Playing the Nazis

benno

http://analoggamestudies.org/2019/09/playing-the-nazis-political-implications-in-analog-wargames

In the new number of the Journal of Analog Game Studies, Giame Alonge writes on the history and recurrent appeal of Nazi roles and symbology in board wargaming.

Giame Alonge is a Professor of Film Studies at the University of Turin, and a lifelong wargamer. He wrote a review of the anthology Zones of Control anthology (Harrigan and Kirschenbaum, eds.), and he and I had a correspondence about the blind spots of wargames about modern and contemporary warfare mentioned in “Chess, Go and Vietnam”, the chapter on insurgency games that Volko Ruhnke and I co-wrote for the anthology.  I’m pleased to see that our discussion has helped inspire him to write this piece.

In it he also invokes Susan Sontag’s excellent essay “Fascinating Fascism”, a connection I’ve often thought about but have never seen someone else mention in connection with wargames. Sontag wrote the essay in 1974, when wargaming was still on its way up but still wrestling with its closet-Nazi problem. I rather doubt Sontag would ever have heard about wargaming at the time but if she had, she would regard it as one more example.

As Alonge points out,  Sontag said, “for fantasy to have depth, it must have detail”. This certainly underlines what I and others have written about that pointless degree of historical intricacy in OOB research , pointless because it misses the point precisely and entirely… that is, the Benno Effect.

New book out – Small Wars

dwtcoincover

Released today, from John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project: Small Wars, New Perspectives on Wargaming Counterinsurgency on the Tabletop.

The book contains six sets of rules for playing out situations from 20th and 21st century irregular wars. It’s a bit unusual in that all but one of them are written to portray the action at the operational/ campaign level, where each stand of figures on the tabletop represents a large combined-arms unit. Using card-based systems, these games are particularly suitable for the solo wargamer.

  • Boots on the Ground: Company Level Actions in the early 21st Century
  • An Isolated Outpost: Six Months in the Sahara
  • Eight Years in a Distant Country: Soviet involvement in Afghanistan
  • Ovambo: Counter- insurgency in South West Africa
  • Good Morning Vietnam: LBJ’s War 1965-68
  • Flying Column: The Irish Troubles 1920-21

Oh, and I wrote the foreword, and supplied a list of readings and games on counterinsurgency! Look in the front and the back, when you are done having fun with these rules.

Buy your copy now at:
http://www.wargaming.co/recreation/details/dwtcoin.htm

Prices are quite reasonable and are printed by print-on-demand arrangement with lulu.com, so your copy doesn’t take very long to reach you.

Book video review: Zones of Control

ZOC book cover

Or maybe it’s a video book review!

Two reviews of the Zones of Control anthology on Youtube: a lengthy one by the notorious Marco Arnaudo.

https://youtu.be/rF0_YiWzlBo

And a shorter one by the Bonding with Board Games group, who also do the HAMTAG (Half As Much, Twice As Good) show

https://youtu.be/mk0UhBAhku4

By the way, MIT Press is having a sale on this and every other book they carry until Monday!

You can get a copy of this for 40% off, or just thirty Yankbucks!

https://mitpress.mit.edu/zones-control

And be sure to look elsewhere in the Game Studies area, as there are some other very good titles there.

https://mitpress.mit.edu/category/discipline/game-studies

Eight pages of stuff and like always 95% of it is about digital games and gaming, but I have bought and liked:

  • Works of Game: on the Aesthetics of Game and Art, by John Sharp
  • Uncertainty in Games, by Greg Costikyan
  • The Well Played Game: a Player’s Philosophy by Bernard de Koven
  • Critical Play: Radical Game Design by Mary Flanagan (excellent book)
  • War Games: A History of War on Paper by Philipp von Hilgers

Use promocode GIVEBOOKS40 at checkout. Hurry, offer ends at midnight 11/27/2017!  (Discount applies to website purchase only.) Service is prompt and shipping is pretty reasonable too.

An unexpected but very welcome comparison

ce1bf0d2c849c71d324bf21e7c7f7e47-terminal-dune

Over on Boardgamegeek.com I posted a link to the review on Armchair General (Review of Colonial Twilight in The Armchair General). In a reply to the ensuing thread, user Paul Heron wrote:

I feel I ought to point out that, while the tone of CT is certainly serious, it thankfully isn’t sanctimonious, earnest or po-faced.

In fact, a refreshing element of this game for me has been the flashes of humour in there (also to be found in some of Brian’s other designs, Ukrainian Crisis for one). For instance, the Jean Paul Sartre card with its tagline, ‘Either way, he and Albert Camus are no longer friends.’

While some may argue that humour is inappropriate in a wargame, unless the game as the whole is intended as satire (War on Terror), my view is that humour has always been a part of war, and not only as a ‘defense mechanism’ employed by soldiers and civilians.

Rather, humour/absurdity is in an odd way one of the intrinsic elements of war (and the literature of war seems to me to confirm this), part of its troubling strangeness, what novelist J.G. Ballard called the ‘casual surrealism of war’ (which probably more often is simply weird and jarring, rather than blackly humourous).

As the son of British ex-pats living in Shanghai when the Pacific War began, Ballard spent his early teens in a Japanese internment camp. In particular his experience, in the dog days of the war, of leaving the camp and exploring the devastated and largely abandoned city, seems to have left an especially vivid impression on him, informing all his subsequent writing (only a small portion of which – his 1984 novel Empire of the Sun for instance – is explicitly about war).

Incidentally, like the jokes that Brian sneaks into his games, much of Ballard’s writing is slyly humourous – ‘guerrilla humour’ as it were, rather than the more obvious sort that bludgeons you with massive frontal assaults (War on Terror again springs to mind).

Those who know me well, know that J.G. Ballard is one of my absolute favourite writers. This guy gets me!

(oh man, can this day get any better?)

 

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)

Over at Hollandspiele: Designer’s Remarks on Ukrainian Crisis

Over at the Hollandspiele company blog, some more remarks and description by me on Ukrainian Crisis, which is coming out in the next 2-3 weeks:

https://hollandspiele.com/blogs/hollandazed-thoughts-ideas-and-miscellany/designers-remarks-on-ukrainian-crisis-by-brian-train

I’m really looking forward to this game’s first physical publication! Kind of running out of things to say about it, though – people should just play it, already.

Simulacrum back issues CD now available

chop

Friends,

I will be making copies of the final Simulacrum back issues CD available. It contains all 33 issues, in PDF.

Price is $45 US, which includes postage to anywhere in the world. Paypal to me at brian.train@gmail.com. All funds will go to John’s widow Fresca, the “Imprimatur Diaboli Advocati” as she was referred to in the masthead.

For reference, I went through all the issues and compiled an index of all the articles and games reviewed in each issue – it is here:

index-by-issue-and-game

Thanks for your interest.

EDITED TO ADD:

I regret to say that Fresca has also passed on. In future, all funds from sales of Simulacrum back issues will go to his surviving son Ian, a promising young carpenter with three kids.

I am also making a “download only” version of the files available, for people who do not have a CD/DVD drive in their computer or who don’t want to wait for the postman. The price is the same at $45 US, because I eat the production and postage costs for the physical version. Distribution is through a one-time download link emailed to you. Let me know which option you would like when you enquire.