Thursday, September 21, 2006

Session Report Up - Linkbait Edition

The latest Jerusalem Strategy Game Club session report is up here. Games played: The Menorah Game, Yinsh, Arimaa, Cosmic Encounter, El Grande, Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Havoc, San Juan, Capitol.

The Menorah Game has held up well over time. You guys don't know what you're missing. Try the advanced version of the game.

According to the Sun, which means that it surely isn't true, Madonna and Guy Ritchie have been fighting over board games, especially Scrabble. According to an anonymous source:
The atmosphere was so intense and she was such a sore loser that he told her he wouldn't play her again.

They started playing Trivial Pursuit but it only made matters worse. Even Tiddlywinks could start World War III.
This would be perfect linkbait if Britney Spears had also been cat-fighting over a game of Monopoly with Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera. Nude.

Many people are condemning the new War on Terror game. I think the designers are idiots, but if they're really publishing it because they don't think there is an ideological difference between America's war on terror and Islam's war on the west, let them knock themselves out and don't dignify them with more press. You can find a link to the game in numerous other locations.

Six Generations, the card game that teaches children to procreate, in order to preserve their family heritage. According to it's inventor:
"I see my game as the opposite of a condom," said Fyodor Soloview.
"They are both cheap, but their purposes differ."
One of his points with the cards is to remove the aspect of royalty from the suits, so that all the cards, including the often ignored 2's through 10's, get treated with the respect they deserve.

And a new sex-education game, Gol Maal, is introduced in Mumbai, India.



Anonymous said...

Trolling for search engine hits?

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Heh, not me. Nope.


Anonymous said...

"Many people are condemning the new War on Terror game. I think the designers are idiots, but if they're really publishing it because they don't think there is an ideological difference between America's war on terror and Islam's war on the west, let them knock themselves out and don't dignify them with more press"

Why is that? Is it simply becouse you are unable to put a coherent argument together on the matter? You felt it important enough to mention in the first place .... if it was not worth mentioning then why mention the game? - frankly I think you are missing the point of the game at all? .... answer me this is killing another human right or wrong? It's a yes or no question I'm after not a 'it depends' as that is just a copout ....

by the way the url is:-

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Hi, Anon. I'm assuming you're one of the designers.

I already linked to your site a few months ago, so I didn't feel the need to do so again. Also, you've had quite enough bonus press as it is.

I can put together a plenty coherent argument, but it would have to be between two people who have a mature intellect and are honestly seeking understanding.

I am willing to listen to reasons why killing someone trying to kill me is morally equivalent to my killing them first, but from your web site and your general attitude, I find it difficult to believe that you are willing to conduct a serious discussion about the subject.

"It depends" is a cop-out? Are you a two-year old? Is eating grapes "right" or "wrong"? It depends. If they are yours or if they are stolen. If they are fresh or if they are spoiled.

The answer is, as in most areas in life, "it depends". Yes, sometimes killing is "right". And sometimes killing is "wrong". That's my belief. As is the belief of most grownups.

I'm not willing to dignify a discussion in order to boost traffic for your sales. Nor am I always willing to discuss every subject with everyone.

I don't engage Holocaust denial proponents, either, and they can catcall me, say I'm afraid of the "truth", and claim that I don't have a coherent argument as much as they want. The very discussion they wish to pursue is their agenda.

I fear that that is the same here.

If you really believe that all killing is morally equivalent, we have a long and arduous road ahead to reconcile our differences, and I don't think a facile blog post or comment forum is the place for it.

Suffice for me to say: in my opinion, equating the morality of the people who pursue the people who purposely target civilians, however flawed their methods, with the people who purposely target civilians, is idiotic. Moreso, it is childish.

If you really want to discuss it, set up a moderated forum and we can start talking Kant and Emerson.


Anonymous said...

Sir you fail at the first hurdle - I am not as you assume 'one of the designers' and have no financial interest either

As for the moderated forum - well there are plenty already setup currently discussing this - find me there ....


Anonymous said...

Dear Yehuda,

The problem with Kant's categorical imperative is that it doesn't really work well with masochists, i.e. suicide bombers/hijackers. The imperative, as you know, is basically a negative formulation of the Golden Rule: don't do unto others what wouldn't be a good idea for everyone to do (by extension, unto you).

So for someone who's, say, really into self-flagellating, they wouldn't see anything wrong with flogging others, because they'd actually like to be flogged themselves. Likewise, for someone who believes they will be rewarded in paradise for killing infidels along with themselves, it's not against the categorical imperative to say "Kill 'em all and let God [or Allah] sort 'em out."

But to me, the categorical imperative does argue against pure retaliation. A lot of it depends on whether you focus on intent or effect. If collateral damage can be agreed to be an inevitable, unavoidable effect, then the intent to minimize it doesn't matter. The categorical imperative would argue that if the West does not like to see civilians suffer, it cannot respond using methods that inevitably result in civilians suffering. You seem to suggest that intent is what matters, and I think we could have an interesting discussion on that.

As for War on Terror:The Boardgame (I'm not a designer, but I will admit I've ordered a copy), a lot of the condemnation has been because the theme is insensitive or tasteless. But are you against the game solely because of the political stance of the designers? That is, if you went to their site and there were only the rules and pictures of the game and no political posturing, is it a game you would be interested in playing? Or does the theme disqualify it for you, outright?

Best regards.

Yehuda Berlinger said...


Thank you for the well thought-out reply.

Yes, I think that intent matters, but only when there is a possibility of not inflicting collateral damage. If collateral damage is a certainty, then intent doesn't matter.

The difference is more the idea of action vs reaction. I believe that killing people who have intent to kill you is morally justified. I also believe that even inevitable collateral killing should not preclude a preemptive strike, in very limited circumstances.

Of course, I open up the question of condemning to death without a judge or jury; I accept that the situation is not ideal, and only one to be used in extreme circumstances. I also would like to point out that harboring criminals with intent to kill, while not deserving of death, also forgoes a certain moral right to not be collaterally involved.

As for the board game, a large part of my problem is with the designer's diatribe, rather than with the game. There are plenty of games where people play the Nazis, or people play bullies, all of which I wouldn't personally play, but wouldn't go so far as to tell others not to play.

In fact, I didn't tell anyone not to play this game. I think it is just as idiotic to censor this game as to have created it. Look at all the free press the designers are getting from the complaints and censoring. They couldn't buy it so cheaply.

As far as my morals go, I don't equate the war on terror with terror. If your complaint is that the war on terror is being mishandled, it means that you still agree that there should be a preemtive war on terror, only a more responsible one. This still doesn't justify a comparison between the two.

As far as my own situation, I don't play games that have the players take on immoral acts in the name of fun. I can live with abstract war (my d6 beats your d6, so you remove a cube from the board), but not with taking on the role of a suicide bomb operative.

I am not otherwise against the game. I actually don't care enough about it to be against it. It looks highly thematic, and low on actual fun mechanics, and I play games more for their mechanics than their theme.


Yehuda Berlinger said...

It looks highly thematic, and low on actual fun mechanics, and I play games more for their mechanics than their theme.

Sorry, I take that back. I can't tell if the game has "fun mechanics" without playing it, but I don't generally play war games or directly confrontational games, as these are not fun for me. The mechanics may be fun for someone else.


Anonymous said...

Hi Yehuda,

Thanks for your reply. I have no reason to want to convince you to play wargames or other themes you just plain don't find fun or palatable. Myself, I go both ways--I really love Tigris & Euphrates, which you have pictured on your site banner, but I do also enjoy games where negotiation (and of course, backstabbing) are part of the game mechanic, along with fighting when the negotiations fail.

You said something in your reply about abstraction of combat that touches on something I've been thinking about. I wrote an (unpublished) essay a while back about how I behave when playing the Civilization computer games. Normally, I consider myself a pretty decent, if sometimes passive, person. Yet when playing the game I have no qualms about starting a preemptive war by dropping a nuke on the lead AI if he's getting too far ahead. That's because in the game I have one goal--to win! There's also no accountability for my actions, other than me losing.

Obviously, it's a computer game, and even though the AI's city is devastated, no one is really hurt. That's why I thought it a little funny that you're okay with an extreme abstraction of what is already an abstraction. (No offense meant--just an observation.) For example, is combat more concrete, and therefore less palatable, if colored wooden cubes are replaced by plastic airplane or soldier figurines?

Now--if you'll forgive my extended metaphor by way of introduction--the connection to politics. It seems to me that our leaders here in the U.S. are so extremely abstracted from the reality and suffering on the ground, that they make poor decisions about predicted outcomes, and whether macho antagonism is the best solution to problems. It's almost as if it seems like a game to them. Photos of flag-draped coffins are forbidden from being published in the press, lest we are too much reminded of the costs of our actions. Collateral damage becomes a statistic. The enemy no longer has a face, and we prefer it that way.

I realize that in Israel, all citizens are required to serve in the active military, so every adult takes part or has taken part in decisions leading to sacrifice and suffering. And I also understand that frequent terrorist attacks in your own country pose an existential threat unlike anything I could ever imagine. I don't mean to belittle this at all and I can only hope and pray that some kind of peaceful resolution will be achieved.

But here in the U.S., we're half a world away from the violence and suffering. War really has become abstract--like a game--to the vast majority of the public and its leaders. All the sacrifice that's been asked of us is that we continue shopping with our tax cuts. It's almost as if the game-like abstraction makes it okay not to have to think about it. In fact, if we question it at all we're labeled traitors.

I think this is one of the more subtle yet important points of the game (regardless of whether it would be fun to play on a personal level). Yes, War on Terror: The Boardgame is an abstraction of what is very real, and very deadly. Yet to a great extent, the real War on Terror is already an abstraction to the people calling the shots--and that makes it dangerous.

Best regards.

Yehuda Berlinger said...


As far as abstraction goes, indeed the less abstraction, the more the disquiet. I have played games with plastic planes and so on, and it didn't bother me. But as the simulation grows, as the detail becomes more personal (man to man) and less global, more specific (limbs, bloods, cries) and less generic, the more the disquiet grows.

The line is not fine and black; it is large and gray. Likely, my decisions may appear to be contradictory. Sometimes I may play a game with a bit more detail than another one that I will not play, either due to other factors in the game or due to external factors to the game.

Aside from that, I agree with your attitude towards the U.S.'s censorship policy. Censoring coffins in order to numb the American conscience is a bad idea, even though I believe that it is not really done to preseve abstraction so much as to not undercut the resolve of the feint-of-heart, who don't have any real business in determining governmental policy.

If the original authors had written that the game was created to raise awareness and to discuss the issue, rather than to blanketly equate fighting terrorism with terrorism, I wouldn't have responded as harshly.

I'm sorry for attacking my anonymous reader; I usually don't attack my readers so directly, but admit that he really did deserve it when he asked, "Is killing right or wrong? And no saying 'it depends.'"

And now we really should talk about Britney Spears cat-fighting with Angelina Jolie.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like it could be some sort of card-based fighting game. You know, like at range AJ can fight with her Twin .45 Automatics. Or BS can deal double damage with her Oops, I Did It Again card...

Seriously though, Angelina would totally kick Britney's butt.