In the War Room of the War Lord’s War Base, two of the War Lords are playing Risk… but with real people’s lives.
“If my troops make a push here,” says Smythe, an alien who has taken on the identity of a General in the British Army in 1917, gesturing across the game board, “what resistance can you put up?”
“Along here we shall have pillboxes, machine gun nests, landmines,” replies Von Weich, an alien who has taken on the identity of a General in the German Army in 1917.
(Notice how nobody ever refers to these alien creatures as anything other than ‘Smythe’ and ‘Von Weich’. It isn’t that they have real names beneath these identities; they are these identities.)
“You will have no chance,” continues Von Weich from behind his monocle, “but it will be an excellent test of the morale of your humans. Your entire force will be wiped out.” This evidently amuses him.
They are standing over a game board, moving little pieces around. Just like real Generals did, using real big boards and real little pieces, which really did represent real people, being slaughtered as they were moved across real people’s lands and homes. This little board represents the War Zone that Smythe and Von Weich are playing with, but the whole map of all the War Zones is a game board. It’s a map of the world, and of history. On it, the War Lords are playing “the great game” of imperialism.
“Ah,” replies Smythe, his voice brimming with smug satisfaction at the idea of winning this little bit of the game, “but I will use my reinforcements to turn your flank. Here!”
He shows Von Weich his move on the board.
“Then it will not be a fair battle!”
“Perhaps not, but it will be an excellent test of your morale!”
Despite their competition, these men are the same kind of creature; a kind of creature utterly alien to the men they move around on their board. They both keep their alien communications devices behind portraits of their respective monarchs. They both report to the same superiors, the same callous system of expansion and conquest. The justification their system uses is that when it has conquered the universe, there will be no more war. The motives are always humanitarian. The current war is always “the war to end war”.
The Generals and Chiefs and Lords on both sides certainly fight each other, for power and territory and resources… as do Smythe and Von Weich, as do the War Chief and the Security Chief. But, ultimately, they always have more in common with each other than they do with the little people on their game board.
Ultimately, the war is always waged by the rulers against the people, by the dice-rollers against the pieces.