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.

BottosCon pictures

Back from a very good BottosCon, here are some pictures taken by the very able David Rice.

cw3741 playing bcon

Beginning of a game of China’s War. You can see the Japanese Army ready to “do the Locomotion” into northern China, to link up with the forces heading north from Shanghai. (Photo: David Rice)

 

cw3741 closeup bcon

Closeup of the “home plate” Initiative Track, which works just fine for a 4-player game. (Photo: David Rice)

 

kashmir playing bcon

I even got in a few quick games of Kashmir Crisis with Christopher Spence! (photo: David Rice)

Nights of Fire here at last!

NOF pic

Just ecstatic, yass…

 

At last, my designer copies of Nights of Fire have arrived!

Very pleased with the production overall, and the great artwork on the map, pieces and player aids.

Lianne was wowed by the “toys”, too! That submachine gunner does look just like Yul Brynner….

Con Weekend

making point bottos14

Not sure what i was saying here, but I guess it was important…

Going to be a good weekend for wargaming conventions.

I don’t go to many cons, normally just two a year: the big Consimworld Expo in Tempe AZ each summer, and Rob Bottos’ “BottosCon” over in Vancouver on the weekend nearest Remembrance Day.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/BottosCon/

Rob has been running this for over ten years now, and it’s grown every year. I think he is now at well over 100 attendees, and while there is and likely always will be a strong contingent of ASL lifestyle guys you can see games of all types being played.

I’ll be bringing the usual bag of playtest stuff with me, most of which will not even leave the bag let alone be tested… I cheerfully admit this is my fault, since normal con behaviour is to pre-arrange the games that you will play, down to the time and table, so you can maximise your time playing and not puzzling through something new and unfamiliar and which may not work all that well.

But I do have a couple of people lined up for a test run of China’s War, which is in a pretty good state now IMO. Other than that I’m bringing the QWexit material, Kashmir Crisis, Virtualia II, Squares of the City and maybe Strongman if the Magic Bag isn’t too full.

http://www.sdhist.com/home.html

On the same weekend is Harold Buchanan’s San Diego Historical Games Convention, down in, yeah, San Diego. A LOT of game designers will be here, and publishers too of course, and a lot of open gaming as well as pre-arranged play and events. And knowing Harold, it will all be well organized and lots of fun! I’d like to make the scene there some day, but it’s not going to work out this year due to day-job stuff.

You take some time and play something this weekend too, y’hear?

“STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion” is now on Kickstarter

 

Backer #68!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1713701812/strike-the-game-of-worker-rebellion

STRIKE! is a strategic, cooperative, and beautifully-illustrated board game for 2 – 4 players about building a city-wide rebellion to stop a mega-corporation’s takeover. It was created in a collaboration between The TESA Collective, a publisher of games about changing the world, and Jobs with Justice, a leading labor rights organization.

Complete description of play, videos showing the game, a preview of the rulebook, etc. etc. all at the above link. Rules are pretty short but gameplay looks interesting and so do the components.

Basic pledge for a copy of the game is US$35 plus $5 off shipping; stretch goals include T-shirts, cheaper copies of TESA Collective’s other radical games (Rise Up, Space Cats Fight Fascism) and notoriety.

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Image: TESA Collective.

EDIT: this piece in VICE magazine (US) underlines the irony of how this game on solidarity and union-building is being funded through Kickstarter, which right now is fighting against exactly this thing in its labour force, and how TESA Collective and Jobs for Justice are using it.

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/pa7wyg/this-board-game-about-labor-revolts-is-protesting-kickstarter-on-kickstarter

(oh, and as of this posting they are 62% of the way to their goal, after 36 hours)

ANOTHER EDIT: As of the afternoon of the 25th, the game reached “funded”, with 27 days to go!

More from TESA Collective: “STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion” and what you can do to help Kickstarter do the right thing.

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Image: some art from the upcoming game.

I got an email today from the folks at TESA Collective: the Kickstarter campaign for their new game “STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion” begins next Wednesday, October 16.

[Edited To Add: technical difficulties have postponed the launch to Monday, October 21.]

I intend to be there, and on that day I’ll post a link in case you were looking as well.  TESA also added something that I’ve been wondering about, since I saw a short news clip a couple of weeks ago. Quoted from the email:

We Support the Workers of Kickstarter – And We Want You to Do So Too!

Recently, the workers of Kickstarter started organizing a union – and they have faced resistance from Kickstarter’s management. We absolutely stand with the workers of Kickstarter. You can read our full statement of support here.

The workers of Kickstarter have asked people to continue launching campaigns and supporting campaigns on the platform while showing their support for the workers and their unionization drive. As always, we will follow the lead of people building movements.

So that’s exactly what we’re we’re going to do: We’re not just going to make this a Kickstarter campaign; we’re going to make this a labor campaign too. We are going to use this campaign as a way to lift up the voices of the Kickstarter workers. When we launch the Kickstarter campaign, we will launch it with a number of ways you can support the Kickstarter workers as well.

In addition, we’ve teamed up with Jobs with Justice to make it so funds from this game go to benefit real campaigns fighting for working people. When the campaign launches mid-next week, we hope you’ll share the game with your friends to help us raise funds for JWJ’s work!

In solidarity,

The TESA Collective

I respect this, and I hope that you’ll consider this in your decision to back this game (and the workers of Kickstarter).