Sunday, 17 March 2013

Wargaming Comfort Zones

What does this have to do with war-gaming comfort zones? Nothing at all.
Saturday was a damn good gaming day for me, probably the best fun I've had around a gaming table in years. Not only did I FINALLY get to meet up with fellow bloggers Fran, Ray, Clint and Big Lee, I got to join the (in)famous Postie's Rejects for a Napoleonic Spectacular! I know that all four of the bloggers I just mentioned plan on talking about the day's wargaming with Bat Rep's of day, so I won't steal their thunder or say anything more about it here except to say:

THANKS GUYS!!! I HAD A BLAST!!!


After the game finished and Clint and I were presented with lovely "Honorary Reject Awards", I had a great chat with some of the guys in the grand surroundings of Postie's MASSIVE miniatures collection, during which the conversation turned to war-gaming comfort zones. I can't quite remember how we got onto the topic, (perhaps it was someone mentioning the Battle of the Boyne)  but I do remember Smiffy talking about how much trouble he had getting into sci-fi type games as he couldn't take them seriously. This eventually led me to mention that I couldn't get really into ultra-modern gaming for the opposite reason - I take ultra-modern gaming very seriously. Between my brother-in-law being a serving soldier and being ex-military myself (and having lost friends in some of the battles now featuring as scenarios in several ultra-modern campaign settings) I just don't feel comfortable war-gaming any period in recent living memory. I think that the Vietnam War is about as recent as I could manage.

That ended not long before I was born, which leads me to wonder if my actual cut-off point migh tsimply be conflicts that have occurred in my lifetime?

My attitude strikes me as a little odd really, given that I know of gamers who actually served in places like the Falklands or Iraq and Afghanistan who are altogether happy to wargame those periods. Whereas I, who never got anywhere near any proper combat while in the forces (unless you count a few bar fights in Germany), get a bit unsettled even at the thought of war-gaming any of those conflicts.

Perhaps I simply feel that they have a right to war-game the conflicts they took part in whereas I, (given my lack of participation in those events) do not? Possibly this is simply a reflection of how self-conscious I feel in any gathering of my peers who have seen actual combat. After all, it's not as though I'm uncomfortable or offended by anyone who wargames these conflicts, whether or not they've ever worn a uniform!
What's that? You want me to war-game the Road to Baghdad? Good Heavens No!

If anything, it's my own attitude that I find bewildering and perplexing, rather than anyone elses.

Clint from Anything But a One was present at this conversation and, being very aware of the controversy around ultra-modern games, was a little concerned that I might have been unsettled by some of his recent blog content, but I was able to (truthfully) assure him that it  didn't. As I've already said, I might not be comfortable gaming the period myself, but I have no problem with other people doing it. In fact, I quite enjoy reading about ultra modern games and battle reports. I just don't feel comfortable actively participating myself.

Strangely enough, I actively enjoy ultra-modern gaming so long as we change the damn names! I don't care if the miniatures are obviously British, Israeli, Iraqi or whatever so long as we call them Franonians or  Alcovians or Bongolians instead. We can even re-fight actual engagements, so long as they're re-fought in a fictional context. I  actively enjoy gaming in alternate modern histories, such as "Cold War Gone Hot" scenarios. At one point, I even kept a blog called Untied Kingdom, where I worked on an ultra-modern British civil war setting. But, that skirted way too close to the edge of what I considered acceptable, however unlikely the scenario, because it still explicitly involved regiments and corps to which some of my real-world friends and family still belong. In the end, the project died a slow, languishing death. Every now and then I go back to the blog and take a look at it. I still think the concept had the potential to be some of my best work, but it really did skirt too close to the edge of my comfort zone to live.

I think my willingness to bring down the shutters and game in fictional nations stems from the days when I war-gamed modern day battles as part of my profession. Our exercises and TEWTs (Tactical Exercises without Troops) always involved countries with names that bore little to no resemblance to any real nations or cities. Although we were practicing for a very real war, we could comfortably joke about errors that cost our forces entire fictional battalions at a time -even though those self-same battalions had identical equipment and levels of training to real life formations either in our own army or some other thinly disguised nations'. But as soon as anyone present began taking things a little too lightly, there would be a quiet, yet somewhat pointed, cough followed by the even more quietly voiced question from the Colonel or RSM: 

"but what if it had been some of our boys, eh?"

What about you folks out there? Are there any periods or scenario's you in particular feel uncomfortable with?

18 comments:

  1. I share your resistance to these contemporary conflicts for almost identical reasons, and it is reassuring to me to see this sentiment elsewhere.
    Thank you for an interesting and insightful post.

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  2. I feel sort of the same way. I haven't thought about it very hard, but for some reason fiction seems more palatable to me than fact. Thus Weird War 2 is a-ok, but actual ww2 less so.. Unless it's emulating Kelly's Heroes or something and I know it's all make believe. Modern Afghanistan no thanks, but Modern soldiers vs Cthullu is OK.
    I suspect it's because there are no moral grey areas when gaming a fantastical subject, as you suggest at the end of your post.

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    1. You know, it's never occurred to me before you mentioned it, but I really do prefer Weird War II to World War II myself.

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  3. I have no trouble doing battles of any period. Though thinking about it I have never played any with modern day terrorists in it.

    Hmmm......

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    1. Aha! See, we all have our cut-off point.

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  4. Same here, my cut-off date is about 1980, so Pre-Falklands. I'd like to say it's all about morals, but most of it is down to just not being interested in the period anyway.

    I would be more inclined to play a fictional setting, or a zombie game, set since then for sure, but there does seem something 'wrong' about gaming real modern wars, whether it's Iraqistan or something more removed, like the Congo Civil War.

    Like yourself, I really have no issue with other people gaming stuff like that, it's just not right for me.

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    1. Each to his only really, is how it seems to go. There does seem to be (or rather, have been - I haven't come across any of it for a while) a vocal minority that proselytize against any sort of ultra-modern gaming. But I'm not a supporter to telling people what they can and can't do with their spare time -provided the only "people" that get hurt are little toy soldiers!

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  5. Hiya mate, I did not know this was your blog as well. I have no problem with any modern, ultra modern or even post modern periods as long as the game concentrates on the fighting forces.

    I would personally struggle with things like the Warsaw uprising in WW2 or anything with Nazi concentration camps. In the very modern periods anything that involved the child soldiers of certain African countries would also fall into this category.

    For me if it is not about the politics. It is hard to define the boundaries in a few lines. So I shall leave it there but am happy to chat it over face to face if need be. Best Wishes Clint.

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  6. Hi Clint. I've sort of let this blog fall by the wayside since Lead Legion painting service takes up all my blog time, but this is the granddaddy of my wargaming blogs.

    Just to re-iterate, I wasn't intending to have a go at ultra-modern gaming (or gamers) so much as make an observation that everyone has their cut off point where some system, campaign or scenario cut's too close to the bone for them. I was just delineating my limits, and then wondering where everyone else's lay.

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  7. The Battle of the Boyne that Ray is doing for Broadside is a little near the bone, in fact anything in the last century or two back home is a little raw at times.

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    1. Speaking personally, as an Englishman, the Boyne is just another battle in history. But I suppose it could be seen as a liittle delicate for an Irish Catholic, better make sure Fran on the Jacobite side, if he turns up!

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    2. I can totally understand Fran's point of view. Even for most Scotsman (at least those on the West Coast), it's something of a touchy subject. Definitely not just another battle for your Celtic cousins :). You'll probably never see the Battle of the Boyne at a convention in the West of Scotland, put it that way :)

      Not a scenario I myself would have a problem playing outside of Scotland mind you, but I'm very much aware of it's controversial nature.

      Personally, I reckon you've only chosen it as a project so you can gain a psychological advantage in a game against Fran anyway! Sheesh, is there no measure you won't take to help you win a game?

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  8. I didn't know you had another blog either????
    I haven't much interest in anything past Vietnam, not for comfortability reasons but for playability reasons. I did once play a 6mm Falklands game, the ranges were ridiculously long, which just spoilt the effect of the game.

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  9. Make that three...didn't know this blog, but following now!

    I've never really come up against my comfort zone yet but maybe that's just because I'm not that interested in wargaming 'ultra modern' (ie post Vietnam) games. I guess I would be uncomfortable playing current conflicts such as Afghanistan but that aversion hasn't been tested yet.

    My opinion (for what it's worth) is this: I have always looked on wargaming not simply as entertainment but as another way of understanding, re-examining and interpreting history. And anything that isn't a current event is by definition history and should therefore be open to us to play out.

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    1. I can completely understand the point you made in the last Paragraph Lee. But "current" is a nebulous term for a great many people. Does the term include the past events that have led up to the present conflict?

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  10. Totally aligned with you, Vietnam is my limit too. I will add that some specially sensitive conflicts even if further away in time are also difficult to face sometimes. In my case the Spanish Civil War, when you have people in your club whose grandparents or other relatives have suffered directly violence or have been killed in the conflict.

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    1. I hear you. Civil Wars and the events leading up to (or stemming from them) are a very touchy subject.

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