Climate change and the US military

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I don’t write about climate change much here, but like many people I think about it a lot. A story in VICE magazine today led me to a study done by staff of the US Army War College in summer 2019, “Implications of Climate Change for the US Army”. It’s available at the following link:

https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/implications-of-climate-change-for-us-army_army-war-college_2019.pdf

The points the study makes that are closest to its home are those that relate to the US military collapsing during or even before its attempts to respond to the challenges posed by climate change. It’s obvious that the Army is not an environmentally friendly organization, but there are many things it can do to help itself to survive these challenges.

Let’s take a really basic example: water. Over a third of a force’s sustainment requirement is water. A soldier in an arid environment like the ones where US troops have been fighting for the last 17 years needs about 30 litres of water a day to drink, wash, and prepare food… and the Army has been satisfying this with bottled water shipped from halfway across the world and tapping local wells with sadly depleted aquifers (where these aquifers haven’t been contaminated by salt water from rising sea levels). A Brigade Combat Team does not have its own water generating or purifying equipment, only vehicles and trailers to carry it around. This will have to change and there are technologies under development that will work, but they must be tested, adopted and purchased.

Setting aside the problems a US military force would encounter on arriving at a foreign intervention or entanglement, there would be enough problems at home: the imminent collapse of American infrastructure, from bridges and roads to the power grid (even without the attention of an enterprising enemy) and epidemics of diseases new to the continental US pose serious threats to the Army’s equipment and people. Americans are used to the Army stepping in to help, rescue and restore when natural disasters strike but I think the day is fast approaching when they will not be able to count on this.

Have a look at this.

Interview with Harold Buchanan – part 2

 

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https://soundcloud.com/harold-buchanan/podcast-22-an-interview-with-designer-brian-train-and-his-top-5-list-part-2-of-2

Continuing on from a week or two ago, part 2 of my long interview with Harold Buchanan when we were at Consimworld Expo 2019.

For some reason he starts off with me explaining and singing the Smarties song….

Also, the tale of the Pantzooka!

Games (inspirational and not) referenced in the interview:

  • Central America
  • Minuteman: Second American Revolution
  • National Liberation Front
  • Nicaragua
  • Plot to Assassinate Hitler
  • South Africa
  • Tito
  • Vietnam 1965-75

 

Interview with Harold Buchanan out now!

2019-06-25-19.42.04

Looks as if I’ve run out of rant and have put myself to sleep.

Remember that Harold Buchanan interviewed me while I was at CSWExpo this year? He managed to edit my gibberish down into something halfway coherent, and now you can listen to it!

https://soundcloud.com/harold-buchanan/podcast-21-gen-con-insurgency-and-an-interview-with-designer-brian-train-1-of-2

The Benno Effect gets a shout-out around 33:35.

Be sure to tune in for the next episode, part 2 of 2. Highlight will undoubtedly be the tale of the history and deployment of the Pantzooka!

Ave hominem vestitum!

Designing for Difficult Subjects

headthames

An excellent post by Chris Bennett of the Game Design Thinking Research Group at Stanford University.

Main subject is depictions of slavery in tabletop games but moves on to the broader subject of the player’s offhand engagement with experience of violence, trauma and immersion in subject.

Go have a read!

Games cited:

  • Freedom: the Underground Railroad
  • Puerto Rico
  • This Guilty Land
  • Labyrinth
  • Washington’s War
  • The Grizzled

https://gdt.stanford.edu/designing-for-difficult-subjects

The myth of the apolitical game

https://www.grimme-game.de/2019/01/17/der-mythos-vom-unpolitischen-spiel/

This very good piece is written concerning video games, and the coyness of their publishers and marketing people in “not taking a side” when they very clearly have done, but it goes for manual games as well.

The “translate this page” will work well on this one, but here is the money quote for me, at the conclusion:

Alles ist politisch

Es scheint absurd, dass es dezidiert ausgesprochen werden muss: Kein Werk entsteht unabhängig von seinem Schöpfer, dessen Ansichten, Meinungen und politischer Überzeugung – auch und besonders dann nicht, wenn es behauptet, “die Realität” zeigen zu wollen. Der Wunsch, sich Spiele als unpolitisches, reines Unterhaltungsprodukt zu “erhalten” – mit dem Schlachtruf “keep politics out of our games” -, ist deshalb nicht nur illusorisch, sondern auch problematisch, weil er die vorhandene, unweigerliche Politikhaltigkeit jedes Mediums negiert und deren damit verbunden Botschaften somit unbewusst, und damit noch wirksamer, ihr Werk tun lässt.

Die Kritik, die der Industrie heute angesichts als absurd erkannter Rechtfertigungsmanöver zunehmend entgegengebracht wird, lässt hoffen, dass Spiele irgendwann auch hier zum Kulturgut wie jedes andere werden. Es gibt kein Buch, keinen Film, kein Album und kein Spiel, das frei von Politik wäre – wie bei jedem Kulturprodukt ist die ganze reale Welt ihrer Schöpfer der Stoff, aus dem sie entstehen.

Alles ist politisch; diese Tatsache in vollem Bewusstsein anzuerkennen, ist ein notwendiger Schritt für Macher wie Konsumenten auch des Mediums Videospiel.

Autor: Rainer Sigl

or:

Everything is political

It seems absurd that it has to be decidedly stated: No work is created independently of its creator, his views, opinions and political convictions – even and especially not when he claims to want to show “the reality”. The desire to “get” games as a non-political, pure entertainment product – with the slogan “Keep politics out of our games” – is therefore not only illusory, but also problematic because it negates the existing, inevitable political content of each medium and their Associated messages thus unconsciously, and thus more effectively, lets do their work.

The criticism, which is increasingly given to industry today in the face of absurdly recognized justification maneuvers, gives hope that games will someday become as much a cultural asset as any other. There is no book, no film, no album and no game that is free of politics – as with any cultural product, the whole real world of its creators is the stuff of which they emerge.

Everything is political; Recognizing this fact in full awareness is a necessary step for doers as well as consumers of the medium of video games.

I have said as much, many times.

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….

“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!