Scramble scramble

https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/vb9gd9/a-cancelled-board-game-revealed-how-colonialism-inspires-and-haunts-games

So, this has been lighting up sections of the BGGverse for the last week… in case you have not heard, or are trawling through this blog years from the time it was posted:

  • GMT Games put up for P500 a game called Scramble for Africa in February. From the ad copy, it seems to have been in broad terms a “3X” game (Explore- Expand-  Exploit) as opposed to a “4X” game ( -Exterminate) where European powers enter the Dark Continent, found colonies, interfere with each other, etc.
  • After GMT posted the developer’s notes at the end of March with some more specifics, it emerged that this game was shall we say a bit light on historical accuracy and completeness – the native population was more or less the background on top of which the players drew their designs.
  • An increasing amount of adverse commentary on Twitter, Facebook, Boardgamegeek, and other spots led GMT to pull this off the P500 list, with a very measured and reasonable explanation and apology from the publisher.

People are still yelling about it, but more in defence of or offence against their own straw men. Some decried it as bowing to the mob, erasure of unpopular opinions, censorship, my god this is the beginning of the end what’s next erasing the Nazis soon they will come to pry all my wargames from my overheated flabby hands… never mind, you can imagine all this yourself (and if you can’t, there is a thread on BGG that is over 1,000 posts long now, counting the unusually large fraction of ones deleted for personal attacks and abuse).

Others had more measured and thoughtful responses. The link above is a much better explanation of the event and what it means than I can write; go have a look. It also gives due credit to the thoughtful games GMT can and does produce. Colonial Twilight, Navajo Wars and Comancheria all get praise for handling complex issues well, as do Freedom: the Underground Railroad and This Guilty Land, two games by other publishers.

Again, I did not have a chance to learn very much about the game, but it seems it was too cavalier and light a treatment of the topic to be appealing to the strong-history crowd, and not satisfying enough for the theme/history-be-damned, strong-play crowd. So, a sound business decision, and one that is GMT’s and only GMT’s to make.

We should not shy away from historical controversy, for that is the most direct way history teaches us it’s still there and still valuable. But it has to be done in a productive way, that advances the state of play. Obviously, this game did not do that.

Probably more than a few people have commented that if the game were rethemed and placed on a distant planet as “Scramble for Afraxic”, they might have  had a goer on their hands… sometimes that works. GMT has a few of these 4X in space games in their stable, and they sell very well… I suppose they are good games too, but I don’t play much science fiction stuff anymore. But the point is that there is sufficient distance from what is going on, even more so than the usual abstraction of playing a game about something, to not bother people.

 

 

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ADP in Genesee

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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!

Newest COIN system P500: People Power

Just announced for P500, is a new COIN system game from GMT: People Power: Insurgency in the Philippines, 1983-86. Designed by Ken Tee, a gamer I know from CSW  – this appears to be his first design.

I’ve just had a glance over the description but here are some of the interesting points I noticed:

  • 3 factions:
    • Government, symbolized by the personal rule of Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda, and his political cronies and military forces. Seeks Support and Patronage.
    • Insurgents, split into two blocs – the communist New People’s Army (or NPA) and the Moro National Liberation Front (or MNLF but more commonly referred to as Moros). The NPA sought a national uprising from both the urban and rural populace, while the Moros wanted a separate nation founded on Islamic autonomy. Seeks Control of spaces and some form of “Resistance” index.
    • Reformers, think Corazon Aquino. A non-violent faction that was historically the winner of the conflict as the Philippine political landscape changed. Seeks to build Bases and Opposition.
  • Seems to be an effort to create a high-speed, low-drag entry into the COIN system: small map (17 x 22″) with only two terrain types (city and country) and likely a small number of spaces; low number of pieces (79 wooden bits), and a small deck of event cards (likely around 40 or 50).
  • Some new features:
    • A hand of Key Personality cards kept by each player, that represents the effectiveness of various generals and power brokers.
    • Propaganda Rounds replaced by a two-turn Election Cycle procedure (each Election Cycle is made up of 10 cards and represents 6 to 9 months of activity).
    • A faction can combine any Operation with any Special Activity.
    • card-driven solitaire play system; no more flowcharts.

Here’s the link to the description page and pre-order link:

https://www.gmtgames.com/p-689-people-power-insurgency-in-the-philippines-1983-1986.aspx

220 orders already – I’m jumping on this one too!

Review of Colonial Twilight at Katie’s Game Corner

Ohhh, exciting!

The very clever Katie Aidley has reviewed Colonial Twilight on her blog Katie’s Game Corner… she likes it, a lot.

https://katiesgamecorner.com/2017/12/20/a-few-first-impressions-colonial-twilight-the-french-algerian-war-1954-62-from-gmt-games

Excellent! Thank you Katie!

Space-Biff! reviews Colonial Twilight

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Image from GMT Games pre-order page, using French anti-war poster.

Daniel Thurot, aka Space-Biff!, reviews Colonial Twilight on his blog. (He also posted it on my birthday, which was yesterday, but I didn’t find out until today – but what a nice gift!)

https://spacebiff.com/2017/10/24/colonial-twilight/

He says, among many other things:

At its best, Colonial Twilight captures the high-level decision space of guerrillas and counterinsurgents alike, peeling back the layers to reveal the processes by which a war of independence is fought on both sides, and aptly illustrating the complexity that can arise when that war’s belligerents define “victory” by very different standards. Its take on war is brutal, bitter, and liable to leave both sides taking and retaking the same inches of ground many times over.

Ah yes. That’s good to hear….

He also wrote a very kind review of A Distant Plain, some time ago:

Space-Biff! reviews A Distant Plain

Many thanks!

“A perfect modeling of chaos and terror”

Over at The Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz has written a superb, very long and detailed review of his impressions of Colonial Twilight. Go read it!

https://theplayersaid.com/2017/10/24/a-perfect-modeling-of-chaos-and-terror-a-review-of-colonial-twilight-the-french-algerian-war-1954-62-from-gmt-games

The money quote:

I was really impressed with the integration of the theme into the gameplay and the care given to make sure players actually feel the consequences of their actions. As I have played the game, I have paused many times to simply think about things, either my actions during the game, the moral turpitude of the two combatants (who is the good guy? Is there even a good guy?), the purpose and meaning of it all, etc. I truly believe that this is Brian’s masterpiece, his Mona Lisa, David or Sistine Chapel as it were. The skill with which he has weaved the bitter elements of the struggle together in a playable and enjoyable way is nothing short of triumphant. And any game that can make you think about things is a good thing. Bravo, I say! Bravo.

I am so pleased with this theme that I have seen in reviews of this game… that it made people, in the course of playing the game, think about what it was they were playing at, and what relation it and they bore to the grimy historical reality.  In that sense it is not a physical simulation but an emotional simulation of the conflict, something that doesn’t always emerge in wargames (though any good wargame will create lots of excitement and suspense for the players). And I’m proud that I have been able to foster these feelings, however ambivalent, in players.

Thank you so much Grant! (And it’s my birthday too!)

Review of Colonial Twilight in The Armchair General

ColTwilightCover(edit)RBM

Today the website Armchair General published a review of Colonial Twilight by Ray Garbee.

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-insurgency-in-gmt-games-colonial-twilight.htm

It’s one of the first full-length reviews of the game I’ve read… hopefully there will be more, but Ray was very impressed by what he had seen:

This is going to read as very odd. I’ve played the game several times. Of those, two games left me with a feeling of sadness bordering on ennui, without the aspects of boredom. Reflecting on why this happened, I think it’s measure of how well the game engages the players. The detailed nature of the event card descriptions drives home the horrors and moral compromises inherent to this conflict.

The card descriptions strip off the veneer of jingoistic patriotism and revolutionary fervor and give a glimpse into the brutal nature of the conflict. It’s not just wooden pieces being removed from a cardboard map. It’s assassination. It’s torture. It’s café bombings, governmental scandals and forced relocation of population. None of this is colorful flags flying in the wind as brave soldiers fight an honorable battle against an enemy whom is much like themselves.

It’s tough to feel good about conducting terror operations, regardless of your goals. It also is an excellent insight into the nature of this war. A great game should do more than provide a competitive experience, it should also teach and challenge the players assumptions. Colonial Twilight easily accomplishes both. It’s an engaging game. But it can also be a powerful teaching tool. The game teaches the geography of Algeria and it teaches the history of a pivotal event in twentieth century history. Like the experience of this war to it’s French participants, Colonial Twilight is a game that will leave its players with a lasting impression of the nature of modern conflict.

Armchair General Rating: 95%

I can’t add anything to that. I am very pleased that this game engaged him on this emotional level.