Friday, September 18, 2009

Games as Historiography

One of the joys of working in the history simulation hobby is the history itself. Too often, good scholarship takes a back seat to gameplay and publishing concerns, but every once in a while, a truly impressive piece of historical synthesis may be found. Here are three quick examples:

Here I Stand (GMT)
(designer Ed Beach)
Most students of the Reformation tend towards the religious struggle to the exclusion of the myriad forces in operation throughout sixteenth-century Europe. Ed's synthesis of each of six key powers' goals and strategic options is remarkable. Managing the complexities through brilliant use of a card-driven system, the game manages to elevate to, at the very least, a catalyst for better understanding of this important period.

War of the Suns
(designer Leonard To)
In a front of WWII forgotten by most Westerners, the Chinese held off a Japanese incursion into Russia for nearly a decade. Especially with China emerging on the world stage as it is, understanding this conflict is critical - but even for those interested, the English-language sources are slim. Leonard's synthesis of the Chinese sources into this monster simulation make this game likely the best academic examination of that conflict available in the English language.

Clash of Monarchs (GMT)
(designer Bob Kalinowski)
The detail and complexity of this simulation of the Seven Years' War speak to Bob's long study and toil to bring this to our tables. "Labor of love" has new meaning here, and again a synthesis of the source material into an overview of inestimable value for the historian. It is so easy to get lost in the arcana and esoterica of a subject...

At any rate, hope the Lepanto game I'm working on can come close to any of these in its usefulness...


Unknown said...

I don't know the first one, but I certainly agree on the second and the third. Actually I am the Dutch historian that raised the COM Venlo issue with the designer. If I were to add one other game it would be 1914, Twilight in the East from GMT

Rian van Meeteren

Mark Mahaffey said...

Another one worth mentioning is Scott deBrestian's "Kingdom of Heaven"

daje10 said...

Realy like youre work and what you did with the "Here I stand" map.

I have a question fore you, what would it cost to hire you to produce a gameboard, box, manual, and card design?

Best regards Daniel

Mark Mahaffey said...

Well, thanks! Pop me an email at with details of your project, and we'll see if it's something we can work out.

Mark Mahaffey said...

And yet another worth mentioning in the same breath, Mark Mokszycki's "Operation Dauntless"