Sunday, February 08, 2009

LesCon report

Just back from LesCon - a weekend's gaming for 4 of us, comfortably ensconced in a luxury cabin in the snow-bound Forest of Dean, organized by the excellent Les Murrell. Travel was a bit fraught, thanks to the weather and rail strikes, but the weekend itself was great fun. Especially as I won more than my fair share of the games played:

Hansa My first play, and quite liked this, but still not sorry I traded my copy for Reef Encounter. This was my first win of the weekend.

Le Havre Wow! A real old fashioned gamer's game. Starts quietly, but the options explode. There are some AP-prone friends I would hate to play this with. I was totally out of my depth, and lost convincingly.

Race for the Galaxy Every time I play I enjoy this more. Paul won (but only after realizing that the funny little blue cardboard hexagons give you points as well!)

Princes of Machu Picchu At first this felt like a delirious hallucination induced by chewing too many coca leaves. But after a few turns started to make some kind of weird sense. I was very surprised to win this one, thanks to the arrival of the Spanish.

Vinci I had almost forgotten what fun this can be - especially with mature adults who don't get acrimonious about the kingmaking shenanigans at the end of the game. My third win of the weekend.

So thanks to Dom, Paul and especially Les for a great weekend. Looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The non-violent wargamer

A few weeks ago I took the plunge and became a Mennonite - the culmination of a six-month novice process where I was coached by my mentor (Kathy Thiessen) in "The Ways of the Mennonite". Basically this means I am now a member of tiny Wood Green Mennonite Church for whom my wife works part-time.

As part of my novice process I had to think very carefully about my attitudes to peace and war - the Mennonites are a historic peace church - and I came to the conclusion that a firm commitment to non-violence is required of anyone who claims to follow Jesus.

But wait a minute! What about all those wargames on your games shelf Peter?! And all those war movies on your DVD shelf? And all that military history on your bookshelf?

Well, I admit I am still more than a little in love with war and its mythology: Spitfires scrambling to fend off the Luftwaffe....Monty at Alamein....the squares at Waterloo....the English longbows at Agincourt.... I admire the military virtues: courage, comradeship, perseverance. And I am fascinated by the intellectual challenges of generalship, and the qualities of the great commanders of history.

And I love wargames. There is something viscerally compelling about playing a really great wargame (Breakout Normandy, Paths of Glory, War of the Ring, Up Front, to name a few) face-to-face with a genial but competitive opponent. Not sure I want to give that up, no matter how committed to non-violence I am.

"To depict is not to advocate" - that's one way I think I can square this circle. To enter imaginatively into the experience of other humans, even in extreme or violent circumstances, whether through books, movies, or games, may be to sympathize with their predicament, but does not necessarily involve condoning their actions. It would be fine (in my view), more than that, useful and constructive, for a pacifist to take a course in War Studies for example.

And so, with my copy of Twilight Struggle in one hand, and a CND newsletter in the other, bravely ignoring all internal contradictions, I proceed....