They often say "war's no game, son." But what if it was a game?
Consider the resources wasted in war. Resources expended are, of course, part of the nature of war. That's why we have things called "economic wars." However, what if we could work around this? What if we could put those resources to good news AND resolve the conflict?
I'm looking for ways war can be replaced. Instead of having to spend the resources on war, the resources are reallocated. If you lose, you still lose a lot of resources, but less is 'waste heat.' Instead, the victor ends up getting more resources to spend on what they wanted.
Clearly this cannot just be a normal game. The only reason one really goes to war is when all other options are exhausted. War is expensive. War is hell. War is bad for reelection campaigns (at least if you lose). If a game existed to replace war, then people wouldn't go to war so long as the game is sufficient. However, there will likely always be cases where we aren't satisfied by the rulings of the game, driving us back to war (we're a war like group after all).
Thus we come to war as a metagame. When war is about to come to a head (or is underway), I would like one party to be able to suggest a game of skill to play instead. This would be a metagame to craft a unique game worthy of settling this dispute. Think of it like the fabled medieval kings riding to the center of the battlefield to fight so that their armies do not have to.
- At least one party has given up hope on any solution besides war. No existing games will be sufficient, a "new" game must come, with just enough of a twist to give them hope that it will resolve something better than any existing game. The rules may be different from game to game. It's the metagame I'm looking for.
- It must be implementable. If you need an escrow to hold onto a large amount of value while the game is afoot, remember that you need an escrow agency that can withstand the armies. (At a minimum, they need to be able to survive long enough to scuttle all of the value they have, reducing the game back to the inefficiencies of warfare)
- The metagame must be reasonably teachable. We can't rely on a King Solomon to live for thousands of years settling disputes.
- Warring parties never have complete information, so their estimates of the odds will not always agree. Moreso, a warring party will not reveal a secret unless they are confident they have enough to gain to warrant revealing the secret.
- The transformation must transform the ability to expend large sums of resources into a game that calls for great skill. The game that gets created is going to have to identify skills each party thinks they have, and weave it into the game.
- Expect the other side to cheat. The game needs to rig itself to make cheaters not prosper.
- An ideal solution would be nestable. Maybe the whole war can't be solved in a single game, because the differences are too great. However, if a game can be used to replace a battle, at least those lives and material may be saved.
How do we write the book on how to not need war?
EDIT: I am not looking at just "fair" games, like modern day sports. I'm thinking more from a game theory/drama theory perspective. If, at each move of the game, it is advantageous for both parties to continue playing the game, they will continue playing it. It is not unreasonable for a "superior" force to demand the game be slighted in their favor before they accept the game.