Anatomy of a Wargame

Some readers will not be familiar with the genre of board wargaming. Below is a large-scale example of the type, a game entitled Europa, actually a composite of a series of games originally published in the 1980s, laid out for play at Origins 2006. It depicts all of WWII in Europe, the Mid-East, and the Soviet Union. Each hex represents 16 miles, each game turn represents two weeks, and units (the individual counter tokens) are typically divisions.

Europa, a

Photo credit: Michael Dye. Used with permission.

Things to notice:

A final point. Hovering over the maps, the players occupy an implicit position in relation to the game world. They enjoy a kind of omniscience that would be the envy of any historical commander, their perspectives perhaps only beginning to be equaled by today’s real-time intelligence with the aid of GPS, battlefield LANs, and 21st century command and control systems. The player’s relationship to the game is (to me) one of the most interesting aspects of board wargames, and I intend to explore it at length here in Zone of Influence. For now, suffice to say that “fog of war,” chaos, and friction are de facto qualities of any military situation, and they have been expressed, with varying degrees of verisimilitude, in existing game mechanisms.

Napoleon at Waterloo, a classic game originally published by SPI in 1979 (and the source of the CRT above), is available in its entirety for inspection and download here.