Tag Archives: Politics

Report on the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (USEAAR, #12)

 

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.
Written by Salvatore Graniti, Secretary of Legation in the Italian diplomatic service, recently posted to the Italian embassy in London

To his Excellence the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Italy
Sir,
the following report on the recent developments in the political leadership of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is most humbly submitted to you.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Right Honourable Neville Chamberlain, has resigned from his post during a meeting of the War Cabinet in the evening of December 18, after the last German soldiers had been expelled from the south-east of England. He argued that the failed invasion had irrevocably damaged the confidence Parliament and the British people could have in his leadership. He is succeeded by the previous Foreign Secretary Edward Wood, Viscount Halifax. Continue reading

Roosevelt Wins Third Term (USEAAR, #11)

This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.
Front page of the New York Times

November 6, 1940

ROOSEVELT DEFEATS DEWEY, WINS THIRD TERM
Incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt will remain in the White House for another four years. He is sure to have carried at least 311 electoral votes in yesterday’s presidential election. While his challenger Thomas E. Dewey has won more states (likely 29), President Roosevelt’s strength in the populous mid-Atlantic and southern states had him come out on top. Mr. Roosevelt will be the first president of the United States to be sworn in for a third term. Continue reading

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

1989 (Games about the Cold War, #6)

How time flies – it is already the sixth installment of my series on board games about the Cold War (here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Today, we go to the very end of the Cold War – the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989: Dawn of Freedom (Ted Torgerson/Jason Matthews, GMT Games). As usual, we’ll look at it in both game and academic terms.

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Days of Ire (Games about the Cold War, #3)

Welcome back to the third installment in my new series on board games about the Cold War! In case you missed them, you can find the first two posts here and here. Today, our game will be Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 (Katalin Nimmerfroh/Dávid Turczi/Mihály Vincze, Cloud Island). As usual, we’ll look at it in both game and academic terms.

What kind of Cold War is this game?

Days of Ire is a game about the struggle between Hungarian insurgents on the one side and the Hungarian state security forces and the Soviet army on the other in 1956. The Hungarian insurgents have various crises popping up over the game board to solve while avoiding a loss of moral or utter physical defeat. The game can be played one-versus-one, one-versus-many, and cooperative/solo.
At first glance, that does not sound a lot like the Cold War. Unlike our previous two games in the series, only one superpower is involved and there is no nuclear side to the entire affair! Well, yes. But at least the superpowers placed the 1956 Hungarian Uprising in a Cold War context (although not exclusively so on the Soviet side), and the events were linked to others outside of Hungary (like the Suez Crisis and the egging on of the insurgents by Radio Free Europe). So I’ll count Days of Ire as a Cold War game.

What’s Noteworthy About the Game?

Days of Ire is in many respects an unconventional Cold War game. That is most striking in its depicting of female agency, its visual design, and its genesis.
I have analyzed six Cold War board games for my thesis in depth (and touched upon 20 more). Days of Ire is the only one of these games to have a woman among the designers (Katalin Nimmerfroh, who also did some of the art). It is also the game in which women are depicted with the most agency: Two of the four playable characters are women. Almost half of the fighters (who can be activated by the revolutionaries) are women, and notably they grant both traditionally female (healing, food supplies) and male (fighting) bonuses. And, of course, the most striking female presence is the young woman which dominates the box cover. She, as well, combines traditionally female (long flowing hair) and male (rifle) attributes.

DoI Cover

Cover image of Days of Ire, ©Cloud Island.

Let’s talk some more about the visual design. Aside from the various styles employed for different items (the cards for the state security forces are inspired by Communist propaganda posters, for example), what is most impressive is how the visual design brings the functional and the authentificating side of the game together. That begins with the game board: Making it look like a map is a classic way to increase players’ identifications with their roles. After all, their counterparts would have often done the same – imagine the Soviet general Zhukov bent over a map, deciding where to deploy his tanks in Budapest. So, the map’s mediacy (as you are not seeing any people or buildings up close from an onlooker’s perspective) adds to the game’s immediacy (as you feel you are right in the shoes of the actual decision-maker). Days of Ire, however, goes beyond that. The game board turns your gaming table into the desk of the decision-maker: The locations are marked by old photographs which seem to be pinned to the map and connected by strings. There is even an “ashtray” on the game board, as if you as the Soviet commander or the leader of the revolutionaries are nervously chain-smoking while planning your movements. Once more, the design brings authenticity and functionality together: The ashtray doubles as a holding box for reminder chits.

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Days of Ire game board. Note the pins-and-strings to denote locations and connections, and the ashtray holding chits.

One group of people is notably absent from the visual design (compared to other Cold War games): Political leaders barely feature in the pictures. Instead, we get to see civilians and soldiers galore. That helps the players identify with these ordinary people, but it also takes the events somewhat out of their political context.
What remains is a narrative of a patriotic Hungarian uprising against Soviet, vaguely Communist foreign rule. One wonders how much that is due to the game’s unique genesis: Contrary to most other board games, Days of Ire was not conceived primarily for commercial motives or as a labor of love of the designers. It was initiated by a diplomat posted at the Hungarian embassy in Warsaw for the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the events in 2016. He acted as a historical consultant and influenced some of the design decisions – for example, to include a fully-cooperative mode, and to unify Hungarian state security forces and Soviet army into one player. After the release, the game was also submitted to the Ministry of Human Resources by the Hungarian publisher and approved as supplementary teaching material for Hungarian schools.
Among the Cold War board games, I bestow on it the title of The Most Visually Beautiful .

 

War and Peace: Germany and the Kosovo (Century of German History, #3)

Welcome to the third installment in my series Century of German History! Every post in the series sheds light on a focal event of German history in the 20th century and illustrates this event with precisely one board game. You can find the two previous posts here and here.
The first half of the 20th century was a storm of blood in Europe, and Germany was right at its center. After the Nazi atrocities, long decades of peace followed in Europe, and Germany – especially the political Left committed herself to a non-violent foreign policy. When ethnical tensions flared up again in Kosovo, a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and new mass carnage loomed to break out in the Balkans, how would the newly constituted center-left government of Germany deal with it? Let’s go back 20 years and find out. Our game will be This War of Mine (Michał Oracz/Jakub Wiśniewski, Awaken Realms).

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