War On Terror boardgame

In this video from Britain:

Historian Benjamin Woolley looks at ‘War on Terror, the board game’, placing it and its publishers in a historical context

From British daily The Morning Star:

War On Terror
TerrorBull Games, £29.95

Friday 22 January 2010

by Charley Allan

Players get money from oil, but watch out for the terror

“Empires fight empires, empires fight terrorists, empires fund terrorists and some empires even become terrorists.”

A quote from Noam Chomsky‘s latest broadside against neoliberal capitalism? No, it’s from the rules of War On Terror – The Boardgame.

Putting aside the question of whether it’s in good taste to turn a topic such as international terrorism into a leisure pastime, the first thing that strikes you is how accurate this game’s premise is.

Each player starts off as a modest empire intent on world domination. As your territory and developments – represented by villages, towns and cities – grow, so does your revenue from – what else? – oil.

It’s pretty peaceful until you run out of space, at which point rival empires must fight for resources. But as well as launching conventional wars against your neighbours, you have other more dangerous options.

As the rules state: “Terrorism is cheaper, often more effective and more flexible than traditional conflict. The only drawback is that you’ll eventually have to fight the terrorists you funded.”

Terrorists are bought from the World Bank and can be placed anywhere in the world – or off the board in your “training camp” if you prefer. But once in play, they belong to no-one and follow their own agenda.

If your empire is wiped out or bankrupted, you “turn terrorist” and control all the vanguards, columns and cells on the board. Other players who meet the same fate join your mission to clear whole continents of imperial forces.

Two packs of cards keep the action going – from a bonus roll of the dice with Oil Gush to the clinical effectiveness of Suicide Bomber or wholesale slaughter from Nuclear Weapons.

Other cards include Regime Change, which lets you convert a rival’s development into one of your own, and Kyoto Protocol, for playing against other empires “to financially cripple them.” You can even invent your own cards to keep up with our world leaders’ latest rhetoric and submit them to the game’s website.

A player can comically become the “evil empire,” with all the pros and cons this brings. You receive extra cards to wreak havoc with, but other players are paid to attack you by the World Bank. You also have to wear the “evil balaclava” just to get into the spirit of things.

Novelty games are notorious for being strong on humour yet weak on gameplay, but War On Terror hits the perfect balance. It’s packed with plenty of thought and is a genuine twist on the world-conquest genre of Risk and Diplomacy.

Just a word of warning – like these other classics, it can go on for hours.

Despite a de facto ban by wholesalers and retailers, the game’s been a huge hit and attracted a large loyal following. From being labelled “sick” and “pro-terrorist” by the tabloids, it’s now described as “historically important” by historian Benjamin Woolley on the BBC.

It also shot to fame after Kent police confiscated copies at the Kingsnorth Climate Camp in 2008, claiming the balaclava could be used as an “offensive weapon.”

It’s satirical, subversive and seriously entertaining, but ignore the 14+ rating on the box. My eight-year-old picked it up pretty quickly, perhaps a bit too quickly, as did my mum who’s in her sixties. Fun for all the family – and almost as educational as a Chomsky book.


British Ministry of Justice lists eco-activists alongside terrorists: here.

Scotland: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last week confirmed that it would not seek a retrial of Mohammed Atif Siddique on charges brought under the draconian Terrorism Act 2000: here.

2 thoughts on “War On Terror boardgame

  1. Anti-terror police target presenters

    Terror laws: Kids’ TV hosts Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers claimed on Tuesday that they were questioned by police under anti-terrorism powers – for carrying glittery hairdryers.

    The pair, who front ITV1’s Toonattik, were filming a skit for the programme on London’s South Bank wearing combat gear and armed with children’s walkie-talkies and hairdryers.

    Their fake fatigues aroused the suspicions of patrolling police, who stopped them and took down their details.



  2. Pingback: New poetry books against war, austerity and racism | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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