First Latvian wargame (Linde, 1995)

The very first Latvian wargame was published in magazine "Vīri" in 1995.

Linde's wargame

I have fond memories about "Vīri" from the nineties. The magazine nowadays is completely forgotten, although it had an important niche in Latvian cultural space, that is not filled since then (offical publishings on Ministry of Defence are not worth mentioning).

As it was printed on the cover, "Vīri" was a magazine about the "world from point of view of power and will". The magazine printed manly things, such as they were imagined by its editorial staff back then.

Manly things were Latvian army, other order and defence organisations, war history, civil defence, behaviour in extreme circumstances, military news from abroad, interviews, opinions about manliness and protection of Latvia. Yes indeed, it sadly did not provide the reader with the newest male fashion trends, best ways to organize time during paternity leave or recipes for manly food. Expectedly, the magazine avoided critical opinions about the armed forces and solutions of their problems – even if the problems then were immense.

The editor of the magazine was Jānis Lejiņš, now a well known writer. Atis Klimovičs was sending reports directly from Chechnya (Latvian sympathies during the First Chechen War were fully on the Chechen side). Viktor Suvorov's "Aquarium" was being published in serialized form.

"Vīri" did not live long. After the first four issues the composite 5th/6th issue was released, then the magazine ceased to exist.

The issue with the game is on top

"Vīri" had many good things. The best thing – first published Latvian wargame.

The game was printed in the 3rd issue (in 1995) with an additional rules in the next one. The author of the wargame is Herberts Linde (Latvian from America, writer of several articles in "Vīri"). The wargame doesn't have a title, it is simply called "War game" in the magazine.

In the game brown force attacks grey force. Brown and grey tank and infantry brigades move around on the hexagon filled map of a peninsula.

The rules are simple. A turn starts with brown side's movement phase, then there is a combat phase, then the grey side's movement and combat phases. The game continues for ten turns.

Movement into enemy zone of control means combat. If there are two enemy units in the vicinity, the combat will happen with both of them at the same time – if needed, the game allows to arrange a huge battle with almost every unit on the map.

All combined attack and defence points are summed, their ratio rounded and then a simple six-sided die generates the outcome of the combat. Column shifts are not used in this game – all that matters is point ratio. There are five outcomes: attacker is destroyed, attacker retreats, exchange, defender retreats, defender is destroyed. Victory comes in two ranks – tactical and strategic.

Besides the grey and brown sides there is also the blue side – UN peacekeepers. The additional rules give two new scenarios that allow a third player to participate. The first scenario is about the peacekeepers trying to halt the hostilities by landing on the shore and moving between the enemies. Movement through the zone of control takes almost full turn, and if someone tries to hurt peacekeepers, the blues are allowed to attack with their incredibly powerful air force to destroy the attacker. Blue player wins if neither of the sides have claimed any victory.

The second scenario is participation of the blue force in liberation of the grey land, in manner of Korean War.

Peacekeepers are moving between the armies

The peacekeeping scenario is very interesting. I have never played it, back in the day I did not care about this scenario – after all the goal of the wargame is to conduct war. Now I find the idea about a peacekeeping wargame very original.

I have played the regular scenario several times, the game is quite enjoyable. The victory usually falls to the grey side. I don't know if an ability to organise a grand battle in which one side can lose almost all of its units is a bad thing or not.

Linde's wargame offers wargame terminology in Latvian – attack and defence power, movement, geographic effect table, zone of control etc. This game introduced me to the world of wargaming, and I hope, many others. Now it is a part of wider history of gaming in Latvia.