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Wargame publisher GMT Games has been involved in a controversy over how "Conflict simulation" publishers should deal with sensitive political and cultural issues, after canceling preorders for a game about the colonization of Africa in the mid-to-late 19th century.

 

Scramble for Africa was well on its way to publication when the company decided it would be a bad look for them to take that particular side in a great historical tragedy/atrocity. In the game, the players would represent Europan powers (most notably Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium) competing to carve Africa into pieces among themselves. The Africans themselves are significant to the game only as obstacles. There have been several other games on the topic, most notably Avalon Hill's Search for the Nile (which was more about discovering what was there than about grabbing it) and Greg Costikyan's classic Pax Britannica. (The front page of that rulebook includes a reprint of Rudyard Kipling's infamous open "The White Man's Burden", which to the modern reader is either horrendously offensive or a subtle reading on the futility of the Imperial endeavor). But those two games were thirty years ago, and the world and the hobby have changed a lot since then.

 

It mainly brought to mind the boardgame club I was in in Portland in the 1990's. The de-factor clubleader consistently and loudly refused to take the Russian side in games of Squad Leader (a classic WWII tactical game where the units are infantry squads and individual tanks and guns) because he hated what the Soviets represented. But he had no similar qualms about playing the Germans. But it didn't stop there. It gradually became more and more apparent that he was a dyed-in-the-wool White Supremacist, and what cinched it was when he bought a loaded semi-automatic to the club. It was very, very uncomfortable.

 

Fortunately, most games and wargamers are not like that in the least. Most players can take up any side in any game without feeling they are embracing the ideology of the power they represent. They're competing and solving strategic and tactical puzzles, not role-playing Adolf Hitler. But this case, and the Facebook fracas it generated struck a nerve with me because of that past experience.

 

 

 

Edited by Michael Hopcroft
There were technical issues the first time I posted this and I wasn;t able to finish.

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18 hours ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

It mainly brought to mind the boardgame club I was in in Portland in the 1990's. The de-factor clubleader consistently and loudly refused to take the Russian side in games of Squad Leader (a classic WWII tactical game where the units are infantry squads and individual tanks and guns) because he hated what the Soviets represented. But he had no similar qualms about playing the Germans

 

How bizarre. I go out of my way to play the Soviets in Great Patriotic War settings, and use red pieces otherwise, because I whole-heartedly approve of history's greatest Nazi-smashers.

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18 hours ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

 

In the game, the players would represent Europan powers (most notably Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium) competing to carve Africa into pieces among themselves. The Africans themselves are significant to the game only as obstacles.

 

I think they still could have had a successful game, given how many war games there are dedicated to re-enacting historical events, etc.

 

Still, if they had something that they really felt was going to be a stand-out success, they could have tweaked the game a bit simply by making the Africans playable as opposed to obstacles.  I dabbled in wargaming briefly, and it's not uncommon to have the "historically loser" side come out on top.  Certainly creating a game where there is a potential outcome to "re-write history," as it were, couldn't be derided as politically-insensitive or whatever specific accession they were fearing?

 

 

 

18 hours ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

 he was a dyed-in-the-wool White Supremacist, and what cinched it was when he bought a loaded semi-automatic to the club.

 

You don't have to go into any details as I don't want anyone to revisit anything unpleasant, but just a yes or no would be really helpful:

 

I am assuming there was a bit more to this story than just "carries gun =  white supremacist?"  Not trying to offend: it's just that your phrasing left me with that as the takeaway there.  :lol:

 

 

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29 minutes ago, Zeropoint said:

 

How bizarre. I go out of my way to play the Soviets in Great Patriotic War settings, and use red pieces otherwise, because I whole-heartedly approve of history's greatest Nazi-smashers.

 

I always thought it was weird that ASL started out as Soviet vs. Nazi.  I suppose putting two bad guys in the box ends any debate over who gets to play the good guys.

 

Then again, it often felt like ASL was a game of sentient machine guns shooting at each other while helpless bystanders dove for cover.

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44 minutes ago, Cygnia said:

 

I now have to create a Champions adventure where the bacteria in moon poop mutated due to cosmic radiation, came together, and formed a giant poop monster.  A very pissed poop monster.  (pun wholly intended)  This is a moral imperative.

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On 4/8/2019 at 5:54 PM, Zeropoint said:

 

How bizarre. I go out of my way to play the Soviets in Great Patriotic War settings, and use red pieces otherwise, because I whole-heartedly approve of history's greatest Nazi-smashers.

 

 

I approve of them smashing Nazis.

 

However, I don't approve of them.

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3 hours ago, BoloOfEarth said:

 

I now have to create a Champions adventure where the bacteria in moon poop mutated due to cosmic radiation, came together, and formed a giant poop monster.  A very pissed poop monster.  (pun wholly intended)  This is a moral imperative.

 

We can team him up with the possessed machine gun.

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I'm not trying to say that Stalin was a good guy, by any means! When I think of the WW2 Soviets in this context, I'm usually thinking of the common men and women out at the sharp end, like Lyudmilla Pavlichenko or the Night Witches, or all the men from the battle for Stalingrad. They were defending their homeland from Nazis, and I doubt that politics played a big role in their minds.

 

It also helps that the Soviet Union has fallen, and is no longer a threat (not saying that Russia isn't a problem). That makes it easier for me to focus on the parts I like, like cool pilots bombing the crap out of fascist invaders.

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1 hour ago, Zeropoint said:

I'm not trying to say that Stalin was a good guy, by any means! When I think of the WW2 Soviets in this context, I'm usually thinking of the common men and women out at the sharp end, like Lyudmilla Pavlichenko or the Night Witches, or all the men from the battle for Stalingrad. They were defending their homeland from Nazis, and I doubt that politics played a big role in their minds.

 

It also helps that the Soviet Union has fallen, and is no longer a threat (not saying that Russia isn't a problem). That makes it easier for me to focus on the parts I like, like cool pilots bombing the crap out of fascist invaders.

 

If you want to get picky, most of the German soldiers on the battlefield weren't Nazis.

 

In 1939, for example, the population of Germany was 86.7 million people while the membership of the Nazi party was a little over 6 million.

 

Russian soldiers during the course of the war were fighting to keep Stalin in power just as German soldiers during the course of the war were fighting to keep Hitler in power. You can't realistically take the stance that "German soldiers were Nazis" without also taking the stance that "Russian soldiers were Stalinists".

 

I'm pretty sure that no one would take the stance that "American soldiers were Democrats" just because FDR was president at the time.

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9 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

 

You make excellent points, Archer, and they should serve as caution ary tales about the influence of an active and vocal minority. 

 

One of the arguments I made in 2016 against giving Trump the Republican party nomination (when he hadn't earned enough delegates to win it) is that we'd spend the next 80 years battling against the influence of Trumpsters in American politics just as Argentina has had to spend decades fighting the influence of the Peronists. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Perón

 

Building a political movement around a cult of personality is dangerous whether the central figure is a communist, a fascist, a socialist, a military leader, a capitalist, or an opportunist.

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1 hour ago, archer said:

If you want to get picky, most of the German soldiers on the battlefield weren't Nazis.

 

In 1939, for example, the population of Germany was 86.7 million people while the membership of the Nazi party was a little over 6 million.

 

Russian soldiers during the course of the war were fighting to keep Stalin in power just as German soldiers during the course of the war were fighting to keep Hitler in power. You can't realistically take the stance that "German soldiers were Nazis" without also taking the stance that "Russian soldiers were Stalinists".

 

I'm pretty sure that no one would take the stance that "American soldiers were Democrats" just because FDR was president at the time.

 

You keep your dirty logic away from my pure Mosin-wielding quasi-historical anime waifus.

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On 4/8/2019 at 2:11 PM, Michael Hopcroft said:

Fortunately, most games and wargamers are not like that in the least. Most players can take up any side in any game without feeling they are embracing the ideology of the power they represent. They're competing and solving strategic and tactical puzzles, not role-playing Adolf Hitler. But this case, and the Facebook fracas it generated struck a nerve with me because of that past experience.

 

There are also lots of left wing gamers - who prefer to play the Federal side in American Civil War games, Parliamentarians (or the Irish) in English Civil War games, Revolutionary French, and so on. I've noticed that they tend to roleplay their respective sides more than average, even when they are playing various versions of "the other side". For example, someone playing the Nazis in a WW2 game would be likely to start frothing at the mouth about "Bolsheviks".

 

This is mainly a result of them being history geeks, into the games because of the history as much as the game play. Funnily enough, they're usually rather good players, capable of routinely taking down more casual opponents.

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20 minutes ago, Zeropoint said:

 

You keep your dirty logic away from my pure Mosin-wielding quasi-historical anime waifus.

 

Far be it from me to interfere with another person's anime waifus.

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2 hours ago, archer said:

 

If you want to get picky, most of the German soldiers on the battlefield weren't Nazis.

 

In 1939, for example, the population of Germany was 86.7 million people while the membership of the Nazi party was a little over 6 million.

 

Russian soldiers during the course of the war were fighting to keep Stalin in power just as German soldiers during the course of the war were fighting to keep Hitler in power. You can't realistically take the stance that "German soldiers were Nazis" without also taking the stance that "Russian soldiers were Stalinists".

 

I'm pretty sure that no one would take the stance that "American soldiers were Democrats" just because FDR was president at the time.

 

You go through history on that too.  Most Confederate soldiers weren't slaveowners, nor with any likelihood of ever having such an opportunity.

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