As a Trainee Curator, one of the things I enjoy most is being able to get hands-on and work with objects. The museum has an interesting range of items but we do not have the space to display everything. Through a series of blog and twitter posts I hope to share some of the ‘hidden gems’ in our collections!
This week, we are focusing on a board game that was donated to the museum by the family of Walter Smith – a man who served with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry during the Second World War.
The board game is called ‘From the Ranks to Field Marshal’. It was released in 1914 and produced throughout the First World War period. The aim of the game is to rise through the military ranks until you reach the highest – that of Field Marshal.
Only the playing board itself was donated to us, but the original game set would have also included: 16 cut-out cards each representing a military rank, the written rules, and a box to store the game.
Following the Rules
The game is a bit like snakes and ladders: you roll a six-sided dice and move that number of spaces, following the instructions of the title you land on.
In order to start the game every player has to roll a 3 on the dice. This allows them to leave home and enlist in the army. You can choose to enlist in one of four sections: join the Engineers as a Sapper, join the Artillery as a Gunner, join the Cavalry as a Trooper, or join the Infantry as a Private.
As we found out, enlisting in the army can be a tricky thing to do. Poor Verity got only a glimpse of army life before she was ‘bought out by friends’ (tile 7). On her return home, the dice decided that there was no reason for her to leave again, and so, she remained there for the rest of play!
There are several tiles offering a promotion, helping you achieve the goal of becoming Field Marshal. Land on tile 16 and you will gain proficiency in shooting as well as a promotion. Land on tile 48 and you will be awarded a Victoria Cross medal for “A Gallant Act” which saves a Colonel’s life.
Reduced to the Ranks
Other tiles throw some of the dangers of being a soldier at you. Land on tile 33 and you are hit with enteric fever (today known as typhoid). Land on tile 55 and you are taken prisoner by the enemy. Alternatively, you may have to face military sanctions and disciplinary measures. If you are absent from the barracks without leave (tile 14) you are stripped of any promotions and reduced to the starting ranks of Sapper, Gunner, Trooper or Private.
A worse fate awaits those of you who land on tile 80. You are court martialled, tried for incompetence, and, if found guilty, reduced by 4 ranks.
Promotion to Field Marshal
You have to achieve every military rank in their hierarchical order. So, you cannot jump from Private to General if you are promoted while on the ‘General’ square. When you are promoted you move to the square of the next highest rank even if that means moving backwards! The first to climb the ranks to Field-Marshal wins. If you decide to stop the game early, then the highest-ranking soldier wins, and, in case of a draw, you let the dice decide!
Now that we know how to play it, why do you think this game was created? And who would have played it?
I’ll be answering these questions in a follow-up post. So, keep on eye on our blog page for the second instalment of ‘Join the Army? That’s child’s play’.
Written by Isabella Hogan, Trainee Curator at Bodmin Keep