An Early Wargamer (Time Machine)

Michael O. Varhola
The following article by modeler John Flint appears in the May 1974 issue of the British publication "Wargamer's Newsletter." In that it refers to game sessions that use live fire — especially live fire, in fact — to resolve combat, it is very reminiscent of the philosophy H.G. Wells presents in his 1913 game treatise Little Wars. He is clearly addressing Donald Featherstone, editor of the publication, in his opening comments and referring to that author's classic 1962 text War Games, and the author of Mandolia to whom he refers is Dr. Alberto Figuira Jardim, a lawyer, professor, and wargamer par excellence. Images of his models and miniatures can be seen at an article on The Wardens Today website

While browsing, not for the first time, through your book WARGAMES, I came across the following passage: 
"... few, if any, wargamers actually fire cannon at their own troops — having spent many hours making and painting model soldiers it is a foolhardy collector who permits them to have pieces of metal rod flung forcibly in their general direction." 
I am sure that you, an enthusiast, will be interested in the following, and will therefore forgive me writing. 
For a number of years it was my good fortune to serve on the beautiful island of Madeira, where I was privileged to meet the late Dr. Jardim, a well-known literary figure in Portugal. Dr. Jardim's lifelong hobby was wargames, and as he was, I think, in his ninety-first year when he died in 1970, it might be assumed that he was playing before the turn of the century. Many years ago he wrote a book called "MANDOLIA — A game for lovers of model soldiers" which I believe was published in Lisbon. In the book he described how his game developed from his youth, when for many years he played with hand painted, cut out, card figures, on a trestle table, until by the time of the 1914-18 war, the country of "Mandolia" with realistic terrain had come into being on his estate at Canico in Madeira, and wars with lead soldiers were being "played" on a scale that I would not think possible in this country, or in this day and age. 
As I write, I have in front of me the manuscript of Dr. Jardim's own translation of "MANDOLIA" into English, kindly loaned to me by his son, Senhor Alberto Jardim. A large part of of the book consists of extracts from the "Chronicles" (of which there are said to be many volumes) being bulletins written up daily, with maps and photographs, as campaigns progressed over more than 30 years. 

For rifle fire Dr. Jardim used small lead shot, two at a time propelled by catapult; small explosive "bombs" (Chlorate of potash) of size depending upon calibre of gun, for artillery. Incendiaries as well as minute land mines were also employed. The longest and most elaborate war appears to have lasted from 1st August 1924 until 13th November 1927, with actual "play" taking place on a total of 80 days, although all troops and material remained on the field throughout the three-year period. Total casualties during this war were recorded as 4,209, which did not include missing — a considerable number, no doubt, being washed away or otherwise lost during the time when play was impossible during winter rains. I should mention that by the rules, a man falling on his back was accounted wounded, and after a certain number of missed turns could return to active service, whereas an unfortunate falling on his face had "had it" and was returned to the melting pot for reincarnation. 

The above will give you some idea of the scale on which the game was played. I believe you would find this manuscript most interesting, not merely because of the rules themselves, of which nearly 300 are listed, but because of the history itself and the probability that it may have evolved quite independently from the H.G. Wells' early papers. 

It is more than 12 years since I was taken to the battlefields of "Mandolia" but at that time, although peace had reigned for a quarter of a century, signs of past strife could still be discovered in the rank grass and overgrown shrubs. The remains of the armies, totalling some 5,000 men (plus masses of guns, vehicles, and other equipment, to the weight of more than a ton) are now in the possession of my good friend Senhor Alberto Jardim, in Madeira. He visits this country at least once a year, and usually brings a couple of dozen or so soldiers for me to repaint (I should mention now that I am not a wargamer, but for many years have obtained much enjoyment from painting model soldiers — though very indifferently, I am afraid). All of the troops are 54mm. There are a few hollow cast by Britain, but the vast majority are solids, probably of French manufacture, with plug-in heads and very delicately-featured faces. In the main they represent German, French, and French Colonial. 

Unfortunately, from the point of view of the restorer, all rifles, side arms, and even packs have been carefully removed to be made readily detachable in the event of capture; this makes renovation rather laborious.