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Subject: Playing the enemy in actual wars rss

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Andrés Herranz
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One of the most recurrent discussions I have with my non wargaming friends is the ethics on recreating and "having fun" with a conflict. This is not a new discussion in the BGG. Most of the games are dated many years ago giving the player the opportunitty to look the action from other perspective, few people refuse to play Germany in a WWII game. But I want to be more specific, what happens when the conflict is happening now? Is any one able to play the taliban or the iraki insurgency?

Ok, I guess that an American player would like to lead a group of Marines storming through the streets of Fallujah but, what happens to his friend, who has to lead the insurgency trying yo kill american soldiers (specially for USA gamers), or how about a son, in a son-dad style game (like Memoir 44)? Did you let your son to play a game like that?

I discussed with my friends that a wargame "US vs Insurgency" should be a big failue in US because of the theme, but we have an european point of view were the army and the guns are a big tabu. What about in the US?

This seams not to be a problem for videogames. Battlefield 2 recreates the battle between americans, iranians, and insurgency and it seems to be a great hit. So does C&C Generals, an strategy game, were you can play man and car suicide bombing. Any american reading this plays this games and choose the bad guys killing some digital fellow americans?

Please express your opinion, a dinner bet is in play

Thank you all.
 
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Christian Marcussen
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I think to most people it wont matter that much unless its done really distastefuly or with a idealogical support for the insurgency.

But then again i'm notone of the people who can get pissy about the War on Terror game.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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I have stated this several times before.

I will not play historical wargames.

Memoir '44 would have me replay the death of my grandfather as a piece of plastic.

That casual lack of respect I find too disturbing.

I understand I may be a minority of 1, and you can say you're doing it for simulation or to lighten up or whatever, but I simply can't.
 
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robin goblin
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I wouldn't play the American side in Iraq, as the U.S. invasion is illegitimate and the U.S. army shouldn't be there. So, a game that ideologically supported the American presence in Iraq would be completely offensive to me.
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Dan Mixer
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Um... we are talking about games here... little plastic pieces and dice...
 
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marc lecours
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During the cold war, both the american military and the russian military staged wargames (on paper, computer assisted or even with real soldiers.) Some of the military commanders had to play the role of the enemy. I doubt if such role playing was a moral problem for them. It was even encouraged for the people playing the enemy to think like them and use their doctrine and ideology. Again I don't think it is a problem for most people.

In a similar way, I can play Twilight struggle as the russians and not be bothered. I can play the Germans in WWII and not be bothered.(though I have yet to see a game that includes the Holocaust as part of WWII. The effect is that the Nazis are acceptable to play because the memory of the Holocaust has been erased from WWII games.)

As for wars that are still active that is trickier. If there is a chance that your side might lose then I think that it is in the interest of a society to keep their citizens from playing such a game by making it taboo.Imagine that there was a realistic game that came out 4 years ago about the war in Iraq. For example let's say that the victory condition for the USA was either to find weapons of mass destruction or to establish a permanent moderate government in Iraq not under Bathist or Shiite control. In this game the USA might lose war in Iraq 80% of the time. This would have been unacceptable. Nowadays such a game might be acceptable since it looks like the USA might not succeed in leaving Iraq without a destabilizing war breaking out.

What I am saying is that citizens of a country generally support their own country during a war. They usually censor games, books, ideas, articles that show that their side might lose. AND they do this without being told by the government to do so. Games are in this category. A wargame that shows that your country might lose is powerful antigovernment propaganda. Good citizens will censor this themselves.Game companies with their eye on profit will avoid such controversial games until the war is decided one way or another.

On the other hand a game which has your country as the winner 99% of the time barring an unlikely series of die rolls is perfectly acceptable. Every set back in the real war can be explained away as a "bad die roll" which also helps the propaganda effort.

Are there any present wars out there not involving the USA that have been made into a game? (a war where the USA is not emotionally attached to either side)
 
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Russ Williams
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There's obviously no simple uniform answer to this. Everyone has their own preferences and limits about what games they like to play or not to play. I wouldn't be the least bit bothered to play either side in a game about the war in Iraq, if the game itself was interesting.

My personal reaction is: If you start thinking about things like "this game is simulating events that caused pain or death to someone", there's no reason to stop at wargames. E.g. any game about exploration is probably simulating events which in the real world led to colonialism, subjugation, and genocide of indigenous peoples. Business-themed games like Acquire and 1830 usually simulate the actions of business executives who, in the real world, have often caused serious financial hardship and loss, sometimes causing people to lose their homes and destroying families... Sport-themed games simulate events in which many athletes have been injured and even died - is it callous to simulate such events as boardgames? Any theme could theoretically be something that has caused suffering or death in the real world, including to people known to the players. So we should only play abstract unthemed games!

I would probably not want to play a game if I found it to have a repugnant agenda, e.g. a game about the Ku Klux Klan which seemed to be promoting the KKK. I.e. subjects don't bother me; agendas sometimes bother me. I don't think historical wargames about WWII have an agenda of promoting Hitler and the Nazis. So it never bothered me to play them.
 
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Mike Windsor
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I've got all sorts of thoughts on this.

1. I'm not sure that it really helps to over think your game theme. You can argue that most civilization/exploration themed games are premised on the destruction (literally and culturally) of other civilizations and peoples, and that builder/industrial games (especially railroad games) are based on exploiting poor workers (or slaves), and I could go on. Is it really that much different to say that a game uses an army of made-up goblins and elves that can cast a magical spell, as opposed to an army of men who can fire artillery?

2. I've talked to lots of wargamers, so I think that I can speak for a nice cross-section on this. I've never met anyone who indicated that they were playing a side in a game to further the ideological doctrine of that side. I never found anyone who played a game involving the Confederacy or the Waffen SS because they wanted to somehow further the doctrines of slavery or "racial purity." People often play a particular side because that side is the most challenging in the game. The Confederacy is usually outnumbered. The Germans in WWII are often outnumbered, but they often have superior equipment.

3. The "good" moral side isn't always clear. In WWII, the Germans and Japanese are on bad moral ground (given my choice I'd usually play the Allies for this reason). What about the Soviet Union in WWII? Stalin brutalized his people, but the Soviet people were invaded by an enemy who also brutalized them. Should you play the Soviet side? (I do.) In the American Civil War, should you play the Confederacy? (I usually pick the Union) What of all of the moral toss-ups? Was Napoleon a dictator, or a great spreader of democracy? Was ancient Roman conquest a bad thing since the Romans usually provided a measure of security and infrastructure, and left local issues to locals as long as taxes were paid (there were a lot worse kingdoms to be conquered by)?

4. I think that most wargamers play for a better understanding of history. If they weren't playing a wargame, they might well be reading a history book or watching The History Channel. Why did the Allies have such a hard time in the hedgerows in Normandy? How did Napoleon keep winning these battles; were his opponenents unlucky/incompetent, or do the French just win this battle 9 of 10 times? Why is it so damned hard to fight an insurgency or pacify a civil war (pick your morally acceptable conflict -- Bosnia, Vietnam, Iraq, Darfur, Rawanda)?

Quote:
I wouldn't play the American side in Iraq, as the U.S. invasion is illegitimate and the U.S. army shouldn't be there. So, a game that ideologically supported the American presence in Iraq would be completely offensive to me.
This can cut two ways. A supporter of the war in Iraq might play a game (and real armies do this) to learn how the goal can be sucessfully achieved. An opponent of the war, however, could play a game to show the cost of the war, or how the war aims cannot be achieved.

5. Its a bit harder to do with a paper game map, than on a computer, but I like to see bodies and wrecked vehicles on the map after a game. No, its not in any way the same, but it does remind me that its about people dying. One moment that stands out for me was a game involving the Eastern Front in WWII. Counters were stacked on top of one another, and the "battle" raged in one area for "weeks." Both sides threw huge numbers of counters into the area. When it was finally over (the "battle" had no effect on the game's outcome), I picked up counters, and noticed a small village on the map. It was there, but it didn't affect game play, so it didn't matter for game purposes. But I have often wondered how many places there are like that. What happened to the inhabitants? Did they try to come back even though there was nothing to come back to? Did anyone try to bury all the bodies and remove all the equipment and ordinance? Just makes you wonder.
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Leo Zappa
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In a certain way, playing wargames is role-playing. I often like to take the role of the bad guys in a game as a way of cutting loose and rampaging through the countryside because, well, sometimes it's fun to be bad! Especially when at the end of the exercise, no real humans have been harmed in the making of this game session. Since real military wargames have been mentioned, it did remind me that when I was in the US Army, I usually volunteered to be part of the OPFOR (OPposing FORce) team - even back then, I enjoyed playing the bad guys - I even have a plaque, currently displayed in my gameroom, given to me by our Colonel for outstanding service to the OPFOR during one of our exercises, so I guess for people like me, playing the "bad" side in a wargame is enjoyable because we get to act out.

Now, having said all of this, I would have trouble at this point playing a game about the current Iraq conflict simply because it's too real and close to home right now - the war itself is still going on and people are dying in that conflict today. I don't know how anyone plays such a game right now, representing either side, and has fun doing it. The only people I could see playing such a game now would be current US military people doing it for a training exercise. I did something similar back in 1990-1991 when I got a copy of "Arabian Nightmare", which was a hypothetical game about the impending Desert Storm operation created while the crisis was still forming. We used it at my Army Reserve unit to aid in "wargaming" the situation for training purposes. So, to answer the OP's question, I would not want to play any game where I am playing the Iraqi insurgents killing US soldiers and Marines. Ask me again in 20 years and maybe my answer might be different, assuming of course that the war's over by that time.
 
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robin goblin
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Quote:
This can cut two ways. A supporter of the war in Iraq might play a game (and real armies do this) to learn how the goal can be sucessfully achieved. An opponent of the war, however, could play a game to show the cost of the war, or how the war aims cannot be achieved.


I actually agree with you, Mike. My point was more that who 'the enemy' is (and even if you see either side as 'the enemy') in a particular war depends on the location and view of the observer....that being said, there are some sides in some wars that I feel uncomfortable playing, but I can't say that it is based necessarily on any logic -- more of a personal discomfort...
 
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Christian Marcussen
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In my view as long as its agood game, and both sides are treated objectively (unless its a parody) then I dont see the problem.
 
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Andy Kelly
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This discussion made me think of this article I read a few years ago:

http://www.slate.com/id/2080814/

In this case, it's the"red team" commander's job to play the enemy.

Too bad the guys above him were so thick-headed.
 
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Joseph Cardarelli
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I could play any side on any game about war. Even if I had to recreate the Holocaust or kill current marines in Iraq. It's because I am a robot and have no soul. Kill all humans. O'Reilly is a tool. Malfunction. Malfunction.

robot
 
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Well, I think this is why games based on contemporary conflicts are so rare.

My wargaming interests are primarily ancient-era, so I don't have these problems you are alluding to. It's so distant in time, and I don't have to committ myself to the game, ideologically speaking. Whether I'm rooting for Caesar or Pompey, it's a moot issue.
 
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Bill Herbst
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I would play either side in a contemporary setting wargame with no discomfort. I use wargames to gain a better understanding of the strategic and tacitical decisions faced by the commanders of the different sides (as envisioned through the lens of the designer, of course). Typical wargames are generally sanitized of overt ideological content and generally only present a fragment of the historical reality of the situation. Card driven games have the potential to blur this line a bit but I cannot think of any that cross the line (in my opinion). Would I play a WWII game in which the German player could derive some sort of benefit in the game by playing a "Final Solution" card? No, I would draw the line at that as morally repugnant and I think many other wargamers would as well. If I were playing the Germans in a DDay scenario of a game, would I manuever my forces aggressively to prevent the Allied landings? Yes, of course because the battlefield conditions are abstracted from the ideological content of the regime that my movements' support.
 
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Phillip Heaton
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I enjoy playing games. To me, games are a mental exercise combined with social interaction. I enjoy a good challenge and the people I game with do too. When I was getting started with gaming (mid sixties) wargames were the only games that consistently met my criteria for challenging strategy games (thank you Avalon Hill).

No game can simulate all the things that can and do happen in a war. "For the want of a nail..." is all to true in real life. That being the case, any game should be taken as a game, something to enjoy playing.

I can sympathize with someone who doesn't want to play these games because the theme makes them uneasy. I would find it hard to play a game about collecting, shipping and selling slaves, because I find slavery morally repugnant. On the other hand, I don't have a problem playing a Civil War game or Puerto Rico, even if the basis of the conflict/economy is slavery.

I don't have a problem with contemporary conflicts. When SPI was alive, the published several good games (and some poor ones) about conflicts that were happening then: Vietnam, the Cold War, the Arab Israeli conflicts, and Russo-Chinese conflicts. I played and enjoyed several of them. If I was presented with a game based on the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, or the whole War on Terror, my only questions would be "Is it a good game?" and "How long is it?" and "How complicated is it?"
 
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eric hess
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And this is why I like the geek, and the people on the geek.

To this point, in this very sticky situation that could EASILY degrade into a flamewar, everyone has been civil, respectful of each other, and insightful in their own way.

Kudos to you all!

(perhaps I have not given the thread enough time to bring out the vocal Warmonger/Patriot/Hippy/Anti-USA/Pro-USA/ flamewar supporters yet.)
 
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Scott
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biggdork wrote:
And this is why I like the geek, and the people on the geek.

To this point, in this very sticky situation that could EASILY degrade into a flamewar, everyone has been civil, respectful of each other, and insightful in their own way.

Kudos to you all!

(perhaps I have not given the thread enough time to bring out the vocal Warmonger/Patriot/Hippy/Anti-USA/Pro-USA/ flamewar supporters yet.)


I second that, we must get a nicer crowd on the weekends.
 
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Darrell Pavitt
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Some people used to make comments about WWII eastfront games along the lines of "Germans v Soviets, I don't care who wins as long as they both lose".
 
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Alex Sorbello
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I ALWAYS want to play the losing side of the war! (or in case of a scenario, whopever lost that battle) I prefer playing Germany or Japan in WWII playing the south in ACW, etc...
Kinda makes the what if and usually also more challaging! I would prefer to play the terrorist (however i can not see a fair deal in games coming out setting these two sides up!)
Games are NOT the actual thing... people who come up with that kinda of *@$* are the same people that think that the world needs to provide for their mishaps! Instead of taking a stand and doing something about their situation!
Anyhow! Wargames got their start between WWI and WWII when germany had a hard time getting any military off the ground (at least in the twenties!) During that time they trained their officers with the wargames. They have envolved in a hobby now. But the same can be said for a lot of things...
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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Quote:
So, a game that ideologically supported the American presence in Iraq would be completely offensive to me.


What if the game simply represented the American presence in Iraq, not supported it?

When I play Germany in WWII I'm not idealogically supporting Germany's right to own France, Poland, Russia, or Britain.

I just WANTS em is all
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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biggdork wrote:
(perhaps I have not given the thread enough time to bring out the vocal Warmonger/Patriot/Hippy/Anti-USA/Pro-USA/ flamewar supporters yet.)


You haven't, but every once in a while it might be possible to have a non-flamewar forum post... I guess...

edit: actually, see the comment I quoted above, about America/Iraq. There was no reason to mention America in Iraq other than to mention it. That's flamebait right there. Instead of saying, "I don't support games where oppressors and given the moral equivalence of the oppresed" they specifically mentioned America and Iraq. Especially since a CLEAR and more popularly represented example would've been WWII Germany. But the poster had to make a point about his political beliefs, not just what we're talking about. Maybe it's just encoded into the internet that people need to try and push other peoples' buttons? shake

double edit: and no, I don't support America in Iraq, but agreeing with the poster idealogically doesn't mean I can't see through his flamebait post.
 
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Robert Wesley
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While I usually HAVE to 'take' the "bad guys" in some instances, since they otherwise won't have a decent "chance" then! From my playings of that "A Line in the Sand" game, along with many others, then I try to out-do whatever "accomplishments" that they had managed to obtain, if any. Of course, I am MORE "attuned" to a disposition of "the BEST 'Defense' is a GOOD 'Offense'!" and will plan accordingly. Yet sometimes, that is NOT enough for the situations as they present themselves, and it is WHY you have to remain "flexible" as a result of this all. I also have no "qualms" about the 'role' for which I take on, since I can distance myself from the more "personal" nature that some people ascribe for their refraining of participating in these. I have family & friends who have been completely "involved" in certain more recent types of these 'conflicts', while I don't press upon them to provide gory 'details' upon their "interactions" whilst engaged within such. Whatever it is that they're willing to relate regarding their 'activities', then I leave it at that, although others might "dare" to bring up something or another which is distasteful to the extreme.
 
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Alex Sorbello
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Quote:
Memoir '44 would have me replay the death of my grandfather as a piece of plastic.

That casual lack of respect I find too disturbing.

I had to respond to this.
Your grandfather fought in a war against freedom. If he had not done so we would now live in a world dominated by a regime that selects who is what in society (we would not be here and the world would be for different and unplesant at the best to live in!) So My argument is remember this by any means possible... War is bad HOwever there can not be peace without war And if you think this is untrue I would say you have to get around the world more! it's human nature!
We can not forget what happened in WWII, there are guys still out there that want the same thing (TAliban for example!) also the terrorist are the same way! You really think that after you say we're done that they will be done? No they will keep going untill one side is defeated and I would never want to see that day, as for my children and theirs. But if you want to live in a sociaty that they want be my guest, go to the middle east and in one week you'll be back begging for the great american way!
Untill you have experienced living and working (not vacation!) in these countries! then i'll resopect your comment, untill then, I will not!
just my 2 cents!
 
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Richard Hutnik
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I will add here the Iraqi conflict would make for an interesting game. Play one of the factions there. Try to have Iraq unite with your faction coming out on top. Have the Shia vs the Sunni vs the Kurds and whomever else. Everyone loses if Iraq collapses after America pulls out. It would be a heavily political game. You would also have al Qaeda in there also as one of environmental factors. Iran could also be one of the factors also.

One could do similar with Afganistan.
 
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