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Posted on Apr 9, 2008 in Stuff We Like

Simulations Meet Reality at National WWII Museum

Gerald D. Swick

Visitors can observe or join in the games if they wish; tutors help them with the rules.

Sometimes the same battle, such as the fighting around the Stoumont Sanitorium during the Battle of the Bulge, is set up on adjacent tables. One group plays it out using a board game like Advanced Squad Leader, while at the next table it is played using miniatures.

Germans pursue Americans, December 1944

A truly unusual event at the museum is called Warfare Through the Ages, in which battles that took place in the same area but during different eras are played out. Two or more tables are set up with the same terrain; the only differences are the effects of advancing civilization, e.g., where a roadside shrine stood in 400 BC may be the site of a market in a small hamlet in 1500 AD, and a sizable town may have developed by the time of World War II. Each of these actions is played on the adjacent tables, allowing players and onlookers to see how advances in weapons and technology changed tactics although the topography remained essentially the same.

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The museum tries to hold Warfare Through the Ages events around the time of some battle anniversary. The next such event will be April 19; some players will face each other in a game set in April 1944 when The Red Army was fighting near the shore of Lake Peipus while others recreate Alexander Nevsky’s 1242 “Battle on the Ice” in the same area against Teutonic knights.

The next Heat of Battle convention, which always focuses on actions from the Second World War, will be held August 22 – 24. Currently, 19 rounds of games have been scheduled for Heat of Battle II and prizes will provided. Participating prize sponsors at this writing include Avalanche Press, GMT Games, Matrix Games, Wargamer.com, Wizards of the Coast and Armchair General. The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) East is providing financial sponsorship.

Infantry assualt

The admission fee of $45 for the weekend includes admission to the museum, which will feature special paintings used as box art in several Advanced Squad Leader games, courtesy of Curt Schilling. The "Hollywood – Real to Reel" special exhibit will also be on display. For more information, go to http://nationalww2museum.blogspot.com/.

This partnership between a major museum, gamers and reenactors creates a place where the gap between simulation and reality narrows to present a unique educational experience.

As Walt Burgoyne observes, “Sometimes veterans volunteering at the museum or visiting it can provide personal insight (to gamers) into actions they were in. That’s something that can’t happen in somebody’s basement.”

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