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"Strategonon (1830)" Topic

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626 hits since 9 Sep 2016
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pellen09 Sep 2016 1:30 a.m. PST

Fun to see a History board here. It wasn't here last time I logged in.

I have been digging into the (pre-)history of wargames for fun, and posting (together with others) on bgg link . My main interest lately, as seen if you go to the end of that thread, has been the oldest games from around the time of Reisswitz' famous Kriegsspiel and earlier.

One game that was mentioned in passing in some book about old games was Strategonon, but I could not find any information about it anywhere until I took my time to read the book on Google Books link . To my surprise, unlike games like Reisswitz' or Opiz' (both used metal blocks for units) or the many games that used chess-like-pieces, Strategonon actually uses painted lead miniatures soldiers. Well, the player is given the option to use wood instead if they can not afford lead miniatures. For artillery the instructions say to use lead miniatures as well, or guns made from cardboard for players that can not afford models. It is a huge game too, going up to about 1000 soldiers and 300 I think guns or so in the most extreme case (for representing a battle between two 100000 men size armies). Players can also decide to use smaller armies if they prefer (sounds like a good idea?).

The miniatures are put on wooden bases that have holes drilled in them, so that soldiers can be removed to display losses taken. For instance an infantry battalion begins with 10 soldiers, each representing 100 men. But actually losses are tracked in individual men, so you keep track on paper how many remain exactly, and then just remove soldiers whenever another full 100 has been removed.

It's a monster game and not something I would like to try to play to be honest, but I was still surprised that such a miniature game existed so long ago. Thought it was worth mentioning here since I saw no other thread mentioning it on TMP.

No idea what the miniature soldiers would have looked like? The game board is grid-based with each square being recommended to be 1 inch. The board used to hold the soldiers for a unit is to be smaller than that (obviously). So there isn't a lot of room for those 10 soldiers. They must be really small? I have not tried to calculate it, but more like 6mm scale or even smaller I guess? And probably flat at that time as well, right?

pellen09 Sep 2016 1:46 a.m. PST

Actually there is a small image showing an illustration in the book of what the various pieces should look like, available on abebooks because someone there is selling a copy (!). I guess that the big soldiers on a small base in the upper left corner are commanders. The next one might be an infantry base seen from the side. So quite big soldiers on a small base? I think the thing with a soldier on it in the bottom right corner is one of the different types of ships also available in the game if players want them (built from cardboard).

Unfortunately all the illustrations are missing from the scanned version on Google Books.


Hafen von Schlockenberg Inactive Member09 Sep 2016 11:29 a.m. PST

Fascinating find! Is there a statement as to what size area the one inch square is supposed to represent? If fairly small, is it possible that it's intended to hold 100 "men",i.e. one figure? Of course,that would make the unit stands 10 inches. It does seem unlikely to have required the creation of a whole new scale of figure,especially in Germany,given the ubiquity and history of Zinnfiguren there, at 30mm. But I'm amenable to correction!

That book listing certainly proves that curiosity has its price. . .

Edit: I just read on a flats site that the 30mm's weren't introduced until 1848 (head slap). So above may be waaay off.

pellen09 Sep 2016 1:36 p.m. PST

They are 500x500 paces (steps) squares and the author keeps saying that the number of stuff allowed to be in a square is decided to make realistic limits (the number of guns or wagons and/or other units that would fit in a 500 pace square). I can't judge.

A battalion has 10 figures representing a total of 1000 men, and they together fill a single square, which is what makes me think the figures must have been very small, or at least very flat (looks quite big in profile in that illustration).

Actually the rulebook mentions that you can make the squares also 2/3 or just 1/2 inch if you want to, but then you have to adjust everything else for that (I guess that means not using any removable soldiers at all, but it does not say so explicitly). Also of course an inch was not very well specified back then so it is difficult to say exactly what those sizes represents.

I noticed a paragraph now that I skimmed over too fast the first time: Paragraph 14 says that "if you shy no costs" (I think; my German skills are limited) you can make the game look better by building trees, houses, towers, churches, etc, from painted cardboard (EDIT: I said wood, but re-reading I realized it says cardboard… limited skills you see). One of the illustrations (missing on Google Books) shows how this terrain can be built. That makes it sound even more amazing.

pellen09 Sep 2016 1:49 p.m. PST

That paragraph about terrain is really on the limit of what I am able to figure out, but I think it describes making small holes in the lines between squares, putting pins at the bottom of the cardboard terrain bits, to fasten them between the squares. So in a distance it looks like a town or forest, but the squares are still open to place units in.

Sounds a lot like the type of terrain described by Joseph Morschauser (1967): 'having things like walls, houses in "flat" form running along the grid lines between the grid squares". (And in similar words in 1964.) (I never played that game, only quoting from the reprinted article from John Curry's History of Wargaming book.)

Hafen von Schlockenberg Inactive Member09 Sep 2016 2:12 p.m. PST

Wow,10 removable figures on a 1-inch base. I wonder if this ever got played?

pellen09 Sep 2016 2:45 p.m. PST

From reading a number of old rulebooks it seems like time and space were no concerns for the gentlemen playing these games. Or that they simply never played the games. I don't know.

You are recommended to split the game board into 12x12 square (1x1 feet) smaller boards, with grooves along the edges so they fit well together, for easier transport. For a maximum size game (100000 men per army) he says you need 18 laid side by side for the length of the map (not sure how wide it should be). If a foot was about what it is today that means a 6 meters long map. Not very easy to play on. But perhaps he was playing it with much smaller armies and just extrapolated the numbers to the maximum supported 100000 men.

Still impressive that so many features of more modern miniature games were already written down that early I think. Perhaps some more details about exactly what he means with those 10-solder bases could be resolved by a native German-reader having a look at the rules… or someone buying that book with the illustrations in it.

Hafen von Schlockenberg Inactive Member09 Sep 2016 5:35 p.m. PST

At a mere £967.52 GBP,uld be no shortage of volunteers.

Hafen von Schlockenberg Inactive Member10 Sep 2016 11:29 a.m. PST

Hmph,first time the Bug ate some of my word.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member13 Sep 2016 3:26 a.m. PST

Interesting find.

It is my bold plan to replicate one of these old games one day and bring them to a con. I know this has been done (academically) before, but still looks like a fun project.

pellen13 Sep 2016 10:43 p.m. PST

I have built one not-quite-replica so far:


Would love to make a proper replica of that game one day, which would involve prettier (chess-like) figures and holes drilled in the board for pegs representing brigades.

There are 3-4 other games I plan to build as well. Maybe 1 or 2 will even look reasonably much like the original, but in general I am happy with having something playable. I do not have the skills or resources to make games looking much like they would have when built for some 19th century aristocrats. Strategonon would be fun to attempt, for a low number of units on a smaller map, even if having the maximum-size complete game set up on a con would look impressive.

Ottoathome Inactive Member26 Sep 2016 7:28 a.m. PST

I have a Xerox copy of the rules which I found in a college library. I don't have the game itself.

pellen30 Sep 2016 10:31 a.m. PST

Got scans of the missing plates from the city library in Münich today. Not allowed to share though. Images of minis did not really add info. They are obviously very thin flats. Plate showing terrain was more fun. Some nice color drawings of trees and houses to (I guess) manually copy to use as standup 2d cardboard terrain.

Is this btw the oldest published miniatures game? Or what one was even older? Not counting chess variants, but something like this with diy terrain and painted miniatures.

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