I think that there’s one game that really set the stage for all wargames that followed – Tactics and the updated version, Tactics II.
Tactics was developed by Charles S. Roberts in 1952 and self-published in 1954 under the company name The Avalon Game Company. It met with a minimal amount of success. The game was rethought, updated and published again as Tactics II. The company also changed their name to The Avalon Hill Game Company – a name that has become synonymous with tabletop wargaming.
All of the pictures in this post were taken by me of my copy of Tactics II. I purchased it from a nice gentleman on eBay about 10 years ago. It’s the 1973 edition and it’s in incredibly great shape.
No, it’s NOT for sale.
Tactics II is simple as far as wargames go. The board has minimal markings and is divided by squares rather than the more modern hexagrams. The board is also numbered down the left side and across the top for easy grid referencing.
The playing pieces are half inch square cardboard, red for one side and blue for the other. They are marked with the standard NATO military symbols for land units.
Also included is a 16-page rules pamphlet, (Yes, pamphlet. You don’t have to have that giant 3-ring binder to play a good wargame), a weather chart (with a time record card on the back) and another card with the tables required for resolving combat. That’s it!
The first six pages of the rules teach you everything you need to know to play a basic game. Turn order, movement (including some of the terrain), combat (based on an odds system), capturing cities and how to win. The rest of the pamphlet explains advanced rules such as the remainder of the terrain not explained in the basic version, effects of terrain on movement and combat, special units (such as mountain troops and paratroops), sea transfer and organization of forces. There are also some optional rules covering weather, replacements, isolation, playing a shorter game and even nuclear weapons (sign of the times when the game was created). The last two pages of the rules is a nice essay on military tactics and strategy. The rules have plenty of pictures to illustrate the concepts explained in nice black, white and red.
The game is very easy to pick up and has a high degree of play-ability. I like to think of it as one step up from chess – more pieces, and a few more rules, but when played Tactics II is essentially a slightly more complicated version of chess. In fact, the rules compare Tactics II to chess often!
The game can be set up in minutes and typical game lasts about two hours. It’s a great way to kill a few hours on a rainy afternoon!