A Force More Powerful

b4s93

Akito and I made a large version of Battle of Seattle with dollar-store miniatures… the cops came ready-made, we repurposed some of them as protestors.

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/May-June-2020/Chambers-Beehner-Competing-Below

Quite fresh from the pages of Military Review, an interesting article on nonviolent action and how it has been and can be harnessed to drive opposition to foreign regimes.

A good quick introduction to techniques, advantages and examples of its use. Written from the perspective of “hey, this is a great force multiplier for the USA”, but the point is taken… and still effective. The concluding paragraph:

The U.S. military must look past its institutional biases toward large-scale combat operations, and in line with MDO [Multi-Domain Operations], truly look toward converging political and military capabilities across multiple domains to create windows of advantage.54 If we look at future conflict through the lens of most likely and most dangerous, the most likely form is low-intensity, gray-zone type conflict. In these types of conflicts, third-party nonviolent intervention is a viable course—within its constraints—which allows nations to achieve strategic objectives without resorting to large-scale troop deployments, and in some cases, maintaining plausible deniability. As the ubiquitous “small wars” continue and the U.S. military prioritizes preparation for large-scale, decisive-action type conflict, policy makers need a capability to limit U.S. entanglement while still achieving strategic objectives. Support for nonviolent action fills this niche, and consequently, deserves recognition and resources.

PDF of the article is available at the link above, Military Review also has a collection of interesting past articles on civil disobedience, Colour Revolutions and “democratic coups”:

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Special-Topics/Hot-Topics/Coups-CR/

And just to tie this back into gaming, there are a couple of computer games on the topic.

Image: ICNC.

People Power: the game of civil resistance, a free game for Windows or Mac from the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC).

http://peoplepowergame.com

Rex Brynen on on Paxsims reviewed it in 2011, the game was revised in 2015.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/people-power/

People Power is the sequel to A Force More Powerful, an older game on the topic of colour revolutions that uses Gene Sharp’s writings as a basis and came out some time ago as a companion to the 1999 documentary of the same name (available on Youtube). The latter game is abandonware and Windows only; I snagged a copy in a local thrift store years ago.  Rex and colleague Gary Milante were less than impressed by its sedate pace.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/a-force-more-powerful/

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/a-force-more-tedious/

 

Coo-Coo-ca-Coup II

venezuela-politics

From ABC News, this fits with stories I’ve read in the aftermath of the 2019 coup attempt about the plotters’ footsoldiers being abandoned… new twist is the bizarre “advisory”  support.

Link: https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/green-beret-led-failed-attempt-oust-venezuelas-maduro-70463070

More on the plot: Coo-Coo Ca-Coup

Ex-Green Beret led failed attempt to oust Venezuela’s Maduro: 

Some 300 heavily armed volunteers planned to sneak into Venezuela and ignite a popular rebellion that would end in President Nicolas Maduro’s arrest

What could go wrong? As it turns out, pretty much everything.

The ringleader of the plot is now jailed in the U.S. on narcotics charges. Authorities in the U.S. and Colombia are asking questions about the role of his muscular American adviser, a former Green Beret. And dozens of desperate combatants who flocked to secret training camps in Colombia said they have been left to fend for themselves amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The failed attempt to start an uprising collapsed under the collective weight of skimpy planning, feuding among opposition politicians and a poorly trained force that stood little chance of beating the Venezuelan military.

“You’re not going to take out Maduro with 300 hungry, untrained men,” said Ephraim Mattos, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who trained some of the would-be combatants in first aid.

This bizarre, untold story of a call to arms that crashed before it launched is drawn from interviews with more than 30 Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters who were directly involved in or familiar with its planning. Most spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation.

When hints of the conspiracy surfaced last month, the Maduro-controlled state media portrayed it as an invasion ginned up by the CIA, like the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco of 1961. An Associated Press investigation found no evidence of U.S. government involvement in the plot. Nevertheless, interviews revealed that leaders of Venezuela’s U.S.-backed opposition knew of the covert force, even if they dismissed its prospects.

Planning for the incursion began after an April 30, 2019, barracks revolt by a cadre of soldiers who swore loyalty to Maduro’s would-be replacement, Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized by the U.S. and some 60 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful leader. Contrary to U.S. expectations at the time, key Maduro aides never joined with the opposition and the government quickly quashed the uprising.

A few weeks later, some soldiers and politicians involved in the failed rebellion retreated to the JW Marriott in Bogota, Colombia. The hotel was a center of intrigue among Venezuelan exiles. For this occasion, conference rooms were reserved for what one participant described as the “Star Wars summit of anti-Maduro goofballs” — military deserters accused of drug trafficking, shady financiers and former Maduro officials seeking redemption.

Among those angling in the open lobby was Jordan Goudreau, an American citizen and three-time Bronze Star recipient for bravery in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he served as a medic in U.S. Army special forces, according to five people who met with the former soldier.

Those he interacted with in the U.S. and Colombia described him in interviews alternately as a freedom-loving patriot, a mercenary and a gifted warrior scarred by battle and in way over his head.

Two former special forces colleagues said Goudreau was always at the top of his class: a cell leader with a superb intellect for handling sources, an amazing shot and a devoted mixed martial arts fighter who still cut his hair high and tight.

At the end of an otherwise distinguished military career, the Canadian-born Goudreau was investigated in 2013 for allegedly defrauding the Army of $62,000 in housing stipends. Goudreau said the investigation was closed with no charges.

After retiring in 2016, he worked as a private security contractor in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. In 2018, he set up Silvercorp USA, a private security firm, near his home on Florida’s Space Coast to embed counter-terror agents in schools disguised as teachers. The company’s website features photos and videos of Goudreau firing machine guns in battle, running shirtless up a pyramid, flying on a private jet and sporting a military backpack with a rolled-up American flag.

Silvercorp’s website touts operations in more than 50 countries, with an advisory team made up of former diplomats, experienced military strategists and heads of multinational corporations — none of them named. It claims to have “led international security teams” for the president of the United States.

Goudreau, 43, declined to be interviewed. In a written statement, he said that “Silvercorp cannot disclose the identities of its network of sources, assets and advisors due to the nature of our work” and, more generally, “would never confirm nor deny any activities in any operational realm. No inference should be drawn from this response.”

`CONTROLLING CHAOS’

Goudreau’s focus on Venezuela started in February 2019, when he worked security at a concert in support of Guaidó organized by British billionaire Richard Branson on the Venezuelan-Colombian border.

“Controlling chaos on the Venezuela border where a dictator looks on with apprehension,” he wrote in a photo of himself on the concert stage posted to his Instagram account.

“He was always chasing the golden BB,” said Drew White, a former business partner at Silvercorp, using military slang for a one-in-a-million shot. White said he broke with his former special forces comrade last fall when Goudreau asked for help raising money to fund his regime change initiative.

“As supportive as you want to be as a friend, his head wasn’t in the world of reality,” said White. “Nothing he said lined up.”

According to White, Goudreau came back from the concert looking to capitalize on the Trump administration’s growing interest in toppling Maduro.

He had been introduced to Keith Schiller, President Donald Trump’s longtime bodyguard, through someone who worked in private security. Schiller attended a March 2019 event at the University Club in Washington for potential donors with activist Lester Toledo, then Guaidó’s coordinator for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Last May, Goudreau accompanied Schiller to a meeting in Miami with representatives of Guaidó. There was a lively discussion with Schiller about the need to beef up security for Guaidó and his growing team of advisers inside Venezuela and across the world, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Schiller thought Goudreau was naive and in over his head. He cut off all contact following the meeting, said a person close to the former White House official.

In Bogota, it was Toledo who introduced Goudreau to a rebellious former Venezuelan military officer the American would come to trust above all others — Cliver Alcalá, ringleader of the Venezuelan military deserters.

Alcalá, a retired major general in Venezuela’s army, seemed an unlikely hero to restore democracy to his homeland. In 2011, he was sanctioned by the U.S. for allegedly supplying FARC guerrillas in Colombia with surface-to-air missiles in exchange for cocaine. And last month, Alcalá was indicted by U.S. prosecutors alongside Maduro as one of the architects of a narcoterrorist conspiracy that allegedly sent 250 metric tons of cocaine every year to the U.S.

Alcalá is now in federal custody in New York awaiting trial. But before his surrender in Colombia, where he had been living since 2018, he had emerged as a forceful opponent of Maduro, not shy about urging military force.

Over two days of meetings with Goudreau and Toledo at the JW Marriott, Alcalá explained how he had selected 300 combatants from among the throngs of low-ranking soldiers who abandoned Maduro and fled to Colombia in the early days of Guaidó’s uprising, said three people who participated in the meeting and insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations.

Alcalá said several dozen men were already living in three camps he maintained in and around the desert-like La Guajira peninsula that Colombia shares with Venezuela, the three said. Among the combatants in the camps was an exiled national guardsman accused of participating in a 2018 drone attack on Maduro.

Goudreau told Alcalá his company could prepare the men for battle, according to the three sources. The two sides discussed weapons and equipment for the volunteer army, with Goudreau estimating a budget of around $1.5 million for a rapid strike operation.

Goudreau told participants at the meeting that he had high-level contacts in the Trump administration who could assist the effort, although he offered few details, the three people said. Over time, many of the people involved in the plan to overthrow Maduro would come to doubt his word.

From the outset, the audacious plan split an opposition coalition already sharply divided by egos and strategy. There were concerns that Alcalá, with a murky past and ties to the regime through a brother who was Maduro’s ambassador to Iran, couldn’t be trusted. Others worried about going behind the backs of their Colombian allies and the U.S. government.

But Goudreau didn’t share the concerns about Alcalá, according to two people close to the former American solider. Over time, he would come to share Alcalá’s mistrust of the opposition, whose talk of restoring democracy was belied by what he saw as festering corruption and closed-door deal making with the regime, they said.

More importantly to Goudreau, Alcalá retained influence in the armed forces that Maduro’s opponents, mostly civilian elites, lacked. He also knew the terrain, having served as the top commander along the border.

“We needed someone who knew the monster from the inside,” recalled one exiled former officer who joined the plot.

Guaidó’s envoys, including Toledo, ended contact with Goudreau after the Bogota meeting because they believed it was a suicide mission, according to three people close to the opposition leader.

Undeterred, Goudreau returned to Colombia with four associates, all of them U.S. combat veterans, and begin working directly with Alcalá.

Alcalá and Goudreau revealed little about their military plans when they toured the camps. Some of the would-be combatants were told by the two men that the rag-tag army would cross the border in a heavily armed convoy and sweep into Caracas within 96 hours, according to multiple soldiers at the camps. Goudreau told the volunteers that — once challenged in battle — Maduro’s food-deprived, demoralized military would collapse like dominoes, several of the soldiers said.

NO CHANCE TO SUCCEED

Many saw the plan as foolhardy and there appears to have been no serious attempt to seek U.S. military support.

“There was no chance they were going to succeed without direct U.S. military intervention,” said Mattos, the former Navy SEAL who spent two weeks in September training the volunteers in basic tactical medicine on behalf of his non-profit, which works in combat zones.

Mattos visited the camps after hearing about them from a friend working in Colombia. He said he never met Goudreau.

Mattos said he was surprised by the barren conditions. There was no running water and men were sleeping on the floors, skipping meals and training with sawed-off broomsticks in place of assault rifles. Five Belgian shepherds trained to sniff out explosives were as poorly fed as their handlers and had to be given away.

Mattos said he grew wary as the men recalled how Goudreau had boasted to them of having protected Trump and told them he was readying a shipment of weapons and arranging aerial support for an eventual assault of Maduro’s compound.

The volunteers also shared with Mattos a three-page document listing supplies needed for a three-week operation, which he provided to AP. Items included 320 M4 assault rifles, an anti-tank rocket launcher, Zodiac boats, $1 million in cash and state-of-the-art night vision goggles. The document’s metadata indicates it was created by Goudreau on June 16.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of cowboys in this business who try to peddle their military credentials into a big pay day,” said Mattos.

AP found no indication U.S. officials sponsored Goudreau’s actions nor that Trump has authorized covert operations against Maduro, something that requires congressional notification.

But Colombian authorities were aware of his movements, as were prominent opposition politicians in Venezuela and exiles in Bogota, some of whom shared their findings with U.S. officials, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

True to his reputation as a self-absorbed loose cannon, Alcalá openly touted his plans for an incursion in a June meeting with Colombia’s National Intelligence Directorate and appealed for their support, said a former Colombian official familiar with the conversation. Alcalá also boasted about his relationship with Goudreau, describing him as a former CIA agent.

When the Colombians checked with their CIA counterparts in Bogota, they were told that the former Green Beret was never an agent. Alcalá was then told by his hosts to stop talking about an invasion or face expulsion, the former Colombian official said.

It’s unclear where Alcalá and Goudreau got their backing, and whatever money was collected for the initiative appears to have been meager. One person who allegedly promised support was Roen Kraft, an eccentric descendant of the cheese-making family who — along with former Trump bodyguard Schiller — was among those meeting with opposition envoys in Miami and Washington.

At some point, Kraft started raising money among his own circle of fellow trust-fund friends for what he described as a “private coup” to be carried out by Silvercorp, according to two businessmen whom he asked for money.

Kraft allegedly lured prospective donors with the promise of preferential access to negotiate deals in the energy and mining sectors with an eventual Guaidó government, said one of the businessmen. He provided AP a two-page, unsigned draft memorandum for a six-figure commitment he said was sent by Kraft in October in which he represents himself as the “prime contractor” of Venezuela.

But it was never clear if Kraft really had the inside track with the Venezuelans.

In a phone interview with AP, Kraft acknowledged meeting with Goudreau three times last year. But he said the two never did any business together and only discussed the delivery of humanitarian aid for Venezuela. He said Goudreau broke off all communications with him on Oct. 14, when it seemed he was intent on a military action.

“I never gave him any money,” said Kraft.

`WE KNEW EVERYTHING’

Back in Colombia, more recruits were arriving to the three camps — even if the promised money didn’t. Goudreau tried to bring a semblance of order. Uniforms were provided, daily exercise routines intensified and Silvercorp instructed the would-be warriors in close quarter combat.

Goudreau is “more of a Venezuelan patriot than many Venezuelans,” said Hernán Alemán, a lawmaker from western Zulia state and one of a few politicians to openly embrace the clandestine mission.

Alemán said in an interview that neither the U.S. nor the Colombian governments were involved in the plot to overthrow Maduro. He claims he tried to speak several times to Guaidó about the plan but said the opposition leader showed little interest.

“Lots of people knew about it, but they didn’t support us,” he said. “They were too afraid.”

The plot quickly crumbled in early March when one of the volunteer combatants was arrested after sneaking across the border into Venezuela from Colombia.

Shortly after, Colombian police stopped a truck transporting a cache of brand new weapons and tactical equipment worth around $150,000, including spotting scopes, night vision goggles, two-way radios and 26 American-made assault rifles with the serial numbers rubbed off. Fifteen brown-colored helmets were manufactured by High-End Defense Solutions, a Miami-based military equipment vendor owned by a Venezuelan immigrant family.

High-End Defense Solutions is the same company that Goudreau visited in November and December, allegedly to source weapons, according to two former Venezuelan soldiers who claim to have helped the American select the gear but later had a bitter falling out with Goudreau amid accusations that they were moles for Maduro.

Company owner Mark Von Reitzenstein did not respond to repeated email and phone requests seeking comment.

Alcalá claimed ownership of the weapons shortly before surrendering to face the U.S. drug charges, saying they belonged to the “Venezuelan people.” He also lashed out against Guaidó, accusing him of betraying a contract signed between his “American advisers” and J.J. Rendon, a political strategist in Miami appointed by Guaidó to help force Maduro from power.

“We had everything ready,” lamented Alcalá in a video published on social media. “But circumstances that have plagued us throughout this fight against the regime generated leaks from the very heart of the opposition, the part that wants to coexist with Maduro.”

Through a spokesman, Guaidó stood by comments made to Colombian media that he never signed any contract of the kind described by Alcalá, whom he said he doesn’t know. Rendon said his work for Guaidó is confidential and he would be required to deny any contract, whether or not it exists.

Meanwhile, Alcalá has offered no evidence and the alleged contract has yet to emerge, though AP repeatedly asked Goudreau for a copy.

In the aftermath of Alcalá’s arrest, the would-be insurrection appears to have disbanded. As the coronavirus spreads, several of the remaining combatants have fled the camps and fanned out across Colombia, reconnecting with loved ones and figuring out their next steps. Most are broke, facing investigation by Colombian police and frustrated with Goudreau, whom they blame for leading them astray.

Meanwhile, the socialist leadership in Caracas couldn’t help but gloat.

Diosdado Cabello, the No. 2 most powerful person in the country and eminence grise of Venezuela’s vast intelligence network, insisted that the government had infiltrated the plot for months.

“We knew everything,” said Cabello. “Some of their meetings we had to pay for. That’s how infiltrated they were.”

———

Investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York and investigative reporter James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.

Creative math

mentorhead

On the weekend someone asked on Facebook (a place where I am spending too much time, I’ll admit) about designers’ favourite methods of managing workflow or design projects generally.

I answered that I suppose if it were more of a business for me, like Ty Bomba and Joe Miranda who are Living The Dream, I’d be more businesslike about it. As it is, progress on my projects flows according to the equation

Pr = sqrt (TA – DG) x (IN – MWD)

Where Pr is Progress, TA is Time Available, DG is Daily Grind, IN is Inspiration, and MWD is Middle of the night Wakefulness Doubts.

Note that it is possible for Pr to have a negative value, where IN < MWD. This is where I go back and rip things apart because of something I thought at oh-dark-thirty.
Also note that where TA < DG, the square root will involve imaginary numbers, and any progress on the project will also be imaginary.

China’s War: interview with The Players Aid

CWp500cover

Sorry, I seem to have missed posting this in the relative tumult of end-of-year 2019 (though relative to the tumult of now, it was not that tumultuous).

Lengthy interview with Grant Kleinheinz at the Players Aid, all about China’s War 1937-41! Originally posted on his website 30 December 2019.

https://theplayersaid.com/2019/12/30/interview-with-brian-train-designer-of-coin-series-volume-xii-chinas-war-1937-1941-from-gmt-games/

Peter Cushing, wargamer

petercushingmodels

https://dangerousminds.net/comments/all_the_kings_men_peter_cushings_impressive_5000_piece_collection_of_model_

I always enjoyed Peter Cushing on the big screen, not his Star Wars character but all the different characters he played in Hammer Horror films, the Amicus horror anthologies and his 1954 portrayal of Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four (which you can see on Youtube).

Not everyone knows that he had a wide range of creative activities and interests outside of acting, and one of these was miniature wargaming. He had a collection of over 5,000 miniatures, mostly 54mm scale it seems from photographs, and would play wargames with them, using the Little Wars and Floor Games rules sets written by H. G. Wells. Writeups of this also point out how meticulously he would paint them, but these rules require firing small wooden pellets at the miniatures from a spring cannon – so I suspect he had one set to paint and keep on the shelf, and another set to play wargames with!

Here is a British Pathe clip from 1956.

“Affective Networks at Play” by Cole Wehrle

pic1733403_md

http://analoggamestudies.org/2016/05/affective-networks-at-play-catan-coin-and-the-quiet-year

This is a brilliant article written for the Journal of Analog Game Studies in 2016, by the even more brilliant Cole Wehrle.

From his introduction:

In this article, I want to consider the affective possibilities and consequences of contemporary board games. I begin with a discussion of Klaus Teuber’s Die Siedler von Catan (1995). Teuber’s design is something of a foundational text of the contemporary board game design. Using Catan as a lodestone, I want to draw on the vocabulary of affect studies in order to reorient how we talk about games, in hopes of better understanding why Catan proved to be such a phenomenon. From there, I will consider a recent trend in the subfield of historic wargames, where convention has been upended by the COIN (COunter INsurgency) game system by Volko Ruhnke. Rather than focus solely on military affairs, Ruhnke’s games reproduce the political tensions surrounding armed conflict and ask the players to inhabit positions of moral compromise in the interest of historical simulation. I end with brief discussion of Avery Mcdaldno’s storytelling game The Quiet Year. The Quiet Year pushes on the limits of the game as an engine of affect and asks hard questions about the power of affect and the formal limits of games to understand our knotty feelings.

I’ve made reference to this article many times in discussions, but for some reason I’ve never posted a reference to it here. I have now fixed that.

Go, and read it!

Corvid-19

Wrong Neighborhood Motherf*cker

I dunno, everyone’s panicking about this Corvid-19 that’s going around; I don’t think we need to worry about crows very much (except the one above), I think we need to worry about parrots who spend all day at home learning to imitate our voices and then use Alexa to order themselves large quantities of seed from Amazon.

Seriously though: in order to do my part to flatten the curve, I will be working from home the next two weeks and see how that goes. We are victualled (didn’t do any panic buys, I usually have a few weeks of staples in the house anyway) and not that social anyway, so no hardship (as long as the power and water stay on). It will also save nearly two hours a day commuting, so I will have some more time to work on designs (continuing work on a drastic overhaul of Strongman, and soon it will be time to start serious development work on China’s War, and I have had a couple of ideas for new things in the meantime).

I’m trying to do my best not to obsess about this, there isn’t that much new news every day so why watch it endlessly over and over again. But this is an important event, and I am hopeful that we will listen to our better angels and make some important changes to how things are set up in this world. 

Thomas Homer-Dixon (now at Royal Roads University) is the only futurist I bother to read with any attention. He wrote this about how this pandemic may bring us a better, or better-planned world. And I’m not as worried about this pandemic as I am about the next one, for people will have forgotten all about what they did to mitigate this one and be nonchalant about the next.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-coronavirus-is-a-collective-problem-that-requires-global

Playing Oppression

ZOC book cover

The MIT GameLab is a combined game design program, research centre and development tank for games that explore the use of play in human development, education and communication.

One topic of current research, which has attracted a bit of popular press and comment recently as well, is the structure and functions of games with respect to colonialism. Research on the topic is being done by the Mary Flanagan (author of the brilliant Critical Play: Radical Game Design and of the final chapter in the Zones of Control anthology) and Mikael Jakobsson.

The product will be a book called Playing Oppression. The authors say:

The title for this project comes from an idea that euro games offer some of the excitement of the periods they depict (sails, discovery, heroism, fame, and fortune) but not too much through their gameplay and physical pieces, by hiding the bloody end of the sword and only engaging with foreign cultures as passive representations that can be neatly sorted into a box between plays.

http://gamelab.mit.edu/research/games-and-colonialism/

Forthcoming from MIT Press!

And bound to be interesting.

 

Soundtrack to Civil Power

In the new year a revised version of Civil Power, a tactical-level game I designed on urban riots and mayhem, will be published by a company called Conflict Simulations. I first designed this game back in 1991-92, and it came with a set of scenarios taken from history and then-contemporary headlines… this new version has a lot of changes informed by over 25 years of designing in between, and a whole new cast of global angst and violence.

https://www.consimsltd.com/shop/civil-power

So I thought, why not make a playlist to serve as a sort of soundtrack to playing it? The above is 78 minutes of anti-authority music of many genres (most of them loud and snotty), in an easy-to-handle 44K VBR. Hope you enjoy, even if you don’t order my game!

 

Track listing:

Glory to Hong Kong – anonymous student rebel orchestra
Tommy Gun – The Clash
Fist – Test Department
Solidaritätslied – Ernst Busch Chorus (film clip)
Landlord – Test Department
Ready to Blow – KMFDM
Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts
Wake Up – Rage Against the Machine
Riot – Dead Kennedys
Ghetto Defendant – The Clash
All That I wanted – Belfegore
Smash It Up – International Noise Conspiracy
Kick Out The Jams – MC5
Fight The Power – Public Enemy
Rise Above – Black Flag
Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
Guns of Brixton – The Clash
Police Truck – Dead Kennedys
Wild in the Streets – Circle Jerks
General Strike – DOA
Clampdown – The Clash

 

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.