Controversial Gaming Subjects

The Rape of Nanking

In my mind the purpose of this big Pacific Project is to educate. Gaming is entertaining but that doesn’t preclude it from being educational. Certainly the subject of war is political. I know people who will not play the Germans in WWII games. That is their choice, not mine. I separate what is gamed from what is history. The game is not the event. Any war game nominally tries to reduce an historical event down to its strategic and tactical components. Moral decisions are not part of the gaming equation.

If you keep it simple and have balanced forces you have the typical wargame. The past few days I’ve been thinking about breaking that with an out-of-envelope game idea. One of the most rank and terrible atrocities of the war happened during the taking of Nanking. Sixty Thousand soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians died at the hands of the Japanese. The city literally gave itself up and to some extent forced the Japanese into a dilemma. They could not supply the people with food and they could not risk them reorganizing and counter attacking. That they would not fight back was inconceivable. The Japanese response was equally inconceivable. In just a matter of days they killed more people than were killed than the combined total of deaths caused by two atomic weapons.

However, in all of that chaos, death and wonton destruction there are stories of heroes. And that was the edge I needed to get a handle on it. I came up with a gaming idea. You could make a game out of Nanking – the ferrying of civilians to the Safe Zone. I broached the idea to Pete English. There was no pause for thought – his opinion on the matter was clear – I would be crazy to do it. He is my sounding board and he is what I consider a very good person. So I have to go with that. I will still mention the Rape of Nanking in my history on the War. I just won’t make a game out of it. It could be done tastefully – my original idea was that the players are the diplomats and civilians trying to get to the Safe Zone and the Japanese Patrols are run according to a system that the players have to figure out. There wouldn’t even be any combat. It would be a puzzle exercise that would entertain and teach without dipping into the blood trough that the city became.

The replacement game will be the “Marco Polo” Bridge Incident of 1937 that kicked off the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. It will be a nice scenic game starting with a bridge fight and ending with building to building battles.

Someday I may revisit my Heroes of Nanking game but it will be a private affair.

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