After the events of May 68, the French secret police threatened to throw Guy Debord and his wife out of a window if they didn't leave Paris. Relocated to the countryside, he proceeded to spend the next decade perfecting a board game based on the Napoleonic wars that was designed to teach revolutionaries the essentials of military strategy. This is Le Jeu de la Guerre, which you can play online here.
I was introduced to the game last week, by a group called Class Wargames who have a very nice physical version of the game that they brought to The World Transformed's May Game Jam along with their film about the game. I was warned that the game can become an obsession and I'm mature enough to admit that that has happened, so now I'm making my own bigger version and inviting you to be part of it!
But first we need to know how the game works.
(or click here to join the game without reading anything)
The Game of War As She Is Played
At base, this is a game about communication. There are 2 players that each have 2 immovable bases that radiate a line of supply/communication in 8 directions.
The two bases of each player highlighted in green.
You can see the bases and blue and orange lines emanating from them on the board above. A piece can only move, attack or defend if they are on a communication line (supplied), or if they're adjacent to a piece that is on a communication line (or adjacent to a piece that is adjacent to a piece etc).
Highlighted pieces from left to right: supplied because on a line; supplied because touching a supplied piece; not supplied and vulnerable
The aim of the game is to move a piece onto the opposing players base, thereby destroying it and cutting off the communication lines. Destroy both bases and the game is won.
Lines of communication can't go through mountains or through opposing pieces. In order to access more parts of the board, the players use 2 generals who can retransmit the communication lines.
The two generals of each side highlighted in green. Note the lines broadcast from them. The flag is the infantry general, the truck is the cavalry general
The other pieces are:
- the infantry which move one square at a time. Each player has 9.
- the cavalry, which can move 2 squares at a time. Each player has 4.
- the cannon, which has a stronger attack and defence and a range of 3 squares. It can move 1 square at a time. Each player has 1.
- the swift cannon, the same as the cannon but can move 2 squares at a time.
There are rules about how attacks work because the pieces have different strengths in attack and defence which get combined in various ways that make sense but are not so important right now. The full rules are here if you need to know them immediately, but basically more pieces = better.
The best way to learn the rules is to play a few times against the AI. It's very easy to do and you can delight yourself with your own cleverness in a way that is rare in day to day life.
You may have noticed that while combat is significant, it is possible to win this wargame without attacking the opponent's pieces directly. Dynamic movement and responsiveness to a situation are the only skills required to triumph. And in this way you will learn the abilities necessary to institute cybernetic communism, which is of course why we are all here!
My Heretical Changes
“Why can't you just be happy with things as they are? Why do you have to make the already complicated even more complicated? Can't you just appreciate a work of genius for what it is?”
I'm adapting the game to my own situation, in which I want something lots of people can play at once, that encourages them to talk to each other, without too much of a time investment.
There will be more players on the board at once. I think my ideal would be seven players, but I'm open to whatever happens. In adding more teams, I'm pretty sure that means the board has to be bigger as well.
I'm adding the concept of alliances to the game. Alliances are bi-lateral relationships between players that mean you can use each other's communication lines and can't attack each other. Each turn starts with an alliance phase, where you can propose, accept or dissolve alliances with other players.
I'm inviting people to play just one turn a week to allow people with lives to take part. Players consider their moves over the week then on Sunday evening the board is updated based on their instructions. The board is a website based on this web version of the game.
Call to Action!
You only need five minutes a week to play the game. Just send me the moves you want to make!
Week 1: Gathering Players
Fill in this form if you want to be in the game. I'll get in touch and you can choose your army colour and symbols. You can have more than one person controlling a single army if you want to play as a team.
Week 2: Creating the Board
The game is roughly based on the Napoleonic wars, so you'll be playing a kind of facsimile of a European power. The size and design of the board is going to vary based on the number of players that get involved, so I'm waiting until I know what that is before making it. The aim is to maintain the feel of the original while extending it.
Players can place their pieces on the board where they want, or I can do it for them.
Week 3: First Moves
The players make their first moves! This can be forming alliances, or moving to attack their neighbour or anything at all. The game has truly begun! I'll begin doing “Meet the Players” kind of posts about what's going on.
Week 4: Turn #2
Second turn, continue your plan or adjust or whatever you want, we are in the game proper now!
Week 5: Turn 3.0
And so on...
Your Little Board Game Pieces Need You!
Each week I'll write a report of what's going on for anyone interested in the ongoing game. I'll also be interviewing players to talk about how they're getting along in the game and how they relate their strategy to their political practice in real life.
I think this will be a lot of fun whether it succeeds or fails. So come, join in the fun and fully utilise your erogenous zones in the process of creating cybernetic communism!
Fill in the form!