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.

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On my tapedeck

This has been in heavy rotation on my kitchen tapedeck recently (yes, I have this on a creaky old cassette, the same program on both sides).

Almost 30 years later, and the locale of concern has shifted just a bit to the south.

On the same cassette, one of my favourite versions of the Ol’ Standard – Billy’s rewrite:

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

The Forgotten Faces

Peter Watkins is the film director whose work you likely haven’t seen, but definitely should.

He is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s, including Culloden, The War Game, and Punishment Park. The common method for these films was to take a “you are there”, documentary approach and treat the camera as if it were an actual witness to the events as they unfolded. So while it may be a bit jarring to see and hear a TV film crew interviewing and reacting to Scottish rebels in 1745, you see his point in doing so pretty easily.

It was certainly a method commonly used in comedy, but Watkins uses it to great dramatic effect, particularly notably in The War Game, a 1965 film that documents the aftereffects of a nuclear detonation over an area of Kent. It was such a horrific film that the BBC, who produced it, refused to broadcast it on TV and the film was not shown publicly in the UK until 1985. Watkins did not take kindly to this suppression of his work and left the UK. He has since lived and made films in Sweden, the United States, Denmark, Canada, Lithuania and France. His most recent film was La Commune in 2000, on the Paris Commune. (It’s probably his last film too, as he no longer gives interviews and has largely withdrawn from public life.)

http://pwatkins.mnsi.net/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Watkins

Another trademark of Watkins’ work is to use people who are entirely untrained in acting, or are at most amateur theatre performers. He began this practice with his early amateur films but kept on with it throughout his career.

It’s one of these early amateur films I want to draw your attention to today. It’s The Forgotten Faces, an 18 minute film made in 1960 with amateur performers in a back street in Canterbury. It’s an impressionistic view of the Hungarian Revolution in October 1956.

In all the work and thought I’d invested in Nights of Fire, this film was always in the back of my mind but I never mentioned it until now.

I hope you find it interesting.

Nights of Fire is still on track for a March release.

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!

“Maduro?” “Guaido!”

caudillo-cover-2

A curious development.

Opposition Leader Juan Guaido took an oath swearing himself in as Venezuela’s interim president on Wednesday, as hundreds of thousands marched to demand the end of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Guaido, head of the Opposition-run Congress, had said he would be willing to assume the presidency on an interim basis with the support of the armed forces to call elections.

Within minutes, Global Affairs confirmed Canada will recognize Guaido in the role. U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement doing the same, and encouraging other Western governments to recognize Guaido as interim president.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/venezuela-president-protest-guaido-maduro-1.4989733

Emphasis added, by me of course. Sinister promptitude and all that. The Latin American countries with right-wing governments (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru) also recognized Guaido.

We don’t know yet which way the Venezuelan military will jump… and of course there is a difference between the professional military, and the paramilitary forces that were set up under Chavez and have not been disarmed. Again, they may be pushing up against a civil war, or continued disorder at the very least.

Caudillo now available for free PnP