By now you have finished reading my little fable. As I wrote it, Sergeant Bronzewood and her brave frontiersmen managed to fight off the Faceless Men from beyond Jupiter, saving the lives of the colonists of Star-Fort Alpha. But what if the battle had transpired differently?
Indulge me a moment whilst I leave that question a-dangling and recount a memory of my youth.
When I was a boy, my brother and I inherited a set of tin-cast soldier figurines from a beloved uncle. We would while away the afternoons enacting in miniature the campaigns of Julius Caesar, Washington's battles against the Redcoats, and the neighborhood elders' memories of the War Between the States.
When we were uncertain over a battle's outcome – due undoubtedly to a lack of attention paid to our lessons or our forebears – we would argue, as brothers do, quite forcefully. I recall having a prized model infantryman lost forever in some tall grass during one of our more vehement disagreements.
Soon after, we collaborated on a method for resolving such disputes peacefully. We wrote down a set of rules to govern which regiments were capable of which maneuvers and which soldiers were capable of defeating which others. Before long, we realized we could not only enact the battles of history with these rules, but battles that existed only in our imaginations.
Writing of the battles of the imagination returns me to Sergeant Bronzewood.
In the pages ahead, I present my brother's and my war-game rules, adapted to simulate not a battle of history, but a battle of an imaginary future. Perhaps, had Sergeant Bronzewood acted less courageously, the colony might have been overrun. Perhaps if the terrible Faceless Men of the Black Beyond had been more ruthless and cunning, no amount of heroism on the part of the Star-Fort's defenders would have won the day. And perhaps Dame Fortune played a hand in the battle's outcome as well. You, good reader, can determine the outcome of these hypotheticals yourself.
To reënact the Battle for Star-Fort Alpha, a clever youth like yourself will need a few pieces of materiel besides the rules below:
- A colleague and friend as clever as yourself, to enact the role of the Faceless Men's unseen commander
- A collection of small soldiers for each player (If you are not fortunate enough to own a set of toy soldiers, you can substitute chessmen or even simple tokens marked with the soldier they are to represent. Remember, this is a game of the imagination.)
- An instrument of measure (A flexible measuring-tape such as used at a tailor shop is best, but one can use a wooden ruler or even a piece of knotted string.)
- A board approximately three feet by three feet, arranged with obstacles in such a way as to invoke Star-Fort Alpha's steel-and-electric perimeter. (Walls, barricades, and buildings can be fashioned from fragments of wood, card or metal. I encourage you to be imaginative and fair with your placement of structures. One suggestion using old soap-boxes is detailed in “Set-Up” below.)
- A pack of cards, divided evenly between you and your opponent. (Ideally, find a disused pack with which you may mark up the faces of the cards. Seek permission first, otherwise you'll face a stern punishment next time your family plays at rummy!)
I wish you many happy hours of play with good fortune and good sportsmanship.
James Nathaniel Lawson
NEW YORK CITY 1933