Friday, March 16, 2007

Games for Soldiers

Tomorrow there’s going to be a game day at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology. It’s in Montgomery, West Virginia, and it’s from nine in the morning until midnight. So if you’re in the area, drop by. Admission is five dollars. The money will go to buy games that will be sent to our soldiers overseas.

That started me wondering what a soldier’s game CARE package would contain. What would you send to our men and women overseas? The question might be phrased as what would they like to play (as opposed to: which of my favorite games would I send them?).


I think we have to assume that most of our soldiers aren’t hardcore gamers, and the games we send them should reflect that. As much as I admire Caylus, Die Macher, and Here I Stand, I think those games would fascinate soldiers just until they actually got a look at the rules booklets. I think Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Catan or Around the World in 80 Days would have a much better chance of being played than any of the above titles. I believe that most of the games should be newbie-friendly.


I prefer strategy board games over other types of games, and so do most of the people I game with. But our soldiers would probably enjoy a greater variety of games. Any package we send them should include card games, party games, and abstract games. I would never buy Wits & Wagers myself, but it is a decent party game, and might be a candidate for inclusion. A luck-fest card game like Bang! is also not my style, but it is easy to learn, and accommodates wildly varying numbers of players. A popular abstract like Rumis might be included. Easy filler games like Aton or High Society might also be good candidates.


I would think that men and women serving in a war zone would want to avoid anything to do with carnage and violence when off-duty. But I saw a TV news segment that showed off-duty soldiers in Iraq playing first-person shooters on a TV. So maybe one or two combat games might not be inappropriate. Again, complexity is an issue. I think highly regarded games like Hammer of the Scots or Memoir ‘44 might be candidates. Maybe a semi-wargame like Twilight Struggle or Imperial.


Although the vast majority of games should be low-complexity, maybe we could throw in one or two medium-complexity games for those want a challenge. I might pick Railroad Tycoon (still available at, but that’s just me. Others might argue for Puerto Rico or Midgard or Cleopatra and the Society of Architects or El Grande or Fury of Dracula or Power Grid or (insert your favorite middle-weight here.)


It occurred to me that sending games to our men and women in uniform could benefit the hobby by creating new gamers. During World War II, the major cigarette companies sent free smokes to our service men, and this helped create a new generation of tobacco addicts. In a more benign way, sending games to soldiers may broaden the population of gamers in the USA when our service personnel return from overseas.


Christopher Stogdill said...

I was in the Air Force and deployed with the Army a few times. First of all, almost any care package is well recieved. Unfortunately the "good stuff" often gets nabbed by the REMFs and doesn't make it to where you'd like to go. I'd suggest doing some research and sending it to the 1st Sargeant of the unit you've decided upon.

As far as games, I'd try to go simple. Bigger games with lots of pieces will mean that stuff gets lost. If you can make it so they can easily replace pieces... great. Make sure you include photocopies of the game's rules so several people could read them at once. If you can also include a couple extra pieces, even better.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a couple of columns on about game donations for soldiers overseas (such as

The owner of the game store where I purchased the games for donation, a veteran himself, said that soldiers love anything to do with bidding. Other than that, he said their tastes vary as much as anyone else's. Kudos on the donation drive, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Duh, I blew the link. If you want to see the columns on game donations, visit, then search for "middle east" or "soldiers."