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Remembrance Day – The Longest Day

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on June 6, 2013

June, 6th

June 6th, 1944 – D-Day – was the startingpoint for the liberation of Europe

How can you “play war”?

All members of the wargaming community are sometimes facing trouble when explaining their challenging hobby to others – and there are often questions like “how can you “play” war” and “how can someone enjoy such a brutal and nasty event, turning it into something “funny“.”

Especially in Germany, the need of explanation and lack of understanding for the hobby “wargaming” and “historical conflict situation” is significantly higher than in the US or UK, at least for games dealing with WWII or WWI, while other historical eras, for example Napoleonic or Ancients, are at least tolerated, but nevertheless frowned upon.

Of course nobody would be playing these games if there wasn’t any fun in playing them, but such debates often don’t end very satisfying because it’s very difficult to explain “wargames” to folks who are strongly opposed to violence in general and war in particular. The fact that these games are “about war” makes it difficult to explain to ‘outsiders’ what the fun actually is we see in playing them:

That it’s about understanding tactics and strategy, understanding historical decisions, that we use it as a sort of ‘educational tool‘ to get some insights you don’t get by simply reading a book or watching a movie. That we love the chess-like competition and the challenge of tense decison making in an interesting and historical setting. That you can use historical consims to answer “what if” questions (“why didn’t they do this and that historically”, keyword: Operation Sealion) and to understand historical situations better, for example battles for seemingly useless hills or other positions. Last but not least, “those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat ist”.

A counter today was a real soldier then

But of course there’s also some truth in the allegation and we in the HFC think that we should from time to time aknowledge that we are playing something on our maps which was a real battlefield years ago, and that our little counters were indeed real men who did hope to survive, fought bravely and often lost their lifes under terrible conditions. To remember that what is today just calculating maths on the CRT was a real bullet those days. To lose a scenario today is totally different from losing one’s  life in the real thing…

Our maps and counters were real battlefields and real soldiers once

But we also think it’s not necessary to excuse ourselves for loving this hobby – and it is well known that one can get interesting insights into some battles, which is leading to a better understanding of the whole picture. This way wargames can help to provide a better understanding for the real men fighting in those battles – and dying.  If you read in a book that men died while taking a seemingly useless dirty hill somewhere in nowheres land may sound absolutely crazy and like a damned waste of life, but to set up the battle yourself may change your view about it entirely.

Sure, it’s still a hill and war as such is a crazy thing and everybody dying in a war is indeed a tragedy – but the consim you are playing about this specific battle might give you a better idea of how difficult it really was what these soldiers accomplished by taking the hill. And it might also become clear what the reason behind the assault on this hill was and how it affected the ‘bigger picture’. You might understand that it was a keypoint in a supply line and that by taking it other soldiers could be supplied with necessary stuff to stay alive. Or you might see that the whole situation was doomed to failure right from the beginning when generals thought it to be a good idea – giving you the necessary background to judge certain responsibilities of those who were in charge of a certain operation.

If you play a military strategy game about certain battles or operations, you come much nearer to it than by any other means. Wargamers – at least those who play historical conflict simulations – usually don’t just “play games”, but they use a whole bunch of ‘tools’ to understand and evaluate historical situations and learn about certain aspects of military doctrine executed in a historical battle. Reading books, watching documentaries, visiting historical battle sites, discussing with others, playing consims… all this is done in order to understand military thinking  and to learn from history.

Because of this, we consider it a good idea to hold a special day in memory and honor of all those soldiers who fought for the freedom we enjoy today.

It is because of those lads who died for liberating the world from dictatorship that we are allowed to  play these games today – in times of freedom and peace – and that is something we should at least be conscious of once a year.

We have chosen the Longest Day, June 6th, D-Day, as our Remembrance Day, because this brutal battle was the beginning of the end of WWII and therefore seems to be a very good choice for representing all other battles in that war.

On that day, in that battle, all soldiers fought for what they thought to be good reasons to fight for – and in our opinion that’s true for the entire war. The real bad guys those days were the politicians that were in charge and not the average, common soldier who was as abused in this war as he is in any war.

Remembrance Day is a perfect opportunity for visiting historical sites, for example Remagen Bridge

Thus, the Longest Day is held in remembrance of all participants of WWII in particular, but in honor to all soldiers that fought in other wars as well.

We suggest that those involved in THE HOBBY either do not play wargames on this particular day or do so with a heightened awareness of being in a lucky situation today. Maybe you choose to read a book instead, watching a movie about that time or visiting specific warfields, war-museums, taking a look into old family photos portraying those who perhaps lost their life in WWII etc..

If you choose not to play any games on this day (or any other day that you find a better choice for such a personal Remembrance Day) consider it a sacrifice of possible playing time, of having fun, once a year as a symbolic sacrifice to those who didn’t have the opportunity or choice to play it all out on some maps with a few counters, and were forced to take part in the brutal events on June 6th, 1944 that nevertheless finally gave us back – freedom!

So in a certain way this day was indeed the Longest One because the freedom it brought to us still continues today…

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