You’ve watched the war, now play the game
by Philip Sherwell
The United States-led invasion of Iraq may not have been quite the “cakewalk” predicted by some, but now it has been made into a board game and released on the American market just in time for Christmas.
Battle to Baghdad: The Fight For Freedom, which was dreamt up in his shower by Rick Medina, a construction contractor from Oregon, has aroused predictable controversy – praised by some Iraq veterans for its accuracy; criticised by others for capitalising on war.
In the game of dice and cards, the victor is the first to make it to the Iraqi capital without losing all his or her soldiers. And just like US military commanders and their political masters, players encounter some painful and unexpected hazards on their dangerous journey through the desert.
Based on events that actually occurred during and after the invasion, cards drawn by the players determine whether they gain or lose troops from their initial 3,000-strong force on Iraq’s borders.
“Captures!” declares one, rewarding the player with 300 extra men for the ensnaring of Saddam Hussein…
“Deployment” announces the dispatch of another 200 men by the president.
“Disgrace”, however, appears on a card of a female soldier holding an Iraqi detainee on a leash. It reads: “Some soldiers are found guilty of unlawful treatment and inhumane acts of violence towards Iraqi prisoners. You lose 100 troops.” And in another, a “beautiful young woman” takes out 50 men in a suicide bombing.
Mr Medina, 33, works for his father’s building company, but used to invent games as a child and has now set up his own business Jiggi Games after coming up with Battle to Baghdad.
Soldiers in the US Marines’ recruitment office in his hometown of Klamath Falls gave the game good reviews when he showed them a pilot version. “The attention to detail is accurate. I don’t think it takes a particular side and I think people will learn from it,” a corporal who served in Iraq told the Sunday Telegraph.
Mr Medina and his wife Michele, an assistant youth pastor at their local church, have received a mixture of condemnation and congratulations since the game went on sale on-line recently.
One e-mail read: “I am simply appalled that anyone would create a ‘game’ of this horrific war that continues to take from us our youth on a daily basis. This is no way to memorialise the atrocities we witness daily on TV. There should be a boycott of this ‘game’.”
Another said: “This is the height of American capitalist arrogance. A company can produce a board game so that our children can trivialise and misinterpret the destruction of a nation, the corruption of our nation, the slaughter of humans, American and Iraqi.” And a serving marine sergeant wrote: “Are you people completely insane? Have you no common sense at all? You think this is some sort of ******* joke!? You disgust me.”
The Medinas have written back to their critics, denying the game sensationalises events. “The cards in Battle to Baghdad were designed to show the truth. We do not wish our soldiers to be at war nor do we in any way wish to make fun of or belittle this conflict. We pray for them daily and will continue to do so.”
Strangely, given the sensitivity of the subject matter, Mr Medina admits that he never imagined the game would arouse such strong emotions. Although most of the flak has come from the anti-war lobby, he himself also opposes the US presence in Iraq and even slipped in the one playing card not based on a real event. Entitled “Oily Deals”, it gives the players an extra 200 men for the US striking an oil deal with Middle East allies.
Mr Medina is undeterred by the criticism. “It had never crossed my mind that people would object. Iraq is on the television, in the media and part of our lives,” he said.
“As an American, I was raised to believe that we should have ideas and try to make money out of them. That’s the American way.”
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