“Who controls the present controls the past.”


An old Ingsoc slogan.

An interesting question raised below, though it’s as old a question as museums themselves… who gets to remember the past, and how?

Court allows Polish government to take over WWII museum


WARSAW, Poland – A Polish court ruled Tuesday in favour of the government in its standoff with a major new World War II museum fighting for its survival.

The conflict revolves around the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk, which has been under creation since 2008 and was scheduled to open within weeks.

The decision by the Supreme Administrative Court is a victory for the populist and nationalistic Law and Justice ruling party, allowing it to take control of one of the last public institutions that had remained independent following the party’s rise to power in 2015.

“This is very bad,” the museum’s director, Pawel Machcewicz, said. “This ruling means that the Museum of the Second World War will be liquidated on the last day of January. It means that I will be gone and that the new director can try to change the exhibition or delay the opening.”

The ruling party opposed the museum because it takes an international approach to telling the story of the war, focusing on the civilian suffering of the many nations caught up in the global conflict. Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski had for years vowed that if he ever had power he would change the institution to focus it exclusively on Polish suffering and military heroism.

The move is in line with what the ruling party calls its “historical policy” of harnessing the state’s power to create a stronger sense of national identity and pride.

After assuming power in late 2015 Culture Minister Piotr Glinski moved to try to take control of the museum by merging it with another museum that exists only on paper, the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939 — a legal manoeuvre aimed at pushing Machcewicz out.

That sparked months of legal wrangling as Machcewicz resisted the merger.

After the court’s decision Tuesday, the Culture Ministry issued a statement saying that it would move ahead with its merger and that on Feb. 1 “a new cultural institution will be created — the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk. The combination of both Gdansk institutions with a similar business profile will optimize costs … and strengthen their positions on the museum map of Poland and the world.”

Machcewicz says that even though he is losing his job he still plans to keep fighting for the survival of the exhibition, one created with the help of some of the world’s most renowned war historians.

“The culture minister can come with heavy equipment and destroy an exhibition that cost 50 million zlotys ($12 million). But he can’t just change some elements, because the exhibition is like a book that is protected by copyright laws,” Machcewicz said. “And I am ready to sue the minister if he tries to change the exhibition.”

On Monday the museum was presented to a group of reporters, historians and others to let the world get a glimpse of the nearly finished museum before it is too late.


Guerrilla Checkers at Sandhurst!


“You’re probably wondering why I’ve called us here together…”

Captain Ed Farrell, a platoon commander at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, recently used Guerrilla Checkers to teach a group of officer cadets some lessons about asymmetric warfare in preparation for the phase in their training when they learn about insurgencies.


Still looks a bit linear to me. Lawrence, wake up!

He reported that it went over well, but as so often happens with this sort of thing a lot of time is spent in explaining the game to people who are unfamiliar with manual games (even though this one has extremely short rules, and the mechanics are derived from two existing ones, it is different) and getting them to play it less gingerly. In this case they played the game in teams of two or three each side, and discussed each move, which slowed things down further but I can see the value of explaining your reasoning in syndicates.


All photos by Ed Farrell.

He had A Distant Plain out for display purposes as well, to show what could be done with manual games, but there was no time to do more than show the bits. Still and all, he may have planted some ideas in young officers’ heads for future training aids!

I’m very grateful to Captain Farrell for using my game, and I hope he will try it again if the opportunity permits!

By the way, if you are interested in the game shown, here are the rules – I also have a basic version that works on Android devices and can send you the .apk file if you ask:

rules in Word with Maoist hints on play

rules in PDF with board to play on

The Rest of the Story

Back at the end of April the Guardian ran a story written by BGG regular Matt Thrower on political board wargames…


Now, at his personal site, Matt has filled in the bits that his tin-eared editor cut out. Some very interesting commentary from Volko Ruhnke about models in games, players’ access to those models, and the fun n’ learning aspect of living inside the designer’s model, if only for a while.


Properly illustrated with shots of Fire in the Lake, A Distant Plain and Labyrinth too.

Oh, and Colonial Twilight pre-orders are now up to 344!

Broadcasting Across a Series of Tubes: MORS 81.1 Virtual Symposium

Next week will the the 81st symposium of the Military Operations Research Society (MORS), in Alexandria, VA.

Because of sequestration, cutbacks (the original venue was to be West Point) and the near total cancellation of travel and conference permissions for military and civilian Department of Defense staff, for the first time there will be a virtual component to the symposium, running slightly before and parallel to the physical meeting.

As a non-US citizen with no security clearance, I could not attend the “real” event anyway, but I can present at the unclassified portion of the virtual symposium – so that’s what I will be doing, at 1430 EDT on Saturday, June 15. I’ll be giving a presentation called “Ploughing in the COIN Field: Recent Developments in Commercial Insurgency Wargames”. Basically, it’s a short talk on the scarcity and low acceptance of irregular warfare games in the civilian market, the qualities of a good game and its value nevertheless as a means of insight, and short mentions of recent games that have these qualities.

I’ll be posting my slides and script on the Game Links and Resources page later, so if you have better things to do with your Saturday, I won’t mind. But it would be nice if someone came, and there are some interesting topics given by others on the schedule.

From the invitation email:

MORS is pleased to present the Inaugural MORS Virtual Symposium – a series of on-line presentations and special discussions that coincide with the 81st Symposium.  These virtual meetings are being made available to members and friends of MORS.  The unclassified Virtual Symposium will take place June 14th and Saturday, June 15th.

– Not sure what MORS 81.1 is?  Checkout our video link:

– Not registered for MORS 81.1?  Visit http://www.mors.org/events/81.1.aspx

Registration is FREE!

– Please view the following links to the unclassified schedule and abstract list to help plan your attendance online. Schedule | Abstract List | Virtual MORS DCO Help Guide

THE piece on Serious Games Conference

Constant Readuhs will remember Richard Barbrook and his “Class Warfare” group.

 From Times Higher Education:

Playing at war, pestilence and death (but it’s only a model – shh)
21 June 2012

By Matthew Reisz

Matthew Reisz reports on how serious games offer insights into politics, pandemics and propaganda

Simulations and games can be highly effective in helping to teach students about politics and war – but often suffer from oversimplification, a lack of clear purpose or insufficient time to explore issues meaningfully.

These were among the views put forward at a workshop – held at the University of Westminster earlier this month – on the use of games to model everything from the effects of a global pandemic to last year’s London riots.

Simon Usherwood, senior lecturer in politics at the University of Surrey, opened the event by exploring “the problems of making simulations work”.

He said it was essential to develop an “appropriate level of conflict” so that participants were neither too laid back nor likely to come to blows while acting out, for example, the Middle Eastern peace process.

Philip Sabin, professor of war studies at King’s College London, explained that he used games and simulations “to teach students how to understand past military confrontations – and the military how to fight future battles”.

It was virtually impossible to analyse conflict without using models, he added, but all had to strike a balance between accuracy and simplicity.

What they could never do was teach people “how to look someone in the eye and tell them to go off and risk getting killed”, he said.

Keynote speaker Mary Flanagan, Sherman Fairchild distinguished professor of digital humanities at Dartmouth College in the US, who has been designing such games since 1994, said they often had the goal of “moving educational tools out into popular culture so as to help people think more critically”.

She referred to one of her games, Layoff, where managers are confronted by details of “workers’ personal biographies” to “encourage an emotional response to the human suffering created by the economic crisis”.

Pox was also developed in Professor Flanagan’s design lab when a public health organisation asked for “a game that would effectively educate about issues related to vaccination”.

She said the real challenge was “the subversion of introducing critical games into the marketplace”.

When in doubt, she joked, it was a good idea to introduce some kind of “zombie attack” into the design.

Meanwhile, Richard Barbrook, senior lecturer in Westminster’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, argued that playing, critiquing and designing games offered an excellent way of “modelling political processes”.

Recent students, for example, had come up with a London riots game based on backgammon, he said.

Dr Barbrook has a particular interest in The Game of War, a board game created in the wake of the 1968 Paris student uprising by Guy Debord, the French Situationist, “to teach the strategy and tactics to win the next revolution”.