I’m appearing at SDHist Con Online 2023

SDHist Con Online 2023 Spring Deployment is a one-day online event coming this Saturday, March 18.

I’ll be giving a talk on the games I’ve done on modern urban combat at the operational level, both irregular and regular flavours… from Tupamaro to EXURB (don’t know what that last one is? Tune in and find out!)


SDHistcon urban 17 Mar 23

SDHistcon urban 11 mar 23



Registration link: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment

It’s $5.00 to attend but every event is free.

Link to the event, but be reminded there are dozens of other interesting panels and presentations too (just not at the same time as mine). https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/73

Overall event schedule, searchable: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule

Here are some I think would be interesting and intend to check out:

Talk on We Are Coming, Nineveh! out at last from NUTS! Publishing: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/58

Land and Freedom, an interesting new game on the Spanish Civil War (title of good Ken Loach movie too): https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/42

ZOIN, or zombie-inspired COIN system game about an outbreak in the northeastern US I guess… played out on Tabletop Simulator: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/59

More COIN, a presentation by Yann de Villeneuve on A Fading Star, the newest GMT COIN system game (volume 15 in the series!) about insurgency in modern Somalia: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/6

The very clever Vesa Arponen presents Order & Opportunity, his new game on the making of the post-Cold War new world order: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/9

Okay, this looks neat: Chicago ’68, a “tactical asymmetric game” by Yoni Goldstein on the famous police riot: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/16

And in case you wanted to find out all the secrets, “How To Design a Board Game”, a table featuring Joe Schmidt (GMT Designer and Developer), Alex Knight (Designer of Land and Freedom: The Spanish Revolution and Civil War), and Sebastian Bae (Research Analyst, Wargame Designer, and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University) where they spill the beans: https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-online-2023-spring-deployment/schedule/52

And though the event is taking place in the Pacific time zone, there will be extended hours and events so our friends in the UK and EU don’t have to stay up late to attend!

I hope you will drop by and check it out.

Also, if you happen to live near Rhode Island, be advised that the weekend of August 18-20 will see SD Hist Con East, hosted by the US Naval War College in Newport RI – registration opens at the end of this SD Hist Con!
This promises to be a very special event: numbers are strictly limited by the host to 60 only – first come first served!
The lucky few will spend time touring some cool local historical sites from the American Revolution and WW2 (Battleships! Submarines!)
You can access the registration link at http://www.sdhist.com .


This is the link to the slide deck used for this presentation. Hope you enjoyed it!

PDF version, about 2 MB.

Also, here is the link to the Youtube recording of the presentation… people seemed to like it, though I hate the way I look and sound on media.

Here is the link to the excellent series of posts on game development written by Neal Durando in his blog, that I referenced in the Q&A: http://defling.com/blog/?cat=8

Thanks to everyone who attended, and thanks to Sebastian Bae of GUWS for giving me the chance to talk!

Future GUWS event = me! (December 8, 2020)


For some time now, under the energetic direction of Sebastian Bae, the Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) has been holding regular online webinars and events. Designers and users have talked on many aspects of the professional and civilian uses of wargames. Here’s a link to the GUWS Youtube channel, where many of them can be reviewed. 


Now it’s my turn!

On Tuesday, December 8, from 6pm Eastern (that’s 2200 Zulu Time) for two whole hours (maybe), I will be talking and taking questions on the whys, hows and wherefores of self-publishing and distributing your own wargames. Everything begins with something homemade, and sometimes it just stays that way.

The event is free but you have to register through Eventbrite:

Hope to see y’all there!

Or if not, I will just talk to myself for two hours… I’m good mit der in-jokes.

And later, you can talk about it on the discussion forums at Armchair Dragoons:


Back From San Diego

Well, it was a pretty good conference!

This time, people seemed to have a slightly better idea of what I was talking about… here are my slides and text:

NPG body 8 apr (text)

News Paper Games 6 apr (slides)

I went to a number of interesting presentations too. There seemed to be not as many as the conference in Seattle last year, generally. This might be due to the time of year – someone on the panel I presented with came in the day before, and left the day after to get back to his classes – or due to geographical distances.

The game night was fun, and even catered (though I had already had a big dinner). I taught four people how to play Guerrilla Checkers, and sent them off with copies of their own.

We had pretty good weather too, a few degrees warmer than here but the sunlight was much more direct. Unfortunately, no time for touristy things except that we did get to the USS Midway museum just up the road from the hotel, and clambered around in the guts of an aircraft carrier for three hours. It was fun, I had never been in such a large ship, and the capper was the talking robot in the Captain’s cabin, in the likeness of Captain Larry Ernst, the last Captain of the Midway before it was finally decommissioned in 1991. Spooky video above.

I do regret not being able to get to Balboa Park, where all the museums are. The San Diego Museum of Man had an exhibit on the history of cannibalism, and just a few hundred yards away was the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre! Two of my favourite topics… one would weep bitter tears at missing the combination of the two. Anyway, an excuse to go back to San Diego one day. (Image: the All Puppet Players, of Phoenix AZ)

News Paper Games

… is the not-quite-as-bad-as-last-year title I picked for the short talk I am giving at the national conference of the American Popular Culture Association in San Diego next week.


Here is my abstract:

Ian Bogost’s 2011 book Newsgames: Journalism At Play described the growing use of videogames distributed via the Internet to fulfill the basic objectives of journalism: to inform, educate, criticize and persuade. Manual games (also called board games) distributed or published through magazines or newspapers were long used for the same purposes prior to the creation of the Internet, and the practice continues to this day. Manual games are more permissive of remixing/ reskinning for these objectives than video games, by a wider range of people. As physical and tactile objects, they demand and offer a different form of engagement with the material, on the ludic and informational level. They also particularly lend themselves to parody and satire, leading to a greater consciousness of “critical play” (Flanagan, 2009).

 This paper will focus on past and current examples of how manual games, as inclusions or features in print journalism products, have portrayed and “covered” (in the journalistic sense) contemporary issues and episodes of social, political and actual armed conflict. It will also discuss and present examples, including ones from my own work, of use of the Internet to disseminate manual games with critical and analytic content on current topics, as a form of citizen journalism.

Surprisingly, Bogost’s book does not mention paper games at all (or manual, or board, or analog, or tabletop, whatever term you want to use for games not played on a computer), except for a chapter on crosswords and other word puzzles with some news content in them appearing in newspapers.

Actually, nothing surprising about that… hardly anyone in the field of game studies writes anything about tabletop games. Last year’s conference had nearly 100 presentations in the game studies area, and three of them were not about some aspect of computer, video, digital games generally … two guys talking about people who play tabletop RPGs, and me.

Bored of War…          Back from Seattle

This year there are only about 50 presentations – it seems to be a smaller conference overall, though there will still be a couple of thousand people there – and still only three on non-digital games: one person presenting about narrative in Pandemic: Legacy (still can’t get used to the idea of a game that you scribble on, without first having made it yourself) and one person talking about “Policing Responsible Citizens: The Gamification of Crime Resistance in Children’s Table-Top Games” (seems interesting), and again me.

The fact remains, the practice of producing manual “newsgames”, under most of these genres, has been going on for some time. They remain as uncommon but clear acts of citizen-based social criticism and analytic journalism. And through DTP software, the PDF file, and the Internet for production, storage and distribution they carry on, in ever-greater numbers of PnP designs from ever-greater numbers of people.

Before there were video games there were manual games. But no one talks about it, at least not at an event like this. My talk is not even an argument, really, which I guess is fine because this seems to be a field profoundly ignorant of its origins.

Am I the skeleton at the feast?

Or does this just not have anything to do with elephants, in the room or out of it?

Anyway, there will be a game night like they had the year before, so I am bringing a few PnP items along for show, tell and play.


Back from Seattle

… and things went really well!

Yes, no one had any idea of what I was talking about, but I think that happens a lot at this kind of conference. People are open to ideas and that’s great.

There was also a game night, I brought a couple of copies of Guerrilla Checkers to show and people really liked the game!

I’d like to go next year, mulling over some ideas now.

Script and slides, if anyone’s interested:

Bored of War 20 mar (text, Word)

bored20mar (slides, PDF)

Spoke at TableFlip, October 4-5

City Lights Books and the Transamerica Building

City Lights Books and the Transamerica Building

What a great weekend!

I got into San Francisco in the morning, took the BART in from the airport and spent the midday and afternoon looking around – The city was having a heatr wave, it was 95 degrees on Friday and bright-sunny all weekend. Went to City Lights Books (always wanted to go there) through Chinatown (liked the erhu players on the sidewalk), then over to Amoeba Records (great music and video store) via Haight-Ashbury (ehhh), then back downtown for a meetup with the conference organizers, Tim Hwang and Patrick Ewing, and three of the the other speakers at the conference: Volko Ruhnke of course, David Malki, designer of Machine of Death: the Game of Creative Assassination (http://wondermark.com/mod-game-done/), and Max Temkin, designer of Cards Against Humanity (http://maxistentialism.com/).

Saturday morning David Malki presented on “theme” in games, and as a quick exploration in that topic the audience played the simple kid’s game War (as we all know, one of the longest and most tedious kids’ card games) then each table came up with twists and rethemes – we imagined a three-player, film-noir theme of the game where one player is an investigator, one a villain who has kidnapped the victim Or Something, and one player is Fate, who trips up one or both of the other two.

C3i banner by Rodger MacGowan

C3i banner by Rodger MacGowan

After lunch it was our turn. I will be the first to admit that though I am willing to speak in public (thanks to my time on the debate team in high school (my sole contribution to School Spirit), and teaching recruits when I was in the military) I am not a particularly good improv speaker, nor even a good lecturer – I am always way too tied to my script. But Volko and I tagged off each other in speaking about what went into the design of the two COIN games, and he’s a much more animated speaker, so I think it went well.

Tableflip Script (this is what I read-said)

Ruhnke-Train Wargaming COIN (these are the slides we showed)

It was great to be with people who were willing to try something that, for many, laid outside their usual gaming frame of reference. Tim and Patrick had prepared some attendees beforehand to learn the rules and be facilitators for the games of Fire in the Lake and A Distant Plain; this helped tremendously. After playing for about three hours, we called everyone back together and had a very good discussion about their experiences, and fielded more questions about why and how the games were designed as they were.


The following morning was Max Temkin’s presentation, a very intelligent excursion on philosophy and/of game design via Wittgenstein (helped by a great clip from the Ricky Gervais Show), Magritte, David Foster Wallace and many others. He spoke about the impact and interest, or rather why the impact and interest, of Humans vs. Zombies (the first game he designed, while a college student), Cards Against Humanity, and Johann Sebastian JOUST (this was a new one on me (http://www.jsjoust.com/). Afterwards people played a similar game, Spaghetti Showdown: people begin by standing in a circle, each hand holding one end of a piece of uncooked spaghetti. The last pair of people holding a piece of unbroken spaghetti wins! Immediately the circle breaks up and people very gingerly (or not) start to attack the Pasta of Others.

Spaghetti Joust

Spaghetti Showdown

The fourth speaker was Matt Leacock, designer of Pandemic and Forbidden Desert. I really wanted to stay for his talk, but had to leave to get to the airport in time for my flight back.

This was a fantastic event, very lively with great conversations and ideas flying everywhere – it will take me a while to unpack it mentally, I think.

Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/tableflipcon

Short piece in San Francisco Weekly, by Marshall Sandoval: http://www.sfweekly.com/exhibitionist/2014/10/07/tableflip-conference-lures-players-back-to-the-board-game

David Malki’s account of the fun, not only did he try A Distant Plain he played Guerrilla Checkers too: http://wondermark.com/game-reviews/

And a nice review of the event by attendee Richard Esguerra: https://medium.com/@qubitsu/the-tableflip-conference-reviewed-3a05bd141a54

Connections 2014 presentation: script and slides

Placeholder for the script and slides for the presentation I made at Connections 2014.

Rockin’ video advertising the GlobalECCO game portal not included, sorry.

ECCO script

ECCO slides

Also found on Game Links and Resources page (see above link).