The Gift of Villainy, Part IV (Finale)
As the Cold War campaign continued, my propaganda broadcasts consistently incensed the American players. At one point, one of the Bobe’s Hobby House patrons reading our missives asked if the NATO players were even allowed to write a “Hearts and Minds” campaign at all as several of my posts had gone unanswered by the American players. I sent out the following post in an attempt to quietly tell the American players that they needed to use more subtlety in their tactical planning but I don’t think it worked.
SOVIET HIGH COMMAND
MOSCOW, RUSSIA, USSR
SECRET MILITARY BRIEFING
SPEAKER: COLONEL HAN TESARIK,
CO CZECH 2ND ARMY, 1ST ARMOURED DIVISION, 33RD GUARD REGIMENT
Comrade Generals, I have returned from the front in West Germany. I have led my Czech troops in several battles against the NATO forces and as our conflict with the capitalists expands across the globe, I have been asked to brief you as to the nature of our enemy. The Americans are an implacable foe who more often than not would rather die than surrender. I have done my best to encourage them to consider surrender as an acceptable alternative. I have given orders that no prisoner is mistreated nor any part or even the least portion of the Geneva Convention or the Articles of War be violated. It is in our best interests to do so. The more we can convince the soldiers of the West that we are not monsters like the Nazis, the more they will be inclined to lay down their weapons and surrender rather than die in place.
The greater concern I have is that they will continue to demonstrate the desperation I’ve seen in the last few battles. They have continued to fight when any reasonable force would have surrendered or at least retreated. They fight like wild men, brutal savages, lashing out at anything that moves. They fight not for a concern for whom and what they defend but simply to destroy. They have no love for Europe or for Europeans — they simply see the West as part of their empire and like the Hun or the Mongol, it is in their nature to fight for their empire, be their enemy the British, the Native Americans, the Nazis or us. The assumption of victory appears to be ingrained in their nature and when that expectation is violated, their entire world view is destroyed and in their minds all that remains is for them to destroy the world with it.
I have seen the Americans and their allies fire on refugees and smash the trucks of their allies into buildings to get them out of the way. I have witnessed civilian trains carrying no implements of war nor any other property belonging to our Warsaw Pact forces attacked as though they were the Kremlin themselves, with suicide troops flinging Molotov cocktails at the very train they themselves were on. I have seen their collaborators firing wildly into civilian crowds in the vague hope that they might hit one of our security personnel. The very Nazis we and they so recently fought, so recently spilled our dearest blood to defeat, they have embraced to their side as allies against us. The Americans are not merely reckless — they are a savage force of nature, a wildfire burning across the globe.
I tell you now, my comrades, if anyone is to win this war, then we must win it quickly. The Americans are prepared to burn all of Europe to the ground in order to save it. So I pass on to you now the key to victory against this foe. The way to defeat the Americans is always to remember: they always expect to win. The problem with the Americans will not be winning the battles — it will be winning the game before the Americans grow so frustrated as to deploy their atomic weapons to kick over the chess board like a petulant child.
My greatest propaganda triumph came after the GM ruled that the engineer the partisans shot and threw off the train in the last battle had survived. This one, this one I consider my masterpiece:
Safety Broadcast (in German)
Old Willie: Hello friends! Old Willie here again to tell you to always take it safe. On that note, what do we do when we see an American, kids?
Old Willie: That’s right! And once you’ve reached safety, then what do we do?
Kids: CALL FOR HELP!!
Old Willie: That’s right kids! Always take it safe. And that applies to you adults out there too. If you see an American, don’t try to apprehend him on your own. Flee the area and once you’ve made it to somewhere safe, contact your local authorities — they and our brave soldiers will do the rest.
Now some of you out there are saying to yourselves, ‘Old Willie says these things but he’s being rewarded for doing so.’ And that’s true. I am being compensated for these broadcasts. But do you know what else is true? It’s true that I’m a sixty-five year old man and that the Americans and their collaborators boarded my train, shot me and threw me from a moving train all without the chance to surrender or even identify myself as a civilian. And it’s also true that I count myself as lucky. Because shortly after they threw me off my train to die, they blew my train to pieces — with themselves still aboard — right in the middle of one of the most heavily populated cities in Germany with no regard whatsoever for the lives of innocent German citizens.
So if you’re a train engineer and you see the Americans, throw the brake, stop the train and run for your life.
If you’re on the road and you see an American column coming towards you, quickly and safely pull off the road, set the parking brake and then run for cover. Once you reach a place of safety, call the authorities.
Young kid: Thanks to you we know!
Old Willie: And knowing is how you’ll win half the battle!
It had been a long road. I had set out to be the villain and had wound up the hero with the Americans who had devoted themselves to freedom and democracy turning to more and more wretched and vile ways to attempt to defeat our Communist forces as time wore on.
The campaign ended when my commander sent a letter to the Swiss ambassador to deliver to the NATO commander offering a cease-fire. We had run nearly all the way across the whole of West Germany. France wasn’t a NATO power because they, historically, had the clarity to see the writing on the wall, that Americans weren’t going to let New York and Washington D.C. be vaporized in a vain attempt to save Paris. If we had continued as things were going, we would have taken all of West Germany and forced France into some sort of Warsaw Pact-favourable relationship. That would have left Britain alone and ripe for invasion and at that point, I have no doubt the Americans would have deployed their atomic weapons.
We negotiated the re-unification of the German state as a neutral power patrolled, lightly, by UN forces under a joint Soviet-NATO command structure and I repeated the actual and historical (!) request by the Soviet Union to join NATO. That actually happened! The idea was that the biggest threat to world peace was the notion of a surprise attack with atomic weapons. If Soviet officers were walking the corridors of the Pentagon, and American officers likewise working in the Kremlin, both sides would have been a lot more confident of their ability to work together and resolve differences peacefully and avoid incinerating the inhabited surface of the planet.
The cease-fire took hold, prisoners were released with the exception of the experimental jet’s pilot who was politically inexpedient to both sides and Franklin Bradley was released and got to see his wife again. I tweaked the nose of my opponent with a Pravda broadcast celebrating the cease-fire but asking why the UN still hadn’t brought the American up on war crimes and my opponent wrote an official US military statement saying they had no intention allowing him to be tried for anything and the campaign ended. I’ll spare you reading those reports as they weren’t that interesting.
Did either set of players actually learn anything? I don’t know. I guess I did. I learned that among my countrymen there was a tendency towards righteous action that could blind them to all rules and principles of ethics and common decency. They genuinely felt that they were on the side of the angels and that gave them license to do literally anything — shoot civilians, put re-armed Nazis back into the field, anything. Even today, I think I was lucky to call it off when I did. These guys would have pushed the button for sure.
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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Saturday at 1 pm CST on WGSO 990 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.