The Forgotten War For War Gaming

By Joseph Morschauser
Table Top Talk September 1963

August, 1964 will mark fifty years since the beginning of what many still call the “Great War”. It is a war that has almost been forgotten or was up until a little while ago. For some reason many thought to push this bloody struggle out of their minds, as if in doing so the huge blunder could be excused.

War gamers in the main seem to have followed this lead. But now, fifty years later a book has appeared which has shaken many awake to the interest and the details of that great conflict. The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman has caused a minor boom in interest in WWI. War Gamers take note! World War I has more in it as a basis of fine exciting war gaming than any five other wars put together. It could be just the cure for boredom with Grant, Lee, Bull Run, and Waterloo!

Consider for a moment why WWI was called the “Great War”. It was that because it touched almost every major nation on the earth. It was also fought in many different places, the western front in France being only one of them. There were frontier battles in Africa between Kings African Rifles and German sailors, there were struggles of Aussies against Turks in the Near and Middle East, there were last ditch stand by Germans on Pacific Islands against Japanese and other Allied forces, a strange sounding switch from WWII in which the Japanese did most of the last ditch standing. Involved were Americans, English, French, Italians, Russians, Turks, Japanese, Austrians and Hungarians, various Balkan troops. There was mountain fighting, desert fighting, trench warfare, tank warfare, sea battles of huge size. WWI truly was the “Great War” and it is a “Great War” for war gaming.

I can already hear cries from many war gamers which add up to “too much slaughter, too big, machine guns and trenches and all that”. Quite true and not so! Yes, WWI involved machine guns, large numbers, and much slaughter but there is no need to fight the whole blame war all at once on your war game table. You can fight it piecemeal (if you must cover it all). Yes, there was slaughter but only because commanders of the era under stood nothing but frontal attacks against machine guns and ignored advice of hitting them “where they ain’t”. This can be done by clever war game commanders in small scale on a war game table. You do not have to repeat the mistakes of the war just because you are refighting it. Yes, there were trenches and barbed wire too, but you can make quite a respectable little war game out of only one single trench raid.

If trenches and barbed wire and machine guns still frighten you away, then go to the Middle East (after seeing Lawrence of Arabia). Here you can race about the desert sand on camels and ponies, cutting up the Turks or if you are the Turks you can race around cutting up the Arabs. If this still doesn’t appeal to you, try an invasion of a small Pacific Island with your Royal Marines against some diehard Germans. Or go down to Africa and lead the Kings African Rifles through scrub and. brush against German East African militia and Askaris.

It’s all there – the frontier, the big European battles, naval landings and the desert. It’s the BIGWAR Try it, war gamers!