First fantasy wargame?

Being interested in the origins of the hobby, I was looking over the amazing chronology of wargaming over at Bob Beattie’s site. (Sorry for rambling in this one…bear with me… I wrote this as I was doing the “research” online.)

In 1970, we read that “NEWA [the New England Wargamers Association] display the first large scale fantasy miniatures game, Middle Earth, at MFCA gaming convention. Wins Best in Show.”  This was probably using some house rules.

I was thinking Chainmail included the first fantasy war game rules I knew of, but that is based on seeing only the 3rd. edition of these rules (an early printing that retains references to Tolkien creatures like ents and hobbits!).  When was the first edition of Chainmail published? 1971 (thanks, Bob!)  But apparently the fantasy appendix was not there; Bob’s chronology says that in the same year: “Gary writes in Wargamer’s Newsletter that he will write rules for fantasy games with 20mm hobbits and 70mm giants.”

So, the question is, when was Chainmail 2nd edition published? Did that have the fantasy appendix? I checked the Acaeum, and apparently the first edition did in fact have the fantasy rules after all; so maybe the 1971 letter Bob described above is pre-Chainmail or just refers to additional rules Gygax had in mind?

1972, besides being the year of my own birth, was the birth of fantasy miniatures: “Dick Higgs, MiniFigs designer, produces 5mm figures — Napoleonics and Modern. He also does the first commercial fantasy range — Middle Earth.”  So it looks like Minifigs gets the prize for first fantasy figures after all!

WRG published it a “fantasy” appendix for its own 4th edition war game rules in 1973. (Link is to an archived version of the text from Phil Barker’s old web site.)  I’m not sure is earlier WRG rules had fantasy extensions or not but I think 4th ed. was their first.

It looks like Chainmail is the oldest set of fantasy rules (1971) and Minifigs Middle Earth line the oldest figures (1972).

One other piece of the puzzle though is Tony Bath’s Hyborian campaign, which I’ve been unable to determine the exact dates for, so far, and also I don’t know if he used his own rules or a published set.  He seems to have been running it as early as 1960 (!) though.

So, hivemind,what is the oldest set of fantasy war game rules?

I guess we need to define “fantasy” as including some element of magic… after all H.G. Wells was using invented (“fantasy”) countries in his Little Wars! (Apparently the Bronte sisters had an interesting game like that too, and I’ve also read that Nietzsche, as a boy, played an elaborate fantasy game involving kingdoms and war with his little friends…but these proto-RPGs don’t count either.)

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 9:52 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Mr. M,

    Fantastic post! Thank you for providing great research and links. Bookmarked for future reference.

  2. Thanks, Scott. Someone needs to compile an annotated bibliography of fantasy war games. If only I knew a librarian. 🙂

  3. If it could focus on the fantasy part of the wargaming spectrum, it might be possible. I would think that it would take years to really compile everything and be able to trace its history, though.

    I wonder how much written material never made it to the web…

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