Is 1989 a wargame? Countless gamers have engaged in that debate. While 1989 was published by GMT Games, the leading wargame company, it features no armed conflict. There is barely any violence that goes beyond police repression against protesters in the game. Still, it shares some of the classic traits of a wargame: It’s a tense, confrontational game for two players which takes the history covered in it seriously. Maybe we should move away from the term “wargame” for 1989 and rather use “historical conflict simulation”.
Wargame or not, can 1989 by analyzed with the theory of war? This time, the answer is a resounding Yes. This article will conclude the 1989 series by looking at the game through the lens of Clausewitz’s trinity of violent emotion, chance, and reason.
Wargaming is one of the traditional sub-sections of boardgaming. It’s not hard to see why. By definition, games need to be interactive (that is, the game state changes according to the actions of the players, in contrast to, say, a puzzle) and provide struggle (that is, non-trivial effort is required to achieve the goals). Conflict between players provides amply for both, and one of the prime kinds of conflict is that of a military nature. Games with a historical theme are no exception, depicting wars from antiquity to our age. However, the popularity of wars and military conflict as a subject for historical games is not without problems. It overshadows other areas of human enterprise (and conflict). In addition, many wargames present a de-contextualized version of war. Therefore, it’s easy to live within a military bubble as a gamer. This article will explore these problems, but also look at the solutions already being implemented to deal with it.