Sopwith - The Boardgame
by Tom Tweedy
to being thrust unceremoniously into what I'd always supposed to be a purist mag
for Diplomacy, Spring Offensive, I've been asked by Steve to write a short
introduction to this game to give future (prospective?) players some idea of
what the game is all about. I say unceremoniously because this is the third time
my games ('Tomcat' and 'Intruder') have been 'chucked out' and re-housed. (I
take the time here to thank Steve for his care in re-housing a poor orphaned
GM.) John Miller's wry comment when handing me his latest orders was, which will
be the next zine to fall to the 'Curse of the Tweedys'. Well Steve's editorial
escapades have weathered worse things than the likes of me before - though many
years ago now, his student persona for one!
on to the game...
the name 'Sopwith' speaks for itself. It's a loosely (very loosely) First World
War flight sim boardgame for six players based on dog-fighting bi-planes. I
first introduced it to the Play-by-Mail Diplomacy hobby in August 1980 in
sub-zine to Clive Booth's infamous Chimaera, the very first multi-game PBM zine.
(In those days all the hobby zines were purist Diplomacy.) The original
boardgame was played by everyone placing their counters in the relevant slots on
their own panels, and disclosing the panels simultaneously after it was agreed
each person's moves had been done. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Moves along with the
shooting were worked out and damage and shot counters along the edge of the
board were adjusted accordingly. After that the six clouds were moved (decided
by a die roll) and that was basically all a full Turn consisted of - it was
EASY. So much so, it was a cinch to devise postal rules and open it up to the
course the game doesn't sound so exciting here, but the point was, from a
player's point of view it was easy to play and easy to send moves in
(subscribers felt they were contributing to their favourite zine even if they
said or did nothing else). And from the GM's point of view it was a dream to
adjudicate (well, easier than Diplomacy anyhow), and it filled the zine up with
another six bodies. The game, if you'll excuse the pun, just took off. To date,
232 'T' numbers have been issued to 232 games, and according to my database, to
date 483 different contenders have taken part. Not bad for a simple little
the actual original boardgame cannot be had anymore (unless you advertise for a
second hand one) as the game went out of print because it was originally aimed
at the wargaming aficionados. It flopped because these hardened veterans thought
the game was just too simple. They were right, it was! So, when I was editor of
Dib Dib Dib I bought up all the last copies off the shelves and sold them on a
first-come-first-served bases to my subscribers. When the inventor of the game
found out the game was taking off in the postal hobby he tried reintroducing it
again as a boardgame. Unfortunately it turned out to be a disappointing failure
as he thought to change the game by introducing robots and other silly extras.
It was definitely NOT the same game.
you don't need to buy the boardgame to play it by post. I've uploaded the postal
rules to Steve, which should appear alongside this. The rules explain the game
much better than I could here. And to help the players (who receive a copy of
them on starting) they'll also get printouts of the actual board each Turn.
There, you can't have a game fairer than that, now can you?
Sopwith Rules by Tom Tweedy
from Spring Offensive 35