated Well’s game.  (See Early Wargames Volume 1 link
Volume 2 of the Early Wargames series has the Captain Baring’s simplified version of the German Kriegspiel  (1872). Also included in the same book is the semi-legendary game of Polemos, This was first published in 1883, although I have reproduced the rules from a slightly later edition. Polemos is probably the earliest current contender for a wargame with model soldiers. It has the distinction of being a hobby game and realistic enough to be played at the RUSI the Royal United Services Institute in 1885.

There are other early wargames such as the game of war (1858) which uses counters on something like graph paper to arbitrate movement and the Invasion of Britain Wargame 1888 with its draughts like movement. The invasion of Britiain game was the first I have found with its clear political messages of do not build a channel tunnel and Britain is vulnerable to invasion.
Polemos may not keep the title of the earliest model soldier game. 19th Century Europe also had model soldiers and wargames. So perhaps the ‘New War Game of the War in Italy’ from 1860 with its 30mm semi-flats made by Allgeyer, might yet prove to the earliest wargame. I have not yet found a copy, so I reserve judgment at the moment.

I have several other early wargames from the 19th century and in the new year I will strive to get them into print.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Taxonomy of Defence Jargon

I was sent the following anonymously about current changes  in the UK MOD. The document attempts to include every piece of jargon that I have ever seen in the defence world and many that I have not. I think this particular piece is worthy of being recorded!

MOD TRANSFORMATION – HEADLINE UPDATE BRIEF

1. Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).  Left of centre, right of arc, flash to bang, the deep dive into the kinetic degradation of ground-based facilities has been conducted.  Despite reports that when the adversary smells flowers, he looks for the funeral, in actual fact there’s a lot of air in the sky and there’s been more heat than light crossing the impasse across the strategy landscape.  The paradigm shift of the glide path’s trajectory has been mitigated, socialised, dovetailed and is gaining traction into a functional decomposition of the problem.

2. Background.

a. Playing with a straight bat.  Checks and balances from the slop chit have been tossed into the sea to see if they float and both hot threads and major strands have been tied up with belts and braces leading to some seriously nutritional and protein-rich blue water downstream in the basin of priority.  Going forward to derisk our germane posture in the oxygenated vector, there are a number of generic worry beads and stray volts nested and couched in the backwash, but if you keep your powder dry and lean into the issue there’s no need to set the hares running or waste any heartbeats.

b. Hub of the problem.  Ground truthing, force sensing and heavy lifting have provided some positive dynamics attenuating energy projectile on this buoyant lily pad, leading into a space where we have covered off some other people’s sandwiches.  En passant, the calculus of the non-viable mission capability is something for Town to scope with 5, albeit we can wait that out until we’ve run the opening salvo to ground, got our ducks in a row, harvested the low hanging fruit, squared the circle, fitted a round peg in a round hole, and taken the crocodiles closest to the canoe off message.  It’s all about the dead cat bounce opportunity.

c. Showing a bit of leg.  Entre nous, the cognisant wolves nearest to the sledge are providing buckets of sub-optimal friction in the shifting sands of their swim lane, but with some thoughts and ideas they can be handed off to prevent the stovepipes going nuclear – and everyone knows that in a game of prep school football there’s no traction without friction anyway.  In this Spinal Tap scenario we can continue to ride these two horses at the same time, and not asking a question to which you won’t get an answer is always better than a custard pie.

3. Lines To Take (LTTs).

a. Dogs.  Given that the political atmosphere is so febrile, in our locale it is important not to step outside the policy box and into the generic media space across the piece, especially as most of these fundaments remain in the small box space of enhanced sensitivity.  On the subject of force projection and airframe generation, we must be reticent about releasing this excarnation of effects-based targeting more widely to wider Whitehall, and instead break out and excel in the area of augmentation and dimension management.  After all, everyone knows that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

b. Stray dogs.  In changing the dialogue’s pH balance, we must remain alive to a streamlined, zero sum battle rhythm and take stock at the stocktake by brigading our niche upticks of activity to ensure that the theory of change remains explicit from the outset.  The staccato mood music in the minimalist camp provides putative granularity, while a weather eye warrants a situating of the estimate in order to get greater fidelity and more bang for our buck.  The ambiguity of our posture and stance is quite constructive, but only if the nascent sidebar is segued and the blue sky thinking is expedited once the dust has settled.

c. Stray dogs with fleas.  This clique is clearly apposite to the clarity of communications, so long as the conditionality chimes and users appreciate that this is not a cost-cutting exercise: it is about delivering improved value for money within the same resource envelope.  There are a number of evolving and interconnected strands of activity echoing and resonating, seeking to relife discipline in the contingent space – but we must remain concise, relevant, focussed and to the point while ensuring the rigour is there.

4. Recommendations.

a. Carry the can.  We don't want anyone to throw their toys out of the pram completely on the grounds that this is a self-licking lolly pop, about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.  We must ensure that this reaches the lights-out parts of the organisation which are otherwise below the radar screen, because if we are going to hoot with the owls we have to be able to soar with the eagles, all the while remaining within our C2 – ensuring that everyone is singing from the same song sheet and kicking in the same chorus line (although not concurrently) in order to have an impactive approach.

b. Take one for the team.  There are tunes to be played here, and definite memories of the future.  We must look out for burning platforms and vapourware.  Don’t be a trouble magnet; be a shock absorber, not a lightning conductor.  Despite being on a sticky wicket, we must ensure we aren’t bowled a googly; instead we must throw them a spin pass to see if they catch it.

c. Roll over and take it.  Remember: pain heals; chicks dig scars; glory lasts forever.  There’s a bit of spaghetti to be done here, and if that fails don’t forget that bad things happen to bad people, unless they’re built like Japanese racing snakes in which case our OODA loop will be pounded and we’ll have to swallow our own smoke.  We may be on a piece of string here, but it’s simply a case of Press to Test.

d. Bend over and invite them to ‘Please Park Your Bicycle Here’.  As a heads up, this will be managed with a long screwdriver, so the wave of chaos will need to be surfed.  It may not be our train set, but we need to get the engine straight before we can get the carriages on track.  Hope is not a plan of action, but we should be able to leverage synergies and clean fatigue it nonetheless.  The bĂȘte noire of working with OGDs doesn’t need to be like being handcuffed to a toddler with ADD.  Don't lose the will to live – suck it up, and don't piss in your chips.

5. Summary.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul may seem a little Janet and John, but it could go Pete Tong (and let’s not forget that he’s an expeditionary plenipotentiary of considerable sand) – so be sure to put pedal to the metal when the rubber hits the road.  It is literally a Clapham omnibus test and 100% of the plan is subject to refinement: the market is open for bright ideas to be bottomed out.  Not wishing to cartoon it, this Question Four moment is high-octane stuff, and flying a kite is pretty aerodynamic: these are principles, not articles of faith.  We’ve all got skin in this game, so buoy rounding will be an important caveat to the strawman on whether we are to solutionise or soultioneer, but the two mission critical questions that most need to be tracked are: Who is holding the pen on this?; and Is the juice worth the squeeze?  In sum, that’s me climbing out of the pulpit for now, d’accord?

{Signed electronically on Dii}
J Argon MBE MSc BA FRAeS DiiF ASAP JPA RAF
Wg Cdr
SO1 Transformation Projection Taxonomy

Friday, 8 November 2013

New books on British Kriegsspiel and Bruce Quarrie's Wargamer's Guide to the Russian Campaign


The British Kriegsspiel (1872) The 1824 German Kriegsspiel game has been widely referred to as the start of modern professional wargaming. This book, aims to explore the British development of that early game in the 19th century. Much of the 170 pages of material has not been in the public domain since it was first published. The contents of this book include:

·         Map Manoeuvres: An Introduction to Kriegsspiel (1839)

·         The Rules for Kriegsspiel by Captain Baring (1872)

·         A newspaper report on the German Game of War (1878)

·         A discussion about how to create wargaming terrain in Aids to Kriegsspiel (1897)

·         The Dangers of Kriegsspiel and Political Officers (1899)

·         The problems with creating imaginary maps for war games (1888)

·         Bellum, an English Kriegsspiel Variant (1909)

·         The first medieval wargame in Kriegsspiel and the Teaching of Military History (1890)

·         The Game of Polemos as played at RUSI (1888)

·         A wargame with a political message, Lieutenant Henry Chamberlain's RN New Game of Invasion (1888)

Bruce Quarries's Tank Battles in Miniature Vol 2 A Wargamer's Guide to the Russian Campaign 1941-1945 is a reprint (225 pages) of one of Bruce Quarrie’s finest books.