Tag Archives: Economy

How to Win in Wir sind das Volk! (Three Basic Tips, #7)

You know the general idea of this series: You’re a new or intermediate player of a strategy game and look for some easy-to-digest tips that will see your fortunes improve without you having to read tomes of strategy literature. That’s what we’re doing today for playing Wir sind das Volk! (Richard Sivél/Peer Sylvester, Histogame) – well, almost. Wir sind das Volk! is not a game to accept easy answers to complicated questions. There’s a reason I called it the most nuanced Cold War game out there. This nuance does not only allow the game to tell a compelling story of the two Germanies, but also makes it a bit tougher to give generalizable tips. So, I’ll give you two basic tips – which actions to prioritize and what the most important track is– and one that requires a bit more in-game thinking: Regularly assess the victory and defeat conditions and act accordingly.

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Into the Abyss: The Global Economic Crisis and the Fall of the Weimar Republic (Century of German History, #8)

I’m doing a series on German history in the 20th century on my blog this year. In intervals of 10 years, I pick a crucial event and explore it – with the help of precisely one board game. You can find the previous posts here:

Today, we’re going all the way back to Germany’s interwar Weimar Republic and the global economic crisis beginning in 1929. We’ll look at the vulnerable foundations of this new democracy, the immediate effects of the economic crisis, and the part the crisis played in the fall of the Weimar Republic. Also, we’ll discuss the perpetual questions if the Weimar Republic failed and if its fall was inevitable. The game to accompany all of this is Weimar: The Fight for Democracy (Matthias Cramer, Compass Games). The game is to be published next year, so all the components you see here still have the playtest art which will of course be polished. Designer Matthias Cramer provided me with the pictures and answered some questions of mine about the game and its portrayal of the crisis – very kind of him! Continue reading

World War II (Century of German History, #6)

I’m doing a series on German history in the 20th century on my blog this year. In intervals of 10 years, I pick a crucial event and explore it – with the help of precisely one board game. You can find the previous posts here:

Today, we go back to September 1, 1939 and the German attack on Poland – the beginning of World War II. The game that accompanies us is Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games). Now the events of World War II from the first shots to the final surrender of the Axis powers are well known (and covered by myriads of books, articles, and, yes, board games). Therefore, I’ll skip the narration of who conquered what when and instead focus on three crucial perspectives on the war and the board game: How was this war different from other great power wars before? How does the game balance between freedom of action of the players and recreating a historical outcome? And why does Unconditional Surrender capture an essential aspect of the war?
Finally, this post will also serve as the starting point of a new project: I’ll do a detailed Unconditional Surrender after action report. Follow my Twitter account for live updates (and vote on strategic decisions) and check out the larger narrative on the blog! Continue reading

Wir sind das Volk! (Games about the Cold War, #7)

Welcome back to the seventh installment in my series on board games about the Cold War! Today, our game will be Wir sind das Volk! (Richard Sivél/Peer Sylvester, Histogame). As usual, we’ll look at it in both game and academic terms. There are three aspects of Wir sind das Volk! which stand out to me: Its primacy of domestic politics, the decision-making aspect of the special cards, and the strong asymmetry of its two powers.

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The 1973 Oil Price Shock and its Consequences

We are used to the ever-changing price of oil as one of the central indicators of the economy. Sometimes, the price is high, like in 2008, when a barrel cost over $120. Sometimes it is low (like in 2016 at $33/barrel). And sometimes somewhere in the middle (as it is now around $80/barrel). However, for almost three decades after World War II, permanently cheap energy fueled the post-war economic boom that has not seen its like again. Oil became the lifeblood of the global economy then and accounted for almost half of the global energy consumption in 1972. Initially, much of it came from American oil exports, but as American consumption grew, the country became an oil importer and the Middle Eastern countries picked up the baton as the leading oil exporters. But what would happen if that essential resource suddenly became expensive? The world found out during the oil price shocks of 1973. We’ll have a look at how the crisis came to happen and to be resolved, which short-term impacts it had, and how things turned out differently in the longer run. As always, expect board games!

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Standoff at the Nile: The Fashoda Crisis

By the late 19th century, the presence of Europeans in Africa had become familiar – as merchants, missionaries, explorers, colonizers, planters, or conquerors. Yet they were rare enough that the meeting of two groups was still a special event. And one of the most special of those happened 120 years ago at the Nile in what is now South Sudan. The French Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand and the British Major-General Herbert Kitchener had met in the village of Fashoda – each with a small army under their command. While the two officers personally got along well, the rivalry between their governments placed the threat of war over their heads. But why would two major powers squabble over a small Sudanese village? The one-word answer is colonialism, but let’s be more specific. In the end, the Fashoda crisis did not lead to a war and instead paved the way for one of the more unlikely alliances of history. As usual, expect board games on the way!

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Towards a Bipolar World: The Marshall Plan

Seventy years ago, the Cold War had just begun. World War II had just ended. But how did the Cold War begin, and what did it have to do with World War II? Was it a natural consequence, inevitable even? We’ll explore some of these questions through the lens of a major event that linked World War II and Cold War: The Marshall Plan.

Today, the Marshall Plan is often forgotten or simply remembered as a foreign aid scheme (mostly when its memory is invoked for new programs like a “Global Marshall Plan”). We will, however, not only look at what the Marshall Plan was and which effect it had for rebuilding the European economy, but also at its implications for US influence in Europe, and how and why American and Soviet treatment of Europe differed so sharply. We’ll use two board games to have a closer look at these things: Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games) and Wir sind das Volk! including the 2+2 expansion (Richard Sivél/Peer Sylvester, Histogame).

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The End of the Socialist Empire (1989, #3)

There had been uprisings against socialist rule in Eastern Europe before 1989. However, when things threatened to get out of hand, the Soviet Union would send tanks to quell the revolts (most famously in Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968). 1989 was different. The Soviet forces remained in their barracks as the wave of revolution washed all Communist governments in Eastern Europe away. How did that happen? Why did the Soviet Union just watch while their Eastern European empire slipped away? After having previously examined the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Western governments in 1989, this article will deal with the role of the Eastern European leaders (especially in the Soviet Union) in 1989. First, we’ll look at the remarkable changes Mikhail Gorbachev brought to the Soviet Union, and then at the erosion of Communism under the economic circumstances of the late 1980s.

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Confrontation and Cooperation from the West (1989, #2)

The first article in this series dealt with the peoples of Eastern Europe as the agents of change in 1989. Not all explanations for the collapse of Communism center on them, though. Especially in Western Europe and North America, the role of Western governments in the end of the Cold War has been surveyed thoroughly. Paradoxically, there are two diametrically opposed explanations how Western governments might have enacted the end of Communist rule in Eastern Europe – by confrontation or by cooperation with the East. We’ll look at both in this article. Continue reading