I'm a game design and co-founder of TerrorBull Games - we're a traditional games company that designs and produces what are called "radical games". But we don't think they're radical, we're just trying to do with boardgames what people have been doing for years with films, plays, books, dance, insert-your-chosen-form-of-creative-expression-here. In short, we believe games should be thought-provoking and fun, in fact they're at their best when they are.

Our new game has just been launched, called The Hen Commandments. In it you are the disciple of a holy chicken, trying to interpret its confused commandments. And you get to create a brand new religion while doing so!

Anyway, ask me whatever you want - board game design, death threats, getting banned, the UN anti-terrorist directive requesting a game of War on Terror.... whatever you like. And last time I did this, you were far too nice. How about some trickier questions this time - like how do I square my anti-capitalist stance with a mass-market model of production? Aren't I just preaching to the converted? What about the environmental impact of producing a load of plastic crap that'll end up in the landfill one day? Let's see your teeth!

My Proof: https://twitter.com/TerrorBullGames/status/530710398224596992

Edit: OK, my fingers are starting to cramp, I better call it a wrap. Thank you very much for your kind, thought-provoking, intelligent, supportive and even insulting questions. It's been fun - and some of the best questions I've ever received. Two great things have come out of this: First, I'm kind of inspired to kickstart a reprint of War on Terror at some point; I had no idea there was still such appetite for it. If you're really desperate - forgive the plug - the 'high priest' level of our Hen Commandments kickstarter includes one of the last 100 War on Terror sets as a reward. Secondly, because this made the front page, Fox news want to interview me. Hah! That's the greatest gift anyone can give.

Comments: 841 • Responses: 82  • Date: 

pythonfang628 karma

How do you square your anti-capitalist stance with a mass-market model of production?

schwejk584 karma

Good question! Unbelievably I don't have a good answer. I think that you have to fight within the system you're given, unless you take a strict Foucauldian view and believe that the only way forward is to demolish the current framework. So I guess I feel it's in one way undermining capitalism by using its structures to critique it... but I'd sympathise with anyone who claimed we're just part of the system. But there aren't many other options.

luke37427 karma

A strict Foucauldian's gonna reject the dialectic of historical materialism, so "the only way forward" is a meaningless phrase, since it implies that humans are a process of historical events, thereby turning them into a product, and non-human.

Besides, if you're gonna quote someone there, it might as well be Audre Lorde.

3/10, would not crush bourgeoisie pig-dogs again.

schwejk116 karma

I wasn't trying to negate Foucaullt - just trying to explain that we cannot escape the system in which we operate. Capitalism has reduced humans to both products and consumers at once, so how do you critique that successfully when you (and your output) are part of that process? My wish was to subvert the usual materialistic whims by commodifying something that was truly awful (ie. the 'war on terror'), knowing full well that there would be little appetite for it, while the appetite for real war was growing ever stronger.

Audre Lorde? That's a research note for me then. Thanks.

PrinterDrop36 karma

Does the success of your subversive act depend on there being little appetite for it? If the game had been well-recieved, what would that indicate to you regarding society's relationship with the war on terror and/or capitalism?

schwejk95 karma

This is an excellent question. You're right, you can't easily be mainstream and subversive, or you'll have to subvert yourself. It's an oxymoron. So we were quite pleased on one level when we were called "Sick" and banned and all the rest of it because one of our main drivers to make war on terror was our sense of it being a taboo subject. The response to the game certainly reinforced that thesis.

One thing though, it's not an act. We enjoy being in the sidelines, because you're best equipped to comment from that position, but honestly, i'd rather that these views were mainstream so that we wouldn't be seen as subversive.




schwejk43 karma

Is that a good thing? I like your contribution

luke3719 karma

I'm just saying that you probably could have used straight up Marx for your example and it would've worked better.

And this was the Lorde I was thinking of: http://www.muhlenberg.edu/media/contentassets/pdf/campuslife/sdp%20reading%20lorde.pdf

schwejk55 karma

You're probably right, for some reason Foucault was just in my mind. I think I've been dwelling on authority and power structures too much recently (for a game, not because I'm boring). (Ok, I'm a bit boring)

yurigoul18 karma

As an artist I try and use religion as my theme - even though I am a third generation atheist and counting - because it is the only area where capitalism has not that much of an influence ... from a European perspective at least. In short: among other things I use images of people outside of the system and depict them as saints. In my opinion there is also an cultural anthropological ground for doing that because in many cases it are those who are outside of the system (by necessity or by choice) who influence the system to move forward in many cases (after being called names and being beat up or worse in many cases).

So to me it is only fitting that you created a game based on religion.

schwejk35 karma

That's really interesting. In fact, I love the Catholic church for its deep roots and history of socialism, especially in South and Central America.

I'm agnostic myself but I see a great value in myths, shared narratives, religion, spirituality... whatever you go for. There's a lot that's being rejected just because religion is open to abuse by those in power, like any other hierarchical system.

Qwernakus26 karma

What do you believe the alternative to capitalism is?

schwejk69 karma

There are lots of alternatives - I don't believe there's "the" (one) alternative, but there are many practical, working, economic alternatives being practiced around the world. I think any form of self-organisation is very appealing, especially one that rejects or at the very least avoids hierarchy.

xvampireweekend40 karma

How do you deal with the fact that capitalism is the basis of every western society whilst every society that attempted something else are falling behind?

schwejk76 karma

I reject that. Way too many other factors involved, like Imperial legacy, military and economic interventions....

IrishThighs5 karma


IamTheFreshmaker5 karma


schwejk5 karma

Thank you

dluminous4 karma

Why are you against capitalism?

I ask this because many many people claim to be against capitalism because they claim it leads to corporatism (false) and because they do like the current place they live in (I have never seen a pure capitalist country before). Even the good ol USA is a socialist country whether they want to admit it or not.

Taxes, import quotas, regulations, barriers to entry, national bureau of XX (education, or wtv) are all products of socialist ideas. USA in the first century of its birth was a true capitalist society.

especially one that rejects or at the very least avoids hierarchy.

Ultimately hierarchy will always be present because majority of people rather follow a figurehead than lead themselves. It is a human trait impossible to ignore much like greed (=downfall of communism). Furthermore in a pure capitalist libertarian society all hierarchy can be overcome via a better way of doing affairs. I am not sure if I am explaining myself clearly enough

schwejk4 karma

That's exactly my point (although poorly expressed). I'm not against capitalism because I don't know what that looks like. When I say "anti-capitalist", I'm talking more about the ways in which we currently interpret and implement capitalism.

politicalwave3 karma

How are you going to spend the money you make from this game to further your best alternative?

schwejk11 karma

Ha! good question... I think it'll go towards an anti-torture app I want to develop. Baby steps...

direwolf--of--london14 karma

So I guess I feel it's in one way undermining capitalism by using its structures to critique it...

Also, to make money.

schwejk30 karma

Well that was never the aim, believe it or not. We designed war on terror for ourselves, only about 2 years in did we consider making it as an actual product.

aaaaaaaarrrrrgh5 karma

Have you considered making it available under a CC license, like e.g. cards against humanity?

schwejk5 karma

Totally, I'd be full of admiration though for the person that actually goes to the bother of making their own set. But yes, I'm seriously considering that.

SantazLittleHelper3 karma

What do you actually achieve with your critique, if critisizing is the only thing you do?

schwejk6 karma

The reason I like games is because they demand participation. So while a book just criticises, a game can get the player to consider information and act accordingly - and provoking thought can lead to meaningful change. So it's not just critique and it's not the only thing we (try to) do.

MorningLtMtn2 karma

The answer is "because it's actually the best system available, despite its clear flaws."

schwejk11 karma

Or "Capitalism is the best system we've never tried"

Filipino_Buddha225 karma

Why did it get seized? Did it violate your rights?

schwejk333 karma

War on Terror got siezed as part of a raid on a protest camp when Kent Police were looking for weapons. They didn't find any, but they did find some bolt cutters and a few games of War on Terror which they siezed because of the balaclava that comes in the game.

This is the full story: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/war-on-terror-boardgame-branded-criminal-by-police-889287.html

And here's the official police photograph they released to reporters who then mocked them mercilessly for it.

No rights violated obviously, but there was another time a shipment of games got held up at the port because of "war on terror" written all over the boxes... there was something suspicious there.

Filipino_Buddha44 karma

Well, it's pretty stupid that they seized it. Seems like an interesting game to play at parties. Do you guys ship to Guam?

schwejk64 karma

I'm afraid it's completely sold out now

DashingLeech28 karma

OK, so is there anybody here who owns a copy that scan in all the details of it so that we can produce copies of it for those that want it. (Am I right that there is little worry about being sued for infringing any intellectual property?)

schwejk77 karma

I'll publish the print proofs myself, that doesn't bother me, and yes I believe it's perfectly legal to download a board game and make it yourself. If you're willing to go to that effort quite frankly you're entitled to it.

Piles_Hussein23 karma

How would you feel about someone modding it into this game?

schwejk16 karma

I'd love to see that!

LardyTard22 karma

that's too bad, I ended up picking War on Terror up at a thriftstore for $3 and must say that it was worth every penny and more.

schwejk26 karma

Woah! that's a bargain. Well done you. I haven't found a WoT in a thriftstore yet, but when I found a copy of Crunch in one, I teared up a bit.

Filipino_Buddha17 karma

Well, that sucks. Let's say you it didn't sold out. Maybe other games? Is it possible you ship to Guam?

schwejk30 karma

Yes, we used to ship all over the world!

CHOCOBAM28 karma

Why not make more? Do you not like money?

schwejk46 karma

I think the moment's past. And the game is six years old now so not only is it not too relevant, we also want to move on and focus on other games. Also, yeah, we hate money. Dirty stuff.

tryify24 karma

How is it not relevant? Do you not see what's going on today, how allegations of terror are being used to foment war once again?

Also, just make it a not-for-profit thing. Re-invest the cashflow into other shit you actually do believe in, if you don't trust yourself to invest the money wisely (ie feel bad about it).

schwejk29 karma

I meant the board game we made 8 years ago isn't relevant. Of course the war on terror continues (and has even been expanded under Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize holder). So it's a subject that could definitely be revisited, but reprinting War on Terror wouldn't add much new to the debate I feel.

We've done exactly as you suggest - not that there's much to reinvest, but we're working on other games and have used our remaining funds to help us do this. I hope in this way that War on Terror will have a wider legacy than just that one game.

nolo_me11 karma

Seems like a shame not to reprint if there's interest. Also, money helps you focus on other games.

schwejk24 karma

There is interest, just not enough. We have to get 5000 made each time (because it's such an expensive game to make) and then all our cash is locked up in stock and we have warehouse costs and the time associated with trying to shift the stock... it's complicated

Solastor33 karma

Totally read balaclava as baklava. I got excited, then confused, then the world opened my eyes.

Note: Ship your next game with baklava.

schwejk31 karma

Noted! Next game is about the evils of sugar!

Dogsafe181 karma

Whose gigantic head did you use to size the balaclava in WoT? I've played it with loads of people now and only met one person with the cranial magnitude required to wear the balaclava comfortably.

schwejk188 karma

Now I don't know what to believe - loads of people complain it's too small. Admittedly it was meant to be of a composition that stretched more than it does... But yeh, clothing design isn't my strongpoint, I'm sorry.

zhynn8 karma

Yeah, that thing is tiny. We thought it was on purpose, so you would be forced to feel the head-squeezing hatred of the wealthy infidels.

schwejk16 karma

When we realised we'd made a batch too small, we justified by saying that it was to get people literally hot-headed so they're more liable to do bad things. Most people bought that explanation.

GreatOdin109 karma

Why are people giving you such a hard time over nothing? If made a movie/video game/book/anything else called 'the war on terror', people would gobble that shit up and having fun playing/reading why is it that in the context of a board game, people find it offensive?

Also the hen commandments sounds amazing. I must how this works.

schwejk125 karma

It gives me a lovely warm feeling to read things like this because, exactly! At the same time I understand why some people have a problem; board games are normal associated with wholesome family fun, not political critique. Although, interestingly many people don't know the true origins of Monopoly, for example.

thebluemonkey78 karma


schwejk74 karma

That was kind of the point of the original Landlord's Game. It was brutally unfair - and deliberately so. Lovely critique of Georgism

schwejk75 karma

Thank you, fuckyouasshole2, awesome linkage. There's actually a very rich history of tabletop / board games being used as tools to interrogate and examine the world around us. They're almost naturally political. But we have this very narrow view of them as parlour entertainment or family fun. That's just a small part of the story.

JamesMean11 karma

I would say they are more political than videogames because by definition you are playing it with people on the same room and you might end up discussing about the real events the game is referencing.

schwejk17 karma

My thoughts entirely.

EddieTimeTraveler83 karma

Describe the strategic depth of your games. What kinds of meaningful decisions are made?

schwejk175 karma

I don't design games like most designers, building on a largely mathematical model. I try and use human decisions and psychology as a base for the mechanics in my game - so in that sense, every decision is meaningful, or at least it connects with your desires and aims more strongly than a strategic, mathematical evaluation.

So just for example, in War on Terror, you are allowed to fund terrorism as an easy means of weakening your enemies, but you do this in the full knowledge that you're making things worse not just for everyone, but for yourself in the long run... and yet, you still do it!

DashingLeech42 karma

Ah, so its based on the Prisoner's Dilemma. Cool.

schwejk28 karma

I don't think I was even aware of the Prisoner's Dilemma when I made that. As another poster said, it was the reality of the situation that influenced me more.

boardgame_enthusiast40 karma

On your kickstarter I don't see any reviews from any prominent board gamers are you planning on having it reviewed in any way?

Why should I play this game as opposed to the other party games out there?

schwejk44 karma

Good question! We're not very good at that - We're not very connected to the board game world. Partly because we are on the periphery and doing something quite different and partly because we never learned how since with war on terror people approached us asking to review and word spread very organically. I've contacted a few people though but reviews won't be available for a while.

That said, it's so simple a review won't give you all that more information. Try playing it yourself with generator and using the themes on Kickstarter page, you'll get a sense of it.

And you should play THC because it has the sociability and wide applicability of cards against humanity but allows for greater creativity and expression. It demands a little more but the pay off is greater. On top of that it has some thought-provoking qualities that take it a little beyond a basic fun party game

TheGeorge29 karma

Will you get onto Tabletop with Wil Wheaton (/u/wil)?

I hope the answer is yes.

schwejk39 karma

I would love that more than almost anything I can think of right now. I hope the answer is yes too. Wil? Please?

zeroGamer19 karma

We're not very connected to the board game world.

If you really want to promote the new game, I recommend you spend some time on http://boardgamegeek.com/ and try to get some copies out to some of the more prolific posters there. That website is pretty much the place for board gaming reviews and discussion.

You can look up War on Terror there, and even Hen Commandments has a page in progress.

schwejk4 karma

Thanks for the advice, you're right, I need to spend more time there. It overwhelms me a bit.

I created that page! Just yesterday, I'm happy it went through so quick. Better add a picture...

johnkeenan2185 karma

Do the initials have any other meaning? Hehe

schwejk3 karma

That, honestly, was an accident.

AnorOmnis26 karma

As a Pakistani, this is probably the best board game I've ever played. Tons of good memories associated with nuking China. Keep up the good work.

On a sidenote, what first inspired your foray into anticapitalism?

schwejk28 karma

Thank you, that had me chortling out loud (COL - the newer, more honest form of LOL)

I can't really remember, but I realised very early on that infinite growth on finite resources was never really going to work. More specifically, people like Chomsky, Klein, Michael Albert... all had a massive impact

famicommie18 karma

  1. When designing your games, do you consult any qualified experts? Crunch, for instance, sounds pretty neat but I'd be more inclined to check it out if I knew it had input from actual economists.

  2. While I like the idea of using board games as social commentary, I would imagine that most of your consumers already share your opinions. To that end, is your goal to make people challenge their own assumptions, or to provide an activity for people and their like-minded friends.

  3. Do you ever get hate mail? If so, what percentage are from people who've heard about your games in the news versus people who have actually played them?

schwejk25 karma

  1. Not as much as a I should. I'm a research freak, so War on Terror took about three years partly because of the amount of reading I set myself. I understand though that passively consuming information - no matter how good - isn't the same as consulting experts in the relevant field. I ran War on Terror past a terrorism expert and I discussed Crunch with an investment banker. But otherwise it's all me seeking out the information. I'm happy with that as well for the level of information that can then be packed into a game. However, there are some subjects I'd love to do a game on, but am deliberately holding off until I have some first hand experience - Israel/Palestine would be one of those.

  2. I think i reject the premise of that; for a start I don't believe people only consume things they agree with. I've been challenged by countless books and films and sought out diverging opinions from my own precisely to form better opinions. Also, when the thought-provoking nature is kind of secondary to the aim of the object, then you're not chosing to play it because "I want to re-enforce what I think about this subject". Lastly, games are naturally viral as they require other people, so even if the primary customers were all thought-clones of me, they'd naturally introduce it to a range of opionions and beliefs. Lastly (real lastly) occasionally something is significant enough to bleed out into the surrounding culture. War on Terror did that a bit and it was out there as this subversive product that you couldn't even mention without engaging in the satire because "war on terror, the boardgame" already undermines the sincerity of the war. When you achieve those moments, you don't even need people playing or buying your game to get a "point" across.

  3. Hate mail is a thing of the past (for now), but it was 99% from people who had been riled up by some sensationalist tabloid piece.

Stower242215 karma

I guess 2. kind of assumes that people only play boardgames with people who share there political affiliation. I know I've played boardgames with reactionaries who were friends of friends, liberals who still cling the promise of capitalism, and those were were politically apathetic. Games with subtle ideology can be a powerful, discrete form of agitating and undermining previously-held beliefs.

Edit: a word.

schwejk13 karma

That's better put that I could ever. Thank you!

mousemoussemuse18 karma

Is it really true that MI5 and GCHQ ordered War on Terror to study it?

schwejk52 karma

To study it? No! What did you hear?? But I can tell you they are both customers of ours! And yes, that's probably a serious breach of the data protection act but then since they've sold our phone records to the Americans I think they've waived any rights to such privacy.

schwejk56 karma

maybe we should file a freedom of information request to see if they used public money to purchase them

spkr4thedead519 karma

what other sort of money would the government have to purchase anything with?

schwejk18 karma

Printed money? :)

Stower242218 karma

Do you find yourself drawn to boardgames due to the inherently social and in some ways cooperative experience of sitting around a table with a board and some little objects and creating the experience of fun together with your friends?

Do you have any particular favorite games, (other than your own), that you enjoy? Perhaps others that address left-wing ideologies, issues, or topics? I know Steve Jackson Games' Revolution has given me ample opportunities to make silly references about Krondstadt and Kiel, and little history lessons when the references go unnoticed. Gotta love crushing that reactionary putsch at the local tavern as well.

Ever consider making a game about labor? I imagine some interesting bargaining/bluffing/betrayal mechanics could be used to represent aspects of contracts, strikes, pickets, scabs, strikebreaking, and organizing.

schwejk20 karma

  1. Yes, there's something very powerful about being face-to-face. It gives rise to subtlety and complexity that video games just can't produce right now.

  2. I really like The Resistance and other psychological games like that, but to be honest the vast majority of games I play these days are other designers' games in prototype form. I meet every week (well try to - and a little shout out to the Cambridge Playtest Group, which is awesome) with a really great group of people. After that and designing my own, there's not much time left. I love the sound of that Steve Jackson game though, I'll have to pick up a copy.

  3. Yes! I fully agree - I've often wondered how to make it "relevant" or exciting to other people though. It feels like a slightly anachronistic topic.

Poobslag18 karma

Your game, "War On Terror" was in the background of the IT crowd, and it's honestly the whole reason I ended up researching (and purchasing) the game. How did your game get on the IT crowd? Did you contact them, did they contact you, or was it just random? It never occurred to me that you were a UK board gaming company, perhaps that had something to do with it? How did you react when you first found out?

schwejk17 karma

Yes! Well spotted! I have Graham Linehan himself to thank for that - he's a keen gamer and heard about War on Terror very shortly after it came out and asked if he could get a copy to use on set. It even got played by Moss and Roy in one episode; that was a very proud moment. I was - and still am - thrilled.

jimicus14 karma

Is this a transparent attempt to get more people to contribute to your Kickstarter project?

schwejk29 karma


cbyrnesx9 karma

What do you think Tom Vasel will think of your new game? Being a pastor and all. There was one demonic game that he didn't really like.

schwejk14 karma

That's an amazing point. I haven't contacted him yet, but I think he will - no, I'll phrase this more strongly - I think he should enjoy it. It's not an anti-religion game and he's smart enough to recognise it. In fact, I think it'd be a great game for theologians now you mention it.... I'm going to contact him now!

rdavidson249 karma

Have you played "Here I Stand," designed by Ed Beach? I scored a copy a little while back and have been itching to try it out, but it turns out that "having toddlers" and "playing advanced strategic board games" do not mix.

schwejk8 karma

No, I've never heard of it. Where do you live, let's play it!

rdavidson244 karma

Central PA?

schwejk8 karma

Ahh, just a few thousand miles away

fishdiscovrwaterlast8 karma

would you create a game about being homeless in the US and the 'pulling yourself up by the boot straps'? the gamers would have to apply for jobs and housing without access to a computer or phone - I'd then lock the GOP in a room and force them to play it.

schwejk9 karma

haha, yes I would... a game about the false pretext of trickledown economics is next on my list, that kind of covers the same area. Is that good enough?

Gamernomics8 karma

Holy shit I love your game! My problem however is that none of my friends will play it with me more than once! Something about getting nuked and over run by terrorists, or falling victim to realpolitik in action. How do I get them to play more than once?

schwejk12 karma

I put this to you: get better friends. And thank you!

MistaSmiles8 karma

What is your biggest regret?

schwejk42 karma

I don't believe in regrets; they anchor you to the past in a negative way. But when I was little I went to a huge water park and chickened out of going down the massive verticle slide. I regretted not doing that for years after

BearDown19838 karma

A while back, someone from Terrorbull sent me another copy of War on Terror just because I mentioned that my box top had gotten crunched in the mail. That's pretty awesome customer service. Just wanted to say "thanks".

You also included "Crunch!" which is a card game based on banks being too big to fail, and bankers getting their golden parachute. It was amazing!

I need to have a question here to not get removed...

Have you ever considered designing a game that parodies global warming deniers?

schwejk4 karma

I remember you! But I'm at a loss to explain our uncharacteristic generosity. You must've written us a very very nice email.

I've thought of a number of climate games to be honest, but they all felt "too obvious" or just not very fun.

initiatefailure7 karma

What do we do if we really want to play war on terror?

schwejk7 karma

Ok, you have to promise to everyone that you're not a plant because here comes a nasty plug: The only way you can get a copy is if you fund the "High Priest" tier in our Hen Commandments kickstarter. This tier comes with one of the last 100 remaining first editions of War on Terror:


UsernameNotOptional7 karma

I imagine its different for each one, but what is usually your first step when designing a game? Do you start with a theme and build mechanics that mesh well with it or is it the other way around? Do you formulate the entire thing in your head or on paper and then start prototyping, or perhaps a more casual development style?

schwejk13 karma

It does vary hugely, but the theme normally comes first. I'll get interested in a topic and I try and identify the 'game' inside it, which means working out who the protagonists are, what their motivations are and where the conflicts lie. Once I've reduced it that far, the mechanics suggest themselves. I do a lot in my head, but I try to test as early as possible.

hillofthorn7 karma

I've never designed a game before, but am currently working with a buddy studying labor law to create a board game centered around organizing a union. Hopefully it won't be terrible.

My question, therefore, is how do you balance making a game educational vs. making it entertaining? Do you just try to do both or do you defer to one? Is there even a conflict between the two ideas?

schwejk8 karma

There's another person in this thread looking to make a labour game - you two should get together!

Unforunately I do have to think about "marketability" when designing games because I know at some point I need to sell the idea. So some ideas are really good and just fall on the cutting room floor because they're too worthy or dull or not engaging... and a game that doesn't engage has failed.

Usually in every topic there's an angle that exposes hypocrisy or absurdity or something that you can extract humour from. So I try and find that seam and work with it. There's definitely a conflict though, you're right and there's no one answer.

sincity18216 karma

How do you feel about the fact that the police chose to seize your board game because of tension it created but the new movie with John Franco and Seth Rogan about the North Korean president being assassinated will be released without any resistance?

schwejk6 karma

Haha great quesiton. I even think our game would have passed without any resistance if we'd called it "Kill the terrorists". It's all about whether you're going after sanctioned enemies - if you are, you're in the clear. But if you're criticising or undermining the status quo, you're going to have everyone invested in that status quo coming down hard upon you.

IntergalacticMoose6 karma

To me Hen Commandments seems to be the blend of a game that Christian and Jewish and non-religious folk alike might roll their eyes at. Christian and Jewish people might be offended by the parody theme and non-religious people might be simply not interested in a religious-parody game for very long.

Who's your target demographic for Hen Commandments? From playtesting, who enjoys it the most?

schwejk20 karma

That's a fair critique! But the game - while informed by my own cultural background (Christian/Catholic) - isn't a parody of Christian or Jewish thought, or even a criticism of it. It's more about showing what happens when you mix abuse of power with wayward interpretation... so in a way, it's about how myths and narratives and meaning form and how we willingly ascribe meaning, how we're influenced by others. I don't know, that makes it sound far deeper than it is, but the game does have its revealing moments.

From the playtests - and they've been extensive - this has by far been the most accessible game I've designed. There's a very strong roleplaying element to the story and I'm always surprised at how quickly people adopt it and make it their own. I think it helps that the game doesn't ask players to commit much beyond this.

simplequark6 karma

Related to the "preaching to the converted" thing: Do you believe games like yours can actually have a meaningful impact on people's ideas or are they more of a symbolic statement? Do you know if the "War on Terror" game changed anyone's mind about the politics involved?

schwejk14 karma

Yes, very much yes. I think that games can have a far deeper impact than other creative mediums in fact because they are interactive - you can present people with decisions and they learn from the choices they make. That's really powerful.

One of my proudest moments - and something that was very touching - was that we got a letter from a survivor of the 7/7 attacks in London and she thanked us for enabling her to laugh at something that she had been scared to even talk about for years after the event.

We've also had a couple of serving forces - literally on the front lines of the war on terror - play the game and write to us saying that it had caused them to question what they were doing there. That's way beyond what i ever thought a game could do.

karmaturtle5 karma

Can you tell us about the size and location of TerrorBull Games? I'm in the process of looking for an internship in the North Jersey/NYC area and you guys seem like an awesome team to intern with.

schwejk11 karma

I'm flattered you'd think so, but there's just me (designer) and Tom Morgan-Jones (illustrator) and we work out of Cambridge, UK in our spare time, from our respective homes... so probably not much scope for an internship. Sorry

zhrusk5 karma

Is there another issue that you would like to explore with a board game, but haven't for some reason? What is it, and what are your feelings on the issue?

schwejk17 karma

Many! So I'd love to do a worthwhile game about Israel/Palestine. One which would have both Israelis and Palestinians round the same table laughing and thinking. That's my big goal.

Many other subjects are either too tricky or there's not an audience. So I've dreamed for years of turning Chomsky + Herman's propaganda model into a mass game of sorts, maybe for a classroom or similar. It's really hard though!

super2cu4 karma

Hi Andrew, thanks for making war on terror, have had loads of fun with it over the years. Admittedly we haven't played it for a year or so following An Incident, i'm sure you can imagine the kind of thing.

Anyway I have a question for you specifically about the game itself which I hope is ok! When you place a terrorist unit for the first time can you put it anywhere on the board? And following that can you put subsequent terrorist units on the board anywhere, or do they have to "spread out" onto adjacent territory?

Hopefully I've phrased that correctly as it has been a while since I played it, but that was the one rule we could never agree on when we played.

Will 100% be checking out your new game, and highly recommend War On Terror to anyone thinking of checking it out :)

schwejk4 karma

An Incident? I can, only too well, imagine what that might be. I've had many myself... it's both a friend-making and a friend-losing tool, that game.

So, this is from memory too - I haven't played for about six months myself! - but in edition 2, terrorist players are confined to placing their terrorists only within or adjacent to existing networks. but empire players can place anywhere on the board. Hope that helps!

very_expensive4 karma

Was the balaclava consistently used when War on Terror was playtested? Given the extra cost to ship the game with it was there much debate about sending something ornamental with the game?

schwejk12 karma

Yes it was! We started off needing a way to mark who is "evil" at any one time. We had this little Jesus figurine that we realised couldn't be used forever and then one of us just turned up wearing a balaclava and from that point... no matter how hard and expensive it was to do.... we were convinced we had to release it with a balaclava. I'm very glad we did too, there's something awesome about the thought of 35 thousand EVIL balaclavas out there.

danby4 karma

I bought a copy of war on terror a long time ago and it was throughly enjoyed. I forget the exact details but I recall we felt that the end game period in war of terror is not terribly well designed when the evil player is in play.

In retrospect, what if anything would you change about the rules to make the end game play better?

And in what way have the lessons learnt in designing War on Terror fed in to the design on The Hen Commandments?

schwejk5 karma

That's totally fair, the game can get very swingy if there are two very powerful players. In edition 2 we stabilised things a bit and the game was made a little more strategic and rewarding. But we tried to keep the right amount of chaos too, that's an important part of the game.

The Hen Commandments is so different to anything else I've done - it's so basic. In fact, it's actually a little sub-game from another larger game I was working on that I just thought "hang on, there's enough here to support an entire game on its own".

Rate_hacists3 karma

What's wrong with everybody?

schwejk13 karma

Is that a question for me? Might take a while to answer but the short answer is "we're all slaves to our egos"

Rate_hacists3 karma

So, what you're saying is we should all take DMT?

schwejk2 karma


moussaka_thief3 karma

What is your favourite commandment from Henninism or otherwise? And if you could have a special religious privilege like always being right or always being the best dancer, what would it be?

schwejk9 karma

The Hen Commandments illustrator got this: "Upon waking scratch your mothers nest like love itself" It's not my favourite and it's very, very disturbing but it's hilarious.

And a special relgious privilege... maybe knowing exactly what someone is thinking. So, mind-reading. No,actually that would drive me insane. Erm, ok I've got it - always being understood perfectly as I intended. That would be awesome.

DasHuhn2 karma

Would you be OK with people making your boardgames for Table Top Simulator available to play online?

schwejk2 karma

I'd be entirely ok with that if it was made freely available.

glitterlaoishe2 karma

Considering a big component of the War on Terror IS religion ... what made you think religion is a safer topic?

(They sound fantastic, by the by, and I am not a fan of board games but now know what I'm getting for Christmas!)

schwejk6 karma

Actually we deliberately cleansed religion from War on Terror, the boardgame. I don't think it is a big part of the war on terror - for example, we have no problem at all with two of the most extreme muslim states, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. They're close allies in fact. So we really wanted to dispel the notion that terrorists were crazy religious nutters that cannot be reasoned with. Terrorism is 99% politically motivated and in fact, I'd say it's only Da'ish that really challenges this view. But they're a modern exception to the rule.

Aureez2 karma

Have you considered changing the name of the War on Terror board game to 'War on Terrier' or 'War on Terrace'? maybe it will slip underneath their radar.

schwejk5 karma

Haha no. I don't think that'll work.

Radjago2 karma

Can you tell us about your experience making the War on Terror app for iOS? You posted on Board Game Geek that you'd like to add features to it, but it hasn't been updated since.

schwejk2 karma

It's still something we want to do - and we also have another app in the pipeline. But (rather inconveniently) our dev moved to another country, and there are many other things we want to do first.

jonaggeddon2 karma

Okay considering you're not going to reprint WoT, when would you consider releasing the printing files?

schwejk2 karma

I'm already considering putting up PDFs of some of the cards. I'm fine with people printing off the files for personal use.

Wheelie_Man1 karma

probably too late...

Have you ever played : Class Struggle? rules here

schwejk3 karma

Thanks for reminding me, I've not played it but I've been recommended it before. I'll check it out thanks

popidge0 karma

How about some trickier questions this time

Okay, okay, brace yourself for this one...

Daddy, or Chips?

schwejk0 karma

Chip daddy?

warukeru-3 karma

Any chance that you are looking for illustrators?

It would be hilarious put in my curriculum I madre illustrations of a God Hen or terrorists in a cartoonish way xD

schwejk1 karma

By all means send us your details, but half of TerroBull Games (ie. the other guy) is THE illustrator. I'd have to keep it quiet from him, so hush-hush.