John Bassett – another stalwart member of Wargame Developments and an Associate Fellow of RUSI – has been doing some research, and found an abstract from the eighth international colloquium of the International Society for Board Game Studies, which was held at Oxford in 2005. The abstract is from a paper about JAQUES BOARD GAMES, 1850-1900 by Richard Ballam. It states that:
In 1885 Polemos (second edition) was played at the Royal United Service Institution and awarded a prize medal at the International Inventions Exhibition.
He has also found some excellent photographs of what appears to be a complete POLEMOS game on THE GAMES BOARD website.
Nick Huband has also been pursuing his researches into POLEMOS and found an article from THE TIMES that was seemingly reprinted in a New Zealand newspaper, dated 1885. The article states that:
Under the name of Polemos, a new war game has been invented, and was exhibited at the offices of the United Services Gazette, the other day. It may be described as a kind of military chess, and can be played on a dining table on which is spread a cloth which is marked off in two-inch squares and representing a battlefield ten miles by five. The “pieces” are made of lead, and represent each arm of the service. The players have each an equal number of pieces, and reserves in boxes, and a very instructive game may be played by two or more players. In the game just played no obstructions like rivers, bridges, hills or forests were used, but the inventor explained that these can be added when desired, so as to represent with tolerable accuracy a real battlefield. The moves are sufficiently simple to enable young officers to play the game with very little practice, and the combinations often become sufficiently intricate to interest even field officers. The Mechanics Institute should at once send home an order for a complete outfit for the game of Polemos.
It appears that a Lt.-Col. G.J.R. Glünicke – the author of THE CAMPAIGN IN BOHEMIA 1866 and THE NEW GERMAN FIELD EXERCISE – was also the author of the wargame.
I have also not been idle, and found the following article in a copy of the OTAGO DAILY TIMES of 1899. It states that:
A new wargame called “Polemos” has been invented by Dr Griffith, of Brighton. A sheet, divided into inch squares by red lines, is spread on a table, each inch square representing 440 yards. Under this are built up hills or downs; roads, rivers, woods, enclosed grounds, bridges, but not ravines or valleys, are laid out from a map or from fancy, so that the nature of the terrain can be varied illimitably. Towns or villages are represented, and all arms of the service are shown by little coloured leaden blocks. A curtain hides one side of the sheet from the officer commanding the other. He makes his dispositions in secrecy, but is allowed to see a mile and a-half into his enemy’s lines, unless he gains the top of a hill, when he may see three miles. When the troops come into contact gains or losses are claimed by this side or that, and the umpire awards them, although an umpire is not necessary as at the ordinary war game. In fact, the game decides itself. There is no element of chance in it. A move has its consequences, as at chess and in actual warfare. There would seem to be, in a word, as endless an opportunity of combination as in a real campaign. But the objection made to the war game has been applied to Polemos. It is more apt to teach strategy than tactics, and minor tactics scarcely enter into it. At the same time it lends itself to dash, decision, “nerve”, as well as caution, foresight, and the calculation of consequences. The maps in a war game have to be in triplicate, or, at the lowest, in duplicate. A model necessarily occupies a great deal of space. Polemos can be played on an ordinary dining table. The whole apparatus is packed in a box 18in by 12, by about 10in, and it costs only £4 15s. It has, it is stated, been adopted at the Cadet College of Prussia. The game seems to be best played by two persons, but it would be more useful if played by three a side – one to plan, one to execute the movements, and one to learn the moves and the rules, so as to be able without further instruction to take his side in playing the game on some other occasion. Since the game was shown at the Royal Military Exhibition at Chelsea the rules have been much improved.
This article seems to be describing a war game with the same name as that produce by Jaques of London, but it may be a later derivation or possibly even a competitor.
All-in-all, the more I find out about POLEMOS the more my interest grows, especially as my own original portable wargame bears a passing resemblance to that featured in the photographs John Bassett has unearthed.
The game was called POLEMOS, and apparently it featured in a tournament played at RUSI (the Royal United Service Institute) in 1885. Further research has indicated that the game was commercially produced by Jaques, a company that still exists today and that specialises in high-quality indoor and outdoor games.
I am very interested to know more about this game, and I have contacted Jaques to find out if they can supply any further details. In the meantime I understand that Nick Huband has been in contact with RUSI, and they are also interested in find out more about this ‘lost’ wargame.
More news as and when it comes in …
At the current rate, this task is going to take me several evenings to complete, and visits to both my father and father-in-law are going to seriously eat into the time that is available … but at least I have made a start!
At work, the dreaded NSS is now finally completed, and the paperwork and marked scripts are on their way to the external verifier by courier. I understand that letters have been sent to all teachers who’s January AS and A2 examination results were below par, and that have been warned that the courses that they teach may be downgraded or removed from next year’s curriculum offer. This is no doubt a foretaste of what is to come, and the situation will become clearer after the Principal talks to the whole staff at a special staff meeting on Thursday after school ends.
I am now looking forward to what I hope will be a bit more free time in the run-up to Easter. The school’s Easter holidays start on Friday 8th April and the last day is Monday 25th April, and I can hardly wait for the break. I have lots of things that I want to do during that fortnight … including some wargaming!
Having heard that my job may well be on the line, I went home, picked my wife up, and drove to Ashford to see my father-in-law … who seems to be feeling a bit better today. It was nice to hear some good news, and things got even better when I opened my post and found that a DVD of CALLAN – WET JOB had been delivered. This was a one-off TV programme that was produced in 1981, and it was the last appearance Edward Woodward made as David Callan. Although Callan has retired from ‘The Section’, has a new identity, and is now running a militaria shop, he is recalled by ‘Hunter’ (the head of ‘The Section’) to undertake one last job.
I am looking forward to watching this DVD in the near future … and if the Principal does ‘cull’ the staff, I may have plenty of time to do so.
I cannot ever remember this happening to me before, and it probably shows how much recent events have ‘thrown’ me out of kilter. So rather than spend some time this morning writing the new draft of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules, I am off to do some of the things I have to do.
The show was held at the Royal National Hotel in Russell Square, and was organised by King and County. Although I was only able to stay for just over an hour, Tim Gow – who was working on one of the stands – sold me enough figures to form my first LITTLE WARS infantry unit, and we were able to have a coffee in a nearby café with my nephew Jonathan, who is currently a student of Chinese and Tibetan at SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies).
I enjoyed my visit to this show, and I will try to go to the next one when it takes place. I got lots of inspiration for my project … and all I need to do now to begin work on it is to paint the figures I have bought.