Hello again, folks. In my last post I talked about a subject near and dear to my heart: war games, both table top miniatures and board games. I also noted the absence of women and girls as players on these games. I set out to see if I could glean a reason for this phenomenon, and had a couple of female gamers place a war game called Command and Colors Ancients.
To me this is an interesting subject to talk about because it seems to be one of those few things, even with the current trend of girls and women entering what were mostly male activities and hobbies, that is still mostly untouched by females. While I don’t think there really is a nature vs nurture fight (this is to say I don’t think it can be 100% one or the other: it is likely both) I do think every now and again we run face first in to the wall of nature. It just might be that war games offer just that wall, but also a window to which we can look at ourselves.
The battle between the Greeks on one side and Carthage on the other was over. Carthage pulls off a slim victory by smartly avoiding the Greek heavy infantry. After the battle I wanted to get some the ladies impressions of the game, their feelings about playing, and their opinions on war games in general. Most importantly I wanted their thoughts on why war gaming isn’t a realm where women have made their presence felt.
Before playing the game what were your notions and thoughts on this game, on war games in general, and on the people who play them?
Donelle: “War games have never really been my thing. I think the word “war” has been a turn off for me because war games seem to be more of a strategy game which I am not as good at playing. I am the stereotypical person who can be turned off by something because I am not good at it. For me, I tend to be better at chance games than strategy. Of course this means I should try to get out of my comfort zone and play more strategy games.
People who play war types of games tend to be better at strategy then I am. For example, my brother and sister have always been better at strategy games then I have been. Also, they both play more video games then I do, so that may lead them to be better at strategy then I am. Also people who find war and history surrounding wars and battle seem to be the type of people who prefer war games.”
Siobhan: “War games set up on a board, based on historical or earth-bound battles tend to remind me of chess. It’s logic-bound, with some form of luck in regards to how many troops move and the outcome of the battle. I was curious to see how this game played out and what the mechanics were.”
Did you every think about play war games before this game?
Donelle: “No since I am not very good at them.”
Siobhan: “I had thought about it. Recently I have been wanting to play Stratego again.”
Did you like the game? Why or why not?
Donelle: “Yes, after playing the game I do like playing it. The game had me playing outside my comfort zone and challenging me in a way the regular games I play did not. I am still not good at playing war games but I am now more open to playing them.”
Siobhan: “It was fun, the mechanics and strategy involved would take a couple more play-throughs to get.”
Would you like to play it again? Why or why not?
Donelle: “Yes, because I would like to be challenge again. Life is more fun when you’re challenged.”
Siobhan: “I would play it again, given the opportunity.”
Would you buy a copy for yourself or other games like this one? Why or why not?
Donelle: “Yes, if I had the money because it would be fun to play with my friends and family.”
Siobhan: “I would probably not purchase the game myself, as I prefer to have larger group games in my library. Games tend to come out when there are 4+ people over.”
I noticed that both of you didn’t use much Melee combat what happened there?
Donelle: “I was afraid to use my stronger players because I was worried about losing them. Also I probably didn’t understand the best way to use them. Range attacks seem easier because I am under the assumption that I will lose fewer fighters if I use those type of attack.”
Siobhan: “I tried to move into melee combat, but the cards just weren’t there for me.”
Why do you think there aren’t many girls and women playing war games?
Donelle: “I think it is the fact that the game requires you to beat the other player. Women don’t really like to destroy things or be very competitive. This is not to say women can’t be this way but evolutionarily speaking, the majority of women don’t want to be competitive in this way. Back when the human species was a hunter and gatherer society, women had to get people to work together as a group in order to protect themselves and their children. A pregnant woman or a woman with a baby by themselves is an easy target. So women tend to shy away from activities that may require them to be competitive because it would hurt a woman’s chance of encouraging people to create a group around her. This does not apply to all women and does not mean women cannot be competitive or good at the games but may be an explanation when women have an aversion to war games.”
Siobhan: “I think a lot of it has to do with society and how boys and girls are directed to gendered activities. Girls are “expected” to play house, and not get dirty. Boys play cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, encouraged to hero-worship soldiers. To a certain extent, society has loosened up there, but stereotypes are still there, creating invisible barriers and deterrents.”
Do you think that might change in the near or distant future?
Donelle: “Possible for the distant future but not likely for the near future. I think the majority of women will likely gravitate to group games. “
Siobhan: “It most likely will. That may be helped along by the military opening combat positions to women.”
Anything you’d like to add and talk about on the topic of girls and war games?
Donelle: “Women should play more war games because they are fun to play. I am worried women are going to change the culture of the game and the way the games are played in a negative way. Instead of going into that world and embracing the culture women will condemn men and make demands. How can men treat women as equals if they are always afraid of women making accusation for men being themselves?”
There you have it, folks! If you were excepting a definitive answer to my original question, I think you would be disappointed. However, I also think that is the fun of informal experiments like this one. Both women had some interesting things to say about their experience. In fact, it looks like both women were take opposites of a nature vs nurture argument in the responses. (I should point out both ladies answered these questions separately.) What I did find encouraging was that both enjoyed the game and would be willing to play it or others like it again giving the opportunity.
This was my ultimate unscientific test, in that you could not get much more unscientific than this, however, what I do feel confident in saying after all of it is this: Guys! Get some girls to play some war games. The more players the more fun and the more chances to play. I think the key here is to start with something simple so that it can be learned quickly and played more often. A good first impression is key. There are so many types and flavors of war games available that some diligent research is required to find the right fit. After that, it is time to get to the actual gameplay.
Madame General, the troops await your orders.