Fighting Season at Salute – A Sitrep
Well, funnily enough, it was a boozy old night after Salute so my recovery time has meant that I have had time to contemplate on the gig and think about Fighting Season and how it was received.
For me, the low point was the suggestion, somewhat aggressively put, that we shouldn’t be gaming Afghanistan. The high point was an officer of General rank suggesting that the game would be great for platoon leaders to play. Square that circle if you can.
The game we took was very much an early playtest version of the rules, always a dangerous thing to do as (clearly) nothing has been polished to the degree that one would like. However, I really like the idea of taking the game on the road and getting feedback. And we had that in spades. All we were really attempting to show off was the move/shoot/command aspect of the game; when I say “all” that is clearly a big part but it fails to take into account some of the more subtle and sophisticated aspects which influence thinmgs like political opinion and the input that the legal team have in modern warfare. Fear not, that will be covered, but in a manner which does not intrude to deeply on the enjoyment of the players.
My thoughts on gaming the ultra-modern period are pretty well documented. I will not game a conflict which is currently being fought. However, after that, I WILL game it, with the emphasis on producing a game which is also a respectful simulation of the conflict. I first gamed the Rhodesian War as early as 1982 and I lost friends in that one, and my cousin served with the New Zealand forces in Afghanistan. My emphasis has always been about using a game to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the conflict, hence my endless reference to avoiding the “whack-a-mole” cliche of “bad versus good”. My game design never makes a moral judgement about who is right and who is wrong, I leave that to politicians who are far more adept at compartmentalising than I can ever be, but I do aspire to reflect the reality of the conflict through extensive research into how the war was fought. My colleague Nick spoke to one gentlemen who had served in theatre and was, I am told, sceptical, but upon reading our skimpy designer notes became more enthusiastic. I find that encouraging feedbaack this early in the process. I can promise all those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan that we intend to produce a game which presents the gamer with some of the same decision making opportunities as the commanders on the ground. This will not be a parody of modern warfare, but a homage to those who served.
I was extremely pleased by the way in which the rules were accepted by the players who took part in the four games we ran. I can but apologise for their abbreviated nature but this was the “taster” menu rather than the full banquet. The thing which pleased me most was the fact that the chaps who had played Chain of Command in its WWII garb were immediately able to recognise the game and leap right in from the off, appreciating that the changes we had made were subtle and only made where necessary, as opposed to a root and branch hack job, but subtle enough to provide them with a game which felt modern and contemporary, reflecting the dynamics of contemporary warfare, without changing the essential nature of the game. In other words, it was still Chain of Command but where small adjustments provided a very different flavour and game.
Of course, this early in procedings, there are issues still to be thrashed out. Leigh in Australia, our technical man on the team, is well know for his writings on the conflicts. His latest published work, The British Army in Afghanistan, 2006 to 2014, is one of the best overviews of the conflict, from a British perspective, that I have read. If you want a one-stop-shop introduction to the conflict then this is it.
So where next for Fighting Season? Well, the next month is dedicated to putting the rules into a playtest format so that we can invite people to get involved in the playtesting. We hope to have something ready in around a month. Publication, despite my rather optimistic talk of June, is likely to be this summer. There’s a still a journey to travel, but we are confident that it will be an enjoyable and illuminating experience.