Polemos: The search produces results!

The search for more details about POLEMOS has seemingly developed a life of its own, with numerous emails flying about between interested parties, including some of the staff of RUSI (the Royal United Services Institute).

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.

In search of Polemos …

Yesterday Nick Huband (whose excellent Battle of Homs play-test of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules was featured in a recent blog entry) sent me a scanned image of an illustration from a copy an ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS published in November 1888. It showed several distinguished looking gentlemen (two of whom are very obviously military officers) playing a wargame on a gridded battlefield.

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 …

PS. As far as I know, the rules used to play the Jaques wargame POLEMOS are not the same as the POLEMOS wargame rules produced by Baccus6mm.

The portable wargame: Progress at last!

Last night I was actually able to spend half an hour redrafting the nineteenth century version of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules so that they are easier to understand and incorporate some of the ideas and mechanisms that were in the twentieth century version of the rules.

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!

Back on the road again …

Last night my wife and I visited my father-in-law in hospital. It appears that the fracture in his pelvis is likely to heal within five to six weeks and that he should be able to return home before then.

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!

Things can only get better … I hope!

I was just about to leave work this evening to visit my father-in-law in hospital in Ashford when I was summoned to a very late notice faculty meeting. The only item on the agenda was the impact of the recent January AS and A2 examination results upon the future of the school. It appears that the Principal is under pressure to make significant changes, and the examination results are going to play a major part in the academic review that the senior management team is currently undertaking. It looks as if some existing courses – and therefore the staff who teach them – are very likely to be ‘chopped’ in the very near future.

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.

Caught out by British Summer Time!

I have a lot of things that I planned to do today, and I set my alarm to wake me up early to make sure I had plenty of time to do what I had to do and to give me some time to do things that I wanted to do … but I forgot that British Summer Time started last night and that the clocks went forward an hour!

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 London Toy Soldier Show

When I was told about this show by Tim Gow earlier in the week, I had planned to go along in the hope that I could buy enough 54mm figures to form an infantry unit for my LITTLE WARS project … and then real life intervened and my plans were put on hold. This morning my wife told me that she thought that I needed a break and that it would do me good to go to the Toy Soldier Show … so I did!

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.

The portable wargame: Another play-tester!

In the midst of dealing with my father-in-law’s fall and subsequent stay in hospital, I almost missed reading an email from an old friend and fellow member of Wargame Developments – Nick Huband – about his play-test of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules. The following part of his email is reproduced with his permission:

I’ve been following your chessboard wargames with a great deal of interest, there’s a peculiar charm about a game in such a small space, reminiscent of a miniature painting.

Anyway, coming to the point, I dug out a piece of mdf that was 450mm square, sprayed it up and gridded it. Last night I tried out your Frontier/Musket rules with my 1839 Turks & Egyptians using a scenario loosely based on the Battle of Homs in 1832.

The game ran well and the rules were quite clear. One thing that struck me was that combat was very bloody with the cavalry on both sides pretty well wiping each other out early on. Artillery was pretty lethal too. I was wondering whether the introduction of some sort of saving throw might ease this a little. If 5 or 6 was thrown for a unit under fire or a 4, 5 or 6 for a unit in close combat then the unit is not destroyed but is pushed back one square, possibly with a loss in combat power next turn?

Nick has made some interesting observations, and I will give his suggestions some thought, although the ideas I am currently working on will – I think – deal with the problems he has identified.

Besides his email, he also sent me some photographs of his battle, and I have reproduced them below with his permission.

I must admit that the board that he has made does make the whole thing look much more like a wargame, and is very much in keeping with the game’s Morschauser ‘roots’.

I like driving in my car …

Over the last few days I seem to have spent a large part of my time driving round the county of Kent. I have been to Herne Bay four times, Ashford twice, and Maidstone and Rochester once each.

Yesterday my wife and I went to Herne Bay to collect some personal bits and pieces that my father-in-law needs whilst he remains in hospital. We also spent several hours cleaning and tidying up his house. When my father-in-law fell over, he was carrying a full mug of hot drinking chocolate which seems to have gone everywhere when he fell, and which had dried hard on the floor and walls. He had also bled from several cuts and abrasions, and the dried blood stains also required quite a lot of work to remove them.

We finally got to Ashford to visit my father-in-law in hospital, only to find that he was having a CT scan. We had to wait for an hour before he returned to his bed space, but despite the pain and discomfort he was in, he was well enough to complain about the food!

The diagnosis is that he has a small fracture in his hip that should heal without the need for surgery. He will have to undergo physiotherapy to help him recover from his accident, and the staff are going to undertake a care assessment on Monday to determine what level of support he will need when he returns home. He also has a chest infection that they are treating with antibiotics.

My wife and I are going to visit him again this afternoon. Although he is the oldest person in his hospital ward, he is the most alert and mentally active and we think that as long as he stays like that, his recovery should be quite swift.

PS. For those of you who did not recognise it, the title for this blog entry comes from a song recorded by the band ‘Madness’. It seemed appropriate as it describes the way my life seems to be at the moment!

Life is like a box of chocolates …

If Forrest Gump was correct, my wife and I seem to be getting all hard centres and unpopular flavours at the moment.

After taking my father-in-law to the funeral of his lady friend on Wednesday, we went back to her son’s house for several hours. My father-in-law was quite upset by the funeral, and when he was ready to leave, we took him home to Herne Bay. Normally we would then have stayed with him to make sure that he was all right, but he made it very obvious that he wanted to be alone, so we left and went home.

On Thursday evening, after she had returned home from work, my wife tried to telephone her father several times to find out how he was … and got no reply. By the time I got home, she was growing increasingly concerned. She finally made contact just after 6.00pm … and discovered that he had fallen over within thirty minutes of us leaving on Wednesday, had spent some time on the kitchen floor before being able to drag himself into his bedroom and on to his bed, and that he was now sitting in his armchair in his living room, unable to move. By 6.15pm we were driving to his house, and by 7.15pm we were there and had insisted that we call an ambulance to take him to hospital.

The ambulance arrived very promptly, and after he was assessed by the paramedic, they arranged for him to be taken to hospital. This was, however, not as straight forward as it should have been. The nearest Accident and Emergency centre is at Margate, but they had no beds available if he needed to be kept in overnight. The next nearest hospital – the Kent and Canterbury – did not have the facilities to deal with his sort of injury, so in the end we were sent to Ashford.

My wife went with her father in the ambulance, and in the words of the song ‘I followed on’. Once we got to Ashford, my father-in-law was whisked into the Accident and Emergency Department, whilst my wife and I were delayed trying to find enough money to pay for the visitor’s car park!

We finally found my father-in-law in the Accident and Emergency Department, where he waited for some time before he was given an initial assessment. He was then sent for an x-ray on his hip, and when the doctor had examined both my father-in-law and the x-ray, he announced that the hip was fractured. He also expressed concern that my father-in-law may have picked up a secondary chest infection during the previous night whilst he had been incapacitated on the floor for some hours, and he was sent for further x-rays. He was finally admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay – just after midnight – so that further tests could be carried out and a full assessment of his needs be made. We then drove home … and once there we both collapsed into a deep and dreamless sleep.

My wife and I are now preparing to set off for the hospital to find out how my father-in-law is feeling today, and to begin the process of sorting out what will happen next.

Perhaps tomorrow will bring a soft-centre … but somehow, I doubt it.