Coming soon: Strike For Berlin!

s4Bctrsnip

Chunk of the playtest countersheet. Proper counters will be done by John Cooper, who also did Winter Thunder and Red Horde 1920.

s4Bmapsnip

Elongated blurry slice of the playtest map. Proper map will also be done by John Cooper.

Yaah! magazine #11, which I am told will probably ship in March 2018, will have my game Strike For Berlin in it. Opening blurb to the rules:

STRIKE FOR BERLIN is a simulation game of a hypothetical invasion of Germany by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’s (RSFSR) armed forces in 1920.  The game is for two players, one representing the irresistible forces of proletarian revolution (called the Red Player), and the other the (hopefully) impervious alliance of anti-Bolshevist forces that would have been arrayed to oppose such an invasion (called the White Player).

The game begins just after the Red Player’s forces have won the Battle for Warsaw in mid-August 1920.  Sensing that “over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration” (Tukhachevsky, leader of the Red forces, in a communique), the leadership of the RSFSR has decided to go for broke and seize Berlin, capital of a Germany in political and economic disarray.  However, it is already late summer and they cannot sustain a military effort of this size past the onset of bad weather at the end of October. The Red Player has just ten weeks to change the course of world history.

This is a complete makeover of 1998’s Freikorps, just as Red Horde 1920 was a complete makeover of Konarmiya. 176 counters, 17×22″ hex map. Same updated and revised system, and like Red Horde this one has lots of optional rules to vary the game, including: armoured trains; the Trotsky Train (making a reappearance); the Red Baltic Fleet; Entente units and the Royal Navy;  different deployments and structures for the Reichswehr; Danzig – what of Danzig?; and Red conscription on the march.

And of course, just as with their predecessors the two games can link, so you can play one long game from May to October of 1920, on a combined map that stretches from Kiev to Berlin.

I just handed in the files for this game, so no better samples or even kooky cover art to show… but when it’s time, you can pre-order your copy here. Price will likely be $40 but there’s usually a 10% pre-order discount, and the PnP version is generally less than $20.

https://flyingpiggames.com/t/yaah-magazine

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An unexpected but very welcome comparison

ce1bf0d2c849c71d324bf21e7c7f7e47-terminal-dune

Over on Boardgamegeek.com I posted a link to the review on Armchair General (Review of Colonial Twilight in The Armchair General). In a reply to the ensuing thread, user Paul Heron wrote:

I feel I ought to point out that, while the tone of CT is certainly serious, it thankfully isn’t sanctimonious, earnest or po-faced.

In fact, a refreshing element of this game for me has been the flashes of humour in there (also to be found in some of Brian’s other designs, Ukrainian Crisis for one). For instance, the Jean Paul Sartre card with its tagline, ‘Either way, he and Albert Camus are no longer friends.’

While some may argue that humour is inappropriate in a wargame, unless the game as the whole is intended as satire (War on Terror), my view is that humour has always been a part of war, and not only as a ‘defense mechanism’ employed by soldiers and civilians.

Rather, humour/absurdity is in an odd way one of the intrinsic elements of war (and the literature of war seems to me to confirm this), part of its troubling strangeness, what novelist J.G. Ballard called the ‘casual surrealism of war’ (which probably more often is simply weird and jarring, rather than blackly humourous).

As the son of British ex-pats living in Shanghai when the Pacific War began, Ballard spent his early teens in a Japanese internment camp. In particular his experience, in the dog days of the war, of leaving the camp and exploring the devastated and largely abandoned city, seems to have left an especially vivid impression on him, informing all his subsequent writing (only a small portion of which – his 1984 novel Empire of the Sun for instance – is explicitly about war).

Incidentally, like the jokes that Brian sneaks into his games, much of Ballard’s writing is slyly humourous – ‘guerrilla humour’ as it were, rather than the more obvious sort that bludgeons you with massive frontal assaults (War on Terror again springs to mind).

Those who know me well, know that J.G. Ballard is one of my absolute favourite writers. This guy gets me!

(oh man, can this day get any better?)

 

Nights of Fire now on BGG

nofbox

Cover art by Kwanchai Moriya.

Yes!

Now officially added to the Boardgamegeek.com database, I can now say and show a bit more about what David Turczi (designer of Days of Ire, a card-driven game on the October 1956 Hungarian Revolution) and I have been working on all year.

From BGG:

Nights of Fire: Battle for Budapest is the second game in our duology adapting the events of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution for modern board game form. Following the Hungarian success in part one, this game starts as the Red Army arrives at the edge of the capital and pushes into the heart of the city; bent on retribution, destruction, and ruthless pursuit of control. For the players in charge of the Hungarian defence there is no time left for organizing and sedition. This is a hopeless war of survival, plain and simple.

Combining card and action management mechanisms of modern euro games with the theme and feel of a classic block wargame, players can experience the rush of a true no-win scenario, and see how long they can keep the flame of the revolution going under the pressure of the unstoppable march of the Soviet military machine.

The game can be played by up to 2 Revolutionary players against either a live or an automated opponent.

In response to a question announcing the sequel to Days of Ire (DoI), David describes the game mechanics very well:

Yes it’s card driven, but no it’s not like DoI.

The Hungarian side plays a light block wargame with area movement, where the stronger actions require an icon on the block to match an icon on the card. It’s a bit of action allowance and a bit of card management. Cards are randomly drawn, but the deck is small enough to guarantee a reshuffle in every game, so you see every card roughly twice.

The Soviet side plays more of an hand building-action management game. He has 12 cards, each with a mix of actions and a mix of combat values. At the beginning of every round the Soviet picks 6 cards he’ll play one at a time for his actions. The remaining 6 cards are shuffled together into a “combat deck”. Every time he attacks, he flips the top card of that deck and uses the appropriate combat value on it. The more hits he suffers, the fewer cards he can pick from.

If you held a gun to my head and asked me to compare it to other games, I’d compare the Hungarian side to Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan. The Soviet side I had no direct inspiration for, some of the “feel” was inspired by the Empire’s metagame in Star Wars: Rebellion, but it’s an extremely thin comparison. (As opposed to DoI’s Soviet cards which were directly influenced by Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?)

A few things in the game have the feel of a COIN game (both Brian and I were very conscious of that) – flipping units, asymmetrical actions, but it’s less “inspired by COIN” and more “how can you do it differently than COIN”.

I would say the luck element is even smaller than in DoI.

I’m very pleased with how this one has worked out. David’s design background is Euros, but he speaks some Wargame, so I think we have created an interesting hybrid. I know I have learned a lot from him about the use of different mechanics. This one is quite removed from my earlier Operation Whirlwind, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Not much to see so far, but you may want to subscribe to the BGG entry:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/236125/nights-fire-battle-budapest

The game will be up for Kickstarter in 1Q 2018. We’re still talking about stretch goals.

 

 

Video reviews of Colonial Twilight

Several video reviews of Colonial Twilight have popped up on Youtube in the last few weeks. All of them have been quite positive!

An unboxing video by the colourful Adam Koebel.

Half an hour with the affable guys from The Player’s Aid blog – Grant Kleinheinz (on the left) has interviewed me many times about this and other games.

A long review by the legendary Marco Arnaudo! If Marco reviews one of your games, you know that you have arrived. He really likes it, too.

A review by “NapoleonsTriumph”, who lives in New Zealand. His review is from the POV of a solo player so it’s largely about the ‘bot, but he also posted other and longer videos of his thoughts as he learned the game.

Back to Blighty

presentation

Nope, not this time.

On Saturday I’m leaving for London, to attend this year’s Connections-UK conference at King’s College London. I’ll be chairing a plenary session on “wargame design and analysis”, and participating in some other shenanigans!

Other than that, I am taking a couple of extra days to see friends and collaborators, and play some more games – I am taking Colonial Twilight, Caudillo, the Brief Border Wars quad, the Freikorps re-do (still haven’t decided on a name) and Nights of Fire for show and tell and test-driving.

Really looking forward to seeing London again! Hope the jet-lag isn’t as bad as last time.

Posting may be spotty as I will be working off a tablet and it’s hard to type on it. I’ll be home on the 13th. Be good, now….

Interview on Travis Hill’s Low Player Count podcast

Travis Hill interviewed me recently for his podcast “Low Player Count”: we talked mostly about Colonial Twilight, but a number of other semi-rants crept in there too….

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/d/6/6/d66213cf0db9b71d/Travis_Gets_Heavy_-_Brian_Train_Interview.mp3?c_id=15861033&expiration=1500241198&hwt=518aafe9e446255dff4f17cfa120b629

 

“Breaking the fourth wall”

JAntley tweet

Jeremy Antley, a very clever man (see his blog Peasant Muse, he also writes for Play the Past) recently Tweeted (if that’s the word I want) his reaction to receiving his copy of Colonial Twilight. I hope the text is readable. The “Sartre” card text reads:

15

Jean-Paul Sartre

Writes a play, donates royalties: +2 FLN Resources.

Signs manifesto: -1 Commitment.

Either way, he and Albert Camus are not friends anymore.

The card is on the surface “another of Brian’s little jokes”, and on the surface perhaps it is. The historical context is duly supplied in the Playbook:

This card reflects the actions of French intellectuals and cultural figures in opposing the war, particularly the use of torture by French forces. The “Manifesto of the 121”, a declaration published in September 1960 is an example of this and helped to mobilize public opinion and action against the war. Sartre was very vocal in support of the FLN and was the target of at least one assassination attempt by the OAS. Meanwhile, the writer Albert Camus, born in Algeria, defended the French government’s actions and supported the idea of co-existence and peaceful negotiation. He was ostracised by left-wing intellectuals for this.

But Jeremy does make a point about games and their self-absorbed nature as they try to recreate history through mechanical means. Designers occasionally break this “fourth wall” through humourous asides in the rules or their notes, but it is not often done.

If I knew more about what I was doing I could probably talk more coherently about this, but I’ll leave it here as an example of a time where a player tickled me back. Enjoy the game Jeremy!