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17 Jan 2011

Academic recognition!

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January is "academia month", apparently. Hot on the heels of our talk on games and politics at the University of Newcastle, we've just heard the incredible news that War on Terror is part of a module at the University of Westminster!

Dr Richard Barbrook, who we know through his Class Wargames group and related game nights in London, is a senior lecturer of politics at the University of Westminster and this year he's running a new core module in "Political Simulation and Gaming" as part of their History & Politics BA. Check out the plan for Week 4!

After being referenced in several PHD theses, academic books and now War on Terror is on a university syllabus, what could possibly be the next step? Surely, War on Terror studies is an eventual inevitability?

Any takers?

EDIT: We just got word that the IT University of Copenhagen used War on Terror twice last year in game design modules, like this one (scroll down to September 28). If anyone else has any academic-related news to do with our games, we'd be fascinated to learn of it. Drop us a line!

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 17 January 2011 - 0 comments

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16 Jan 2011

TBG goes back to school

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2011 started unusually auspiciously. We were invited to give a short lecture at the Political Geography Research Group's workshop at Newcastle University on a subject relating to: 'Why does political geography matter?'.

First thing we had to do was come up with a smart-ass title.Good question. Rather than get bogged down with the actual answer to this question (and we all have enough experience with university to recognise there are no real questions in academia - and if you do have the misfortune to come across a genuine, non-rhetorical question, it's generally considered bad form to answer it without using another question or without rephrasing the original question into a form more suited to your area of study/research/revision) - we first hit up Wikipedia for the answer to a more important question: what is "political geography"? Mountains signing peace treaties? Spoiling your ballot in an ox-bow lake?

It seems that - very basically - political geography examines how space impacts political structures and processes. We still weren't sure at this point how relevant we were to a discussion about how relevant this was, but we always like talking about games as political objects and there seemed to be some crossover, so we jumped at the chance.

First thing we had to do was come up with a smart-ass title. All good talks and papers contain some sort of play-on-words. This is what we got: "Space Invading: Are Games Becoming Part of the Political Landscape?". All we had to do then was bend what we wanted to talk about to fit our title and the workshop as a whole. Plus we'd added a question of our own and we had a killer pun. This was going well ...

Despite the good start, we were actually pretty nervous. 15 minutes isn't a lot and I originally had planned a thorough history lesson about the socio-political history of traditional games.

On top of that, I was imagining stepping into a room full of eminent professors, lecturers and PHD students and basically giving an ill-positioned, extended advert. "And now a word from TerrorBull Games ..."

Still, as you can see for yourselves in the video below, it all went pretty well. Even got some laughs. And the feedback was genuinely enthusiastic - turns out that what we had to say was uncannily relevant to many peoples' areas of study and - if nothing else - most people seemed grateful for the rest from incessant meta-theories.

Full transcript here, if you're trying to get extra credits.

A couple of apologies: First, my mumbling and enunciation. I was rather nervous and knew I had a tight time limit, so I just put my head down and tried to race through it. Also, the sound quality isn't brilliant. On both these fronts, we will endeavour to improve our output. There was also (in my head) a fairly neat and clear thread linking the 3 "case study" games - Wargames, Train and War on Terror - in that, to learn the lesson of these games, you didn't necessarily have to play them. But that got a bit lost in the mix.

We enjoyed hanging out with academics and were made to feel very welcome. One of the delegates, Alan Ingram, had even name-checked us in the introduction to his book: Spaces of Security and Insecurity: Geographies of the War on Terror. It brought us full-circle back to why we designed War on Terror in the first place - and that was with educational and political goals in mind.

Many thanks to Nick Megoran for inviting us to submit in the first place. And thanks to everyone present for being so friendly and enthusiastic.

Posted by Andy S on 16 January 2011 - 2 comments

Comments so far:

  1. Very good, but I don't think you should have used canned laughter.Mark Sheerin from Brighton - 24 January 2011
  2. But, Mark, it worked on The Two Ronnies ...TerrorBull Games - 26 January 2011

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23 Dec 2010

Snow may look pretty. But try standing in it for 10 hours

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As we explained recently, in the run up to Christmas, we approached over 50 shopping centres, the length and breadth of the country, trying to get a stand to hawk our wares from. We were refused from every single one.

Even our local patch, Lion Yard, told us all hell would break loose if the public got the briefest glimpse of War on Terror. They doggedly stuck by this story, despite the fact that we were very successful there this time last year. In the words of the mighty Jarvis Cocker ....

Anyway, what else could we do but hit the markets. Unfortunately, we found out that it's not only the commercial mainstream that have it in for us - the weather decided to pitch in with a few obstacles too.

To all those people, it looked like we were just selling snow. So, on the coldest weekend of the coldest December in the UK since records began 100 years ago, we decided it would be a good idea to stand still, outside, for 10 hours.

Not only was it the coldest weekend, it also transpired to be the worst Christmas weekend in retail terms in living memory. Everyone either (wisely) stayed indoors or was out making snowmen. We think about 5 people walked past our stall at Camden on Saturday. To all those 5 people, it looked like we were just selling snow. 3 were interested. One bought.

fucking snow
Note how the mood changes: Rob displays the classic "market traders' wink" (above) while hope still remained. 1 hour later and things have taken a sharp downward turn. (below)

Still, two good things came of it. We got major kudos from the regulars for actually sticking the day out. Plus we managed to single-handedly start an EPIC snowball battle that spanned either side of Camden lock. It started off with throwing isolated snowballs at strangers 50 yards away and taunting them with the megaphone and escalated into a good, 80-strong battle that ranged up and down the canal for several hours.

Spare a thought for the next market trader you see. They have to put up with a lot of crap.

Merry whatsits to everyone. Bring on 2011!

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 23 December 2010 - 0 comments

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15 Dec 2010

A Game for Greenpeace: Deepsea Desperation

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Usually when the phone rings down here in the bunker, we are fearful and suspicious. Our reaction to a ringing phone is not unlike that of a monkey being confronted by a remote-controlled car strapped with fireworks. Luckily, however, when the phone rang about 3 months ago, we gathered ourselves enough to answer it. Good job too, because on the other end was the marketing manager of Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace, it turns out, could be classed as "fans" of our games. War on Terror is apparently a hit in the office and we stayed on their radar, earning invisible brownie points with our foray into print-and-play games: Operation BP: Bullshit Plug not surprisingly caught their eye and then Mosqopoly finally did the trick and they called.

We had an interesting chat about games and activism and it seemed like Greenpeace were very interested in using a printable board game as campaign material. At this point, we were just happy and amazed that an organisation like Greenpeace were even aware of us, let alone actively investigating such a progressive idea.

You can imagine, then, how ecstatic we are that the idea actually came to fruition and today they released Deepsea Desperation, a print-and-play game about deepwater drilling. Not only that, but they said very kind things about us and called us "professional satirists". Made our week!

Here's our own game page with the necessary files and instructions. Please give it a go - and if you like it, feel free to tell Greenpeace how awesome they are for going out on a limb and trying something new.

We are very proud of this, our first commission. Not only is it a pleasure to produce a game for Greenpeace, but wouldn't it be amazing if similar organisations, NGOs and charities picked up on the power of games to communicate a message?

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 15 December 2010 - 5 comments

Comments so far:

  1. Awesome stuff!chris from auckland - 19 December 2010
  2. This is your best topic yet!Shirley - 2 March 2011
  3. Amazing post, truly!Shirley - 2 March 2011
  4. Shirley sounds like a robot without a purposeanonymous - 15 April 2011
  5. Love the War Criminal Captcha, by the way. Fucking brilliant!anonymous - 15 April 2011

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13 Dec 2010

It's here! War on Terror Edition 2

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Like its real life counterpart, the War on Terror never dies. It persists, doggedly, and will probably still be going strong twenty years from now. What better way to commemorate its never-ending nature than by releasing a new, updated edition?

Some of you may recall we started talking about this "new edition" back in 2008. Unfortunately, also like the real-life War on Terror, our version was beset by numerous intelligence flaws. We had no idea it would take us this long - and then just when we reached the last hurdle, it got further delayed by customs x-raying our container (we're guessing they assumed "War on Terror" was some elabroate double bluff on behalf of the terrorsits). And then snow closed the ports for a week. Still, the important thing is, it's here. Here:

Edition 2: The Tour

Enough waffle! Let's take a look around this bad boy (don't forget to check the gallery too for a more detailed look at the components).

Everything that comes in the box of the all new war on terror
Just take a look at the mountain of crap pile of goodies that comes in the box!

The front of the box, War on Terror edition 2
A closer look at the front of the box.

The back of the box, War on Terror edition 2
And the back (we're going to be thorough here).

An overview of all the new cards
A look at the new cards in edition 2. You'll notice that "God's On My Side" is a card that exists in both the Empire and Terrorist decks.

Edition 2 money
The new money, starring our Amnesty auction winners!

Abu Ghraib guy gives some helpful pointers
The "Abu Ghraib guy" points out that War on Terror is now officially for 3 players minimum. 2 player War on Terror doesn't utilise back stabbing and paranoia to the hilt, 3 players makes sure of that joy.

War on Terror Edition 1 and Edition 2 side-by-side
Edition 1 on the left; edition 2 on the right. Past and future, side-by-side. Cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon ...

And there you have it. The most obvious thing is that Edition 2 is more compact. We shrunk the volume (by roughly a third) and also removed some surplus plastics to reduce weight, waste and bulk. Retailers have been cursing our oversized box for four years and no one with a sore back has enjoyed carrying the 2.2kg monster home.

There's a new (and spectacular) possible ending to the game, which is the result of using the new "God's On My Side" together with "Nuclear Weapons". There's tonnes of new artwork on the box and board and throughout the game. The box alone contains twice as many illustrations as Edition 1 - and you thought that was crowded! The board also contains a new sea route and some redrawn boundaries.

New elements incldue: ten brand new cards, some of which are duplicated in both decks; "Indigenous Terrorists", where terrorist units are now associated with some oil counters and cannot be removed or moved from the board; "Holy Nuclear Armageddon" - a new (and spectacular) possible ending to the game which is the result of using the new "God's On My Side" together with "Nuclear Weapons". This can lead to a volley of Nukes being launched by all players and is most likely a violent and sudden end to the game.

In terms of rule changes, we went for "tweaking" rather than "rewriting". In short, it's now quicker and more "solid". Games have a more definite and consistent arc to them: peace and prosperity -> first fights -> all-out warfare -> destruction and chaos -> poverty and misery.

Serious gamers have always complained about the game's chaos and it was honestly hard to resist these cries to stablise the game. The vast majority of people who are fans of the game however love the chaos and fun that embody the game. In the end, we opted for a middle ground where some rules have been optimised to improve the speed of the rounds and to reward longer-term strategies. Specifically the rules about turning terrorist, funding terrorism and a terrorist win have been tuned to avoid a too-sudden terrorist win. Now the terrorist player can "steal" oil revenue, they have more strategic choices to make and the terrorist role is more interesting and rewarding. Ultimately, though, we held off completely rewiring the game - nor do we feel there's any need for it.

We're down to the last few hundred Edition 1 games in our warehouse here in the UK (they're completely sold out in the USA) - minus a few for the TerrorBull museum, of course. Bear in mind that this is the version in the Bodleian Library, the Imperial War Museum, the Berlin Academy of Arts, on the IT Crowd and in that infamous police photo. History! We have a feeling that this remaining stock won't last too long now it has become a finite commodity, fixed at 25,000 copies, forever. For those of a collectivist or completionist bent (and let's face it, if you're a board gamer, you are almost definitely both by default) get yours while you still can.

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 13 December 2010 - 21 comments

Comments so far:

  1. I want it! Time to wrap my first edition copy in bubblewrap and store it away safely :)Dale from London - 13 December 2010
  2. Geez, and I just bought v1.0 a little more than week ago and haven't even played it yet :( Are you going to publish the RoE and Card Appendix again as you did before, and/or do the updated rules as posted on the rules-page apply? Or did you make any more changes? And could you do like a print-out page for the new cards to help us upgrade? Or you could offer upgrade packages, with only the new cards and all that, that would be awesome. This way we wouldn't even have to glue stuff on our cards :)Bertolt from Bavaria - 14 December 2010
  3. Mr Brecht! You honour us with your presence ... I'm really sorry about the timing of War on Terror. Yes, we are going to publish the full v2 rules and cards. We don't currently have plans for an upgrade pack but we are working on an expansion that's good for both versions of the game (and would also double-up as an upgrade from v1 to v2). Hope that gives you some consolation!TerrorBull Games - 14 December 2010
  4. Yep, that's good enough, I'd say. ;) In any case I can just upgrade with post-its for now, so no problem in waiting for the expansion pack. And I mean, the cool thing is trying around with new rules and cards anyways. Already have a few ideas including the Crotch and Shoe Bombers, and "Sectarian Violence". ;) Btw, Brownie Points for recognizing the namesake my parents chose for me :PBertolt from Bavaria - 14 December 2010
  5. cool! how can I buy edition two, or do we have to keep buying edition one until they are gone?justin from australia - 14 December 2010
  6. Justin - unfortunately, since you're in Australia, you have to wait until New Internationalist place their next order with us before edition 2 reaches the nether-regions of the planet. That shouldn't be too long though. Sorry! Bertolt - I like the idea of Croth and Shoe bomber cards. And you have cool parents. My favourite Brecht quote is "Hope is just a lack of information". I always remember that when I need cheering up.TerrorBull Games - 15 December 2010
  7. LOVE IT - WELL DONE GUYSMaria from round the bend - 15 December 2010
  8. cheers but also @#@*it anyway I wanted to by one to send to my brother in Boston for christmas is that going to take just as long or is The US more supply-able?justin from australia - 15 December 2010
  9. Justin - that's no problem, we have stock in the States ready to go. Check the message at the top of the shop page for last order dates in N.AmericaTerrorBull Games - 16 December 2010
  10. I was one of the first to order WOT1, and Crunch, and have my certificates for both of them! But I don't really want to throw my WOT on the trashpile and replace it completely. So if some sort of 'upgrade' comes out, which is common with board games I'll grab that.Tony from London - 16 December 2010
  11. That kid on the 100M note looks like he probably grew up into a handsome and well-adjusted adult ;)Nathan-Madonna from Oxford - 16 December 2010
  12. Tony - you've already shown your support above and beyond the call of duty. I'm sorry there's not an upgrade kit to speak of. It could be that we underestimated demand and maybe one will be produced in the future, but more likely is an expansion pack that will serve as an upgrade and be useful to both WoT1 and WoT2 owners. TerrorBull Games - 16 December 2010
  13. Nathan - that's funny, he can't be too adjusted if he's the kind of person who forks out good money to get his face on some play banknotes.TerrorBull Games - 16 December 2010
  14. WoT1 was wonderful, as have been the printable games. At the risk of turning into a groupie, the website is refeshingly fun to visit too. I like to wander around it looking for tongues-in-cheeks - they're all over the place! Well done for keeping WoT in the news, and up-to-date, and for keeping yourselves out of the grasp of the state police. Oh, and a special well done for keeping Courier current! Keep up the great work. IanIan from Bath, UK - 16 December 2010
  15. Another vote for an upgrade pack for v1 of the game! (If it's not worthwhile for you to produce one, I'd settle for a print-your-own upgrade...)Steven Johnson from Oakland CA - 16 December 2010
  16. Hey Ian, we are thrilled to have our first official groupie. Welcome! As well as combing the site for witty little comments we put in to keep ourselves amused, your next job will be to check the source code religiously and to sycophantically "lol" at everything we ever post. You start immediately. TerrorBull Games - 16 December 2010
  17. And another vote for printable expansion pack, upgrade, whatever there is. Am an English teacher in banks and big businesses in Luxemburg, can't wait to use Crunch in class. Teach them Anglo-Saxon sarcasm!Ant from Luxemburg - 20 December 2010
  18. Hello Gents, Been playing V1 today with my power hungry nephew and conniving wife - we brought it for him last year and it is a keen fav after feasting... I'll be investing in V2 very soon - the expansion pack sounds like a great idea.. he'll be well jelous of me having all these global Jihad's on my hands :)Joel from Cambridge/London - 25 December 2010
  19. My favourite Brecht quote is "Hope is just a lack of information". Are you sure this really is a Brecht quote? Should I be hoping that you do an upgrade pack in the near future? (oh and I like the war criminal captcha too!)Dubious from UK - 29 December 2010
  20. $%@&! Australian Santa delivered me a copy of v1 last week. I'd really appreciate a downloadable print-your-own upgrade pack.simon from new zealand - 2 January 2011
  21. Hi Dubious - maybe you're right. I just googled "Hoffnung ist nur ein Mangel an Information" and it came back with Heiner Mueller. But the line appears in one of Brecht's plays too. I now have to work out which one ...TerrorBull Games - 5 January 2011

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