Rebel, Inc.

Screenshot: Ndemic Creations

https://www.c4isrnet.com/it-networks/2019/02/22/what-if-anything-can-the-pentagon-learn-from-this-war-simulator/

An interesting article mostly on a new computer game called Rebel, Inc. designed by James Vaughan of Ndemic Creations.

The writer introduces the game, and writes more broadly about the value of and use of these kinds of games for educating policy makers and other interested parties. He contacted Volko Ruhnke and me for some quotes and background. The conclusion is that “it’s complicated”, which is fair enough!

Rex Brynen already posted a review of the game a while back, here:

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/review-rebel-inc/

I’m waiting for the forthcoming Android version myself, since I can’t stand to play things on that tiny iPhone screen. (However, if anyone wants to take a crack at making an iOS version of Guerrilla Checkers, I’d be pleased to talk to you!)

iOS version here, for $1.99:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rebel-inc/id1439187947

EDIT: the game is available on Android! Appears to be free, but there are a lot of in-game purchases to make.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ndemiccreations.rebelinc

Uploaded about 10 days ago and over 50,000 downloads and over 4,000 ratings already. No indication of total downloads for the iOS version, but it has over 9,300 ratings, so following the same ratio – let’s say at least 150,000 examples of the game are being played, or not.

For perspective, it took five years and two reprints to get 10,000 copies of A Distant Plain out there.

Sure glad I am not in this to make money.

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Back to Quantico

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Next mission: back to Quantico!

The Military Operations Research Society (MORS) is having a special “Analysis of Urban Warfare” event, 2-5 April at Marine Corps University. I’ve been asked to join the Analytical Tools working group, which hits on wargaming, so I’ll be presenting on some aspect of how urban combat’s been treated, in both my and other’s work. If all goes well, I may have a new playable thing to bring too….

Details here: http://www.mors.org/Events/Analysis-of-Urban-Warfare

Back to the Green

image-10

Telling the US Defence Attache I will not hesitate to disarm their refugee survivalist militias by force, or something else sternly declarative. I guess for CDS verisimilitude I should be wearing my glasses halfway down my nose. Photo: Kevin Farnworth?

Okay, back from Montreal, and while I didn’t need a reminder of what real cold felt like, I still got one.

Presentation went fine and I met a lot of familiar faces as well as some new ones. My substandard pre-production replica copy of Nights of Fire even got a spin for a couple of turns!

Rex Brynen wrote a very good summation of the conference here: https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/connections-north-2019-conference-report/

The Apocalypse North megagame was also an excellent experience. For six intense hours I played the Chief of the Defence Staff: I had two division commanders, five brigade commanders, a Special Operations commander and an Air commander to boss around. Things went pretty well and I hardly ever had to use “knife hands”*.

Again, Rex does a great and copiously illustrated writeup here: https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/alas-poor-windsor-an-apocalypse-north-megagame-report/

On Monday Jim Wallman and I had a session with some of Rex’s students, dispensing free advice on the games they were designing for his 422 course. Worth every penny they paid for it, I’m sure. It was great hanging out with Jim; we hatched ideas for games like strings of firecrackers.

A long and fortunately not involved flight back and here I am. It was six degrees, sunny and almost springlike out here today. I can see the buds on the cherry trees.

* American usage: also known as the “Sandhurst chop” or the “pie cutter”. https://angrystaffofficer.com/2017/06/26/the-history-of-the-military-knife-hand/

Into the White

Over the last five days Victoria has seen a huge dump of snow, the worst since the Great Blizzard of 1996, which was the worst since 1917.

Okay, all in all it’s been about 50 cm over that stretch of time, but it isn’t gone yet and at this time of year we are used to kicking our way through cherry blossom petals, not slushdrifts.

Just yesterday alone Montreal got 40 cm, and more to come… and I am heading into it very early Friday morning  (that is, if the airport is not shut down!), to attend the Connections-North conference on professional wargaming, organized by Professor Rex Brynen at McGill University.

This is the second time Rex has run the “northern franchise” of the Connections family of conferences on professional wargaming, started and maintained to this day by Matt Caffrey. Other Connections regulars will include Stephen Downes-Martin, Anja van der Hulst, and Jim Wallman.

More details at https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/connections-north-2019/

I’ll be presenting on “Integrating the Political, Social and Economic in Insurgency Games”, just a quick talk profiling the non-kinetic design elements in Tupamaro and A Distant Plain, as examples. I found a number of other good examples but I don’t have time to cover them all and they were mostly long out of print or small-press hard to find items. A partial list is at the end of my script, which I am putting here with my slides, for the curious to access:

Soft Power Maps 11 feb  (script)

Soft Power Maps 11 feb  (slides)

The conference is a one-day event on Saturday the 16th, but I will be staying on a couple of days. Sunday is “Apocalypse North”, a megagame that will have about 70 players in it, and I have the role of Canadian Chief of Defence Staff! And on Monday Rex has laid on something like a master class Q&A on game design with members of his POLI 422 course, in which students design conflict simulation games to present their research topics.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/mcgill-gaming-winter-2019-edition/

Sila willing, I’ll be leaving Monday night and returning to Victoria, where I hope all this snowy mess will have been cleaned up in the meantime.

Aftershocking, hardly.

O0pg

Screenshot of Despair by Lloyd Burchill, ca. 1997.

Okay, I am sorry but I couldn’t do better at a punny title… puns are the lowest form of humour anyway, though Joe Miranda differs with me on that.

Points the main:

  • In 2015 Rex Brynen, great educator and friend of the blog, published Aftershock, a serious board game on the difficulties and processes of HADR (Humanitarian Action and Disaster Relief). The game grew out some ideas floated at a “game lab” session held at Connections-US 2012.
  • Since its publication, this game has been used (with or without Rex’s facilitation) by large numbers of humanitarian aid workers, medical students, UN peacekeepers, and military personnel. Rex also uses sales of the game as a non-profit fundraiser for frontline UN humanitarian agencies who respond to actual earthquakes and other humanitarian emergencies.
  • Here’s a link to my review of it: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1467592/review-aftershock-humanitarian-crisis-game
  • Recently Stronghold Games launched a Kickstarter for a board game called Aftershock, designed by Alan R. Moon and Bobby West. This game imagines that the San Francisco Bay area has been hit with a mega-earthquake, and focuses on rebuilding the city. Here is the ad copy from BGG.com:

Aftershock is an area control game. Players will spend money to acquire cards, which are used to increase population, build bridges, and determine where aftershocks occur. Negotiate with other players to score areas on the placement board. Spend money wisely to acquire the needed cards that move people back into the demolished areas. Make deals to score points in Aftershock!

So, in this game you are not directly working on saving helping anyone, and in fact plan on the placement of subsequent quakes (whence the title) to drive people around on the board. It reminds me of an old Macintosh game my son liked when he was little called Despair, where you chase little meeples around with different disasters and woe. The image at the top of the post is from that game.

It is apparent that Stronghold just did not bother to search if there were any other games with the title already in print – 15 seconds on BGG.com would have told them all they needed to know.

When Rex informed them politely that the two games were quite close in theme and appearance, he got a “well, that happens, whatcha gonna do” reply… and when he pointed out on Stronghold’s tweet about their game launch that there was a different game with this title, he got blocked by them… and so did everyone else who tweeted about it.

There are at most several hundred copies of Rex’s game out in the world, produced on a non-profit basis. Stronghold, a for-profit company, expects to sell tens of thousands of their game. While it may not be all that likely that people will mistake one for the other and buy something in error, Stronghold’s dismissive and high-handed response does not do them any favours. Comments on this have appeared on the Kickstarter comments page.

More details, and Rex’s very creative response to all this, at https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/aftershocks/

[EDITED TO ADD: 8 February – Rex reports that the issue has been resolved! Stronghold, after cancelling the Kickstarter for reasons other than the name issue, also discussed the situation with Rex… and when they attempt to bring the game to market again (might be crowdfunding, might be straight to retail) it will have some form of name change. Good-oh, and I’m glad cooler heads prevailed, even if it means I’m wrong.]

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/a-happy-aftershocks-ending

Card #24

card #24

24. US-Taliban Talks TCWG
Selective fire: Until Propaganda, Taliban Operations may not remove Coalition pieces (mark).
MOMENTUM
No sudden moves: Until Propaganda, no Coalition Assault (mark).
MOMENTUM
Direct, official contact between representatives of the United States and the Taliban began in late 2010. Earnest and productive negotiations held out the possibility of  reducing the pace of operations in Afghanistan. Meetings took place in Germany and Qatar, but progress was slow.
(US DoD Report on Progress, p. 82)

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/28/world/asia/taliban-peace-deal-afghanistan.html

ADP in Genesee

adp@genessee

Students in the thick of it. (photo: Brian Mayer)

Today I got notice via GMT of a two-day, 20-student play session of A Distant Plain organized by Brian Mayer, a Gaming and Library Technology Specialist with the School Library System of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. (I’m not exactly sure what this partnership is; they seem to be providers of special education, adult education and support/technical services to a large number of school districts in New York State.)

Great to see these students so engaged, and learning about a war that hopefully will not be waiting for them after graduation.

GMT very kindly provided the games at an educator’s discount. Class act, GMT!