SPIR608 Political Simulations and Gaming/2011/Week 7

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Friday 4th March

  • Week 7 Discussion:.
Red Guard!:
Red Guards
Brian Train
Game of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Wikiversity Image credit:

Liberté in play, University of Westminster
Electoral game of the French Revolution
Wikiversity Image credit: Fabian Tompsett

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

The pieces are too small and fiddly. There's about the right number of cards and pieces to make the game work. There isn't too much going on to distract from the game play. The Combats Results Table needs to be learnt to be understood which is made more difficult as its operations are explained on two different pages. The basic information about the game could be presented on player aid cards. It was unclear what were the differences between "purge" and "subvert" as forms of attack. The chaos chart created a good dynamic that meant players had to cut back on purges to avoid a civil war.

Yes, the board and cards looked good - and it looked even better as the game progressed. During the first round, people were just getting their head around the rules. It was a pity that we had to stop playing the game just as we started to understand them.

Is the game enjoyable and sociable to play?

Yes, the game was good fun. However, the person who goes last has an advantage because you can choose exactly where to strike. For some people, Red Guard was their favourite game so far.

Yes. The game got much better after the first election, especially when you could execute your enemies.

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

Having a choice between subverting and purging worked well. It was good how the differences between the various factions was reflected in their mix of pieces. One of the best features of the game was how the players' goal was to fulfil their victory conditions rather than eliminate their rivals. Giving different victory conditions to each player made the game much more interesting.

Liberté modelled the different factions of the French revolution - royalists, moderates and radicals - without the players having to take on the role of any particular faction.

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

Red Guard is quite abstract, having different ministries, communes and factories represented on cards rather than on a board. The competition between the different factions was a bit like fighting an election, but it seemed a quite realistic simulation of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Players could feel victimised because people can gang up to attack them.

Yes, Liberté teaches you that a revolution devours its own children. The game isn't psychologically realistic, because you do not align yourself with any particular faction. However the distribution of factions geographically across France was realistic.

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

The game was played through creating alliances between the different factions rather than each one individually seeking victory.

Each player had a hand of cards with characters from the different factions of the 1789 French revolution. It wasn't clear whether these different factions were just window dressing for occult political manipulations. Who the players were supposed to be representing in Liberté? The game mechanics seemed to imply that you were playing a group of freemason conspirators or British secret agents.

What political lessons can people learn by playing the game?

China at time of the Cultural Revolution was very unstable. People formed into two rival factional alliances when playing the game. There were varied attitudes as to whether this was the result of informal agreements between the players or imposed by the game's structure. The main lesson of Red Guard was: Don't be an individual faction, form an alliance with others.

Liberté taught its players how to assert influence in the right places. This was a strategic game in which you need to know exactly where to place your pieces for maximum effect. The main lesson of the game was simple: If you want to lead a revolution, you need to be prepared to lose your head!

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

The cards and pieces of Red Guard should be bigger, and maybe made from something better than card. The cup used for shuffling the pieces was too small, so they weren't properly randomised. The designer should have included variants which let the game last a bit longer.

Liberté has good production values. However its mechanics need to go faster, maybe by having less rules.

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