Strike for Berlin has struck

Yaah 11 cover

Yesterday I got an entirely-too-large-for-the-purpose box from Coolstuff Inc., containing my designer copies of Strike for Berlin (along with a year’s worth of styrofoam packing peanuts – unfortunately not the edible kind).

Very nice physical presentation; quality map and counters by John Cooper; good diecutting and the maps match up if anyone wants to play the Link Game; even some interesting articles in the magazine. The rules are bound into the back section of the magazine and you cannot remove them; you should probably make copies of the more useful charts.

One thing they did not have room for was an expanded and annotated Sequence of Play that I have taken to writing for my games, as a way of ushering players through a turn until they get used to the sequence. So here it is:

S4B exp sequence

Thanks, hope you enjoy the game!

And if you haven’t had a chance yet, buy it here: https://flyingpiggames.com/products/yaah-magazine-issue-11

Brian

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Strike For Berlin: interview at The Players Aid

Yaah 11 cover

Happy April!

Over at the Players Aid blog, Grant Klenheinz has an interview with me all about Strike for Berlin, the redesign of Freikorps that is appearing in issue #11 of Yaah! magazine… which is now at the printer’s, and will be out later this month.

https://theplayersaid.com/2018/04/03/interview-with-brian-train-designer-of-strike-for-berlin-appearing-in-yaah-magazine-issue-11-from-flying-pig-games/

Still available for pre-order at $35 for the physical product ($3 off the regular price), and $15 for the PnP version ($4 off the regular price)!

https://flyingpiggames.com/products/yaah-magazine-issue-11

Available for pre-order: Yaah! #11, with Strike For Berlin

Yaah 11 cover

Coming in April!

Strike For Berlin is a revised version of my earlier game Freikorps. It has had the same level of revision to it as Konarmiya got to become Red Horde 1920: that is, a new interleaved sequence of play, new map and terrain analysis, new order of battle research, loads of new and improved optional rules and variants.

Yaah 11 counters2

Map and counter art by the very capable John Cooper, who also did Red Horde 1920 and Winter Thunder.

And yes, Strike for Berlin‘s map will join with Red Horde 1920‘s so that you can play one long hot summer of Central European war, from Kiev to Berlin. Essentially you start with a game of Red Horde 1920 and play until Warsaw falls, then you carry on with renewed proletarian vigour… to strike for Berlin!

Yaah! magazine #11 is now available for pre-order, at $35 ($3 off the normal price):

https://flyingpiggames.com/products/yaah-magazine-issue-11

Copies of Red Horde 1920 are also now on sale at $29 instead of $35, so you can buy a copy now and practice while waiting for the sequel game.

https://tinybattlepublishing.com/products/red-horde-1920

This is my second appearance in Yaah! magazine… my first was in issue #2, which had my games Army of Shadows and Uprising, as well as the rules for Guerrilla Checkers and a short article by me on the value of abstract games (From YAAH! #2: Thinking About and Through Abstract Games)

https://flyingpiggames.com/products/yaah-magazine-issue-2

By the way, if anyone is balking at the price of postage, downloadable copies of all the above are available through Wargame Vault, at usually less than half of the price of the physical product.

http://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/9307/Flying-Pig-Games

http://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/9069/Tiny-Battle-Publishing

Coming soon: Strike For Berlin!

s4Bctrsnip

Chunk of the playtest countersheet. Proper counters will be done by John Cooper, who also did Winter Thunder and Red Horde 1920.

s4Bmapsnip

Elongated blurry slice of the playtest map. Proper map will also be done by John Cooper.

Yaah! magazine #11, which I am told will probably ship in March 2018, will have my game Strike For Berlin in it. Opening blurb to the rules:

STRIKE FOR BERLIN is a simulation game of a hypothetical invasion of Germany by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’s (RSFSR) armed forces in 1920.  The game is for two players, one representing the irresistible forces of proletarian revolution (called the Red Player), and the other the (hopefully) impervious alliance of anti-Bolshevist forces that would have been arrayed to oppose such an invasion (called the White Player).

The game begins just after the Red Player’s forces have won the Battle for Warsaw in mid-August 1920.  Sensing that “over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration” (Tukhachevsky, leader of the Red forces, in a communique), the leadership of the RSFSR has decided to go for broke and seize Berlin, capital of a Germany in political and economic disarray.  However, it is already late summer and they cannot sustain a military effort of this size past the onset of bad weather at the end of October. The Red Player has just ten weeks to change the course of world history.

This is a complete makeover of 1998’s Freikorps, just as Red Horde 1920 was a complete makeover of Konarmiya. 176 counters, 17×22″ hex map. Same updated and revised system, and like Red Horde this one has lots of optional rules to vary the game, including: armoured trains; the Trotsky Train (making a reappearance); the Red Baltic Fleet; Entente units and the Royal Navy;  different deployments and structures for the Reichswehr; Danzig – what of Danzig?; and Red conscription on the march.

And of course, just as with their predecessors the two games can link, so you can play one long game from May to October of 1920, on a combined map that stretches from Kiev to Berlin.

I just handed in the files for this game, so no better samples or even kooky cover art to show… but when it’s time, you can pre-order your copy here. Price will likely be $40 but there’s usually a 10% pre-order discount, and the PnP version is generally less than $20.

https://flyingpiggames.com/t/yaah-magazine

Army of Shadows at Big Board Gaming

http://bigboardgaming.com/army-of-shadows/#more-6500555407

Over at the Big Board Gaming blog, some quick notes and a video explaining how to play.

He likes it, hey Mikey!

From YAAH! #2: Thinking About and Through Abstract Games

The second issue of YAAH! magazine is out, containing three abstract games by me (Army of Shadows, Guerrilla Checkers, Uprising). I also wrote a short simple article on the think-value of abstract games, these in particular, hooked to Ben Franklin’s love of chess. It’s partly adapted from a presentation I gave at Connections-UK in 2013.

Hope you find it interesting!

FranklinHowe_o

Thinking About and Through Abstract Games

 – by Brian Train

Benjamin Franklin loved Chess. He was always up for a game. In the illustration, the year is 1774 and he is playing with Caroline Howe, sister of Admiral Lord Richard Howe and General William Howe, who would command British forces during the American Revolutionary War.

He loved chess so much that in 1786 he wrote an essay on it, called “The Morals of Chess”:

 “The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it.

By playing at Chess then, we may learn: 1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action … 2nd, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: – the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; … 3rd, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily….”

In this short piece I would like to talk about Army of Shadows, Guerrilla Checkers and Uprising as examples of abstract games to discuss in light of the points Ben Franklin raised, and their value in developing other skills.

But first, some history: in 2011 I was invited to visit the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California to discuss a project to develop part of a website that would support the Regional Defense Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP). Under the CTFP, officers of foreign militaries attend training and courses, both in their own country or at centres in the United States, to give them the capability to build, manage, and sustain their own counter-terrorism programs.

One challenge with any training is to make it stick with the student, and make the student stick with it. Programs like the CTFP are intended to build an international and constantly developing network, and it is vital to keep alumni talking and in contact with each other. The NPS, as a major centre for delivering training under the CTFP, was developing the Global Education and Collaboration Community Online (GlobalECCO) website, to support students and alumni of the program. Besides print and visual resources on various aspects of combating terrorism, the website would feature a gaming portal. Current and former students and faculty of the CTFP would be able to play strategy games online to foster camaraderie through friendly and competitive play, and broaden and improve specific thinking skills. It would also be a resource for faculty to use to supplement their classes.

The first principle of game-based learning is that the game used should teach simple, basic principles and dynamics quickly, in an interesting way. Everything else is either additional detail or gets in the way of this. In discussing with faculty and staff of the NPS what sort of games to develop for the website, we felt that by providing a combination of simple games with deep strategy, we would have the best chance of creating experiences for the players that would let them get on with the mental contest. We did not want them to struggle with the language of the rules, or a difficult and detailed user interface for an attempted “simulation” that could also be carrying unintended ideological or cultural baggage.

We chose Guerrilla Checkers for the site because it combined two well-known classical games with simple mechanics into something new, with surprisingly deep strategy. I designed this game in 2010. I had been working with some other people on an Afghanistan game, and about oh-dark-I-don’t-want-to-look-at-the-clock one morning I was staring at the ceiling and thinking about the insurgents and counterinsurgents there. Both sides, while occupying the same section of the world at the same time, nevertheless approached the physical terrain (ridges, gullies, roads) and the human terrain (villages, tribes, relationships) in completely different ways. Why not have a game where the two sides are playing with quite different pieces working in quite different ways, but are using the same board with the same ultimate aim of neutralizing the enemy? There are not many abstract games like this, but I liked the idea of asymmetry between players, and Army of Shadows and Uprising would follow on with this concept.

We also agreed we wanted a game for the site that highlighted the essential mismatches between the antagonists in an insurgency: low information vs. high information, and low power vs. high power. I discussed this with Michael Freeman, a faculty member at NPS, and went away to create Army of Shadows and Uprising – two very different design takes on this general idea.

Both games have some common threads between them:

  • First, the concept of the board as an empty symmetrical surface, with the ultimate objective at its centre. The Nexus and Capital represent a concentration or “peak” of power or legitimacy for the State, and so have to be defended; meanwhile, the rebel or insurgent moves in from the political/organizational – not geographical – “hinterland” to occupy it through processes of stealth and growth.
  • Both games are forced to a climax if the Rebel player is to win; in Army of Shadows, he has to dominate the space around the Capital, and in Uprising he must declare the Revolution and dismantle the State (by eliminating all Agents).
  • Both games are “single-blind” games where the Insurgent player can see all and make moves accordingly, and the State player can discover information only through Interrogation and probes.
  • The essential asymmetry of forces – few but unkillable State pieces or Agents (that is, until the Revolution), and numerous but fragile Insurgents – is also emphasized in both games. An uncommon touch is giving the State player a choice of what to do in both games when he captures an Insurgent piece. He can either kill it right away, removing it from the game, or keep it prisoner, which will give him some additional advantages – though there is a slight chance that a prisoner will escape!

Army of Shadows was implemented for the website under the name Asymmetric Warfare. Besides Guerrilla Checkers, the site also features InfoChess (a Chess variant designed by John Arquilla, another faculty member at NPS) and several less abstract games on the spread of ideologies, financing of terrorist networks, and the stability vs. legitimacy dilemma faced by governments confronting domestic insurgencies. Meanwhile, I continued to give away copies of Guerrilla Checkers and Uprising I had made myself, at game conventions and conferences I went to.

Value of abstract games

Now, back to Ben Franklin. He understood that games help us to think about how the world works in new ways, and to change perspectives. Every society plays games; play itself is a universal human experience. This is one reason why games give us so many metaphors in every language.

Games are there not just to amuse; they are used to instruct, teach and otherwise mold brains. Abstract games have been used as teaching tools and intellectual exercises for military students and professional officers, for centuries. And in civil society, developing skill at Chess, Go or other “deep” games was once considered part of a gentleman’s education.

There is an established body of research on cognitive development and improvement through playing Chess and other abstract games. The quote by Benjamin Franklin illustrates three of the abstract thinking and cognitive skills developed by Chess: foresight, circumspection, and caution. The same could be claimed, to a greater or lesser degree, by nearly any abstract strategy game, and to these I would add other skills such as:

  • Strength of memory, pattern recognition, and pattern manipulation. The game of Go is one of the world’s oldest games. It features undifferentiated pieces and an empty board that has pieces placed on it during the course of play. Guerrilla Checkers of course borrows from this for the Guerrilla side, and from Checkers for the mechanics of the COIN player’s movement and multiple-capture ability. To play either of these classic board games well, you have to be able to recognize classical patterns and arrangements of pieces, just as much as you have to learn combinations in Chess. Meanwhile, Army of Shadows requires memory skills on the part of the State player.
  • An ability to create and reason through alternatives, and to take action without complete information. During play of any of these games, there will always be a wide choice of possible moves, and you have to exercise your judgement about which one is optimal. Army of Shadows and Uprising are games where incomplete information is central to play: players must exercise their decision-making skills with this limitation, to discover or deceive the opponent. (Oddly enough, no one seems to have thought of retrofitting the idea of hidden information to classic Chess until “double-blind” Chess, also known as Kriegspiel Chess, was introduced about 1895.)
  • The mental flexibility necessary to appreciate asymmetry in situations, that is, to be able to flip roles mentally and play from another’s perspective. All three of these abstract games rely on an asymmetrical balance of forces at the beginning, and in each game the players win in different ways. The teaching point is to demonstrate that battles are seldom if ever symmetrical, in force structure or objective. They also play quickly enough that within an hour you can play one or more pairs of games where you switch roles.

All of these skills are critical to creative problem solving. What more could you ask of the development of a leader, analyst, or other decision maker – or for that matter, your own brain?

YAAH, YAAH, JAWOHL…

uprisingyaah2 Issue #2 of YAAH! magazine, featuring two of my abstract games, will be taking pre-orders as of April 3: http://www.flyingpiggames.com/yaah–magazine-issue–2.html Pre-order price is $24.99; after it ships in May sometime it’s $29.99. Also, to beat steep international postage costs of $20 you can get a PDF download for $14.99 and you then print out the games. The above illo is the preliminary game art for Uprising. I have been told there will be a few changes. Lots of other interesting stuff in the issue too – scenarios, reviews, interview with Alan Emrich, and more!

Includes a short piece by me on the think-value of abstract games, starting with Benjamin Franklin’s love of Chess, his essay on the morals of Chess, and the mental exercise afforded by different types of abstract games (especially the three of mine in this issue!)

Looking forward to this one.