In January 1977, the French Situationist Guy Debord founded the company
"Strategic and Historical Games." This company had an immediate goal:
to produce the "Kriegspiel," a "game of war" that Debord had already
designed in his head years before. Inspired by the military theory of
Carl von Clausewitz and the European campaigns of Napoleon, Debord's
game is a chess-variant played by two opposing players on a game board
of 500 squares arranged in rows of 20 by 25 squares.
"The surprises of this Kriegspiel
seem to be inexhaustible," he confessed later in his book Panegyric.
"I fear it could be the only one of my works that anyone will dare to recognize as having some value."
Playing Guy Debord's Game of War. Photograph by Diana Martinez.
With the assistance of his benefactor Gérard Lebovici, Debord
produced the game in a limited edition during the summer of 1977. "I
insist on the opportunity to throw the Kriegspiel into the stunned world
as soon as we can," wrote Debord to Lebovici early in 1978. "The cinema
seems to me to be over. [...] I believe that these times don't deserve a
filmmaker like me." The edition included an 18 by 14 1/4 inch game board
and player tokens fabricated in silver-plated copper by the "intrepid"
Mr. Raoult, a Parisian artisan whom Debord admired and trusted
implicitly. By the end of June, 1978, after delays due to poor health,
Debord finished drafting a written copy of the game rules. "I am sending
you the rules soon," he wrote to Lebovici. "The juridico-geometric
writing style has cost me innumerable headaches."
Debord fashioned the game as a tool for learning strategic thought in
the face of real antagonists. Hence the computer edition is played
online against a single opponent. A single-player practice mode is also available
thanks to a rudimentary "Debord AI."
In his letters Debord referred to the game as the "Kriegspiel,"
borrowing the German term meaning "war game." When the game was
fabricated and released in France, Debord officially titled it "Le Jeu
de la guerre." Since the phrasing "The Game of War" is slightly awkward
in English, we opted to title the RSG game "Kriegspiel," using the original word
favored by Debord.
In Debord's view the game represents the totality of factors at play in
wartime maneuvers, what he called "the dialectic of all conflicts."