Reflective Practice Analysis 
“Let my playing be my learning, and my learning be my playing.” (Johan Huizinga)
- This paper will analyse four games, namely The Game of War, Origins of World War II, Vietnam 1955 and The Settlers of Catan from various angles with regard to game mechanics and techniques, theories and approaches applied, abstraction and realism as well as political lessons that could be learnt from them. These games completely neglect the notion that games are made just to entertain. Some of them portray the warfare time, some teach you how to manage your resources wisely and Vietnam 1955 even uses role-playing approach to fully engage the player into the game. Political lessons that stem from these games could be critical during revolutions, wars or strikes. Wargames have existed in a recognizable form for over a century and a half. (Glick, 1983:568). With a well-structured plan, considerable decision-making and corporate actions, taken from this game, one could completely change his view on many political incidents and wars narrated by the historians and analyse them from a different perspective.
Game mechanics and design 
- One of the most crucial aspects of the game is its design and mechanics that structure and creates an engine to be played with. As a design practice, game design has its own essential principles, a system of ideas that define what games are and how they work. (Salen, 2004:9). In The Game of War, influenced by the Carl von Clausewitz view on wars, the aim is to create a prototype to Napoleonic wars and its strategy, therefore specially designed board and a set of pieces are used in this game. Guy Debord uses, all the main actors that are involved in the warfare of those years: infantry, foot artillery, arsenal, and generals. By doing so, the game mechanism is dependant on the capabilities of each single piece. For instance cavalry travels two squares on the board, general moves only one square and the forts do not move at all. However, the key in this game is so-called line of communication, and Guy Debord emphasises that without support or communication of your army, nothing can be achieved or no wars can be won. From this perspective, the mechanics of The Game of War is well shaped to stimulate the movement and combat military forces and it outlines the important different variables during the warfare.
- In the Origins of World War II, published by Avalon Hill and based on A. J. P Taylor’s views on the origins of the Second World War, emphasises the role of diplomacy during the war, particularly during the Second World War. The mechanics is similar to the previously mentioned game, although point system determines the victor. Each of the players is given a set number of political factors in the beginning that he or she can engage during the game. Nazi Germany gets the biggest number of political factors in the beginning, although strangely enough it is a hard task for the Nazis to win this game, as other players tend to team-up against Nazi regime. The aim in this game is to conquer countries, especially neighbour states, and to set up diplomatic relations or term used in the game “understanding” with other states. Origins of World War II in its mechanics, stresses far-seeing and considerable decision-making steps to gather maximum number of points at the end of the game, thus leaving out any use or role of military forces.
- On of the most common and popular game mechanics are board games and The Settlers of Catan is one of them. This type of game currently possesses the widest audience, because of the flexibility and cost of the medium. (Glick, 1983: 570) This game uses a board with hexagons, to project an uninhabited island. The mechanics of this game force players to bargain between each with their available resources. The game is based on pure luck, as the dices are being rolled, therefore this game is made to have fun and to be able wisely trade and manage your resources. The presence of the Robber in this games, adds an extra tension and competitiveness between the players, also it could be argued that the Robber possibly encourages players to from an alliance between them to collect ten points. Nonetheless, the game is well designed to entertain the players and to improve trading skills.
- The role-playing game (RPG) mechanics tend to engage and add more emotions and passion while the game is played and this was the case for Vietnam 1955 role-play. As an RPG player, you move through game-stories, following the rules, overcoming obstacles, accomplishing tasks, and generally increasing the abilities of your character. What is usually lacking, however, is a single endpoint to the game. (Salen, 2004:58) The mechanics was simple, each player had to be a representative to a particular nation-state, e.g. Vietminh, Russia, USA or French Indo-China and to defend their interest with regard to their goals they have been given. In Vietnam 1955, the game was not linked to a fixed scenario; all the actions or incidents were either initiated by the umpire or occurred as a result of joint decisions made by players. The umpire is a key player in this type of mechanics, as he or she leads the game and sets the agenda for it, more importantly the umpire has the power to objectively nominate and award different representatives with points. Although, it is hard to name one team as a victor in this game, point system is important. At the end of each step, whether it is a speech, announcement, decision, every country is being nominated with points and the one who gets bigger number of points wins the game.
Theoretical approach 
- From the theoretical perspective, all the military games that have been discussed previously tend to emphasise the zero-sum game theory, except for the Vietnam 1955,where one player’s gain matches to the same amount of the other player’s loss. Seems to be quite realistic view especially to portray the situation during the warfare. On the other hand, strategy game theory of interactive decision-making could be applied here as well. Hence, applied strategy and interaction and involvement between the players are the main aspect here.
- The Settlers of Catan, from economical perspective, seems to encourage capitalism. Capitalism becomes obvious when the player tends to monopolise a particular resources, whether it is timber, iron or sheep. Moreover, one of the ‘development cards’ allows players to monopolise only one type of resource from others. This game is similar to Monopoly, in the way that it puts greed and desire to get everything from other players in the first hand and as a priority. The game awards players with points, if cities or settlements are built; therefore there is some similarity to Monopoly and to its ideology.
- Vietnam 1955 is a great example of role-playing game theory. The rules of the game are flexible to fit the purpose of the game, as well as players negotiated with others on a no fixed basis, meaning that they could form an alliance or make an agreement/pact with the country that has a similar view with their own one.
- The Game of War is highly motiving political game, through military tactics and Napoleonic military strategy, it points out some critical issues for the revolutions, for the rebels and other political actors to take an action. With the use of this game, or the message that lies beneath it, one could plan or develop a revolution or a strike against an actor/organisation or even against the government, who has no knowledge whatsoever in the warfare tactics and strategy or against an enemy that has no experience in gaming and playing military games.
Abstraction and realism 
- The abstraction and realism within the game is provoking interest in the player and these concepts stimulate or project given situation or a political event. The Game of War is realistic in terms of military capabilities and the fact that line of communication always has to be open and group attack is more effective. However, this game does not take into account other aspects during the war, such as weather conditions, physical and mental conditions of the troops or the terrain (mountains, fields or a dessert). More importantly, the game develops intensive tactical and strategic thinking, which is the main aim of this game. The Game of War is about strategy and player’s intentions and risk taking. Hence, this game is an excellent tool to improve ones tactical and analytical skills during any political events.
- Origins of World War II is very abstract game and has very few details relevant to actual historical events. Although it touches period from 1933-1939, still it excludes several nation-states from the game, for instance Spain and Mediterranean countries. The political factors that are given to the players in the beginning do not necessarily represent military forces or economic development. Hence, it is hard to draw a parallel between real-life events and tools that are provided in this game.
- One of most realistic game perceived by the players, was Vietnam 1955, mainly due to the mechanics that is utilises. This role-playing game had its own flow of scenario; therefore what happens in the game does not necessarily match with historical events. Therefore, this ‘open flow’ serves as a disadvantageous as it creates mismatch to the real life events. However, on the other hand, this openness develops the game in the way players want it to develop and thus makes it more entertaining. Nonetheless, all the actions and decisions made by the player do not have any consequence that would have in reality. On the whole, Vietnam 1955 left an impression of a realistic game that depicts situation in Vietnam in 1955.
- Although The Settlers of Catan is very abstract game, still some evidence of realistic factors is present in this game. Trading concept is kept quite simple, although it is in from of barter. Barter was one of methods for trading before money was invented, therefore The Settlers of Catan, taking place on uninhabited island, uses barter method for trading. However, this game’s purpose is definitely to entertain the players, though some concepts of capitalism (discussed above) have been included.
Political Lessons 
- A meaningful game would not be a game if it did not have any political lessons hidden in it for the players. Johann Huizinga emphasizes the fact that all play means something, that there is "sense" to play, that it transcends. (Salen, 2004:18) All games mentioned in this analysis have underpinned some political lessons in a smaller a greater extent.
- The Game of War offers several political lessons to the players. First of all, every action has its reaction. All players need to assume consequences of their act, whether they attack or defend. In a real life situation, every action has a consequence. Hence, it is recommended to think twice before doing something in this game. Secondly, this game on the example of a war strategy, gives a better idea for rebels, freedom fighters or military command to develop their tactical skills in the warfare. For Military officers and wargame has been an invaluable tool to assist in the preparation and testing of plans and methods and in the training of officers. (Glick, 1983:569) The Game of War is like a chess game or Kriegspiel, but with different pieces in your disposal, every piece on the board has to be used appropriately to its capabilities and in the right time.
- Origins of World War II, although it is a war game, promotes a completely different political lesson. The fundamental ideology behind this game is diplomacy or ‘understanding’. In fact, during the Second World War, several countries made an agreement between each other to fight against Nazi regime or secure themselves from Nazis, for instance Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. But, interestingly enough, the game awards more points if you invade country, therefore there is a small paradox where you have to establish diplomatic relations and on the other hand you have to invade other nation-states. Arguably, this actually happened in the World War II, but countries did not fight for the sake of points and they were not awarded with political factors in the beginning.
- Vietnam 1955 completely ignored the history and because it did not have any set of rules, the outcome was different to the one that actually took place. It is almost impossible to claim that one or another outcome would have been more beneficial to Vietnam. During the game, umpire encouraged people to make announcements and forced some bigger states to sit around the table and have peaceful negotiations. In the real life, either need or critical event would force powerful states to sit and discuss issues on current agenda. The main political lesson learned from this game was that country with nuclear bombs was treated more respectfully and their point of view had a strong influence on the decision-making process.
- The Settlers of Catan is very abstract game and yet again its purpose is to spend some time with friends and enjoy it. The main lesson that derives from this game is that if all players are against one single player then it becomes quite unrealistic to win this game, unless luck pursuits the player. Further, this game encourages trading between players and quick building of either settlements or cities or even longest roads. Nonetheless, the most important lesson from this game is to form an alliance and to exchange resources as much as possible to achieve ten points.
To conclude, it has been a great experience and quite unusual at the same time to see the real meaning of the games. From the first sight, one cannot realize the real potential and the use of the games. However, when the knowledge and experience goes beyond just playing the game, these games could be recommend to the politicians to be more prepared to any kind of situation in a real life. Overall, all four games successfully portrayed a simulation to a political event or just to an ordinary life event. These games have an excellent mechanics and design to serve as an educational tool for students as well. Napoleon once said that “to become a great general and to master the secrets of the art of war one must read and reread the campaigns of the Great Captains”. Therefore, only through repetition of game plays a real player can understand the deeper notion behind each game or even behind the ideas of a general. Obviously, as nothing is perfect in this world, neither are the games. There is always some room for improvement, however overall the engine, mechanics and dynamics of these games were chosen appropriately and it is utter joy to play these games and to improve ones analytic and critical decision-making.
- Glick, S., and Charters, I., (1983) War, Games and Military History. Journal of Contemporary History, Vol.18, London: SAGE, pp. 567-582
- Goldhamer, H., and Source, S., (1959) Some observations on Political Gaming. World Politics [e-journal] 12 (1), pp. 71-83.
- Huizinga, J., (1955) Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon Press
- Laver, M., (1997) Playing Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Miller, C., (2008) Games: Purpose and Potential in Education. New York: Springer Media
- Salen, K., and Zimmerman, E., (2004). Rules of Play: game design fundamentals. Boston Mass: MIT Press.