Wargamers ‘fight’ indoor battles at Mormon Fort

On July 27, 1880, Colonial British and Indian forces, which were outnumbered 10 to 1, were defeated by Afghan forces in the Battle of Maiwand. On Aug. 17 that battle will be fought again, but this time, the British might win.

Or not.

The outcome depends on the roll of dice and the strategy of the player commanding the model forces.

The Las Vegas Wargamers, a local group of game enthusiasts, are scheduled to meet for open wargaming at the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park, 500 E. Washington Ave.

“In the summertime we are always looking for things to do inside at the park,” said park supervisor Beth Hewitt. “The war games really meet that.”

Other hot-weather activities have included petroglyph study activities, making cornhusk dolls and crafting jewelry. Hewitt said she is always keeping an eye out for other indoor activities. The wargamer activities have been popular recurring events.

“It’s non-electronic and very socially based,” said the group’s vice president of public gaming, Jason Coffey. “When there’s an issue, instead of screaming at an anonymous player over a mike, you simply talk to your opponent across the table.”

The games are played on terrain maps that look more like miniature models of landscape than a traditional map. There are pre-modeled sections of roads, rivers, miniature trees and dimensional hills.

“It’s actually something people could walk up to and it would look like a reasonable representation of the terrain that people would be fighting over,” Coffey said.

The forces used in the game are often meticulously hand-painted and historically accurate models.

“People are very invested in it,” Coffey said. “They build their own model kits, and they build their own terrain.”

Several members of the gaming group are also members of the Las Vegas Living History Association, a group of historical re-enactors who hold events at the fort during the cooler months of the year, appearing in historically accurate uniforms and costumes to help educate the public on what life was like during earlier times.

“Occasionally I go to schools as a guest speaker and talk about the American Civil War,” Coffey said. “One of the things that I’ll bring with me is an artillery battery and a section of mounted cavalry from the game. It’s a lot easier than trying to get 12 wagons or 12 guys on horseback for the kids to see.”

Although the group plays a wide variety of games, including some based on science fiction and fantasy, it’s sticking to historically based games for this event. One game on the schedule is “The Flame and the Sword,” based on the British Colonial wars of the late 19th century. It’s this game that will offer the Maiwand scenario.

Dice rolls, usually with basic, six-sided dice, resolve combat. Numbers are adjusted for factors including line of sight, terrain, weapons being used and armor worn by the defender or his vehicle.

Coffey expects that about a dozen players will be on hand for the event, but the group has had as many as 33 people playing on seven tables.

“It was a pretty good day when we had them out last year,” Hewitt said. “It was pretty busy. We get return visitors who come specifically to see the games, and we usually get some new folks, as well.”

Sessions are scheduled beginning at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Gaming is free with admission to the fort, which is $1 for adults and free for children younger than 12.

For information about the Las Vegas Wargamers, visit lvwargamers.org. For information about the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park, visit parks.nv.gov.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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