The Philosophy of Wargaming
or why we play wargames
But isn’t it just grown men
playing with toy soldiers?
Now although you and I know that wargaming really is just grown men
(and usually pretty drunk grown men at that) playing with toy soldiers, it
would not do for our gullible public to know that.
The good name of the hobby allows us to get away with all kinds of
For instance whilst “her indoors” would quickly put her foot down
if you were honest and said, I’m going to spend hundreds of dollars on
something that I'll probably use once and then forget, then I’m going to
spend the afternoon in a smoke filled room with a lot of drunken louts until
I’ve drunk so much ale that I can't throw the dice straight and I'll end
up the evening in some sub-continental dive eating Alsatians and contracting
dysentery, mention the magic word “wargame” and away you go.
No, we owe it to our hobby to have a better reason for playing with
toy soldiers than just playing with toy soldiers.
I found the
answer in the preface to a book called “The War of the Two Emperors - The
Duel between Napoleon and Alexander, Russia 1812” by one Curtis Gate,
which is available from the Shatin Library and which I commend to you as a
very good account of the background to and the events of the 1812 campaign.
Said preface consists of an attack on the Marxist determinist school
of history as exemplified by Tolstoy and also some interesting "what
ifs" supposing that Napoleon had got it right and defeated Alexander,
or even had never attacked.
Bearing in mind that wargames are "what ifs" (even if such
unlikely what ifs as what if 1,200 points of late kingdom Egyptians met
1,200 points of Normans, it is interesting to see how Mr. Gate justifies
his flights of imagination:
This is, of
course, complete bovine excrement but even so I can't help wishing that I
had written it! Anyway, armed with this little gem the next time somebody
poses the question with which I started this article you may reply:
this response will elicit gasps of amazement all round and somewhere in the
great beyond Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant and Plato 'will look up from their
game of Advanced Squad Leader - and smile.
I realise that this little piece has nothing to offer those poor
benighted souls who play games about wizards and pixies or based on the
If you are such a person and someone asks why a grown man like you is
playing with such things, I can only suggest that you could put a level-four
spell on him and turn him into a frog or, alternatively, refer him to Ronald