Thursday 2 April 2015

Wargaming in South Africa


Wargames in the modern sense was effectively launched with the publication by Paul Stanley in 1962 of Donald Featherstone’s book War Games: Battles and Manoeuvres with Model Soldiers.

Where or when wargames began is impossible to say, but it is probable to say that our early ancestors devised games of strategy played with stones on areas marked out on the bare ground. Organised wargaming dates back at least 5,000 years with the traditional tactical games such as GO (the Chinese game of encirclement), Morabaraba (the African game of manoeuvre and capture).

The first use of miniature figures to depict military battles was in 3000 BC in Ancient Egypt. (11th Dynasty).

Throughout history, enlightened military commanders, such as Alexander the Great, are known to have used relief maps and markers to assist in planning their operations. The first true wargame dates back to the 18th century when Helwig, Master of pages to the Duke of Brunswick, devised a game played on a gridded map with counters representing the three main arms of the period - infantry, cavalry and artillery. In 1811, a game invented by Count von Reisswitz was introduced to the Prussian court. Called Kriegspiel, it used coloured counters to represent military units but was played on a sculptured relief map and used movement rates based upon the actual marching rates of the armies at that time. The game rapidly gained popularity and was soon being used to help train junior officers.

Throughout the 19th century Count Reisswitz’s game was constantly discussed and modified by its adherents. This resulted in a cumbersome and unwieldy set of rules. As Kriegspiel became increasingly sophisticated, actual statistics from current battles, were included to bring the rules into line with the weapons and tactics of the time. As a result, both the German Schlieffen Plan of 1914 and the initial Allied response to it were largely based upon strategies which had been pre-played as wargames. All subsequent military campaigns have used a greater or lesser degree of wargaming in their planning. Today’s armed forces have at their disposal large computers and simulators, enabling the participants to concentrate on decision making rather than rule interpretation.

Up to this point wargaming had been exclusively a military preoccupation, but in 1913 novelist H.G.Wells wrote a book called Little Wars. In this he drew up rules for a game using the popular lead model soldiers and matchstick firing guns of the period. The horrors of the Great War however, made wargaming an unpopular hobby and it languished until its modern revival in 1962.

Wargaming in South Africa

Historical figure-gaming in South Africa is administered by Mind Sports South Africa.

Figure gaming was started in South Africa in the 60’s, when a small group of enthusiasts started a club at the then show grounds in Johannesburg.

In 1980 the wargaming clubs banded together to found Mind Sports South Africa. The MSSA was taken into membership of the Confederation of South African Sport in May 1991and was awarded the ability to award Springbok Colours. As soon as the NOSC was unbanned, the Union applied to that body for membership and upon being accepted as a member remained loyal to it until it was finally wound up as the NSC to become the Sports Commission and later the SASCOC.

Periods most popular in South Africa are:

Figure gaming:

The most popular periods played in South Africa are:
  • Ancients,
  • Pike & Shot,
  • Horse & Musket, and 
  • World War 2 

The MSSA is committed to developing new clubs.

Mind Sports South Africa is one of the few South African Sports Federations that earmarks 20% of its income to the development of new clubs.

Anybody wishing to start a club is more than welcome to contact the Union.

Participation in International events

The Union participated in the World Championships for the first time in 1991.

Since then South African wargamers have been regular participants in international championships and have earned the respect of all f the other top players from around the world.

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