08 August 2012

GameTalk - Eras of War

When does the "modern" era of wargame genres begin? What subject matter is considered "modern" and why? How far back do you go (if at all) before "modern" is no longer "contemporary"?

How does one distinguish between eras and draw a line at which one stops and another starts, given the potential overlap along the edges of the eras?

By: Brant


mad padre said...

I'm not even sure how to answer this question. Does "modern" signify the advent of rifled firearms? Of breachloading firearms? Of dreadnooughts? Of jets? Of computer guided weapons?

I would argue that in historical wargaming "modern" signifies the shift away from the Napoleonic art of war as seen late in the American Civil War and accelerating through the late 19th century to World War One and from there all the way up to the Revolution in Military Affairs in the early 1990s (with suitable qualifiers such as "early modern" and "late modern".
Contemporary is the RMA and thereafter.

Brian said...

Okay, since you want me to be so definite and declarative about things now...

"Modern" begins at 1900. Boer War and Russo-Japanese games are modern.

"Contemporary" means somewhere around Now, whenever now is. Because of our location in the time-space continuum, Contemporary games are also Modern games. In the 1970s, Vietnam and NATO/WP games were Contemporary, now they are only Modern. Joe Miranda's new game on Opn Anaconda is Contemporary and Modern.

How does one distinguish between eras? I just did. I HAVE SPOKEN.

I would like to design the first post-modernist wargame, but even approaching the conceptual framing of this work makes a grid of patriarchal assumptions that reveals a slavish devotion to phallocentric ideas – such as: technical accomplishment has inherent value; perfect knowledge of "Player" and "Played" can be attained; and quantities of labor can be determined empirically, all of which makes a discourse which further marginalizes the already disenfranchised who have not been able to participate in the creative process.

Brant said...

sigh...someone left an academic journal where Brian could reach it... again.


besilarius said...

How about this.
The modern era began with the adoption of kriegspiel (wargaming) by the Prussian military after the wars of Napoleon.
Instead of learning from lore and experience, officers now had a way to practice their craft.
This led to the GrosGeneral Stab, Great General Staff, and institutionalised the serious study and planning of wars.
Not always successfully, but it marks an era.

Jack Nastyface said...

Great question! FWIW, my History of Warfare prof. at the University of Calgary also defined the Boer war as the first modern war...based on what he considered to be various hallmarks of "modern warfare"...those being: use of railroads to transport, supply and support armies; organized effort re: POW management and civilians; front-line first-aid resources(?), and organization of after-engagement battlefield management (collecting dead, wounded, etc), accurate and systemic record of soldiery, including casualties, (no more "names pinned to shirt" like a at Cold Harbor); and no formal lines of battle.

I am probably missing a couple of his points, but I believe his general argument was: previous wars may have had SOME elements of these, but it was not until the Boer war that all of them came to into play together.

I myself would TEND to refer to the Italian-Turkish war in N. Africa as the first modern war, ONLY because it saw the first use of airplanes in combat. But that opinion happens to be in the minority.

Yours in gaming,

Jack Nastyface

DomS said...

At some point then, a paradigm shift will take place (equivalent to the shift that started the 'modern' era) and a new era will start. So we will have to redefine terms or the 'modern era' will become a historical term disconnected from its more general meaning. In the way that 'space age' used to signify futuristic and cool, and is now indicative of nylon tracksuits and Vangelis.
Arguably this era has already begun, with network-enabled warfare (assuming we're taking the most advanced armies as the definers of the era) in contrast to the industry-enabled warfare of the modern era?

Brant said...

FWIW - I was thinking less about the "modern" era of warfare as a whole, and more about when you would categorize a wargame as "modern"?

I don't think anyone would market Silver Bayonet as a "modern" game. It would be sold as a "Vietnam" game.

I'm curious because at one point, all those 1985-Fulda-Gap-Red-Horde-rolls-west games were "modern", especially if you were in Germany in 1985 like I was. But that was 30 years ago - so is it still "modern"?

Some folks say 'yes' - in large part because it's still M1 tanks and BFVs and attack helicopters and cav troops and M109 howitzers, etc.

Others say 'no' because it's an event that's of a bygone era and not likely coming back any time soon. NATO has pushed too far East, the armies are 1/3 the size they used to be, and the world has moved on to other crusades and jihads.

When does "modern" need a new name as time as inexorably marched on? And how long before "contemporary" (ie, Day of Heroes) fades into a different era (especially when those events are now 20 years old)?

Jack Nastyface said...

This question reconsidered begs three ideas:
1) I've seen it written that There Are Only Four Genres of Wargames (Ancients, Napoleonics, ACW, and WWII) and everything else is just a minor satelitte of one of those four. In which case "modern" starts with WWII. While this might seem spurious when one considers how different the modern battlefied has become...on the other hand, there is some merit to the case. Is the Panzer V Tiger just the M1A1 of it's day...as is the Teller mine, the IED?

2) Do wargames themselves have "eras"...meaning - might we classify wargames based on the KIND of game mechanics, concepts and elements that they contain?

3) Should we categorize games according to the era / conflict that they represent, or should it be based on another criteria? Is it not possible that a game based on the Peninsula war might have much in common with a game on GW2 in Iraq...and may not both of these games have much in common with a sci-fi game of planetary occupation and insurrection?

Yours in gaming,

Jack Nastyface