Saturday, 24 December 2011

Can You Wargame Anything?

While attempting to honour the upcoming festivities (and a happy Christmas to all our readers!) I’d like to ponder something a little more off the wall this time.

Can you wargame anything?

This though arises because companies, for example, run business wargames where the participants are placed in a crisis situation and have to get out of it. In many ways it is very like a conventional wargame, at least at a strategic level. There are players, umpires, rules, imagination, creativity, stories and so on all involved.

But could anything be wargamed. In honour of those involved in retail, perhaps we should consider the retail wars, attempting to part hard pressed consumers from their cash. The players, or perhaps each player, would be the owners of shops, and would have to design windows, decide on stock, run the supply chain and hope to make enough money by the evening of Christmas Eve to be able to re-open in the New Year.

Is that wargamable? I guess it is, as a sort of role playing game. Random factors, such as consumer confidence could be included, although as umpire I might draw the line at trashing each other’s shops.

I also recall, incidentally, a game in, I think, an early White Dwarf, of a Christmas present delivery. Fortunately, I cannot remember the details, but the conclusion of the article was along the lines of ‘No responsibility for any loss of sanity attained by playing this game will be accepted. We all know there ain’t no sanity clause.’

Of course, that was back in the days when White dwarf published articles on other games than just Games Workshop’; the implicit reference is to Call of Cthulhu.

By the looks of things, more or less any conflict situation could be turned into a wargame, with suitable rules, scenarios and umpires. At this time of year, perhaps we should ponder the game of the ‘family Christmas’. Players could take on different characters: the harassed mother trying to cook dinner; the obscure aunt whom no-one likes; the small children trying to get a sneak look at their presents, and so on.

Each would have different victory conditions which would conflict, and, I suppose, a CoC like SAN level which gets reduced as things unfold. Instead of going mad, though, those who get to zero SAN simply start shouting at the other players. The game ends when everyone is doing this, sometime around 4 PM on the 25th December.

And with that, I’ll wish you all a very Happy Christmas, and promise something a bit more conventionally wargame-like next time.


  1. Is the 'war' in business 'wargame' useful or redundant? Is it supposed to give the affair a seriousness or intensity that 'business game' or 'retail game' might lack?



  2. I was going to ask the same question as JWH. Is it a wargame, or just a game?

    I still have the WD Sleigh Wars game somewhere. It was a Car Wars-alike game featuring Santa Claus, Anti-Claus and others. Now that you have reminded me, I shall have to dig it out for tomorrow. That should keep some members of the family entertained.

  3. I suspect that the answer to the question is "it depends". Language is a funny thing.

    Patience (solitaire), chess and football are all games.

    What do they have in common?

    On the face of it, not much, but one sort of game shades into another, so we can probably get for patience to soccer via other recognisable games.

    If we take the 'war' part of a business wargame to stand for conflict and crisis, then a business wargame stands in continuity with other wargames.

    Language, as I say, is a funny thing. I'd say that some aspects of business wargames are analogous with miniature wargames, some aren't. But the some aspects of chess are analogous with soccer, some aren't...

    And I hope you enjoyed WD Sleigh...perhaps a battle report?