Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. 

Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept. 

This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength. 

In war then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. Thus is may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people’s fate, the man whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril. 

–Sun Tzu, The Art of Wargaming, Chapter 2: “Laying Plans,” [16-20]

There’s three lessons wrapped up in those passages.

1. Be gracious in victory.

2. Give credit where credit is due.

3. Use Your Opponent’s Strength to become Stronger.

The title of this post comes from that old and often misquoted aphorism by the philosopher Nietzsche. It sounds better in the original German.

Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens: was mich night umbringt, macht mich stärker.

“Out of life’s school of war: what does not destroy me makes me stronger.”

It comes from Twilight of the Idols, Or How to Philosophize with a Hammer, where Nietzsche shatters the supposed universal truth behind such statements.

What does not destroy you can weaken you in body and in spirit. This goes back to “Wargaming: A Matter of Life and Death?

In wargaming being defeated over and over again can have this affect. You can to a point where somebody saying “it’s just a game” has no effect. If you’ve been in the hobby long enough you’ve seen wargamers get mad, pick up their toys in a huff, and go home angry.

“The game was unfair.”

“He wasn’t playing a ‘legal’ army.”

“The terrain favored him.”

Believe me, I’ve been there, more often then not while facing off against The Bearded Bastard. There were some games where I’d become so blind because of my anger I was barely coherent.

In one game of English Civil War I’d outflanked The Bearded Bastard’s forces with a unit of cavalry. Yet I’d gotten so worked up over some of the Bearded Bastard’s shenanigans I quit the game.

Sometime later another player asked me: “Why did you quit? You had him. Your cavalry on the flank won the game when it charged.”

Ouch.

But you know something? One of the best things about wargming is that its not actually war.

You can learn about strategy, tactics, history, do-it-yourself crafting, painting, and how to become a better person–and that’s before you even set your first painting figure on the tabletop.

Each game played is a lesson learned–if you let it be a lesson.

Next on The Art of the Wargaming: An interlude–4 More Categories of Wargamer.