Wednesday, 30 March 2011

In search of Polemos ...

Yesterday Nick Huband (whose excellent Battle of Homs play-test of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules was featured in a recent blog entry) sent me a scanned image of an illustration from a copy an ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS published in November 1888. It showed several distinguished looking gentlemen (two of whom are very obviously military officers) playing a wargame on a gridded battlefield.

The game was called POLEMOS, and apparently it featured in a tournament played at RUSI (the Royal United Service Institute) in 1885. Further research has indicated that the game was commercially produced by Jaques, a company that still exists today and that specialises in high-quality indoor and outdoor games.

I am very interested to know more about this game, and I have contacted Jaques to find out if they can supply any further details. In the meantime I understand that Nick Huband has been in contact with RUSI, and they are also interested in find out more about this 'lost' wargame.

More news as and when it comes in ...

PS. As far as I know, the rules used to play the Jaques wargame POLEMOS are not the same as the POLEMOS wargame rules produced by Baccus6mm.

22 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,

    I love that picture! Another historical wargame on a grid? Wow! That will be very interesting if anythng turns up on it. I hope your research bears fruit and I am sure if it does news of such will appear on the blog - and I can't wait to see that!

    All the best (and in hopeful anticipation)

    DC

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  2. Very interesting . . . hopefully more information will come to light.


    -- Jeff

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  3. Fascinating - I'll watch out for more on this. Good to see the players in the illustration are approaching the game with all due seriousness. They also seem to be using the cloth-over-blocks approach for hills, which in my experience makes for a lot of falling over on slopes.

    I love the hourglass - that is really classy. So much so that - even though I don't have timed moves - I'm going to try to get a vintage hourglass for my wargames room. Snag with an hourglass is you also need to employ an hourglass wallah to watch it and shout out when the sand is all gone.

    Tony

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  4. David Crook,

    Information is already coming in from a variety of sources ... so watch this space (as they say)!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Bluebear Jeff,

    I have been told that a set is still in existence, and I am trying to get hold of some pictures to see what it actually looked like.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. I am looking forward to hearing more of this. Wonderful to see information on pre 914 gaming slowly coming together.

    I note the timer on the table. I wish it was a compulsory piece of equipment for all wargames.

    John

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  7. MSFoy,

    It is a wonderfully evocative illustration, and in itself would make me want to find out more about the game.

    From the description I have read, you are right about the 'cloth over hills' method used, and it will be interesting to find out how they coped with the problems that are usually associated with the cloth creasing and figures falling over on the slopes.

    As using an hourglass to time the moves ... well it is so in keeping with the era that I can see why using one – or even just having one available for use – is an incentive to buy one for one's wargames room ... and to acquire an hourglass wallah to go with it!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Despite a deep antipathy to gridded wargame tables I'm hooked... the picture is very interesting... I noted the hour glass (timed moves?) as per others, but I'm also interested in the purpose of the wedges that appear on the table - sometimes upright and sometimes flat... I also note the casualty figures.....

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  9. Johnpreece,

    What I find fascinating is that this was obviously a commercial wargame that was on sale to the public in the mid-1880s ... which is quite some time before I thought that commercial wargames were available.

    More information is coming in from a variety of different sources, and with a bit of luck I should be able to write a further blog entry about 'Polemos' sometime soon.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Steve-the-wargamer,

    This is a sort of wargaming archaeological hunt. We have had a glimpse of something that might be very interesting ... but all we have is that glimpse. What some of the things we can see are used for, we have yet to find out. We can surmise that the hourglass is for timing moves, but the funny little wedges make no sense at the moment.

    I understand that Nick Huband is trying to get sight of a copy of the rules, and that photographs of a surviving boxed set are available. Once I can examine both of these, things might become clearer. In the meantime, all we can do is wait and hope.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Fascinating stuff - I look forward to hearing of your findings.

    I only regret that due to an injury I received as a child, I lack the mustache growing skills required to play such a game.

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  12. Conrad Kinch,

    I am sorry to hear of your affliction.

    Perhaps a theatrical moustache might be made available for players if the game is every reissued?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. http://joyandforgetfulness.blogspot.com/2011/03/leprecon.html

    I attempted something of the kind at a recent game - it provided some scant relief from the silent bushy mockery of the other players upper lips.

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  14. This is a fantastic bit of news. It will be interesting to see if we should re-write the role of H.G. Wells as the "father" of wargaming with Little Wars once more information appears!

    Your comparison to archaeology seems very apt!

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  15. Conrad Kinch,

    As someone who has a fine and bristly moustache, you have my sympathy.

    All the best,

    Bob

    PS. Hamster bedding is a good material for making one’s substitute moustache, but I do advise you to use new, unused bedding rather than scooping a handful from the bottom of the hamster’s cage. It is so much more hygienic.

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  16. Il Cattivo,

    The more I find out, the more I realise that commercial wargames that modern wargamers would recognise as such (i.e. that have terrain and figures) have been around for a lot longer than 1912.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. Conrad Kinch,

    I did not wish to offend you, but my Second will entertain yours should you feel aggrieved and wish to seek redress on the Field of Mars.

    May I suggest C&C Napoleonics?

    All the best,

    Bob … CORDERY (!!!!)

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  18. That's an amazing picture...I'm also fascinated by the movement bases that the apparently loose figures stand on. Surely that would be a remarkably early development in wargames.

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  19. Littlejohn,

    The more I find out about 'Polemos', the more I think that is a previously unrecognised gem ... and certainly it's designer created a wargame that seems to have incorporated ideas and concepts that are very 'modern'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  20. Re early wargames - I have a game called "Battle" dating from around 1912, this provides wooden pieces to be used on a chess board and seems to date from around 1912 or 1913. I posted the instructions, some pictures and some of the detective work on it on Vintage Wargaming - you'll find these posts at

    http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.com/search/label/Games

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  21. The Old Metal Detector,

    Thanks for the link. It provides me with an very interesting comparison with my portable wargame as well as a link to games like 'Polemos'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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