Saturday, March 16, 2013

Homeric Battle Game - Antique 40mm Flats

Here's something I just received from Germany yesterday, an old kid's game: Homerisches Kampfspiel. This set was produced by Heinrichsen in 1881.  The figures are 40mm, representing gods and heroes of the Trojan Wars. At least the 19th Century idea of it, not a boar's tusk helmet or figure-eight shield in sight here. 

It's funny, I had contacted Dr.Grobe of Heinrichsen about something completely different, threw in a question about this set thinking it was long out of stock, and was pleasantly surprised to find she still had one with the unpainted castings.  My eBay Romans had fetched a nice sum, more than enough rationalize getting the game.

The components are nice, with a sturdy 9x9 board and two trays of  beautifully engraved figures.

The rules for the game are chesslike, rather simple and minimalist, but somewhat murky at the same time. Perhaps something is lost in translation.  Each side has 23 figures: 5 gods and goddesses, 8 heroes (3 mounted, 5 on foot) and ten warriors serving as pawns. 

Capture is only on the diagonal.  The pawns move like chess kings, the foot heroes move as the pawns do except cannot retreat. One wonders what happens when they reach the other edge of the board, presumably stuck there like players on the old electric football games who vibrated to the sidelines and end zones, out of the action until the next play.  The interesting wrinkle is that the foot heroes all have a patron god or goddess, identified by like color codes painted on the bases. These gods can then fly across the battlefield to protect their heroes from capture (at least from one side). The mounted heroes enjoy no such protection but are nicely compensated by the granting of unlimited movement on the diagonals, like chess bishops.  When a hero dies, his godly protector is removed from play, no doubt retiring to Mt. Olympos. When all heroes to a given side are killed, that army is defeated and the game is over.

Here are the game pieces, shown in their factory paint.



I look forward to painting these in my own way, as soon as I finish a few other things in queue.


  1. What a delightful find!

    I presume combat is also chess like with any attacker taking his prey?

  2. Glad you like it, guys ! You're right, Ross. Only the gods are exempt from being taken.

    I discussed the rules with Brigitte G. She said they played it once and found that the gods, once deployed, clogged the board, greatly inhibiting the movement of the heroes.

    It's probably unavoidable that the slow movement for most of the pieces will lead to a cramped middle game. But no doubt some house rules could clean things up. My own take is it'll probably work better to reverse the movement rules for pawns and heroes, restricting backwards movement for the pawns just like their chess counterparts, and grant it to the heroes. Then they can back away and rejoin the fight somewhere else. Another idea might be to let the heroes move into their own god's square, altough losing the protection in that case.

    I don't see it rivaling chess but should be fun to play with all the nicely colored pieces.


  3. Wow - what an impressively preserved set. The portrayals are just like the period artwork seen in books. Trojans are routinely shown wearing Phrygian caps. Very nice addition to your collection. Looking forward to your fine painting too. Best, Dean

  4. Hi, Dean. Glad you like the set.

    Heinrichsen seems to be basically in the business of preserving their heritage. The old molds are brought out and figures re-cast now and then, this set in 1994. Although the designs are very old, these particular castings probably aren't.

    I hope I can do them due credit with the painting.