So, many wargamers are coming round to the idea that having a more diverse group of players is good for the hobby. Good. But when inclusiveness is dicussed, my impression is that wargamers mostly think about having more women and young people playing. But an important group that feels distanced from wargaming as a hobby are those that don't have a white background. And for them inclusion is harder because they don't share the historical background that white women and young white men have in common with the middle aged white wargamers.
Your chest may swell with 'Men of Harlech' when you see Zulu. But how does a non-white person view such a movie other than as a massacre of dark skinned people? And this is Zulu, which apparently stands out positively for portraying the Zulu as 'worthy opponents', whatever that may mean. Most Western and colonial movies (or popular books like Tarzan and King Solomon's Mines) don't have much time for the faceless opponents of Europe's benevolent harbingers of civilization.
And wargame rules very much copy the frames that are to be seen in the movies and history books from our youths. Titles referring to a 'dark continent', rules with individual white heroes. Their opponents may be mostly cardboard character with wornout colonial stereotypes. And often the stats for white characters will be superior for no other reason than that, well... er....
While I still love the basic idea behind the 'Science vs Pluck' rules of the Sudan wars, it highlights exactly what the problem is with 'colonial' wargaming. The imbalance in violent means is so great that only a significant cock up amongst the Europeans can offer the Mahdist opponents a chance of defeating them. But having this game with only the British side played, it also removes the choices and agency from those opponents. They have become no more than NPC zombies that charge unto their doom against the Maxim guns and Martini Henries.
Would you want to play that as if your roots lay in the Sudan? How are those of Pakistani heritage to enjoy a game about the Northwestern Frontier when the rules take the white men as the point of reference? Likewise, how would an Indian feel about a ruleset on the First Indian War of Independence rather than one about the Indian Mutiny? What is a Maori to think when all the New Zealand tribes are lumped together generically in the painting guide while the facings of each British regiment are specified in detail?
Should we not delve deeper into the question what motivated the Zulu warriors in opposing the British invasion? Why did some Native American tribes or Indian kings side with the French, others with the British, others with the Spanish, and why do they fight each other? And should we maybe seek out conflicts which aren't so one-sided?
The history of colonialism and imperialism has shown that violence was part and parcel on all levels of European expansion. Not only during conquest, but also afterwards. These actions have been rebranded as pacifications, police actions or punitive expeditions, against 'bandits', 'fanatics' and 'restive tribes'. This resulted in genocide more often than just the Bandanese, the Herero, the Tasmanians and Native Americans
If we don't look critically at how we approach these subjects on and around the table (and on social media), we will find that all talk of inclusivity will sound empty to those that we would like to reach out to.