Monday, 8 October 2012

War-Chess or The Game of Battle

In response to one of my recent blog entries about putting wargames rules onto my Kindle, Steve-the-Wargamer contacted me with details about some rules that were already available online. He subsequently wrote a blog entry about what he had already found.

One of the books Steve-the-Wargamer included on his list was WAR-CHESS OR THE GAME OF BATTLE. It was 'invented' by Colonel Charles Richardson who published the rules in book form in 1866. As I am interested in the history of wargaming (and early wargames in particular) I searched for more information about the book ... and discovered that a spiral-bound A5-size photocopy reproduction was on sale in the UK for a very modest sum. I bought a copy ... and it has just been delivered by post!


The game is in fact quite simple. There are two sides; The Attacking (or Invading) Army and the Defending Army.

The Attacking Army has:
  • Four figure that each represent a Light Infantry Regiment;
  • Five figures that each represent a Infantry of the Line Regiment;
  • Two figures that each represent a Cavalry Regiment;
  • Two figures that each represent an Artillery Battery;
  • One figure (a wagon) that represents the 'Supply Train'
The objective of the Attacking Army is to capture the Citadel.

The Defending Army has:
  • Four figure that each represent a Light Infantry Regiment;
  • Five figures that each represent a Infantry of the Line Regiment;
  • Two figures that each represent a Cavalry Regiment;
  • Two figures that each represent an Artillery Battery;
  • One figure that represents the 'Citadel'
The objective of the Defending Army is to prevent the capture of the Citadel.

The rules are similar to chess in that each type of 'piece' has different movement. For example:
  • Light Infantry can move one, two, or three squares directly forward, right or left obliquely, and one or two squares in any other direction.
  • Infantry of the Line can move one or two squares in any direction.
  • Cavalry can move one, two, or three squares in any direction.
  • Artillery can move one, two, or three squares diagonally.
Each type of 'piece' also has different fighting abilities. For example:
  • Light Infantry, Infantry of the Line, and Cavalry can 'take' Light Infantry, Infantry of the Line, Cavalry, and Artillery.
  • Artillery can 'take' Artillery. It cannot 'take' Light Infantry, Infantry of the Line, or Cavalry, but can 'block' them.
Unlike in chess, in War-Chess the board does not have its squares set out orthogonally; instead they are set out diagonally.


What immediately struck me about the layout of the board is that it would seem to combine some of the advantages of a hexed grid with those of a traditional orthogonally-organised squared grid ... and I wonder why orientating the grid diagonally has never occurred to me before.


I think that I might have to lie down in a darkened room for an hour or two as this 'revelation' has given me pause for thought regarding quite a few of the wargame design ideas that I currently have whirling around in my brain!

21 comments:

  1. A serendipitous "Happy Thanksgiving" to you, sir. (today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada).


    -- Jeff

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  2. Bluebear Jeff,

    A happy Thanksgiving Day to you as well.

    I oly wish that we had something like itin the UK!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Bob,
    Thanks for the info on this book. I've just ordered a copy and look forward to trying it out. I think I'll make small bases with several figures thereon to represent each unit, rather than using single figures, which - IMHO - just looks too 'gamey'.
    Arthur

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  4. Hi Bob,

    I had forgotten to mention this title that I picked up via Ebay just after you went to the US. It certainly looks interesting and tend to agree with Arthur - bases/units of figures would look better.

    Looks very interesting though.

    All the best,

    DC

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  5. I just *knew* that was right up your street... :o))

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  6. Arthur1815,

    I think that you will enjoy reading the book and using the rules ... after a few modifications!

    I think that multi-figures bases would look much better than just using single figures. I suspect that when the book was first published the figures used would have been German-made 40mm ones ... and that these could easily be replaced by a base with 3 or 4 15mm-scale figures ... or even some of the older plastic RISK figures.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. David Crook,

    If you had not already got a copy I would have recommended that you bought one!

    I agree about the use of multi-figure bases; much more aesthetically pleasing to use.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    Am I really that predictable?

    That said, you were bang on the nail with this recommendation. Thank you very much for suggesting it!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Does the diagonal layout actually matter since the game (based on the last image) lets you move diagonally on the diagonal grid (or straight)?

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  10. SAROE,

    In essence you are quite right … but it does give a longer move distance to units going forward that those moving on the diagonal, which is one of the major arguments against using a grid on which the squares are orthogonal.

    My first reaction was ... why had I never considered turning the grid so that it ran diagonally? It gives the appearance of being like a hexed grid but is as simple to draw/create as a squared grid.

    Since then I have had a serious think about it ... and have decided to stick with the more conventional grids for the time being. I have, however, filed the idea away for possible future use.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Really interesting how the diagonal gives you a three square field of fire or front that seems much like a hex grid. Much to ponder on here for sure. Really nice find Bob!

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  12. Littlejohn,

    The diagonal grid certainly has advantages that I would like to explore at some stage ... but of the moment I want to try to get at least one of my current projects finished first!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Bob, this sounds very much like a forerunner of a German game called "FRIEGUR - the wargame for fortress and flag" which was published in 1934 by a veteran of WW1, which has both horizontal and diagonal squares on the board.

    Best wishes, Brian

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  14. Brian Carrick,

    Thanks for this information. I suspect that if one looks closely enough there is very little that is genuinely new when it comes to game design.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. Friegur

    Looks interesting but..
    http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/4614157

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  16. Nigel Drury,

    Very nice ... and I'll buy it ... if I win the National Lottery!

    I wonder how much it will eventually sell for?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. Hello, I recently bought a reissue of richardson's war-chess book. May I contact you for a request for clarification: I don't understand what are the specificities of forts, compared with the bridge? Thank you!

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  18. Tercio,

    I would be very pleased to help you, but it would be best it you contacted me early next month as I don't have my copy of the book to hand.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  19. Hello, I am back with the same old question abouts Fords an Bridge. I don't read anything about it on the book, so I don't undestand what are their specificities... Could you help me ?

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    Replies
    1. Tercio,

      From my reading of the rules, the only impact that bridges and fords have is that a unit cannot cross a river anywhere else ... and even this has to be deduced from an aside in one of the sentences in the text.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Ok, thanks a lot. So we understand the same...

      Delete