Category Archives: The Life and Games of…

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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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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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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The Life & Games of Florence Nightingale

2020 is the year in which we all suddenly discuss hygiene measures and infection rates. Medical workers are recognized as the essential pillars of our society that they are (although much of it is performative, and working conditions in care do not reflect the crucial role of the field). One particular pioneer of our medical system was born 200 years ago, and she made major contributions to all the areas mentioned – hygiene, statistics, and nursing. And thus, it is doubly fitting to dedicate this post to Florence Nightingale, from her early struggle to become a nurse over her sudden fame as a nurse in the Crimean War to her contributions to sanitation, statistics, social reform and nursing instruction – and, at times, to discuss the board games in which she features and the limits of biographies via board games.

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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 Life & Games of Napoleon Bonaparte (Part 2)

Welcome back to the Life & Games of Napoleon Bonaparte! You can find the first part dealing with Napoleon’s biography here. This second part is going to be a little more analytic, examining his military, political, and cultural legacy – and the games about it (see more games also in the first post).

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The Life & Games of Napoleon Bonaparte (Part 1)

BoardGameGeek divides their history-themed games in eras. Only one of them is named after a person (and the one after it indirectly, as Post-). So, how big must you be to have that honor? – Napoleon-big. As Napoleon was born 250 years ago (on August 15, 1769), here’s a post covering his life (from his early years over his mastery of Europe and finally his downfall) and the games about it. Not all the games, mind you. Not even close. In board gaming – as in history and public memory – Napoleon looms large. Continue reading

The Life & Games of Hannibal & Scipio: Part 2

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! Welcome back to our story of Hannibal and Scipio! In the first part of this account, we’ve covered their upbringing as spawns of the noblest families of their respective cities and the first part of the war that would define both of their lives. We’ve seen how Hannibal defeated Roman armies in Italy time and again, but could not force the Romans into surrender. When Rome adapted her strategy and avoided battle with Hannibal, his forward momentum stalled. After a disastrous defeat of the Roman expeditionary army in Spain, the senate sent young Scipio with there to avenge the death of his father and uncle. Continue reading