Anabasis – the unnecessary divide

plural anabases
Pronunciation /aˈnabəsɪs/ /aˈnabəsiːz/
A military advance into the interior of a country (with reference to that of Cyrus the Younger into Asia in 401 BC, as narrated by Xenophon in his work Anabasis).

Oxford English Dictionary

Past week has been filled with input from various sources about the hobby and all of it was good even if it was horrible and while balancing the act of processing the information, which originated from all types of media, is a delicate one as there’s a natural divide inherent to the world being multicultural, made up of different languages and more important, having seen the origin, growth and evolution of the hobby in different forms.

I write this because the perception, individually and collectively, as in a gaming club, may well be totally different in two separate time zones and across several oceans, so it is important to be clear about whom the audience is. One thing is sharing own experience but is entirely another to assume everyone else has the same experience and thus, by the process of enduring some of the most singular isolated and single faceted opinions I come to the conclusion there’s several ‘illuminated’ that seem to want to re-create the myth of the truest pure form of playing wargames and taking a role based upon the first commercially available prints in the United States, which eventually saw export to the other parts of the world but totally forget that like all Humanity endeavours the same ideas can originate independently and without any exchange in different parts of the world and that’s because there’s no formula that is native to any culture. Wargaming hobby, and rpg as a consequence, is no exception.

Wargame !? Using billiards and models and a table !? I say so.

Rather than looking to the past as a format to repeat it is much more interesting to know how to reach a complete future experience built upon centuries of hobby representation for all ‘commoners and civilians of good ilk’ ( i will chase down the paper cutout to post later ), of which the earliest form being a late 19th century newspaper advert about regular sessions to play a simpler form of Kriegsspiel. Wasn’t dedicated to military personnel, but for anyone that wished to attend, both men and women, as there’s no particular discrimination printed but being late 19th century Victorian era one can only assume.

Taking on the new age modern expressions, the cross pollination of military theoretical exercise and the civilian hobbyist always existed. Kids would play with wooden and metal figures. Kids would make wooden swords and shields and take on different roles. Adults would engage with table games and card games and many resembled war exercises, there’s a notable French example of a card game explicitly representing war and sieges even if the way the game is played does not relate to what we, in our modern ways, interpret as a game of war.

Could be played as is or by cutting the individual cards.

Fast forward and reaching the second half of the 20th century where, for some reason, there’s a fixation on products coming out from the States, where as plenty of examples can be found throughout Europe in the first half, most notably during WW1 and in the Inter Wars period from places not usually connected to wargaming like Finland ( a very young nation at the time). Granted it was never a massive commercial venture from anywhere, the biggest being the obvious 3, France, UK and Germany but with notable distinctions, as we would see coming out of the “american dream” but the seeds were planted and many things would flourish.

The UK, being insular, relied heavily on materials manufactured on the continent and, for wargamers, there’s a special appreciation of the long tradition in the manufacture of military figurines, if you do a fast search, most of the the flat types can be traced back to the 18th century with Schwarz, Gottfried – Hilpert, among many others. It is of note that flat figurines is still alive today and not representative of the past per se, is just representative of the first mass production of “toy soldiers”.

Scene of the Napoleonic Wars (by Heinrichsen Erben) – photo courtesy of

Obviously being expensive there were methods of press and print copies – talk about 3D printing – using various methods and lacking the modern equipment, so alloys and modelling clay were extensively used.

Paper fibre models were also common although way more perishable but many examples can be found in the museums and private collections. These were usually cutouts, like paper dolls of individual figures or an entire illustration of a group of troops.

German boxed set 19th century – Frederick the Great army (

This was also applied to more “conventional” board games but that is hardly surprising given the long tradition of games of cards. L’Attaque being a most famous household name and a piece of reference to many museums.

L’Attaque was designed by Mademoiselle Hermance Edan and published from 1909 onwards.

H.P. Gibson is a remarkable example as it provided the translation of L’Attaque, added expansions like Airplanes to it and published lines of games of their own like Dover Patrol, the black box being the 4th edition [1920-1930]

So… is H.P. Gibson, the Nuremberg tin soldiers, the French paper soldiers and cards, actually the commercial side of a hobby that persists to this day ? They are even more important than Tactics II as they represent the entire spectrum of wargaming as hobby but also exported those ideas and imported many of them.

What all of this has to do with the

“old school do it better and several ‘illuminated’ that seem to want to re-create the myth of the truest pure form of playing wargames and taking a role based upon the first commercially available prints in the United States”

and how it relates to the genesis of the articles that will form the skeleton of the series ?

Is history, and as such we cannot make any claims to have been the first nor to be the genuine creators.

If a game like Castle Braunstein, a campaign like Blackmoor, a project like Hyboria, rules like Featherstone’s, booklets like Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons, all of that exists in the imaginary mythological wonders of many “illuminated” is because the boys and girls that made them up actually toyed and played with the previous material and made up their own universes and ways of playing.

If making claims at least know where you favourite games come from and where your favourite designers drink their inspiration. Giants are made of an entire line of humans with a common interest in games and how to play them and how to represent them, by paper, tin or simple wooden pieces.

Wargaming is one. There’s no type A, B, AB, etc…

And Kriegsspiel is the one singular “atom” that concentrates all the energy released in a big bang. The rules to form them all and the one residual when the big crunch happens, when the source becomes evident again.

Next Anabasis entry will enter more into the subjects I wish to cover. Practical and accessible. Paper and toothpicks.


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