SPIR608 Political Simulations and Gaming/2011/Week 2

Friday 28th January

  • Week 2 Discussion of Guy Debord, The Game of War.
Game of War, Brazil.jpg
Guy Debord's Game of War being played in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Published as Le Jeu de la Guerre, 1987
CC some rights reserved.svg Wikiversity Image credit: Richard Barbrook

* Is the design of the game's mechanics (board, pieces, cards, etc.) fit for purpose?

the game is confusing at first sight, as we're not used to its mechanics;
the game is serious, bold, adult, intellectual, mathematical;
it would be a good idea to have the combat values for attack and defence on the pieces - maybe on the bottom of the pieces;
the game is beautiful to look at, but it can be confusing as the board & terrain are the same colour as one of the two sides' pieces.

* Is the game enjoyable and sociable to play?

yes, but not necessarily sociable - as it's a one-on-one game;
it works surprisingly well as a team game;
the game is time consuming - we didn't finish the game even though the class overran its time;
the rules and principles were easy to pick up.

* What techniques does the game use to model its chosen subject?

the game is about warfare in Napoleonic times;
the main goal is keeping open your lines of communication;
the best way to win the game is to keep your forces in groups;
the game rewards correctly assessing the element of risk in your decision-making.

* How does the game combine abstraction and realism in its workings?

the pieces are abstract;
its strategic principles are realistic;
the game doesn't involve luck which means that every move that you make counts;
the game doesn't take into account weather and fog of war.

* How accurately does the game simulate the decision-making processes faced by the real-life protagonists of its chosen subject?

the game is modeling the thinking processes of warfare;

* What political lessons can people learn by playing the game?

its aim is to teach you to be a political revolutionary - but it isn't obvious how playing the game helps in this process;
the game teaches military strategy rather than revolutionary politics;
if politics is about gaining power and eliminating your opponents, then the game is very political;
playing the game would have helped the people in Tahrir Square in their struggle against the Egyptian dictatorship;
the game teaches people to think ahead;
it teaches you to anticipate your opponents' moves;
this is why Debord's game is more like chess than contemporary wargames.

* How would you improve the structure and mechanics of the game?

the board and terrain should be a different colour than the pieces;
Kriegspiel computer version can help in learning the game, especially as it does all of the calculations for you;
the big problem with Kriegspiel is that it prevents you from making mistakes under pressure like accidentally moving out of supply;
Alice Becker-Ho disapproved of the computer version of the game;
it's a good game because it's challenging to play;
the two teams should be separated so they can have confidential conversations although we were able to communicate secretly by passing notes to each other;
this openness could be a political element of the game as it replicates espionage!