Category Archives: History in board games

Winston Churchill (Prime Minister Ratings, #2)

I’ve started a little irregular series called Prime Minister Ratings – assessing British prime ministers by a very general rating system and showcasing one board game in which the prime minister in question or the problems they faced feature. Our first contestant was Robert Walpole, the very first prime minister. Today, we move on to a 20th century heavyweight: Winston Churchill, the man who led Britain through World War II… and was elected prime minister for a second time six years after the war. Our accompanying board game is Churchill (Mark Herman, GMT Games).

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Greek Freedom? (The Greco-Persian Wars, #2)

2500 years ago, the most powerful man in the world, Persian great king Xerxes I, had set out to add another country to his vast domains – small, mountainous Greece. In the previous post we’ve seen what prompted this invasion and how initially things were going well for the Persian invasion force – they broke through the Greek defenses at Thermopylae and thus central and southern Greece lay open to them. This time, we’ll finish the account of the Persian invasion of 480/479 BCE, look at Greco-Persian relations in the following one and a half centuries, and look at how the Greco-Persian Wars were remembered among the ancient Greeks and until today – of course, with board games!

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Mining, Decolonization, and the Cold War: The Congo Crisis

60 years ago, the Republic of the Congo – one of the largest newly independent countries in Africa – was embroiled in a bitter struggle. Four domestic factions claimed either their right to rule the country or to secede from it. The struggle was completed by the international agents ensnared it ranging from the old colonial power Belgium over the superpowers to the United Nations who wanted to preserve their business interests, score points in the Cold War, or redefine their international role. We need to look at the Congo’s colonial past before we can understand the Congo Crisis and, following this, its bloody legacy. As always, board games will guide our way.

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Earth and Water (The Greco-Persian Wars, #1)

Big anniversaries of historical events are often the occasion for me to write something for this blog. 100 years ago, this happened. 500 years ago, that happened. Yet never have I gone as far back with that as I will today: 2500 years ago, in the summer of 480 BCE (keep in mind that there has been no “Year Zero”), a storm was brewing in the eastern Mediterranean. The most powerful man in the world, Persian great king Xerxes I, had set out to make Greece part of his domain. In this post, you’ll find out why he did that, and how his enterprise initially went. The next post (coming in September) will pick up the story from there and tell the rest of the tale of these Greco-Persian Wars and their repercussions until today. As always, there are plenty of board games on the way.

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Half-Year Gaming Report, 2021

2021 is already halfway over! At least the period of January to May felt like the longest five months ever. Yet now summer is here, COVID is retreating where I live, and so we get to enjoy some of the things we love best again. For example, board gaming in person. So far, I’ve only been visited by a friend for some board gaming once this year, but I do plan on stepping it up! Here’s what I played so far in the first six months of the year.

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Sophie Scholl and the German Anti-Nazi Resistance

Living until one’s 100th birthday is not given to everyone. Under different circumstances, a woman from southwest Germany named Sophie Scholl, born May 9, 1921, would have seen hers these days. Yet she did not even live to see her 22nd – having been executed for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets on February 22, 1943. This post traces the various forms of German resistance to Nazi rule – socialist, Christian, conservative and military, as well as the non-conformists like Sophie Scholl. Finally, it looks at what remains from the German resistance – in public memory and board games.

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Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford (Prime Minister Ratings, #1)

300 years ago, Robert Walpole was made First Lord of the Treasury for the second time. Not a particularly impressive event – if Walpole had not retained that office for 21 years and turned himself into the leading British politician of his time. Thereafter, the office of First Lord of the Treasury customarily was given to the monarch’s representative to parliament – the Prime Minister, as the holder became known. As times changed, so did the office: Today, the prime minister is much more responsible to parliament than to the monarch. Yet the office, unofficial at first, has endured these 300 years and been held by dozens of very different men and women. And thus, this post about Walpole will kick off a new irregular series on the blog – Prime Minister Ratings! I’ll assess Walpole (and, in the future, other prime ministers (or even leaders from other places)) by a very general rating system – and I’ll introduce one board game in which the prime minister or the problems they faced feature – this time, Imperial Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games).

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Venice in History and Board Games

One of the most storied cities of the world celebrates its 1600th birthday this year: As legend has it, Venice was founded when three Roman officials established a trade post on the lagoon off Italy’s Adriatic shore on March 25, 421. Since then, Venice has been a refuge, a great power, and a tourist destination. Venice continues to be an inspiration due to its special topography of islands and canals, the enterprising spirits and artisanal skills of its population, and the heights of subtlety and sophistication which its diplomacy, politics, arts, and culture reached. Correspondingly, the city is a frequent subject of board games: 64 are listed in BoardGameGeek’s “family” of Venice games – many more than are set in, say, Milan (13), Florence (25), or even Rome (also 25). This post will take you on a journey through the history and board games of Venice.

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Glasnost and Perestroika

35 years ago, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was about to commence its XXVIIth party congress. Party congresses were rare events, held regularly only every five years. They thus marked an important occasion for the Soviet leadership to talk about past successes and lay out future plans. The XXVIIth party congress was the first one headed by the new general secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev. He set out an ambitious reform agenda. For the next years, the Soviet Union – and the world – would talk about glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). This post is going to cover three questions: What did those terms mean? Which consequences did the policies that Gorbachev set in motion have? And, a question that is especially important to board gamers, who are used to assess events and policies by their strategic value: Were those policies beneficial?

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Playing Nazis? Ethics, Historical Accuracy, and Personal Comfort in Games with Loaded Topics

Earlier this year, I’ve written a post about my most anticipated games to be released this year. Among them was Weimar: The Fight for Democracy (Matthias Cramer, Compass Games), which deals with the interwar Weimar Republic that was toppled by the Nazis. My fellow blogger Dave (check out his blog!) had asked me a year ago how I felt about the Nazis being a playable side in such a game – as this one does not feature them as such, but The Weimar Republic: Political Struggle in Germany, 1919—1933 (Gunnar Holmbäck, GMT Games) does. I’ve been coming back to that question, as it touches on some important matters: Most importantly, one of ethics, which will form the main part of this post. However, there are also questions of historical accuracy, and of personal comfort, with which we will deal in turn. While this post is focused on the two Weimar games, it’ll also take the wider matter into account.

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