Space-Biff! reviews Colonial Twilight

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Image from GMT Games pre-order page, using French anti-war poster.

Daniel Thurot, aka Space-Biff!, reviews Colonial Twilight on his blog. (He also posted it on my birthday, which was yesterday, but I didn’t find out until today – but what a nice gift!)

https://spacebiff.com/2017/10/24/colonial-twilight/

He says, among many other things:

At its best, Colonial Twilight captures the high-level decision space of guerrillas and counterinsurgents alike, peeling back the layers to reveal the processes by which a war of independence is fought on both sides, and aptly illustrating the complexity that can arise when that war’s belligerents define “victory” by very different standards. Its take on war is brutal, bitter, and liable to leave both sides taking and retaking the same inches of ground many times over.

Ah yes. That’s good to hear….

He also wrote a very kind review of A Distant Plain, some time ago:

Space-Biff! reviews A Distant Plain

Many thanks!

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An unexpected but very welcome comparison

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Over on Boardgamegeek.com I posted a link to the review on Armchair General (Review of Colonial Twilight in The Armchair General). In a reply to the ensuing thread, user Paul Heron wrote:

I feel I ought to point out that, while the tone of CT is certainly serious, it thankfully isn’t sanctimonious, earnest or po-faced.

In fact, a refreshing element of this game for me has been the flashes of humour in there (also to be found in some of Brian’s other designs, Ukrainian Crisis for one). For instance, the Jean Paul Sartre card with its tagline, ‘Either way, he and Albert Camus are no longer friends.’

While some may argue that humour is inappropriate in a wargame, unless the game as the whole is intended as satire (War on Terror), my view is that humour has always been a part of war, and not only as a ‘defense mechanism’ employed by soldiers and civilians.

Rather, humour/absurdity is in an odd way one of the intrinsic elements of war (and the literature of war seems to me to confirm this), part of its troubling strangeness, what novelist J.G. Ballard called the ‘casual surrealism of war’ (which probably more often is simply weird and jarring, rather than blackly humourous).

As the son of British ex-pats living in Shanghai when the Pacific War began, Ballard spent his early teens in a Japanese internment camp. In particular his experience, in the dog days of the war, of leaving the camp and exploring the devastated and largely abandoned city, seems to have left an especially vivid impression on him, informing all his subsequent writing (only a small portion of which – his 1984 novel Empire of the Sun for instance – is explicitly about war).

Incidentally, like the jokes that Brian sneaks into his games, much of Ballard’s writing is slyly humourous – ‘guerrilla humour’ as it were, rather than the more obvious sort that bludgeons you with massive frontal assaults (War on Terror again springs to mind).

Those who know me well, know that J.G. Ballard is one of my absolute favourite writers. This guy gets me!

(oh man, can this day get any better?)

 

“A perfect modeling of chaos and terror”

Over at The Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz has written a superb, very long and detailed review of his impressions of Colonial Twilight. Go read it!

https://theplayersaid.com/2017/10/24/a-perfect-modeling-of-chaos-and-terror-a-review-of-colonial-twilight-the-french-algerian-war-1954-62-from-gmt-games

The money quote:

I was really impressed with the integration of the theme into the gameplay and the care given to make sure players actually feel the consequences of their actions. As I have played the game, I have paused many times to simply think about things, either my actions during the game, the moral turpitude of the two combatants (who is the good guy? Is there even a good guy?), the purpose and meaning of it all, etc. I truly believe that this is Brian’s masterpiece, his Mona Lisa, David or Sistine Chapel as it were. The skill with which he has weaved the bitter elements of the struggle together in a playable and enjoyable way is nothing short of triumphant. And any game that can make you think about things is a good thing. Bravo, I say! Bravo.

I am so pleased with this theme that I have seen in reviews of this game… that it made people, in the course of playing the game, think about what it was they were playing at, and what relation it and they bore to the grimy historical reality.  In that sense it is not a physical simulation but an emotional simulation of the conflict, something that doesn’t always emerge in wargames (though any good wargame will create lots of excitement and suspense for the players). And I’m proud that I have been able to foster these feelings, however ambivalent, in players.

Thank you so much Grant! (And it’s my birthday too!)

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.

 

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!