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Zones of Control


Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming, coedited by Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, will be published by The MIT Press in the spring of 2016. The book contains more than sixty contributions by scholars, game designers, and practitioners—including two chapters from us (Rex Brynen, Ellie Bartels) here at PAXsims:

Editors’ Introduction

  • Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

Foreword: The Paper Time Machine Goes Electric

  • James F. Dunnigan


1 A Game Out of All Proportions: How a Hobby Miniaturized War

  • Jon Peterson

2 The History of Wargaming Project

  • John Curry

3 The Fundamental Gap between Tabletop Simulation Games and the “Truth”

  • Tetsuya Nakamura

4 Fleet Admiral: Tracing One Element in the Evolution of a Game Design

  • Jack Greene

5 The Wild Blue Yonder: Representing Air Warfare in Games

  • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

6 Historical Aesthetics in Mapmaking

  • Mark Mahaffey

7 The “I” in Team: War and Combat in Tabletop Role-Playing Games

  • A. Scott Glancy


8 War Engines: Wargames as Systems from the Tabletop to the Computer

  • Henry Lowood

9 The Engine of Wargaming

  • Matthew B. Caffrey Jr.

10 Design for Effect: The “Common Language” of Advanced Squad Leader

  • J. R. Tracy

11 Combat Commander: Time to Throw Your Plan Away

  • John A. Foley

12 Empire of the Sun: The Next Evolution of the Card-Driven Game Engine

  • Mark Herman

13 The Paths of Glory Lead but to the Gaming Table

  • Ted S. Raicer

14 A New Kind of History: The Culture of Wargame Scenario Design Communities

  • Troy Goodfellow


15 Operations Research, Systems Analysis, and Wargaming: Riding the Cycle of Research

  • Peter P. Perla

16 The Application of Statistical and Forensics validation to Simulation Modeling in Wargames

  • Brien J. Miller

17 Goal-Driven Design and Napoleon’s Triumph

  • Rachel Simmons

18 Harpoon: An Original Serious Game

  • Don R. Gilman

19 The Development and Application of the Real-Time Air Power Wargame Simulation Modern Air Power

  • John Tiller and Catherine Cavagnaro

20 Red vs. Blue

  • Thomas C. Schelling

21 Hypergaming

  • Russell Vane


22 Wargaming Futures: Naturalizing the New American Way of War

  • Luke Caldwell and Tim Lenoir

23 Creating Persian Incursion

  • Larry Bond

24 Modeling the Second Battle of Fallujah

  • Laurent Closier

25 Playing with Toy Soldiers: Authenticity and Metagaming in World War I video Games

  • Andrew Wackerfuss

26 America’s Army

  • Marcus Schulzke

27 We the Soldiers: Player Complicity and Ethical Gameplay in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

  • Miguel Sicart

28 Upending Militarized Masculinity in Spec Ops: The Line

  • Soraya Murray


29 Wargames as Writing Systems

  • Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi

30 Playing Defense: Gender, Just War, and Game Design

  • Elizabeth Losh

31 Debord’s Nostalgic Algorithm

  • Alexander R. Galloway

32 The Ludic Science Club Crosses the Berezina

  • Richard Barbrook

33 War Games

  • David Levinthal

34 Troubling the Magic Circle: Miniature War in Iraq

  • Brian Conley


35 Wargames as an Academic Instrument

  • Philip Sabin

36 Lessons from the Hexagon: Wargames and the Military Historian

  • Robert M. Citino

37 Simulation Literacy: The Case for Wargames in the History Classroom

  • Rob MacDougall and Lisa Faden

38 The Amateur Designer: For Fun and Profit

  • Charles Vasey

39 Struggling with Deep Play: Utilizing Twilight Struggle for Historical Inquiry

  • Jeremy Antley

40 Model-Driven Military Wargame Design and Evaluation

  • Alexander H. Levis and Robert J. Elder


41 Gaming the Nonkinetic

  • Rex Brynen

42 Inhabited Models and Irregular Warfare Games: An Approach to Educational and Analytical Gaming at the US Department of Defense

  • Elizabeth M. Bartels

43 Chess, Go, and Vietnam: Gaming Modern Insurgency

  • Brian Train and Volko Ruhnke

44 Irregular Warfare: The Kobayashi Maru of the Wargaming World

  • Yuna Huh Wong

45 A Mighty Fortress is Our God: When Military Action Meets Religious Strife

  • Ed Beach

46 Cultural Wargaming: Understanding Cross-Cultural Communications Using Wargames

  • Jim Wallman


47 Wargaming (as) Literature 555

  • Esther MacCallum-Stewart

48 Tristram Shandy: Toby and Trim’s Wargames and the Bowling Green

  • Bill McDonald

49 Third Reich and The Third Reich

  • John Prados

50 How Star Fleet Battles Happened

  • Stephen V. Cole

51 Total Global Domination: Games Workshop and Warhammer 40,000

  • Ian Sturrock and James Wallis

52 When the Drums Begin to Roll

  • Larry Brom

53 War Re-created: Twentieth-Century War Reenactors and the Private Event

  • Jenny Thompson


54 War, Mathematics, and Simulation: Drones and (Losing) Control of Battlespace

  • Patrick Crogan

55 How to Sell Wargames to the Non-Wargamer

  • Michael Peck

56 Wargaming the Cyber Frontier

  • Joseph Miranda

57 The Unfulfilled Promise of Digital Wargames

  • Greg Costikyan

58 Civilian Casualties: Shifting Perspective in This War of Mine

  • Kacper Kwiatkowski

59 Practicing a New Wargame

  • Mary Flanagan

Zones of Control can now be preordered from Amazon.

Tom Clancy, Gamemaster

As many PAXsims readers will already know, Tom Clancy—author and gamer—died on Tuesday at the age of 66. You’ll find his obituary here (New York Times), here (Washington Post),  and here (CNN), among many other places.

Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland) has kindly contributed the following piece to PAXsims, examining the way in which Clancy used the wargame Harpoon to develop the plot for his book Red Storm Rising.

* * *

Tom Clancy, Gamemaster

Red_storm_risingTom Clancy’s connections to the games industry are well known, especially the signature Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and Splinter Cell franchises. Long-time wargamers, however, will know that his interest goes back much further than that.

The story starts with Larry Bond’s Harpoon (today also stewarded by Chris Carlson), which first came out in 1981 as a set of tabletop rules published by Dave Arneson’s Adventure Games. Clancy, so the story goes, saw an ad in the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine and purchased it on a whim; when the game arrived he realized that he had a trove of data that it would have cost thousands of dollars to duplicate through the usual library of reference works. This material became instrumental to writing The Hunt for Red October, Clancy’s first novel and breakthrough best-seller.

Clancy’s hallmark, of course, is his realism, particularly his attention to detail in weapons and technical systems; and here we find tell-tale indicators of Harpoon’s influence. For example, when the V. K. Knovalov fires off a pair of “Mark C 533-millimeter wire-guided torpedoes” in the climactic underwater confrontation at the end of the novel, the weapon type and characteristics are taken directly from the data annex in the Harpoon rules; as Larry Bond has told me, the game system’s “Mark C” wire-guided torpedo was simply a generic extrapolation from assumed real-world capabilities since there was no public data for this weapons system at the time. (An examination of later editions of Harpoon published after the collapse of the Soviet Union reveals that these generic listings have been replaced by their correct identifications.) At some point in this process, Clancy struck up a correspondence with Bond over some of the ship data, and the two met in person at a convention not long after.

harpoon-1This meeting was to be the basis for one of the more interesting literary collaborations of the era. Despite enormous pressure from his publishers for the next Jack Ryan book after Red October’s success, Clancy instead pursued an idea he had hit upon with Bond: to write a lightly fictionalized account of a full-scale conventional war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact using Harpoon as an integral part of their creative arsenal to “game” the scenarios and situations in the book. Bond, at the time, was still a naval consultant and not the best-selling author he is today. Understandably, people were nervous. In correspondence to his New York City editor, Clancy declared that the outcomes of the game sessions would furnish “a matrix of detail within which our characters will operate” (the book, meanwhile, had just been given a million-dollar advance). Red Storm Rising, whose working title was “Sunset,” thus became a best-selling work of fiction some of whose key sections—notably the “dance of the vampires” carrier battle and the Soviet airborne seizure of Iceland—were gamed using a tabletop wargames system. (Bond, for his part, was not just the gamemaster, but took an active part in the writing as well, as Clancy’s author’s note at the beginning of the novel makes clear.)

But while Harpoon was integral to the plot, it was not deterministic. For example, the gaming sessions suggested the Soviet bombers might not get through a carrier battle group’s outer air defenses, but Clancy and Bond knew that the “bad guys” needed to win a big one early on for the book’s dramatic arc; Clancy thus independently arrived at the Soviet drone tactics, which is one of the most dramatic (and prescient) episodes in the book. The games did allow Clancy and Bond to maintain consistency as regards the complex interplay of ships and systems and sensors that make up a modern naval battle. The game sessions (dubbed “Vampire I, II, and III” in Bond’s notes) thus quite literally plotted the book in the sense that they offered precisely the temporal and spatial “matrix of detail” that Clancy had promised to anchor the detail-driven narrative prose (I describe the integration of the game sessions with the novel’s plotting in more detail here based on access to Larry Bond’s personal papers).

Red Storm Rising was published in 1985 and immediately shot to the top of the best-seller lists. If portions of it read like what grognards would call an After Action Report, that’s because that’s exactly what they were. For an English professor like me the novel represents a unique example of how games can influence fiction. (Interestingly, the Dragonlance novels, derived from an AD&D campaign, were being published at about the same time.) Moreover, eventually board game versions of both The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising were released, so we arrive at a situation where games have influenced novels that have then had games produced from them!


A Red Storm Rising computer game was produced by Microprose in 1988. A year later, Harpoon itself got the first of what would become many subsequent computer implementations based on Don Gilman’s work for Three-Sixty. Clancy contributed the forward to the rules manual (this was when computer games still came with rules manuals, as well as floppy disks . . .) There he wrote, “Harpoon is a tool for understanding things that happen in the real world.” This very much reflects the grognard’s view, one where games are analytical tools to be used alongside of conventional histories, primary source documents, field data, oral testimonies, and everything else in a good researcher’s toolbox.

Clancy (and Bond) were both too good as storytellers for anyone to suggest their success was the end-product of a game. But their work in the 1980s took us much deeper into the potential for rich interaction between fiction writing and games than today’s marketplace, driven by tie-ins to triple-A titles, typically allows. Wargamers could do worse than to look (again) towards fiction writing and storytelling as vehicles for communicating lessons and outcomes (Clancy would later swear that NATO doctrine had indeed changed in response to the Iceland scenario in Red Storm). And novelists could perhaps do worse than to think of games as merely something to pass the time when they’re stuck with writer’s block.

Matthew Kirschenbaum
University of Maryland

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