Wargame Ethics


Originally Posted by: Thomo the Lost on 15 June 1999 at 10:05
Updated by: Thomo the Lost on 31 March 2003 at 03:24
Last Update by: Thomo the Lost on 2 May 2007 at 15:30

Way back in the past – around 1999 in fact, I questioned myself about the ethics of wargaming. Every few years I ponder the same the question. I guess my morality gene lays dormant for three or four years then the application of a couple of Heinekens on a long boring flight somewhere causes the long dormant gene to cause a period of reflection. Recently I travelled. I reflected. The result is an update to my now known ethics of wargaming.

From time to time I have a period of soul searching, particularly about my wargaming. Occasionally I hear comments from people about wargaming not being an acceptable hobby, relying as it does on the playing of ‘battles’ with ‘model soldiers’. To some extent I can agree with this. It is possible to wargame almost any conflict from pre-history to current times and as such, some of those games or simulations may strike a chord of discomfit in some people.

It was Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) in Non-Violence in Peace and War who noted

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

In that I can only agree. War is an unacceptable resolution to man’s problems, even the ‘righteous’ war, as all wars are ‘righteous’ to those that are involved in them, both sides fighting for God, or for better government, or for 100 other good and valid reasons as well as 1000 poor and bad reasons. However, playing with model soldiers does not make a warmonger. Many ‘politically correct’ pastimes are based on a simulation, to a greater or lesser extent, of warfare. Chess (both western and Chinese) is the first one that comes to mind, especially as it shows various troops on the playing surface. Others rely on the capturing of territory and the taking of the other side’s pieces. The Japanese game of Go is a good example of this. Neither game makes the player any more or any less pro warfare as a solution to problems between nations. In that, wargaming is no different.

I therefore do not have a problem wargaming. However, I will admit that there are some examples of warfare that I will not play or model. Very modern conflicts, for one, I still find disturbing. Disturbing to watch on TV (and living the lifestyle I do, I get to watch a lot of CNN and BBC) and disturbing in the effects they have on people. I wish I could game these as I really do like the way that the AK47 rules work as well as the modern minis. I would love an excuse to paint up a Toyota with MG on the back but I just can’t bring myself to game that at the moment. There are some conflicts in the past that I feel the same about. Vietnam is one such conflict.

I had always tended to concentrate on wargaming in the middle to distant past, in particular the Ancient, Renaissance, Napoleonic, American Civil Wars and Fantasy, with the addition of Naval Warfare from this century as well. At some point in the near future, I will likely get some World War II figures and some early 20th century stuff, but I think that will be the forward boundary of my wargaming.

I find that my self imposed limitations are changing, perhaps as I become more comfortable in myself, in who I am, what I believe and what I think and in how much I care about what anyone else thinks 🙂

There have been times in the past when there has been a vocal opposition to wargaming. Those times have changed fortunately. Having said that, not all wargamers feel the same as I do. Some adopt a more laissez faire attitude, others restrict their gaming even more. In the meantime, I will enjoy playing with my toy soldiers. As I told my daughter, girls grow up to be women, boys grow up to be big boys! This big boy likes playing with his toys (err, and hates sharing them with his sons – but that is entirely another story)!

Note: Naval wargaming I particularly like. I guess this is partly because the engagement is between ships and whilst ships have crews, the ships themselves seem to have a life of their own and that of the crew becomes subordinated to personality of the vessel. I now have a quite large collection of vessels from Ancient Times up to World War II and I think they have formed painting projects for me from basically 2003 on to today (later this year, the project will be World War I in the Mediterranean). Aerial warfare I also enjoy, both the painting and the gaming, although as a “Top Gun”, the guys in Korea can confirm that more times than not my tail was on fire as my plane set itself up for a one-point landing.

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