SPIR608 Political Simulations and Gaming/2011/Week 5

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Friday 18th February

  • Week 5 Discussion
Comrade Koba:
Anders Fager

Satirical game about Stalin's purges
Wikiversity Image credit:

Modern Society:
East End cityscape
Jussi Autio
Wikiversity Image credit: Fabian Tompsett

Is the design of the game's mechanics (board, pieces, cards, etc.) fit for purpose?

The cards in Comrade Koba were good, but it would be useful to have more background information about the various characters who are represented on them. The cards had all the necessary information on them to play the game.

The cards made up the board which was an interesting technique. The cards are self-explanatory, but it's not clear who got what for extra points. The players found it confusing to work out who was winning. As in The War on Terror, there were too many things going on at once. There is also too much luck in the game. There was no clear outcome at the end with the winner only emerging after the victory points were added up.

Is the game enjoyable and sociable to play?

Great fun, certainly worth playing again, especially as it took only 20 minutes to play each game.

Modern Society was boring to play with its outcome not worth the input. The game is quite co-operative in its structure. Unfortunately, it wasn't clear how the victory points relate to each of the cards.

What techniques does the game use to model its chosen subject?

Comrade Koba encourages conspiracy amongst players as they move their chosen members of the Stalinist elite towards or away from the tyrant. Due to the unpredictability of the Koba dice rolls, the game can be a bit scary to play!

The game was quite good in the way that it modelled contemporary society. The players are in a race against time which means that that your choice of decisions are severely limited. Unfortunately, you don't seem to be able to follow your own ideology, such as being a Green all of the time. The players' decisions are based on the scenario rather than what your own morality would dictate. This means that there is too much temptation for the players to game the game.

How does the game combine abstraction and realism in its workings?

Comrade Koba is realistic in how it replicates the madness of the Great Purges. The randomness of the Koba dice rolls reproduces Stalin's whims in deciding who died and who lived. Luck is a great equaliser.

Modern Society is much more a game of luck than a simulation of running a modern society. The game has a message about how the law plays a central role in developing modern society.

How accurately does the game simulate the decision-making processes faced by the real-life protagonists of its chosen subject?

Yes, it is accurate about how Stalin massacred the inner circle of the Soviet elite. However, Comrade Koba ignores how the Great Purges also inflicted massive suffering on all levels of society. The best thing about the game is that it has simple rules which produce complex play.

No, the cards in Modern Society could be about anything. The game is not realistic at all.

What political lessons can people learn by playing the game?

Stalin's "Communism" didn't work in 1930s Russia! Players of Comrade Koba learn that you have to sacrifice some of your faction members to win. The game is also a good history lesson in the randomness of the Great Purges.

The central lesson of Modern Society is expect the unexpected. The game teaches its players that legislation is very important in contemporary society.

How would you improve the structure and mechanics of the game?

Comrade Koba is an almost perfect game. The only improvement would be making the cards a bit bigger.

Modern Society was initially hard to grasp, especially with the cards making up a board. Each player could choose a law with which to start the game which reflected their political ideology. However, then some of the cards would make them play in ways that were antagonistiic to their chosen viewpoint which an unrealistic element that needs correcting. Another improvement would be eliminating the more fiddly parts of the game like moving the counters on the slider.

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