Game which foresaw the power of machine guns aims high at Bonhams

At a time when Britain's troops and military equipment are under such close scrutiny, Bonhams announces the sale of an extremely rare game, 'The Game of War' to be sold on the 13th October 2010 in Knightsbridge in the Chess, Playing Cards and Games auction.

It will remind collectors of the more controversial sale of a Nazi war game from 1941, based on fighting against Britain, sold at Wallis & Wallis earlier this year.

Dating from 1890, the intricate 600 piece game is estimated to sell for £1,500-£2000, and was designed to train British army officers at a time of uncertainty in the years leading up to the outbreak of The First World War in 1914.

It was common knowledge that War was coming, but no-one could predict exactly when. As a result, the armies spent their summers at camp, in effect playing war-games, and training for the big European war that was on the horizon.

During this period, tactics had barely changed since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and the horse still played a major role on the battlefield. The Game of War, however, includes six machine gun units.

Game of War, created some years before WW1
British Game of War, created some years before WW1
(Click to enlarge)

As history shows us, the use of the machine gun and emphasis on mechanized defence was going to have a devastating effect on the trench warfare that was to come. Infantry, mounted cavalry and horse artillery are also included in the game, demonstrating the unforeseen part the machine gun was to play.

The game is played on a map drawn on a scale of 6 inches to the mile, and the troops are indicated by small slate blocks, coloured red for one force, and blue for another.

It is a later British version of "Kriegsspiel", a wargame originally invented by Lieutenant Georg von Reiswitz in the early 19th century for training officers in the Prussian army.

Luke Honey, Bonhams Chess and Games consultant comments: "This is a rare and superb example of a late 19th century war-game used to train British army officers in military manoevures.

It gives us a fascinating insight into the tactics of the period, which, ultimately culminated in the tragedy of the First World War."

Bonhams is the only International Auction House which holds dedicated sales of Chess and Games on a regular basis. The sales are held a twice a year, at Knightsbridge, London saleroom. They have previously sold other games of historical significance such as the suffragette based game Pank-a-Squith.

Board games and toys are often underestimated as a fascinating area of collectibles and tangible investments as our recent focus on collector Mark Solondz shows.


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