I want to play a war game for Memorial Day.

Sounds a little inane, I know. Playing a “game” where one pushes little bits of cardboard around on a paper map. The map is colorful. Even the little bits of cardboard aren’t brown and corrugated; they too, are colorful. These games, have a visual sense of being artistic.

Paths of Glory

However, playing one of these games, while having fun elements, provides something much deeper than playing a game of Chutes and Ladders with the kids. In order to play a board war game you have to learn the history. In a lot of cases board war games are case studies in the conflicts they simulate. To learn the game is to learn the history. And to know the history is to know yourself. These games require effort, and in that effort, you begin to understand so much more than the game.

You begin to understand the time, the place, the people, the reason, the humanity.

Why play a game for Memorial Day?

Think about these words from the Motörhead song, 1916:

[Verse 1]
16 years old when I went to the war
To fight for a land fit for heroes
God on my side, and a gun in my hand
Chasing my days down to zero
And I marched and I fought and I bled
And I died & I never did get any older
But I knew at the time, That a year in the line
Was a long enough life for a soldier

[Verse 2]
We all volunteered
And we wrote down our names
And we added two years to our ages
Eager for life and ahead of the game
Ready for history’s pages
And we brawled and we fought
And we whored ’til we stood
Ten thousand shoulder to shoulder
A thirst for the Hun
We were food for the gun
And that’s what you are when you’re soldiers

[Verse 3]
I heard my friend cry
And he sank to his knees, coughing blood
As he screamed for his mother
And I fell by his side
And that’s how he died
Clinging like kids to each other
And I lay in the mud
And the guts and the blood
And I wept as his body grew colder
And I called for my mother
And she never came
Though it wasn’t my fault
And I wasn’t to blame
The day not half over
And ten thousand slain, and now
There’s nobody remembers our names
And that’s how it is for a soldier

I play because I want to remember.

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