An Introduction to Wargaming by John Sy
If I told you I had a time machine, would you believe me?
If I told you I had about a hundred time machines, they were all made from cardboard, and each machine took me to a different time and era both in the past and near (even far) future, would you believe me then?
For the past several years, several close friends and I have indulged in a niche of the boardgaming hobby popularly called wargaming. We like to get on our cardboard time machines and whoosh back to a time in the past and answer the eternal question: can we do better than our historical counterparts? Can I defeat Alexander the Great in battle? As Napoleon, can I win at Waterloo? As a lowly company commander, can I capture that Stalingrad factory building, that vital bridge in Holland, or that quiet town in Normandy?
If you have a knack for history, then our games (we prefer to think of them as “conflict simulations” or consims than simply wargames) might be your cup of tea. Our games go back in time as far back as the campaigns of the biblical King David to the modern era where we have games that look at speculative wars in Korea and Taiwan. The present trouble between the Philippines and China over the Spratleys? Yes, we have a game on that too….and yes, we don’t do too well in the end there either.
Unlike a history book which always ends the same way, historical conflict simulations allow you to play with the what-ifs. Yes, the history books will tell you Japan lost the Pacific war but in games like Victory in the Pacific, Empire of the Sun, Fire in the Sky, and The Pacific War the outcome may or may not turn out historically but the narrative certainly will be different. What captures your fancy? Jet fighters streaking across the sky over the Suez Canal? Eighteenth century tall ships exchanging broadsides in the Battle of Trafalgar? If you can think of a war (or more properly, a historical conflict) or a battle or a campaign or even a particular general or military figure, there’s probably a game on that!
Oh, but you’ve seen wargames and wargamers. They have those huge boards and maps and oh those innumerable little chits. And the rule books! Oh my, those rule books! Yes, it does look intimidating and some of our games are more challenging and take more time to finish than others but just like the wargamers themselves, the games come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of complexity. Yes, some games are pretty monstrous (we actually call them monster games) but most others are simpler and much more accessible. Some like the Command and Colors series is very simple. So is Hannibal: Rome v Carthage, Julius Caesar, and Combat Commander. Some games like Sekigahara or Twilight Struggle have crossed over and have a following in the traditional game crowd.
But there is nothing quite like being there to get a whiff of the real excitement. Come join us and find out! We are also on Facebook, just search Philboardgamers. We are the Philippine Historical Boardgamers Club.
John Sy is the President and Senior Counselor at Universitas College Counseling, a US college admissions consulting company by profession and an avid wargamer by obsession. He is also the current president of the Philippine Historical Board Game Club. You can reach him through the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/Philboardgamers/
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