[Opinion] On the virtues of Green versus Tan

The Green versus Tan conflict has no living veterans.

For decades, there was apparently something of an unspoken rule among wargame publishers that only conflicts from the distant past are appropriate for recreation in miniature. Replaying a historical battle recent enough that current veterans of it are still among the living was largely avoided.

That unspoken rule doesn’t carry as much weight as it once did, as there are numerous publishers of rules set during wars in Vietnam, the Falkland Islands, Somalia, and even for the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly, these games wouldn’t exist if there was no interest in playing them, but such games raise a question about how our veterans might feel about them.

On one side, recreating a recent historical battle honors the participants. To put such a game on the table requires extensive research and full recognition of the battle’s importance. Many wargamers pay as much attention to detail as model railroaders with regarding how the terrain is scaled, how the miniature figures are equipped, and how forces were historically deployed. Their efforts are their tribute to those who fought.

On the other side, there is something about reducing what was an actual life-or-death struggle to a game. If a veteran of a recent conflict saw my son and I playing such a scenario, how would he feel about his sacrifice – and those of his comrades – being reduced to an evening’s entertainment? It certainly wasn’t a game to him at the time.

For my games, I have chosen the latter option. The conflict between Green and Tan army men has raged for a half-century, but there are no living veterans. Gaming with army men allows for deployment, terrain, tactics, and objectives with relatively modern, if non-specific, mechanized forces, with significantly reduced risk of causing offense to our honored veterans.