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 is a strongly asymmetric game – one player represents a group of Communist governments, the other player takes her on with the power of a plethora of different non-state dissidents. Still, both players use the same rules and mechanisms (which makes the rules half as long and the game twice as easy to learn). How come the two sides still feel very different to play? – The answer lies in the theme of the cards. Here the game paints a rich picture of power and protest in a tense moment in history.
Different games have a different dramaturgy. Chess is most exciting in its midgame peak of creativity, sandwiched between the more cautiously calculating opening and endgame moves. Twilight Struggle often works like a pendulum – the USSR makes a strong push in the beginning before the tide turns and the Soviets are forced to defend their gains against the American late-war onslaught. Some games are a dramaturgic melange of multiple interdependent processes – like Here I Stand which mixes the unpredictability of military campaigns with the race for ever scarcer New World exploration and conquest opportunities and the pendulum of the reformation and counter-reformation. All of these tell a story about their source material: Chess tells you that a battle can be planned for, but that you will still encounter things you have not seen anytime before when the fighting is thickest. Twilight Struggle evokes the memory of the expanding Soviet power of the 1950s and 1960s before the West reined supreme again. Here I Stand makes you realize how many different things were going on at the same time in the early 16th century, how all of them were different and yet they were connected.
So, what is the dramaturgy of 1989? Which story about the Eastern European revolutions does it tell? In early 1989, the countries in the region were firmly Communist. By the end of the year, drastic transformations had taken place in all of them. So, 1989 tells the story of how the wave of history swept away the Communist governments. We’ll see which mechanisms the game uses for that and how they play out during a game. Continue reading
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.