ltmurnau: (CX)
Believe it or not, I am here most days for a quick troll through my Friends page.
But I don't post much anymore, obviously - mostly because I am busy doing stuff that I would be posting about, if I posted more.

Aki made it through his bridging semester program and now he is in 3rd Year of Mechanical Engineering!
He's finding it a lot of work, but I think it's coming together for him and he can see the purpose of it, unlike the Shakespeare they made him swallow in high school.
They have them working on projects, he is doing one with a team where they are developing a way to 3-D print custom braces for children with club feet.
He's also 21 now, how did that happen....

Game designing takes up a lot of my outside-work time, my blog on that is at .
I never did figure out a way to feed entries from there to here, I should just do it manually but I am not sure who would be looking at it.

Current projects, since the last time I talked about them, include games on the following in no particular order:

- the French-Algerian War of 1954-62 (two games actually, using completely different systems: one large one with lavish production and wooden bits, another one a revision of an earlier design)
- the Battle of the Bulge (revision of earlier design, published 11/15)
- a set of 3 battles from the first year of the Korean War (published 11/15, mangled by publisher's "development" team)
- the 1973 coup in Chile
- the Slovak-Hungarian War of March, 1939
- the invasion of Canada by the United States, 193? (revision of earlier design)
- the Polish-Soviet War, 1920 (revision of earlier design)
- the Cyprus Emergency, 1955-59
- Binh Dinh province (central coast of Vietnam, 1969; did this one up a while ago for a history professor at Nipissing University for students in his course on 20C wars and revolutions to play)
- the 1943-45 Allied invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia that weren't (two games actually, using completely different systems; one from the publisher that mangled my work (though they seem to have not mangled it too much this time, it's still the last work I will ever send them) and one I published myself)
- the Finnish Civil War of 1918

People want me to talk about my work too, which I find extremely difficult to do... I mean, I can talk technique, but as to what value there is in it, or what makes some thing better than another thing - I can't be articulate.

But week after next I am going to Washington DC to talk to people at RAND Corporation about what I do, and how it might help them in what they do... a very unexpected offshoot of a conference I went to last September that featured a workshop on quick game design that I helped facilitate.

Then in mid-March, UVic has an event on gaming ( and I will be showing some of my work and maybe talking about it.

Then at the end of March, I am going to the American Popular Culture Association's national meeting in Seattle, to present a paper on... well, here's my abstract:

Bored of War

Board wargames, or manual military simulation games, are a form of civilian entertainment that peaked commercially in the 1980s but continue today as a small press, near-DIY activity. They remain one of Western culture’s most complex analog artifacts, rich in their ability to generate narrative and explore historical possibilities.

However, only a very small number of published civilian wargames address the dominant modes of actual post-World War Two conflict: irregular war and counterinsurgency. This paper will explore the cultural reasons for this absent focus, explain the social and political utility of these games as a means of interrogating and critiquing contemporary conflicts, and present specific games in this field as examples of “critical play” (Flanagan, 2009).

See what I mean about being inarticulate?
This is a big conference, with thousands of presentations... and the Game Studies area is quite new, with only about 100 presentations. But all of them are about digital games - their design, the sociology of people who play them, etc. - except for 3: my presentation, and 2 presentations on role-playing games.
I feel no one will have the vaguest idea what I am talking about, much less care, even if I could make myself understood.
But Lianne is making a presentation (on horror films) in much better company... I've never been to a conference quite like this before.

And then in April, trying to work through arrangements to visit the Army War College in Carlisle PA to do some facilitated play of my Algeria game, to match with a screening of The Battle of Algiers.
I wonder what the Army officers there will make of that one.

Then in June, to Tempe AZ for the annual Consimworld Expo, for more showing of work and meeting with publishers.

It took 25 years to get to this point, I don't mind being so busy but again, it's hard to write about this stuff in the larger sense.

Oh, and I have something in a book too: this spring will see a game studies anthology come out from MIT Press:
It's the first time any of my writing has been in an actual book!

Anyway, this is in large part what I have been doing instead of posting.
I will try to pop in here more often, if only to leave links.
ltmurnau: (CX)

The second issue of YAAH! magazine is out, containing three abstract games by me (Army of Shadows, Guerrilla Checkers, Uprising). I also wrote a short simple article on the think-value of abstract games, these in particular, hooked to Ben Franklin’s love of chess. It’s partly adapted from a presentation I gave at Connections-UK in 2013.

Perhaps you'll find it interesting:

Or the original item:
ltmurnau: (CX)
Constant Readuhs will know that most of my posting these days is on my game design blog "Ludic Futurism".
There appears to be no way to automatically publish or otherwise connect a Livejournal blog with a Wordpress one, so I will pop in here to post when I've done something over there.
Here is the first such:

Go and look if you like, if this game design thing of mine interests you.
I have really fallen out of the habit of blogging about my life, in general things are pretty OK - it seems lately I just pop in here to post some especially upsetting bit of political news or foreign policy development.
Even the novelty of that is waning as there is more and more bad news to relay, we seem to be heading down the De-evolution slope....

ltmurnau: (CX)
.. but as usual a lot has been happening.


Publishing schedule is now:

- Finnish Civil War (1918) in #82 of Paper Wars magazine, later 2013 or early 2014.

- Greek Civil War (1947-49) in #11 of Modern War magazine, summer 2014 (publisher had me adapt the game's "Algeria" family system to a COIN system Joe Miranda will introduce for his Iraq game in Modern War #6, but it wasn't hard to do and I managed to keep the flavour of the game)

- Next Lebanon War (hypothetical 201? IDF invasion) in #13 of Modern war, fall 2014. New system very loosely based on Joe Miranda's Bulge 20, shows asymmetry between high-tech conventional IDF and inchoate Hezbollah quite well I think - was to go in issue #9 but DG's publisher thinks an attack on Iran is more likely, so mine got pushed back for a game on that instead. I hope we're both wrong.

- Kandahar (2009-10 COIN in Afghanistan) in #17 of Modern War, summer 2015. Had an ambitious and intricate COIN system like a very upgunned Algeria that worked quite well and did a lot, in many subtle ways. But publisher thought it was too complex for a magazine game (they figure people want to spend 20 minutes or less learning the rules and plan to play these things possibly twice before the next issue comes out), so dropped in the District Commander engine for it (see below), which runs faster.

- Green Beret (1964 Central Highlands Vietnam, before US intervention) in #18 of Modern War, summer 2015

- Palace Coup, simple small multi-player game about a coup in an imaginary country, sent to Victory Point Games in the winter, they liked it but haven't heard from them lately

- EOKA (Cyprus 1955-59), been shopping this around but it's too obscure a subject, a guy made a very nice map for it but wants to put it on Kickstarter and I have my doubts. Sometimes I just want to dump these things on and let the 25 or 30 people who really want it, have it for $9.95 and then I'm shut of it.

- District Commander, COIN in a generic Red vs. Blue setting, just to test the engine which has three levels of complexity (diceless, diceless with chits, 1d6). I designed it with classrooms in mind, and in developing historical scenarios for it later (e.g. Helmand, Al-Anbar province, etc.). Kandahar will be the first such, now.

- Dios O Federacion, just worked this one out, it's a multiplayer card game on the power struggle in post-Chavez Venezuela (though really it's the setting for an engine I want to test out). Meant to point up the tension between expending resources on building one's own power base and battling others, and expending resources to solve common economica dn social problems which if left unattended make things worse for everyone, quickly. And you can do a coup.

Next week I am going to Montreal for six days for "Stack Academie", a game convention where I am Guest of Honour (!) with Volko Ruhnke. We are finishing off the last bits of A Distant Plain (our game on Afghanistan), which will be a major focus, and will cause some stir when it comes out in August. I haven't been in Montreal for 25 years, taking an extra day or two to walk about and see what's what. I don't care for flying anymore but I am looking forward to this. Also haven't spoken any French for 25 years, we'll see how much of it comes back.


Circuit Breaker has been chugging away monthly, quite nicely! Two-year anniversary in January. Have started a Facebook group for it now, don't know what took me so long.


January 12, 2013 – Two Years of Circuit Breaker!


Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft - Co Co Pino

Klaus Nomi - Cre Spoda

Nash the Slash - Wolf

Cabaret Voltaire - Doom Zoom

Neon Judgement - Chinese Black

Severed Heads - Mambo Fist Miasma

Chris and Cosey - Pagan Tango

Suicide Commando - Better Off Dead (remix by Dive)

Blutengel - Der Spiegel

Manufacture - Armed Forces

Feindflug - AK47

Apoptygma Berzerk - Friendly Fire

Tactical Sekt - Syncope

Clan of Xymox - Emily

Aircrash Bureau - 120 BPM

Ayria - Insect Calm

Legend - Benjamite Bloodline

Otto Dix - Ostrazhenie

Komor Kommando - Love Your Neighbour (request)

Neuroticfish - Prostitute (NYC club edit)

February 10, 2013

Murnau set list:

Nash the Slash - Reactor #2
Portion Control - Divided
Chris and Cosey - Pagan Tango
... Cabaret Voltaire - Doom Zoom
John Foxx - Underpass
Skinny Puppy - Deadlines
Kraftwerk - Numbers
Ege Bam Yasi - This is an Egg
Front 242 - Operating Tracks
Severed Heads - 4WD
Funker Vogt - Child Soldier
Covenant - Dead Stars
Mechanical Cabaret - Let's Go to Bed
2Bullet - Army March Drawn Sword Police
Combichrist - This is my Rifle (AK-47 remix)
Orange Sektor - Endzeit
Straftanz - Blood In Blood Out
Wumpscut - Krieg
AD:Key - Gruene Augen Luegen

March 10, 2013

DJ Murnau

Nash the Slash – Wolf
Einsturzende Neubauten – 3 Thoughts
Nash the Slash – Reactor #2
Portion Control – Chew You to Bits (rebuild)
Danse Macabre – She Believes
John Foxx – He’s a Liquid
Chris and Cosey – Exotica
Skinny Puppy – Chainsaw
Matt Sharp – We Have a Technical
Spine of God – Stripped
Covenant – Like Tears in Rain
Combichrist – God Wrapped in Plastic
Nachtmahr – Boom Boom Boom
Rotersand – Life Light
Technoir – Darkest Days
Apoptygma Berzerk – Friendly Fire
Ayria – The Gun Song
Orange Sektor – Polizisten

April 14, 2013

DJ Murnau

Test Dept - Long Live British Democracy (Which Has Flourished And Is Constantly Perfected Under The Immaculate Guidance Of The Great, Honourable, Generous And Correct Margaret Hilda THATCHER. She Is The Blue Sky In The Hearts Of All Nations. Our People Pay Homage And Bow In Deep Respect And Gratitude To Her, The Milk Of Human Kindness)
Test Dept - Legacy
Klaus Nomi - Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead
Attery Squash - Devo Was Right About Everything
Digital Emotion - Go Go Yellow Screen
Welle: Erdball - Tanzpalast 2000 (Commodore 64 version)
Kraftwerk - Die Modell
Nash the Slash - Swing Shift
Gary Numan - Cars (Dave Clark remix)
Prayer Tower - Warm Leatherette
John Foxx - 030
Clan of Xymox - Emily
Assemblage 23 - Surface
Spine of God - Stripped
Solitary Experiments - Star
AD: Key - Gruene Augen Lugen
Hocico - The Intruder
Ayria - Hunger
Eisenfunk - Citizen


And now this:

"A bill that would revive some provisions of Canada's Anti-terrorism Act will get a final vote in the House of Commons Wednesday night.

The bill — known as S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act — would bring back two central provisions that were originally instituted by the Jean Chrétien government after the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001 but were "sunsetted" after a five-year period.

One allowed for "preventative detention," meaning someone can be held without charge for up to three days just on suspicion of being involved in terrorism. The person can then be bound by certain probationary conditions for up to a year, and if he or she refuses the conditions, can be jailed for 12 months.

The second provides for an "investigative hearing" in which someone suspected of having knowledge of a terrorist act can be forced to answer questions. The objective is not to prosecute the person for a criminal offence, but merely to gather information.

If he or she refuses, that person can be imprisoned for up to 12 months. When the Harper government, during its first term, tried to bring back the terrorism measures in 2007, the Liberals opposed the move. Now, however, the government has Liberal support and only the official Opposition, the NDP, is protesting the bill.

The bill has already been though the Senate, and has been awaiting third reading in the Commons for months, but was rushed suddenly into debate on Monday in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. A final vote expected Tuesday was deferred for a day.

Opposition critics have accused the government of trying to exploit the events in Boston and have skeptically pointed out the coincidence of pushing the bill to debate on the same day a major terrorist arrest was announced in Toronto.

In debate, the NDP pointed out it had proposed 17 amendments to the bill at the committee stage, but all were rejected by the Conservatives, who dominate the committee.

The Liberals support the bill and proposed no amendments."

I suppose this is as close as They feel they can come to a home-grown Patriot Act, at least for now. And I also find it difficult to believe that the arrest of those two useful idiots on Monday, who apparently had been under uneventful surveillance for a year and hadn't worked up to do anything yet, was not somehow coordinated with the Prime Minister's Office and the near-railroading of this bill (though with the help of the Liberals, it will be a slam-dunk).
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Oh dear, and another month slips by. It has been such a busy year, at least since May, and there are only a few weeks left in 2011.

But not time for end-of-year accounting and 2011 memes yet.

Chronological accounting-for-myself:

October 10 (Thanksgiving) - we gave this a miss because Aki had his wisdom teeth out a few days before and couldn't chew - and I was not about to make a turkey smoothie for him. He had five (!) taken out, they are a lot bigger than I remember. The procedure is different now too - when I had mine out, about his age, it involved day surgery in a hospital with a general anaesthetic. He had it done in the dentist's office, with IV sedation. He bled for a day or so and recovered very quickly. The following weekend we had a proper dinner at my mother's.

October 19-22 - I went to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California. Dear Readuhs will remember the conference I went to in early August, and how well one of my games went down at the demonstration period there ( Well, out of that I got an invitation to go to the NPS and talk to them about using digitized versions of this and other games of mine, in a project related to another, much larger project they have going on. I got to make a lunchtime presentation to their Irregular Warfare students, mostly Special Forces captains and majors - I was kind of nervous about this but they were very friendly and interested. I spoke for less than half an hour and they filled up the rest of the time with questions, so I didn't get a chance to talk with them which I really wanted to do. I did have a quick chat with a Marine Corps major who had trained in Armor, and instead of charging across the desert dealing death to enemy tanks from two miles away found himself and his tank company in a neighbourhood of Baghdad, working out which streets would have priority for garbage collection and which block leaders could or couldn't be trusted.

If anyone wants to look at my script or Powerpoint slides, they are here: . This is another blog I have started that will be confined to my game design and "serious games" development and other stuff. Not much there yet though, as it has not proven possible to port my game-design related entries on LJ over to Wordpress en masse.

Anyway, the ensuing discussions with the project team went well, I came up with some new ideas for games for them that I will be working on and I put them in touch with [ profile] emperorkefka who has made up a version of Guerrilla Checkers for Android mobile phones, and will probably do the technical work for the team on what they need for the project. See a screenshot at Little Viking Games.

A "guided gaming session" went less well, I tend to forget that a game I regard as being comparatively simple (especially if I've designed it) is still quite complex to people who have grown up playing ordinary board games or just computer games. As much as I tend to dislike computer games, a lot of the complexity and fiddliness of a game design can be subsumed into the structure and interface of a game. Players do not need to remember what pieces can move where or how, when the program will simply not let them do it, so they can concentrate on playing the game - and that's enough for most players, but there needs to be some explanation of why this or that thing can't happen, or the penalties for doing so. And it's a lot easier to change a sentence to two in a rulebook than it is to rewrite hundreds of lines of code. Anyway, I left them with a big bag of playable copies of my games.

Monterey is a beautiful little town, and Friday night I went out to look around. The NPS is just a few blocks from downtown, so I walked down to the big pier that is full of shops and restaurants. I looked at I don't know how many cheap t-shirts, and got a pound of salt water taffy for Aki (and a bunch of cheap assorted candy from the Walgreen's downtown later). I had a plate of completely ordinary chow mein at a small Chinese restaurant where this huge Mexican family was having dinner - I think it was someone's birthday or something. "Dad" was at the head of the table, obviously the patriarch and wearing the biggest hat - they were having a great time. Later I walked back by a different route but did not turn when I needed to, and ended up walking by this highway to a gigantic shopping mall with no way out except the way you came in, and the buses had all stopped running - in the end I did get out and back, but had walked five miles more than I had planned!

I went back on Saturday the 22nd - the NPS had actually paid for my flight and hotel, which was great. My flights were well spaced so I didn't have to hurry at all; and I have resolved to hand-carry my luggage from now on if I can possibly help it. You can get a lot into a small bag if you roll it right. (I saved even more room on the flight down by forgetting my good pants at home! Luckily I remembered this in the air on the way to San Francisco, and got a pair of acceptable golfing slacks at the pro shop in the airport - otherwise it would have been pretty embarassing.)

October 24 - was my 47th birthday, which we didn't really bother marking except for a good dinner at San Remo. I'm feeling rather more middle-aged now, and while I'm happy to have outlived George Orwell, I don't have TB and haven't come near to matching his output.

October 29 - was "Grave Situation II", the second annual Gothvic Halloween party. (entry in respect of the first: Lianne came out for this one too, and we had a nice time. I was supposed to DJ for the first hour and a bit, but the person who was supposed to bring the CD players didn't show up until late so for the first while I had to improvise some with what Gray had on his laptop, using Mixxx which was not-bad software. No one was dancing anyway, so it was OK - can't post my setlist right now but will later.

October 31 - we just left the lights off. I didn't see any kids out and about. Very disappointing. Aki went to play computer games and have some pizza with his friends.

November 4-6 - We went to deepest darkest Surrey, for BottosCon 2011 - the fifth annual board wargaming convention put on my Rob Bottos. It's small, maybe 60 people came this time and that was the biggest yet. About half of the attendees were Advanced Squad Leader players, who usually don’t play much else (or at least, they came to the convention to play ASL only), and the other half were people playing practically everything else, from non-wargames like Urban Sprawl to Angola or Storming the Reich.

I don’t go to many conventions, and when I do I usually don’t play games – I spend my time talking to people, catching up with friends or trying to interest people in my new designs in the hope of snagging playtesters. Guerrilla Checkers ( ) proved to be a hit again, and someone expressed an interest in writing an iOS application for it so it can be played on iPad, iPhone, iKettle etc., which would be great. I also played out a few turns of the brigade-level version of my Finnish Civil War game ( ), which prompted someone to say that he thought he’d seen everything now, and did a complete run-through with a playtester of a newly written 2006 scenario for my Third Lebanon War game – it worked well and concluded on time, with a marginal Hezbollah victory. A minor revision to two to the rules and they’re even better – the basic designs are quite sound.

We also went out to one of Surrey's many industrial zones - the whole area looks like it's composed of strip malls, suburbs, and warehouse districts, there's more than that but that's what you see form the highway as you're whizzing through - to get 25 pounds of Cerrotru, the metal I use for casting my miniatures. It's gone up in price a lot, and this will probably be the last time I buy it for quite a while. I kind of like going to these industrial parks, reminds me that things are still made or at least assembled here.

Anyway, I went for the gaming and metal, Lianne went for the shopping. The con hotel was next door to the last Skytrain station, so it was easy for her to get downtown without aggravation. She went to check out the Occupy Vancouver campsite at the Vancouver Art Gallery, what she saw and what I've seen of our own Occupy Victoria site makes me think that perhaps it's time to fold the tents and continue the next phase in the fight. The continued and enlarged presence of conspiracy crazies (Truthers, chemtrail people etc.), deinstitutionalized mental health cases, homeless, criminals and drug addicts at these camps are just the sort of thing the detractors of the Occupy movement want to see (and in fact have even been encouraging, as NYPD cops regularly send these people from other parts of Manhattan to Zucotti Park, and police in other cities are infiltrating different Occupy campsites to instigate trouble themselves). Yes, I am fully aware that these people are just as much products of the version of semi-feudal corporate capitalism as anyone else camping out down there, but continuing to sleep out in tents like this will tend to make it easier to trivialize the whole movement as, well, sleeping out in tents.

I'm not going to say anything more about the Occupy movement itself; anyone who reads this has already read what I would say, in many other places and probably better phrased. I was looking up some George Orwell the other day and found this telling chapter from The Road to Wigan Pier, which he wrote in 1936 - he makes some good points, and this chapter contains some of his more spiteful writing, but it's also interesting to look at this from 75 years in his future.

Read more... )
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The day after Remembrance Day I went over to swingin' Surrey for "BottosCon": a wargame convention organized by one Rob Bottos, who had been asking me to attend for a few years. It was held at the Compass Point Inn by the King George Highway, which hardly means anything because to me, Surrey looks like an enormous strip mall criscrossed by highways.

The hotel was adequate and they had enough space for the con in one of their two downstairs ball/meeting rooms: the last two years running there was a furry convention in the other ballroom, and guys told me that furries would wander into the room in costume, look at the fat nerds playing their complicated games, and wander out again. The hotel staff were pretty upfront about how they liked our crowd better. This year the furries had had their convention the weekend before; I've been told that next year the two coincide again so, I'm definitely planning on going!

I met Michel Boucher, a guy with whom I have been corresponding and trading games for several years. He is from Ottawa, but his daughter lives out here so he makes a combined visit. He's helped me a lot over the years with practical suggestions and in making a French translation of the rules to my game on the French Algerian War. It was great to meet him finally! Here we are playtesting a game I just started work on the week before, on a hypothetical second invasion of Lebanon by Israel in the near future to stamp out Hezbollah:

But honestly, a good digital photo cannot be taken of me - it's as if a hidden Photoshop filter or macro slides in place, a filter that would have the name "Moronify" or "30% Drunk". And I am not as fat as I look in that photo. Here are some better ones:

Better picture but my mouth is open, as usual

Listening to Wilhelm

What could he have said to make me my grab my head like that?
He doesn't look as if he cares....

Making notes, revising on the fly - "no, don't do it that way, do it this way!"

More note-taking but this one shows off my widow's peak to greater advantage, as well as my bad posture and gracefully rounded shoulder-humps.

We also played Hearts and Minds, an interesting newish card-driven game on the Vietnam War, and I got several people to play Guerrilla Checkers with me. Everyone said they had never played anything like it before. I sold a couple copies of my games, and about $100 of other games I had been trying to hawk on Boardgamegeek, so my hotel was half paid for. I bought a copy of Combat Commander: Europe, which looks to be very interesting.

What a nerdy time I had of things! It was great to meet people who had heard of and liked my work, and I talked for hours about game design with some other designers. I got an invitation from an organizer to attend Dragonflight, a gaming convention that has taken place in Seattle in August for the last 31 years.

The only bad part was finally succumbing to a cold I had been successfully fighting off for a week (something Akito had brought home with him from school). It was the hotel air conditioning, it always gets me in the end. I took Monday off sick and I'm only just now out of the woods, a week later.
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Found this linked off the BBC online magazine feed:

"Wednesday, June 17, 2009
A Lesson In Revolutionary Politics From Video Games

I realize[d] something today about revolutionaries, and this realization can be entirely attributed to video games.

I saw [the] trailer of Just Cause 2, and I was thinking how much fun it would be to actually take over a country in a revolutionary action. I mean, I'm in the process of taking over a planet in Red Faction: Guerilla, but I'm not really the leader -- more the main ass-kicker, really. So the idea of actually leading a revolution is entirely appealing.

Then I thought about how much fun it would be to lead a revolution in an action game, but then be able to run the country in a real-time strategy game. So you go from Just Cause to Tropico.

It was at that moment that I understood, more fully than ever before, why revolutionaries succeed and then fail. It's because they're switching genres. They take over the country in a third-person (or first person) action game, but then they have to play an RTS to govern the country.

That's an entirely different gaming skill set. It's much easier to wreck than to build, and not only do they have to build, they also have to stop all those first-person action heroes who want to lead their own revolution."

This is so superficial and puerile I don't know where to begin. I may design games about revolutions and civil wars, but I'm under no illusions that I am teaching or trying to simulate more than the barest beginnings of what actually happens in the real thing. And I do not do it via FPS, RTS or any other whing-dang-doodle *blinkenlights* techno-gimcrackery: my route is ideally the BOGSAT (Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around A Table), though I am trying to work up some way to do this via linked workstations.
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At last, photographic evidence that people play my games and enjoy them! (or, at any rate, laugh while bits of one of my games are spread out below them on a beer-soaked table)

They are playing my game Red Guard, the only game published (so far) on the Chinese Cultural Revolution ( The occasion was the second "CLASS WARGAMES CLUB NIGHT" on April 21, at The Fleapit, a pub/cafe in London. Other games they played included Steve Jackson's Coup (simpler smaller hex-based game, not about a coup so much as overcoming popular resistance to one), Guy Debord's The Game of War (a game with an interesting history, not least because of its author), and Anders Fager's card game Comrade Koba .

The players belong to a group called "Class Wargames", they seem to be an interesting bunch.

Well, anyway, if I ever return to London there's a place to look up....

Meanwhile, my illness abates but I still have a lingering cough. Spent Saturday playtesting [ profile] dzherzhinski's new card-based game, Petrograd 1917. He has been working on it for years, the game includes over 400 cards featuring over 150 personalities from the major political movements in Petrograd at the time, each with an individual portrait and ratings reflecting his painstaking research. Fortified with lemonade and cheese larva, we played and argued far into the afternoon. The best way for the leadership of the Provisional Government to affect play remains to be seen, and proven by further testing.
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OK, I'll bet that didn't mean anything to most of you.

But click on this anyway:

P500 is how a lot of wargames are being published (or not) these days: they advertise it on a company website, and if enough people place pre-orders with their credit cards to make producing it pay, they print it up and send it out. If not enough, then they don't. Simple economics.

This company does mostly tactical games but is branching out, the publisher thought the topic would sell and the art is pretty good:

Why would/should I design a game on Poland '39, you ask? Well, there aren’t many wargames on the Polish campaign, probably because the conventional wisdom is that it was a very unbalanced contest. I think this is informed mostly by hindsight. The German Army knew it had superior numbers and organization, but much of its equipment was no better than that fielded by the Poles, the concept of blitzkrieg had not been proven in actual combat, and they were not at all sure that the campaign would not bog down into static fighting. As it was the Germans lost over 16,000 dead in five weeks of campaigning.

I used a game system that worked quite well in two other games of mine (one on the Battle of the Bulge that's been in print for five years, and one on hypothetical Allied counter-invasions of the Balkans that's due out this year), and came up with many options to vary the game for both players and make it as equal (or unequal) a contest as they want.

Anyway, you don't have to order this, I just wanted to tell you about it....
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It's been almost a year since I went to the Naval Postgraduate School for a conference on Irregular Warfare, at which one of my game designs was very prominent.

It's been an ambiguous year since then - I had high hopes for contributing more to this kind of thing, since I have been designing and writing about terrorism and guerrilla warfare for years. I've done a lot more and probably better directed reading and designing during this time. But I am hampered because it's not my day job. It seems I am even more hampered by the fact that I am not an American citizen, and have no security clearance.

However, it looks as if this idea will be around for the US military to toy with for some time, since the genuine article isn't going away just yet.

Gates pushes military to embrace 'irregular warfare'

by Jim Mannion – Thu Dec 4, 9:11 pm ET

… WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the military to develop an enduring capacity to fight "irregular" wars, and to rethink its reliance on ever more costly high-tech weapons.

Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Pretty obvious when you think about it, that is if you spend any time around gamers and if you think about Myers-Briggs stuff. This illustrative, um, illustration is from a recent online survey of 645 self-identified hardcore historical wargamers.

37% of the respondents are INTJs, while at most 3% of society is made up of this MBTI type. I test out as either INTP or INTJ, about equally.

Link back to the study itself:
ltmurnau: (Default)
I will be gone all next week, not that you'd notice.

On Sunday I am leaving for the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) annual symposium in New London, CT to show a game design I've been working on to some Pentagon folks who could be interested, and to take part in at least some of the symposium (I can't take part in everything, as it is a classified event and requires US citizenship. This is a sore point with many members and they may be changing the rules about it soon. I wrote a letter to the editor of their magazine an' everything.)

The game is called "Virtualia" (an unfortunate choice as it turns out, as it appears there is a series of cartoon computer porn DVDs featuring a character of this name). I got the idea for it at the MORS meeting in December ( Just to give it a framework, it's a thinly fictionalized treatment of what might come to pass in Venezuela, though the parameters of the game could be adjusted to reflect almost any situation. I've been working on it for the last two months or more and it is one of the most ambitious designs I've done yet. It's intricate but it came together well, and now it's time to stick a fork in it, it's done!

This could be just a waste of my time, hopefully not as there is a MORS meeting on Irregular Warfare in Tampa FL in February 2009 at which presenting this design would be very appropriate - that is, if there is any interest advanced in it at all. I'd like to show a digitized version there, unfortunately that's probably going to involve learning Visual Basic. I got one of those teach-yourself books, but I also want to look at some software that has been developed just for playing wargames over the Internet: there is one called VASSAL that seems good. Been no time to check it out though.

Anyway, I am leaving early Sunday morning, arriving in New York City late the same day. I will be staying with my friend Bill in Manhattan - we lived in the same town in Japan in 1991 (17 years ago!) and since then we've stayed in touch, though that's mostly been limited to a one-hour visit each year at Burning Man.

[By the way, I should mention that I am not going to BM this year. Time to take a year off I think. Also, if I were to put Akito on a flight on 22 August, the date he would have to leave for us to get down to Nevada, it would cost $4,500 !!! Instead, I will have a few extra days with him, he will leave in the middle of the week at a more reasonable price ($1,750, still a lot more than last year, travel agent told me Air Canada slapped a $450 "fuel surcharge" on all their transoceanic flights), and hopefully my summer will not be as stressed. I did sell my tickets, in case you were wondering.]

Early Monday morning I will take the Amtrak train to Mystic, Connecticut, and check into the hotel in time to make it for the afternoon on tutorial sessions. That is, provided they let me past the gate at the US Coast Guard Academy, which is where the symposium is being held. That night my editor/gamer/designer friend Joe is showing up, and during the time of the symposium proper (Tuesday and half Wednesday) we will look around Mystic, New London and Groton (I want to see the submarine museum up there, with the restored USS Nautilus on display so folks can walk around inside an early nuclear submarine). Tuesday and Wednesday night there are mixers and dinners, so I can drop cards around and meet people. Thursday there is a special unclassified session on wargaming, to establish a "community of practice" I hope Joe and I can contribute to. Friday we have some more discussions, and I will go back midday. I leave New York Saturday afternoon and will get home late that night.

All other things being equal, of course. I'm definitely packing a toothbrush and a change of clothes in my carry-on, in case anything gets lost, and extra Cliff Bars in anticipation of the inevitable delays! I have to pack food anyway, since cheapo Air Canada won't feed you anymore - no way am I paying $6 for a dried-out sandwich. Not looking forward to the stupid security either - every time I fly, I promise myself I will never do it again.

I've never been to New York City, or anywhere on the Eastern seaboard south of Halifax. I won't be spending much time in the city itself, but I have no idea what to do there besides visit a game store I've heard a lot about. It feels like going to Ali Baba's cave and coming out with a spice rack.

Anyway, here's hoping there will be some follow-on and benefit out of this!


Dec. 19th, 2007 02:21 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Conference in Monterey: well, I went, and they made a big fuss over me!

I started by flying into Los Angeles on Saturday. I was met by my friend Joe, who was also going to the conference. We went out to Bar Sinister in Hollywood, a nice Goth club with different rooms zand very good music. Sunday we went to Amoeba Records, where I bought far too much music and too many movies. Monday we spent driving the 350 or so miles up to Monterey, arriving while it was still daylight. We wandered around the Cannery Row area at the waterfront, quite tourist-trappy and they wanted $25 to get into the Aquarium so we passed. We stayed in a hotel just a block or so from the Naval Postgraduate School.

The group putting this on, the Military Operations Research Society, is a civilian think-tank funded by the US Departments of Defence, a lot of heavy math and computer science types. My social science background made me unusual I suppose. Many people there were civilians working for the military, but a lot of professional military officers too, since Operations Research is an actual service MOS. In fact, on the first day when I walked into the room for the plenary address I thought I had walked into a cornfield!*

I made a presentation there (on my game about the Tupamaros) to the "Counterterrorism" working group, and participated in a wargame being run by the "Counterinsurgency" working group. I found out, three days before leaving, that the wargame is a very slightly modified version of my Algeria game!

My presentation to the counterterrorism working group, on how I designed Tupamaro from history and adapted it to a game system, seemed to go down pretty well. One colonel from the Israeli Army was not that impressed and asked, "What kind of people play these games?" But in contrast, a colonel from the Saudi Arabian Army asked if I had done on Al Qaeda, and where he could obtain copies of my games!

They had constructed a civil-war type scenario that took place in a fictional island group in the South Pacific, with the southern group of islands trying to secede from the government through a guerrilla movement - it was too funny, because everything was written with Gilligan's Island references (e.g. the two main cities were named Howell and Maryanne, the guerrilla movement was called the Minnows, commanded by a shadowy figure knonw only as "The Skipper", etc.)!

They picked Algeria as the game system for the scenario, and had used Visual BASIC to make a version playable on the computer with a moderator. It was not a great match because Algeria models an "occupation" or colonial war type of conflict. My Shining Path game would have been much better to model the civil war scenario they had going. However, it probably made for better discussions among the participants, which were in fact many and heated. But very collegial and respectful, very different from a war-game convention!

They gave me a nice coin/medal/paperweight (not sure what it is, ironically it was made in China) in appreciation, and took my picture lots of times. I met a lot of people and might have a chance to work on some other projects with various people I met, hope so. I met some people from DRDC in DND, the people in Canada who do this sort of analysis for the Canadian military - they seemed mildly interested in what I was doing but I don't think I am going to book any flights to Ottawa just yet.

On Friday we drove back down to Los Angeles, and that night went out to Das Bunker, an interesting Goth-industrial club. An upstairs room for more dancy stuff, two lower rooms for power-noise and "retro 80s industrial", whatever that was. As at Bar Sinister, I tried handing out a few of my metal thingies but no one seemed to know how to take them. A lot of nice-looking people with interesting outfits but everyone seemed so po-faced, unless they were with their friends. I suppose that is how people learn to get along in Los Angeles.

Saturday we went back to Amoeba Records again, and looked around at the UCLA campus. The flight to Seattle was almost empty, and I got to Victoria about midnight.

At this conference, I was just bowled over by the respect and interest shown my ideas, and the collegiality I saw there. This was the first time I thought there was some real professional worth or serious intellectual content in what I've been doing for so long. It was a good experience and I'm glad I went.

Next June there is a big symposium in Connecticut and perhaps I might be able to do something then. At least now I've got my number from the JCO declaring me a "consultant".

*Why a cornfield? Because of all the kernels I saw there! Hyuck hyuck hyuck hyuck...
ltmurnau: (Default)
In other news, I am off on Saturday for a whole week! I'm going to Los Angeles, then back up to Monterey for a conference on Irregular Warfare analysis held by the Military Operational Research Society (a think-tank group supported by the US military), then back down to Los Angeles.

You never know where your hobbies might lead you – I have discovered that one of the simulations to be played by one of the sub-working groups at this conference is an only slightly modified version of my game on Algeria! Thankfully they gave me the proper credit. It'll be intersting to see what people think of this one.
ltmurnau: (Default)
From etc:

December 04, 2006
LnLP Signs Brian Train

Lock 'n Load Publishing announces that Brian Train, designer of over twenty published games, will join a growing stable of wargame design talent that includes award-winners Richard Berg and Paul Rohrbaugh. Read the press release )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Boy, this week sure has gone by fast.


I just bolted down my lunch: white elbow macaroni with tomato sauce, followed by blueberry-and-apple sauce. If I vomited now, the visual consequences would be dire.

I feel OK, though. Don't worry. My vomit streak is long.

Playing Go at lunch with "Chuckles".

classified, friends-only part:

I recently discovered that one of my simulation games, the one modelling the Algerian insurgency of 1954-62, is being used as the basis for work by the "Institute for Revolutionary and Insurgency Studies" at George Mason University to create a computer simulation of how to counter the insurgency in Iraq. Well, good luck with that boys... the director of the project, someone who was or is on the staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, has evaded my numerous though friendly e-mails and phone calls. The friend who introduced my work to him describes him as a sort of "Agent Smith" character.

Speaking of which, I saw a bit of Rummy himself on Larry King yesterday, where he did his best to resemble a functional human being and not a corpse animated by the Evil One.

Church bells are ringing down the hall...
ltmurnau: (Default)
It's just here for reference's sake - a list of the games I've designed and where they have been reviewed:

Prophecy tonight - wheee!
ltmurnau: (deutsche)
Just for future reference, here is the complete ludography for Microgame Design Group, the DTP game company with which I was associated for 8 years.

Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Yesterday I got back from FALLCON 16, a gaming convention in Calgary. To summarize, it was a diverting time with a few ego strokes.
Read more... )


ltmurnau: (Default)

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