WARGAME WEDNESDAY: All’s Fair in Love and War

Wednesday , 7, September 2016 4 Comments

According to the mainstream narrative, wargamers are alternately either losers that have never really left mom’s basement or else monsters that are keeping women out of gaming. Imagine my surprise then to see something completely new on this point: the wargamer as romantic lead!

I am positively beside myself.

The Wargamer woos me. He invites me to play Cuba Libre! (2013). It’s a board game co-designed by the former CIA analyst Volko Ruhkne to show the complexity of Fidel Castro’s insurgency. By this time, I’ve told him I research GiTMO, and I take the plunge. I say confidently, “I’m game for your game.”

Nice double entendre there. I really am hanging on every word here, too. That Volko Ruhnke’s games could transform the way you think about war…? That’s old news now. That they can serve as a battleground of love…? Stop the presses!

Of course, the twist here is the icing on the cake:

We begin one day in May as two wonkish wargamers, and end it, strangers on the street.
I have other battles to fight. Those are his last words. I am swiftly expelled from—what I’ve come to nickname—his Ludoland. It is too tempting to gamify the relationship, to think of the different cards that could have been played. I reflect on the fact that as I delved deeper and deeper into the Wargamer’s world, I forgot to give him a full tour of mine. The thesis chapters not shared, the conversations about Guantánamo not had, they all stack up in my mind like soldiers preparing to go to war. But I am no general. I flee.

Hey, girl. We’ll always have Cuba Libre!

Man, this is the best love story since X-Men #186.

PaxSims (Simulations)

Inside GMT (GMT Games)

Castalia House (Wargames)

Real and Simulated Wars (JC)

Ludic Futurism (Brian Train)

VASSAL (News)

The Demo Gamers (David)

War in a Box (Warren Abox)

The Players Aid (Grant A. Kleinhenz)

4 Comments
  • How is that game? I wanted to try it.

    • Jeffro says:

      I’ve played Fire in the Lake many, many times. It’s the monster of the series. This system is utterly engrossing. There are many things about the COIN series that are counter-intuitive. Cuba Libre is meant to be much smaller in scope so as to me easier to get the hang of.

      They are effectively a new genre of game– a hybrid between wargames and euros. If you haven’t tried one, they are worth the effort. People tend to either have a strong dislike of them or else become ardent fans. Really neat system, though.

      • My wife and I played a lot of Twilight Struggle, made by the same guys I think. Are the COIN games good with two people or do you need the third. I also saw that there’s a Gaul themed one, any good?

        • Jeffro says:

          Brian Train is currently working on a two-player COIN game about Algiers. You can technically have two players running two sides at once, but really… the player interaction is the big draw for me. Not all of the games feature the “unreliable ally” premise of Fire in the Lake and A Distant Plain. The Gaul themed one is an entirely different situation! And yes, that one is high on my list as one I’d like to play.

          The web site with the most extensive coverage on these games is The Player’s Aid. They have many interviews with the designers as well.

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