A Distant Plain: soundtrack loop

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Column of Canadian LAV-IIIs in Afghanistan. (PhotoL CPT Edward Stewart, Canadian Forces)

Gamer and fan David Coutts has composed a brief piece fusing Western rock and Middle eastern instrumentation… sets the mood for a game of A Distant Plain! Free to listen, or you can download if you have a Soundcloud membership.

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DC Maracas: Two Videos

 

 

Release of District Commander Maracas is imminent. Tom Russell recently shared two videos on Facebook to demonstrate aspects of the game. The first explains how missions are resolved, the second one talks about the variable victory points mechanic and what Infrastructure Units are good for.

New game: Kashmir Crisis

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Image © Nathaniel Brunt, 2014. “The view towards the India/Pakistan border from the Sadhna Pass, Kupwara. The border between the two countries, known as the ‘Line of Control’, is one of the most militarized regions in the world.”

Not long ago Nathaniel Brunt, a researcher and photographer doing postgraduate work at Ryerson Polytechnic University, contacted me about the “Game Design as Journalism” presentation I made last year at the Connections-UK conference.

Nathaniel is a gamer and has spent years travelling and taking photographs in the Kashmir Region. He suggested that perhaps we could put together a simple game, in this “gamer-citizen journalism” vein, to let people find out a bit more about the current crisis in Kashmir.

So, we did.  And in that same vein, we offer it to you for free print-and-play.

Kashmir Crisis is a quite simple card-based game for two players. It takes about 15 minutes to play. You need to print out the rules and player aid card, and optionally the player mat to help keep things organized – you also need a deck of ordinary playing cards, with one Joker.

During each game turn, players will begin by revealing the Event Card that will be in effect during that turn. Then, both players will receive a number of cards from a deck of ordinary playing cards, and play them onto Diplomatic, Information or Military Fronts (or keep them in a Reserve, for a later turn). After this, players will compare the totals of cards played to see if one player will score Victory Points on a given Front, and whether one or both players will lose cards and Victory Points.

Originally we started with something that abstractly looked at the 30 year insurgency in Kashmir, but soon decided to focus on events subsequent to the February 2019 suicide bomber attack at Pulwama. We still plan on doing a more detailed game that looks at different periods/campaigns within the insurgency; it might work well as a module in the District Commander series. Nathaniel and I are going to explore this in the next while.

So, here are the files – I hope you will give this a try, and try to enjoy it in the spirit in which it is offered. [edited to add: the “1sep” rules and player aid card now available have an additional optional rule with an alternate, “sudden death” victory option; they replace the “28aug” version]

kc-rules-1sep19 rules

kc-pac-1sep19  player aid card

kc play mat 22aug19 play mat for cards

KC Narrative Prompts narrative prompts sheet

A word on the “narrative prompts”: this game involves placing cards representing resources on different Fronts during play. This abstractly shows the scale of effort a country is investing in obtaining a favourable result in that sphere of activity. For example, the Diplomatic Front concerns a country’s efforts to get international support and assistance for its viewpoint or to condemn its adversary’s, or to pursue legal and economic threats and harassment against the enemy. “Information” is perhaps a somewhat more nebulous concept, relating to message dominance and ability to control the narrative on the conflict. Finally, the “Military” Front is a more straightforward application of covert and overt military forces and assistance to pursue insurgent/ counterinsurgent warfare, or to prepare for large-scale conventional conflict.

Some players will recognize this concept from my pol-mil game Ukrainian Crisis. Others will have no idea what’s going on, what playing a “5” represents, and why a “5” is better than a “3” but not as good as a “7”. To give them a bit of a verbal prompt in building the story of the unfolding of the conflict together (which is the goal of playing a game with another person), we include a sheet of adjectives, verbs and nouns that might help someone describe or imagine what they are doing in the game.

PS: if anyone’s moved to comment, you can do that here, or the game now has an entry on Boardgamegeek.com (approved almost suspiciously fast, too).

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/287786/kashmir-crisis

Ukrainian Crisis: Two Videos

 

The guys at Take Your Turn post two videos about Ukrainian Crisis on Youtube: first, a short review, then a longer playthrough of a game (the “low-luck” variant with the playing cards).

They like it very much!

Thanks guys!

 

Interview with Harold Buchanan – part 2

 

2019-06-25-19.42.04

https://soundcloud.com/harold-buchanan/podcast-22-an-interview-with-designer-brian-train-and-his-top-5-list-part-2-of-2

Continuing on from a week or two ago, part 2 of my long interview with Harold Buchanan when we were at Consimworld Expo 2019.

For some reason he starts off with me explaining and singing the Smarties song….

Also, the tale of the Pantzooka!

Games (inspirational and not) referenced in the interview:

  • Central America
  • Minuteman: Second American Revolution
  • National Liberation Front
  • Nicaragua
  • Plot to Assassinate Hitler
  • South Africa
  • Tito
  • Vietnam 1965-75

 

Three philosophers on “difficult” board game topics

 

https://aestheticsforbirds.com/2019/08/21/playing-games-with-history-philosophers-on-the-ethics-of-historical-board-games

Based on the interest aroused by Ken Draper’s New York Times article on problematic board game roles, the Aesthetics for Birds blog asked three philosophers their thoughts on these “difficult” topics.

To take on these questions, we asked some philosophers who specialize in thinking about games, ethics, and art.

  • Stephanie Patridge, Professor and Department Chair, Religion & Philosophy, Otterbein University
  • Chris Bartel, Professor of Philosophy, Appalachian State University
  • C. Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Utah Valley University

All good but Professor Nguyen’s comments are particularly interesting.

 

What’s in a name?

 

scheldtmapsnip

Vlissingen? Flushing? Vlissienge? Flessingue?

When GMT put up notice of China’s War going to P500 on their Facebook page, there was quite a bit of comment. One user, Hank Wong, made this point about nomenclature, when the topic of “Kuomintang/Guomindang” came up:

Hank Wong While Hanyu pinyin is linguistically more accurate, as Ron mentions, using it does have political implications, especially among people of mainland China/Taiwan/HK background. It was the system adopted and promoted by the Chinese Communists, and so using it can give the appearance that the game is from, or favors, the Communist point of view. Wade-Giles is not as accurate, and it was the method preferred by the KMT/Nationalists, but it was also how the Western world knew those names and locations during the actual World War II period itself. In between, I’ve seen newer history books compromise by one of two methods: (1) keeping the “famous names” in WG and then translate more obscure names as PY, or (2) Communist names in PY and Nationalist names in WG.

Interesting compromise, and one that demands more background knowledge from the reader than normal.

I have had similar discussions in the past with other people, when designing WW II games on the Balkans occupation and the Scheldt campaign… do I use the name of the city as it is now, or the one it had at the beginning of the War, or while it was under German/Italian/Hungarian occupation, or the name Flemish people use for it…? Any choices I do make will be slammed by some and ignored by others.

In general, I try to use the name that was in the most common usage at the time the game takes place, in a form as close as possible to the original language, not some Anglicized version… which is why I put pronunciation guides in the playbooks for A Distant Plain and Colonial Twilight. But I do slip up (for example, “Algiers” on the Colonial Twilight map should have been rendered “Alger”, as Joseph Vanden Borre reminds me every time I see him at CSW Expo) and even the method of pronunciation I choose has political implications, you see.

I think perhaps in this case I will do my best to avoid this linguistic and political stickiness and refer to the government player as “Nationalists” or “Nationalist Party”, since that is the English equivalent of the Chinese word no matter how you pronounce it. And Beiping/Peiping was renamed Beijing from 1937-45 while it was under Japanese occupation (and renamed so again in 1949 by the CCP, after 4 years of being Beiping again), so for the sake of historical accuracy/contemporaneous currency I will use Beijing.