Interview with Harold Buchanan – part 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



Coming from TESA Collective: “STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion”


A Smile Drone, brought to you by HappyCorp. (image: TESA Collective)

TESA Collective is a group that works with clients to make educational games about workers’ rights, ecology, activism, co-operatives and other progressive issues. They also publish their own games, including Rise Up! The Game of People and Power and Space Cats Fight Fascism.

(Rex Brynen at Paxsims reviews Rise Up! here:

They’ve been doing their thing for ten years. Their next board game, STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion will launch on Kickstarter in October 2019.

From the TESA blog (sorry for quoting at length, but they say it better than I ever could):

We at The TESA Collective are excited to announce that we have teamed up with the labor organization Jobs with Justice for our next board game: STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion. We are thrilled to be developing this game in such close partnership with a nationally renowned leader in the movement for workers’ rights.

Following in the footsteps of our previous releases, including Rise Up: The Game of People & Power as well as Space Cats Fight Fascism, we will continue our tradition of merging cause and play with the publication of this game about labor rights and worker empowerment. It is fun, strategic, humorous, and full of tense gameplay.

We will launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for STRIKE! in October. TESA has run several successful Kickstarter campaigns for our previous games, using the platform to grow our community and raise funds to manufacture our games. A portion of all funds from the game will go to directly support the incredible work of Jobs with Justice (more details below).


HappyCorp, the richest company in the world, has just unleashed its most evil plan yet: turning Mercury City into an entirely corporate-run city. From the schools to the sidewalks, everything will be owned and run by HappyCorp, and every resident will become a HappyCorp employee. There will be no more minimum wage, no more public services, and no more unions. HappyCorp has already begun unleashing its Smile Drones to convert the city’s infrastructure, crush protests, and ensure every resident watches its Commercial Breaks.

Players take on the role of the Strike Council to lead a city-wide strike of workers against HappyCorp’s take over, while also fighting for better livelihoods for all. Players will use energy tokens to grow their ranks, mobilize their workers, and complete strike cards. As the Strike Council scores victories for workers around the city, they will gain the support of more allies, from the dockworkers to the teachers, and build new bases of support from the manufacturing district to the university.

So do you have what it takes to lead the worker rebellion to defeat HappyCorp? Or will you soon be an employee of HappyCity?

Game stats:

Player count: 2 – 5 players
Game length: 45 minutes to an hour
Special features: STRIKE! will come with three versions in the same box. The standard version is a strategic cooperative game, where everyone wins and loses together. STRIKE! also has a simplified rule set, for people who are less experienced with strategic games as well as for educational settings. Finally, the third version of the game allows one player to be the evil corporation and take on the role of HappyCorp!

Make sure you are on our mailing list to get updates about the game. We will be sharing behind-the-scenes content about the development process. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In the near future, we will also have a “print-and-play” version of the game you can try at home.

You can also donate directly to the development of the game. Like with all of our other games, we will donate copies of STRIKE! to community centers and social change organizations to support their important efforts. (Most recently, TESA donated copies of Rise Up to students leading the strikes for action on climate change.) Donating will help cover the expenses involved and allow us to share the game with more of these groups. Everyone who donates will also get a thank you shout out in the game’s final rulebook!


The initial concept for STRIKE! came out of conversations between TESA and the amazing labor rights organization Jobs with Justice. JWJ is one of the nation’s foremost leaders in strategic campaigns to shape public discourse around labor and build power for working people. They have a network of over 200,000 people as well as numerous chapters across the country. For roughly six months, TESA has been collaborating with JWJ on every step of the process for this game, from developing the storyline to creating the game mechanics and running a lengthy series of playtests. Our shared purpose is to engage in culture change by developing a fun game about worker empowerment that speaks to labor supporters and regular board game players alike.

Jobs with Justice and TESA will be sharing proceeds from the game’s profits. Therefore, when people purchase the game, they will be directly supporting JWJ’s vital work!

I backed their Kickstarter for Rise Up! and they were as good as their word. I’ll be backing this one too.

Another notable thing about TESA is that their games are produced in the United States, using sustainable manufacturing processes (e.g. vegetable based inks, few or no plastic pieces, recycled paper and cardstock) and union or worker-owned businesses.

Company blog:

Also, today is the last day of their 50% off sale for their board games! You can get Rise Up!, Space Cats Fight Fascism or Good Dog, Bad Zombie for $20 each! Their shipping is reasonable too.

Interview with Harold Buchanan out now!


Looks as if I’ve run out of rant and have put myself to sleep.

Remember that Harold Buchanan interviewed me while I was at CSWExpo this year? He managed to edit my gibberish down into something halfway coherent, and now you can listen to it!

The Benno Effect gets a shout-out around 33:35.

Be sure to tune in for the next episode, part 2 of 2. Highlight will undoubtedly be the tale of the history and deployment of the Pantzooka!

Ave hominem vestitum!

Phil’s Phlush With Greatness


On tonight’s broadcast of Jeopardy!, Philip Sabin’s book shows up as a clue.

After a considerable pause, the contestant guessed, “….the Battle of Troy”.

Back from Consimworld Expo 2019



I met Nick Karp (attending CSWExpo for the first time ever) in the dealers’ room!

Here I am again, after another hot week in the desert!

I can’t recall how many times I’ve been to CSWExpo, I think this might have been my tenth or something near that number. I always have a good time. I think the worst might have been the first or second time I went and got a horrible cold or something exacerbated by the air conditioning, caught laryngitis and couldn’t talk to any of the people I so much wanted to talk to. I recall there was no pharmacy nearby (there is a CVS now) and in my quest to get something like Listerine to gargle I ended up going to a Circle-K to get a mickey of their cheapest vodka, reasoning that it would a) sterilize my throat and b) be cheaper than actual Listerine. I was right about it being cheaper but still, won’t do that again.

Anyway, this year was fine though Lianne was laid low by the A/C monster this time, for a day or two.

China’s War got lots of attention, natch. I showed it to Gene Billingsley and he was quite happy to accept it for P500 after making one significant but also significantly simpler change in the design – so after making the proper edits I will be sending it off to GMT’s COIN family developer and it ought to hit the P500 list in a few months. Not much point in hurrying because it should make the 500 point briskly (appetite for COIN system is still strong and this is a better known war than the Algerian War) and GMT games now spend around a year in the physical pipeline between pulling final triggers and the physical product showing up in Oakland.

Gene and his son Luke also looked at Strongman, and were by and large impressed by it (Luke seemed particularly taken by the silly Spanish-language puns in the personality names). So that will likely be picked up once it has had more mechanical development; Gene also suggested some tricks for greater narrative development and involvement that will need to be framed up too.

Squares of the City and Virtualia II didn’t get a look in – they need some development and testing anyway, and when they are ready I will likely just upload them here for free download. Semi-abstract games aren’t all that popular anyway.

Designer dinner 2019

L to R: Bruce Geryk, me, Nick Karp, Harold Buchanan, Mark Herman. (photo credit: waiter who overheard we were all game designers and told us how much he loved Magic: the Gathering (hey, let people enjoy things!))

But what was really fine was running into and chatting with two of my design heroes while there – Mark Herman and Nick Karp! We went out to dinner in a group and had a great time telling stories and anecdotes about games, designers and publishers past and present. This was also my first time to meet Bruce Geryk, who I have corresponded with many times.


Photo by Harold Buchanan. I must have nodded off in the middle of talking about myself.

Another fun thing was getting to talk with Harold Buchanan for another edition of his podcast “Harold on Games”… this time we talked about an even wider range of topics, from creativity and design innovation to the development history of the Pantzooka, a remarkable piece of sartorial ordnance (and sadly, now obsolete). I pity the man, having to edit my ramblings down to an hour or less of coherence.


Ave hominem vestitum.


Play a game on nuclear war, help a research project.



Some researchers at UC Berkeley have created a simple wargame for people to play that studies the options and actions the players are likely to take depending on various weapons and force structures they have.

The game is called SIGNAL, and “…on its surface, SIGNAL looks like many other military strategy board games: Each online player represents one of three hypothetical countries, and the goal of the game is to maintain territorial integrity while amassing more resources and infrastructure than your opponents. Players have the opportunity to “signal” their intent to take actions such as building civilian and military infrastructure or attacking an opponent with conventional, cyber, or nuclear weapons. Players can also negotiate trades and agreements with other players.” (from the linked article).

Players play online against other live opponents during specific time windows (right now, 1-5 PM PDT Wednesdays and Thursdays; they may expand the hours if there is enough interest). You have to login and create an account. The project runs until the end of summer. Have a look!


Podcast: on Armchair Dragoons’ “Mentioned in Dispatches”, vol 2 ep 9

Recently I sat down with James Sterrett for an episode of Brant Guillory’s podcast “Mentioned in Dispatches.”

The occasion was the recent release of Matt Caffrey’s new book On Wargaming

On Wargaming by Matt Caffrey, out at last!

and we thought we would discuss, for well over an hour in our meandering ways, this book and other books we’ve found useful for thinking about games and game design.

James has a more practical take on this of course, as he teaches game design to his students at the US Army Command and General Staff College.

Anyway, here is the link, go and have a listen!

In other news, this weekend is the inaugural Victoriaconn, a mini-convention put on here in town by local gamer Geoff Conns. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday (have to work Sunday), showing the playtest version of China’s War and the near-production copy of the Brief Border Wars quad. Maybe someone will notice….