A new board game, called Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game, doesn't want to be another Risk or Settlers of Catan, rewarding players for winning military battles and conquering territory. Rocket Lee and Tim Simons, the creators of the game, want players to fight for a different goal: liberating a city from the oppressive authorities. This is a game about rising up and fighting back.
The game's Kickstarter page breezed past its $35,000 goal and started shipping this fall. And its ultimate objective isn't a simple board game that turns the tables. Lee and Simons are publishing Bloc by Bloc as a not-for-profit project, with downloadable templates available for free online for those who'd rather DIY the game than buy its boxed version. As a not-for-profit game, the creators are hoping it becomes an educational tool as well as a fun and subversive game.
How does an urban uprising play out on a tabletop?
The game assigns each player (between 2 and 4) their own revolutionary faction. They fight for a randomly generated city, a 5 by 5 square of cards that connect to form countless combinations of streets, buildings and other parts of a city. The cards are two-sided (a "repressed" side and a "liberated" side) and have a different arrangement for every game, so the number of possible combinations is enormous. In addition to a faction, each player gets a secret agenda that might clash with that of another player. Since all the players have to work together for a successful insurrection, these secret agendas can incite serious infighting, an aspect of the game that the creators think accurately mimics the problems of real-life rebellions.
The box estimates playing time at 2-3 hours, but the game does have a sort of built-in timer. Players have eight nights (each "turn" is one day and one night) to defeat the authorities and "liberate the city before the military arrives to crush the rebellion," according to the Kickstarter page. Tools and activities for demonstrators include barricades, looting, occupation, clashes with riot police and movement through districts of the city.
The game uses dice to determine in which districts players can operate during a turn. It also includes pieces such as riot vans, loot tokens, molotovs, old tires and gas masks. The four factions that work together against the authorities are the Students, Workers, Prisoners and Neighbors. The amount of pieces and boards involved lend a comprehensiveness to the game and also create a staggering amount of opportunities for different gameplay experiences.
The game is being self-published by Out of Order Games, a game design collective started by Lee and Simons. Both have experience designing board games and have so far received stunning reviews for Bloc by Bloc. The game is certainly arriving at an important historical moment. A "zine" that comes with the game provides context with stories from the uprisings in Cairo, Oaxaca City, New York City and Oakland, among others. The video on the Kickstarter page even references the most recent anti-Trump demonstrations and police tactics used against protestors at Standing Rock.
It's apparent just from the idea for its development that it's more than a board game. This is a anthropological experiment disguised as a toy. Not only that, early reviews praise its depth and complexity as a multiplayer game (though Board Game Closet also applauds its clear instructions and accessibility).
Whether you're a board game fan or not, anyone interested in the volatility of modern cities and the complexities of insurrections (or just the thought of a game that flips standard board games upside-down) should check out Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game.
It's available from Out of Order Games for $60.00 with immediate U.S. shipping. And of course, it's also available to download as print & play files from the same source.
The game's contextual zine, "All Power to the Blocs," is also available online here.
As the Kickstarter page says: Let's start a riot!