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British & Boer Board Games - 1899-1900 - 4

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flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
Called to Arms, Boer War Game - 1900
Orig. cardboard - Size - 31 x 49 cm
Found - Sydney, AUS
A fabulous board game to teach young boys the stages of a winning military campaign, beginning when the unit leaves the barracks, and starts on the famous March to Pretoria, and the occupation of the Boer Parliament Buildings.

First, the young soldier becomes Corporal, then Advances to Sergeant because of Bravery.

Then with Conspicuous Bravery he gets a Victoria Cross.

Alas, because he is Untidy, he gets Demoted to Corporal again.

Landing on 34, he is a Coward, and Returned to Barracks.

With pluck he advances to Lieutenant, and Saves the Guns which were in Danger, becoming Colonel.

Then, surviving a Trail Derailment he lands on 72 where he is Wounded and Returned to the Hospital.

Advancing because of Ability, he becomes a General. Then being Faithful he Advances to Commander-in-Chief.

Held up briefly with an Ambuscade, he Takes Prisoners, and Advances, finally galloping up the hill to capture the Boer Parliament Building.

Advancing was probably done by casting dies, with a cast iron man to jump the spaces.

Games like this, in fine condition are rare to find, from a time when no one seemed to die...

In fact the war did not end with the occupation of the Pretoria Parliament as everyone thought it would. It would go on for two more, even more bloddy, years.

No more games were made; the glamour seemed to go out of militarism, for young and old.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous board game from the Boer War. How many Victorian boys gleefully played on this board, dreaming of the day they would be old enough to join up and take part in the fun for real?

How many times has it been said that Britain's wars were won on the playing fields of Eton, the private school where the British upper class sent its offspring for character building.

Before that they played on board games like this, as they breathlessly waited for their turn to die for their country.

They need not have dreamt in vain...

Those who played on this game board very likely never died in bed of old age.

This generation of "war game" board players would enlist enthusiastically in World War I and die, by the millions, in the fun of the first Great War of the 20th century...

The litho features Brit and Boer, on adjoining hills, cannonading each other, while below the infantry are hard at it with lots of swords waving about.

Lots of inaccuracies of course from game board artists who wanted to make the piece attractive to buyers and not concerned with being historically accurate.

Red tunics and waving swords were never seen on Boer War battlefields but old traditions die hard...

All this reflects the euphoria of the early days of the war when the victory looked inevitable with the Boers waving the Truce Flag in surrender.

In fact, like the abysmally disastrous Canadian effort in Afghanistan, things degenerated the longer it went on, with tens of thousands, mostly women and children, dying as the years passed.

But by then no one was making board games anymore, because, oddly enough, civilians have an aversion to playing with corpses, compared to professional soldiers who love talking about "kills made" and "body counts" they have amassed...


Game Board, Briton and Boer, 1900

Orig. board - Size - 31 x 31 cm
Found - Somerset, UK


This board is well used, and was not kept idly in a cupboard.

Unlike many board games, made of weaker cardboard, this one was made of very thick, heavy, and durable reinforced stock, so the hinges are still perfectly strong even though it has had a hard life of being played with, folded up, and banged about during the Boer War days.

During and after World War I, with its millions of dead, no one was playing war games anymore. The board was stored away, till a new generation, with no war experience, thought it was a neat item...

No extra pieces remained of this game.


How the game was played is not known. Ideas are welcome...

The key is not very helpful at defining territories, as the colour tabs are badly offset.

The colour patterns are intriguing, with the Boer's Transvaal Republic and the Portuguese territory being treated with grey and pink blocks while British Cape Colony and the Boer Orange Free State share a colour pattern. It cannot be because the game was published after Lord Roberts took Bloemfontein, OFS, because the name of the Free State was changed from the Boer original which the game still displays.

Presumably a set of dice and some kind of moveable counters were involved. But on which squares and how?

It is intriguing to mull over how the larger background blocks might be used in conjunction with the two sets of smaller grids...