Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Book Review - Class Wargames

 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.

I 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.

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