Civilians in wargames

First to start with a disclaimer. I am quite new to wargaming, and have not played a lot of games. So probably I will overlook a lot of rules and concepts. But I will try to write some summary I could find right now.

Girl herding geese, Slag om Grolle 2012

In general wargames don’t bother to much with civilians. I have read a couple of recent wargames battle reports and most did not feature any civilians. When they do participate I could identify a couple of reasons:


Think about farmers defending their crops against raiding and stealing cattle. Most of the time not part of any team, but acting like some kind of military units with low capabilities. The actual live and living of these civilians is most of the time not considerd, and wont have impact on the story or campaign. This is mostly used in medieval or more ancient battles and sometimes in fantasy or sci-fi adventures.

Civilians with tools(or weapons) Pendraken 10mm

( Negative or Positive) modifier

It is not good to have civilian casualties, but they are only some negative modifier to the end score. Often seen in ww2 air war games, were you try to recreate bombing of a city, were missed bombs (which have civilian causalities) generate negative points. But is might also be used in modern urban warfare. But it might also be used impacting morale, as the civilians are liking your side more or less.

(Moving) Obstacle

Those refugee streams can clog up roads, or make moving around more difficult. It just act the same way as terrain feature, impacting your military forces. They might be moving around as a walking forest is which you only see in fantasy setting, so refugees make up a more believable story, in historical setting.

Unexpected military unit

This is mostly used in modern irregular wars, were mobs of civilians are either blocking your road, or suddenly turning back on you and showing itself as military unit.


Starting the research I had expected that there would be not much ways to involve civilians in wargames, but multiple different ways have been discovered. The only one missing, which would make sense from human rights perspective, is a direct head on head wargame, civilians against a militairy power, where the civilians do not use weapons, but score by avoiding casualties. I haven’t found a system what uses these kind of mechanics yet. Maybe I have to create my own.

Now looking back at the original question:

Can wargame rules include human rights violations, and still teach us a lesson, while telling the (his)story?

I don’t think the mechanisms above tells something about human rights violations. They do take civilians in account, and can create good (his)stories. But don’t teach us about human rights violations.

For this I have to search futher or create my own. From computer games I want to highlight two examples, which takes some civilian live into account. The first is “This war of mine”, which is a game where you play as civilian in a warzone, and try to survive in your house. You are searching for supplies and encounter thereby other people, were you can steal their supplies or fight them. The emotional aspect has some place here, as it feels not good to steal from an elderly couple. But if you don’t get the supply, one of your characters die. The second game is “Conflict Zone” were two parties battle, but the resources are civilians. For the “good” side, you try to save as many refugees as possible, for the “bad” side, you don’t care, but need to indoctrinate as many civilians as possible.

Maybe these games can be a good inspiration for finding a solution. Hope to expand this research in the future.

2 Replies to “Civilians in wargames”

  1. Thanks for the ideas. Civilians are seldom mentioned in games, but should be.

    On the topic of “direct head on head wargame, civilians against a military power”, there are a number of rules about civilian vs police or civilian vs military conflicts including:
    * RIOT by Matthew Hartley – sold at Click on 6mm at the bottom, then click on Riot on the left side bar and finally scroll down in the main view. Unfortunately, the only players are police/military.
    * Junta (board game) –
    * By Will Alone by me, long out of date and heavily in need of a serious revising –
    * There are others, but I would need to check on my computer at home later.

    In the naval realm there are:
    * Save the Whale –
    * David Manley’s Cod War –

    Keep up the blogging!

  2. Hi James,

    Thank you for your comments, it helps me further in this research.
    I have to dig a little in the rules you suggested. They are a good example of head-to-head games. Maybe I can use some of the rules as inspiration. Especially the “By Will Alone” rules might be a good starting point. The only thing missing is a military campaign against civilians on grand scale. Not depicting riot or riot-like encounters, but full militairy force against non-combatants. I see rioters/demonstrators sometime also as combatants (sometimes with non-violent weapons)

    Thank you for the suggestions, and the first comment on the blog.

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