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Subject: Wargaming and one's moral/political views (not RSP!!!) rss

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Pablo Klinkisch
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I'm curious to know if other people here have the same "problem" as I do:
I like wargames, own a couple of them and play them (solitaire) rather often. Still, for some time now, I'm having some issues playing some theaters/sides, because I really feel uncomfortable with them (due to my moral/political convictions, mostly).
Maybe a couple of examples might help to clarify what I mean:

important: I am aware that a lot of people might not share my political/historical views here, I just want to illustrate my situation, not debate my interpretation of those events.

a) I love Fields of Fire, but I have to admit that I am unable to use the White Phosphorus counter because I am too aware of what Napalm was/did. Likewise, although I will play those campaigns, I don't feel really at ease playing the "aggressor" in Vietnam and NK (whereas I have no problem whatsoever playing the US in the Normandy Campaign).

b) A game I find really interesting is Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations but I know I won't buy it because I won't be gaming wars I am utterly against, even if the game is rather cool.

c) B-29 Superfortress's expansion* is another example of a game I couldn't play: I just can not forget what the effects of the brutal carpet bombing of NK on the civil population in NK (caveat: I am _not_ defending NK!).

d) While gaming the Spanish Civil War, I am quite convinced that I'll always play the "nationalist" half-hearted and event root for the other player

So, am I the only one suffering of "wargaming-guilt" "wargaming-unease"*?

*-> edited.
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Erik Syvertsen
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I must say that nothing like that has ever crossed my mind. They're only games, and have absolutely no real-world implications outside of my dining room. It just seems like going a bit too far - people could refuse to buy the cheap properties in Monopoly because they don't want to be slum lords, or refuse to take a knight in chess because they don't want to hurt a horse.

I'm not using the more outlandish examples to pick on you. I'm just wondering where the line is drawn.
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Christopher KrackerJack
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Sancherib wrote:
So, am I the only one suffering of "wargaming-guilt"?


Although I don't have the same problem, I know several gamers on BGG do. Look, everyone has taboos. If a certain subject matter bothers you, there is nothing wrong with recognizing it and staying away from it. As long as you don't try to extend your taboos to others (which it doesn't appear you are) then there is nothing wrong with avoiding certain games.

I will offer you my perspective for what it is worth. Clausewitz talks about historical study and "surmise" as a way to best learn military lessons from the past. I approach wargames with this same mindset, that by attempting to place myself in the role of a given commander, I can try to learm from the situation and better prepare myself for making decisions (both real life and in a game) in the future. Simply playing the Nazi's (for example) in a wargame and enjoying the experience while trying to win does not imply that one agrees with or sympathizes with Nazi Germany. The game can be played and enjoyed with a degree of academic detachment.

That is my perspective. Again, if the subject matter of a certain game bothers you, there is nothing wrong with not playing.
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Couldn't give a flying one to be honest.
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Jack Dillon
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I don't know if most people consider it a wargame but I could not play the terrorist side in Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001-?.
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Hunga Dunga
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I refuse to play wargames that model conflicts where bullets are used.
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Leo Zappa
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While you may not be the only one with this viewpoint, I would say a) you are in a definite minority within the wargaming community, and b) I have no such qualms. I have no problem commanding Confederate forces in ACW games, Nazi forces in World War Two games, or any other baddies. This is for two main reasons:
1) I play wargames to recreate interesting military scenarios within a competitive framework, and
2) They're games

And really, if you are going to feel guilt about wargaming, why only certain aspects? All wargaming involves the cardboard abstraction of killing 10's, 100's, 1,000's, and even millions of people. Are some people more acceptable to kill than others? Without malice, and with all due respect, I would submit that if you can't grasp the notion of abstraction and instead feel compelled to impart real human emotions to your wargaming components, you might as well quit the hobby.

*edit* - as noted later on, it wasn't my intention to insult the OP. Rather, I just wanted to point out that it seemed to me that "identifying emotionally" with the people represented by a wargame's chits would make being able to play a wargame rather difficult, as the reality simulated by the games is really quite gruesome. If such thoughts were intruding into a player's mind, I'm not sure how the player could continue to enjoy the game. However, my initial hamfisted method of explaining myself fell somewhat short of the mark.
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Larz Welo
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Sancherib wrote:

c) B-29 Superfortress is another example of a game I couldn't play: I just can not forget what the effects of the brutal carpet bombing of NK on the civil population in NK (caveat: I am _not_ defending NK!).


Just a clarifying point...in B-29 you don't bomb North Korea, you bomb Japan in '44 and '45. It's still carpet bombing (which might have been your point), but it's not NK. There is an expansion coming out (who knows when), that will be about NK, but that's still quite a ways off.

I have no wargamer guilt, and one of my favorite gaming moments was using the SS LAH Division (real villains if ever there were any) to shatter a Soviet Tank Corps...great times!
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Pablo Klinkisch
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Thanks for the answers, folks.
I normally play wargames for 2 reasons:
a) I _am_ interested in military history and, as such, do find it quite compelling to "be there".
b) As a case study, specially for what-ifs.

I know it is only a game and, in case this wasn't clear in my post, I do play wargames: I wasn't just whining "oh my god! you are playing war!!!", which seams to be the assumption from a couple of posters; I was just trying to see if I'm the only one to avoid gaming certain conflicts due to moral/political reasons.

desertfox2004 wrote:
Without malice, and with all due respect, I would submit that if you can't grasp the notion of abstraction and instead feel compelled to impart real human emotions to your wargaming components, you might as well quit the hobby.

All due respect or not, I do find the comment a bit harsh.
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Pablo Klinkisch
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greatredwarrior wrote:
Just a clarifying point...in B-29 you don't bomb North Korea, you bomb Japan in '44 and '45. It's still carpet bombing (which might have been your point), but it's not NK. There is an expansion coming out (who knows when), that will be about NK, but that's still quite a ways off.


Thanks for the clarification. I knew there _was_ a game about the NK bombing, didn't really know which one it was.
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Pablo Klinkisch
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paradoxes wrote:
I'm not using the more outlandish examples to pick on you. I'm just wondering where the line is drawn.


The line is utterly subjective, and I admit that.
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Tim Benjamin
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The wargamers I know are anti-war. They have learned about the folly-stupidity-waste-horror-necessity of war through gaming wars. Play the games, learn the history, benefit from both your hobby and increased knowledge.
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Hunga Dunga
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Sancherib wrote:
So, am I the only one suffering of "wargaming-guilt"?

I wouldn't call it "guilt".

Maybe "squeamishness".
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Leo Zappa
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Sancherib wrote:
Thanks for the answers, folks.
I normally play wargames for 2 reasons:
a) I _am_ interested in military history and, as such, do find it quite compelling to "be there".
b) As a case study, specially for what-ifs.

I know it is only a game and, in case this wasn't clear in my post, I do play wargames: I wasn't just whining "oh my god! you are playing war!!!", which seams to be the assumption from a couple of posters; I was just trying to see if I'm the only one to avoid gaming certain conflicts due to moral/political reasons.

desertfox2004 wrote:
Without malice, and with all due respect, I would submit that if you can't grasp the notion of abstraction and instead feel compelled to impart real human emotions to your wargaming components, you might as well quit the hobby.

All due respect or not, I do find the comment a bit harsh.


It really wasn't meant to be. This probably illustrates three things:
1) The difficulty of indicating intended tone in written communication, especially on the internet...
2) Some unintended defensiveness on my part as a long-time wargamer. I started wargaming in the 1970's, and I can tell you, the mood in this country at that time was quite anti-war, and by extension, anti-wargaming. Therefore, I tend to get my dander up when I detect any anti-wargaming bias...and
3) It's been a really long week at work...
In any case, I really didn't intend to be harsh to you! My apologies!
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Wendell
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I don't feel guilt, because I believe pieces of cardboard or plastic figurines have no souls and feel no pain.

Though sometimes I reflect, as a result of playing a wargame, on how terrible war is.

But not guilt.
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Gary Greenhalgh
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Amen.
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Jeremy Fridy
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I was assigned the Germans and Japanese so many times I got a rep as a bit of a Kraut lover. I later explained that I just wanted to win, and cared little if it was the Kaiser getting his place in the sun, the Reich adding a few more countries, the East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere getting Australia, the US and British firebombing cities to break their enemies, or Stalin declaring a 3 day pillage as a reward for taking a Nazi city.

Then again, the time I got to play in the cradle of civilizations, I seemed to enjoy getting into biblical warfare, and putting Judea or Babylon to the sword was up my alley.

When I play, I try to get into the situation, into character. It feels more epic that way.
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Enrico Viglino
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I'm pretty much amoral.
Whomever lost the war usually appeals most to me.
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They are games. I feel no guilt for playing them, and I make no apologies for enjoying them. This does not make me an amoral person; it merely means I have no problem making the distinction between a game and reality.

I avoid games that advance a politically correct agenda because my disagreement with the premise of such a game can put me at odds with its outcomes - an unnecessary distraction when there are so many worthwhile things to play.
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Les Haskell
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I wouldn't call it a problem and I wouldn't call it guilt. You said you played for the sense of "being there". What you are experiencing is role-playing. You are making decisions based on how you would make them in the real world. If you viewed it less of an interactive narrative experience and more of a game you probably wouldn't have the same "problem". But that's not why you play, is it?

I don't "role-play" as much when I play wargames (ie. the gloves are off and no holds barred), but when I play actual role-playing games I usually play towards the lawful good alignment. It's not guilt or anything - I just enjoy being the heroic good guy.

And I'm the guy with the very dark sense of dark humor who doesn't mind nuking his buddies in Nuclear War and watching them put the population cards in the "ashtray".
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Andy Beaton
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Only one game has ever gone too far for my sensibilities, and that's the ASL scenario Mila 18, which pits Jewish resistance fighters against the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. That crosses the line for me - I'm happy to fight battles, but not so happy to replay atrocities. And it isn't that I feel guilt over the flipping of cardboard counters, it just... isn't fun.
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Cole Wehrle
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I try never to get personally invested in the side that I am playing. Instead I'm participating in the act of "gaming" and therefore facilitating the designers representation of history. Thinking in this manner allows the players to transcend whatever roles they might be inhabiting and instead look out how the conflict is modeled.

Ex. I'm quite interested in slavery and 18th century Western empires. I've played several games that include slavery as a viable economic base and its interesting to see how the designer chose to implement the institution. None of this makes me uncomfortable. Now, if a designer painted slavery as a charitable, noble institution, that might upset me, but probably only so far as I wouldn't be terribly interested in their designs anymore.
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Dave King
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The first wargame I played was AH Stalingrad back in the mid-60s. I followed that with all the other AH wargames available then, except Tactics II. Tactics II was abstract, and it was the history I enjoyed--the concept of being put in the shoes of a historical commander and challenged to do better than he did, exploring the "what ifs" of a given situation. I've learned a lot of history and geography thanks to the games. That's still the attraction for me and World War II is as modern as my gaming gets.

I've never felt any guilt whatsoever about playing wargames, regardless of the side chosen. I do agree with Andy though; I wouldn't game an atrocity, simply because I don't see the "wargame" value in pitting organized military units against desperate civilians.
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Eric Lai
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wifwendell wrote:
I don't feel guilt, because I believe pieces of cardboard or plastic figurines have no souls and feel no pain.

Though sometimes I reflect, as a result of playing a wargame, on how terrible war is.

But not guilt.


Eloquent as usual. (my sentiments exactly)

I've the same concerns about using the Carcassonne: Expansion 3 – The Princess & The Dragon expansion, having those innocent meeples burnt horribly by dragon fire is just too cruel, I envisage Japanese soldiers being burnt alive in their bunkers on Iwo Jima and wince... Same with DungeonQuest, I get into the center of the board and just don't want to go into the treasure room with the dragon... my adventurer just goes around searching corpses instead... that wasn't much fun... so I quit playing cruel Euros and started on much more humane wargames instead. (joking btw)

(On a more serious note: The only time I would avoid play a particular war game with someone is if that someone has some personal painful experience associated with the game's events.)
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Judy Krauss
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Sometimes I get "sick" of playing wargames (although I have been playing them for over 40 years) and need to take a break. I am a pacifist by nature and choice, and sometimes it does get to me, even though I usually enjoy the simulations and gameplay. (This happens with hack & slash boardgames games and RPGs, too) Then I take a break from it, sometimes for months. Then I play merchant/exploration/trading/building games for while and watch old 1930s musical comedies. cool

But I've come to realize that getting sick of the simulated battles and wars happens mostly when the real world is getting me down with humanity's violence, destruction, and atrocities. That's when my wargames become reminders of how horrible living in this world can be.

There are a few games I will never play (or never play again) because of the attitude of degradation or gleeful abuse in the game (towards women, especially), or because the gameplay itself is extremely distasteful to me (like Diplomacy requiring betrayals, for example), but for wargames, in general, sometimes I just need to take a break.
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