Category Archives: History in board games

Decolonization on the Ground (Decolonization, #2)

In 1900, about half the global population lived under foreign suzerainty. A century later, almost all (formal) colonies had vanished. The climax of this breathtaking process of decolonization was in 1960, exactly 60 years ago, when 17 newly independent states joined the United Nations. We’ve looked at decolonization from a bird’s eye view in the first post of this miniseries. Today, we’re going to zoom way in and look at decolonization processes in individual colonies. First, we’ll get an overview of the agents of decolonization. Then, we’ll look at the ideas that influenced the decolonization struggle as well as the fight for longer colonial rule. Finally, we explore the limits of an explanation which only looks to the colony in question. And, as always, we look at board games.

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Two Kingdoms, One King? England, France, and the Hundred Years’ War

For hundreds of years, England and France were the fiercest rivals in Western Europe – from the wars of the Plantagenet kings of England to expand their holdings in France, to those of Napoleon against various British-led coalitions, and then the overseas bickering in the Age of Imperialism as when the two powers clashed at Fashoda. However, at one point it seemed as if this rivalry might come to an end and the two countries might be united: 600 years ago, the king of France recognized the king of England as his heir! We’ll find out how this came to happen and why it did not work out – and what happened instead. It goes without saying that you can expect board games on the way.
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The Life & Games of Winston Churchill

Eighty years ago, the fate of the world hung in the balance as Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. It is the legacy of one man that Britain fought on: Winston Churchill. This post will retrace his life from his early days through his deeds in war (World War I and World War II) and peace (the inter-war period and his later years). Unsurprisingly, a man of the historical importance of Churchill has inspired quite a few board games which will be our companions on the way.
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The Armies Converging (End of World War II, #2)

It’s been 75 years ago since the largest war in human history, World War II, ended. To commemorate this watershed, I’m doing a mini-series here on the blog. The first post has dealt with the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam that decided the post-war order. This one is about the final military campaigns in Europe.
The final act began in the west with the Allied landing in Normandy and the subsequent liberation of France, in the east with the annihilation of the German Army Group Center in Operation Bagration and the following Soviet advance through eastern Europe. In 1945, the Western Allies reached and crossed the Rhine against a disintegrating German army, whereas the Soviets made the final assault on Berlin. Obviously, I’ll discuss some board games along the way. As World War II is the most popular historical subject for board games, I had to pick very selectively. Let me know your favorite games on the end of World War II in Europe in the comments! Continue reading

The Treaty of Versailles (Century of German History, #10)

Friends of history, board games, and history in board games! Last year, I started a series called „Century of German History“ covering Germany’s turbulent 20th century. For every decade, I picked one crucial event (that happened in the year ending in a 9), placed it into the wider context, and illuminated it with exactly one board game. Now those of you who counted might have noticed that I didn’t finish this series in 2019. One event was missing – that of 1919. You might blame that on my laziness, but I swear, this time, that’s not true. The defining event of 1919 is the Treaty of Versailles to end World War I – and I wanted to cover that with the upcoming Versailles 1919 (Geoff Engelstein/Mark Herman, GMT Games). However, while I was ready for Versailles 1919, Versailles 1919 was not ready for me yet. Now, the game is about to go to the printers, and I can write about this intriguing design which made it to my list of most anticipated historical board games to be released this year. We’ll talk about the powers involved in the peacemaking at Versailles, the process of negotiations, and what became of it. Continue reading

What Was Decolonization? (Decolonization, #1)

Some years ago, I was just about to finish my undergrad studies in history. I had taken an advanced class on decolonization and was writing my B.A. thesis on the decolonization crisis in Angola. As I was already quite keen on board games back then, I was wondering – was there any board game about decolonization? So, as the 21st century goes, I typed „decolonization board game“ into a search engine. What I found was not exactly an entire board game – just a single card of that title from Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games), a game of whose existence I had been heretofore only vaguely aware. Twilight Struggle fascinated me. I’d never seen a game which went so deep and meaningful into history. Also, it was about the Cold War, my main research interest. And so an idea ripened within me. Two years later, I began working on my M.A. thesis on the Cold War in board games.
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Yalta, Potsdam, and the New World Order (End of World War II, #1)

World War II ended 75 years ago. 1945 was thus a massive watershed year in history. The biggest war that had ever been fought came to a close, and a new world order was forged. I’ll explore the end of World War II in a three-part miniseries. As war is an instrument of politics to achieve a better peace, I’ll kick the series off with this post on the conferences at which the great powers discussed the winning of the war against the Axis as well as the peace and the new world order which would follow. Several such conferences were held from 1943 on, but this post will only focus on the last two – the Yalta Conference in February 1945, three months before the end of the fighting in Europe, and the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, two months after the end of the fighting. 1945 was the end of World War II, but was it also the beginning of the Cold War? We’ll look into that question as well. As usual, board games will feature! Continue reading