Jim Dunnigan. A name best spoken in hushed, reverent tones by wargamers all too aware of his now legendary status in the hobby. The founder and guiding light of Simulations Publications, Inc. The man who pushed the wargaming design envelope to its limits, before vanishing forever into the financial and consulting sectors, leaving his fans dazed, confused, and forever searching for his designs, the holy relics of wargaming, on eBay. Will Dunnigan ever create again? Is Elvis still alive? The answers to such questions are not for us mere mortals to know. At least we can say that he left the scene without owing lots of people money.
Dunnigan did surface again, in a fashion. His web site may help satiate admirers not content with his occasional Usenet postings. The site is simply a guide to all things Dunnigan, with emphasis on the admittedly shameless self-promotion of his books. Currently he is hyping the 3rd edition of The Complete Wargames Handbook, 2nd editions of From Shield to Storm, Getting it Right, and Victory and Deceit, and Dirty Little Secrets of the Twentieth Century, which goes beyond his usual military-themed work. His other books are listed on the site, with decent summaries of their content. He also links to his ludography (actually on The Hundred Years War site), and to the complete text of the 2nd edition of The Complete Wargames Handbook (also at HYW). Other links lead to professional simulation sites, the Milgames listserv, and to the ‘Battle of the Game Designers’ (he implies he won).
Dunnigan includes a short biography which focuses mostly on his nonwargaming activities. It is common knowledge that he dropped out of high school, went into the Army, served in Korea, and graduated from Columbia, but it is a bit surprising to learn that he started his college career as an accounting major at Pace University. The latter does explain a lot of his design philosophy.
The Hundred Years War
Speaking of design philosophy, there is a genuine Dunnigan game on the net: The Hundred Years War, a collaboration with Al Nofi, and owned by StrategyWorld.com Considering that he has been interested in computers since way back, it is unsurprising that this is an online game, around since 1992. Essentially, a player takes a medieval lord type position and maneuvers him through the mess that passed for Western Europe in the 14th and 15th Centuries, for a mere $5.95 per month. The site provides the standard setup, rule, help, account, and update information. The project takes advantage of the Internet’s ability to be timely in that rules changes can be posted quickly and brought to the various players’ attention via announcements. It is certainly an improvement over printing a never-ending stream of errata in Strategy & Tactics.
Even if you have no interest in playing the game, visit the site. Besides information relating to the simulation itself, the archives have The Complete Wargames Handbook (2nd edition), and Medieval Life and The Hundred Years War (a lengthy historical survey of the era), both well worth reading. The links section connects to many interesting medieval pages, including software for designing a coat of arms.
The Strategy Page
In November 1999, the Strategist carried the above reviews of Jim Dunnigan’s web site and his Hundred Years War enterprise. A copy of the review went to Dunnigan who seemed pleased with it all, but he also suggested that I look at The Strategy Page. Actually, I had considered throwing TSP into the Dunnigan piece, but decided against it, mostly for reasons involving sloth. Still, far be from me to ignore a suggestion from The Great One, so here goes:
While Dunnigan’s reputation among wargamers results from his hundred or so designs, he is also a skilled writer and editor. Strategy & Tactics under his direction was always worth reading. His innovative ways of presenting military history, and his always interesting take on defense issues often saved the magazine when the game was a loser. It can be said that his writing and editing has a very distinctive look and feel, so much so that it is very easy to pick a Dunnigan S&T out from those created by lesser wargame beings. Simply compare his 3W issues with those before and after to see what is meant here.
Alas, Dunnigan long ago decided that his future lay outside wargame design, probably because of the monetary thing. Much of this effort revolves around writing books, an activity which never got too far at SPI, but now is alive and well at StrategyWorld.com's The Strategy Page.
The Strategy Page combines Dunnigan-style S&T material with the kinds of stuff found in his books. The web site is divided into several sections. These include FYEO-How to Make War which consists of news items concerning military issues, and FYEO-Quick and Dirty Guide to war, information on current military conflicts, no matter how obscure. Entries in both sections tend to be short, updated almost daily, and highly searchable. Stephen V. Cole, of the paper newsletter For Your Eyes Only and Starfleet Battles fame, does the How to Make War section. For $29.95 per year, one can also subscribe to an email newsletter which updates both sections daily.
Other site areas include Al Nofi’s CIC newsletter which consists of short historical articles similar to those found in S&T, Austin Bay's weekly military affairs column, On War and Warfare (longer military history and wargaming articles), Measure of Respect (tributes to military heroism), Dirty Little Secrets (articles on various topics, some of them strange), photography, book and movie reviews, military humor, discussion boards, and extensive links. The wargame news and review section focuses on computer games as Dunnigan continues to evolve further from his roots.
Finally, and perhaps the most interesting part of TSP, is the Team Trackless Page. In TTP’s words: "Team Trackless is a volunteer, unclassified effort to use commercial wargames to test new doctrine and tactics for the new "trackless" (wheeled armored vehicles) brigades the US Army is experimenting with. Team Trackless members are all wargamers, and many are wargame developers and military professionals. The purpose of Team Trackless is to see if we can develop a faster way military professionals to test new ideas using off the shelf tools." The project page has all the requisite information for getting involved in the effort. Maybe our wargame obsession is not such a colossal waste of time after all.
Peter L. de Rosa
Note: The original versions of these reviews appeared in Strategist 30 (November 1999):3, and 30 (December 1999):11, as "Dunnigan's Sites," and in Strategist 30 (July 2000):10 as "The Strategy Page." The Strategist is the newsletter of the Strategy Gaming Society.
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