Board gamers dig archaeology. Board Game Geek lists over 140 games with an archaeology or paleontology theme, and seven of them have 10,000 or more ratings. That’s even more impressive if we consider that archaeology is not exactly a ubiquitous human activity (unlike other popular themes like commerce, construction, or warfare). Why is archaeology so popular? – I think the main draw is that it’s perceived as an exciting activity which combines physical and mental challenges. Let’s have a look at the three main roles archaeologists fulfil in board games – that of an adventurer, of an excavator, and of a scholar.Continue reading
Tag Archives: Popular Culture
Axe, Shield, and Helmet
This article was originally published in the first issue of Conflicts of Interest magazine. You can read the entire zine – with its excellent articles on topics ranging from queer history in the 18th century over tips for Vassal play to a full re-skinning of a game on a 20th-century American scandal to fit 17th century Britain – here for free!
The wealth of popular depictions sets Vikings apart from less-common game subjects. When designers come up with a Viking game, they know that their audience already has a preconceived notion of what will be featured therein.
Of course, one of the most popular conceptions of vikinghood is combat. Because the historical Vikings spent most of their time farming, crafting, trading, raising children and a wealth of other non-violent activities, combat and battle is often blown well out of proportion in popular depictions. Most of these base their interpretation on the frequent Viking raids from which their name is derived: a “Viking”, originally, was the term for the raid rather than for the people who undertook it.
In this article, we’ll examine depictions of Viking combat in five of the most popular board games with a Viking theme. “Combat”, for the purposes of this article, encompasses typical Viking raids, full-blown wars, and other forms of organized struggle by these predominantly Scandinavian seafaring people.
The Many Explanations for the Collapse of Communism (1989, #1)
The ancient history professor Alexander Demandt has enumerated 210 theories why the Western Roman Empire had fallen that had been proposed in the 1500 years since the Empire’s collapse. They ranged from the abolition of the gods to vulgarization and everything in between – fighting multi-front wars, excesses, lead poisoning, decline of the “Nordic character” of the Romans, female empowerment, you name it. While the Roman Empire is gone for a bit longer than the Soviet Empire, the number of explanations for the sudden end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe are almost as manifold as those for the fall of Rome. That speaks of the surprise that the collapse of Communism was, and never was this process faster or more dramatic than in the year 1989. This article will look at the first group of explanations for the collapse of Communism and how they are represented in the board game 1989 (GMT Games, Ted Torgerson/Jason Matthews), kicking off a series on how history, politics and culture intertwine in 1989.