District Commander Maracas: two videos

 

Over in Youtubeland, Andy Mesa posts two videos about getting to know District Commander Maracas. They set up a scenario and play through one turn of the game, so you can hear a lot of explanation of the game’s mechanics. They are new to the game, so it took a little while.

Thanks for doing this guys!

One thing that one of the players mentioned (sorry, I am not sure which one was Andy) was that they would have been a lot happier if the Insurgent counters (which spend much of their time face down) had been on blocks instead, so as to not have to be flipping them up to check them all the time. It’s true that this would have been great, but Hollandspiele is simply unable to source and mail games with blocks economically. Mighty Boards was able to do this with Nights of Fire of course, and they look great, but as a European company with higher margins they could do this without another thought.

It’s no great task to get a printout of the counter sheet onto a sticker sheet and sticker up a bunch of blank wooden blocks. Except that you have to make that sticker sheet, and have some wooden blocks lying around that you know you’re not going to use for anything else.

Another workaround is to get something you can use as counter clips, plastic bases that clamp on to the bottom of a counter so they can stand up. These exist and are available, because I’ve seen them in games like Battletech and even thrifted games, from which I’ve gleaned a bag or two. The Game Crafter makes these in different colours, at 19 cents or less each… and for a game like District Commander you would not need more than 50 of them at a given time, generally.

blue one chosen to show detail.

 

 

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/parts/card-stand-black?dept_uri=game-accessories&dept_name=Game%20Accessories

Another even cheaper way to do it would be to take one of the plastic clips that hold reports together (I’m having real trouble with vocabulary today), in a width that would let it stand up, and cut it into pieces to fit the counters… I tried this but it wasn’t the best solution.

The Influential Fifteen

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photo: Henle House.

In one of the better “that was the decade that was” pieces I’ve seen, over at The Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz has posted his list and impressions of the 15 most influential board wargames he has played in the last decade.

https://theplayersaid.com/2020/01/07/15-most-influential-wargames-of-the-decade-2010-2019

Winter Thunder gets a shout-out, as do two of the COIN series games!

In other news, I had some unstructured time off at the end of December, so in between watching a lot of TV and movies with my wife I got some testing and development work done on Civil Power and Strongman. Getting quite pleased with them!

Compass Games recently announced that the release date for the Brief Border Wars quad will be February 14, 2020. Sneak preview of the game’s cards above. So look out for that!

EDITED TO ADD

Not to be outdone, Rocky Mountain Navy posted his top picks for influential wargames of the 2010s and picked Nights of Fire as advancing the state of “waro” games (or “weuro” games, as I have also seen it).

https://rockymountainnavy.wordpress.com/2020/01/09/rockymountainnavys-influential-wargame-from-to-2010s-h-t-to-playersaidblog-for-the-idea

 

Soundtrack to Civil Power

In the new year a revised version of Civil Power, a tactical-level game I designed on urban riots and mayhem, will be published by a company called Conflict Simulations. I first designed this game back in 1991-92, and it came with a set of scenarios taken from history and then-contemporary headlines… this new version has a lot of changes informed by over 25 years of designing in between, and a whole new cast of global angst and violence.

https://www.consimsltd.com/shop/civil-power

So I thought, why not make a playlist to serve as a sort of soundtrack to playing it? The above is 78 minutes of anti-authority music of many genres (most of them loud and snotty), in an easy-to-handle 44K VBR. Hope you enjoy, even if you don’t order my game!

 

Track listing:

Glory to Hong Kong – anonymous student rebel orchestra
Tommy Gun – The Clash
Fist – Test Department
Solidaritätslied – Ernst Busch Chorus (film clip)
Landlord – Test Department
Ready to Blow – KMFDM
Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts
Wake Up – Rage Against the Machine
Riot – Dead Kennedys
Ghetto Defendant – The Clash
All That I wanted – Belfegore
Smash It Up – International Noise Conspiracy
Kick Out The Jams – MC5
Fight The Power – Public Enemy
Rise Above – Black Flag
Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
Guns of Brixton – The Clash
Police Truck – Dead Kennedys
Wild in the Streets – Circle Jerks
General Strike – DOA
Clampdown – The Clash

 

Obligatory end-of-year review, 2019

headthames

Well, another year has zipped by. A busy year too, though day job stuff dominated my busy:

Game publishing

Game design work and future publication

Work and or testing continued throughout the year on some of the following:

  • China’s War: testing testing, and hoping to get into development in early 2020. Almost 900 pre-orders now.
  • Strongman, an extensive rework of Caudillo that may be a while coming, and publisher not completely confirmed. Really need to spend some time on this but it needs multiple people to play it.
  • Brief Border Wars Quad, from Compass Games – up for pre-order and probably will come out in the first half of 2020: not sure what conditions they apply to pull the trigger.
  • District Commander series, from Hollandspiele – Maracas is out, Binh Dinh is coming next; maybe Kandahar might be out in 2020, or maybe not. Meanwhile, the Algeria module is available for free PnP.
  • Semi-abstract urban counterinsurgency games: I have been working on two of these for some time now, can’t get time to finish them off. Will likely put them up for free PnP as few people seem interested in this kind of thing.
  • Civil Power: This was one of the first games I ever designed (1991-92) and revising it after 25 years is proving almost as much work as doing a new one. Like the original version, this will have a lot of new scenarios based on contemporary headlines: Hong Kong 2019, duelling mobs in Caracas, Violent Demo USA, etc..

Conferences and conventions

Not so busy year on this front:

  • February: I attended Connections North for the first time, at McGill University. It was a great but short event: I made a presentation, met some nice folks, role-played CDS John Vance in the megagame about a zombie outbreak, and spent some quality time talking with Jim Wallman! Into the White
  • April: I went to Marine Corps University at MCB Quantico April 2-5 for a special MORS event on urban warfare. I presented on the different games I had worked on to cover urban conflict at the operational level. There were some really imaginative analyses but it seems to me that the professional military is still consumed by the likely problems of standing armies fighting “peer” forces in an urban environment, not the far more likely and nastier irregular warfare. Studies in Concrete
  • June: Consimworld Expo at Tempe, AZ. High point was meeting and spending time with Nick Karp and Mark Herman, two Gods of Design, and a long, fun interview with Harold Buchanan for his podcast! Back from Consimworld Expo 2019
  • July-August-September: no Connections conferences for me, in any flavour, as Day Job kept me too busy. I intend to attend as many as I can in 2020.
  • November: BottosCon was fun as it usually is, though I got there rather late. Still, got some testing of China’s War and Kashmir Crisis in, and picked up a couple of nice games in the flea market. BottosCon pictures  .

Writing

  • Not a productive year, as far as writing about war and games. Nothing formally published, just the usual torrent of wise-guy stuff on blogs, sites and social media.
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Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

  • I seem to be cruising still at just below 2,000 views per month, but about 3,000 fewer than 2018. About 8,000 visitors. The five most curious countries were: US (by a very wide margin), UK, Canada, Italy and Australia. One guy clicked in from Ghana! Don’t know what to make of that.
  • Besides the then-current post, popular pages or posts included the BTR Games, Free Games and Scenarios and Variants pages. No surprises there.
  • The most clicked-on and/or downloaded documents (WordPress started measuring downloads in July 2019) were the files for the free games District Commander,  Ukrainian Crisis, Third Lebanon War and Battle of Seattle.

The Afghanistan Papers

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Starting today, the Washington Post is running a series of articles on the aims and conduct of the conflict in Afghanistan.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents

It will come as a surprise to no one that the war was a muddled, aimless, expensive and bloody mess. What may come as a bit more of a revelation is how the US military and government worked to “polish the turd”: to misrepresent, embroider, creatively omit, or just lie that the war was being won, somehow… not that this was being done, but how extensively and thoroughly, under two administrations.

The Post obtained these documents through FOI requests and a three year legal battle involving two lawsuits. No purloined photocopies as with the Pentagon Papers, and no hand-wringing over whether to publish them, so no Tom Hanks movie but these are important documents.

Playtester call: Civil Power

Untitled-1

Provisional cover art, by “seado3”

Comrades, the time has come to render aid.

Civil Power, my tactical “sandbox” game on civil unrest will be published by Conflict Simulations Ltd. next year but first it’s time for some concerted playtesting.

Kevin Conway has made up a Vassal module, and we are looking for people to take the game and its scenarios for a spin. If you want to get involved, here are the requirements:

  • Have Vassal on your machine, and know how to use it.
  • Know what Basecamp3 is and how to use it, or have rudimentary experience with some similar web-based project management software (mostly leaving messages and downloading files).
  • Email rweiss@consimsltd.com to get onto the site.
  • Don’t be a flake. I appreciate your time and help; let’s make it worthwhile.

I’ve been doing some more work on this game the last while, overhauling language and revising mechanics. This is one of the first games I designed (technically the second; my very first was in 1982, a very derivative game on the Pusan Perimeter) and I’ve written a lot of rules since then.

I’ve also been revising, dropping and adding scenarios: currently there are 13.  Back in 1991/92 I was drawing them up based on newspaper headlines, so there are scenarios for things like the LA riots and one based on keeping Afrikaner neo-Nazis out of a hotel… but these are restive times we are in, so I have added 2019 Hong Kong and Caracas protest-counterprotest scenarios for 2019. It won’t be difficult for players to make their own.

Swofford on drones, ettechera…

Image result for jarhead

The author of Jarhead has written an excellent piece on the future of our ever-more-techied-up mode of warfare:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614488/why-remote-war-is-bad-war

One of a few money quotes within:

The moral distance a society creates from the killing done in its name will increase the killing done in its name. We allow technology to increase moral distance; thus, technology increases the killing. More civilians than combatants die in modern warfare, so technology increases worldwide civilian murder at the hands of armies large and small.