by John Bobek
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
Something about this book interested me. With so many computer and board war games, why have a book about wargaming with toys? Why WAR games at all? As a college student during the Vietnam War, I remember some angry war protesters labeling all wargames as ‘warmongers’. It was probably true that most of the people at our weekly evening gaming sessions were of a conservative bent, but we had some participants who were themselves active on campus against the war. Others saw us playing with toy soldiers and called us “childish.” We had our moments. It’s hard to forget the sight of an African-American friend wearing a plastic toy “Nazi” helmet while commanding the Germans!
If you grew up with a collection of toy soldiers or action figures, you may reflect fondly on your imaginary battles and your heroic deeds in miniature. There is something about the tactile sensation of handling a well-made toy soldier, tank, ship, or airplane. It puts us back in touch with our childhood. Once again, you can do “great deeds” and be a “hero.”
If you love history, especially military history, wargames are great way o bring it to life. I was always able to identify with people from different time periods and their struggles against the “bad guys.” Wargames let me “experience some of what I had read.
While still in grade school, I got Milton Bradley’s American Civil War board game. I played it many times mostly against my good friend Rick. The combination of reliving history, manipulating the toy-like gaming pieces, and the social camaraderie were heady stuff to a seventh grader during the Centennial of the Civil War. This feeling would revive itself in high school when I bought the first of many Avalon Hill wargames.
In college I was overjoyed to find that in joining the games committee on campus, I could now use toys to fight battles on tables placed together in the school’s cafeteria. The early rules were ‘simple”, the HO tanks and the model ships were cool, and the games were challenging and always different! Most importantly, everyone had a great time! I found I didn’t know as much history as I thought. I did more reading just to talk intelligently with my new friends. Since I still had many of my old toys, I found myself bringing and judging games.
Is it anti-Christian? No. If you are a Christian, it gives you an opportunity to remember that real people gave their lives for what they believed in. Playing wargames shouldn’t hamper your Christian faith anymore than playing chess would, and certainly less so than football! Wargames are, however, a useful tool for educators as historical simulations, sort of a la activity for History. There is a section in this book that covers the use of wargames in school. It also sharpens one’s mental math skills!
Wargames stimulate reading and a love of history. The more you participate in the scanning this bibliographies attached to the various rules sets in this work, you can see just how much reading I’ve done for my hobby. These rules will enable you, to recreate nearly any conflict in history. Take a time machine to the past and enjoy! Great book for the high school student!