Tag Archives: Twilight Struggle

Farewell 2019 – Historical Board Games

I do Top Threes in various categories as my end-of-year posts. So far, I have done this year:

And here, finally, is the pinnacle of Top Three posts for the end of the year – historical board games! That’s what you’ve come for. So, without further ado, here are the three history-themed board games with which I had the most fun I this year:
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Twilight Struggle (Games about the Cold War, #8)

Ah, the Cold War. By now, a firm trend in historical board gaming. Every five minutes there is a new release full of Soviets and Americans and espionage and nuclear threats. But you know who liked Cold War board games before it was cool? – Yep, that hipster was me. I just went overboard and decided to dedicate the rest of my (short) academic life to those games. My original inspiration for that was a quaint little game which I found very interesting from both a gaming and a history perspective. And so I come full circle. The game which first prompted me to think about board games in an academic way now makes the last installment of my Games about the Cold War series – a worthy capstone. Its name is Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games). Maybe you have heard of it.
Okay, enough of the irony. Of course you have heard of Twilight Struggle! Everybody has. The game, the myth, the legend! Twilight Struggle had such a massive impact on the development of board games and especially on those about the Cold War that it cannot just be analyzed by itself. Instead, after a short intro on what Twilight Struggle is, I want to share some thoughts on Twilight Struggle‘s paradigm shifts in Cold War board game design and its legacy.

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Willy Brandt and Détente (Century of German History, #7)

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 1969, when Willy Brandt took office as chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the policy of détente across the Iron Curtain he implemented then. Here, the „German question“ of reunification merged with superpower détente into détente between West Germany and the Soviet Union as well as her allies in Eastern Europe. And when it comes to matters of détente and confrontation, our accompanying game can be no other than the famed Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games). If you are interested in Brandt’s life beyond détente, check out one of my very first blog posts on exactly that matter. Continue reading

Farewell 2018 – Highlights on the Blog

All my experiences this year, be they new-to-me games, historical fiction, non-historical games, historical non-fiction, or historical games have influenced my writing here. So, not without pride, I present to you what I think were my best blog posts this year. As my creations are dear to my heart, I go beyond the usual top three format and give you six entries.

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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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The Cold War in Board Games

As some of you know, I’ve been enrolled in university to complete my M.A. program in history for the last few years. It’s been the end of a long journey through academic history which began in 2010 with me as a bright-eyed freshman in my undergrad history classes. During these eight years, I have not only taken classes on everything from late classical Greece to the history of spaceflight. I’ve also interned, gone abroad for studying, worked for election campaigns, and finally taken up a regular day job before I’ve graduated. All of this has taken time, and that’s the reason why I spent a longer time enrolled in university than most. I even took longer for my M.A. than for my B.A. And all of this has given me valuable experience, made me more employable, and helped me grow as a person. I cordially recommend all of you out there who have the chance to look outside your college campus to seize this chance. The more you know outside of a classroom, the better for you, and for the world.
I know that not everybody has these opportunities. I was incredibly privileged. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed good health, and I had a generous student grant from a prestigious foundation to cover my living expenses. I was enrolled in programs that allowed for student engagement with the world off-campus, and I had advisers and supervisors who were flexible and encouraging about projects which might give experience but might also delay graduation. Most importantly, I come from a country where university does not cost more than a symbolic fee, and where students from low-income households even receive assistance in the form of half a grant, half an interest-free loan (of which no more than € 10,000 must be repaid). Without all these privileges, a young person like me – brought up in a single-parent, low-income household without any relatives who’d ever graduated from college when I enrolled – would have never been able to succeed like I did. I am grateful for that. I also regard it as a responsibility. I have been able to fulfil my potential because others and the society in which I live allowed me to. I will personally strive to enable others to fulfil their potential, and work for a society which allows as many people as possible to fulfil theirs.
This post, however, is not about my personal journey. As you know, this blog deals with history, board games, and history in board games. As it so happens, so did my M.A. thesis. I dealt with both my academic and my personal passion – the Cold War in board games. Let me share some insights of the thesis with you. If you’re interested in the why and how and what of the thesis, check out the research interest of the thesis, its methodology, and the sample of board games I used for it. You can also skip directly to my key findings on history-themed board games in general and the Cold War in board games in particular. Continue reading

Fall 1983

The Cold War had its fair share of tense moments – think of the Berlin Blockade in 1948 or the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962… and then there was the fall of 1983. None of the events of fall 1983 were as iconic by themselves, but together they formed an impressive string which made the world anxious if the Cold War was going to turn hot more than once. We’ll have a look at the new American policy after the fall of détente and then go right into the grim fall of 1983 – all of which through the lens of Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games).
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