Weapons of War

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A game exploring war and the arms trade, run by Angus at CoCamp.


This is a game involving two teams, who raise money to buy weapons from arms dealers. The arms dealers encourage the teams to buy the latest weapons and wage war on the other team. The game proceeds through a cycle of peace (with the teams working hard to earn money to buy weapons) and war. Each war is staged with the "latest" weapons as the arms dealers attempt to make ever more money and the participants struggle to fund the weapons they feel they need to defend themselves.

The games draws its inspiration from the song "We've got axes", and goes through four stages of different weapons - lances, cannon balls, rockets and nuclear bombs. It works best if the arms dealers and game leader encourage teams to buy the latest weapons and to wage war; spread rumours (e.g. you are going to be attacked). Discourage any moves to make peace. Instructions for arms dealers are downloadable at the foot of the page.

Having run this game about 10 times at CoCamp and my own group, each time it has progressed to the both teams being armed with nuclear bombs, and several times these have been launched.

Once the game reaches a conclusion (either peace or mutual destruction), this is the time to discuss what happened and share some figures about the costs of war:

  • Iraq/Afghanistan 2001-2011: 236,000 people killed, cost $3-4 trillion (http://costsofwar.org/)
  • B-2 Stealth Bomber $1,000 million
  • Eurofighter $98m
  • Tomahawk Block IIIC Cruise Missile $1.8m

(These figures from www.caat.org.uk)

You can discuss how the arms dealers in the game encouraged teams to buy the latest weapons and use them. Talk about what they were doing during the game: working hard to make money to buy weapons, and show them the chocolate they could have bought if they hadn't been so busy buying weapons and fighting wars.

What you need:

  • thick paper or newspaper to make lances
  • sheets of newspaper to crumple to make cannon balls
  • A4 paper to make paper aeroplanes
  • 2 or 3 cut out card nuclear bombs
  • currency, e.g. marbles

How many people:

  • two teams of Elfins / Pioneers, between 3 and 7 in each team
  • an adult leader to run the game
  • two arms dealers: adults or sensible children, briefed in secret
  • a trader, to buy whatever the teams produce and give them currency

How it works:

  1. Divide into two equal teams. Give each team a base - e.g. a row of chairs, facing the other team's base with about 5 metres separating them. Encourage each team to stay at their own base.
  2. Teams work hard to make money. Design some simple task, e.g. cutting up paper to make circles, or if outdoors collecting pebbles or litter! The teams take whatever they make/find to the Trader, who exchanges the goods for currency.
  3. Arms dealers visit the teams at their bases and sell them the latest weapons (see instructions below). Most of the weapons are sold as raw materials, so the teams have to spend time making the weapons - e.g. paper aeroplanes.
  4. After about 5-7 minutes of frantic activity, encourage the teams to start a war (what's the point in having these weapons if you don't get to use them?)
  5. Allow the teams to battle it out for a short time - after the first round (lances) discourage hand-to-hand combat and try to keep the teams behind their bases, launching missiles at the other team.
  6. Declare the war over, and remove all the weapons from circulation. As an extension for older participants or large teams, you might want to put injured workers into a team hospital, where they have to be looked after.
  7. Back to stage 2, with the next weapon on offer from the arms dealers.
  8. When you reach the nuclear stage, try to ensure that both teams get hold of the nuclear bombs at the same time. Stop the game and tell them if they are going to launch their bomb, everyone in the team has to agree, and then give the bomb to the game leader to deliver to the other team. This gives the other team a few seconds to decide if they are going to retaliate. Perhaps at this stage, someone will suggest peace.
  9. Discussion, and sing "We've got axes".

Let me know how you get on, and if you have any questions or improvements:
Angus Miller 0131 555 5488 / angusdmiller@gmail.com.

Weapons of War - worksheet - Instructions for Arms Dealers.doc23.5 KB