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.

Political Boardgames; Italian Rumbles


Interesting artifact of the Spanish Civil War: Anarchist paper cut-out soldiers.

Organise! magazine in the UK has published a short piece on radicalism and conflict in board games. Games cited include Monopoly, Class Struggle, Corteo! and RIOT! Cast the First Stone.

  • Monopoly (not The Landlord’s Game) is an example of how fangs get pulled, and has become a silly set-collection game
  • Class Struggle is dull (sorry, but it is) and out of print
  • Corteo! is interesting but long out of print and was only ever available in Italian
  • RIOT! is a newer game (2015), available from noboardgames, an Italian outfit (but rules in English are available)

RIOT! is interesting in that it is a 2-4 player game, with up to four factions: Autonomists, Anarchists, Nationalists and Police. Game mechanics revolve around movement and combat in the streets of a district of a fictional city, with the various goals of occupying buildings (for the Autonomists and Anarchists), confronting the protester forces (for the police) or accomplishing a secret goal (for the Nationalists). There is a good amount of asymmetry between players, with different player powers.

I got a copy with minimal trouble from the UK some time ago, but shipping is expensive. At the end of 2018 noboardgames made a print and play version of RIOT! available on Boardgamegeek, and Organise! magazine will publish a version of it in its next printed issue. I recommend it to your attention.

Other boardgames I would recommend on the theme are:

Funny thing about that last one: I just went to the noboardgames website and found that they had put up Battle of Seattle on their own PnP section in October 2018!

They didn’t ask but no worries, the game is meant to be out there and it’s already been “copylefted” by some other radical sites. I don’t mind, since they left my name on it and did not alter the files at all. Oh, not only that, they have a link to a Spanish-language translation of the rules, which I was not aware existed.

Other games available at the section are their own RIOT! and Suffragetto, an interesting artifact.