Given the speed of events, I think if anything what we are seeing now is each faction’s game pieces being swept around on the map and scooped up prior to being put back into their ziploc bags.
Game’s over, man.
If you want to carry on, I think you will need a different game.
Prufrock's Wargaming Blog
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Wrong, wrong, and wrong again
We all of us enjoy our wargaming, our playing with toy soldiers, our board wargames, and our reading around these kinds of topics.
There is crossover between serious games and hobby games, and many of us enjoy that aspect too. Some of the blogs I follow are more towards the serious end of the spectrum, where wargaming is a job, where it is used to prep military and intelligence professionals, and - perhaps - influence real-world policy, real-world decisions.
One of the newer, modern boardgame designers was recently asked about an expansion to his game on Afghanistan, A Distant Plain, which would take into account recent developments. I quote here part of his response:
He linked to one of his previous blog posts, and also to an (as it turns out decidedly non-prescient) article on the then current state of affairs, entitled 'Why the Taliban isn't winning in Afghanistan' (from which I quote below):
What am I getting at, you might ask?
Well, it is that games and game-models that are lauded for their innovation and perspicacity, whose designers are profiled in the Washington Post, whose hobby games potentially influence real-world decision-making, can still get it wrong. Why they get is wrong is not really my focus here, but it is clear that they get it wrong for reasons which include a) a reliance upon commentators who make incorrect assumptions; b) a game-induced need for simplification which means that factors that appear insignificant (but may not be in real life) are minimised; c) that formulated victory equations which may seem plausible to Western analysts who sit within the military or intelligence paradigms may well not match reality.
So what does this say about wargaming?
That we should all be wary of it. That it may have consequences. That it is inexact for predicting future events.
As hobbiests our first reaction to 'serious' military/intelligence-adjacent wargames on current or near-future conflicts is often likely to be "cool, we want to see more of them!" And why not? It seems to validate our hobby, encourages new designs, and perhaps adds authority or cred to what we do.
But current events show that popular wargames on current conflicts do not necessarily lead to increased understanding or to desired outcomes. And in fact, if real-world wishful thinking is rendered in games as plausible result, may lead not to understanding but to folly.