Looking back at a 1976 game about U.S. civil conflict – exploring social alternatives through eclectic media (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
Let us now turn to the main scenarios of the game. The basic scenario is entitled, "The Enemy Within". It has some fairly interesting speculation about a period of diminished (and diminishing) expectations, to take place in the U.S. after about 2015. It sounds in some respects like the period of "Nineties' retrenchment" in Canada (although not apparently in the United States), e.g., "Some 50% [of people] were either unemployed or vastly underemployed." Actually in fact, the U.S. has been in a more severe financial and economic crisis since 2008, than Canada.
At the same time, the idea of the military practically becoming the most important and most prestigious social sector in American society seems a little strained, and certainly has no applicability to Canada. The designer's conceptualization ignored the possibility that tyranny in the U.S. is far more likely to emerge from managerial-therapeutic agendas of big-government and big-business, or perhaps from the pronounced tendency to social-engineering of "political correctness", which might well create "the tyranny of ‘the just'". Potential lines of conflict along ethnic lines, as well as of the rural hinterland/periphery vs. the urban nodes, are also ignored. It could be argued that the U.S. today is, generally-speaking, moving in a left-liberal, rather than rightwing direction. Political conflict in the former situation would be highly unlikely to emerge into outright and massive armed struggle. One additional notable element of this game scenario is the possibility of either player calling in up to six foreign intervention divisions, which are provided in the countermix.
There are three main "Alternative Scenarios". The first of these is the "Partisan" Scenario, which is based on the now-laughable premise of the invasion of America by a "European Socialist Coalition" (shades of that famous movie, Red Dawn!). The scenario is played on the east side of the map (which is considered "under occupation", after a successful amphibious and airborne ESC invasion of the East Coast). For the purposes of this scenario, the 24 U.S. army divisions in the countermix are used to represent the occupation forces divisions. The ESC gets to use four security divisions as well. As sixteen ESC divisions are tied to garrisoning "the Front Line" along the Mississippi, one suspects the American Partisans are rather likely to achieve their objective of cutting these divisions' Lines of Communication to the East Coast ports.
The second "Occupation" scenario portrays "North American" resistance to a "European" occupation. There is certainly some kind of American phobia expressed in explicitly referring to "the Europeans" as villains, as, for example, in the following phrase, "most Americans seemed willing to submit their continent to the satellite that Europe wished to make of her." Not only is there a nonchalant presumption of the co-identity of American, Canadian, and Mexican interests; in actuality, many people in Europe today feel that it is precisely the U.S. that is imposing its will and way of life on Europe (and on the planet as a whole) albeit through cultural rather than military means.
The final scenario, "Civil War", is the endpoint of this rather curious future-history. Who could make sense out of this mish-mash: "The...partisan leaders...began to exert strong pressure on the President for an isolationist foreign policy and a dramatically reduced Defense budget. The new Progressive Party -- formed by the former Partisan leaders -- expressed strong Socialist ideals [which they had supposedly just fought against -- see above] that were entirely rejected by most Army officers. Many of these officers (and government officials) formed the Constitutionalist Party, which called for the reinstitution of the Constitution of 1787 along traditionalist lines [in the 21st century?]." The curious figure of a "General Albert Sanchez" who launches a coup on October 1 is introduced. About the best thing that can be said about the scenario is that it points to the growing influence of Hispanics in America!
The main feature of the scenario as a game is that initially deployed units can change allegiance, with army divisions possibly converting to rebel militia, rebel networks possibly converting to weak CIGs, and minutemen possibly converting to weak government agents. In other words, the situation is highly chaotic.
The fourth scenario, which has been alluded to above in discussing the three Rebel factions, concerns three or four-player games. In the four-player game, there is an interesting option for a player to become "federalized" for one or more turns, i.e., to collaborate with the government player in attacking other rebels. Also rather interesting is the procedure by which, if the Government player is eliminated, the Rebel player with the most nets becomes the Government player: every Militia unit becomes an army division; every minuteman becomes an agent (to the corresponding strength); and every Net becomes a CIG (to the corresponding strength). The permutations of achieving victory in this kind of multi-cornered struggle become interesting indeed.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.