If You Liked This, Try This – Books and Board Games

The cold season is upon us (at least for most people in the northern hemisphere), which means it’s time for books. And board games. Maybe both? Can the feel of a book be transported into a board game or the other way round? Naty from Naty’s Book Shelf and I are on a mission to find out!
In case you read fiction, definitely check out Naty’s blog for some interesting takes on books. If you don’t read fiction, what are you even doing with your life? Start reading fiction! Naty’s Book Shelf has some nice recommendations for you.
So, today we will give you some ideas which books resemble which board games and vice versa. I’ll start with two book recommendations based on board games you might have enjoyed, and Naty gives two recommendations the other way round. We have purposefully avoided books/board games which are from the same intellectual property (“If you liked this Star Wars book, play this Star Wars game). It’s about the feel of a game! Continue reading

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Süddeutsche Spielemesse 2018

Fall is the season for fairs and conventions. Summer’s heat has come and passed, and now people are flocking back to the warmth of inside events. Christmas comes ever closer, and so every publisher wants to bring their new games to the market – and every gamer wants to find out what is worth wishing for or giving to others. The Stuttgart Game Fair (Süddeutsche Spielemesse, Southern German Game Fair) is no exception.
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Hannibal & Scipio: Part 1

Two of the greatest commanders of antiquity died in 183 BCE, 2200 years ago. Their names are Hannibal Barca and Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus – but Hannibal and Scipio will do to refer to them.[1] Their lives have many parallels – long absences from home, an adult life dominated by war in the first and politics in the second part, and finally the experience of being an individual too big to fit into one’s small community. We’ll look at their youth and their fortunes in the war when they were in Carthage’s favor in this article. A second part will cover the second part of the war when Rome struck back and Hannibal’s and Scipio’s years after the war that defined both their lives.
There are many board games which deal with the dramatic events of the second war been Rome and Carthage which I will discuss here. The most prominent one (and the one I will draw upon the most) is Mark Simonitch’s Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (Valley Games). I took the pictures of the new edition Hannibal & Hamilcar (Mark Simonitch/Jaro Andruszkiewiecz, Phalanx Games).

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Giveaway: Twilight Squabble!

Friends of history, board games, and history in board games! Welcome to my first-ever giveaway. You have the chance to win Twilight Squabble (David J. Mortimer, Alderac). Twilight Squabble is a quick game (10min) of the global power struggle, the space race and the threat of nuclear devastation during the Cold War for two players.

Here’s how it works: Follow my blog (with your WordPress account or e-mail address) and share this post on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, or GooglePlus (see buttons below). This giveaway is worldwide!

The German Revolution 1918/19

One hundred years ago, World War I came to a close. It had been unlike any other war before, and it thoroughly smashed the imperial order of the 19th century. Now that might not have been overly surprising for a monarchy like the Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe”, or Austria-Hungary with her ten major ethnic groups looking for self-determination in this age of overflowing nationalism. Even the immense Russian Empire was a giant on feet of clay with its numerous political, social, and economic contradictions. But the German Kaiserreich? Before World War I, it was the most powerful country in Europe, and ever growing more powerful. And yet, the Kaiserreich was swept out as well and replaced by the first German republic. Let’s have a look at this extraordinary story. First, we’ll go into the military situation by the end of 1918. Then we’ll move on to the surprising November Revolution, and finally go into the atrocities of 1918/19.

Defeat and Desertion: The German Military at the End of the War

Four years of fighting had already passed by 1918. The material superiority of the Allies became ever harder to bear for the weary German army. In spring 1918, de facto military dictator Erich Ludendorff dared one last gamble: If he could knock out the allies with a major offensive on the Western front before American troops would arrive by the masses, Germany might still win.

1918 Storm in the West

Germany’s last offensive is the topic of 1918: Storm in the West.

Ludendorff’s gamble failed. By August, the Allies had not only contained the German thrust, but were themselves advancing and breaking through the German front. A military victory seemed impossible now. Only a negotiated peace could offer Germany a way out. Ludendorff, however, wanted nothing to do with that. Anything less than victory would be dishonorable for the German army, so he preferred that others would have to wear that stain. Ludendorff resigned and pressed for a parliamentary government (complying with US president Wilson’s outline for a post-war order) to clean up after him. While the government was nominally still headed by the aristocrat Prince Max von Baden, the actual power brokers were the Social Democrats as the strongest party in parliament, especially their leaders Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann.

A Revolution for the Government: From Kiel to Berlin

Not all military men were ready to give in like that. Some still placed hope in a military solution to improve Germany’s position and uphold the will of the Germans to fight – and, above all, allow the military to go out in a blaze of glory instead of an ignominious retreat. The ideas went so far to include a suicidal cavalry charge on the Western Front, led by the Kaiser himself. But no military victory could come from that. Only the navy could still provide a quick and decisive success. As the navy had not gotten the chance to prove their worth during the war (being blockaded by the superior British Royal Navy), the admirals were especially eager to carry out the blow. They concocted a plan to sail forth the entire navy aiming at London – without ever consulting their new civilian government about that.
Their sailors, of course, got wind of the plan. And they were not willing anymore to go on a suicide mission for the glory of their commanders – especially as most of them supported the new Social Democratic government. Some sailors at the main naval base in Kiel were arrested for mutiny when they refused to prepare their ships for the big attack. The others demanded their immediate release. When soldiers shot into the crowd of protesting sailors, the revolution began. The sailors took over Kiel in no time at all. Troops sent to put them down joined the cause of the revolution. It spread from city to city over the north of Germany like a wildfire and reached the capital Berlin. Neither the civilian government nor the military headquarters with the Kaiser could keep up with the speed of events. On November 9, Max von Baden desperately announced the abdication of the Kaiser without consulting him (to save monarchy as such) and the Kaiser fled to the neutral Netherlands. On the same day, however, Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the republic in Berlin. Just hours later, Karl Liebknecht, the leader of the leftist Spartacus League, declared Germany to become a socialist republic after the Russian model.
Although almost all of the revolutionary sailors, soldiers, and workers were Social Democrats (be that of the main Social Democratic Party or the Independent Social Democratic Party which had opposed the war), the Social Democratic leadership remained skeptical of the revolution – especially the new chancellor Friedrich Ebert, who would have preferred Germany to become a constitutional monarchy. For the time being, the Social Democrats kept an uneasy alliance with the Independent Social Democrats, and the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils which had assumed local power everywhere in Germany during the revolution. Ebert, however, looked for other allies. He found them in the army leadership under general Wilhelm Groener, who was ready to support the Social Democratic government against the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils.

Atrocities and Excesses: Civil War in Germany

In December, Ebert and the army made their first move to unseat the Congress of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils. However, the troops sent to Berlin for that matter were not as loyal to the government as Ebert might have hoped. Many of the soldiers just wanted to be home for Christmas and had no interest in taking any further part in fighting. Others sprung to action too early, so the strike against the Congress failed. Ebert and the army managed – with the support of the press from Social Democratic to right-wing national newspapers – to lay blame for the fighting on Liebknecht’s Spartacus League. On Christmas, the People’s Navy Division in Berlin broke with the government over matters of command of the division and withheld pay. Ebert sent an elite Guard Division against them which was repelled. The People’s Navy Division – unconcerned with the larger political situation – did not capitalize on their success, but just kept demanding to have a say in choosing their commanders and be paid.
In January, mass protests erupted over the killings of some activists of the Councils. The Spartacus League concluded that the masses were ready now for the socialist revolution. They were not, and the horrible military leadership of the Spartacists doomed their uprising from the beginning. It fell apart after only a few days under the artillery shells of the military. Great War-style fighting had now come to downtown Berlin. Liebknecht and his fellow Spartacist leader Rosa Luxemburg were captured by soldiers of the irregular, right-wing Freikorps whose founding the government and army had supported. Both of them were murdered. From March to May, further uprisings, strikes, and council-based governments in German cities were put down by the might of the army and the Freikorps.

The Weimar Republic’s Legacy of Foundational Violence

By the time of these altercations, the National Assembly which was to give the new German republic its constitution had already moved away from volatile Berlin and instead settled in quiet, provincial Weimar. The Weimar Republic, as it came to be known, was, as we’ve seen, founded on violence – symbolic violence the government carried out to show who was in charge. During the early 1920s, various violent uprisings – like the right-wing Kapp Putsch and Beer Hall Putsch or the left-wing Ruhr Red Army uprising were also put down by government forces (and, in case of the right-wing putsches, by workers’ strikes and combat units). The violence used to found the republic came to haunt it in its last days: The Weimar Republic crumbled under the riots of the 1930s which gave way to Nazi rule.
Sadly, there are no board games yet (that I am aware of) which deal with the tumultuous time in German history in 1918 and 1919. As other conflicts of that period – like the Finnish Civil War or the Estonian War of Independence – have recently gained gaming attention, I’m optimistic the same will happen for the German revolution of 1918/19.

Edit: Chris over from Tactical Practical is working right now on a German revolution game! I had seen his earlier development posts (and subconsciously plagiarized the original title of this post from him), but could not find them anymore on his website. Some more search, however, produced all of his development posts. I recommend you check them out – it’s a fascinating view not only on a possible German revolution game, but also into the process of game design when everything is still in flux.

Game Referenced

1918: Storm in the West (Ted Raicer, Command Magazine)

Further Reading

If you read German, I recommend the well-written Haffner, Sebastian: Die verratene Revolution, Scherz, Bern 1969.
For the role of violence in the revolution and for the Weimar Republic, see Jones, Mark: Founding Weimar. Violence and the German Revolution of 1918—1919, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2016.

SPIEL 2018: Most Anticipated

You say „board game fair“, I say “SPIEL” at Essen. It’s the Mecca for the tabletop gaming faithful. Four days of playing, trying, and buying. 160,000+ visitors. I’ve been there the last two years for two days each and found it an intensive board game experience. Unfortunately, time constraints (not to mention that going to such an event is exhausting, albeit in a good way) prevent me from going this year, but that can’t stop me from writing a short list of the history-themed board games that look most interesting to me. Maybe some of you who can attend find a new gem! And maybe I’ll get to try these games out some other time as well. The games are sorted by location at the fairgrounds. Continue reading

The 1973 Oil Price Shock and its Consequences

We are used to the ever-changing price of oil as one of the central indicators of the economy. Sometimes, the price is high, like in 2008, when a barrel cost over $120. Sometimes it is low (like in 2016 at $33/barrel). And sometimes somewhere in the middle (as it is now around $80/barrel). However, for almost three decades after World War II, permanently cheap energy fueled the post-war economic boom that has not seen its like again. Oil became the lifeblood of the global economy then and accounted for almost half of the global energy consumption in 1972. Initially, much of it came from American oil exports, but as American consumption grew, the country became an oil importer and the Middle Eastern countries picked up the baton as the leading oil exporters. But what would happen if that essential resource suddenly became expensive? The world found out during the oil price shocks of 1973. We’ll have a look at how the crisis came to happen and to be resolved, which short-term impacts it had, and how things turned out differently in the longer run. As always, expect board games!

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