RogerBW's Blog

Wargaming ethics 20 May 2014

People have all sorts of objections to wargaming with particular periods, wars, or types of unit.

For example, if you're playing a Second World War game in Europe, someone's going to have to be on the Axis side. Ordinary German soldiers are probably acceptable to most people, but the Waffen-SS? The child soldiers used in the final defence of Berlin, among other places?

If you're the sort of wargamer who cares deeply about getting the models right, which a lot of wargamers are, then when you paint a unit you're committing to using it in quite a few battles. I wouldn't have objections to playing a defence of Berlin game once or twice, but I wouldn't want to do it every week, and I wouldn't want to have the old men and children sitting in my figure case waiting to be taken out again. I'll fight that sort of thing occasionally, but not all the time, and I don't have the time or space for a huge figure collection that I'm not going to use.

I feel similarly about the Waffen-SS, with the additional complication that a guest in the house might reasonably wonder why one has lovingly-detailed figures of what's pretty canonically regarded as The Really Bad Guys. (When it's orcs or Imperial Stormtroopers this doesn't arise in the same way.)

I know people who won't play Cold War because they remember it too clearly. Or who won't play any conflict that's still going on (particularly if they know people who are or have been involved in it), or of which veterans are still about. (I suspect that last is a bit disingenuous; I don't suppose they're eagerly awaiting the death of the last Great War survivor in order to play a game about him.)

One approach is to take a step back and admit that this is a game of toy soldiers, with no real death or suffering involved. Another approach, and one that I favour, is to step forward, to admit that these are representations of real people and play them accordingly; I have very little time for people who sacrifice units lightly, and I detest the approach found in many games played mostly by young or competitive players that one keeps throwing men into the grinder until the game's over rather than trying to preserve any forces for the next fight (even if one's not actually going to play out that next fight). One of the things I very much like about Chain of Command is that one generally loses a battle by running out of morale rather than by running out of warm bodies.

In the end I don't think there's a single set of rules that one can apply to everybody, apart from the obvious: we're here among other things to have fun, so to a first approximation doing stuff your opponent regards as non-fun is a bad idea.

Tags: wargaming

  1. Posted by Ashley at 03:22pm on 20 May 2014

    I use to worry about this, now I remember that other people's opinions are not my concern.

    I am far more concerned about behaviours that lie outside the game. If that makes sense.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:30pm on 20 May 2014

    Well, if you annoy everyone you've run out of opponents. :-)

    I think that in wargaming as in roleplaying there's something of a tendency to say "person X is annoying, but there's nobody else nearby who's willing to play at all, so I'll put up with him". Which is not always the wrong thing to say, but neither is it always the right thing.

  3. Posted by Ashley at 02:33pm on 21 May 2014

    Oh, is that what I've done! No wonder I'm Miss No-Mates then.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 02:43pm on 21 May 2014

    I was thinking of my own Battletech days, when (you may recall) I was not always the exemplar of cool-headed good sense that I am now. :-)

  5. Posted by Ashley at 12:07pm on 22 May 2014

    Surely water under the bridge, too.

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