GLOUCESTER — Take a break on Black Friday, for an evening of fun and a special game when Gloucester’s Hammond Castle Museum unveils the release of John Hays Hammond Jr.’s Naval Warfare Game more than a century after it was invented.
The game patent was actually the first Hammond received, from a lifetime of almost 550 approved patents. According to the recent research by Curatorial Director John Leysath, Hammond had 435 registered patents in the United States, with a further 114 foreign patents spread across seven other countries.
To celebrate Hammond’s first patent on Friday, Nov. 25, Game Night will run from 5 to 10 p.m. in a drop-in program where visitors can be the first to play the game. Meanwhile, the oceanfront medieval-style castle will be decked out for the holidays. A range of other tabletop games also will be available to play, from chess to Dixit to Risk among others.
Additionally, Leysath will play the new game so others can see how it’s done. Snacks and water will be available for purchase. There also will be a raffle for a one of the Hammond games for everyone who attends.
Hammond had filed the patent for his Naval Warfare Game in 1911, and received approval the following year. But he never manufactured the game. That has been the brainchild of Leysath who has been studying in depth both the patent and the rules outlined in the patent filing in order to create an actual game.
“I’ve always been a fan of tabletop games and I wanted to make that game a reality,” said Leysath. “As far as anyone knew, it was not commercially produced or marketed, and I thought that was a shame because it never really saw the light of day except for the patent filing. It was an interesting task to explore how does it actually play? Is it fun? Is it interesting?”
He explained that the patent had formal technical language, so his first task was to translate it into rules that the average person could understand. Then he started creating graphics for the board and box, again based on Hammond’s patent illustrations. Using a 3-D printer, the museum was able to create a small batch of the games.
The game is set in the World War I era.
At first glance, people may think it’s like the classic board game Battleship that goes back to that era, said Leysath.
“The games may have been inspired by the same source material, possibly which was a pencil and paper game that soldiers actually made up in that time period,” he said. “The interesting thing is they don’t play similarly at all. Hammond’s game plays more like chess. The best way I can sort of describe it is imagine you had a version of chess with fewer pieces but you moved all your pieces on the same turn — and the direction they are facing matters in Hammond’s game. It’s strategic and tactical and more realistic in its simulations.”
As he began playing the game before bringing its final version to life, he and the staff realized almost immediately that there had to be some adaptations to make it viable for play.
“It was easy to get into a stalemate, or a tie, and in Hammond’s own patent, he acknowledges this is one possible set of rules and there could be permutations of rules that one could implement,” explained Leysath.
He and another staffer played a number of test games, and through them modified the rules until they found what they believed was the best version of the game.
In its final form, the game comes with a full color instruction booklet and a facsimile of Hammond’s patent.
The game box art includes an image of Hammond, an avid sailor, on the deck of a ship, reading a chart. It is mixed with imagery from a mural painted for Hammond by family friend and artist Eric Pape, which is located in the museum’s War Room, and whose work will be featured in an April 2023 exhibition. The 1918 mural depicts a fictional World War I naval battle in Gloucester Harbor, where Hammond’s torpedoes come to the defense of the nation, noted Leysath.
Tickets for Game Night are $15, and can be purchased in advance at hammondcastle.org.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at email@example.com.