A bit in The Guardian about political board games

Thanks to Rodger MacGowan for the nice C3i banner.

Thanks to Rodger MacGowan for the nice C3i banner.


Games referenced: Labyrinth, Train by Brenda Romero, and A Distant Plain. As you might expect though, the article is illustrated with a stock photo of Risk. The writer, Matt Thrower (“MattDP” on Boardgamegeek), had a long interview with Volko Ruhnke and while I am certain that Volko mentioned it, there is nothing in the article to indicate that ADP was a co-design, still less one with me. The writer also indicated in the comments that he had a lengthy discussion with Volko where he vigorously defended the bipolar political model in Labyrinth, but there was no room for it in the article. Sigh, so it goes… little room for those who think and speak in paragraphs, and so much is left on the cutting room floor by tin-eared editors who think it’s all variations on Risk.

James Kemp (http://www.themself.org/) pops in to the comments to mention megagames, the ones that he and Jim Wallman (http://www.jimwallman.org.uk/) have run are very good examples. The comments also contain this absolute gem by one “Winston Smith”:

“Any 5 year old can create a board game, but the same can not be said of Crusader Kings II, one of the most genius strategy games of all time. I’ve played thousands of board games, and none of them come close to CKII. You have to be a moron, or have some secret agenda to think board games will ever hold up as anything other than a novelty in 20 years. “

Notes on the First Four Folios from OSS Games


Over on grogheads.com, some miscellaneous notes by me on the genesis and design intentions of the first four Folio games – Shining Path, Green Beret, Kandahar and Operation Whirlwind.


Kinda like listening to ol’ Gramps wheezing and rambling on the porch, but go and have a look if you like.

Play my games online, sort of…

One thing I have had to learn lately, in the process of playtesting my COIN system French-Algerian War game, is how to use VASSAL.

This word, not really an acronym, once stood for “Virtual ASL (Advanced Squad Leader)” because it had originally been programmed by people who wanted to play that game remotely, online, and in real time, as the next step forward from PBEM or PBF (Play By E-Mail, a method of playing a game by correspondence where you record your move in some fashion and then e-mail that to your opponent; and Play By Forum, where players submit their moves to an online forum, discussion board, etc..). But now it has grown into a strong application with which almost any board game can be converted into a version playable online, and it’s all free.

I knew how powerful this thing was, and how much potential it has, but just never found the time to do anything with it, either to play games (as I have hardly any time to play anything except my own stuff) or to write modules for my stuff (as I am the world’s worst programmer, even when programming is not involved!). I have never liked computer games, period; I am an old-school-cardboard, face-to-face experience man.

But now more and more playtesting is done through VASSAL, and it makes a lot of sense: no requirement to get people together physically; changes can be made to a single module in a central location as the game develops; and any number of games can be played at the same time, with results noted. It’s also great for making very old, long out-of-print games available again for people who can never own a copy. I’m grateful for all this, but I think I’m still a long way from designing my first module successfully.

Meanwhile, energetic folks have made VASSAL modules of my games, on their own time, and they are available for free on the central website at http://www.vassalengine.org. You can get the following titles:

Thanks to Michel Boucher, Martin Hogan, David Janik-Jones, and Joel Toppen for their work.

I mentioned PBEM – before VASSAL there was another program that allowed this, called Cyberboard (http://cyberboard.brainiac.com/index.html). It is only for Windows systems and stopped development about 5 years ago, but there are a lot of “gameboxes” available for it still. It’s also useful for creating new games: Dr. Phil Sabin of King’s College London swears by it for creating prototypes. Cyberboard gameboxes are available for these titles:

Many more PBEM resources available from Mr. Walter O’Hara’s comprehensive Emporium:  http://pbem.brainiac.com/

Thanks to Walter O’Hara, Mike Welsh, and Noel Wright for making these.

I also need to mention Limey Yank Games (http://www.limeyyankgames.co.uk/lyg/), which also makes hundreds of modules and gameboxes available to players, including some of mine: 

Thanks to Andy Loakes, and Daryl Anderson who contributed the gameboxes.