What are we trying to accomplish here?


I ran across this writing about OSG from 2003. It still rings true, I think...


To be successful, our games have to be enjoyable and playable; our goal is to produce a game people will play over and over, and from which they will learn. They will learn geography, they will learn history, and strategy, because the game will be accurate in its delineation of characters, of coastlines, and of forces.

But beyond history and geography, what do the games have to teach?

What they have to teach is experiential. It has to do with that moment when you become 'unstuck in time.' At that critical die-roll, for just a moment, you forget where you are and who you are.

It's all about role-playing. You're learning more than history, you're experiencing another kind of life.

Just as in a child's game, children learn to think about being grownups by pretending to be grownups, we learn to control the situation by pretending to exercise command.

The game has the same lessons to teach that the study history can teach. We can learn to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, which in a word can be summed up as 'hubris,' and this is where OSG games differ from many other wargames: because OSG games talk about limits, resistances, friction. In the average WWII operational level games you can move all your pieces their maximum speed every turn. And what ends up happening is two solid front lines. In OSG games you can't do that. It's teaching a kind of mobile warfare.

You're going to learn about strategy, about limits. Some gamers don't want to know that: "Whaddya mean I can't move all my guys each turn. I don't wanna play that!"

For many years there was very little being published on Napoleon, a book here and there. Then the Emperor's Press began publishing books and Napoleon Magazine. And OSG started-up in 1997. Since that time there has been a flurry of interest in Napoleon.

We're not interested in Napoleon—except as it relates to his performance as a general, as it relates to his operational thinking, operational planning, and operational execution. But perhaps there are larger lessons and they are geo-political. And these lessons say: in the exercise of power, one should be cautious.

Napoleon thought destiny was with him regardless of right and wrong, and many people believed him. He thought all problems could be solved with military conquest. That was probably his greatest blunder; as brilliant as he was at the operational level, at the geopolitical level he was a failure, because he believed in War.

Our games serve to bring interest to the study of the individual campaigns, and have presented the history in a dynamic way; in an accurate way, but in a whole new form than it took through 19th century history. The games allow us to look into corners of history that can only be accessed through that channel. But they also allow us to understand Napoleonic operations in a way that no book can.

Are there any principles of operations that apply throughout time? Yes.

Most Napoleonic principles of operations still apply (cf. Napoleon's Maxims). Thus, any military man who is going to command will want to understand the theory.  But what does it matter to the lay person to understand Napoleonic operations? Are these lessons that apply in an elusive way in everyday life? Does the existence of these games change anything in our appreciation of who we are and how we are going to accomplish things and move on our way through the world? Or are they really just about exercising passion and aggression in a blind way?

I hope that the games have more value and meaning than that.


—Kevin Zucker