Friday 28th January

  • Week 2 Discussion of Guy Debord, The Game of War.
Guy Debord's Game of War being played in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Published as Le Jeu de la Guerre, 1987
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!