The Actual Table


Wait until he finds out that the Soviets can win the Cold War in Twilight Struggle.


Haha, I’m sympathetic to all these views, but on the other hand I feel like what’s the point of designing a game around a situation if you’re not going to try to capture what makes that situation unique. The global nature of the jihad in the game vs the actual local, fragmented nature of “it” in real life was I thought in particular a good criticism.


One of the things that makes the situation unique is the worldview of the respective sides. If you skip that you’re not capturing one of the biggest, most influential factors which at the same time is really difficult to model.

There’s an interview with Ruhnke here where he talks about it:

Some people have criticized the game for the ways in which it depicts the U.S. and Islamist sides. They take issue with the idea of a unified Jihadist player trying to topple governments to create Islamist regimes or the US’s money and influence being the principal force that creates “good governance” in the Middle East or causes European attitudes in the War on Terror to shift. Was it your intention to model both sides as Bin Laden’s view of Jihad and neoconservatism’s view of American foreign policy in order to obliquely criticize both extremes?

Yes, sort of! Not because I’m trying to necessarily shoot at anything, but because I think I was consciously trying to generate conversations like that.

But I had no choice in a way. Here’s a design challenge: you’re modeling a conflict, and you’re trying to model that conflict plausibly. You have to give the actors - the players - historical incentives otherwise they don’t behave historically.

So if you say that you, in effect, are Bin Laden, then you have to give the player Bin Laden’s perceptions of how the world works. Or if I say that you’re the US administration trying to fight al Qaeda, you’re not going to act in the way the US administration acted in that period if you don’t have incentives in the game that are like the world as the US administration saw it at that time.

But on the other hand, if you look back and say: I don’t think those perceptions of the world at that time are accurate, or complete, or plausible, I think Bin Laden had a twisted view of the world, or I think neoconservatism had some assumptions in it that turned out not to operate very effectively, then what am I supposed to do with that as a designer? I don’t think there’s an optimal solution.

So I did take the approach that I wasn’t going to have the players forced by some iron-clad rule to flail about in a world that’s not going to respond to the actions they take. Instead I’m going to cast them in these roles. I’m going to give you the idea as al Qaeda that you can have these cells go around and do terror attacks and attract funding, and eventually your jihad will evolve into a revolution that claims actual territory and builds a caliphate. That’s an idea that may have seemed outlandish, until you have the rise of Islamic State. That’s how Bin Laden thought events would play out.

Or there was the idea that if you pull off a huge attack in the US homeland, the US will just pull out of the Middle East and go home. I don’t know that that’s realistic either.

So in the game, the Jihadist player can build enough strength to establish Islamist rule - and by that I mean the version of Islamist rule that al Qaeda was after - you can do that and establish a caliphate that crosses national borders and win. Or you can build weapon of mass destruction capability and set off a bad enough attack in the United States that you win that way.

That didn’t mean that I believed in 2009 that either of those were very plausible outcomes, but I needed the Jihadist player to believe those and to reach for those, so they’re in the game.

And it’s the same thing in terms of what the US administration’s strategy was. It had tactics which included hardening itself as a target, disrupting cells and reaching out to zap leaders.

But at the heart of their strategy on a global scale was the idea that we can, through various means hard and soft, reform governance from the outside in the Islamic world, and that’s our way to victory. So in the game you can do that rather more easily than history has shown anyone can do that.

And in the game events sometimes play out rather differently from history, and sometimes, well, just yesterday on Twitter I saw someone saying that they’d played the game in 2012 and the Islamists won by establishing a caliphate in Syria and Iraq. That was two years before the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State.

And I also point out in regard to the term neoconservatism - the Obama administration, if you read its open security strategy and strategy against terrorism, it had the same core idea. Yes, we need to take on al Qaeda as an organization, yes we need to take on their leadership, but we also need to take on their ideology, and that means we have to concern ourselves with the relevance of that ideology in governance, particularly in the Muslim world. It’s a continuation of the same strategy, but with the tactics and the mix of hard and soft power - which is another fundamental concept in Labyrinth - being different.

Labyrinth casts each side as they imagine themselves and their enemy to be.


I’d like this twice if I could, great read!


Colour me interested. Proper inertia and everything.


The best spaceship dogfighting game on the market is clearly Attack Vector: Tactical.

This is probably the best spaceship dogfighting game on the market that people will actually play.


I love what Ares did with Sails of Glory. Not really in the market for another flightpath game with more crunch than my kids can handle, but it does look baller.


@Kolbex I’ll be interested to read your report on ‘The White Tribe: Rhodesia 1966-1989’ when it is done as I have been eyeing the game.

I was tremendously lucky and managed to purchase an unpunched copy of of a rather infamous game by the same designer (Ben Madison) last month: ‘Liberia: Descent Into Hell’.


I’m gonna knock the rest of that game out today, then I’ll give you my totally-fair-based-on-a-single-play impressions. The AAR will take longer.


I’m doing my “Top 25 Games of All Time (that I’ve played)” list, and was also going to do the annual “Top 10 Games played last year” post as well. Then when ranking the games for the all-time list, I discovered that all of the Top 10 were also played in 2018.

So I did a bit of a filler post where I’ll eventually link the Top 10, but in the meantime, how about finding out the best and worst “new to me” game for 2018?


@whovian223 Looking forward to your full list reveal.

Meanwhile, I finally got to play Architects Of The West Kingdom on Monday and - agreed - it is great. We all enjoyed it and three of us finished within 2 points of each other having taken different approaches. We will be playing again soon … unusual when The Cult Of The New is strong in the group. Thanks for your review that encouraged us to the game.


You’re welcome! I’m glad it helped.

Hopefully the first couple of posts will be out next week.



I actually did not knock that game out that day, FYI. I have been obsessively altering the VASSAL module to be more legible for my own purposes, and when I’m done with that, THEN I’ll finish up. I wish I could leave board games sitting out set up. Damn cats.


Stars warring in some kind of rebellion happened. Far too long for what it is, and while the expansion improves it, without the license I’m not sure anyone would still be playing it.

Plus bonus Flamme Rouge.

My early lead and slope-conquering were for naught, as my sprinter misjudged both hills to come dead last, and my roleur exhausted himself to stop right before the finish line. Merde.


Thanks for the update. No worries. When your first impressions are completed they are completed.

BTW: I suffer the same issues leaving board games set up for extended play (though not due to cats but for lack of table space).


A couple of things.

First, I posted the first 5 of my Top 25 Games Played of All Time (out of a total of 295 games). This is only since I started recording plays, so I can’t really rank things I might have played before that (anything from when I was a kid or in college, for example).

Secondly, I was at CascadeCon in Bellingham, Washington over the weekend. What a great con. It’s small, so it’s all about playing the games. It’s held at the Bellingham Ferry Terminal, so you have a beautiful view too.

(I’m not going to describe the games in great detail, so if you want to know, just ask and I’ll follow up)

Friday I played a number of games. My first try of Tiny Epic Galaxies with the Beyond the Black expansion. This really adds some interesting things to the game, though I didn’t utilize the pilots as much as I would have liked. And every time I explored, I got a bad result, which was unfortunate. I came in third out of four people by a wide margin.

Then I played my newly arrived Kickstarter edition of Dark Dealings. In this card game, players are evil warlords trying to fend off the heroes. First, you draft the heroes that you think you might want to face, and then based on the threat level of the heroes, you draft defenses that you will use to defeat them. Finally, you face the heroes, either using your defenses or just letting them through if you don’t have the right kinds of defenses available. Whoever defeats the most heroes wins. This takes 20-30 minutes at most, so it’s a quick and easy one.

I also Kickstarted the expansion which adds more cards, but haven’t played with those yet. I think it’s pretty cool for what it is.

Then there was a 3-hour game of Merchant of Venus (1st edition) which is a convention mainstay for us. It was the first game I played when I rediscovered games again in 2012. It’s always fun, and I always lose badly. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a game of (some) galaxy exploration and then it’s mostly pick up and deliver. You find out where the different races are located in the galaxy and then you start buying and selling their goods. It’s always fun.

Came back after checking into my hotel and my friends were in the middle of Castles of Burgundy. So I sat down at a demonstration for a skirmish game called Tactical Tech. Not bad, though skirmish games really aren’t my thing.

Then there was World Championship Russian Roulette. Questionable taste, but it’s basically a push your luck game with some bluffing. You have six cards in your hand, one “Bang” and five “clicks”. You set aside one, bet on how many cards you can turn over without a “Bang” card coming up. and other players can challenge you. If you set aside your “Bang” card, then you are out of that round and have to kill off one of your guys. If you didn’t, then the challenger has to put another bang card in their hand (making 7 cards). Then you flip over the cards to make your bet. If you don’t draw your Bang card, then you get that many points. If you do draw it, then you don’t get anything and have to kill one of your guys. First player to 15 wins, and if you lose all four of your guys, then you’re out regardless.

Then there was more push your luck with Can’t Stop and finally ended the day with A Study in Emerald. A fun deckbuilder mix of Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu based on the short story by Neil Gaiman. I’m still not sure about it, though.

Saturday, played the Colony dice game from Bezier Games, where you are rolling dice and keeping them as resources that will let you buy cards to put into your colony that will give you more dice (or let you manipulate them). That’s always fun, but I hadn’t played it in a while. I’d forgotten how fun it is.

Then tried out a Kickstarter copy of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done. An interesting rondel/mancala mechanic that has you moving around a board of Europe and building buildings that will strengthen the actions on your mancala. I really enjoyed it.

Then a 4-hour game of Eldritch Horror where we barely held on after the Old One awoke, but were so far from actually winning that we knew we would either be dead soon or it would take another 2 hours to finish, so we called it. The world died in misery.

And then a 4-hour, 5-player game of Terraforming Mars (I swear I play that with too many AP-prone players). That went on until almost 11:30, so I got back to my motel late and just crashed.

Sunday morning I tried 18Lilliput, the new game that’s supposed to be “18XX for beginners.” I discovered (or confirmed, I guess) that 18XX really isn’t for me. But I did it as a favour for a friend.

Ended the convention with Colt Express. That game is always fun to play. Chaotic programmed movement, lots of laughs.

Whew! This was way too long (notice I put the promotion at the beginning of the post? :stuck_out_tongue: )

It was a fun weekend. Definitely can’t wait until my next Con in March (which is local so I can come home every night).


Shoutout to collectors of unusually themed boardgames (and/or boardgames in arguably poor taste):

Note: a quick check of the BGG database suggests that it hasn’t been added yet…


Aye love the nutters this brings out of the woodwork. “It was obviously a British false flag, look how close it was to Porton Down.”

Righto mate, it would have been the perfect crime but they couldn’t get another £100 of petrol money in expenses. Fuck off.

Meanwhile I finally got:

Looking to get into it this week.


That subtitle ‘the axe forgets, the tree remembers’ is reminiscent of a Latin inscription occasionally found on old, old violins:

In silvis viva silui, canora jam mortua cano