Invasion Fantasies

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From The Walrus magazine, last month:

https://thewalrus.ca/when-america-declared-war-on-us/

In an excerpt from War is Here: The Vietnam War and Canadian Literature (McGill-Queen’s University Press) the writer Robert McGill discusses various “US invades Canada” novels, in the context of the Vietnam War – so his examples all date from that war or after, beginning with 1968’s Killing Ground by Bruce Powe (writing as Ellis Portal).

The last two paragraphs are telling:

That said, the fact that books such as The Red Wing SingsUSNA and Faultline 49 continue to be written, along with the fact that they’re so similar to their Vietnam War-era predecessors, indicates that US invasion narratives have a certain ongoing appeal. For one thing, they allow for the Canada-US relationship to be dealt with in a straightforward, plot-driven way, and they construe the actions necessary for the preservation of Canadian sovereignty as no more difficult or complex than the execution of various military manoeuvres. Rather than mucking about with the complicated details of America’s cultural and economic dominance, invasion scenarios reduce the problem to a single, totalizing danger that jeopardizes the entire Canadian population, and not just in terms of people’s incomes or choice of TV programs but in terms of their very lives.

Likewise, stories of a Canadian military resistance to the US continue to facilitate fantasies of a united Canada, in contrast with the ongoing reality of regional, political, and ethnic differences in the country. And as the allusions to the Vietnam War in the contemporary novels suggest, resistance stories permit their writers to express a nostalgia for a time when a vociferous nationalist movement was led, in part, by authors who could count on a considerable audience to listen to them.

I think, with certain variations, the last paragraph could also be applied to the generous assortment of “America invaded” fantasies that have appeared over the years, beginning in 1890. Though the genre of English-language “invasion literature” did start with the English, with The Battle of Dorking in 1871.

Anyhow, just putting this here to bounce War Plan Crimson, and to make mention of Mark Wightman’s Dorking title, also available from Tiny Battle.

 

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Review of Colonial Twilight in The Armchair General

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Today the website Armchair General published a review of Colonial Twilight by Ray Garbee.

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-insurgency-in-gmt-games-colonial-twilight.htm

It’s one of the first full-length reviews of the game I’ve read… hopefully there will be more, but Ray was very impressed by what he had seen:

This is going to read as very odd. I’ve played the game several times. Of those, two games left me with a feeling of sadness bordering on ennui, without the aspects of boredom. Reflecting on why this happened, I think it’s measure of how well the game engages the players. The detailed nature of the event card descriptions drives home the horrors and moral compromises inherent to this conflict.

The card descriptions strip off the veneer of jingoistic patriotism and revolutionary fervor and give a glimpse into the brutal nature of the conflict. It’s not just wooden pieces being removed from a cardboard map. It’s assassination. It’s torture. It’s café bombings, governmental scandals and forced relocation of population. None of this is colorful flags flying in the wind as brave soldiers fight an honorable battle against an enemy whom is much like themselves.

It’s tough to feel good about conducting terror operations, regardless of your goals. It also is an excellent insight into the nature of this war. A great game should do more than provide a competitive experience, it should also teach and challenge the players assumptions. Colonial Twilight easily accomplishes both. It’s an engaging game. But it can also be a powerful teaching tool. The game teaches the geography of Algeria and it teaches the history of a pivotal event in twentieth century history. Like the experience of this war to it’s French participants, Colonial Twilight is a game that will leave its players with a lasting impression of the nature of modern conflict.

Armchair General Rating: 95%

I can’t add anything to that. I am very pleased that this game engaged him on this emotional level.

A couple of Red Horde 1920 videos

A guy on Youtube named “Bad Karma” has posted two videos of him inspecting and playing Red Horde 1920:

Unboxing, or rather unbagging.

And in this one he plays through one and a half semi-improvised turns, explaining all the ins and outs of the game’s phase and combat systems as he goes.

Thanks for filming your game adventures!

An old review of Summer Lightning

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In trolling around the Net, I discovered that in 2013 Alexey Beznin had posted a long and complimentary review of Summer Lightning in the Russian-language online game magazine “Stratagema”.

http://stratagema-magazine.ru/archives/1535

Here’s the URL, and if you hit Google Translate it does a pretty good job of word substitution. Short version is, he liked it and spent considerable time playing and studying it.

Alexey also posted a nice, photo-heavy AAR of a game to Boardgamegeek in 2013:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1022483/summer-lightning-solo-aar

Spasibo, Alexey!

The Player’s Aid: review of Winter Thunder

My comments:

Grant and Alex from The Players Aid blog give their (very favourable) impressions of Winter Thunder.

My comments:

1:16 “Dunnigan Ceramaceous Randomizer” = the legendary clean, dry coffee cup.

2:40 I have also used this system in Summer Lightning: The Invasion of Poland 1939 and Balkan Gamble. It was originally inspired by a variant for Blitzkrieg by Jim Stahler from over 30 years ago. Very glad you find it interesting!

8:30 ??? The only HQ command limitation is that the British 30 Corps HQ cannot command American units (rule 9.6). (And I wanted hot pink SS, but got purple instead…)

9:10 I thought 6 divisions was quite a large span for a corps to coordinate, 3 or 4 might have been more realistic. It was also kind of an abstraction on my part to let a division be under command by one corps in one turn, and another corps on the following turn, but I think in practice it fell out that most corps ended up commanding 3-4 divisions, and assumed responsibility for certain sections of front line or Schwerpunkten using those same units, so it worked out.

11:40 Yes, another abstraction but about as far as I wanted to go down the whole puzzle of moving supply and reinforcements forward through enemy air superiority.

12:20 Not just engineer units but also many detached battalion-size task forces manning roadblocks, which in many Bulge games get their own little counters and wads of fiddly rules.

15:00 Exploitation movement gets more use in Summer Lightning: The Invasion of Poland 1939 due to the more open terrain and greater dispersion of forces. The Ardennes is quite closed (whence the Traffic Control rule, 6.11).

17:00 I once joked that for any game designer to be taken seriously, he had to do a Bulge game, and this one was mine. The game originally came out of a deal that the Microgame Design Group was trying to hatch with a Spanish magazine, where they wanted to put wargames in their magazine but they only wanted the “Big 5” battles (Waterloo, Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Bulge and something else I forgot – maybe Arnhem). The deal did not go through but we did get a couple of games done, and which were later published by other companies. Hjalmar Gerber did a Stalingrad game that was later published by Turning Point Simulations, which coincidentally the Players Aid guys reviewed just a few months ago:

19:30 Now that you guys know the system, you could perhaps play the standard length game, where the Allies get to develop their counteroffensive fully – this game is also a few days longer than other Bulge games, to allow this.

20:30 The solitaire system is adapted from the one that Lock n Load wanted me to put in Summer Lightning: The Invasion of Poland 1939.

22:15 And you should let Grant play the Germans next time too, so he feels better!

Thanks so much guys and I am glad you enjoyed the game.

Brian

Nights of Fire now on BGG

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Cover art by Kwanchai Moriya.

Yes!

Now officially added to the Boardgamegeek.com database, I can now say and show a bit more about what David Turczi (designer of Days of Ire, a card-driven game on the October 1956 Hungarian Revolution) and I have been working on all year.

From BGG:

Nights of Fire: Battle for Budapest is the second game in our duology adapting the events of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution for modern board game form. Following the Hungarian success in part one, this game starts as the Red Army arrives at the edge of the capital and pushes into the heart of the city; bent on retribution, destruction, and ruthless pursuit of control. For the players in charge of the Hungarian defence there is no time left for organizing and sedition. This is a hopeless war of survival, plain and simple.

Combining card and action management mechanisms of modern euro games with the theme and feel of a classic block wargame, players can experience the rush of a true no-win scenario, and see how long they can keep the flame of the revolution going under the pressure of the unstoppable march of the Soviet military machine.

The game can be played by up to 2 Revolutionary players against either a live or an automated opponent.

In response to a question announcing the sequel to Days of Ire (DoI), David describes the game mechanics very well:

Yes it’s card driven, but no it’s not like DoI.

The Hungarian side plays a light block wargame with area movement, where the stronger actions require an icon on the block to match an icon on the card. It’s a bit of action allowance and a bit of card management. Cards are randomly drawn, but the deck is small enough to guarantee a reshuffle in every game, so you see every card roughly twice.

The Soviet side plays more of an hand building-action management game. He has 12 cards, each with a mix of actions and a mix of combat values. At the beginning of every round the Soviet picks 6 cards he’ll play one at a time for his actions. The remaining 6 cards are shuffled together into a “combat deck”. Every time he attacks, he flips the top card of that deck and uses the appropriate combat value on it. The more hits he suffers, the fewer cards he can pick from.

If you held a gun to my head and asked me to compare it to other games, I’d compare the Hungarian side to Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan. The Soviet side I had no direct inspiration for, some of the “feel” was inspired by the Empire’s metagame in Star Wars: Rebellion, but it’s an extremely thin comparison. (As opposed to DoI’s Soviet cards which were directly influenced by Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?)

A few things in the game have the feel of a COIN game (both Brian and I were very conscious of that) – flipping units, asymmetrical actions, but it’s less “inspired by COIN” and more “how can you do it differently than COIN”.

I would say the luck element is even smaller than in DoI.

I’m very pleased with how this one has worked out. David’s design background is Euros, but he speaks some Wargame, so I think we have created an interesting hybrid. I know I have learned a lot from him about the use of different mechanics. This one is quite removed from my earlier Operation Whirlwind, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Not much to see so far, but you may want to subscribe to the BGG entry:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/236125/nights-fire-battle-budapest

The game will be up for Kickstarter in 1Q 2018. We’re still talking about stretch goals.

 

 

A Distant Plain in Warsaw!

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At least three games were running simultaneously.

Piotr Bambot is a teacher who likes to use games in his classroom and sometimes works for the Polish military’s equivalent of their War Colleges. Recently he spent a day with a group of officers playing A Distant Plain!

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Piotr is the one with the short haircut.

The place was the Military Center for Civic Education in Warsaw, during a course called “Leadership and social competence”. I can see officers from all branches of the services playing together… Piotr said everyone was highly interested and engaged.

I’m really happy when I see that these games can be of some professional use!

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Clockwise, I see two Air Force Lieutenants, two Army junior Lieutenants, a Navy Lieutenant Commander, an Army Sergeant and a Major, and two more Army Lieutenants.