Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A Disturbing Curio

A while back I took a trip down Memory Lane on a Nostalgia Segway while drinking a Recollection Smoothie, and wrote a billion words (or thereabouts) on my childhood love of Role-Playing Games, and the sad passing of Gary Gygax. While "researching" that post, I came across some archives with pictures and information about old RPGs and board games, and spent some time reminiscing about the old Games Workshop games (Judge Dredd, Talisman, the Risk-knock off Apocalypse), the Dune board game (a lot of fun, but I once won it in one move, so perhaps it's not the most thoroughly play-tested game ever), Steve Jackson's Illuminati (I would have enjoyed it more if I'd actually read Illuminatus, though I would think a 10 year old reading that would be enwrongened for life), etc. It was fun. Until I stumbled across this board game from several years ago.

The United States is in economic turmoil contributed to by droughts, bank failures, and the loans the Third World has defaulted on. Lately, there has been an emergence of radical grass-roots political groups. The whole nation seems to be polarized. Overseas, relations between the United States and the Pan-Arab Coalition, an Anti-American alliance of nations, have continued to deteriorate.
The President and Congress have decided that a war against the Pan-Arab Coalition will pull together the divided United States. However, Britain is refusing to support the move, completely isolating the United States. Congress has called a joint session, asking all Congressmen, governors of the fifty states, the President, and the Supreme Court Justices to attend to help make the crucial decisions that will decide the fate of the nation.
At this momentous meeting, five brothers bring together the parts to a small nuclear bomb. They know it has just enough force to eradicate the leaders of the Great Satan and turn the United States into the Shattered Slates.

Oh boy. A bit more research, and I found out it was co-written by a Karsten Engelmann, who also wrote the suspicious sounding Objective force representation (U.S. Army War College strategy research project). I have no idea what it would contain, but I assume it's like a dissertation on warfare. I also have no idea what you can learn at the U.S. Army War College, or what the courses would be like. Sun Tsu 101? Advanced von Clausewitz? Film Studies and Semiotics (course studies Patton, Rules of Engagement, and The Green Berets)?

What made me squirm is the thought that it appeals to the kind of Islamophobic warmongering mindset that has become especially rabid over the past decade or so, but then I guess people who live in that kind of world need a gaming outlet just like the rest of us normal, well-adjusted, not-actually-hate-filled people. If the nerds of the world, those who have been picked on by bullies, gain a release by playing a level or two of Call of Duty 4 or Gears of War, thus making them feel more confident, I'll wager that old-time military enthusiasts would play re-enactments of Waterloo, modern espionage experts would play something like Twilight Struggle - The Cold War, and xenophobic US survivalists would get a kick out of being given free reign to fly in the face of reason and go apeshit on some Muslims (either that, or Leo Strauss played it a lot).

What troubles me more is that the game was published in 1990, while the "Free World" was meant to be focusing on the USSR, and before the first Gulf War. Call me naive, but I guess this woke me up to the fact that Islam has been considered a threat to Freedom for a lot longer than I thought. No seriously, call me naive, because it did surprise me a little. I'd put that kind of revelation into the folder marked, "Things I Kinda Knew But Never Really Put At The Front Of My Mind." Still, we've come a long way since then. Now we can laugh about the oncoming Clash of Civilisations (C) Samuel Huntington.

The goal is to liberate the world, ending fear and terrorism forever. Not likely in this day and age, so you can also play as the terrorists, fighting for a world without empires. The politics of the game can become complicated but nothing that a little neighborly aggression can't solve. There's political kidnappings, suicide bombers, nasty propaganda, and some intercontinental war thrown in for good measure. The Axis of Evil spinner on the game board comes into play to dole out Terrorist cards which can be used against your opponents to stop development of a country or, even worse, flow of it's [sic] oil revenue! It won't be long before somebody gets nuked. But that's okay. It's just War on Terror - The Boargame [sic], right? Ages: 14 and up. Manufacturer: Terrorbull Games [again, sic]

The Daily Mail [sick] hated it with their customary blustery rage, but at least interviewed the developers, which was unusually generous of them. I recommend reading that article, it's unintentionally funny. That said, it's not the weirdest or most tasteless concept for a game I've read today. Please please please, someone buy me a copy of Kablamo.

It’s the year 1918, and being part of the Russian nobility shortly after the revolution is no picnic. The Bolsheviks have confiscated your land and belongings, you risk ending up facing a firing squad for being an enemy of the state, and your fancy title is no more than an insult to most common people. There are a few upsides, though. Your noble friends in misery are now more than willing to try your own favorite version of the nation’s number one roulette game, and life couldn’t possibly get any worse.

At least not for a short while…

Kablamo is a fast-paced board game of Russian roulette, where a good memory, improvisation skills and a keen sense of humor all come in handy. The object of the game is to be the last man standing. Every player has a revolver loaded with six bullets lying in front of them. The bullets lie face down and may not be looked at once loaded into the revolver, forcing players to memorize everything. Each turn, players simultaneously fire one bullet. If a player fires a live bullet -- tough luck, that player is out. Fortunately, most bullets aren't live, but allow players to use various effects such as Greased Cylinder, Trigger Happy and Bolshevik Rules. To survive, players must use the effects cleverly and at the right moment. But most important of all, they must keep track of the live bullets since they constantly trade places between the chambers of different revolvers. In the end, the player who manages to dodge all live bullets and outwit every opponent will be victorious.

Contents: 5 Revolver boards
20 Live Bullet tiles
67 Action Bullet tiles
13 High Velocity Bullet tiles
1 Ammunition bag
1 Rules folder

Next to Eve Online (once we get a more powerful computer, that is), that's the game I want most. Kablamo, bitches! KABLAMO!!!

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