Category Archives: History in board games

Barbarossa, the Legend (The Life & Games of Frederick Barbarossa, #3)

Welcome back to the third and last part of the Barbarossa miniseries! Now that we’ve looked at Barbarossa’s earlier and later life until his death, one would think we’re done with him. Far from it! Barbarossa had an active afterlife in the memory and myth of those who lived after him.

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Barbarossa, the Pragmatist (The Life & Games of Frederick Barbarossa, #2)

Welcome back to the second part of the Life & Games of Frederick Barbarossa! In the first part, we’ve seen how this fascinating medieval emperor gave everything to establish imperial rule over the Italian cities and the pope in the first 25 years of his reign. In his later years, which are the subject of this post, his style of governance changed – Barbarossa turned from a universalist aiming for the highest goals into a pragmatic politician (who still conducted ambitious projects). These relate to Italy, the stomping ground of his early years as a ruler, to Burgundy and Germany, the western and northern parts of his empire, and finally, even to the Middle East whence he crusaded in the last years of his life.

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Barbarossa, the Fighter (The Life & Games of Frederick Barbarossa, #1)

900 years ago, one of the most famous and fascinating rulers of the Middle Ages was born: Frederick of Hohenstaufen, who would be the first emperor of his name. He is known more commonly by his nickname “Barbarossa” – Redbeard. While not nearly all of his enterprises succeeded, the sheer amount of them – and how close he came in fulfilling even his highest ambition – leaves the modern onlooker in awe.

This is the first of three parts on his life & games, dealing with his early life and the rise to emperorship, his first failure and success, and his protracted struggle with the pope and the Italian cities. Future parts will look at Barbarossa’s later life and his legacy.

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Four Princes / Here I Stand (Book & Game, #2)

Back to the book & game pairings to educate and entertain about a certain historical topic! After our kickoff with the Eastern Front of World War II, we’ll go a little bit further back in time, landing in the early 16th century: The Reformation is shaking up Europe, and powerful rulers try to make the most of these turbulent times… both in Four Princes (John Julius Norwich) and Here I Stand (Ed Beach, GMT Games).

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Ludwig Erhard (Chancellor Ratings, #1)

Last year, I have inaugurated a new irregular series on my blog assessing the merits of UK prime ministers (illustrated through the lens of a single board game each). The rating system seemed robust enough to apply it to other countries/leaders (at least if they are more or less democratic). Thus, I’m branching out! After our first US president earlier this year, we now do a German chancellor – Ludwig Erhard, nicknamed “The Father of the Economic Miracle”. After a quick introduction to the rating system and an overview of Erhard’s life, we go straight into the rating. The accompanying game will be Wir sind das Volk! (Richard Sivél/Peer Sylvester, Histogame).

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Russia’s War / No Retreat! The Russian Front (Book & Game, #1)

Welcome to a new (irregular) series on Clio’s Board Games! As you know, I love playing history in board games, and as you also know, I also love reading about history. So, we’re pairing the two! (Think of it like a sommelier recommending a wine & cheese pairing.) Here’s a book and a board game that match each other for gaming/reading that is as enjoyable as it is educational. We begin with the Eastern Front of World War II: I recommend Russia’s War (Richard Overy) and No Retreat! The Russian Front (Carl Paradis, GMT Games).

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The Life & Games of Wernher von Braun

Tumultuous times do not only change history-at-large, but also the lives of individuals. A person might have to move to another country and start anew. It’s hard to continue a successful career after such a sharp break in life. It’s particularly hard if the first part of your career was based on the exploitation of slave labor in the service of a totalitarian dictatorship that warred against your prospective new employer. And yet, a German rocket engineer did just that – he developed rockets for the Nazis, transitioned, and then held a crucial position in US rocket development and the space flight program that put the first man on the moon. “How did he do it?”, you wonder? – Gather ’round while I tell you of Wernher von Braun.

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Specific and Universal Responses to Crises: The Truman Doctrine

These days, we experience one of the most violent foreign policy developments of the last decades: Russia has invaded Ukraine. It is the culmination of a crisis that has been in the making for years – at least since the Euromaidan protests of 2013/2014 ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian government and Russia subsequently annexed Crimea. During the entire crisis, the posture of western governments (most notably that of the United States) has been of great interest: Ukraine has sought a closer alignment with the West to gain economic and military assistance. At the same time, Russian president Vladimir Putin has been committed to rolling back western influence and to prevent further countries bordering Russia from joining the western alliances.

US posture has been not uniform over these eight years: The annexation of Crimea presented the Obama administration America with a fait accompli, and Obama reacted with lukewarm sanctions. Obama’s successor Donald Trump was proud of his alleged good personal relationship with Putin, watered down the sanctions, and even attempted to extort Ukrainian president Volodymyr Selenskyy by tying an aid package for Ukraine to Selenskyy’s announcement of investigating Hunter Biden’s business activities in Ukraine. Current president Joe Biden has taken a tougher line on Russia again, but the exact response to the ongoing crisis is still in flux.

That brings us to today’s article: How does the United States react to local crises in faraway countries? After all, most Americans (including many elected officials and bureaucrats) know little of the place in question. Still, America’s global role resting on its political, military, and economic leadership demands that these crises are addressed. This challenge was by no means smaller when America was just about to transition into the role of a global power in the 1940s. One event stood out among the developments back then: Rooted in two specific local crises, president Harry S. Truman’s speech on March 12, 1947, asking Congress to approve of a support package for Greece and Turkey would have far-reaching implications for US foreign policyuntil very recently.

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The Life & Games of Thomas Edison

Every public figure is more than just a person – they’re that person’s public image as well, and this image is often far larger than the person themselves. A prime example is Thomas Edison. Of course, he made a few major inventions (and an immense number of minor ones). But Edison is not just an inventor – he is the symbol of technological and scientific progress, and his fame extends even into fantastical realms. As such, his life is also immortalized by a number of board games.

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Franklin D. Roosevelt (Presidential Ratings, #1)

Last year, I have begun a new irregular series on my blog assessing the merits of UK prime ministers (illustrated through the lens of a single board game per prime minister). The rating system seemed robust enough to apply it to other countries/leaders (at least if they are more or less democratic). Thus, I’m branching out! Today, we’re doing our first US president. And we’re starting with none other than 20th century heavyweight Franklin D. Roosevelt. The accompanying game will be Cataclysm (Scott Muldoon/William Terdoslavich, GMT Games).

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