Monday, 17 January 2011

Victorian War Game sells for £4,800!

It is very rare that wargames and wargaming get a mention in the UK media, but today was an exception. During this morning's edition of the BBC's TODAY programme, there was an almost four-minute long discussion about the sale, by auction at Bonhams this afternoon, of a British boxed war game dating from the late 1880s/early 1890s.

Luke Honey (Bonhams chess and games consultant) and Major-General Patrick Cordingley (who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade during the First Gulf War) were questioned about the game by Evan Davis.

It subsequently sold for £4,800!

The game is housed in a lockable mahogany box, and contains:
  • Six hundred Red and Blue playing pieces that represent Infantry, Cavalry, Mounted Infantry, Horse Artillery, Sappers, and Machine Gun Units
  • Two ivory rulers
  • Two pairs of compasses
  • Two ivory dice
  • Two pairs of callipers
  • A red leather-covered dice shaker
  • Some coloured pegs
  • A wooden ruler
No maps or original rules are included with the box, but a facsimile copy of the RULES FOR THE CONDUCT OF THE WAR-GAME, 1884 (reprinted 1889) was provided by the seller. (Perhaps they could have invested in a copy of VERDY'S FREE KRIEGSPIEL (1876) AND THE VICTORIAN ARMY'S 1896 KRIEGSPIEL WARGAME RULES from John Curry! They only cost £12.50!)

It makes my portable wargame look very cheap by comparison … but at least mine contains everything that you need to fight a battle!

PS. If you get a chance, try to listen to the interview. It contains some wonderful quotes such as 'The Prussians were very good at this strategy sort of thing ...’ Priceless!

12 comments:

  1. I heard that item while driving to Teeside this morning. There was a mention before 8am of 'a Victorian wargame' amoung the reports coming in the following hour. I switched off the satnav the better to listen to it. Interesting stuff.

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  2. Thanks for reporting this. We in western Canada (and most of the rest of the world) would never else have heard of it.


    -- Jeff

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  3. Tim Gow,

    I heard the trail for the item as I arrived at work, rushed in, logged on the my computer, and listened to it online.

    The wonders of technology!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  4. Bluebear Jeff,

    I am glad that you found it of interest.

    Considering that the set was incomplete, and the expected price was less than £2,000, it was surprising that it sold for £4,800.

    Mind you, if I had had the money, I would have put in a bid myself for this piece of wargaming history.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. On a similar vein, have you ever seen this?

    http://www.boardgamestudies.info/pdf/issue3/BGS3Hilgers.pdf

    Sadly the PDF is in german, but if you scroll down a page or so you'll be rewarded with pictures of the most beautiful kriegspiel table, which was made for King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in 1812.

    The hand painted square terrain tiles instantly made me think of your portable wargame project. While the king had several trays of tiles, I reckon you could get an acceptable variety of layouts by making the 64 tiles needed to fill a chessboard double-sided.

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  6. Dr Vesuvius,

    Thank you for the link. I had seem it - or something very like it - before, and I don't think that it would be too difficult to make something similar.

    Your idea about using double-sided terrain tiles (as used in 'Memoir '44' and 'Battle Cry') makes a lot of sense, and I would certainly give it a try ... if only I had enough time.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. BigLee,

    It was my pleasure.

    I wonder how many wargamers who saw this was for sale thought - like me - 'If only I had won the National Lottery last week ...'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Bob,
    I had already seen an article about this item some weeks ago in the Metro, where a 'humorous' piece suggested that this was an original example of the game played by General Melchett in Blackadder, and lamented that it was clearly a poor preparation for the trench warfare of 1914-18, lions led by donkeys &c. &c., conveniently ignoring the fact that this is an English version of the Prussian Kriegsspiel.
    Bill Leeson published a facsimile booklet of the 1884 English rules years ago; I'm not sure if the Two Fat Lardies have republished it, as they did the original von Reisswitz 1824 rules.
    Returning to your portable, chess grid based wargame, the illustration on page 206 of Don Featherstone's Advanced Wargames, although illustrating a device for creating maps for tabletop battles, might suggest an approach you could adopt.

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  9. Arthur1815,

    I suppose that we can hardly expect the 'Metro' to treat a wargaming story seriously. After all, it is owned by the same people who produce one of the country's leading 'Red Tops'.

    I have a copy of Bill Leeson's facsimile booklet of the 1884 English rules (and it has become quite well-thumbed over the years), but I was unaware that the Two Fat Lardies had also published it.

    I had forgotten about the picture in Don Featherstone's 'Advanced War Games' that you mention in your comment ... but having looked at, it is - as you say - a very viable option for me to follow.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Double sided tiles already used by Memoir '44 and Battle Cry?

    And there was me thinking this was a new old idea, when it turns out to just be an old new idea instead :-)

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  11. Dr Vesuvius,

    I suppose it only goes to prove that there is nothing new under the Sun!

    All the best,

    Bob

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