Ruins: an ambiguous war gaming story

Ruins have fascinated for a long time. Although I do not mean the war torn scale models we use on our gaming tables, but the ruined buildings in the real world. Ruins have a sort of romantic, nostalgic feel surrounding them. And even though I am a fan of modern and contemporary architecture (I even work within that field), it is a feeling that that a beautiful new building simply does not evoke. Ruins tell us something about our humanity. Stories about times long lost in the annals of history, of changing life patterns and of neglect or the inability of our human skills. They even show us that the power of nature is bigger than all our human accomplishments. In other words, ruins tell stories that are worth experiencing and telling.

Cheap Games Workshop scenery looks rather nice after a paintjob, but how far do you need to go to get immersive terrain?

At the same time, ruins tell us some of the most sad stories in human history. Worse still, they tell us stories of our sometimes tragic present. Seeing the ruined buildings in conflict areas, with people still living between the debris and children playing on piles of rubble just makes me sad. Add to this that during wars, the opposing sides are actively (and often on purpose) destroying houses, shops and hospitals and ruins suddenly do not seem so romantic anymore. And it is this present that gives ruins a sort of ambiguous feel to me. Because while beauty of the ruined castles, houses and churches in abandoned Europeans villages that have this beautiful and serene feel to them, ruins are also an expression of our worst human tendencies.

Adding a piece of styrofoam under the ruined building, makes it possible to position models below the floor
Adding a piece of styrofoam under the ruined building, makes it possible to position models below the floor. But should I have added a mass grave for realistic purposes?

Projecting these images on a war torn gaming table seems in that sense strange to do. Because as a large fan of war games, I really like to ‘kill’ my opponents miniatures in the worst kind of ways. Shooting ‘enemy’ troops with machineguns, bolters and rockets, running tanks over poorly equipped soldiers or burning troops from cover with flamers and other foul weaponry is part of the ‘pleasure’ of a war game. Adding some ruined buildings to the battlefield both enhances the ‘immersiveness’, as it is a disturbing thought when we think too much about it. After all, these miniature battlefields we fight wargames on, are made to evoke a sense of ‘real’. But at the same time there are still many places on this world where people are suffering from the real wars being waged.

Judging by the amount of ruins in this city, it seems unlikely that anybody would still live here
Judging by the amount of ruins in this city it seems unlikely that anybody would still live here, sadly there are far to many people living is such conditions in the real world.

Even though this is a rather pessimistic thought, I would like to express my hope that one day, people are able to fight their differences on a gaming table. Testing skills or ideals not with bullets and decapitations, but with proper arguments, tactical thinking and a good glass of beer or soda. It is said that in old India, generals played chess to test their tactical skills. Even though this did not prevent wars from happening, I hope that a game of football, Warhammer or Chess might one day replace the gruelling atrocities that are happening in many places around the globe. And that the ruins of civilization are either the of nostalgic castle type or the plastic ‘wargaming’ type.


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