Author Archives: cliosboardgames

About cliosboardgames

Musings about history, board games, and history in board games.

2022 Holiday Gift Guide feat. Naty’s Bookshelf

As the end of the year nears, many hallowed traditions come to us. One of them, of course, is the annual collaboration post between Naty (from Naty’s Bookshelf, your prime source of book recommendations and reviews) and me! Here’s what we’ve done in the previous years together:

This year, we’re giving gift ideas – board games (written by me) and books (written by Naty), particularly suited for the more casual gamer or reader.

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The Statesman (Early Islam, #2)

A few weeks ago, you’ve read the tale of the birth of Islam – Muhammad’s revelation, his initial teachings, and the flight to Medina. That’s where we continue the story of early Islam today. As Muhammad, the protagonist of this story, juggled with several balls at any given time, this account will not be entirely chronological. Instead, we’ll look at his early clashes with the Quraysh from Mecca, his ascendancy in Medina as well as his political and social reforms there, and finally his unification of Arabia under the banner of Islam.

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Adventurers, Excavators, Scholars: Archaeologists in Board Games

Board gamers dig archaeology. Board Game Geek lists over 140 games with an archaeology or paleontology theme, and seven of them have 10,000 or more ratings. That’s even more impressive if we consider that archaeology is not exactly a ubiquitous human activity (unlike other popular themes like commerce, construction, or warfare). Why is archaeology so popular? – I think the main draw is that it’s perceived as an exciting activity which combines physical and mental challenges. Let’s have a look at the three main roles archaeologists fulfil in board games – that of an adventurer, of an excavator, and of a scholar.

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Essen SPIEL Recap 2022

Once more, the SPIEL fair at Essen has come to an end. It’s been a few intense days of looking, meeting, and, of course, playing. I took things a bit slower this year, not playing quite as many games and instead focusing on the enjoyment of those that I played. I think it worked well. Here’s what I particularly enjoyed.

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SPIEL 2022: Most Anticipated Board Games

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 (before COVID, that is). I’ve been there a few times over the last years for two days each and found it an intensive board game experience. After a two-year hiatus, I’ll be attending again this year. In preparation, I have perused Board Game Geek’s list of releases (fairly expansive, also including new editions, expansions etc.) which stands well over a thousand items for the most interesting (often, but not always history-themed) games so you don’t have to.

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The Revelation (Early Islam, #1)

What can be said to have lasted long in history? As I post this article, Liz Truss has been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for only twelve days. Queen Elizabeth II has just died after a reign of 70 years. The United Kingdom itself has been in existence for 201 years.

What can be said to have left its mark on history? – Liz Truss certainly hasn’t (yet). Elizabeth II has, a delicate fingerprint of ceremonial monarchy. And the United Kingdom has left indelible traces almost everywhere in the world.

Yet all of them pale in longevity and importance to the story you’re going to read today. It begins almost one and a half millennia ago. It has swept the world from Spain to Indonesia. And almost two billion people follow its teachings today. I’m talking about Islam, of course (you read the headline, didn’t you?).

The story of early Islam is a story of a remarkable land – Arabia. It is the story of a remarkable experience – revelation. And it is the story of upheaval which was not only religious, but also social and political.

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Brazil’s Long Way to Independence

Brazil is many things. One of the largest and most populous countries in the world. Home to an unrivalled biodiversity. A melting-pot of indigenous, European, and African culture. All of these aspects have shaped the history of this fascinating place, and it is almost criminal that in five years of blogging I have never written about Brazilian history before. I will make amends for that amidst the preparations for the bicentenary of Brazilian independence. This article aims to shed light on this atypical, and, in many ways incomplete decolonization process. As I assume most of my readership is unfamiliar with Brazilian history, I’ll give a quick rundown of Brazil’s colonial history and the dramatic events of the Napoleonic period which acted as catalyst for Brazil’s independence before going into the independence process itself. As you rightly expect, board games will feature on the way – yet I have to warn you that there are way too few which are published so far.

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How to Win at War of the Ring (Three Basic Tips, #9)

When you have just learned a shiny new board game, especially one which is a bit longer and more complex than others, it’s nice to have some strategic direction. That’s what I aim to provide with my series Three Basic Tips – strategy advice for beginner and intermediate players that is easy to remember and yet gets you places.

War of the Ring (Roberto Di Meglio/Marco Maggi/Francesco Nepitello, Ares Games) is certainly a bit longer and complex than other games – 48 pages of rules and three hours of game length (if you’re inexperienced, rather more) demand a certain commitment from players. At the same time, with its beautiful presentation and its very popular setting it draws in people who are not necessarily heavy gamers to begin with. And that’s fine! As long as you have another person who knows the rules, the game plays pretty straightforward – roll your dice, choose one, conduct an action with it. In fact, I’ve used The War of the Ring as a gateway game to lure in an unsuspecting person into the wonderful world of board gaming!

As there is so much to discover in the game, your first plays should be fun no matter if you win or lose. Still, if you want to improve your chances of victory, here are three basic tips that help you out – both when playing the Free Peoples and the Shadow.

Sidenote: You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge – that might be useful if you want to have a better look at the maps!

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The Rise of the Great Powers / Imperial Struggle (Book & Game, #3)

Back to the book & game pairings to educate & entertain about a certain historical topic! Today, we’re looking at the power struggles of the 18th century with Britain and France occupying center stage, often called the Second Hundred Years’ War. Our book & game for this topic are The Rise of the Great Powers 1648—1815 (Derek McKay/H.M. Scott) and Imperial Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games).

Check out my previous Book & Game posts here:

Eastern Front: Russia’s War and No Retreat! The Russian Front

Reformation Era: Four Princes and Here I Stand

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Axe, Shield, and Helmet

This article was originally published in the first issue of Conflicts of Interest magazine. You can read the entire zine – with its excellent articles on topics ranging from queer history in the 18th century over tips for Vassal play to a full re-skinning of a game on a 20th-century American scandal to fit 17th century Britain – here for free!

The wealth of popular depictions sets Vikings apart from less-common game subjects. When designers come up with a Viking game, they know that their audience already has a preconceived notion of what will be featured therein.
Of course, one of the most popular conceptions of vikinghood is combat. Because the historical Vikings spent most of their time farming, crafting, trading, raising children and a wealth of other non-violent activities, combat and battle is often blown well out of proportion in popular depictions. Most of these base their interpretation on the frequent Viking raids from which their name is derived: a “Viking”, originally, was the term for the raid rather than for the people who undertook it.
In this article, we’ll examine depictions of Viking combat in five of the most popular board games with a Viking theme. “Combat”, for the purposes of this article, encompasses typical Viking raids, full-blown wars, and other forms of organized struggle by these predominantly Scandinavian seafaring people.

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