A Review of Class Wargames: Ludic Subversion Against Spectacular Capitalism
A very interesting and unusual book! In part it is a history of Alice Becker Ho's and Guy
Debord's wargame "The Game of War", in part a history of a left-wing
Situationist group's presentation of this game as participatory art with a
useful sideline in military strategic training. It was both a little
amusing and disconcerting to read about a wargame in language I
personally associate more strongly with Marxist literary criticism.
More seriously, the book's authors interpret Debord's work as having the
explicit aim of teaching the "craft skills" of military leaders; this
is quite an unusual point of view amongst hobby wargamers, who tend to
emphasize either the escapist or 'historical' possibilities of
wargaming. This is complementary to the idea that such play - in and of itself is subversive, partly from the fact of proletarians being at play, partly playing at something which has traditionally been the preserve of an eilte. The book aims to explain - partly from general knowledge of
Debord and his work, partly from discoveries during the process of
presenting participatory art - the importance of the game to Debord and
its importance more generally to the proletariat. In this it is
successful, being very convincing on this point. In essence, the authors conclude that Debord successfully simplified and abstracted Clauswitzian problems into his game - which they conclude was also the reason why Debord themed his game in the "horse-and-musket" period rather than something more obviously "revolutionary". The book also
describes the group's use of other wargames - Red Against Red (to
examine aspects of the Russian Civil War) and Commands and Colors:
Napoleonics (to examine the Haitian uprising against Napoleon's forces) -
and the results of their enquiries. It was striking that - very
untypically for wargaming - the players were from both sexes. There are more details about all of this on the group's website, Class Wargames.
would recommend this book to anyone interested in just why Debord was so
interested in playing a "toy-soldier" game and to gamers interested in
another way of viewing the actualities and possibilities of wargaming.