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Guy Farrish

Thanks Whirlwind.

Interesting review. Around 1970 I read Andrew Wilson’s ‘War Gaming’ in the Pelican Books edition (originally published as ‘The Bomb and the Computer’ in 1968 – not sure why ‘War Gaming’ was thought ‘sexier’ than that title), and have wondered off and on what the current view from the posh seats was on ‘wargaming ‘ as a useful professional tool ever since.

I have known several ‘professional’ wargamers over the years (I know a couple of the authors of ZoC) and have been surprised at the divisions amongst ‘gamers’ about the ‘relevance’ of gaming. I can understand the desire of people trying to sell gaming concepts to the military and governments to distance themselves from the Orcs and toy soldier aspects of hobby games. What I find harder to understand is why so many hobby gamers insist their games have absolutely no connection to professional gaming. It may be a very small connection, but I find it hard to conceive of a ‘war’ game that doesn’t have at least a vestigial connection to real military activity. There was a period in the 70s and 80s when political pressures made it make sense to distance oneself perhaps but that is surely long gone? I think many hobby games would be much improved if they acknowledged and embraced a closer connection.

The term ‘professional wargaming’ covers a multitude of sins of course (although possibly it shouldn’t if we were all being precise), from Operational Research via sand table exercises, TEWTS, CP Exercises, Computer simulations, training simulators – flight, air combat, tanks, weapons systems etc to logistics models and Crisis Management games. And that doesn’t even take in the historical insight brigade. Paddy Griffith believed wargames could offer insight into history, although he was almost a lone voice for long enough, as to admit to being a wargamer was almost the kiss of death to an academic history career for a time, such was the prejudice against the ‘toy soldier’ impression of wargaming.

Wargaming as a teaching/learning tool seems to have gone in and out of fashion with various trends at least since von Reisswitz. Robust practical types have sneered and ignored and academic types have overstated, to the detriment of a sensible appreciation of the middle ground. It can be a useful tool for soldiers and historians alike (although not necessarily in the same game). Increased and increasing computing power over the last thirty years or so seems to have worked its magic in legitimising professional gaming again (not always because of its usefulness, sometimes because of its whizziness). I await another reversal of fortunes as someone uses a modern ‘Midway’ game outcome as a scapegoat or decides a couple of IFVs are a better use of the planning/gaming budget.

I think this book has just moved up the ‘to read’ list.

Thanks again for reminding me!