Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Gaming the Covid Crisis

 Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”


Occasionally I joke when people ask what games I’ve been playing lately: why, live-action Pandemic, of course, just like everyone else. Perhaps if more people had played Pandemic the board game they might have had a better understanding of the covid-19 crisis and more seriously considered some of the unexpected threats it poses to our society. Looking back over the last 18 months, however, I sometimes wonder how different, hopefully more effective, our response might have been if people and institutions at all levels had taken the time beforehand to learn to assess situations, form possible action and contingency plans, and explore possible outcomes through game-like exercises centered on pandemic response.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Another Pandemic Summer

 One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”


We’ve managed through another pandemic summer, not quite as difficult as last year – when covid-19 ravaged our populations amid political tensions and an inconsistent response at various levels of government – but challenging nonetheless. We managed to engage in some of our geeky pursuits, learning about history, watching movies, trying some new games, and making a few careful day trips. And I’m happy to report the wargaming programs I’d hoped to run at the local museum finally got a tentative start. But overall it was another summer of getting by without many of the entertaining activities we’d normally enjoy during this season.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Games as Puzzles

 Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”


I love sitting down with a new game and trying to figure it out. Certainly I have numerous “how to play” videos to consult – though I usually do this before purchasing a game that’s tempted me with rave reviews or an engaging theme – but sitting down to sort through the components and then figure out how to actually play it is just part of the fun. For some games I enjoy repeat plays where I can try different strategies for winning. With the exception of solitaire games, each one provides a chance to get to know the people gathered to play it. Summarized in three questions – How does it work? How do I master this game? and Who are these other players? – these puzzles cross the boundaries of the adventure gaming hobby – board games, roleplaying games, miniature and board wargames, card games – and can consume participants to varying degrees based on the game and the player.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Essential Maps

Maps play important roles in many of adventure gaming’s geeky pursuits, such as immersing oneself in a new roleplaying game or reading up on historical military campaigns for wargaming inspiration. Maps play a central role in games: they help describe the adventuring environment for roleplaying games, show how we might set up miniature wargames, and even form the “board” on which we play other kinds of games. So when I see a lack of maps in materials that really need them, I can’t help but think an essential part is missing. The lack of maps in two books that come to mind – one a military history book and another a roleplaying game book – really exemplified this point.