MORGANTOWN –Though Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, the Union pulled another victory over the Confederates on Dec. 12, 2019 at the Aull Center.
A miniature history lesson, though this time the troops were actually miniature. The historical wargame Johnny Reb III is a tactical game involving dice and a terrain map where players “battle” each other in hopes of victory.
Alex Burns, a Ph.D. Candidate of History at WVU has had an interest in history since he was young. He and his cousins read about historical wargames online in the early 2000s and decided it would be fun to give it a try.
“Here in the history department there are a number of students who study the American Civil War, and so they’re kind of interested in doing this sort of thing as like a hobby because in their writing we don’t focus really focus much on the combat of military history,” said Burns.
Burns said a number of Ph.D. students come to the Aull Center to play historical wargames. Nathan Wuertenburg, who works at the Aull Center, also studies history at George Washington University. Burns said the group has largely been playing Civil War based games, but said he’d like to bring some new games the next time they meet.
“Part of the appeal of this is learning the different tactics from the era and I think it’d be nice learn some new stuff,” said Wuertenburg.
The game mimics the way units would actually interact on the battlefield. Burns said it’s the way armies would move on in the field in long strings, and soldiers lined up shooting.
“Basically, this is like a video game that’s on a table that you paint the stuff for,” said Burns.
The figures that go into playing to game come as bare metal pieces that the user has to paint. The map is carpet painted with roads and waterways.
Burns wasn’t playing on Saturday but was acting as an umpire and helping players learn the rules of the game. Sitting through one go around of the game might not be enough to grasp everything, but Burns, who knows the rules, was there to help any first timers as they engaged on the battlefield.
Though the game could be played with 2 people, a good group turned out on Saturday which Burns and Wuertenburg were happy to see.
Last time the group met they also had a World War II game going on alongside a game similar to the game they played Saturday.
“We’d love to have more people. People of all ages are welcome. This is sort of like a dying hobby. This is something that very, very few people do. I’d love to see people our age playing,” said Burns.
The group meets on the first Saturday of every month, though this month they pushed it back due to school being out for the holidays. The Aull Center has a Facebook page where they’ll announce changes, if any.