Tuesday 4 December 2012

Comments on Reign of Missiles published by Foreign Policy Magazine November 2012

The game portrays the military aspects of the Palestinians in Gaza firing rockets against civilian areas of Israel and the Israeli military response including bombing civilian areas of Gaza. It is an original attempt to engage the wider public in a deeper understanding of the conflict by the vehicle of a simple wargame.

The idea of using a wargame is not original. Such as the 1910 Invasion of England game that aimed to demonstrate the vulnerability of England to a German landing. The implication of that game was a large number of lighter Royal Navy ships such as destroyers should be kept on alert in the channel ports to protect England from a surprise attack. (See Early Wargames Vol 2, to be published in 2013). However, the Reign of Missiles is almost certainly the first mass distribution magazine to use a game in this manner in modern times.

The game seems too complicated for public consumption. Perhaps it should have been designed to be less complex, such as those in the Decision Games micro series games. The latter are a ¼ of the size of a ‘quad’ game and play in about 30 minutes. Physically the map might have been better produced to print on an A4(letter) printer, rather than A3. More people have access to an A4 printer.

The game is focused on the military options, with the solo Israeli player using their assets to minimize the threat of the Hamas rockets produced by the game system. This seems to miss an opportunity for exploring the options available to both sides in terms of political manoeuvring. All the Hamas rockets in the world are not going to bring down Israel, as the missiles perhaps kill one person per hundred rockets. Conversely, the concept of an Israeli military victory is equally flawed; no amount of bombing, commando raids or surface to air missile defence systems are ever going to stop the low level of attacks by Hamas.

The game inadvertently implies that the Israeli’s are defending against a mindless opponent who is apparently striking out in a pointless and random manner. The game system is also based on a game about V1 attacks against England in the last days of the German Reich, but after consideration, I finally dismissed the idea of an implied or hidden cultural comparison by the game designer.

The game design seems to imply a particular military view of the conflict; but the Palestinian v Israel conflict is one of a contested discourse, with both sides having their own distinct view of recent history. To me a far more interesting (and controversial) game would be to make the game two or more players and involving each side having the full range of options available to them. Victory in such a game would be determined by the terms of the final peace settlement.  However, perhaps the world is not ready for such a game in a mass distribution magazine, at least not yet.

Despite the issues above, I salute those involved in getting Reign of Missiles into the public domain. At the moment, the game has added a paragraph to the never ending history of wargaming; if their original efforts meet with the success they deserve, they will add a whole new chapter to the history of our hobby.

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