Before the popularity of video games, many military and war historians played paper war-games where pieces represented tanks, navies, armies, or airplanes. By creating rules for how each playing piece could move and attack, these paper war-games could help historians argue about the merits of certain battle plans or simulate future battles between likely enemies.
During World War Two, the Japanese made up a war-game to simulate the upcoming attack on Midway island. Based on what they thought the Americans would have at their disposal and what their own strategy would be, the Japanese attacked Midway Island in their war-game and lost when the American fleet ambushed their aircraft carriers and sank the Japanese fleet.
Outraged that the American could possibly win, the Japanese broke their own rules and allowed the Japanese team to win. When the Japanese sailed into the actual battle of Midway, the Americans wound up ambushing the Japanese fleet, ambushing their aircraft carriers, and sinking four of them, just like the Japanese war-game had predicted.
If you’re interested in both studying historical battles or simulating potential new ones, look at Decision Games, the publisher of various historical and modern war-games. These games can often be complex to learn and play, but they can give you a unique insight into the battles that changed the course of history so you can test out different tactics to see what might have been a better strategy.
More importantly, studying these paper war-games can help you better understand both geography and history while teaching you strategy at the same time. These war-games aren’t as precise as chess, but they can help bring history to life. If you think you could win the American Civil War for the South, conquer Europe back in the Middle Ages, or invade Iraq in the near future, a paper war-game can help you prove your skill as you learn.
Paper war-games more closely resemble the strategy, turn-based games of some video games like “Civilization.” However, don’t let the lack of fancy computer graphics turn you away from this fascinating aspect of gaming where history and military strategy can prove itself right before your eyes.