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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Educate Women in Indonesia, Reconquer the Holy Land, Prepare for South Asian Cold War Struggles, and Recreate the First English Civil War

by Candice Harris

• It seems like just yesterday I posted about the exciting finalists from the first Zenobia Award, but I guess I shared that announcement way back in August 2021. Time flies when you’re having fun!

In June 2023, Ion Game Design launched a Kickstarter campaign for one of the Zenobia Award finalists, Sherria Ayuandini‘s Kartini – From Darkness to Light, which is a historical strategy game all about educating girls in Indonesia, and helping them graduate and move on to a career. Kartini – From Darkness to Light plays with 1–6 Players in 60–150 minutes, and sounds interesting and unique based on the publisher’s description below:

In Kartini – From Darkness to Light, you manage schools for girls where girls from different islands of Indonesia come to be students. As they graduate, the students become politicians, fighters, patrons or teachers, further advancing education for women and supporting the fight for the nation’s freedom. Strategically manage your duits (money) and books to help as many girls graduate from your school while paying attention to your school’s reputation. After four rounds, signifying four years of compulsory preliminary education in Indonesia, the player with the highest points wins the game.

Kartini – From Darkness to Light celebrates the triumphs of girls’ education. The game takes place in Indonesia in the late 1800 to the early 1900, during the country’s struggle for independence from Dutch colonialism. This was the era where Indonesian young women were stepping up to the plate, leading battles and participating in politics for a free Indonesia.

Realizing that the key to the nation’s eventual liberation lied in education, some of them built schools and advocated for more and more girls to be educated to then participate in the nation’s fight for freedom. Indonesian women’s yearning for education and to take an active role in the public life were encapsulated in a famous series of letters written by Kartini, a Javanese aristocrat, to her Dutch friends. These letters were later published as a book titled ‘From Darkness to Light’ from which the name of this game derived. Kartini’s letters are often credited as one of the cornerstones of Indonesian women emancipation movement and they served as profound inspirations for Indonesia’s fight for independence.

• Ion’s crowdfunding campaign also includes Third Crusade, which is a historical strategy game from designer Kieran Symington that takes place during the Third Crusade in the 1100s. In Third Crusade, you play as an army of either the Muslim or Crusader Alliance during the early 1190s and your goal is to accumulate glory through conquering and controlling regions and defeating enemy armies.

Here’s a brief description of the game from the publisher, but check out the Kickstarter page for more details on Third Crusade, as well as Kartini – From Darkness to Light:

Unite with your brothers in arms for this holy war. Richard Lionheart and the Angevine have joined with knights from The Holy Roman Empire to try and conquer the city of Jerusalem and retake the holy land from Saladin’s Ayyubid dynasty and the Turkomans.

Fight for control over the cities and deserts of Palestine. Plan out your actions alongside your ally before turning against them and take the victory for yourself. Send out cavalry and siege engines to battle your enemies, but be aware of their need for water. You don’t want your army to die of thirst before they even clash with the enemy.

• I was pretty pumped to read about Twilight Struggle: South Asian Monsoon in the May monthly newsletter from GMT Games. Twilight Struggle: South Asian Monsoon is a new standalone Twilight Struggle game designed by Jason Matthews and Jason Carr, which plays with 1-2 players in 75-120 minutes, sitting nicely between Twilight Struggle: Red Sea and the original Twilight Struggle in terms of playtime.

Twilight Struggle: South Asian Monsoon was added to GMT’s P500 pre-order system and is targeted to release in 2024. Based on the publisher’s description below, it sounds like Twilight Struggle fans are in for a treat:

“I have spoken here today about India’s race with Red China. We want India to win that race. We want India to be a free and thriving leader of a free and thriving Asia. But if our interest appears to be purely selfish, anti-Communist and part of the Cold War – if it appears to the Indian people that our motives are purely political – then we shall play into the hands of Communist and neutralist propagandists, cruelly distort America’s image abroad, and undo much of the psychological effect that we expect from our generosity.” — Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1959

The year is 1959. The next decade will unleash a cascading series of events that will catapult the Cold War into a new, farther-flung region of the world. Twilight Struggle: South Asian Monsoon is the latest stand-alone two player game in the Twilight Struggle series. This game covers the era from the Tibetan Insurrection in China to the normalization of relations between the People’s Republic and the United States. It is a four turn game, longer than Twilight Struggle: Red Sea, but much shorter than a full game of Twilight Struggle.

Twilight Struggle: South Asian Monsoon is intended to provide experienced players of Twilight Struggle with a new, more nuanced challenge. The nations represented in this game – in South Asia, the Indian Ocean and along China’s Asian periphery – are more remote and independent minded. All of the countries represented joined the Non-Aligned Movement. Unlike other parts of the globe, the United States and the Soviet Union can only project military force into the region with difficulty. In short, this is the region of the Cold War where nations felt emboldened to assert their independence and resist the bi-polar world that the superpowers had created elsewhere.

Twilight Struggle players will be asked to contend with newly independent countries, the relationship between the Non-Aligned Movement and increased tensions along the DEFCON track. The game incorporates a new system called “Engagement Actions” and players must plan with the future of China after Mao. The ability of players to master these new factors will be the key to victory in Twilight Struggle: South Asian Monsoon.

The game also highlights the history of many giants of the Cold War era that receive less attention in other parts of the Twilight Struggle system: Nehru, Mao, the Dali Lama, Zhou Enlai, Indira Gandhi, Khrushchev and more all make their presence felt in this pivotal region of the globe.

This is your chance to answer Chairman Mao’s call and “Be resolute, fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win victory.”

The game will feature backward and forward compatibility. Cards from South Asian Monsoon will be usable in Twilight Struggle, and cards from Twilight Struggle will be usable in South Asian Monsoon.

• In June 2023, PHALANX announced a pre-order for a new edition of Charles Vasey‘s Unhappy King Charles, which is a 2-player, card-driven game set during the First English Civil War. The new PHALANX edition of Unhappy King Charles reimplements and provides a new experience of Unhappy King Charles!, which was originally released in 2008 from GMT Games.

Here’s publisher’s high-level overview of what you can expect in the new edition of Unhappy King Charles, which plays in 240 minutes:

Unhappy King Charles is a two-player game that allows players to influence the course of events and the outcome of battles. The game covers the period from 1642 to 1645, when King Charles I faced a rebellion led by his own Parliament. The game captures the political, military, and religious aspects of the war, as well as the personalities of the key leaders on both sides.

The game is card-driven: play a card for a historic event, or use it to take a range of actions. These include recruiting, placing political influence, raiding and – most important – activating Generals such as King Charles and Oliver Cromwell to move around the map, battle enemies, siege fortresses, and take control of areas.

The new PHALANX edition is more than just a reprint. It is a new experience, featuring:

• Evocative and gorgeous new artwork that will immerse you in the war between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists!

• Standees for Generals and Local Notables that will bring these historical figures to life. You will alternatively be able to use the basic markers provided in the box if you prefer.

• A new approach to presenting the game’s point-to-point map and control of towns and fortresses, providing both a more evocative feel and additional game information.

• Individual General and faction cards that will allow you to easily reference each General’s level, army size capacity, and special rules.

• Tracks for monitoring control of key regions and economic infrastructures, and ongoing sieges, making it easier to read the current board state.

• A new player aid and rulebook layout, to make it easier to reference key rules.


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