Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Mind Your Language…Or It Is Are Not Raining Here Also

Romanes Eunt Domus? or Romani Ite Domum? Brighten up a rainy day ... | Monty python, Terry gilliam, Terry jones

Kulture-crashes, Spilling Urrors And Alternate Mindsetz

[With a fond nod to the brilliance of Tony Hancock…]

I read an article recently about how each group projects its own values onto strangers (from an individual to full society level – bloody French…). All well known stuff. But this article was about if we would even be able to recognize a true AI system, or aliens who weren’t into 18thC classical music. Or even having to move your consciousness around in fleshy sacks and – what? – use flappy muscles to project sound-waves just to communicate! And all in 3D?!! Oh dear…..

Whilst I can have a go at playing, however badly, a European in a WW1 or 2 type and even back into, say, post-Reformation (1660) periods, I am becoming interested in how to replay the difficulties of operating not just in bad terrain etc, but in an ‘alien world’, just a bit further round the same planet. True, many of our encounters boil down to ‘Me Tarzan + Martini-Henry, You <insert next country>’, or ‘The One With The Gold Makes The Rule’ etc, but without some of the added cultural dimensions we cannot fully model the situation at the time.

For instance:

  • Several Roman campaigns were stymied by a lack of translators – indeed, the famous disaster at the Teutoburger Wald in AD9 which saw three legions effectively destroyed was in part due to most of the scouts & spies being ‘planted’ on them., and no Romans had any of the local language.
  • The antics of the extreme Catholic church, even going so far in Spain as to refuse to use Arab education (copied and much extended from Greek texts). Didn’t stop ‘El Cid’ from hiring-out to a number of Arab princes, ‘cos he was actually a very successful mercenary. Still, business is business…
  • Part (but only a part) of our ‘civilised’ revulsion at the antics of some native cultures which were in the process of being driven out/under resulted from our total lack of understanding of their equally strong religious beliefs – thus, the Zulu habit of ‘desecrating’ bodies (actually to let the spirit out), or the early Apache use of ‘torture to death’ (actually doing prisoners a favour who had had the awfully bad luck not to die during the battle and thus demonstrate bravery, sang-frois etc).
  • The point-blank refusal of many powerful figures in the Confederate States to even consider the employment of non-whites in even support roles, let alone combat, right up until the last few weeks of the ACW. Their racially stereotyped view of the world was so strong that it outweighed even their war for independence.
  • The Nazi German’s total cock-up of dealing with anyone vaguely non-German, refusing to accept the help of many of the Soviet satellites who welcomed them, in 1941, as liberators and might just have tipped the balance…
  • Almost fanatic religious zealots pushing large numbers of honourable troops into rebellion (India 1857). Only, this time the zealots were Christian…
  • The newly-integrated US forces not bothering to check why early contacts with key Montagnard tribes in VietNam failed so badly. Turns out that in the ‘Yard’s pantheon of gods, one of the worst ‘devils’ had black skin…

We could go on. But how about game systems?

  • Well, in terms of messages, I believe it was Andy Grainger(?) who used a system for comms between different languages. By selecting a degree of effectiveness (some cost/effort involved), he then took any written message and redacted every ‘N’ word, the worse the translator the more words redacted! Brilliant stuff. Mind you, I’ve seen megagame messages which were as poor with no intervention at all, but we’re talking systems here…
  • Shaping player views of ‘their’ game world can be more difficult, but briefings can play a part – always downplay numbers, effectiveness (“We’ve got them right where we want them General Custer…”), and promise the world (“No German Field Marshal ever surrendered”, “Of course we can supply you by air…”). Stressing that, to be the first conqueror into Moscow since Napoleon is the player/teams sole objective, irrespective of final outcome, will give you the same sort of blinkered result (as well as keeping the opposition wondering).
  • Use an entire genre-shift, so each side thinks it is playing a different I planned a game for this in order to show how ‘normal’ modern, western players could think and act like Jihadists in places like Afghanistan (the UN was playing a normal game in Helmand, trying to keep the peace, build schools, roads etc but the ‘Afghans’ were poor human settlers on a remote planet suddenly invaded by ultra-tech aliens who always ‘knew best’…. Worked well, in that the UN couldn’t understand why the resistance continued, and it ended up with the use of human bombs to get past scanners etc etc. Quite a shock to both sides at the end.
  • Sorry to harp-on but there is also the ‘personality profile points’ approach which I mentioned in my previous article on modelling idiocy, where players get rewarded (politics/status/something) but according to a set shopping list which could be varied by player or team. So ‘their’ game may involve embezzling supplies, or being furthest south on the map of Georgia, or never losing a combat. Works pretty well for my ACW campaigns in the Western theatre!!

Anyways, just a thought.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.