War in Our Time [preview]
This is a session on a wild idea I had a while ago about a potential long-running World War 2-themed Alternate History game. I’ll be running a design session at the CLWG Conference.
The idea came from an article in one of the “What if?” books in which the author argued that it would have been much better had World War 2 started in 1938, since then the German Army was in a much poorer state than it was in 1940. I thought it would be interesting to explore that idea in a game. Since the author of the original article states that much of the questions arising are political in nature (what would the Poles do? how would Soviet Russia react? would France seriously invade Germany?) it makes sense to have a longer running game.
The idea is to have a long-running game where teams represent the national governments of the participants in the Second World War. They would take decisions on strategy, policy, resource allocation and whatnot. Insofar as these ideas then lead to particular battles (one obvious early candidate would be the German invasion of Czechoslovakia – opposed this time) these could be split off into separate games to be resolved, with the results feeding back into the main game.
Point of divergence
The point of divergence I had in mind was that in 1938, the four-way negotiations in Munich collapse and Hitler gets his desired invasion of Czechoslovakia. In response, France and Britain declare war and that’s it.
One can think of other points of divergence – not too early to conserve some sort of subject resemblance and not too late to give players room for divergence. Somewhere between the reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1935 and the actual start of war in 1939, I’d say.
Some questions we can discuss during the session:
- Where to start with a system for simulating the economy, scientific and engineering progress, doctrine issues.
- How to deal with the switch between the long-term game and the operational games.
- How to prevent everyone from just attacking Germany in turn 1. (In broader terms, how to preserve a bit of historical verisimilitude and prevent players from taking completely historically implausible decisions, without of course impeding liberty of action too much).
- How to set up the game in general.
But of course other issues may come up too.
Some more design notes can be found at http://www.kerguelen.org/wiki/Europe1938/.
It’s an interesting idea. I think an earlier start might be better. 1935 is probably the earliest point where there could have been a realistic counter to the activities of nazi Germany. Before then it didn’t really affect any of the main powers interests. That marks the point where the repudiation of Versailles becomes more action than rhetoric.
I’m less clear on the attitudes of the other European countries, but I’m guessing youve read up on that. Definitely Britain was rearming at that point, but it was a slow and expensive process. The French were also building/reinforcing the Maginot Line and debating internally the optics of extending it to cover the Belgian and Swiss borders. There’s also the crushing poverty/austerity in the aftermath of the 1929 crisis, which impacted all across Europe. Paradoxically rearmament and the war is what brings the economies out of that slump.
I’d suggest a couple of mechanics to slow down war. One part is money and the time to build capabilities. Government has to decide where to put it’s effort, and there’s a trade off between taxes and growth. Or at least they see it that way given the state of economic theory in the 30s.
The second would be manpower availability and war weariness. From the end of WW1 there’s a high level of war weariness that slowly declines with the passing of time. 1919 also sees the low point of available manpower. If you track international tension on and reluctance to go to war on a country by country basis then that could give you odds on a country being willing. Actions of players could affect that either way.