Washington Conference Megagame Newspaper Reports

Washington Conference Megagame military committee
The Military Committee discussing Capital ship limits, chaired by the British. (Photo: James Kemp)

For his 70th birthday Dave Boundy decided to run his Washington Conference Megagame again. It’s at least the fourth time Washington Conference has been run as a Megagame. I’ve previously played as a Japanese Admiral, although this time I was one of the press team. Also, unlike recent megagames the entire cast list were veteran megagamers, most of us in the 50 to 100 range, with a core coming close to double that.

So it was rather old school as recent megagames go, not to mention that this was a different sort of megagame from the recent experiences, being all about negotiations. There were no mechanisms or control in the megagame, just players.

Washington Conference

The final plenary session announcing the success of the Washington Conference (photo: James Kemp)

Just in case you’ve stumbled here, the game was about the 1921 Washington Conference which was aimed at naval arms limitations, primarily focused on the Pacific. The main countries involved were the US, the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and China. The key flashpoint is the Western Pacific and China. Notably only the victors of the first world war are present, and they’re setting the rules.

The other main thing on the agenda is China. China helped the allies during the war and is looking for them to meet their promises and establish a single Chinese state that can bring stability. There are internal problems with warlords and some Soviet sponsored communist rebels.

Historically the conference established size limits on battleships of 35,000 tonnes displacement. It also limited the main world navies to a ratio of 5:5:3 for the UK:US:JP and the French & Italians at 1.8.

Washington Conference Megagame

The editorial office at the Baltimore Sun

We had five members of the Baltimore Sun press team. We were playing real reporters from the period with their own agendas. I was Hector Bywater, a military journalist.

We all wrote articles on different parts of the Washington Conference. There was a political track and a military one and a number of subcommittees. I followed the main military committee, and spoke to others between meetings.

Every hour of game time was a week of the conference. We put out a physical paper (one or two sides of three column A4 in 11 point) every hour. I ended up physically collating the paper every time because that’s a real life skill that I have. So I have a copy of all the issues we produced.

Here they are as PDFs.

  1. 12 Nov 1921 Baltimore Sun 1921-11-12 final
  2. 19 NovĀ  Baltimore Sun 1921-11-19 final
  3. 26 Nov Baltimore Sun 1921-11-26 final
  4. 3 Dec Baltimore Sun 1921-12-03 final
  5. 10 Dec Baltimore Sun 1921-12-10 final
  6. 17 Dec Baltimore Sun 1921-12-17 final
  7. 26 Dec Baltimore Sun 1921-12-26 final

For the most part all the stories were written during the game. There are four that were pre-generated and those can be identified from the fact that they are the only ones with pictures.

I only realised after the game that there were a load of period photos, adverts and some more articles that we could also have used to add to the material that we produced.

Overall I enjoyed being a press player at Washington Conference. It was engaging, entertaining and also I felt I had an impact on the game, even if it was only about prompting the complaints the editor got about my articles!

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About Author:

James has a keen interest in military history, backed with experience as a TA reservist and a 17th century re-enactor. He has designed and run several face to face social games and is the editor of MilMud, the journal of the CLWG game design group. He is currently working on a book on the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.

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