Noble Knight Games workers unionize!

From the Noble Knight Games United Facebook page, today:

Noble Knight Games (Official) has done what 95% of privately-owned companies fail to do: they have voluntarily recognized their workers’ union! Our amazing coworkers, with the support of Communications Workers of America South Central Federation of Labor , AFL-CIO , and ALL OF YOU, have achieved this!
We received word from ownership this morning. After careful discussion and feedback from the workers, Noble Knight Games has made the decision to recognize our union. We’re feeling ecstatic and we have *a very important ask* of you all: Show NKG some love. They’ve expressed to us their intent to be reasonable and to bargain in good faith. Tag the official accounts with supportive words, leave celebratory reviews, & express your excitement for the future of NKG and the community!
We truly love working here and we want NKG to thrive. We’re honored and grateful to serve such a supportive community in Madison, the US, and around the world. We appreciate everything you have done and hope you’ll continue support as we enter the bargaining phase!
I haven’t done any business with Noble Knight Games for a few years, but they’ve now definitely earned some from me.

District Commander Kandahar: VASSAL module now available!


Thanks to Emma Carter, there is now a VASSAL module available for play of District Commander: Kandahar!

KCL wargame coverage in the Grauniad

Don’t Fear the Reaper Drone at KCL

A nice piece in The Guardian about the MA course “Designing Games for Education and Analysis” at Kings College London. The writer tried out some of the games designed by students and was impressed by the wide variety of treatments and topics. An unnamed “expert from MoD” is also cited (but we think we know who it is!).

And even better, the piece was not illustrated by a picture of a game of Risk….

Melodica Men

Okay, I guess this has been around for a while but it’s new to me!

Who says we have to be serious around here alla time…..


I have had a family emergency come up.

I will not be participating in Dan Pancaldi’s podcast, and have cancelled the Zones of Connection and SDHistCon events I was going to hold.

Thank you.

Kashmir Crisis: solitaire rules

KC_Cover mid

Today at the entry for Kashmir Crisis, player (yes! there is at least one!) Steve Roberts posts about his method for an automated manual opponent for the game, using a second deck of cards with a different back. I haven’t tried it (frankly, I did not think at all about a bot for the game when I designed it) but it’s clever!

He also posted about his experience playing the game solitaire, and the narrative it generated:

Thanks Steve!

The other Thin White Duke


Okay, so who didn’t have a watch party of Waterloo tonight?

I know there are lots of candidates but this is my favourite role of his.

So what was that all about?

i tawt i taw a coup

image: Paul Mavrides.

Some truly remarkable images and events this week in Washing Tundy Sea. I can’t pick a favourite. So I use this cute image by Paul Mavrides.

Was it a coup? Not really, in my view, or at least not the riot itself. Edward Luttwak’s remarkable 1968 book Coup d’etat: A Practical Handbook defines ” [a] coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.” He also gives some useful distinctions:

It’s interesting to note that the words being tossed around are foreign loan words: coup d’etat, putsch, pronunciamento. Almost as if English didn’t want to be associated with such ruffianlike behaviour.

But it’s not just local language, it’s the concept. And one concept/term hasn’t been used much is “autogolpe” or self-coup. Basically it is a form of coup d’etat, in that it uses some of the machinery and organs of the State to seize power, but the objective is not regime change – it is to keep the regime (and head of state) in power, when it is supposed to leave. This is something that is not unique to South America, but the continent furnishes some good examples: Alberto Fujimori in Peru in 1992, and recent events in Bolivia. I would say that what we’ve seen is a clumsily attempted autogolpe through the legislature, with a noisy messy mob attack on top of it as a threat and distraction.

There was also a swell of online gamer interest in Civil Power, which is now in production by Blue Panther LLC, as one of the very few tactical games about riots… I would guess it’s the only one in print, even including miniatures rules sets. So yes, one could make up a Capitol Hill scenario fairly quickly – I’m not going to bother, I have other things to do right now – it’s not hard:

As I’ve said many times, this is deliberately a sandbox game. The range of scenarios with the game is illustrative and there are plenty of optional rules. People can experiment with this one as they please, and add what assumptions and conditions they like.

Really, this would be a combination of two scenarios that are in the game already: I-4 “Terre Blanche, Pretoria 1991” (rioting neo-Nazis trying to get into a building (how about that), just be sure to mark a limited number of entry points) and I-8 “Demonstration, American city 202x”.

And for the run-up to Inauguration Day, if there is sustained crowd and demo activity (and no shooting or bombing, despite what some blowhards have posted), Battle of Seattle (Free Games! ) could be updated or you could run a 3-5 day campaign scenario of Civil Power like the Chicago ’68 scenario in the game.

Please don’t accuse me of bad taste or “too soon” (unless you feel that way about the whole hobby, in which case it isn’t just me). I designed Civil Power in 1991, using then-contemporary news stories as the bases for scenarios, and it’s been available from me in one form or another for over 25 years. Battle of Seattle I did within a few weeks of the actual event at the end of 1999. I’m interested in these things, and I make my wee games of them; and sometimes, the world catches up with me.

Obligatory end-of-year review, 2020


Well, another year has zipped by. And what a year it was; this time last year, I was arranging to spend a week in Hawaii to combine (game) business with pleasure in April, and plotting out trips to conferences and conventions including a longer trip to Europe in the fall. Obviously none of that happened and I am completing my ninth month working from home (for the first time in my career), at a job that got even crazier as colleges and universities made the swift pivot to all-online instruction. I quite resented the intrusion of day-job space into home-job space at first but what are you going to do… and I save ~2 hours of commuting and dressing each day.

I’m not sorry to see 2020 go, and I know 2021 will not see the complete end of COVID-19, still less the beginnings of the necessary and obvious changes we’re going to have to make in order to flourish in the future. But like many people, I will adjust and carry on as best I can.

Game publishing and publicity

  • January: Hollandspiele brought out District Commander: Binh Dinh, the second volume in the series. District Commander: Binh Dinh out now!
  • February: long interview with The Players Aid about Brief Border WarsBrief Border Wars quad: interview at The Players Aid
  • April: a nice interview with Harold Buchanan, talking mostly about China’s War and StrongmanInterview with Howard Buchanan  I also belatedly posted notice of an interview with The Players Aid that was posted at the very end of 2019, on China’s WarChina’s War: interview with The Players Aid
  • June: After about a year of pre-orders, the Brief Border Wars quad sailed out the door. Sales were quite brisk, apparently! Brief Border Wars: shipping at last! I also had a very nice long session with John Kranz of Compass Games talking about this and other designs and thoughts. Interview with Compass Games, 5 June 2020
  • August: Posted link to a long and interesting interview with Neil Bunker of Diagonal Move. Interview: Diagonal Move
  • September: District Commander: Kandahar was published by Hollandspiele! District Commander: on sale, sale, sale! This leaves one module of the original four, District Commander: ZNO (Zone Nord Oranais).  This will be out some time in 2021 but meanwhile it is still available here for free PnP New free game: ZNO (District Commander module) Also, a longish interview at The Players Aid about the thoughts and mechanics in Civil PowerCivil Power: interview with The Players Aid
  • November: After eight months of working from home, I had run out of enough components for the infrequent sales of my DTP quality BTR Games designs that I suspended sales of the physical product. It was getting difficult to get to the post office on time too. So I made up PDF copies of six designs (1848, Andartes, Balkan Gamble, EOKA, Land of the Free, Red Guard) and made them available for PnP through Wargame Vault:  I also took the opportunity to clean up and add to the rules for several designs, and was especially happy to make Red Guard available again even if it is not a big crowd-pleaser. When the world straightens out a bit I will resume sales of the physical product but will likely keep these six up there. Current price: $8.00 US a pop.
  • December: Civil Power finally went on sale! My proof copy is very nice, the counters look great. Civil Power: preview video!  I gave a talk to the Georgetown University Wargaming Society about self-publishing games, which seems to have been well-received… the biggest thing I learned in putting material together for this was that I have lots more to learn, beyond my simple, crude and low-tech methods (which, I hasten to add, work perfectly well for me). Links to slide deck and Youtube recording are here. PostGUWS

Game design work and future publication

Work and or testing continued throughout the year on some of the following:

  • Brief Border Wars Quad: Compass Games realized they had a good seller on their hands, and they are quite interested in Volume II – so I spent a lot of time on these in the summer and fall. The four battles are all pre-1945 titles: Second Balkan War 1913; Teschen 1919; Nomonhan 1939; and Italo-Greek War 1940. If people (including me) aren’t completely sick of these after this, I have thoughts on what to pick for a Volume III, which would all be post-1945 topics once again.
  • China’s War 1937-41: testing testing, until late summer when renos forced me to turn my gaming space into my work-from home space. I had been hoping to get into development in 2020, but lags with other projects prevented the developer from getting to it. No problem, it will come when it does as GMT is facing some large problems with production and shipping with current and near-future product. Almost 1,300 pre-orders now.
  • 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. But it’s done, with some good revised rules and extra options and a lot of new scenarios based on contemporary headlines: Hong Kong 2019, duelling mobs in Caracas, Violent Demo USA, etc.. Timely, yes, but perhaps it always was.
  • District Commander series: Made changes to the core rules after Maracas came out: nerfing Ambush and Intimidate missions, a new use for Intelligence Advantage chits, and disrupting Militia units no longer deducts Task Points. Pleased with the way things are with it now. If I get time and opportunity next year I might do a Kashmir module that has scenarios from various flare-ups over the years; we’ll see.
  • Semi-abstract urban counterinsurgency games: no time to finish these two off. Will likely put them up for free PnP as few people seem interested in this kind of thing.
  • Strongman: I got in some plays and an important revision of this done before the March lockdown. I haven’t had a chance to work on it since then but I’m pleased – maybe not reached the final step on this but the last few steps have been forward ones.
  • Tabletop Simulator: I have a few days off the end of this year (was not able to take much vacation due to having to substitute for my boss while he sought elected office) so would like to learn how to use this and make TTS versions of some of my games. I think it might be useful for future playtesting and I don’t think I will ever be able to grok making a Vassal module for myself.


  • Of course, nothing happened, at least nothing physical.

Conferences and professional wargaming stuff

  • No physical conferences – Connections-US this year was virtual, and I did manage to attend a couple of online sessions though it was difficult to do during working hours. Connections-UK was cancelled outright.


  • 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. I did write a lot for some quite pleasant interviews and Q&A I had with The Player’s Aid. One interview with Diagonal Move made me think a bit. Interview: Diagonal Move

Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

  • Overall traffic seems to be continuing a decline since 2018. I seem to be cruising still at just below 1,600 views per month, for a total of about 19,000 views. About 7,000 visitors. The five most curious countries were: US (by a very wide margin), UK, Canada, France and Italy. One guy clicked in from Oman.
  • Besides the then-current post, popular pages included the perennial favourites BTR Games, Free Games and Scenarios and Variants pages. No surprises there. The most popular post was the one for the Colonial Twilight-inspired method of playing 4-faction COIN system games with 2 people: Spielenexperiment: Turning 4 into 2
  • The most downloaded documents were the card/counter files for District Commander: ZNO,  Third Lebanon War and Canadian Civil War, the play mat for Kashmir Crisis, and the presentation I made at Connections North (“Soft Power Maps”). Since download figures for the other parts of the associated games are nowhere near these numbers, it’s obvious they are being scooped up by some kind of bot or script.

Article on professional wargaming from VICE France

Polish, not French officers and NCOs.

Seen today: an article that originally appeared in VICE France that includes an interview with Antoine Bourguilleau, historian and researcher at the Institute of War and Peace Studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Bourgilleau talks about the use of wargames to train professional soldiers.

Games cited or illustrated (other than the obligatory introductory reference to Risk, of course) include:

  • Kriegsspiel
  • the 1930s US Naval War College games
  • the WATU anti-submarine games
  • the Fletcher Pratt naval wargame
  • Phantom Fury by Laurent Closier
  • FITNA by Pierre Razoux
  • Matrix games get a brief description too.

Have a look!

Jouer la guerre

Bourgilleau has written a book on the subject, difficult to tell whether it is more than the usual historical survey of the subject.