“Paper Computers” at UVic

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Think I’ll make this the standard image for posts concerning games and game studies. Until I find a better one.

This fall Jentery Sayers, a professor at the University of Victoria (my alma mater and still favoured hangout, when I have the time and opportunity) will be running a fifth-year English seminar/special topic course on prototyping of tabletop games. His very detailed and ambitious syllabus is at the link below.

https://jentery.github.io/508v4/

The “paper computers” term is a reference to a very good piece by Matt Kirschenbaum from 2009, “War Stories: Board Wargames and (Vast) Procedural Narratives” but the course is not about wargames specifically.

No one reading this is likely to be in a position to take advantage of this interesting offering, least of all me, but it’s nice to see the topic being treated in this way.

 

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Off to Consimworld Expo 2018!

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Best cut in cinematic history.

So, very early tomorrow we take off for a week and change in Tempe Arizona, to attend Consimworld Expo 2018. This convention gets bigger every year, there will be at least 275 hardcore gamers there this time.

I am taking lots of things with me, to show and/or test with people:

The Brief Border Wars quad:

Four minigames on border conflicts. Uses a development of the system in The Little War. Pretty much done testing but they are fun and short. El Salvador-Honduras 1969, Turkey-Cyprus 1974, China-Vietnam 1979, Israel-Hezbollah 2006.

Thunder out of China:

4-player COIN system for China 1937-41, I got this one to the 50% mark in 2015 but had to stop due to the need to finish off Colonial Twilight. Event Deck needs work as do a few tuneups. This will be a different twist on the COIN system but only slightly; twist of emphasis, not addition of mechanics.

The District Commander quad:

What, am I bringing back the Quadrigame? This is a diceless system of counterinsurgency at the operational level that I have been working on for a few years. Standard rules are rather long but they are “chatty”, the system is pretty simple and there are lots of possible options/ variations on play; each set of module exclusive rules is written as additions and exceptions to the standard rules.

Four modules: Mascara (Algeria 1959); Binh Dinh (Vietnam 1969); Kandahar (Afghanistan 2009); Maracas (imaginary megacity 2019). Modules feature things like population resettlement, airmobility, insurgent logistics, Agent Orange, monsoon rains, Phoenix Program, non-state militias, criminal gangs, insurgent command nodes, informers, sabotage, etc..

Caudillo:

Multi-player game on Latin American power politics, this brings up the tension between cooperation and competition. Not testing but CSW is a good place to try and snag people for multi-player games (3-5).

We Are Coming, Nineveh

Something new, not my design but I am helping on its development and need some playtester input. Designed by two graduate students of Rex Brynen, a Political Science professor at McGill University in Montreal who uses games in his classes a lot. This is their first essay into game design and it’s good enough that Rex and I are helping on its development for commercial publication.

It is an operational-level game of the Iraqi government campaign to liberate the western half of the city of Mosul from the forces of Daesh between 19 February and 9 July 2017. This was one of the largest and most difficult urban operations of the post-WWII era, and marked a major defeat for Daesh and its so-called “Islamic State.”

Area-movement map of west Mosul, including the densely-built Old City where Daesh forces made their last stand. Unit scale is groups of 100 or so Daesh fighters each, or battalion-sized units of the Iraqi Army, Ministry of the Interior, and elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS). Time scale is about 2 weeks/turn but this is flexible, and not that important. Blocks for both sides, to maintain uncertainty and the “fog of war.”

Capability cards: Before the operation starts, players choose a number of special capability cards. Gives great replayability.

Also during each turn, event cards can be triggered at any time by either player. Some of these indicate the growing collateral damage done to the city and its people. Others generate tactical vignettes: troops can get lost in the maze of small streets, communications can break down, and commanders can be faced with difficult moral and operational choices.

Victory: Unlike most wargames where there is a single measure for victory or loss, the game assesses three key aspects of the campaign: the speed at which the operation is completed, the casualties suffered by Iraqi government forces, and the collateral damage done to Mosul. One might outperform the historical case, capturing the Old City faster—but at a terrible civilian cost.

Going to be HOT and sunny, every day!

I may post from there, probably not as I will be working off a tablet with a tiny keyboard that is an exercise in patience to use.

Be good to each other while I’m gone.

Podcast: I’m on the Grogcast!

http://grogheads.com/podcast/grogcast-season-6-episode-6-interview-with-brian-train

Brant Guillory et al. have been running the “Grogcast” series of podcasts for a long time now. Last week – Season 6 Episode 6 – it was my turn to be on the show! We ended up talking for nearly an hour and a half about various designs, and indulged in some plain old nostalgia.

I really hate my recorded voice, but if you can get past that pinched pedantic halting delivery and umm, uhh, ahh of mine, maybe you can enjoy it too.

Chile ’73 – Out Now!

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image: Tiny Battle Publishing

SURPRISE!

Like a column of trucks and jeeps arriving in the middle of the night, disgorging teams of infantry who fan out and begin arresting Cabinet ministers, my latest game Chile ’73 is upon us!

From Tiny Battle Publishing, in the familiar folio format, comes my latest game (though I had designed it some time ago) on “the other 9/11” … the coup d’etat of September 11, 1973 that overthrew Salvador Allende and established Augusto Pinochet as the leader of the military junta that would rule Chile for a generation.

The ad copy by TBP’s imaginative writers runs thusly:

Coup d’etats are a messy business. Far from carefully orchestrated military precision, when various factions of a populace overthrow a government (especially when they did so before the age of internet), operations are strung together in secrecy, with limited communication between even likeminded factions. Veteran game designer Brian Train’s brand new thriller of a game, Chile ’73, brings the secrecy, the suspense, and then the all-out battle of the coup to your game table. In the first portion of the game, two to four players plot secretly to carry out their own plans to gain or maintain rule of Chile, plotting and scrambling to position their forces to best advantage. Once the coup begins, the entire game shifts to open warfare. Loyalties are revealed, and players battle to the finish.

Civilian and paramilitary units face off against military ground forces, aided by tactical air units and transport aircraft. Do you have what it takes to elevate your cause to supremacy?

Chile ’73 includes:

44 Big, Beautiful, Glossy 1″ Unit Counters
43 Control Chits
18 Action Chits
One Colorful 18″ x 12″ Map
One 12-Page Full-Color Rulebook
One Handy Tactical Plastic Zippered Bag
Game Designer: Brian Train
Game Art: Jose Ramon Faura
Players: Two to Four
Duration: 45 to 90 Minutes
Complexity: Medium-Low

Anyway, here’s the important part: the link to buy!

https://tinybattlepublishing.com/products/chile-73

(physical product, $19.99 – down from $22.99)

http://www.wargamevault.com/product/235664/Chile-73

(Print and Play version, $6.99 – down from $8.99)

[ETA] The game now has a BGG entry, too:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/247195/chile-73

 

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Close-up of map and counters. image: Tiny Battle Publishing

The map and counter art is by Jose Ramon Faura, who also did the art for my games Ukrainian Crisis and The Little War.  Definitely a cut above what I handed in to TBP.

Also, when I originally submitted the game it had 88 counters, to use half of the 176-counter 5/8″ countersheet die TBP often uses. But when the company people played it they thought it would benefit from their larger 1″ counter die. The way that die is laid out let them add seven extra units to the mix, so the game is playable by an even greater number of players – you really aren’t limited to four, technically there is no upper limit and the more the merrier (but there are still only 43 units to command).

This game uses a drastic revision and redevelopment of the system used in one of my first game designs, Power Play from 1991. I’ve always been interested in coups d’etat as a subject for wargames, and it’s a topic that has been touched on only rarely. See this post I wrote for Rex Brynen’s blog Paxsims on the genre:

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/gaming-military-coups/

My original inspiration for the original game was the 1978 film Power Play, featuring Peter O’Toole, David Hemmings and some familiar faces from Canadian movies and TV as officers plotting a coup in an unnamed country. Donald Pleasence fittingly played the head of the secret police.

Yeah, I should have picked a better title for my original game… but Chile ’73  is the game I said I was planning to design in the final paragraph of that Paxsims  article, featuring multiplayer play, hidden information, and hidden agendas… and now you can have it.

Nights of Fire: quite long interview at The Players Aid

NOF cover art mid

Over at the Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz has posted a very long interview I did with him on Nights of Fire.

https://theplayersaid.com/2018/02/19/interview-with-brian-train-co-designer-of-nights-of-fire-battle-for-budapest-from-mighty-boards-coming-to-kickstarter-soon/

Lots of details on how the game came to be, history of the situation, changes during design, detailed look at the structure of the game’s sequence of play and components.

Coming to Kickstarter Real Soon Now!

Thanks Grant!

Tupamaro is out!

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Copies of Tupamaro are winging, rumbling, lumbering their way through the American postal system to all who pre-ordered this folio game from One Small Step Games, at the low price of $19.95.

Everyone else is welcome to buy theirs now, at the slightly higher price of $24.95!

http://ossgamescart.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=105

For more on this game, one of my first completed designs (1994-95), see:

Interview at The Players Aid blog: Tupamaro

short article I wrote about the Tupamaros, at about the time of designing the game

 

Burden of Command

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Nope, not quite…

I never made a practice of playing computer wargames much, and I don’t think I am about to start now.

But it seems to me that there are a few digital designers and developers out there who are thinking about what a game about war should be, and what it should mean to its players, quite deeply. This is an interesting article.

https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/j5v3kp/meet-the-developers-behind-a-wargame-about-people-not-weapons?utm_campaign=sharebutton