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Abstracts Get Political: GoCaine

A church leader came over to my house. He saw GoCaine on the table. "Is that a game... about COCAINE?" he asked. "Nah, it's about baby powder." He was visibly relieved. I said, "Of course it's about cocaine." He looked like I'd slapped him.

Once in a while, an abstract game steps away from the norm by being overtly political. See, for example, my series on Suffragetto, Guerrilla Checkers, and Paco Ŝako. This isn’t to say that every abstract game with a real-world setting qualifies as political. But if the first thing somebody does when unpacking the game is to pour out a pile of white plastic cubes, scrape them into lines with a credit card, and then wonder aloud about the real-world cost of its weight in cocaine — which is exactly what my friend Geoff did as we sat down to give Richard Nguyen-Marshall’s GoCaine a try —

Yeah. I’m gonna call that political.

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Abstracts Get Political: Paco Šako

This is the sort of header I'd expect from a watchmaking company.

Here on Abstracts Get Political, our primary interest is abstract games that make an ideological point despite being, well, abstract games. But we’ve always (both times) looked at games about injury and strife. Suffragetto loosed jiu-jitsu-ing suffragettes upon the police, while Guerrilla Checkers was about — you guessed it — the horrors of modern asymmetrical warfare. Where are the games that give peace a chance?

Look no further than Paco Šako. Even its name carries a message of harmony. After all, it’s Esperanto for “peace chess.” You don’t get much more peaceable than that.

Or do you?

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Abstracts Get Political: Guerrilla Checkers

this is what happens when your game doesn't have artwork

Welcome back to Abstracts Get Political, the only series that looks at how abstract board games can make ideological points even in the absence of a strong setting! Last time we looked at Suffragetto, a game from over a century ago that served as both an optimistic statement on the winnability of the women’s suffrage movement and a source of funding for the same. Today we’re going in the opposite direction by investigating a title that’s more cynical about the concept of “winning” altogether — Brian Train’s Guerrilla Checkers.

Brian Train is a household name in Château de Thurot, mostly for his work on the COIN Series. With titles such as A Distant Plain and Colonial Twilight in his portfolio, he’s an old hand at modeling asymmetric warfare. But where Train’s other games have considered issues of geography, ethnicity, and even competing notions of “victory,” Guerrilla Checkers reduces the concept to its most essential. Namely, that winning at guerrilla warfare is an issue of stamina.

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Abstracts Get Political: Suffragetto

Cigarettes included.

You’ve heard the refrain: abstract games are themeless. That’s what they say. Who’s they? They, man. The forces arrayed against abstract games. Big Cardboard and their flavor text agenda.

Which is why I’m launching a new series about the abstract games that prove them wrong. Abstracts with a point in mind, a statement, a perspective. And they make it without a ten-page backstory, an art budget, or a single line of flavor text. Join the revolution before it sweeps you away.

First up, a game straight out of history. It’s Suffragetto!

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