The Earth has seen her fair share of revolutions in the last decade. We have watched them on our televisions, followed them on Twitter, witnessed them both in our hometowns and impossibly far away. In such a tumultuous period they often seem inescapable, but unless they were brought directly to your door, they are also usually preserved pristinely behind a computer screen. The reality of the action has a hard time crossing the border between activists on the street and spectators at home. Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game, by Out of Order Games and now on Kickstarter—described as “semi-cooperative strategy inspired by 21st century urban rebellion”—seeks to close this gap with, of all things, a board game.
The title brings to mind Eastern Europe, but Out of Order has instead taken their inspiration from more recent insurrections: Cairo, Istanbul, London, Oakland, Athens. The Kickstarter trailer shows footage of these uprisings interspersed with figures moving game pieces, bandannas over their faces, hoodies up. It’s clear what this game intends to be: a counterpoint for the modern revolutionary.
Bloc by Bloc gives you eight nights to liberate the city before it is retaken. Every player has a different goal that they have to approach independently, but the completion of that goal is the extent that any one person can “win.” If the most important districts of the city have been occupied, the uprising is successful: if they are not, the sun rises, the military arrives, and the bloc is forgotten.
Maybe 10 years ago a board game about contemporary revolution would have been unthinkable. Though, we are fine with playing war with Risk (1959) and Battleship (1967); the scenarios they bring to mind are far enough away to give comfortable distance. Bloc by Bloc shows none of this hesitation, neither seeking to trivialize the violence that is going on right now or to claim itself as some grand representation of it. The eponymous “blocs” are both game pieces and city tiles, but more importantly, they are nameless. They have no geography, no identifier, no agenda. They could be Budapest in 1956 just as easily as they could be Ferguson in 2014. It may be a few hours of fun over beers with friends, but it’s also an exercise in empathy.
Back Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game on Kickstarter before May 18.