Storm the Beaches From Your Living Room

Six D-Day war games that let you invade Normandy all over again.

D-Day isn't just one of history's epic battles. It is also a magnet for wargamers. The Normandy invasion has that magic ingredient that is irresistible to armchair generals: the "what if" factor.

Of course, D-Day was an Allied victory. But there were many what-ifs that could have turned victory into defeat. What if the Germans had deduced that the invasion would come at Normandy, and reinforced their garrison? What if their Panzer tank divisions, the armored sword that could carve up a fragile amphibious beachhead and throw it back into the sea, had been positioned near Normandy, ready to conduct a massed tank counterattack against the invaders?

On the other hand, what if the Allies had moved more aggressively just after the landing, and attempted to expand their beachhead further? Might they have broken the German defenses sooner, and ended the war more quickly? 

This is the sort of hands-on historical experimentation that endlessly fascinates wargamers. And if you're looking to spend a few hours this weekend recalling the greatest amphibious invasion in history, turn off the History Channel. Here are a few games that will allow you to get a bit more intimate with storming of Omaha Beach:

Call of Duty. Though the popular first-person-shooter series has lately switched to modern warfare, the first three games of Call of Duty thrust the player into the shoes of Allied soldiers, including American paratroopers and Rangers at Normandy. In the Medal of Honor series, you can also play U.S. paratroopers or OSS agents. Like most first-person-shooters, the historical value is somewhat limited. But the visuals are good enough for a first-person view of D-Day.

Company of Heroes: This popular real-time-strategy game puts players in command of U.S. or German infantry and armor. More of a resource-building game than a historical simulation (a tactical game where factories can build new units? Really?), Company of Heroes does have the virtue of lots of action, as well as scenarios ranging from the initial American landings to the final encirclement of German troops at Falaise.

Close Combat: The Longest Day: This is a tactical, real-time strategy (RTS), D-Day game for hard-core wargamers. No factories churning out tanks, but a sophisticated combat model that takes into account factors such as leadership, morale, and suppressive fire (a sister title, Close Combat: Marine, is actually used by the U.S. Marine Corps for training). More complicated than mass-market shooter and RTS games, Close Combat: The Longest Day also provides insight beyond D-Day, into the nature of World War II's small-unit combat.

Battles in Normandy: A higher-level look at the Normandy campaign, where each unit comprises an entire regiment and the full game spans the entire two-month campaign. The PC game Battles in Normandy is more abstract then mass-market games like Call of Duty, but it does a better job of simulating many of the factors that influenced the overall battle, such as naval gunfire, carpet bombing, and logistics. The Allies feel like they are battering themselves against a brick wall of German infantry entrenched in the hedgerows, and the powerful Panzers defending the open terrain around Caen. But things aren't so rosy from the German side. With few replacement troops and without air cover, the Germans must struggle to hold the line and keep the Allies penned in their beachhead, even as the elite tank units and fallschirmjager paratroopers are worn down by relentless Allied pressure.

D-Day at Omaha Beach: This unusual board game is for solo play, useful for those who can't find a human opponent to spend hours playing an historical wargame. (And it's on sale for Father's Day.) The player commands the U.S. troops storming ashore at Omaha Beach, while the game system uses dice and a deck of cards to control the actions of the German defenders. As was the case 70 years ago, the first waves of American troops were very nearly annihilated, and in the game, it's tough for the Americans to breach the German defenses. Yet because it's a solitaire game, D-Day at Omaha Beach has an immersive story-like quality.

The Battle for Normandy: Do you have a basement or garage where you can leave a board game set up for weeks or months? Then The Battle for Normandy is for you. Nearly a thousand small cardboard pieces, and five large paper maps, offer you the chance to command the huge armies in Normandy at the battalion level. Those who don't like long games with lots of fiddly rules may not enjoy it. But those who enjoy simulations with lots of historical flavor will enjoy a massive game that includes everything from American hedgerow-busting "Rhino" tanks to reluctant German battalions composed of Soviet prisoners fighting for the Fuhrer.

David M. Benett/Getty Images for Call Of Duty: Ghosts


Intimacy That Kills

A Pakistani woman brutally murdered by her own family is just one of countless women around the world abused -- or worse -- by so-called “loved ones.”

According to Pakistani police, this is what happened on May 27, the day a dark-eyed, pregnant woman named Farzana Parveen died: About two dozen men used sticks and bricks to beat Parveen, 25, to death just outside the High Court of the eastern city of Lahore. The attackers, who also shot her in the shin, included Parveen's brother and father, by their own admission. They were angry that she had married a man of her own choice instead of one picked by her male relatives. Her father admitted killing his daughter without regret: She "insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent," he told police.

When the story hit the news, several strange twists quickly emerged. As Parveen was being beaten to death, her husband, Mohammad Iqbal, says he "begged [police] to help us but they said, this is not our duty. I took off my shirt (to be humble) and begged them to save her." Yet according to Parveen's older sister, Khalida Bibi, Iqbal was actually one of the many men who bludgeoned her to death. Then, two days later, Iqbal admitted he strangled his first wife to death six years ago. "I was in love with Farzana and killed my first wife because of this love," Iqbal told Agence France-Presse. Moreover, Parveen's stepson, Aurangzaib, told the Telegraph that Parveen's sister Rehana was poisoned by her family four years ago. It seems the family decided they didn't like the in-laws they had gotten in Rehana's arranged marriage, and therefore wanted Rehana to leave her husband. A "no" from their daughter allegedly brought on murder.

So many accusations may make this case sound too bizarre to be anything other than a terrible murder perpetrated by a dark and complex family. But, really, it's not the soap opera it appears to be. At its core, the case and even its twists are symbolic of something common, insidious, and tolerated around the world: This is a case of death by patriarchy.

"Honor killing," as it is known, is far from unheard of in Pakistan: There were 869 recorded cases in 2013 alone, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. And while the police's version of Parveen's honor killing might be mostly accurate, it's missing at least one key part: The murder took place in broad daylight in a public place. Witnesses say police were present, but Lahore's police chief vehemently denies this. No one, it seems, wants to take responsibility for not stopping the tragedy.

"There are myriad actors with an incentive to spin this story," says journalist Stephanie Nolen, a former South Asia bureau chief for Canada's Globe and Mail who has extensively covered gender-based violence in Pakistan. "They include the police, who often don't investigate crimes of intimate violence, or don't treat them seriously, and who may blatantly lie when on the rare occasions there is public outcry."

Consider, too, Iqbal's admission that he killed his first wife. Media are reporting that he avoided prison because his son forgave him. Under Pakistani law, an accused criminal can pay so-called "blood money" to the relatives of murder victims and secure forgiveness without facing formal punishment. So justice was never really served; an agreement between men just swept the murder of a woman under the rug.


There's a good definition of gender-based violence by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a forum of U.N. and non-U.N. humanitarian partners: It is "an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person's will, and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females." Tia Palermo, a professor at Stony Brook University who studies gender-based violence, told me she likes this definition because it emphasizes the idea that women and girls are primary victims because of their subordinate status in society around the world.

Subordinate status: That is why Farzana Parveen was killed. She was and always would be inferior -- the men in her family could not tolerate any assertion of her will. And this same, lowly status is what led to the two other alleged killings in the very same family.

This sort of violence against women by their families and partners isn't just "a Pakistani problem." Take a quick global look at the numbers. Nearly 40 percent of murders of women around the world are committed by someone a woman knows intimately, according to the World Health Organization. That number is the same in the United States. A study published in 2013 by Science estimated that one in three women worldwide experiences violence at the hands of her partner at some point in her lifetime. "It is the most prevalent form of gender-based violence," says Palermo.

But much of this violence goes unreported and unpunished globally. "With my colleagues, we estimated that among women who suffer various forms of violence, only 7 percent either report or seek services related to that violence," Palermo says. "Most suffer in silence."

The confusion over whether police stood idly by as Parveen was killed is also not an isolated issue: Many women may not report violence because they rarely receive a positive outcome from authorities from doing so. "Approximately one-fifth of all rapes, one-quarter of all physical assaults, and one-half of all stalkings perpetrated against female respondents by intimates were reported to the police," according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice. "The majority of victims who did not report their victimization to the police thought the police would not or could not do anything on their behalf."

Often, however, there's an even bigger problem in play than authorities who are not doing their jobs. The U.N. estimates that more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not even considered to be a specific crime, from Russia to Algeria to, yes, Pakistan.

What happened in Pakistan, in short, is a perfect and horrible example of the most prevalent kind of violence against women the world over. It is happening in homes, in streets, sometimes in clear view. If Parveen's death is to have any greater meaning, it will require putting aside the salacious frame much of the media have placed on her story and looking hard at the real reason her own family killed her.