Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

My current wargaming

Peter Merritt asked what wargaming we’re doing.  Mine could probably be best described as a return to my roots of toy soldier games albeit in a campaign / mini-campaign context and mostly 19th century.  I think I’ve tired of what I’d describe as the common format of ‘stab-each other in the back’ games, thus my attempts at cooperative games such as Peking Duck.

I’ve continued with figure games over the years in the company of consenting adults (never, NEVER, play with overly-competitive individuals, the history and fun will just go out the window) but also solo, a format enjoying a boom at the moment (modesty forbids me mentioning an article on the topic in the next issue of Miniature Wargames).  I still like the ‘spectacle’ of model soldiers on the table which has an enjoyment all of its own despite how good map games such as the pre-armistice 1813 game can be.  I’ve certainly considered doing more in that line, the stumbling block being the amount of effort the maps require.

Current projects include the Indian Mutiny and the War of 1812 (in North America).  I still enjoy reading accounts and doing the analysis to determine the crucial aspects which capture the character and flavour of the period, then designing the game.  One-off tabletop battles tend to be a bit ‘so what’ and a campaign context means you know what you’re trying to achieve and the importance of retreating when you’re losing rather than fighting to the last man.  Making the various levels of command have character also makes for an entertaining struggle to keep control of a battle when a brigadier general might be described as “a soldier on occasion” or as having “never won a battle nor lost a court martial”.

I’ve long been interested in the War of 1812 as it’s quite an odd little war.  Both sides struggle with a lack of resources and competent generals.  The Americans particularly struggle with the internal political opposition to the war and a tendency to appoint people based on their political loyalties rather than any military ability.  On a frontier some 800+ miles long, bodies of a few hundred men make a big difference and the largest battles involve only a few thousand on each side.  As the frontier runs along the Great Lakes there’s an interesting naval game where every ship has to be built on a lakeside.   I think there’s potential for a couple of interesting games at Chestnut tackling the resource problems and deciding on strategy, particularly in the context of the politics on the American side, as I develop the system.

On the back burner there’s the thought of another peace treaty game to follow Congress of Berlin (which Dave plans to use as a test bed for a virtual game prior to trying his Washington Conference), this time the Treaty of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War.  Those who consider that:

could be over-the-top, might like to consider that the congress met in two places, Osnabruck and Munster (one Catholic, one Protestant), took six months to decide where everyone should sit and in what order they would enter the rooms and six months later settled down to decide what the war was being fought for and what subjects the peace conference should cover…


  1. Peter Merritt

    Very interesting – as ever; thanks Brian.

    One strand which seems to be in most of my designs/thinking now is a similar ‘manage NPC subordinates’ set of problems. Starting back with the Shanandoah Valley then my WW1 Eastern Front megagames, and now my draft rules for both 1745, ACW and AWI, I like to create mini ‘proiles’ for the sub-cmdrs. This adds a huge amount of flavour to what is happening (or not) with little actual overhead in turn-processing speed. And in some ways, getting everyone finally fighting (someone, somewhere) is almost a relief!

    I still hanker to run one of the mid/later ACW ops out West which features the accidental ‘collision’ of forces led by a collection of utter incompetents who were too important/connected to sack and had thus been sidelined from the main armies into an apparent safe zone where even they could not get into trouble…… Wonderful!!!

  2. Terry Martin

    Fascinating on Westphalia, makes me think of all the wranglings over the table shape and size in Paris at the end of the Vietnam war

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