“Cold War Gone Hot, Again” panel: Friday, May 21, 2030-2130 EDT

The Bradley Tabletop Games Symposium is a two-day participatory online event that brings together game industry practitioners, scholars, and anyone else interested in the design and study of tabletop games. The symposium is a product of collaboration between the Interactive Media Department (https://www.bradley.edu/academic/departments/im/) of Bradley University and the Games and Simulation Arts & Sciences Program (https://hass.rpi.edu/games-and-simulation-arts-and-sciences) of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, managed by Double Exposure, Inc. (https://www.dexposure.com).

I’m doing a panel on the evening of Friday May 21st (well, generally evening, in North America): (event description)

The Cold War Gone Hot, Again: Retrofuturism or Futuristic Retro?

In the 1980s a number of serious wargames on a hypothetical Third World War were published, exciting some interest at the time. Over the last 10 years or so there has been a second wave of newly designed wargames that study that same subject – the Soviet invasion of Europe in the mid-1980s that never happened. Nostalgia for an actual past that one remembers imperfectly is one thing. But nostalgic game design to commemorate a then-hypothetical future war that is now a fictional past is a strange inversion of historiography indeed, and an additional twist beyond the approach taken by the designers of Twilight Struggle. What kind of retrofuturism is it? Is it even retrofuturism at all?

Hopefully it will be a true rambling conversation because I have more questions than answers on this.

Here is the event link, we will be talking on Discord but it will be broadcast on twitch.tv:

https://www.envoygateway.com/calendar/event/1888-the-cold-war-gone-hot-again-retrofuturism-or-futuristic-retro/

If you want to take part, you must register as a member of the Gateway. There is no cost (besides time subtracted from your mortal coil listening to me/us). There are many other interesting panels and games running; you can view the whole calendar as a list of events at this link, which also has a link to register:

https://dexposure.com/zoc2021sched.html

One event I plan to attend is on Saturday May 22, by the three guys behind the Eurowargames anthology I have written about (and for): Jan Heinemann, Riccardo Masini, Fred Serval.

Speaking About Wargames, in Different Languages: A Comparison of Experiences as International Wargaming Content Creators

Coming from different cultural and national backgrounds, content creators Jan Heinemann (Germany), Riccardo Masini (Italy) and Fred Serval (France) have recently joined their common knowledge to coordinate a collection of essays about wargaming in Europe and its many new design trends all over the world. But what about their different experiences as wargaming content creators on YouTube and other social media, with different approaches and different groups of viewers? Together with other prominent international content creators, this roundtable aims at highlighting the peculiar features of speaking about wargames also to non-English speaking viewers: the related difficulties caused by the language barrier and the different historical heritages, the perks granted by cultural diversity and the related criticalities, the needs of the different publics, the choice of media and style, the most requested contents and the games that prove harder to introduce, sometimes for lack of interest on the topic and sometimes even for their controversial nature in other nations. An engaging and rarely seen comparison and mutual confrontation about what it means to speak about board wargaming, a hobby born in the United States in the 1950s, also to non-US players by non-US content creators in the 2020s. Showing once again how gaming can prove to be an important bridge and connection between different cultures.

Link to event https://www.envoygateway.com/calendar/event/1901-speaking-about-wargames-in-different-languages-a-comparison-of-experiences-as-international-wargaming-content-creators/

Broadcast on: http://twitch.tv/dexconcord

“Cold War Gone Hot, Again” at Zones of Connection symposium

May be an image of chess and text that says 'ZONES OF CONNECTION BRADLEY TABLETOP GAMES SYMPOSIUM MAY 21sT & 22ND, 2021 Rensselaer BRADLEY EXPOSRREn Inc. University'

[ETA: better link to schedule here, plus registry link: https://dexposure.com/zoc2021sched.html

Link to twitch.tv room for the panel here: https://www.twitch.tv/dexboardroom1 ]

The schedule for the Zones of Connection: 21-22 May 2021 symposium has been roughed in and my panel is on Friday, May 21, 2030-2130 Eastern Daylight Time (UTC -4:00).

For people who want to listen in: see the twitch.tv links above; for anyone who wants to take part, things are handled through Discord (generally; Zoom if there is a screwup) and you can register at https://dexposure.com/zoc2021.html

Friday 8:30-9:30 

Room A

Title: The Cold War Gone Hot, Again: Retrofuturism or Futuristic Retro?

Participants: Brian Train

Style: Panel/Roundtable

Blurb:  In the 1980s a number of serious wargames on a hypothetical Third World War were published, exciting some interest at the time. Over the last 10 years or so there has been a second wave of newly designed wargames that study that same subject – the Soviet invasion of Europe in the mid-1980s that never happened. Nostalgia for an actual past that one remembers imperfectly is one thing. But nostalgic game design to commemorate a then-hypothetical future war that is now a fictional past is a strange inversion of historiography indeed, and an additional twist beyond the approach taken by the designers of Twilight Struggle. What kind of retrofuturism is it? Is it even retrofuturism at all?

Also,  the triumvirate behind the Eurowargames anthology will be holding a roundtable on the wargames connection between North American and European cultures.

[ETA: twitch.tv room for this session: https://www.twitch.tv/dexconcord  ]

Friday 1:00-2:00

Room C

Title: Speaking About Wargames, in Different Languages: A Comparison of Experiences as International Wargaming Content Creators

Participants: Jan Heinemann, Riccardo Masini, Fred Serval

Style: Roundtable

Blurb:  Coming from different cultural and national backgrounds, content creators Jan Heinemann (Germany), Riccardo Masini (Italy) and Fred Serval (France) have recently joined their common knowledge to coordinate a collection of essays about wargaming in Europe and its many new design trends all over the world. But what about their different experiences as wargaming content creators on YouTube and other social media, with different approaches and different groups of viewers? Together with other prominent international content creators, this roundtable aims at highlighting the peculiar features of speaking about wargames also to non-English speaking viewers: the related difficulties caused by the language barrier and the different historical heritages, the perks granted by cultural diversity and the related criticalities, the needs of the different publics, the choice of media and style, the most requested contents and the games that prove harder to introduce, sometimes for lack of interest on the topic and sometimes even for their controversial nature in other nations. An engaging and rarely seen comparison and mutual confrontation about what it means to speak about board wargaming, a hobby born in the United States in the 1950s, also to non-US players by non-US content creators in the 2020s. Showing once again how gaming can prove to be an important bridge and connection between different cultures.

I’m looking forward to seeing what these guys have to say!

Connections Online – Practical Game Design presentation on Youtube

Just a quick one… here is the link to the event on Youtube.

Zones of Connection: 21-22 May 2021

goldblum

[EDITED TO ADD: the schedule for the symposium has been roughed in and my panel is on Friday, May 21, 2030-2130 Eastern Time]:

Friday 8:30-9:30 

Room A

Title: The Cold War Gone Hot, Again: Retrofuturism or Futuristic Retro?

Participants: Brian Train

Style: Panel/Roundtable

Blurb:  In the 1980s a number of serious wargames on a hypothetical Third World War were published, exciting some interest at the time. Over the last 10 years or so there has been a second wave of newly designed wargames that study that same subject – the Soviet invasion of Europe in the mid-1980s that never happened. Nostalgia for an actual past that one remembers imperfectly is one thing. But nostalgic game design to commemorate a then-hypothetical future war that is now a fictional past is a strange inversion of historiography indeed, and an additional twist beyond the approach taken by the designers of Twilight Struggle. What kind of retrofuturism is it? Is it even retrofuturism at all?

Also,  the triumvirate behind the Eurowargames anthology will be holding a roundtable on the wargames connection between North American and European cultures.

Friday 1:00-2:00

Room C

Title: Speaking About Wargames, in Different Languages: A Comparison of Experiences as International Wargaming Content Creators

Participants: Jan Heinemann, Riccardo Masini, Fred Serval

Style: Roundtable

Blurb:  Coming from different cultural and national backgrounds, content creators Jan Heinemann (Germany), Riccardo Masini (Italy) and Fred Serval (France) have recently joined their common knowledge to coordinate a collection of essays about wargaming in Europe and its many new design trends all over the world. But what about their different experiences as wargaming content creators on YouTube and other social media, with different approaches and different groups of viewers? Together with other prominent international content creators, this roundtable aims at highlighting the peculiar features of speaking about wargames also to non-English speaking viewers: the related difficulties caused by the language barrier and the different historical heritages, the perks granted by cultural diversity and the related criticalities, the needs of the different publics, the choice of media and style, the most requested contents and the games that prove harder to introduce, sometimes for lack of interest on the topic and sometimes even for their controversial nature in other nations. An engaging and rarely seen comparison and mutual confrontation about what it means to speak about board wargaming, a hobby born in the United States in the 1950s, also to non-US players by non-US content creators in the 2020s. Showing once again how gaming can prove to be an important bridge and connection between different cultures.

Nick Mizer, who I first met in connection with the national conference of the Popular Culture Association several years ago (Bored of War…  and News Paper Games) recently sent me an “Invitation to Collaborate” to the Bradley Tabletop Games Symposium, an online event to be held 21-22 May, 2021.

The Symposium is itself a collaboration between the Interactive Media Department of Bradley University and the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences Program of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where Nick is currently teaching. First, this event is quite welcome because it focuses on tabletop games; people have heard me often enough moaning about how the academic field of Game Studies is willfully ignorant of its analog past and all it still has to teach. Second, this event is unusual because it is designed to be a collaborative event, a collection of events and sessions between the interdisciplinarian individuals involved in the field without the formal structure of keynote speakers, presentation of prepared papers, or scheduled fun-time events (that is, you’ll have to provide your own wine and charcuterie).

In wargames, a zone of control refers to the area of restricted movement and activity that occurs when two units become adjacent. As a theme for the first of these tabletop symposia “Zones of Connection” expresses our belief that bringing together a diversity of emerging voices and perspectives on tabletop games has much to offer through the connections that can be forged, interpersonally, emotionally, and intellectually.

Have a look at the invitation to collaborate document here Bradley Tabletop Games Symposium – Invitation to Collaborators and note that rather than submitting abstracts, they are asking for ideas for sessions (to be formatted as workshops, roundtables, panels and seminars but with as much audience participation as possible). If you have an idea for something you would like to participate in, let them know at the link in the document. Deadline for submissions is 26 April 2021.

To give you a further idea of what they might want to see, here are some topics of interest:

  • Games as media
  • Games and simulation
  • Games and anti-colonialism
  • Games as resistance
  • Games in/as education
  • Industry studies
  • Cultures of play
  • Board game cafes
  • Hybrid games
  • Ludo-textual analysis
  • Virtual tabletop play
  • Storytelling in tabletop games
  • Legacy and campaign games
  • Games and speculative futures / alternate histories
  • Discourse analysis of play sessions
  • Streaming and actual play podcasts
  • Phenomenology of play
  • Ludic fandom
  • History of tabletop games
  • Gaming and the military industrial complex
  • Games and translation
  • Games and play therapy
  • Board game renaissance
  • Games in the age of the pandemic

There must be something in all this to interest you!

Personally, I was interested in the speculative futures/ alternate histories topic and am considering submitting a suggestion for a session on that, related to this:

One thing that tweaked me while working on the games-as-journalism piece for the Eurowargames anthology was the section on games on hypothetical wars produced in the 80s, mainly on a Third World War. Regardless of whether you thought that was a farfetched event at the time, it did occupy a lot of interest – at the time. But over the last 10 years or so there has been a resurgence of new games coming out that study that same subject – a Soviet invasion of Europe in the mid-1980s (examples include the World at War series (2007 – 2015), Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (2010), Red Tide West (2014), Brezhnev’s War (2018), 1985: Under an Iron Sky (2018), Less than 60 Miles (2019), Red Tide South (2019), and The Fulda Gap: the Battle for the Center (2020)).

Nostalgia for an actual past that one remembers imperfectly is one thing. But nostalgic game design to commemorate a then-hypothetical future that is now a fictional past, it seems to me is a strange inversion of historiography indeed, and an additional twist beyond the approach taken by the designers of Twilight Struggle (where the disproved “domino theory” is consciously used in the game as the logic and incentive for players to act, within their roles as world leaders during the Cold War). So it’s a recreation of a hypothetical future from our past, but what kind of “retrofuturism” is it?

  • Dissatisfaction with the complex and quite changed power structures of today, and nostalgia for the bipolar world with its predicted wargasmic collision of the ideologies?
  • A notion that this war (potentially personally involving players then and now) would have been that generation’s “Good War” (per Studs Terkel), a moral exercise of Us vs. Them with clear-cut roles, unlike the troubling conflicts of Korea, Vietnam and half a dozen other interventions? (I do note that practically all of the examples I’ve given have been by American designers.)
  • Simple-minded huffing of nostalgia fumes for the games that these designers played in their youth? (Sure, I played my SPI NATO, Fifth Corps and BAOR like everyone else, but I miss other games from Back In The Day).
  • Rivet-counters looking for neato technical match-ups, and missing the contextual point as they often seem to do?

I can’t decide what it is; like always, it’s probably a little bit of everything, varying with the individual. It’s just something I’ve noticed and find perplexing, and while it’s pretty narrow I wonder if there are similar veins in other types of tabletop games.

Connections Online 2021: Whiskey Charlie podcast

Tomorrow!

I’ll join Maurice Fitzpatrick on his podcast, with Brant Guillory and others to talk about the Connections franchise of annual conferences on professional wargaming – its past, present (online for now) and future.

The Connections Online conference is next week, registration is open, and the schedule and events thereto are filling up.

Hey, don’t forget I will be talking about the practicalities of game physical design with Mike Markowitz on Monday, April 12 at 1500 EDT!

Connections Online

Connections North (the Canadian variant) is in the past, the US conference is 22-25 June (special theme: Ethics in Wargaming) and the Connections-UK conference has been moved forward two weeks from its usual time (14-16 September). All will be online events, For The Duration Of Viral Hostilities. Meanwhile, keep up with developments on the Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/ConnectionsWargaming

Sgt.Hartman

Tune in, maggots!

Connections Online 2021: 12-14 April, +/-

ConnexHexBlocks-2

The Connections Online conference on professional wargaming will be a virtual event.

Details, registration link and a preliminary schedule are here: https://www.armchairdragoons.com/connections/

All core Connections Online events will take place from 12-14  April, each day 1000 – 1600 EDT(UTC -4). All core events will be recorded and available for future viewing.

A livestream of the conference and the recordings will be free and open to all, but you can register to get access to a whole lot more. A small fee of $5 will be charged to partially cover the IT expenses.  Registration cost includes:

  • All presentations, panels, and keynotes (unlimited seats for participation), including ability to ask questions / interact with the speakers during their presentations
  • Access to the Connections Online Discord server
  • Ability to register for any extended conference events, on a first-come, first-served basis for limited-seat events

Oh, and what about those extended conference events you may ask? Well, from 10-18 April there will be many smaller focused events during and to either side of the core hours and dates. Details are still being worked out about these but will include game demonstrations, presentations, and activities similar to the famous “game lab” event where we work in small groups to brainstorm and explore how to game or model certain topics or issues, or general approaches to and utility of games and modelling.

If you are interested in serious games (and this term is definitely not limited to military wargaming!) you should check this out.

This is the latest addition to the Connections franchise of professional wargaming events. Connections-US, the original and American version of the conference will be in June and will also be a virtual event. I’ll post more about that later as details are firmed up. Readers of this and the Paxsims blog will know that there are also Australian, Canadian, Dutch and UK conferences along the same themes. I really miss these events in person, I’ve been several times to the US and UK ones and it’s an intense experience. Maybe next year we’ll be back to doing this sort of thing in person – though we have certainly proven the added value of doing as much as possible online, or making things available online.

Anyway, as part of this particular conference on Monday April 12 at 1500 EDT I will be doing a joint presentation with Mike Markowitz on practicalities of DIY game design. Mike, a really smart guy and a better public speaker than I, will talk about graphic design and I will talk about methods of self-publishing. Both are add-ons and developments of the talks we gave to the Georgetown University Wargaming Society recently, and you should watch these first.

Again, if you want to talk to us and ask questions you’ll have to register. It’s five bucks but you get a whole lot more than just us!

We hope to see you all there!

[ETA] Here is the Youtube link for the event…

VCOW 2021: “Two Sides of the COIN”

goldblum

[Edited to add: VCOW talk slides my slides VCOW talk 2 feb  and my script. Thanks for listening in!]

I will be speaking at VCOW 2021: 1915-2000 (+0 GMT) Friday, February 5, 2021 via a Zoom meeting.

This is what they tell me I’ll be doing for about 45 minutes:

TWO SIDES OF THE COIN

In this presentation, Brian will speak briefly about his work in designing asymmetric games on irregular warfare and how this has contributed to the origin and development of the popular “GMT COIN” system. Brian co-designed A Distant Plain (Afghanistan 2003-13) with Volko Ruhnke and designed Colonial Twilight (Algeria 1954-62). His third game using this system, China’s War (China 1937-41), is currently under development.

I will be followed immediately thereafter by Pete Sizer, who frequently comments on this blog as “Pete S/SP”:

BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN: AN OVERVIEW OF COUNTERINSURGENCY GAMES

Based on research undertaken for a PhD this talk will look at the commonly fought but infrequently gamed issue of counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare looking at those games that have tried to simulate this complicated environment.

Pete Sizer is a gamer of 30 years’ experience with an special interest in guerrilla warfare, counter insurgency and asymmetric warfare. He is currently doing a PhD in Wargaming at Bath Spa University, supervised by John Curry and Dr. Clifford Williamson.

Further details and how-to-join at https://wdvirtualcow.blogspot.com/ !

Remember this is UK time, so about 2 pm on the East Coast, and 11 am for me.

VCOW stands for Virtual Conference of Wargamers, the online version of the Conference of Wargamers, the annual event put on by my favourite crowd of madmen, the Wargame Developments (WD) organization.

Wargame Developments was founded at the first Conference of Wargamers, organized by Paddy Griffith in 1980 – so technically the event came before the organization that holds the event, but I believe they have had one every year since.  It includes among its members some of the most interesting people I have ever met, from the standpoint of either game design or generally bustin’ out with creativity and good humour: Bob Cordery, Jim Wallman, John Curry, Russell King, and the mysterious Tim Price.

For more information see: http://www.wargamedevelopments.org

Also have a look at the WD Handbook here, for an idea of just how creative these guys are: Wargame Developments Handbook

Also, Wargame Developments has published its magazine The Nugget (slang term for a d10) for a long time – they are up to issue #332 now. Each issue contains discussion of games, after action reports, occasionally rule sets and think-pieces on wargaming. Back issues may be viewed here:

http://www.wargamedevelopments.org/nugget.htm

Connections North: full programme

connectionsnorthlogo

The full programme for the Connections North conference (February 19-21, 2021) is now available!

https://paxsims.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/connections-north-programme-2021.pdf

The event is free but you have to register through Eventbrite. So far over 200 people from 19 different countries have signed up!

See you there!

Connections North: now register this!

connectionsnorthlogo

Announcing the opening of registrations for the Connections North conference, to be held virtually over Zoom during the weekend of 19-21 February, 2021.

CONNECTIONS NORTH is Canada’s annual conference devoted to conflict simulation. It is intended for national security professionals, policymakers, researchers, educators, game designers, university students, and others interested in the field of wargaming and other serious games.

Prior registration is required, but is free:

Themes to be addressed this year include:

• wargaming and other serious policy gaming in Canada
• wargaming in smaller defence communities
• gaming the Arctic
• COVID gaming and hybrid threats
• gaming fisheries policy
• analytical and policy gaming in the humanitarian sector
• wargaming for command decision support
• distributed gaming
• diversity and inclusion in professional (war)gaming

A full version of the conference programme will be posted by mid-January. Online connection information and other details will be sent to all registered attendees a few days before the conference itself.

We hope to see you all there!

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.
REPORT THIS AD

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.