Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Question of Historical Wargaming: 'Ok, Who Wants to be The Bad Guys?


I'm feeling a little introspective lately. This is what comes from having a bit of vacation time to laze about, catch up on some reading and generally navel gaze. As an odd combination, I've been following the faltering Mladic war crimes trial from the Hague, finishing Nial Ferguson's 'The Pity of War' and reading several sets of modern wargame rules, all of which has set me to thinking about our hobby.


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I believe we often view our hobby as just that: a relatively benign past-time in which we collect miniatures, painstakingly paint them and then array them in tabletop battles. Many of us feel that there is an almost H.G. Wells inspired, quasi-Victorian purity to it all, especially if the periods of interest are colourful and morally two-dimensional. Periods such as ancient Rome, the Hundred Years War and the Napoleonic era are often perceived as somehow quasi academic and having a quaint gentleman's club aesthetic about them. 


An artists rendition of  an early wargame in the spirit of 'Little Wars' by H.G. Wells
Nonetheless, in the past few years there has been a growing interest to game more contemporary conflicts (i.e. ultra modern fighting in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan) and this has led me to thinking about the combatants, their motivations and how we as wargamers portray them. From my observation it seems that these conflicts generate a definite sense of a 'good' side and 'bad' side. 


This is well and fine, but what makes them 'good' or 'bad'? Is it that distinct or is it based on perception? And what of gaming the 'bad guys'? Do you feel uncomfortable making a 'game' that may feature forces such as the Taleban? The IRA? How about the child soldiers of Sierra Leone's 'West Side Boys'? Perhaps its not that big of a deal for you? Do they simply serve as an OPFOR to your NATO/Brits/Americans? To be clear, I'm not judging, I'm just curious. As for myself, I'm somewhat conflicted about it. I have a fascination of the tactics and the historical context, but an unease of 'playing' the darker core elements of these struggles - can the tactics and the characteristics be separated from one another, or are they intrinsic in that they all play a role describing the conflict? 


Lacking Comfortable Clarity: An African Boy Soldier and a target from a Predator Drone. In looking at these two images are the subjects villains or victims? Without context its very difficult to determine.


On one level perhaps it is the vicious ideology that drives many modern 'brushfire' wars which often makes them so repugnant to some. Many gamers like to stick to high intensity, state-vs-state conflicts where, while often bloody, nothing is really personal and the motivations seem notional or distant. It seems that once you introduce things such as ethnicity, racism, religious fundamentalism, etc. then some people begin to shift uncomfortably in their seats. These conflicts are often perceived as unpalatable as they do not stem from a political or nation-state struggle, but instead are fuelled by passions that often cannot be cleanly reasoned or be easily understood.

I certainly believe that the more contemporary the subject the more likely it may be considered distasteful or too-close-for-comfort for many. I distinctly remember as a teen in the early 80s that I would not dream of discussing my interests in WWII wargaming with any of the veterans in my home town. It was simply not thought as proper to make a game of what those in the community may have suffered through. Nonetheless, as that generation of veterans sadly passes into time the ease and willingness to game the Second World War has increased - exhibited by the success of games such as 'Flames of War' with their attendent tournaments and impressive breadth and depth of miniatures and player support.  


In this light I think 'time does heal all' in that history often has a certain 'levelling' effect with the ideology, morality and politics of warfare. With many earlier historical periods it seems that neither side can be considered being what we would consider as the definitive 'bad-guys'. Was Rome or Carthage 'good' or 'bad'? Were either the Royalists or the Roundheads essentially evil? I'm sure their various merits/shortcomings were hotly debated at the time, but today it all seems rather academic, with the arguments often being no more than tongue-in-cheek sparing. Except for their uniforms, the actors of these conflicts are perceived as being much the same, with neither having a significant moral high-ground, and so can be gamed with an easy conscience.


The Lens of Time: AWI Yankees and a Viet Cong soldier: either of these images could be perceived as depicting patriots or terrorists, 'hated enemy' or 'heroic defender', depending on place in time and the partiality of the viewer. 


Nevertheless, I think historical wargamers often like to compartmentalize or perhaps sanitize our thinking of what we're actually doing. We often don't think (or choose not to) about any of the uncomfortable aspects of the periods we reconstruct. For example, while many love playing the hard-fighting Confederates in the American Civil War (I certainly do) we often don't reflect on why they were fighting in the first place. While it is commonly understood that one of the primary reasons the American South seceded was for matters of states rights, they also wished to break with the Union in a desire to preserve a distinct way of life. A way of life that was fundamentally built upon the tacit acceptance and promotion of slavery.  In another vein, and reflecting on my previous comments on the Second World War, those who love the advanced equipment and elite status of Waffen SS formations often don't wish to consider the extremely disturbing and morally bankrupt ideological core that drove that organization.


I know, I know, I should get a hobby. Nevertheless I believe these are important questions that should challenge us. Am I going to sell off my wargaming collection and don a hair shirt of contrition? Of course not. This IS a hobby, its a great form of distraction and the misanthrope in me likes to think that to play these games is a form of education, outlining our collective march of folly. This all being said, I think that from time to time we may want to take a step back from wargaming's obvious entertainment and consider not only the cost of blood, spirit and treasure that these conflicts demand but also the motivations of the antagonists. In fact it may be interesting to incorporate some of these complexities into the design of our scenarios - it might well add greater depth and context to what we do. All grist for the mill...

23 comments:

  1. Interesting post Curt. As they say one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist. If anything I think gaming has given me even more appreciation of the human costs of conflicts.

    personally it does not sit comfortably doing any of the modern conflicts, i just seems to close. But then i have played older Napoleonics games with guys who have fought themselves in recent wars, so it's a funny one. I am sure he wished he has is MLRS to hand instead of a 12lber! I think you are right - time is the leveller.

    Right back off to the victorian times for me!

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  2. I usually favour the underdogs in any wargaming setting. In Flames of War, I play as the Brits in MW because they were very much on the ropes in North Africa before eventually going onto the offensive. In LW I play as the Germans(SS) because I find the skillful defence they mounted against overwhelming odds compelling. If I were to play a wargame set in modern time, I would definitely play as some sort of resistance group such as the Mujahideen, FARC, IRA etc.

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  3. I very much agree. How much do people think into their subject? For Flames of War, I feel a bit funny about playing an SS company. But, atrocities were not committed by them alone- so perhaps that feeling is unjust?

    As for modern conflicts... Part of my own university study was in smaller, modern (usually ethnic) conflicts, the likes of Sierra Leone. So, I do have interest in the area, but would I game those conflicts? No. I know I have my own western prejudices, and biases based around that. It is that good/bad concept, it is always "them and us", but that has always been true in the history of war. Churchills famous quote, about History liking him because he intended to write it!

    I am not really sure. In saying all that, I just recently picked up some Empress Taliban models, so maybe I don't have something against it?

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  4. Very good post Curt.

    Time and personal involvement are the greatest factors. Many, me included do not like to play the more recent or on going wars, I tend to stick to WWII and back. A friend of mine will not play WWI after visiting the WWI cemetries in France.

    As for the good guy/bad guy angle. A real storm has been generated by the use of black SS counters in ASL (some love them, others hate them and refuse to use them). Me I use them and think they look good on the boards but could just as happily use the standard blue ones.

    I also think the average wargamer has a better idea of the conflicts he plays than the average guy on the street (by a large margin) and many of these are aware of the actions and unpleasentness that the combatants got up to.

    Fran or Ray got in hot water for painting up a civilian hung for a partisan act, I on the other hand thought it a great piece (I have a ECW gallows but without the hung person)

    The only time I have played a game and felt uncomfortable was playing as the ZOB forces and the scenario called for their distruction and it felt wrong. I often have the oppertunity to kill troops at the point of surreder and do so if no advantage can be gained by capture all with out a quarm. I recently had prisoners executed by my Japanese opponent (only allowed to japanese, SS and Russians facing SS) and was not uncomfortable with it. Maybe because it was only cardboard?

    Ian

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  5. A thoughtful post as always, Curt. I think you're right, that we all have our comfort zones. I don't personally fancy gaming anything near-modern. Fr some reason it feels a little close for comfort and I'm not sure they are far enough in history to be portrayed on a board as just a military conflict. I'm not sure that makes any sense logically though.

    I do think most war gamers are aware of historical context to some degree and of the time manage to avoid distasteful portrayals with the hobby. I had a flutter of conscience last year, when I wrote a Peninsular war scenario where the French commander is to put down a rebellion in an under-defended Spanish town. Militarily interesting due to an imbalance of forces (trained and experienced troops against guerilla, militia and armed civilians), but have read a little around the subject, I concede that the scenario portrays the darkest side of a conflict normally seen in (idealised?) military terms.

    I've not used the scenario yet.

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  6. You raise a topic that certainly does the rounds in wargaming circles from time to time...

    As others have said, time and distance to the events of the past, dilute their impact to us now, but whos to say those who lived through them then would have felt any different to us now looking back on more recent conflicts...

    Sometimes I find the words to describe the scale of a conflict, at times rediculous. Who's ever heard of a conflict being termed a 'limited war'... really? limited??? I'm sure it doesnt feel very limited to the poor civilian whos just had a howitzer shell come through the bedroom window...

    In terms of good guys and bad guys, well yes again, as others have said, the victory writes the history for the most part, so we end up with a biased view, due to that fact...

    I currently greatly enjoy WWII, and as those who follow my blog will note, I am amassing quite a large german force. I have no difficulty with it, and whilst we know the politics and atrocities commited by the Germans were unthinkable, it seems Stalins regime was just as harsh if not more so...

    Interestingly, when I was demo-ing FoW down at the local club, a young lad, I dunno early teens maybe, perhaps younger, one of the 40k players... came up and immediately launched into a vicious verbal attack on my german troops... quoting the holocaust and this that and the other, 'I want to crush them' he kept repeating, raising a large rulebook as if to do so... I quickly countered saying we are playing a game of soldiers NOT politics... which difused him a bit, and besides if he'd hit my troops with that book, WWIII would have started right there... ;-) But I was rather pleasantly surprised that one so young knew so much...

    Whilst I might be happy to play FoW, I have a close mate who is 'uncomfortable' with it, due I believe from his Dutch ancestry, and there still being bullet holes in the walls of the villages there where civilians were lined up and shot... But I have no direct connection to this so it doesnt affect me... However as Ian points out above about his friends feelings about WWI, I too feel an empathy with this sentiment, again as I have toured the cemetries there...

    I suppose there is no easy answer, which will please everybody. At the end of the day we play with toy soldiers and roll dice. Our 'men' die, get put back in their box, and come out again to fight another day...

    I guess if it doesnt feel right to you, don't play it... For me I currently have no desire to play anything more recent than WWII.

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  7. Curt, that's a really interesting post. Resolving these kinds of themes is something which you don't have to accomplish be a wargamer and enjoying wargaming. But I think that thinking about them and exploring them adds a lot to the hobby. As with so much, it depends on what sort of journey you want your hobby to take you on

    Perhaps (at least for me) the hobby has a great deal to do with commemoration. I'm comfortable playing a game when one of the aspects is commemorating and respecting what happened in history - I doubt anyone would have a problem with that. The problems start when a modern game is a period which is difficult to fit into that approach.

    Can I "commemorate" one side in a game which has a morally bankrupt ideology? Or am I just commemorating the other (presumably less-morally bankrupt) side?

    Can I fairly commemorate any period once I have removed the moral rough edges? Some of these appear in any period. The killing of prisoners. The starvation of a besieged city. The abandoning of wounded (or attempting their rescue against the odds). The slaughter in the aftermath of a routed army. All unpleasant, all unsavoury - but none particularly modern. Modern games just bring their own, additional, horrors - flamethrowers, napalm, poison gas, defoliant agents …

    So what's the answer? I don't have one. But I like games which immerse, which make people think while they're having fun. For me, the rough edges stay - and sometimes I try to bring them out and focus on them. Not to relish and glorify them, but because they're also part of recreating history.

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    Replies
    1. This is a very interesting post.

      I myself would say that, so long as you don't actually believe the political ideas of for instance, a Waffen-SS company, it's fine to play one. After all, they are just 2cm tall pieces of plastic on a table.

      Also, who are we to judge wether someone is good or bad? Frits from his little Dutch village, who joined the SS-division Niederlande because his father was badly maltreated by the Dutch Home Guard during the 10th-15th of may would have thought the Allies were the bad guys, and that Hitler was fully right. And no one has any qualms about playing a Soviet force, while Stalin has murdered 14 million people more then Hitler.

      As such, I wouldn't say you can extend good or bad to little plastic/metal versions of the reality. In the same way, the reason I don't do moderns is that I don't like post WW2 warfare, not that it's too close, though I can imagine a Vietnam veteran not wanting to play a Vietnam war game.

      That's my two pence.

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  8. Very interesting post Curt.

    Yes, I would have no interest in gaming recent conflicts. Most conflicts since WWII have been nationalistic and I would always favour the inhabitants of the country over the invaders. In the 90's I traveled through Lebanon when the aftermath of the Israeli invasion and subsequent occupation in the south was still apparent. I could never game that war as it left me with such a bad taste in my mouth. If I tried to do the war in south east asia, I could only ever take the side of the VC and on it goes.

    I really enjoy wargaming and painting figures, it is an escape for me. The research associated with each period is always instructive. The periods I game have passed into history, and hopefully the losses associated with them and the bitterness have faded. What is left is the courage, valour and victory of the individual. I love the "what if", thus my interest in recreating historical scenarios.

    No, I have no interest in pushing around little Palestinians as they fight the brutal occupier. Just not interested in Indochine, where the mistakes made and unrecognized are still being played out in today's wars.

    No I will stick with the old way, and carry on with the wars gone bye.

    John

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  9. Interesting post Curt and one I've discussed before in our group. For myself anything after 1980 is to close for me and out of my comfort zone. This probably stems from the fact that about that time and after I started watching the news and really caring what was going on in the world. However, mostly I think it's because the imagery element is completely gone primarily because I'm a 1991 Gulf War veteran. I've lived it and didn't like it and so have no wish to game it.

    I'd say Vietnam is probably as far as I'd go. I was born the year of the Tet offensive and the rest I was of course to young to follow on the news therefore it holds mystery and intrigue for me and not quite so "real" to my world if you get my meaning.

    In the end for me the modern era(or do they call it ultra modern?) is too close to home for me where I have a distinct and very clear line of good guys and bad guys bias that I am unable to over look making gaming it difficult and probably best left alone. That said, I have no qualms about others playing modern warfare and pass no judgement at all, but rather just have no interest to do so myself.

    I've rather enjoyed both the post and replies as I find it very interesting hearing other gamers perspectives.:-)

    Christopher

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  10. As others have said, this is a topic that regularly raises its head above the parapets and never finds a conclusion. Every gamer has different views about what is or isn't acceptable/palatable for them to game.

    Personally, I would have no philosophical problem playing the "bad guys" in a particular context - if you are fighting a recreation of a given battle and they were present, then someone has to play them even if they don't identify with them.

    With regards to atrocities committed in real life, the passage of time blurs he effect and absolves gamers of the issues associated with playing them. If wargaming had been around in the 1650s, how many people would have felt comfortable playing the Imperial 30YW forces in light of the massacre of Magdeburg? But now, it seems that everyone and their dog wants to play the Imperials - the resources available (flags, uniform guides etc) are extensive for them but very limited for their "Protestant" opponents (the Swedes being the exception). In the ancient/medieval era, the Mongols and Samurai are always popular despite the atrocities they committed.

    The main reason for me not gaming WWII and modern conflicts are that I've only just got back into gaming so am still building up armies for other periods. I may or may not get into it at a later date, as the development of modern warfare does hold a strong interest for me.

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  11. Dude - thought-provoking post.

    I game quite a bit in the "modern" settings, but that is relative - modern being late 80s/early 90s. I have never gamed the current Afghanistan conflict, or the Iraq war, but I have gamed the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. I have also gamed a lot of Europe "what-if", cold-war-gone-hot stuff - in 6mm and 25mm.

    For me, it's just a game, and I don't think too much about the ethics, perceived or otherwise, of a given side in a game. We laugh and joke a lot when we play the game, so the issues of morality around the motivations of a given faction do not arise.

    I don't game the currnet ultra-modern conflicts because of a moral or ethical concern, but because they would, frankly, be awful games. A NATO-type force getting into any kind of trouble would call for air strikes/drone strikes/artillery strikes that would obliterate any opposition. Coming up with an interesting scenario requires incredible contoritions and assumptions that allow the players to suspend sufficient disbelief so that the NATO force, for example, cannot use air assets.

    I know air/artillery/off-board stuff is a factor in many, many games and periods. But the current, ultra-modern setting, with satellite-guided everything is just so incredibly one-sided that table-top games don't work for it. Leaving out any moral/ethical queasiness - who would want to play the Iraqi side in a Gulf War/Iraqi Freedom scenario? That would be a lame game, whatever you would feel about the actors involed.

    I actually find the "morality" of the numerous popular sci-fi factions as appalling as anything current human history has managed to generate. Just look at the "Imperium" in 40k - fuelled by an absolute form of literally-human-consuming-all-out-totalitarianism that is quite breathtaking if you consider it in any kind of non-sarcastic-social-commentary way. The 40k Imperium is only a "good guys" faction compared to the terror of the Orks, the various Chaos factions etc. Fortunately the 40k universe is so overwrought today that it is silly and self-parodying (and not meant to be, which makes it even funnier). But the story above of some 40k player lecturing someone on collecting a German force reinforces my view of the standard 40k fanboy.

    I suspect this is a primary reason that so much of the sci-fi gaming I do has a pronounced tongue-and-cheek feel either to the factions, or the scenarios, or both. Our "GünSchwarm" and "FuturKom" factions are essentially parodies as well as excuses to paint more figures and game with them.

    And it is all just a hobby in the end, sci-fi, historical or othwerise.

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  12. This is something, in a simpler form, that I have been trying to explain to my seven year old son. He always wants to know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. In the Lord of the Rings, this is easy. In historical gaming it is almost always and impossible question to answer.

    As far as gaming is concerned, I'm comfortable up to WWII, though there are units I won't play, the SS being one. I also have little interest in the Soviets. It is all still too close to be comfortable. I have no interest in playing modern stuff. I am interested in imagination play with modern equipment. To me, that is more of a "what if". The thought of putting USMC on the table to fight the Taliban, literally, gives me the shivers. I can't do it. For me those are not toy soldiers anymore, I know them, they are real people.

    The answer is complicated because it involves people. It is probably the rare gamer who chooses the SS because they stood for everything he believes in. I think the reasons people choose are more important than what they choose, and really only matter in a situation like the above. I would not want to play that SS player because I wouldn't want to have anything to do with that person, in any part of life. If someone walks up to me with an SS company they chose because "they're the best", I have no issues.

    The good news is that people who are thinking about these things are conscientious, a trait to be admired. They are treating this as a hobby rather than a game. To them (you) it is a multifaceted past time that matters in ways that aren't just what happens on the table. Most everyone can do with some thought into why they see things the way they do.

    Great post. Thanks.

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  13. "There are not white metal widows", I read some years ago in a magazine.
    It is a hobby, a game that, I think, must be maintained far away from the politics of the War. We play with toy soldiers and military models, and enjoy a lot our activity.

    Why are the modern conflicts more dirt than those of the past? There have been civilians in the middle of the battle, prisioners executed and insurgents/contra-insurgents all along the history so, where is the difference?

    I´m preparing a game about the Rhodesian´s Bush War and I am not thinking about the White vs Black conflict, the Colonialism, etc. I am thinking about the tactics I need to use with my "green" ZANLA or ZIPRA fighters against the "crack" Rhodesian soldiers.

    Because it is only a game.

    Curt, it is a really great post.
    Best regards.

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  14. An excellent post Curt, who can say what side is good and what side is bad, I'm sure nearly every soldier that has ever fought in any war thought they were on the good side, fighting the bad side. Its only history and historians who push us to conclude who was good. When the Romans invaded Gaul did that make them good or bad, I'm sure the villages they burned thought so.
    I'm quite comfortable playing any period in history although it does give me an uncomfortable feeling playing anything within my living memory. I'm not keen on modern warfare games, not because of the good/bad thing, but I find them quite boring, the weapons are just too powerful with ranges that go on for miles. I've got a pal who's in an SS re-enactment group. I think this is taking it too far, I'd play WWII games using SS figures, but playing at being a member of the SS is just ridicules!

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  15. The good guys or the bad guys?, I have recently painted modern terrorists/ freedom fighters for my modern period, I also have started doing Taliban and hostages, I will admit that these do not sit that well (even coming from an Irishman)but they will just be the bad guys for Ray to play or the other side!

    At the end of the day it's a game to me that's all, at nearly all stages of history there are bad guys among the good guys, rebels, freedom fighters, religious maniacs etc....

    You need a bad guy or the other side for a game but whose opinion is right, sometimes I like to be the bad guy which to the Irish would be the English...or Ray!

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  16. Very inspiring post, Curt. Here's my two cents.

    Monopoly is a game about greed. Greed is bad, but pretending to be greedy is fun. I pretend to wage war when I wargame. Does this make me a bad person? Wargaming will never make me shoot at somebody. Riding my bike and keeping fit, on the other hand, could prepare me for military training...

    In 2009, 250 years later after the event, a vast majority of French-Canadians were adamantly opposed to a re-enactment of the Battle of Quebec (1759). This kind of reaction tells me that the "confort zone" we are talking about depends on how someone defines his own identity. Identity is made of feelings. My confort zone tells me with whom I want or don't want to identify. My confort zone doesn't tell me if I am bad or good, it tells me who I am.

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  17. Thanks so much for all of your thoughtful responses - I’m very impressed (and flattered) at the time, thought and effort that have been put into the various comments. This is a fine example of one of the great aspects of blogging – social media at its best!.

    Some of you mentioned that this question is a perennial one and has ‘made the rounds’ with no conclusive answers. First, I don’t think there is a correct answer, just thoughts, opinions and discussion which has value in of itself. In fact I’m happy to hear that this is a well-trod topic as it causes us to revisit the question and reevaluate our perspective. I think this is very important as wargaming can often be construed as being in ill taste or even offensive to some, so we should be mindful of these opinions and perhaps be prepared to talk about them.

    On a lighter note, all of this makes me think of a great T-shirt I saw a few years ago:

    “Guns don’t kill people. People with moustaches kill people.”

    Thanks again for being such good sports with this post. I’ll now return to normal programming…

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  18. Curt
    A thought provoking ( and brave) post. I don't tend to play post WW2 stuff and limit my exposure to 20thC conflicts where my conscience feels ok. But however you look at it, there are no "clean" bits of military history. Sylvain makes an excellent point about the failed Quebec 250th celebrations (which had its humerous points such as the claim that Paul McCartney was too Canadian for Quebec!). King Stephen is currently pushing 1812 celebrations, and they are groups for whom the War of 1812 is anything to celebrate.

    It does come down to how you look at it and your own comfort zone. My daughter has a lot of friends of (East) Indian descent at high school -they have a lot of fun with the fact that my great-grandfather fought on the North West Frontier in the 1890s.

    Cheers

    PD

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  19. Excellent post! After the movie "Saving Private Ryan" was out, I heard about a gamer showing up at a convention with a home made "Killing Private Ryan" T shirt. Too far. And too soon.

    In my WW II gaming, I went through a German phase and when it started to bother me, I switched to an all Russian phase. Which is quite easy since so many people want to play the Germans! With just a few exceptions, I think we hobbyists are a pretty thoughtful bunch.

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  20. As a come back on this one. I just finished a scenario with a long time gameing bud and he has just sent me the next scenario set up. I am the Grossdeutschland and the victory conditions read "The German player must control and/or rubble/set ablaze 24 building locations." I was busy scanning the special rules and noticed one building was a church with three locations. Imediatly I thought "great I will burn that for max effect!" Worse still this scenario is based on a real action in Russia in '41 should I be less cold?

    On a plus point I just remembered that just over a year ago three of the surviving members of the now famous Band of Brothers were at a charity function put on by wargamers and had signed a scenario pack that was being auctioned off for charity. All three scenarios were actions taken from the mini serries of the same name. So sometimes the two do co-exist together.

    Ian

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  21. Curt, I have only recently 'found' your great blog. This was an excellent, thought-provoking post (and comments). It's long afterwards now, but I feel compelled to post some my thoughts (many of which re-iterate what has already been said), so here goes.

    It's an interesting discussion, albeit one without end. I am not keen to wargame more recent conflicts, although that is principally 'cause I prefer the look and feel of horse and musket wargaming. Like some of the respondents above, I am "uncomfortable" with the idea of making a game of more contemporary conflicts and find the idea of gaming current conflicts "tasteless", although I am probably less troubled by a fictitious, modern game. There is some tenuous logic there, I think!

    I suppose it is in part because time (historical) provides the same 'distance' from horrible realities as geography does with contemporary disasters. One can still imagine the human pain and suffering, but it is a little less real. As you and some of the respondents pointed out, wargaming gives us an appreciation of the waste, losses and the detatched perspective of the C-in-C—"gotta break an egg to make an omelette". I often reflect on and imagine what it may have been like—the casualties, the fate of the wounded, the impact on non-combatants—but, when playing a wargame, I am more focussed on the game, the contest and how best to win.

    In the end we know that it is make believe (just a game) and the only possible victims are the pride of the losing competitor (perhaps), and any possible wear and tear on our plastic or metal 'friends'; a bit of chipped painting, or the odd broken bayonet, or perhaps a figure knocked from its base. The truest comment and great thing about our hobby is that no-one gets hurt, at the end we pack 'em up and they can "fight" again another day!

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  22. Monty, Ian and James, thanks very much for your considered comments - I appreciate it. I've really enjoyed reading your thoughts and find myself encouraged by the fellowship of hobbyists who've been kind enough to ponder on these matters with me. In a sense wargaming celebrates events from our collective past that many would prefer to forget, so it is good that we consider what we're doing and why so we can discuss it if asked.
    -Curt

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