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WadeMonnig
October 28, 2020
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Andi Lennon
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oliverkinne
October 27, 2020
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October 23, 2020
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Jaws Review

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Michael Barnes
October 22, 2020
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October 22, 2020
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boardgameinquisition
October 21, 2020
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Factory 42 Kickstarter Preview

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thegiantbrain
October 21, 2020
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Spirit Island Board Game Review

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Andi Lennon
October 21, 2020
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WadeMonnig
October 21, 2020
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whowhatwhycast
October 21, 2020
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When Theme Meets Emotion

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Short Cut to Remote Gaming Forum (29 Aug 2020)

Since remote gaming has now become a significant part of how we play board games, we have added a short cut to this forum in the menu on the left.

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22 Sep 2020 00:00 #314301 by oliverkinne
Let me start with ...

Throughout time, terrible things have happened: plagues, wars, colonialism, genocide, executions, experimentation, extinctions, terrorism, abuse and many other atrocities. Some are still going on, most are condemned and they all evoke strong emotions in us. So when board games, which most of us see as a fun way to spend time, use these terrible events as their background, their setting, it seems to be a contradiction and it becomes very important how the game treats its subject matter. In this article, I want to find out if board games can treat atrocities in a sensitive and respectful manner that allows us to learn about these topics better and grow our understanding.

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22 Sep 2020 00:13 - 22 Sep 2020 00:14 #314302 by Gary Sax
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First, my position is that any game could be across the line for anyone. And that's ok and a personal choice. I wouldn't expect to bring The Cost to a game night and just spring it on people without chatting with them first. Not everyone wants to go through this sort of thing, and maybe their personal situation or experiences means this is over the line.

Your article topic has been on my mind already, because Dan Thurot talked about this topic recently too, so it's out there in the discourse because of The Cost: spacebiff.com/2020/09/17/talking-games-10/

For me, the most powerful part of games is the mechanical element---which means that good games can use mechanics to illustrate something important or meaningful through play, perhaps even something that isn't obvious on first glance. My personal feeling is that games can have a role in illustrating historical situations or ethical quandries. Honestly, in some ways, most economic games are basically about the dilemma between individual and collective rationality/efficiency under capitalism. But this was the part of Dan's article that spoke to me most, and probably comes closest to where I draw my own line:

"In other words, both games are preoccupied with immorality. The difference is that The Cost portrays immorality for the sake of drawing attention to the harm it inflicts while Cards Against Humanity endorses immorality by asking players to speak harmful phrases. The first functions as education as well as entertainment. And while I’m not interested in overselling the problems with the second, it’s hard for me to come up with a net positive for its inclusion at a game night."

So by necessity, for me, there is a certain subjective distinction between games I think draw attention or illustrate something horrible to a purpose with mechanics, and those that do it just to do it and gleefully show it to you. It's a fine line, obviously. And it *will* differ person to person.
Last edit: 22 Sep 2020 00:14 by Gary Sax.

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22 Sep 2020 00:39 #314304 by Msample
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“ However, the game did get removed, which is better than continuing to profit from a product that sweeps atrocities under the carpet in the name of fun and entertainment for players.‘

It should be noted that they never profited from it because it was never published.

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22 Sep 2020 01:34 #314306 by ratpfink
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Gary Sax wrote: For me, the most powerful part of games is the mechanical element---which means that good games can use mechanics to illustrate something important or meaningful through play, perhaps even something that isn't obvious on first glance. My personal feeling is that games can have a role in illustrating historical situations or ethical quandries.

What games come to mind for you that do a good job at this? Honestly curious since I have a hard time coming up with many. I'm usually focused on the mechanics and competitiveness of games when I'm playing(otherwise, what's the point?). We both play a lot of wargames, but I've never felt anything like a moral dilemma in them.

In any game, won't the mechanics drive your decision? "Well, I could turn my coworker in for stealing office supplies for 3VP, but I get a 4VP friendship token if I let it go."

Maybe the best thing I've played that seems to have more under the covers is The Grizzled. Not having been in combat, and therefore now talking out of my ass, sometimes I think The Grizzled seems to simulate war more than any "consim" I've never played.

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22 Sep 2020 03:16 #314307 by mc
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The Grizzled is great, love what that game does. The trick there I guess is that that simple mechanism of giving support does a lot. What I love most though is also that frustration that comes first; there's always someone who just does something STUPID - like play a card that means they are arrogant or something, and you're like, how could you do that. But then, you still rally round them anyway. It just feels right.

However, in terms of those more competitive situations, for me yeah, I still go for the win, but it makes me think about the motivations and so on. Which is what I imagine The Cost does. You are not expected to drop out and try to lose to keep people alive (a la Train, perhaps) - no, you are expected to keep on being a bastard. And that's kind of the point; what are the the things that blind people, enable them to carry on, in real life? In the game, you might be saying, "well, I just want to win, right?" - what are the CEOs of the asbestos company saying?
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22 Sep 2020 05:55 #314308 by Gary Sax
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Off the top of my head, not all historical or atrocity adjacent I'd say these games gave me some perspective on something in real life because I played through them or at least worked through them mechanically:

Greed Inc
Food Chain Magnate
Antiquity
Archipelago (waffle on this one)
John Company
Pax Pamir
Pax Renaissance
Navajo Wars/Comancheria
Sidereal Confiuence
Twilight Struggle
Fields of Fire

There are also wargames that revealed something specific about the campaigns themselves I wasn't grasping through just reading about it.
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22 Sep 2020 08:05 - 22 Sep 2020 08:08 #314309 by mc
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Yeah Archipelago is an interesting one.
I appreciated that it was trying - I think it was trying. Having indigenous people be a consideration is a start - and a thought provoker (for me, at least - the thought being, how do you model this stuff? What other voices are not heard in games with historical settings? It was also nice to be playing a game where that early colonial stuff is precarious, as opposed to a kind of natural progression).
In many ways it was like what I understand The Cost to be. Except instead of a bottom line being the ultimate motivation, it's your survival that is that driving force. And then the "temples" thing - it's less egregious than the brown colonists of Puerto Rico or whatever, but I do wish they'd just called them churches - I mean, that's the way this worked; subdue indigenous people with religion.

Also, the thing that still gets me about those Eklund games is that their apparent intention - the thesis they carry - pretty much backfires for me. I don't think "Wow! Thank goodness in real life the bankers won and Europe didn't become a backward islamic theocracy!" (which is what you might think the game wants you to think), I think "holy crap, imagine a world in which financiers control all of the politics".
Last edit: 22 Sep 2020 08:08 by mc.
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22 Sep 2020 08:40 #314310 by the_jake_1973
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Gary, I would add Kolejka to your list. It is set in a more recent time than most and illustrates the challenge of buying needed household goods in communist Poland. The game was published and designed(?) with the Polish Institute of Remembrance as a bit of a history capsule. It was interesting to see that the cards played to manipulate the queues for stores represented common behaviors of the time.
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22 Sep 2020 09:15 #314311 by WadeMonnig
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the_jake_1973 wrote: Gary, I would add Kolejka to your list. It is set in a more recent time than most and illustrates the challenge of buying needed household goods in communist Poland. The game was published and designed(?) with the Polish Institute of Remembrance as a bit of a history capsule. It was interesting to see that the cards played to manipulate the queues for stores represented common behaviors of the time.

I totally want to play this now.
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22 Sep 2020 09:50 #314314 by Shellhead
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I played wargames when I was a teenager, and war is a relatively tame umbrella word for all kinds of horrible human behavior that happens when countries go to war. But most of those games kept the action zoomed out to a strategic distance. Now my preference is for ameritrash board games, especially games with a horror theme. So that encompasses a whole slew of deviant behavior, including murder, necromancy, cult rituals, slavery, demons, cannibalism, and various sorts of mayhem. I even have four games about serial killers, and none of them feature Jack the Ripper. I think that our current culture is exceptionally sensitive compared to previous decades that I have survived, so it's entirely possible for people to go out of their way to react badly to a variety of topics. It generally hasn't been a problem for me, because I would rather play games with people that I already enjoy being around, even if that means that I play less board games than some of my friends.

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22 Sep 2020 11:15 #314319 by the_jake_1973
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WadeMonnig wrote:

the_jake_1973 wrote: Gary, I would add Kolejka to your list. It is set in a more recent time than most and illustrates the challenge of buying needed household goods in communist Poland. The game was published and designed(?) with the Polish Institute of Remembrance as a bit of a history capsule. It was interesting to see that the cards played to manipulate the queues for stores represented common behaviors of the time.

I totally want to play this now.


There is a module on Tabletop Simulator for it.
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22 Sep 2020 11:40 #314323 by Nodens
Replied by Nodens on topic Sensitive Settings

the_jake_1973 wrote:

WadeMonnig wrote:

the_jake_1973 wrote: Gary, I would add Kolejka to your list. It is set in a more recent time than most and illustrates the challenge of buying needed household goods in communist Poland. The game was published and designed(?) with the Polish Institute of Remembrance as a bit of a history capsule. It was interesting to see that the cards played to manipulate the queues for stores represented common behaviors of the time.

I totally want to play this now.


There is a module on Tabletop Simulator for it.

It's a great game.

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22 Sep 2020 12:00 #314325 by jason10mm
Replied by jason10mm on topic Sensitive Settings
That "Papers Please" video game comes to mind, where you have to juggle doing your job (border control) with compassion for folks crossing without authorization. A good game can present moral quandaries as game play mechanics, quandaries can target the characters or the player.

To me, commenting that wargames minimize real human suffering falls into the "no fun allowed" trap often thrown at liberals that want ALL MEDIA ALL THE TIME to address social ills, real or perceived. But sometimes it is just a game. Wargames are often playing into power fantasies of the players and do gloss over virtually every aspect of warfare to focus on just the act of physically fighting. Nothing wrong with it so long as some political figure isn't using Seal Team Flix to determine whether or not they could successfully send in a special forces team to rescue some hostages while ignoring all the advice of their actual military advisors.

Would I play a game that depicted human sex trafficking? Maybe if it was from the perspective of police catching them.

If there was a wargame that allowed you to sacrifice a unit in a no retreat suicide attack, would any player feel remorse? What about an industrial worker game where you could make the workers all pull triple shifts to get extra production? There has to be a negative gameplay consequence for this or else I'm pretty sure most EVERY player would avail themselves of these tactics and not even think about the real world behavior they are modeling.
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22 Sep 2020 12:04 #314327 by Gary Sax
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mc wrote: Yeah Archipelago is an interesting one.
I appreciated that it was trying - I think it was trying.


Yeah, I think the ideas in it surrounding colonization are actually quite interesting but the art/wrapper is really pretty gross and makes you doubt if the whole thing was intentional or not.
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22 Sep 2020 12:06 - 22 Sep 2020 12:10 #314328 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic Sensitive Settings

Nodens wrote:

the_jake_1973 wrote:

WadeMonnig wrote:

the_jake_1973 wrote: Gary, I would add Kolejka to your list. It is set in a more recent time than most and illustrates the challenge of buying needed household goods in communist Poland. The game was published and designed(?) with the Polish Institute of Remembrance as a bit of a history capsule. It was interesting to see that the cards played to manipulate the queues for stores represented common behaviors of the time.

I totally want to play this now.


There is a module on Tabletop Simulator for it.

It's a great game.


Kolejka is the only worker-placement game that I've come away from wanting to play again, because it's not about the placement, but about the displacement. Kolejka is a worker-displacement game and I don't know of any other. Given its thematic choice it really tells a story.

At some point a game has to have play in it. I think the new breed of despicable theme games (and I don't use that term to disparage, just don't know what else to call them) suffers from taking themselves too seriously, and I think that exacerbates the problem instead of alleviating it. Freedom The Underground Railroad is positively dismal in its theme especially when things go south. A game like Infamous Traffic where you can literally win a nice hat by addicting thousands of people to heroin has an absurdity to it that more ably brings on introspection.

I think historic details are taught better by Saving Private Ryan. I think historic lessons are taught better by Catch-22. Games are a medium like any other, they need to decide what the goal of the setting is.

Kolejka is much more Catch-22 than Saving Private Ryan.
Last edit: 22 Sep 2020 12:10 by Sagrilarus.
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