A Game Of War

Guy Debord (French artist, situationist & experimental filmmaker) and author of the acclaimed “Society of the Spectacle” (e.g. Rebel Press 2004) ventured into Game Design around 1977 and founded the company “Strategic and Historical Games.” This company had an immediate goal: to produce “Le Jeu de la Guerre” or “Kriegspiel” / “game of war” that Debord had already designed in his head years before. Inspired by the military theory of Carl von Clausewitz and the European campaigns of Napoleon, Debord’s game is a chess-variant played by two opposing players on a game board of 500 squares arranged in rows of 20 by 25 squares.

A Game of War is also book by Guy Debord and Alice Becker-Ho that illustrates a game devised by Debord by giving a detailed account of one of their table-top conflicts. It was first published in French as Le Jeu de la Guerre in 1987, but unsold copies were later pulped in 1991, along with other books by Debord, at his insistence when he left his publisher Champ libre. The book was reissued in 2006, with an English translation published by Atlas Press in 2008.

In his 1989 book “Panegyric”, Guy Debord remarked:

“So I have studied the logic of war. Indeed I succeeded long ago in representing its essential movements on a rather simple game-board… I played this game, and in the often difficult conduct of my life drew a few lessons from it — setting rules for my life, and abiding by them. The surprises vouchsafed by this Kriegspiel of mine seem endless; I rather fear it may turn out to be the only one of my works to which people will venture to accord any value. As to whether I have made good use of its lessons, I shall leave that for others to judge.”

Apart from the books which contain the game, free online versions of the game are available (see link).

London based group, Class Wargames have reproduced A Game of War and taken it on a campaign around the globe, at Belo Horizonte (Brazil), St. Petersburg (Russia) and a variety of other locations. Class Wargames is an avant-garde movement of artists, activists and theoreticians engaged in the production of works of ludic subversion in the bureaucratic society of controlled consumption – subtitled Ludic Subversion Against Spectacular Capitalism. See more @ www.classwargames.net/

“Le Jeu de la Guerre” online version: r-s-g.org

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