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Wanna make a revolution? Come play the Revolution Game at this year's NYC ABF
We are very happy to announce that our comrade Chris Gotano will be helding sessions of the Revolution Game during the 10th NYC Anarchist Book Fair. From 11 a.m. through out the day, come oround the altar and lets get anarchist win this over :)
Below find a delightfull text writen by the game creator on the experience of playing the game. Lets get anarchists to rule the revolution. come around play with us on Saturday! You can also connect to https://www.facebook.com/RevolutionTheGame/ for more info.
(Text by Chris Gotano)
Sometimes you wonder how something can go so spectacularly wrong in such a short period of time.
Up until now, the revolution had been going so well. Sure, the state was powerful—wielding huge amounts of influence from a personality cult set up early in its formation, it had shown itself quite fond of enlisting death squads to wipe out anyone who wasn't fooled. But revolutionary forces, slowly but surely, had whittled its once intimidating force down to just a few isolated pockets, more concerned with keeping what little power it had than actually confronting our own. Little by little, its own base of support eroded while ours only grew.
It hadn't been easy—every struggle is built on the backs of martyrs, and this one was no exception. No one would forget the day the state rounded up the Democratic Socialists and had them hung en mass, in full view of the horrified public. Nor would they forget the time it used gunfire to purge the civil service of subversive elements, leaving only loyalists behind. And the supposed crackdown on criminal syndicates? We knew it was all lies, but no one dared say that as sons, daughters, friends and lovers disappeared night after night until order had, supposedly, been restored.
But none of that mattered now that the state was on the ropes and, for the first time in a long time, it looked like we might win. How the people cheered when we saw the Communists storm the palace! How we laughed when we saw the president rotting in the same cells he'd consigned so many to in the past! A wave of hope washed over the entire nation as we all breathed in the sweet scent of freedom. Of course, that was when the Fascists made their move.
We had our differences, sure, but we tolerated their presence in the revolution because, quite honestly, everyone lacked the flair for killing that they had in abundance. When it was directed at our mutual foes, we were willing to look the other way, but reports soon spread that they had started applying it to us as well.
Their first target, of course, was the Communists, still recovering from the final push that decapitated the state, and we could only watch as they broke their backs with bullets and blades, the bleeding corpses of their leaders found one morning hanging from the palace balcony. Chaos rising, they turned next to their former allies, the Free Market Capitalists, accusing them of selling out the new nation to foreign interests—which, to be fair, was exactly what they were doing. Still, we don't know why they even bothered with trials here, since we all knew their next stop was the firing squad.
And so that left us, the Anarchists, as the last loose end to be tied—probably into a noose, if the fate of the other factions is any indication. But we will not go down without a fight. The Fascists will pay in blood for every inch of land they take from us, and they will know the same terror we delivered to the state when we planted bombs in the cars of their ministers and generals. There is a reason we've survived for as long as we did, and if the Fascists want a first hand demonstration, we shall be happy to oblige them. In fact, we're quite eager to do so. It's long past time we resolved this power vacuum. We are not afraid to die for our cause, but we think it far better to make them die for theirs.
Of course, the account written above does not refer to any real revolution but of a single game of Revolution!: the Game of Social Upheaval, where players organize to defeat both an oppressive state and each other. In Revolution! one player represents the State, who is more powerful than every other player combined. All else represent revolutionary factions of some sort or another. Due to its sheer size and power, the State is more than capable of crushing any one player with little to no effort. This means that, if they want to survive, the revolutionaries will have to work together against their mutual foe. The problem with this, however, is that when the State is finally defeated, it leaves behind a power vacuum that the other players must rush to fill, and the faction that is the most powerful at the end is the winner of the game, thus becoming the new State. This means that the game is simultaneously a test of both solidarity and ruthlessness, where players must on the one hand cooperate if they want to survive but, on the other hand, also work to subtly undermine each other so that when the dust finally settles it is their faction and no other that sets the agenda going forward.
This dynamic should be familiar to anyone with a passing familiarity with the history of revolutionary movements: coalitions of disparate factions that can agree upon little save for their mutual hatred for the current regime working together until its defeat, at which point the central question of “what do we do now?” tears the former allies apart, leading to a bitter struggle that culminates in a vicious purge by the faction that's able to grab the most power in the aftermath, which—of course—sets the stage for the next revolution. It's a dynamic we've seen play out in the past, it's one we're seeing play out in the present, and no doubt one we'll see in the future as well. By design, it is a very dark and cynical game that, while still fun to play, points to the failures of past revolutions.
Mechanically, the game is very simple so as to put the main feature—the social dynamics between players that prompts the making and breaking of alliances—to the forefront. Essentially players attempt to take control of Power Bases, representing the organizations and constituencies within the nation whose support you need, to accumulate Influence, which is in turn used to take control of more Power Bases. The main variable, in terms of game play, is held in each player's Ideology, generally some sort of passive bonus or ability, and Methodology, generally an ability that must be actively use. This mix and match between the two can lead to either the familiar, like Communists with Guerrilla Uprising, or the bizarre, like Democratic Socialists with Terrorism.
Which abilities your faction has greatly determines your play style. For example, players with the Fascist Ideology get an attack bonus that grows the more they use it, encouraging them to act aggressively (incidentally, this bonus doubles once the State is defeated and the Power Vacuum begins). On the other hand, players with the Civil Disobedience Methodology are strongest when they don't attack anyone at all, meaning their best bet is to slowly expand through the board and hope the massive cost that comes with attacking them dissuades any potential aggressors. The State, meanwhile, has its own powerful abilities: it can choose from Methodologies such as Death Squads, Air Strikes, or Martial Law, and from Qualities (describing the nature of its oppressiveness) such as Cult of Personality, Reeducation Camps or Kleptocracy.
What happens off the board, as a player attempts to negotiate strategy while hoping the others aren't leading them to their deaths, is just as important as what happens on it. Meanwhile, the State will attempt to sow discord between players to make its job of wiping out all the revolutionaries much easier. Numerous play tests have shown that when the revolutionaries are united, it's nigh impossible for the State to win, and conversely when they bicker and fight among themselves, the State can easily pick players off one by one.
At its heart, this game is meant to illustrate the tendencies of revolutions to start out so hopeful but become so terrible, and point out their nasty tendency to turn utopias into graveyards. Essentially, it asks us to consider the problem of power: in any society, there will always be those who not only don't fit in but whose very presences poses a threat to its existence. As revolutionaries, we are the ones who currently occupy this position, hence why the present order seeks so fervently to crush any chance we might have of changing it. But the successful creation of a new society, by necessity, entails being on the other side—what is the point, after all, of going to the trouble of enacting a revolution if you can't defend it? And what does defending it entail? If past revolutions are anything to go by, it's through purges and gulags, show trials and firing squads. Every single revolution swears up and down that this time things will be different, but the wheel keeps turning—revolutions are 360 degrees.
And is it so bad if it is? In the above example, should the Anarchists be victorious, why would they suffer the presence of Fascists? It goes without saying that the Fascists would never accept the world the Anarchists wind up building, and would actively work to undermine it. And besides which, the Fascists would absolutely do the same thing to them if they win instead. But then where do you stop? Not everything is so cut and dry.
Invariably, any power will create injustice in the long run. We may try to use it for good, but who decides what is good? Generally, whomever has that power in the first place. No matter how just a society you may think you have, there will inevitably come a time when something stands in the way of what it wants, and there isn't always a way to equitably resolve that situation to the satisfaction of all parties involved. When that happens, steamrolling over that something becomes an all too tempting option, and while we may think our own ideologies would never lead to this conclusion, people have an exceptional talent for concocting justifications, both to themselves and to others, why this time it's acceptable. Witness even within anarchist communities the way certain individuals learn how to adeptly cloak power grabs in a veil of political acceptability. When we crush an ant in our path, we generally don't hold anything personal against ants, but this one simply had the misfortune of being in our way. So it is with the powerful.
Revolution!: the Game of Social Upheaval is a dark mirror of what has become before us and what is happening now. The game's purpose is to help us reflect on the problem of power, and the way it twists the mind of even the most freedom loving among us. It is not a prefigurative for a better world, but a finger pointing at the one we have right now. In this sense, it is folly to think it is trying to provide any sort of answer—it is not the answer. It is only the question.