Farewell 2018 – Highlights on the Blog

All my experiences this year, be they new-to-me games, historical fiction, non-historical games, historical non-fiction, or historical games have influenced my writing here. So, not without pride, I present to you what I think were my best blog posts this year. As my creations are dear to my heart, I go beyond the usual top three format and give you six entries.

Highlights on this Blog in 2018

More than a Proxy War: Angolan Independence and Civil War

In the 1970s and 1980s, everything was linked to the Cold War. That included African decolonization. Yet so many more factors were at play, and the idea of bipolar global conflict was often just a lazy cliché. Have a look at a little-known conflict in which Cuban soldiers with Soviet weapons guarded American-owned oil platforms against US-funded guerillas trained by Chinese military advisors. Yes, it was this wild.

Angola MMP Box Cover

Box Cover of Angola (Phil Kendall, Multi-Man Publishing).

Hannibal & Scipio: Part 1

Two of the greatest commanders of antiquity died 2200 years ago. Their intertwined stories are the stuff for many an exciting retelling, and so I took the opportunity to do one along the lines of the board games that are devoted to their feats. Watch this space for part 2 coming somewhen next year!

Cannae

Battle goes awry for the Romans in Hannibal & Hamilcar (Mark Simonitch/Jaro Andruszkiewicz, Phalanx Games).

Turning Weakness Into Strength: Benefitting from Opponent Events in Twilight Struggle

A rare feature on this blog – the strategy article. Twilight Struggle has the fascinating mechanism that both players draw from one deck, and if you play a card aligned with your opponent, you gain the operations points, but the opponent’s event is triggered. I have put together a list of cards where you can use the opponent event to your benefit and thus gain a double advantage!

soviets-shoot-down-kal-7

Not your favorite card as the Soviets in Twilight Struggle – but one with which you can play a nasty trick on the US. Image ©GMT Games.

The Military Bubble… and How to Find Out of It

My most controversial post on this blog to date. I have been called a virtue-signaling Social Justice Warrior on Twitter for espousing a Clausewitzian perspective on war – the second-weirdest thing to happen to me on social media this year after having a tweet overrun by Marxist-Leninists who argued that Stalin was a much better guy than Gandhi.
I’ve gotten much more positive than negative responses to the article, however, and I think it deals with two important questions: Why do we have so few games that take their history theme seriously which are not about war? And why do our games of war so often focus on the strictly operational, leaving out any kind of civilian, economic, or political context?

The Grizzled

Box cover of The Grizzled (Fabien Riffaud/Juan Rodriguez, Sweet Games). Is this a wargame? Board Game Geek says no, players representing frontline soldiers notwithstanding.

Under Siege: The Berlin Blockade and Airlift

The history of Berlin in the 20th century is a string of dramatic events. One of the most dramatic was when West Berlin was sealed off by the Soviet Union shortly after World War II and needed to be supplied entirely through the air by the Western allies. What’s more, a lot of board games include references to the Berlin Blockade and Airlift (or are even entirely devoted to them)!

Berlin Airlift Legion

Box cover of Berlin Airlift (John Poniske, Legion War Games).

But, the article that means the most to me this year is, of course, this one:

The Cold War in Board Games

I finished my M.A. thesis on this very subject in May, so I was pretty excited to share some of my key findings with you. I developed a methodical framework with which historians can fruitfully board games and applied it to a sample of six Cold War themed board games, dissecting their takes on time and space, agents and agency, competition and confrontation, power and ideology, ends of and alternatives to the Cold War. From now on, I will go into some of the games and findings every once in a while on this blog. Stay tuned!

20170324_115019

The dominoes are falling in South East Asia (picture from a Twilight Struggle game).

For 2019, I wish you all the best! May you have the time and friends for gaming, and may your understanding of history ever broaden. Thanks for reading this little blog!

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