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Subject: Do you read about the conflict before playing it? rss

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I just received a copy of Israeli Independence, which will be my first wargame. I'm completely new, so would you recommend reading about the Arab-Israeli War before I play, so that I can better visualize it, or will I have a better experience if I go into the game not knowing what to expect? Thanks!
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Severus Snape
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Mark, my imagination usually drives my gaming choices, and my imagination is inspired, in turn, by my reading. I have picked up games, such as King Philip's War--a truly monotone piece in a world of colour--and then read up on the historical event. But if there is a chicken or egg question here, the young me read before I had wargames. If it helps, I try to read, or reread, books to match the battle of campaign while playing the game. But not always. Sometimes the most refreshing bouts of both reading and gaming come from playing games that do not match the history books that I read. This can offer a fresh perspective upon both.

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Lance Runolfsson
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I don't even know how much I relate the two (Reading and Games). Sometimes I read sometimes I play. I don't know as for me one ever inspires the other.
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Steve Arthur
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Before,during and after...
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Moshe Callen
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The answer largely depends on you and how you play wargames, but obviously you can't know yet. I'd say reading up on the conflict if you don't know about it already will help enhance your experience of it, because you'll have a better idea what's going on. Just don't let the game sit unplayed until you get round to the reading. Play it and read up and then play it more. You'll see for yourself what difference if any it makes for you. For the overwhelming majority of people the difference is huge.
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Brett W
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Mark, If you enjoy reading military history by all means read about the conflicts you play. The simulation and the readings will complement each other adding to your enjoyment of both. It's safe to say that this view is supported by practically all wargamers. I hope you find wargaming an interesting & challenging hobby. If you grow to love it your wallet will quickly become less cumbersome to carry about
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Eric Walters
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Much depends on your purpose:

(1) If you have a somewhat arcane subject that you don't much about embodied in a wargame title you've just purchased, it's often helpful to read a bit first so you can understand the rationales behind the rules and have some background for the scenarios...then they really come to life. Other reasons are to "wargame" your favorite "if the commander(s) had only done this or that." There's also that wonderful ability to annoy your opponent with tidbits of historical trivia while playing--let's not forget the intimidating psychological factor of that in tense competition!

(2) If you have a game on something somewhat familiar, you are oriented enough to play but the game experience causes you to question some things in the design...so you pick up books to learn more and perhaps understand (or better argue against) design decisions. There's also something to be said for going into a game cold and looking at things with a fresh eye. I've done that with ancients games (particularly scenarios in the GMT GBoH series) so I had a better vicarious experience of what this historical commanders might have had to face since they had not the benefit of history to guide their decisions. Only after I play once or twice (maybe even three times more!) will I pick up a book to reinforce my board wargame experience!
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j page
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Buy the game and related book(s). Read books use game map and pieces to help understand the where and when as required. Then play game.
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Chicken or the Egg huh? For me its just that, reading inspires me to put a game on the table and playing a game inspires me to read related books. Its a vicious cycle.
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Ernest Schubert
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I loved military history before I found gaming. So I had a at least a passing knowledge of most conflicts that the games covered. I can't really picture being interested in wargaming and NOT being interested in history. I will say that certain games made me even MORE interested in certain aspects of military history. Certainly Winter War by SPI spurred me to learn more about the Russo-Finnish conflict. Armegeddon got me to read more about ancient warfare.

But I think you're asking..."would you read-up on a conflict before playing a new game?" and I think my answer would be 'no'. I'd probably play the game and then read up to learn more about what really happened.
 
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Björn Hansson
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whac3 wrote:
I'd say reading up on the conflict if you don't know about it already will help enhance your experience of it, because you'll have a better idea what's going on.


+1
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K G
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Years ago when I played games more--rather than study them--after getting the rules down, I would read the Designer and Player Notes and launch right into a game. (Ah, the good ole days...)
 
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I always sleep with a copy of the rules beneath my pillow. That way I'm guaranteed sweet, sexy dreams about aging generals. With boobs. They always have boobs, for some strange reason.
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McGrim, i'm starting to assemble a decent collection of mostly GMT wargames. One of the many things i like about GMT's games is that they include good historical summaries of the battles and wars being covered. I read those before the rules.

Beyond that... my wife's a librarian, so this is how lazy i am. I order my books from the library online and than have her bring them home for me when she's done working laugh I can't play a wargame about a battle i'm not familiar with. It doesn't work for me.

If possible, we also try to visit the battlefields in person...
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The play's the thing ...
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Atraxrobustus wrote:
Before,during and after...


Also helps me to work out how badly I'm doing.
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Enrico Viglino
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Very little nowadays. I've a fair background in history, but
am more interested in seeing the story play out in the games now.

The problem is, I forget things easily - so it's tough to
hold onto a lot of the historical knowledge I had (most of
which was either at a high strategic level, focused on
the physics of weapons, or tactical system interactions).

Reading never really translated the operational level to me well.
Given my usual interests in games, I'm wondering if that's just
an area I'm less interested in.
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Roger Hobden
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McGrim wrote:
I just received a copy of Israeli Independence, which will be my first wargame. I'm completely new, so would you recommend reading about the Arab-Israeli War before I play, so that I can better visualize it, or will I have a better experience if I go into the game not knowing what to expect? Thanks!




1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, by Benny Morris.

I read this book this year and found it a useful introduction to the topic.

You get a clear understanding of why the creation of the state of Isreal, forced on the United Nations by the USA and it's allies, was such a cataclysmic event that will never be resolved until a non-religious, multinational state is established in Palestine in it's place.
 
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Roger Hobden
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Do you read about the conflict before playing it?


Very often, after having played a game on a conflict I know very little about, I will read one or many books on the historical period that concerns the game.

For instance, after having bought this year this genius game called Lost Battles, I started reading many books on ancient wars, and even signed up to the magazine of the Society of Ancients.
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Bill Lawson
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"Do you read about the conflict before playing it?'


The short answer would be yes. I have more military history books than wargames!
They enhance each other!
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Malcolm Corney
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For me it was always reading first that inspired my choice of a game.

When I was a kid then I read books about the second world war so all my original games were about WWII. The more I read the more games I acquired and the more games I wanted. So when I read a history book the first thing I do when it's finished is to look for a game that covers the period.
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Mallet wrote:
You get a clear understanding of why the creation of the state of Isreal, forced on the United Nations by the USA and it's allies, was such a cataclysmic event that will never be resolved until a non-religious, multinational state is established in Palestine in it's place.


Nonsense. Please take this to the politics forum.
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Sim Guy
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Depends. For me, if it's a familiar subject, I may just dive right into the game. If it's not so well known, I like to get a little background information first.

If the subject is a historical battle, it can be argued that you can get tremendous insights into the subject either way - reading first lets you understand the historical context while playing first may give you a more pure gaming experience, since you go into the fight with about the same sense of the battle as the original commander.

Either way, congratulations on taking the plunge into wargames. thumbsup
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McGrim wrote:
I just received a copy of Israeli Independence, which will be my first wargame. I'm completely new, so would you recommend reading about the Arab-Israeli War before I play, so that I can better visualize it, or will I have a better experience if I go into the game not knowing what to expect? Thanks!


Absolutely, you should read about it. It puts names to faces, as it were.

Watching "Valyrie" before I played The Plot to Assassinate Hitler made the game really interesting.
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Roger Hobden
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Another factor that cranks up the "books vs wargames synergy" is the occurrence of anniversaries of famous or not-so-famous battles or wars.

Since we are in 2012, there is a flurry of books and wargames coming out in relation to the 200th anniversary of the 1812 war between america and great britain that took place on canadian soil.

Here are two examples of good books on the topic, written by the winning side.





Indeed, a few games have come out recently, like 1812: The Invasion of Canada, which is very ingenious and enjoyable, despite being very much on the simple side, and Amateurs to Arms!, which I have never played, but since the designer also designed Conquest of Paradise, a game I find brilliant and very fun, I have high expectations for the 1812 game also.

This upcoming game, Mr. Madison's War: The Incredible War of 1812, is predicted to be good also.
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Moshe Callen
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McGrim wrote:
I just received a copy of Israeli Independence, which will be my first wargame. I'm completely new, so would you recommend reading about the Arab-Israeli War before I play, so that I can better visualize it, or will I have a better experience if I go into the game not knowing what to expect? Thanks!

As an Israeli, my one comment apart from my previous direct answer to the OP is a caution to always investigate a book or other source before buying it or otherwise diving into it.

Some topics in history are heavily politicized. A amateur historian will do well to be aware which parts of history are so contentious and to tread carefully when investigating the subject. I'm an Israeli and so do not think I should make recommendations about the conflict mentioned in the OP as I will be viewed as inherently biased. Investigate for yourself and then act accordingly.

Even when this politicization is not the case, some historians have a political axe to grind. My original intention went entering university was to become an ancient historian. Yet you'd be surprised the topics I found were discussed in even peer reviewed journals in a manner I'd consider highly politically charged. All I can say is use due diligence when approaching any historical topic to fin a source you trust. That's one of the reasons I personally prefer highly scholarly works with lots of fottnotes etc simply because fewer loonies can write such things.

In any case, read up, play games and enjoy both!
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