Saturday, 2 January 2021

Game Plan.

          The pandemic has probably brought more people to board games to escape bored evenings, in lockdown, but how many of these board games come to suit anarchist ways of thinking? Well, C4SS, Centre for Stateless Society, have put forward the suggestion, Bloc by Bloc. See what you think. 
       For better or worse, board games tend to be a popular form of entertainment in radical spaces, and yet there are precious few games that explicitly deal with anarchist ideas. For those exhausted by games glorifying nationalistic conquest, monopoly capitalism, and settler colonialism, Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game may offer a breath of refreshing (if tear-gas-scented) air. According to the introduction in the manual, Bloc by Bloc is “a semi-cooperative game simulating protest movements, riots and popular uprisings in urban areas of the world during the first decades of the 21st century.” The name refers to the black bloc, a tactic used to anonymize and thereby protect participants in these uprisings, and in the game refers to the literal wooden blocks that represent such participants.
      Released by Out of Order Games in 2018, the latest edition of Bloc by Bloc features randomized map generation, area control strategy, and hidden agendas, where each player is a faction of revolutionaries fighting against the police in an attempt to liberate their city. Each of the various factions (workers, neighbors, prisoners, and students) has a special ability giving them an advantage in their struggle against the state. For example, the students can more easily and freely move about the city, whereas the neighbors are better at building barricades to slow down the movement of the police.
        Bloc by Bloc is a game for 2 to 4 players and it typically takes 2 to 3 hours to play. Players new to strategy board games might find the learning curve a little steep, but the instruction manual is clearly worded and includes reference cards that remind players of their available actions. Experienced board gamers will probably find many of the mechanics familiar. Board game comparison site gives it a complexity rating of 2.7 out of 5; compare this to the 2.3 / 5 of the classic competitive mainstay Settlers of Catan or the 2.4 / 5 of the popular cooperative game Pandemic.
      While it can be played in fully cooperative mode, the game’s unique semi-cooperative mode is the recommended way to play, and in this Final Straw Radio interview, the game’s designer TL explains why. In contrast to fully cooperative games, where all players are on the same team and playing against the game’s “cardboard AI,” the players in Bloc by Bloc might all be on the same team — but they also might not. In fully co-op games, there is a tendency for everyone to follow the lead of the most experienced player, at its worst becoming a de-facto game of solitaire with less experienced players acting as mere extensions of the most experienced. This dynamic (while perhaps a rational strategy, the players want to win after all), isn’t necessarily encouraging of the critical thinking and anti-hierarchical mindset that anarchists seek to cultivate. But by introducing uncertainty about other players’ agendas, Bloc by Bloc instead forces each player to autonomously evaluate any particular move on its own strategic merit. 

    It was fun but the gameplay is horrible . It wouldn’t be too hard to tweak it to Make it playable. The fix would to have way less dice rolling , which there is more of in this game than risk, which is the reason risk doesn’t hold up. Also the game is way too long. I appreciate the effort though, it’s hard work creating a game
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