Odds & Ends – The Unusual or Funny in Games

While reading a rulebook, it’s sometimes a welcome bit of relief when the designer pokes their head out for a moment to make some kind of remark or to include something in the game for fun. You start to catch a glimpse of the human being behind the game. I’ve always wanted to write a short blog post about the unusual or funny things in the rules or components of the games I own so here it is:

Aegean Strike – by Mark Herman

The final scenario of the game allows players to play a huge WW3 battle for control of both the Aegean Sea and the Middle East by putting together the maps for Gulf Strike and Aegean Strike. Before you do that, however, you should check the victory conditions for the scenario. It is completely unwinnable! I’m not sure if this was dark humor, pessimism, or realism coming through but it definitely got my attention:

“If the Warsaw Pact player wins any level of victory…he wins the whole game. However, in retaliation, the United States precipitates a nuclear war.”

“If the US player wins any level of victory…he wins the whole game. However, in retaliation, the Soviet Union precipitates a nuclear war.”

“Any other result causes the war to enter a stalemate phase. A die is rolled to determine the outcome; on a 1-5, the NATO player is the winner, and on a roll of 6-10, the Warsaw Pact player is the winner. In ether case, the losing player, in retaliation, precipitates a nuclear war.”

“If a nuclear war is precipitated by either side, then no one wins.”

Carrier – by Jon Southard

The last scenario in the rulebook is based on the 1980 movie, “The Final Countdown”, where a Nimitz-class carrier goes back in time to 1941 just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In one of the worst cases of blue-balls in cinematic history, the Nimitz gets transported back to 1980 just after the carrier commander decides to go ahead and intercept the incoming Japanese strike force. In this scenario, however, that never happens and instead you get to use the Nimitz and its full complement of jet aircraft to fight World War II. What were the designer’s justification for including this scenario in the game?

“We had discovered to our dismay that since the Japanese were so hard to beat in the standard game, our playtesters quickly became angry, frustrated, destructive, and homicidal. Faced with repeated death threats (and several pending lawsuits) we were in desperate need of a solution. After some serious contemplation (and several fifths of JD) we finally arrived at the answer. “

“What better way, we figured (especially considering the current state of the trade deficit) to let our players work out their frustrations than to allow them…to crush the Japanese in a one-sided contest using the very latest in weapons technology built with imported silicon chips?”

The Speed of Heat – by JD Webster

For anyone who has tried to master the numerous and sometimes impenetrable rules for TSoH, it’s always nice to see that the designer had a good sense of humor. In the first training scenario, you’re introduced to your pilot instructor Major “Grit” Skywarden, who will send you to Kansas to fly rusty C-47s if you fail to score the requisite rating points while maneuvering your jet.  I struggled mightily with this scenario and gruff old Grit must have sent me to Kansas about 100 times before I finally got it right and passed to the next stage of training.

I groaned when I turned the page and read the following in the next mission briefing:

“By the way, the pilot of the banner aircraft, Col. “Buzz” Wiedhopper, happens to be “Grit’s” brother-in-law. Major Skywarden has warned him about you so a poor showing here can still get your Sabre orders cancelled for a two-year staff posting in Guam as the billeting officer.”

Freedom in the Galaxy – by John H. Butterfield

It may not be the most balanced game in the world but it sure is fun. Freedom in the Galaxy was a hot crazy mess of a game as much for what it tried to do than for what it actually did. In any case, you knew you were in for a ride the moment you browsed through the character cards and found:

Apparently, there were lots of little in-jokes within the game that poked fun at the SPI staff. There’s a great thread on it with more detail here.

I’ve found a few neat little touches by the designer in some of my other games too. One that sticks in my mind is the Sal Vasta’s inclusion of his parent’s hometown, Graniti, in Sicily on the map in Unconditional Surrender!

I’m interested to hear any other unusual/weird/funny stuff that you’ve found in your game collection. Drop me a line in the comments to let me know.


  1. There is this ACW game that has the Designers Great-Grandfather rule. If a particular unit was destroyed, the game stops at once, as that was the unit where the designers ancestor served in, and as he was presumably no longer there, the game would also not be made…..
    And the descriptions for the victory levels for Beachhead, from Yaquinto, were also humorous. If you failed to capture the island, or with stagering losses, you would be demoted, and then parachuted into Burma.

  2. That is great! I love the meta-rules like the great grandfather rule. I would so target the hell out of that unit or put it in harm's way just to fluster my opponent. This sort of rule is exactly what makes me love wargaming. Thanks for that! I have to find that game now.

  3. I'll give some details, event though they're a little rude 😉

    Two lavishly (un)dressed female characters in the game were:
    Valla Dia, italian assonance to "Dalla via" (give it away)
    Sanoma Tora, italian assonance to "Sono una troia" (I'm a whore)

    Considering that the main game function for those characters was to be abducted and raped by villains and subsequently rescued by the hero, the names were perfect 🙂

  4. There is also an Australian computer game 'Carriers at War' that featured a 'Final Countdown' scenario as one of the options for Pearl Harbor, quite a relief from the hammering you get on the historic scenario.

    I agree with your comment about the film, that ending was a bad mistake.

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