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Perils of alternate history wargaming

A father and son duo run a YouTube channel about historical tabletop wargaming called “Imperator Vespasian”. They run through demo games, talk about making and painting models and so on. Recently they were offline for about six months. They explain why in the following ten minute video:

“Unexpected side affects of Gaming! Channel update”

The two of them were creating a game called “A very British Civil War” set in an alternate-history 1938 in which Prime Minister Oswald Mosley was fighting to put down an anti-fascist rebellion. The British Union of Fascists was a playable faction. Here is a video they made about this game from six months ago.

Then the son’s school reported him to the police as a potential terrorist. Note that the father and son both say that the police were quite quick to realise that this case was not the best use of their time, and reserve their criticism for the school.

I am a little more sympathetic than are the “Imperator Vespasian” duo with the dilemma faced by schools over whether or not to bring the police in when they suspect a pupil is involved in crime as victim or perpetrator or both. The pair of them did make one unwise decision. Apparently their standard practice in their YouTube shows is to make announcements of what is happening in their games while “in character” for the various factions, with appropriate props as the backdrop. Fine when your prop is a medieval helmet, not so fine when it’s the lightning flash emblem of the BUF.

But was there really no one among the school staff who had ever wargamed? Or whose kids had wargamed, or whose kids’ friends had wargamed, or who was simply enough in touch with the lives of their male pupils to know that playing the Tyranids in Warhammer 40K does not mean you seek to literally devour all life? Given the nerdiness of historical tabletop gaming, I would have guessed that gamers were just as likely to end up as teachers as in the police force. So why did the police quickly get that this was fictional while the teachers did not?

20 comments to Perils of alternate history wargaming

  • Fraser Orr

    MY question would be: how can you possibly justify continuing to send your kid to a school where he is being educated by narrow minded blithering idiots?

    Oh, that’s right, because parents have almost no control over which public school their kids go to.

    FWIW, as I have probably said here before, the public education system is the root of nearly every problem in western society.

  • Julie near Chicago

    This is what happens when you let six-year-olds chew their peanut-butter sandwiches into the shape of a pistol.

    Allusions to weapons in the hands of children! It cannot be allowed! 👿

    Also: Fraser, so you don’t want our children to be completely uneducamated? Fie on you, sir! 👿

    Excuse me now, I have to go watch the videos. 🙂 🙂

  • Matthew Asnip

    My guess would be that a higher percentage of police are men as opposed to school teachers and administrators.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Fraser O: “… the public education system is the root of nearly every problem in western society.”

    Absolutely! You will get a Gold Star in your book this week for speaking truth to power. The usual suspects knew what they were doing when they selected the educational system as the place to launch the Long March through Western Institutions.

    While the under-performing educational system is devastating society at large, even that cloud has a little silver lining for some of us. Many of us older farts would have long since been pushed out of the world of gainful employment by cheaper young bucks, if those unfortunate young people had not been so mis-educated.

    It shocks even cynical old me to recognize just how poor secondary education has become in the western world. Let’s play a game — here are the authors of a random couple of papers from a serious technical conference I attended recently. Guess the affiliation of the authors:
    1. J. Tian, J. Liu, D. Elsworth, Y-K Leong, J. Zeng
    2. Y. Gong, M. Mehana, I. El-Monier, F. Xu., F. Xiong

    1 is University of Western Australia. 2 is Ohio State University.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Natalie, a good and interesting posting.

    Speaking of the British police, it seems that you-all do still have some people who are in touch with reality and not overwhelmed by the rules of Rightthink.

    Encouraging, which is a pleasant change.

  • neonsnake

    Tyranids in Warhammer 40K does not mean you seek to literally devour all life?


    I was a right meritocrat at 14 years old then…and utterly unaccepting of deviancy of any kind…

    😆 😆 😆

  • Mal Reynolds

    I play a bit of Warhammer Age of Sigmar and I have to say a surprisingly large proportion of players seem to be male teachers. Surprised that a school is therefore this oblivious to Tabletop gaming…

  • John B

    ‘But was there really no one among the school staff who…’

    … talked to father and son to clarify the situation before calling the Police?

  • staghounds

    Everyone here is acting as though this was not exactly the result intended.

    Aside from the failure of the police to take this seriously enough of course. There will be retraining to make sure that doesn’t happen again…

  • Zerren Yeoville

    “But was there really no one among the school staff who had ever…”

    … read the ‘Saki’ short story, ‘The Toys of Peace’?

  • bobby b

    The young Gamergate SJW’s are just now getting out of teaching college and into your schools. This’ll be the start of Gamergate II.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Zerren, thanks for the link to the Saki story. :>)

  • I had a history teacher when I was in 9th or 10th grade (early high school) who had a collection of 30 or so period hats from various eras and locations… and when he would talk about Napolean or the American civil war or ancient Egypt, he would wear these hats during the entire class. Inevitably he would give a small talk about the story around each hat… it was a very unique and interesting hook.

  • MadRocketSci

    Just about every creative act I originated or participated in was done in witting or unwitting defiance of school authority.

    I taught myself programming far far beyond our pitiful classes in the subject, and was punished for working ahead.

    Some friends and I started a secret math club to, among other things, prove or disprove the four color theorem after our middle-school geometry teacher punished us for “studying ahead” and coming to understand trigonometry when she did not. (There you go: Want to get kids to study math? Make it forbidden and punish it arbitrarily and severely.)

    I was remanded to psychologists in elementary school after attempting to write a gangster/noir novel for literature class. (I had just watched the ‘godfather’. I had no idea what I was seeing, and my attempts to capture the themes were probably so bad my teachers didn’t get the reference. (People randomly turning to villainy and violence due to warped filial loyalty! What if that went down in *our* town?) Trying to explain it to them made it worse.)

    At least I wasn’t arrested. Just slipped by in a more civilized age.

    Letting them know about my brother and I’s ad-hoc pen and paper Civilization style wargame would have probably met with hostile incomprehension, but at least the police would have laughed at them.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Reading ahead!

    Li’l ol’ me spent the first three years of grade school in a one-room country grade-school. Mrs. McCoy taught grades 1-6. As it happened, my class was the largest in the school; at one point there were eight of us! I just counted — when I was in second grade, there were 17 pupils in all.

    In that environment, you took your entertainment and boredom-chasers where you found them. In my case, that was books, and I came from a book-loving family anyway. (Several in my class read well before we started school. I would not be astounded to learn that this was the case for many of those here assembled.)

    The Town School in our district sent around a mobile library once a week, and also Mrs. McCoy kept all the readers for grades 1-6 on her desk. We were welcome to read whatever she wasn’t using at the moment.

    Strange to say, some of us were reading above “grade level.”

    In due course, the school district closed Green School, and we were all stuck with Central School in town. It seems to me, sort of, that our fourth-grade class had around 20 kids. Anyway, it was hard to get used to the lack of the upper-grade readers available for reading.

    And in some subsequent grade or other, I was chided for Reading Ahead. I don’t remember if it was in language (grammarschoolese for English) or history or geography, but it was one of those.

    I couldn’t believe it! The teacher had a rule against reading??? !!!

    Oh. Probably Mrs. Schippert (sp?). I liked all my grade-school teachers except Mrs. Schippert — Yuck. End of story.

  • Julie near Chicago
    August 14, 2019 at 3:50 am

    In that environment, you took your entertainment and boredom-chasers where you found them. In my case, that was books, and I came from a book-loving family anyway. (Several in my class read well before we started school. I would not be astounded to learn that this was the case for many of those here assembled.)

    And in some subsequent grade or other, I was chided for Reading Ahead. I don’t remember if it was in language (grammarschoolese for English) or history or geography, but it was one of those.

    Oh, Lord, that happened to me. In first grade (back in the Forties) I wanted more substance in my reading than “See Spot run”. So I read the second grade readers, and the third grade, and that’s when the teacher called a sudden halt to such nonsense.

    (Later, during Junior High, it turned out the town librarian was telling my parents about all the books I checked out that she didn’t think I should be reading.)

    We’ve always had nannies and Grundies, and people who go around hammering the nails that stick out. Only the details change. For historical interest, search “Fredric Wertham”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ellen, I started first grade in 1949. So, Me Too!

    In high-school, our library was at the back of the room we used for Study Hall. (It started life as the school auditorium, stage & all.) I remember my high-school librarian getting after me for reading library books during Study Hall instead of doing my homework. This irked me, as everybody in town, pop. 2000, knew I didn’t shirk schoolwork. (Everybody’s got to have something positive in his or her reputation!*)

    But appearances to the contrary, I was no dummy (Lo how the mighty have fallen…)! I knew my homework would be no problem, but at my house schoolwork was valued over almost everything else. So: read entertaining books at school at no charge, save homework for home, no need to feel guilty.

    *That’s not to say that studying and grades were of maximal importance to everyone in town! Now being varsity football or basketball, that was important. *g*

  • neonsnake

    Fredric Wertham

    He was the Seduction Of The Innocent guy, right? I’m only aware of his influence on the comics scene, where he is obviously spoken of in very negative terms. Anything else I need to know?

    Bizarrely, I had the opposite experience in the late 80s, early 90s re. reading ahead. Any book I was given for English lit, I read it, all of it, basically immediately, and was encouraged to do so. My parents persuaded the local library to let me get books from the adult section at age 12 (and later regretted it, when they realised what I was reading 😉 )

    Mind you, my school had Animal Farm and 1984 on its reading list, for all the right reasons, so make of that what you will.

  • George Atkisson

    Oh, Lord. I grew up surrounded by books in the 50’s. We got books for Christmas and squealed. I was given Churchill’s six volume History of the Second World War in the 7th grade and read it cover to cover while riding the bus to and from school. My younger sister read Les Miserables (unabridged) in the summer of her 8th grade year. She came home in tears because her 9th grade English teacher flat out refused to believe she had done so, in class. A very quick Parent/Teacher conference put an end to that. My daughters are voracious readers. I just finished a 21 book series of fantasy ebooks in 6 weeks.

    I know people whose only books in the home are decorative picture books on their coffee table. 😢

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, I don’t actually agree with some of the concerns people have expressed about school. It is extremely variable in quality, but where I live the schools are really excellent academically, socially and sportswise (insofar as you can deal with the ridiculous obsession Americans have with sports.) There are definitely the whole socialist undertone, but my kids learn math in high school that I didn’t touch until I was a senior in college. One of my kids conducted a PCR analysis, used restriction enzymes on genes, and plotted the results using chromatography in his Junior year of high school. Not only did I not do that in school, it wasn’t even invented when I was in school.

    Some of the best public schools are actually pretty decent. The problem is that many, many schools are terrible. I was reading somewhere of a school that had 14 students with proficiency in math (that is 14 students total, not 14% out of a student body of several thousands.) When that is happening I wonder how the teachers can feel justified in taking their pay.

    The real privilege is to have parents rich enough to live in a good school district. We have this idea that public schooling is a great equalizer, but it isn’t, not at all. We pay for school in a bizarre indirect means through the price of the house we buy. And many schools educate children in little more than criminality, entitlement, sex and resentment.

    There really is a very simple solution. We want to make sure people who can’t afford to eat or house themselves have the ability to do so. So we issue food stamps and housing benefits. However, the government does not run the farms or the housing. So if we want to ensure that poor kids have access to education, where did we get the crazy idea that the government has to run the schools?

    We can fix the schooling problem overnight by simply redirecting the gobs of money spent by the useless department of education to parents. Give every parent a $7000 tax credit for each child that they can use for educational purposes. And make a rule that these credits cannot be used in public schools. The public school system would privatize, and parents would actually be empowered to fire the teachers who had the audacity to run math programs that produced no students who could do math. As companies competed for their business parents would actually have control over the education of their children, and the VAST majority of parents care about their kids getting a good education.

    The cost of this in terms of reduced tax revenues would almost entirely be borne by simply shutting down the useless Department of Education. And within literally five years we would have the best school system in the world, and a burgeoning of educated children. And the biggest benefits by far would go to the poorest. Were I to live in some of the dreadful school districts 30 miles east of me in Chicago, I would consider sending my kids to those schools as nothing short of child abuse.

    Of course it will never happen. Too many powerful people think of the education system as vehicle for their own ends, and the actual education of children is a fairly tertiary concern.