Friday, 15 November 2019

Naval wargames in the early days of the missile era

Since its earliest days, the United States Naval War College has had a history of using wargames to train officers, and with the dawn of the missile age in the 1960s, it developed a set of wargame rules that reflected the impact of missiles on naval combat. These have now been published by John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' Project, and I recently bough a copy.

It is thought that UNITED STATES NAVAL WAR COLLEGE MANUAL WARGAMING (1969): WARGAMES AT THE START OF THE MISSILE ERA was written by Frank McHugh, who worked in the War Gaming Department from 1934 to 1974, with a break during the Second World War during which he served with Patton's Third Army.

The book originally had an Introduction, five chapters, and seven appendices:
  • I. Introduction: Purpose and Contents
  • II. Pregame Procedures
  • III. Damage Assessment
  • IV. The War Game
  • V. A Sample War Game
  • Appendix I. Formats for Status Boards
  • Appendix II. Weapon Employment and Damage Assessment Forms
  • Appendix III. Damage Assessment Tables
  • Appendix IV. Damage Assessment Rules
  • Appendix V. Damage Assessment Flow Charts
  • Appendix VI. Surface-to-Air Missile Assessment Procedures
  • Appendix VII. Sample Table of Random Numbers
This book contains all the information a group of wargamers would want to be able to set up a battle using these rules. The layout of the game is described in detail in II. Pregame Procedures, and III. Damage Assessment explains how the damage caused by combat is assessed and recorded. The rules are relatively simple, and deal mainly with the Basic War Game Cycle (i.e. Decision Phase, Action Phase, Measurement Phase, Evaluation Phase, and Information Phase). It also places emphasis on the recording of what has happened by the Control Group's designated historian, as this is seen as a vital element for the follow-up critique of the wargame.

The example included in the book makes it very easy to understand how the rules work, and the inclusion of all the necessary forms and tables ensures that the book is a complete package as far as any potential users are concerned.

One final thing; this was a book written by professionals for professionals, and may not appeal to the average wargamer. However, its style and layout are an example to anyone who write wargames rules, and it has certainly given me a few ideas as to how to improve the way I present my rules to the wargaming public.

UNITED STATES NAVAL WAR COLLEGE MANUAL WARGAMING (1969): WARGAMES AT THE START OF THE MISSILE ERA was edited by John Curry and published in 2019 by the 'History of Wargaming' Project (ISBN 978 0 244 51764 9).


  1. I'm rather taken with the emphasis upon post-game follow-up, and the importance of the recorded history of a game. I rather think I would enjoy the role of Control Group 'historian'.

    Now, when I first read that, I misunderstood it slightly, thinking more in terms of, say 'Fleet historian', a role designated to a member of each team of players. I imagine the respective accounts would make intriguing reading and post-mortem discussion.

    That really is the one thing I miss from my old wargaming days of yore: the post-battle 'analysis'...

    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      I can remember a number of instances years ago when there were complaints sent in to wargame magazines about the number of battle reports they were publishing ... and yet they were something that I always enjoyed reading ... and still do!

      One of the joys of blogging is that it lends itself to writing up battle reports, which are - I suppose - the hobby equivalent of the record that would have been produced by the Control Group's historian. I certainly enjoy reading yours, and I know from comments I have received that the ones I have written always get a good reception.

      In Wargame Developments we don't publish battle reports of COW sessions, but we do encourage what are known as offside reports to be written by session participants. (The report written by the person running a session is known as the onside report.) These can lead to some very interesting post-session analysis, and the spin-offs from that have helped in the development of many new ideas.

      All the best,


  2. Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      It sounds as if your wallet is going to get a bit of a bashing over the coming weeks!

      All the best,


  3. Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      Maybe? A certain ‘Yes!’ If I know you!

      All the best,



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