SPIR608 Political Simulation and Gaming/2013/Week 3

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Monday 28th January


Week 3 Discussion of Guy Debord, The Game of War.
Guy Debord's Game of War being played in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Published as Le Jeu de la Guerre, 1987
Wikiversity Image credit: Richard Barbrook

Is the design of the game's mechanics (board, pieces, cards, etc.) fit for purpose?[edit | edit source]

The pieces and board are fit for their purpose, but are perhaps too minimalist.

The board is grey with a simple grid with crosses and coloured squares indicating where players should place the arsenals and terrain and forts for scenario placement.

The pieces and terrain are high quality simple representations, resembling abstract minimalist artwork more than a game, however with some confusion all of the terrain and one side's pieces are silver, and the other players pieces are sprayed gold.

Perhaps the colours are this way because the gold player is meant to feel like an insurgent, cyber-communist.

The game resembles chess, this is part to do with Debord's desire to see GoW become the norm for Parisian Cafe's.

Is the game enjoyable and sociable to play?[edit | edit source]

The game is enjoyable, the best game we have played so far.

The game was felt to be not as sociable and fun as Monopoly.

What techniques does the game use to model its chosen subject?[edit | edit source]

The game models logistical management through the relay networks (communication structure, supply network) the Arsenals and Generals (nodes).

The Game of War is two tiered, on the surface it resembles a minimalist Napoleonic war game, with the armies having to maintain supply through the networks. On a deeper level, the game can also be seen to represent the battlefield of class warfare in the struggle for cyber-communism.

How does the game combine abstraction and realism in its workings?[edit | edit source]

The game was meant by Debord to be played in Parisian cafe's by revolutionary activists in preference to chess and backgammon etc, to play and learn how to win the class war, but this is not explicit in the game – the game is too abstract for these lessons to be apparent.

The game can be seen as a Clausewitz-esque battle simulator, but again, this is not explicit.

The cavalry elements are the most potent pieces in the game, the correct use of cavalry as in real war can decide the fate of the struggle – these can also be interpreted as the vanguard of the class war.

Units can intercept and block the lines of supply, of communication.

What political lessons can people learn by playing the game?[edit | edit source]

The game is not overly political, the film explains the political dimension of the game, but without this it is difficult to discern particular themes.

The cavalry, or the vanguard party is highly effective, surgically accurate and disposable.

By grouping assets, units etc, players can achieve victory – this is a representation of the use of coalitions and popular fronts by revolutionary parties to advance the class struggle.

Where the supply networks of the Napoleonic game can be abstracted as a representation of the complex hierarchies of the media and information command and control structures, players must think logically and attack these networks which then disable the rest of the players assets and armies – this is where large hierarchies are weakest.

The disruption of network power, of the markets, is the key to victory in the class war.

The game teaches you to anticipate the opponents moves and think and plan ahead.

The primary goal of the game is to strike for the networks, not necessarily achieve a standard military conquest by eliminating the opponents forces.

How would you improve the structure and mechanics of the game?[edit | edit source]

The game could be improved by the addition of more variables, such as morale, the use of hex squares, fog of war, shooting ranges etc.

The scenario we played separated one side's forces into two armies, whereas the other side was grouped together – the separated forces found it, generally when playing, far more difficult to achieve victory than the initially grouped players.

The game relied too much on mathematics.

Its minimalist approach appeals to modelling logistics and network power, if any changes were to be made, they would be made aesthetically, adding better terrain.

Green terrain, colourful pieces would make the game more appealing and realistic.

If the story of the game were included in the rule pamphlet this would make the game more appealing and exciting to play, there are hidden stories and ideas behind the game that upon picking up players would not know about.

At the very least the terrain and pieces should be different colours.

Links[edit | edit source]