More from TESA Collective: “STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion” and what you can do to help Kickstarter do the right thing.

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Image: some art from the upcoming game.

I got an email today from the folks at TESA Collective: the Kickstarter campaign for their new game “STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion” begins next Wednesday, October 16.

[Edited To Add: technical difficulties have postponed the launch to Monday, October 21.]

I intend to be there, and on that day I’ll post a link in case you were looking as well.  TESA also added something that I’ve been wondering about, since I saw a short news clip a couple of weeks ago. Quoted from the email:

We Support the Workers of Kickstarter – And We Want You to Do So Too!

Recently, the workers of Kickstarter started organizing a union – and they have faced resistance from Kickstarter’s management. We absolutely stand with the workers of Kickstarter. You can read our full statement of support here.

The workers of Kickstarter have asked people to continue launching campaigns and supporting campaigns on the platform while showing their support for the workers and their unionization drive. As always, we will follow the lead of people building movements.

So that’s exactly what we’re we’re going to do: We’re not just going to make this a Kickstarter campaign; we’re going to make this a labor campaign too. We are going to use this campaign as a way to lift up the voices of the Kickstarter workers. When we launch the Kickstarter campaign, we will launch it with a number of ways you can support the Kickstarter workers as well.

In addition, we’ve teamed up with Jobs with Justice to make it so funds from this game go to benefit real campaigns fighting for working people. When the campaign launches mid-next week, we hope you’ll share the game with your friends to help us raise funds for JWJ’s work!

In solidarity,

The TESA Collective

I respect this, and I hope that you’ll consider this in your decision to back this game (and the workers of Kickstarter).

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What’s in a name?

 

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Vlissingen? Flushing? Vlissienge? Flessingue?

When GMT put up notice of China’s War going to P500 on their Facebook page, there was quite a bit of comment. One user, Hank Wong, made this point about nomenclature, when the topic of “Kuomintang/Guomindang” came up:

Hank Wong While Hanyu pinyin is linguistically more accurate, as Ron mentions, using it does have political implications, especially among people of mainland China/Taiwan/HK background. It was the system adopted and promoted by the Chinese Communists, and so using it can give the appearance that the game is from, or favors, the Communist point of view. Wade-Giles is not as accurate, and it was the method preferred by the KMT/Nationalists, but it was also how the Western world knew those names and locations during the actual World War II period itself. In between, I’ve seen newer history books compromise by one of two methods: (1) keeping the “famous names” in WG and then translate more obscure names as PY, or (2) Communist names in PY and Nationalist names in WG.

Interesting compromise, and one that demands more background knowledge from the reader than normal.

I have had similar discussions in the past with other people, when designing WW II games on the Balkans occupation and the Scheldt campaign… do I use the name of the city as it is now, or the one it had at the beginning of the War, or while it was under German/Italian/Hungarian occupation, or the name Flemish people use for it…? Any choices I do make will be slammed by some and ignored by others.

In general, I try to use the name that was in the most common usage at the time the game takes place, in a form as close as possible to the original language, not some Anglicized version… which is why I put pronunciation guides in the playbooks for A Distant Plain and Colonial Twilight. But I do slip up (for example, “Algiers” on the Colonial Twilight map should have been rendered “Alger”, as Joseph Vanden Borre reminds me every time I see him at CSW Expo) and even the method of pronunciation I choose has political implications, you see.

I think perhaps in this case I will do my best to avoid this linguistic and political stickiness and refer to the government player as “Nationalists” or “Nationalist Party”, since that is the English equivalent of the Chinese word no matter how you pronounce it. And Beiping/Peiping was renamed Beijing from 1937-45 while it was under Japanese occupation (and renamed so again in 1949 by the CCP, after 4 years of being Beiping again), so for the sake of historical accuracy/contemporaneous currency I will use Beijing.

 

Political Boardgames; Italian Rumbles

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

http://organisemagazine.org.uk/2019/07/23/the-boardgame-is-political-rbg/

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.

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/177356/riot-cast-first-stone

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!

https://noboardgames.com/2018/10/12/printplay-section/

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.

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.

 

 

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.