Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

History is Rewritten by Avid Wargamers

(NEA Travel-Recreation Writer)1

We now have with us a game growing so complicated that it will one day require a computer for efficient play.

Ever hear of “wargaming”?

Last August, this elite hobby came of age at Lake Geneva, Wis. The second national convention of the International Federation of Wargaming was held there. Several hundred attended and the hobby problem now is growth, rather than2 survival.

Wargamers at play do their best to rewrite3 history. A number of firms manufacture game boards which recreate historic battles, like Gettysburg, Waterloo, D-Day or Battle of the Bulge.

“The hobby has established itself as chess, checkers and bridge have done before,” says Leonard Lakofka, a vice-president of the international federation. “However, the hobby allows for variation and complexity these other games only hoped for.”

In its simplest form, the game is played on an authentic layout of the battleground in question. Summoning knowledge and strategic brain power, two opponents, or teams of opponents, mastermind the clash of arms all over again4. The original troops, supplies and machines5 of war are deployed6 in the form of stacks of cardboard markers.

Clashes occur when piles intercept each other on the battlefield grid. Complex rules involving tossing dice add an element of chance — though this element is supplementary to the skill involved.

Even so, a computer would help.

“In naval warfare, for example,” says Lakofka, “ship A fires on ship B in one of the more basic situations7. There are 13 factors, at least, that must be decided yes-no to arrive at the outcome. By hand calculation, it takes three people 30 minutes to resolve the battle of 40 ships, using four charts, dice and probability tables, plus a slide rule or two.”

There are endless complications which experts can add to other versions of the game. That seems to be the magnet which draws the fan and not warmongering, even though it is true that, in its infancy, the hobby was characterized by teen-agers, who founded clubs with military names, officers and medals to award.

“We are sick and tired of hearing from nutty bleeding hearts that our games foster the climate analogous with aggression,” states an item in the periodic, “The General,” published by Avalon Hill, makers of many of the popular war-game kits.

With a might learned, no doubt, by hours of battlefield maneuvering — in miniature — Lakofka drops a salvo on the same target.

“Competition is the fascination. After all, in war man is most competitive and the players use it as a release.”

Historians reinforce his argument. They have concluded that chess was invented by Buddhists of India as a substitute for combat because their religion held life as supremely precious, not to be taken under any circumstances8.

Avalon Hill’s “The General” is one of the best of a number of periodicals which interweave the interests of about 20,000 wargamers. Readers submit scholarly articles on phases of strategy and tactics, write letters arguing with the rule-makers and advertise for opponents, either “pbm” — play by mail — or “ftf” — face to face.

Gary Gygax, a Chicago insurance executive who is a federation officer, can tally up the score with one quote from Winston Churchill: “What happened is singular; what might have happened is legion.”

So the wargamers keep exercising their new version of chess on the singular events of the past — meanwhile dreaming of how much more complicated their games could be if a computer were used.

—As it appeared in the December 24, 1969, Carroll Daily Times Herald (PNG, 618.0 KB), page 2, with notes on its appearance in other papers.

In response to Gygax and Lakofka on Wargaming in 1969: Jim Crossley reports on wargaming’s bright future—and the need for computerization—after the second GenCon. His article appeared in a handful of newspapers over the 1969-1970 holiday season, with quotes from Lenard Lakofka and Gary Gygax.

  1. NEA is, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, the Newspaper Enterprise Association.

  2. The Beckley Post-Herald typos this as “tna”.

  3. The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph typos this as “do their best rewrote”.

  4. Misspelled in the Carroll Daily Times as “gain”; the other articles use the correct spelling.

  5. In the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, “machine”.

  6. Misspelled “depolyed" in The Sedalia Democrat.

  7. In the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph, “sitations”.

  8. ”Circu stances” in The Sedalia Democrat.