Space-Cast! #27. No Rethemes
Dan Bullock is one of a handful of up-and-coming wargame designers determined to do things a little differently. A few months back, we down to chat about some of his games, including No Motherland Without, 1979: Revolution in Iran, and the yet-unpublished Blood & Treasure. Sadly, this was recorded before I’d played Bowie. Although maybe that’s a good thing, since otherwise that’s all we would have talked about.
Listen here or download here. Timestamps can be found after the jump.
Bowie Back to Bowie
My brain associates Dan Bullock with new-wave wargames like No Motherland Without, 1979: Revolution in Iran, and (hopefully published one day) Blood & Treasure. I’ve been consistently impressed with his ability to tackle tough topics, imbuing them with uncommon humanity while delivering a few well-deserved body blows to those who put politics and profit over personhood.
Or at least that was true until recently. From now on, I think I’ll forever associate Bullock with Bowie. Namely, the card game Bullock has designed about the life and existential crises of David Bowie in the 1970s. For reasons that will soon make themselves clear, Bowie is not an “official” title. Independent designer Dan Bullock has not somehow acquired the star’s life rights. Rather, it’s a print-and-play design, free to anybody with a printer and some scissors.
But here’s the thing: the unofficial nature of Bowie is precisely what makes it a treasure.
And Iran, Iran So Far Away
Dan Bullock caught my attention with No Motherland Without, an examination of national security bogeyman North Korea that was simultaneously thoughtful, gut-wrenching, and possibly the reddest board game ever inked. What impressed me was Bullock’s insistence on making you stare the victims of your geopoliticking in the face. Rather than seeing its people as geography, crowds, or spy-plane images, here was a game that put its humans front and center as elites, escapees, refugees, and prisoners.
Bullock’s 1979: Revolution in Iran is similarly thoughtful. This time, his target is the barbed nature of political allegiance, temporary allies, and changing leadership.
No Dadbod Without Me
Dan Bullock’s No Motherland Without is unflinching. Casting its players as either the Kim dynasty of the inaptly-named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or the amalgamous West, it directs your gaze into the cankered soul of evil and refuses to look away.
It’s also the reddest game ever. No, really. This thing is so red it scorches the eyes.