SPI, AFTER THE HOLOCAUST (1977)

AFTER THE HOLOCAUST is a hypothetical simulation of the economic, military, and political struggle that might follow the devastation and political dissolution of the United States after a nuclear war. This dystopian fantasy is the second installment in the Power Politics Series of SPI games. AFTER THE HOLOCAUST sprang, it would seem, from the secret totalitarian yearnings of Redmond A. Simonsen and was published (much to the amazement of almost everyone I know who actually tried to play this monstrosity) in 1977 by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI).

DESCRIPTION


AFTER THE HOLOCAUST is a hypothetical (and highly abstracted) economic, military, and political simulation of events in the fragmented former United States, twenty years after a large-scale thermonuclear exchange with the (then) Soviet Union. The game is ten (seemingly interminable) turns long, and is designed for four players, each of whom controls a different region of North America and part of Canada. These regions are the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, and the Far West.

AFTER THE HOLOCAUST, in so far as it is actually a game at all, is primarily an economic struggle. It is a contest — apparently designed to tease out the secret Stalinist “central planner” lurking in all of us — in which each player attempts to increase his population, productivity, wealth, and territory until one player becomes economically, militarily, and politically powerful enough to become the "Dear Leader" and unite all of the regions under his personal and (of course) utterly benign control. There can be, and usually is, military conflict, but players will quickly find that wars are an expensive and surprisingly ineffective way to settle territorial disputes. Trade, diplomacy, farming, industrial production, and settlement of unoccupied territories will play a much more crucial role in most players’ plans than military operations. In spite of this mix of what should be interesting design elements, however, this is a strategic game in the worst, most unsatisfying sense of the term; even worse, it is neither simple to learn nor enjoyable to play once it is learned. For those deeply-disturbed individuals who actually want to win, the path to their success will depend on their planning several turns ahead, forging advantageous diplomatic and trade relationships (this is actually surprisingly easy as the other players will do almost anything to move the game along), avoiding the waste or misallocation of resources, and, of course, they must prevail militarily if they get embroiled in an armed conflict. One friend of mine, who was the only fan of this game that I ever met (and, not surprisingly, was and is an economist), pithily described AFTER THE HOLOCAUST as follows: “It is a bit like starting with EMPEROR OF CHINA and having Joseph Stalin, J.P Morgan, Pancho Villa, and an audit officer from the IRS all take an equal role in redesigning it.” He thought he was being complimentary; but complimentary or not, I think that his description describes comrade Simonsen’s little creation only too well.

A game turn begins with the random determination of the first player. Play then proceeds clockwise around the table. Each game turn of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST consists of five distinct rounds. The first is the Production Round, which includes a basic production phase, a secondary production phase, and a mobilization phase. Second is the Trade Round. Third is the Consumption Round, during which a player expends food points, expends consumer points, calculates and declares social status, and provides military supply for any combat units under his control. Fourth is the Military/Political Round, which begins with the political placement phase, followed by initial military movement, secondary military movement, combat, and (appropriately) elections. The last segment of the game turn is the Finance Round, which includes the political disassociation phase, the stockpile/labor reallocation phase, industrial investment phase, taxation, the industrial capacity adjustment phase, the industrial labor reallocation phase, and finally, the — this is for real — depreciation and shrinkage phase. In addition, immediately before the fourth and eighth game turns, the Population Growth Cycle occurs during which the labor population of each region increases by 10%. The game’s designer, Redmond Simonsen (may his flocks sicken and die!), observed that his goal was to create a multi-player game in which the players were forced to seriously deal with each other in order to survive and win. What he ended up with, so far as I am concerned, was a complex, mechanically tedious, and mind-numbingly dull economic game that — for those of us who don’t actually harbor authoritarian survivalist fantasies — is neither informative nor even marginally enjoyable. Moreover, AFTER THE HOLOCAUST is that true rarity among economically-driven games: an abstract economic simulation that, for reasons known only the designer, completely dispenses with the use of markets. In fact, so complete is this gap in the game that even instructions on organizing simple exchange/barter arrangements between players are completely missing from the otherwise lengthy game rules. I could go on, but I think that you get the idea.

What is particularly painful about all this is that I personally hold much of Redmond Simonsen's work in high esteem — when it comes to his graphics design work, that is; when it comes to his game designs, these are something else entirely. It is, of course, possible that my admiration for Mr. Simonsen’s talent as a graphic designer may have moderated this review of his game. Therefore, I leave it to others to decide if I have been too restrained in my criticism.

AFTER THE HOLOCAUST offers one alternative to the standard game: the Pre-Deployment or Recovery game, which begins fifteen game turns (years) before the regular game start. The game also presents several optional rules sets that can significantly affect the trajectory and flow of play: the Federal Reserve Bank rules set — really, I kid you not — which brings banking (an optional fifth player and yet more heart-pounding excitement) into the game system; and the Technological Improvement rules set, which introduces research, development and technological advancement into play. Although the standard game of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST is designed as a (3-4) multi-player game, the design also offers a solitaire, two-player, and five-player variant (like that's ever going to happen!); as well as instructions — Heaven forbid — for postal play.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 year per game turn
  • Map Scale: 190 kilometers per hex
  • Unit Size: cadre/division (but personally, I prefer mob/band of coolies)
  • Unit Types: armor, militia, supply, industrial plant, political control marker, good/poor control markers, social state indicators, unemployment/starvation indicators, farm sector indicators, metal/fuel sector indictors, industrial sector indictors, transport and trade sector indicators, game sequence of play indicator, and game turn indicator
  • Number of Players: 3 or 4 (based on my own experience, you should assume that once the game breaks up you will never see any of the other players again, ever!)
  • Complexity: above average
  • Solitaire Suitability: surely you must be joking!
  • Average Playing Time: 3-4 hours (but it seems longer; a whole lot longer)

Game Components:

  • Two 17” x 22” hard-backed hexagonal grid Map Boards (with Turn Record Track, Terrain Key, Four Regional Sets of Six Economic Sector Tracks, and Abbreviated Turn Sequence incorporated)
  • 400 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions included)
  • Four 11” x 17” back-printed, folded combined Charts and Tables Sheets (each with an Initial Resources Chart, Food Table, Secondary Production Costs Table, Trade Transport Movement Point Cost Chart, Strike Table, Political Control Table, Subversion Table (my personal favorite), Terrain Effects Chart, Combat Results Table, Unemployment Table, Starvation Table, Stockpiling Cost Chart, Investment Chart, Corruption Table, Depreciation Table, Shrinkage Table, R&D Table, Tax Table, and photocopy masters for — I swear, you can’t make this stuff up — “Form 1040” and “Schedule D” Tax Forms
  • Eight 8½” x 11” perforated, back-printed sheets of Game Money (144 pieces)
  • Two small six-sided Dice
  • One SPI Game Catalog (1977)
  • One 20 compartment plastic counter tray
  • One 9” x 12” x 2” bookcase-style Game Box

41 comments:

  • Too bad you didn't like it. Providing a different perspective, it can also provide you real insight into how an economy actually works, as well as providing an "explanation" (without the necessity of listening to someone blather about their "opinions") as to why military expenditures act as a brake on an economy. Admittedly the economy represented is simplistic -- only Energy, Metals and Food as your raw materials -- but the modeling is exquisite and provides real understanding of some of the difficulties that an economy experiences. While I guess you could argue that it is "Stalinist" in its concept, I think there are enough variables to spoil your best five-year plan, and I didn't notice any pool for "forced labor" which a simulation of a Stalinist planned economy would need to have, wouldn't it? All in all, I would have appreciated a more balanced review and a little less snideness. Clearly the game wasn't for you, but then, from the sounds of it, you would have preferred something with the economic reality of Risk as opposed to something genuinely trying to model a complex, interactive system. MY one quibble with the game itself is that it should have had some kind of "market" system to permit you to buy and sell commodities and raw materials on the open market -- something like Greg Costikyan came up with in Trailblazer, for instance. And, if it were ever to be republished in today's world, making it a computer game would be ideal in that all that "tedious math" that so turned off our intrepid reviewer could be automated.

  • Greetings Anon:

    Thank you for your interest in my blog, and for your candid commentary; since Redmond Simonsen passed away a few years ago, it is probably only fitting that someone in the gaming community take up his cause and offer a spirited defense of "AFTER THE HOLOCAUST," on his behalf. And clearly, as can be seen in the course of even the most superficial reading of my own review of this particular game, that person was never going to be me.

    Thus, although you make a few interesting points in the defense of Simonsen's dystopian fantasy, I am essentially unmoved. For the reasons already cataloged, try as I might, I simply could not find anything to actually like about "AFTER THE HOLOCAUST." And, except for a solitary holdout from amongst my regular group of opponents (graduate students all, I might add), no one else that I knew who actually played the game seemed disposed to like it, either. I don't know what your own live-play experience with this title was like, but for me, and for the majority of my friends, the game was both procedurally tedious in execution and dull, dull, dull in terms of actual game action!

    To be fair, I should probably admit that science fiction games and dystopian fantasies like this one seldom appeal to me, even under the best of circumstances, so your criticism of my unrelenting "snarkiness" in the case of "AFTER THE HOLOCAUST" is probably more than a little justified. If the truth be known, once I started to compose this particular review, the cheap "one-liners" virtually wrote themselves.

    In any case, as you correctly observe, this is an economic game and must be judged in that light. Obviously, even using purely economic criteria, our two opinions of this particular game differ significantly; other players, of course, will ultimately have to make their own determinations as to whether the authoritarian subtext and "nitty-gritty" economic details that Simonsen layered onto his basic design actually work or not. You believe that they do; I take the opposite view. Still, for better or for worse, it is these differences of opinion that actually make our mutually-shared hobby so interesting.

    Thanks Again for your thoughful comments and
    Best Regards, Joe

  • Well, I guess we'll agree to disagree. My gaming group was pretty hard-core in terms of liking blood and gore and preferring the kinds of blood-fests that the Eastern Front (for example), or a good Civil War brawl was likely to engender (Graduate degree holders all), but they actually enjoyed ATH a lot. Mind you, we played it only a couple or three times, but each time it created a lot of interaction as players attempted to trade their way out of holes and, inevitably, one decided to eliminate the others with a military campaign.

    Again, its a pity you and your friends didn't like it, but we loved it, and we hardly qualified as nerds. I went on to fly helicopters for the Air Force, another of us became a Green Beret (guess who usually tried to conquer everyone else?), a third is a published author, and the last became an optometrist (the closest among us to an actual nerd). So, if you ever decide to unload your copy, I'd love to pick it up (mine disappeared into the insatiable maw of my ex's divorce proceedings) again. Who knows? Maybe some day we'll all get back together again and give it another whirl!

    Finally, regarding Redmond -- without a doubt he deserves pride of place as one of the "Fathers of Wargaming," and a little decent respect. Among other games that you'll either love or hate are Starforce Alpha Centauri -- one of the most intriguing ways of representing three dimensional space in a two dimensional hexagonal grid system I've ever seen. Regardless of whether or not you like his work, you have to admit he always tried to push the envelope and still make it attractive graphically and even possible to play a truly complex simulation through graphics. Sadly the cheapshot one-liners almost tried to write themselves into my original response to your review, but I went back and edited them out as best I could. But I certainly understand the temptation you suffered under, though, since it's your blog, you could succumb as you liked!

    Anyway, have a good one, and while I respect your opinion, I retain mine.

    Very Respectfully, Jeff

  • Greetings Jeff:

    Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments; as you note, in the case of "AFTER THE HOLOCAUST" we will just have to agree to disagree. Moreover, this is not the first time that I have been challenged by designers or their supporters over my views on different games: David Isby, Al Zygier, and Mark Saha (among others) have all taken me to task at one time or another. Nonetheless, I always look forward to these debates; even when I am unpersuaded (which is usually), I still find that these counterarguments oblige me to reexamine my original comments and, if necessary, adjust them when I have either been a bit ungenerous or (more likely) too hyperbolic.

    Inosfar as selling you my own copy of "AFTER THE HOLOCAUST" is concerned: alas, I cannot be of any help; I sold it on eBay several years ago to a collector in, of all places, Italy.

    Finally, I should observe that while I have never been impressed with Redmond Simonsen, the game designer -- "AFTER THE HOLOCAUST" and "DIXIE" probably being the two main reasons. I have always considered Redmond both a pioneer and a genius in the field of graphics design for wargames; an opinion, by the way, that I have conveyed repeatedly in many of my other game reviews. I suppose my feelings about Simonsen, the game designer, are roughly comparable to that of a fan who sees his favorite sports figure embark on an acting career. I want to like him in his new role, but his actual performance always tends to make me want to cringe.

    Again, thank you for your well-reasoned comments and Best Regards, Joe

  • I rather LIKE the game system - my biggest complaint is that it's perhaps impossible to actually WIN the basic game. Certainly it seems so solitaire. Perhaps with enough trading and deals, one can specialize to an extent that at least some player's have a shot at breaking the minimal conditions, but our group never managed.

    That said, we had a good four or five people who more or less liked this (me included), and one who was absolutely fanatical about it - always wanted to play it.

  • Greetings Calandale:

    Thank you for your interest and for sharing your thoughts on this game.

    As you will see if you examine some of the earlier "visitor comments" on this title, your fondness for this game is not completely unheard of.

    Speaking for myself, however, I could never personally bring myself to like this game. Perhaps, because of 'THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR', my expectations for 'AFTER THE HOLOCAUST' were unrealistically high. But whatever the reason, I just found the playing experience to be dull, dull, dull.

    Thanks Again for your interest and
    Best Regards, Joe

  • All simulation games are intended to be teaching experiences. In 1977 are there any guesses about what Redmond might want to teach a bunch of wargame geeks?

    I can think of 2 things related to the Vietnam war:
    1) War (and modern war especially) is incredibly expensive.
    2) War can make everyone a loser.

    It also seems clear to me that given the playtesters were all wargamers, the game tended to always devolve into war. So the games smacks of having military victory conditions REMOVED in order to try to reduce this aspect.

    The script for this game is simple to see, everyone tries to make their economy work to get to the magic win level of production, someone eventually starts to get ahead, another falls behind; the one behind realizes that his only hope of influencing the game is to produce military units and then everyone else responds in defense and all fail to get to the win level of consumer production. And if they do not respond in defense, then someone takes their goodies by force.

  • Greetings Don:

    You put your finger on an important point, one that not only explains the failure of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST as a game, but also illustrates one of the sources of my own deep animus towards Simonsen's design: it is a celebration both of the supposed benefits of "authoritarian central planning" and of concentrated political control. Both of these elements, although they needn't have been, are absolutely crucial to the successful play of the game. The fact that Simonsen had a bumper-sticker attitude ("Peace is the Answer; Now, What is the Question?) towards the Vietnam War -- even though I am a veteran of that war -- doesn't bother me any more than John Prados' or "Red" Jack Radey's politics did during the same period. The main problem, from my perspective, is that the game system is encumbered with the type of meaningless detail that only a devout Statist or, alternatively, a low-level government bureaucrat would find either useful or interesting. In the end, I suppose that my main beef with Simonsen's design is that it is a pro-central planning lecture masquerading as a game.

    Thanks again for your thought-provoking comments and Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,
    Thanks for another great review. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Did SPI ever meet a monster game (in size, scope or mechanics) that it didn't try to publish?

  • Greetings Rob:

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Based on the comments that I have received thus far, it would seem that I and my circle of gamers were in the minority when it came to our dislike of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST; but then who really knows? What I do know is that, if I wanted a quasi-economic game about territorial expansion, I would personally pick some thing like BRITANNIA, CIVILIZATION, or even the much-maligned MAHARAJA! In fact, now that I think about it, players can pretty much accomplish the same things in a simple game like EMPEROR OF CHINA -- the only differe nce being that they would actually have a genuinely enjoyable time!

    As to SPI's penchant for "monster games": granted they weren't all winners, but there were a few real pearls scattered in among the dross. I still like WItE (warts and all), WELLINGTON'S VICTORY (a truly great game, in my opinion), and even THE NEXT WAR (in spite of its several major rules problems). Unfortunately, some of the other "big" games ('WACHT AM RHEIN', ATLANTIC WALL, and TYPHOON), although interesting, never really panned out for me.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Can you recall what the 4 players were based on? I remember the Mormons were one post-Apocalypse group deemed organizationally strong enough to 'soldier' on.

  • Greetings Anon:

    You raise an interesting question; unfortunately, I sold my personal copy of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST to a collector in Italy shortly after I wrote the above review, so I can no longer refer either to the game or to the notes (I usually make notes when playing a new game on everything from rules problems to ideas for future play) that I made during the several sessions that I and my friends struggled to play through.

    I wonder if any of my other readers remember the "cast of characters" for AFTER THE HOLOCAUST; anybody?

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Again Anon:

    No sooner had I finished the above response than a couple of possibilities popped into my head. Of course, these ideas may well have originated with some other source (a dystopian novel or movie), but I seem to recall that one post-Apocalypse group was organized around former members of the NRA, and another group was based on the descendants of Hippies who, because they had been living off the grid at the time of the nuclear war, were particularly well-situated to survive in the period following the collapse of organized society. Of course, I could also be completely wrong.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Yet Again Anon:

    The fourth group came back to me as I was pulling out of the driveway last night; at least, I hope that it is the fourth group.

    I think, having thought about it for awhile, that the four organized social groups that compete in AFTER THE HOLOCAUST were, as you noted earlier, the Mormans (having a year's supply of essential supplies stockpiled apparently comes in handy, after all),the commune-dwelling Hippies, the NRA survivialists, and a Confederation of Native American tribes.

    Of couse my earlier qualifier still applies: one or more of these groups may actually be from a completely different fictional source or sources; but that's how I remember them after all these years.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Thanks for scratching that itch! ATH is a game that could be updated and streamlined as one of GMT's card-driven political games. A dystopian scenario along the lines of a collapsing financial economy, in need of a rebuilt productive economy, starts a nuclear war with China. The game maps out the aftermath.

    Who would today's 4 groups be?

  • (new ananon).

    Just wanted to say this is a great game. Many a happy hour spent with this when I was younger. I bought a second copy a few years ago.

    Shame the blog authors politics are showing, throwing around terms like Stalinist is pretty offensive for anyone educated about the subject. Par for the course from US right wing loonies these days sadly.

  • Greetings (old) anon:

    I suppose that AFTER THE HOLOCAUST could be updated to reflect current world conditions. However, I think that any remake would have to be substantially stream-lined with less focus on meticulous economic planning (more random events, if you prefer), the addition of "working" markets to make ongoing player interactions actually meaningful, and -- given my druthers -- that there be a change to the original victory conditions which require the concentration of all political and economic power in the hands of only one player. Such a path to victory -- given the flaws in human nature -- should probably be left in; but I think that some sort of cooperative "Federalist" altenative should also be included.

    Regarding the four "starting" groups for the new game; that, I would have to think about. I think, because they still (as they did in 1977) stockpile a year's worth of essential supplies, the Mormans are still a good choice; but as to the others, I just don't know.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Besides the Mormons are there 3 more? Today's 'hippies' smoke lots of pot but spend their time at self-created raves. No back-to-the-land connection. Have any Indian tribes stockpiled necessities with their casino winnings or just gotten softer? Tea Party? Too many angry old white people. I think it might be harder today to fill that what-if bill.

  • Greetings (new) ananon:

    Given the visitor comments on this post, clearly you are not alone in your good opinion of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST. On this we shall just have to agree to disagree; although I should note that previous commentators at least framed their reasons for their disagreement with my review (snarky though it may be) using well thought out and cogent arguments.

    So far as the use of the term "Stalinist" is concerned, I always choose my words very carefully. I do not know what your own life experiences and education has taught you, but having spent more than three a and a half years in Vietnam, first as a soldier, and then as a civilian, I have a pretty good idea as to what Stalinism actually looks like when applied at the individual, family, and hamlet level. To that I could also add that my primary focus, both as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student was on Political Science/Political Economy. So when I say that the design principles underpinning AFTER THE HOLOCAUST have a great deal in common with Marist-Leninism and -- because the game is a "winner take all" contest -- by extension, Stalinism, and virtually nothing in common with the teachings of Adam Smith, I think that I am on pretty solid ground.

    Needless-to-say, well-intentioned (and educated) people can look at the same set of facts and arrive at different conclusions. However, in your case you have offered no counter-arguments, preferring to indulge in "ad hominum" attacks instead. This is unacceptible: it is only because your remarks were addressed to me, personally, that I have allowed them to remain posted; had they been aimed at another visitor then they would have been removed immediately.

    In closing, I will leave you with something a friend, with whom I was arguing at the time, said long ago: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the fact that you want to call it a pony doesn't change the fact that it is still a duck."

    Best Regards, Joe

  • hi Joe (new anon back here). My name is Rod by the way (hi).

    My experience is growing up in europe during the cold war and having a fairly well informed opinion of Stalinism. This game for example has unemployment, Stalinism doesnt, it puts people in gulags, it loads men women and children onto trains to siberia during which deportation half of them die.

    Stalinism creates man made genocides such as in the Ukraine that cost millions of lives.

    A game about economics that teachs labour value versus commodity value is not stalinism and yes it if offensive for you to tar the brush of a game designer by applying that to him.

    If you would ban someone for my rather tame comment (and I respect you for not deleting it) I suggest you re read your own article.

    I have zero understanding of the passions that inflame the vietnam war for US citizens domestically. Clearly that has been a life changing event for you and I respect that.

    But a game about a partially planned economy has nothing to do with Stalinism. By using that word you are demeaning its horrible meaning. It is you who have thrown around inflammatory attacks by using it, it is akin to when a democratically elected politician is called a Nazi. Overblown rhetoric which does nothing but make one think less of the attacker.

    I would ask you to re read your article in light of the comments you have received , I hope you are a decent enough made to see why it causes offense and update it.

  • Greetings Rod:

    First of all, I want to apologize for being so tardy in getting your most recent comments posted where they belong. For some reason, Blogger Dashboard shipped your message over to my "spam folder" and I didn't notice the mistake until I returned from the library yesterday evening. Because I do almost all of my writing in the early part of the day (I'm pretty old, after all), I decided to respond to your many thought-provoking points this morning; which I did. Unfortunately, my very long response disappeared into the ether when I hit the "send" botton, so this is a follow-up to the comments that didn't go through.

    This time around, however, I have decided to clear away a few minor points in one set of comments before discussing, in a second longer essay, your several interesting and not altogether unwarranted criticisms of my piece on AFTER THE HOLOCAUST. So here comes the first batch ...

    You seem to be somewhat unclear as to why I was unhappy with some of the language contained in your first comments; allow me to clarify: the offending term was "loonies". This I grant you is pretty thin gruel compared to the level of vitriol currently emanating from both fringes of the political spectrum, but I dislike it nonetheless. Obviously, profanity of any type -- whether spelled out or implied -- or any form of slur (whether racial, ethnic, or otherwise) is strictly forbidden. In addition, however, I also don't like to see terms like dunce, idiot, fool, moron, imbecile, etc. bandied around, even in jest. This type of language contributes nothing to most civil discourse, so I try to make sure that it doesn't insinuate its way into my blog.

    Also, it would seem from your reaction to my piece that you have somehow confised me with a follower of one of the talking heads on TV or, alternatively, with one or more of the less-moderated voices on "talk radio". In point of fact, I rarely, if ever watch television, and my personal views on politics (a mix, I suppose, of ideas from Adam Smith, Locke, Burke, de Tocqueville, the "Federalist Papers", and Hyack) were pretty well set "in concrete" by the late 1960s.

    Since, as is my daily habit, I will shortly be off to the library, I will not be able to continue with the next part of my response until Thursday. I'm sorry for the long delay, but my wife and I will be attending one of the ghastly pseudo-luaus that are occassionally held for old folks; I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I am genuinely looking forward to this silly little function; but then, my wife and I took our honeymoon in Hawaii, many, many years ago.

    Thanks for your carefully-crafted comments this time around and Best Regards, Joe

  • Thanks Joe. I appreciate the response. I withdraw the loony comment and I apologize to you for using it.

    I look forward to reading your blog more in the week ahead.

    Best,

    Rod

  • Had to go back and double-check the "ATH" rules (found on-line, courtesy of BoardGameGeek.com), but the four regional powers are considered by the game to have their origins as follows:

    in the Northeast, the Bell Telephone Company (AT&T, "Ma Bell", "The Phone Company", "an outfit enured to disaster in peacetime" according to the rules);

    in the Southwest, the National Guard/VFW/American Legion and state police;

    in the Far West, Bank of America ("In California, only one institution had a fort in every locality with managers trained to be local leaders");

    and in the Midwest, the Church of the Chosen Few ("a radical splinter of the Missouri Synod" - yup, crazy Lutherans).

    The back of the box listed "Number of Players: 3-5". The fifth player was the Federal Reserve (more of a banker than a nation-state, but it could accrue victory points), although the rules ("[27.0] Federal Reserve Bank") assign the Federal Reserve to "Any active player or a fifth non-Player", and the multi-player options ("[29.5] More Than Four Players") discuss team play for the four regions rather than a Fed player.

    Also, the game does have a rules section entitled "[35.0] Suggestions for Creation of a Banking System and a Stock Market" (and includes as an option a commodities market). The banking and markets are pretty DIY ("The details of its structure is left up to the Players - they should write it up into a formal charter which all members must sign and adhere to.")

    This is a game that, in addition to including such play aids as "Form 1040" and "Schedule D" (the roar you just heard was from the tax accountants in the crowd), features such admonishments as (from "[38.0] Detailed Explosion of the Economies"): "In other words, the Players should feel free to drive themselves crazy with as much detail as they see fit." and "Electronic calculators are mandatory equipment."

    Well, I still have my copy of "Emperor of China", at least. (grins)

  • Greetings Eugene:

    As usual you bring a note of rationality to counter-balance my ramblings!

    Actually, when I first received the question, I was going to do exactly what you did: go to Boardgamegeek or Grognard.com and simply look for a PDF copy of the rules witht the "Designer's Notes". However, the more I turned this little problem over in my mind the more appealing it became just to "wing it". Not being a critically important issue regarding the rules, I decided to treat the question like one of those bets that periodically arise in bars; that is: Can you name all of the Seven Dwarfs in "Snow White"?; or What are the names of all eight of Santa's reindeer? Anyway, you get the idea. In terms of the groups that I ultimately picked, I actually don't think that they came from some dystopian novel; instead, I think what I was recalling were the "replacement" groups that my own band of players choose as alternates to the lame cast of players actually stipulated in the game. And yes, as I have gotten older, I have unloaded a sizeable portion of my game collection; but I also (after almost forty years) still have my copy of EMPEROR OF CHINA.

    Best Regards, Joe

    P.S. Reviewing the original cast of characters to ATH, I still like my group's alternatives better.

  • Joe,

    Yes, I had the same "Can you name all 7 dwarfs?" moment, especially as I could recall that The Phone Company ("The President's Analyst", anyone?) and an offbeat church were two of the four regional powers. So, I had to find the answers.

    Originally, too, I thought that the Feds in the game were a remnant Federal Government; I had forgotten that they were the Federal Reserve bankers. These days, of course, *they* would be the cause of the holocaust. (grins)

  • Greetings Eugene:

    It's funny that you thought of (the very funny) "The Pesident's Analyst", almost everyone in my old group thought of Lily Tomlin's character on "Laugh In". Also, one of our players at the time was married to a junior bank officer (who has since risen quite high in the company) and it was his considered opinion that his wife's company, not only would have been utterly incapable of forming a functioning government in a post-Apocalyptic world, it was incapable of organizing a "company picnic" in this one! So far as the religious group goes: I'll put my money on the Mormans over the denizens of Lake Woebegone any day.

    Best Regards, Joe

    P.S. The most commonly missed dwarfs in "Snow White" are "Doc" and "Bashful"; the most commonly forgotten reindeer are "Dancer" and "Vixen".

  • Joe,

    I suspect that "The President's Analyst" sticks in my mind as the exemplar of telephonic conspiracy due to TPC (The Phone Company) appearing also in the Steve Jackson Games brilliant release "Illuminati" (especially the original non-collectable version). In one of our early games, we had The Phone Company destroy The International Communist Conspiracy, which struck us as not only funny but weirdly historical, if the rumors about the coup against Khrushchev succeeding due to changed phone numbers stopping Nikita's loyalists from communicating are to be believed.

    Also, whenever I think of Ernestine the phone operator (Lily Tomlin), I remember her glorious moment on "Saturday Night Live" in an ad for The Phone Company, where she delivered the tag lines "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company." Which is not the slogan of a nation builder wannabe, I must say.

  • Greetings (finally) Rod:

    You probably thought -- given my long silence -- that I had gotten sidetracked somewhere along the line and had forgotten our ongoing discussion about AFTER THE HOLOCAUST and Stalinism. Nothing could be farther from the truth: actually, I have saved this discussion as a "carrot" to induce me to work through a terrible case of "writer's block" when it came to my review of "No Man's Land." For some reason, I got half way through the piece and, for almost two weeks, could get no further. In any case, for better or for worse, it is finally done and I can get on with my life.

    As a way of jumping back into our discussion, let me clear up a few minor points that you raise before moving on to what I think is the core of your criticism. First, your point about "unemployment" in the old Soviet Union is interesting, but somewhat misleading. Unemployment did not officially exist in the old Soviet Union, not because there were no people who were without gainful work, but only because the state relabeled them as either criminals (slackers or wreckers) or as being mentally ill. Second, the fact that AFTER THE HOLOCAUST does not include any obvious references to the apparatus of state coercion means very little. WAR IN EUROPE, to name just one example, does not include Nazi "death camps", Einsatzkommando units, or slave labor, yet all of these abominable Nazi state-run programs had a real impact on the German war effort during World War II. Third, you resort (I suspect more out of habit than anything else) to an old rhetorical trick that I have been encountering ever since I started debating with progressives during my undergraduate days at the VERY progressive (if not downright "pink") Reed College. That is: to attempt to eliminate certain words and types of argument as being "insensitive' or "offensive" and, when that fails, trying to shift the focus of an argument from a consideration of applicable facts to one of morality. That is: a debate in which one side (the progressive one, naturally) claims that, whatever the facts, it nonetheless holds the higher rhetorical ground. Allow me to be blunt: I didn't fall for this set of rhetorical tricks in undergraduate or graduate school (even when the entire rest of the conference" was arrayed against me) and I am indisposed to yield to it now. Unfair as it sounds, I limit the boundaries of discussion on my blog, not by what others may find disagreeable or offensive, but what I personally find unacceptable. This policy may not be fair, but "it's my baseball and my bat, so I get to pitch if I want to".

    Because I can see that this installment is running a bit long, I am going to break things off here, and resume my remarks in another set of comments (I don't want these comments to disppear into the ether like my previus remarks did!).

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Again Rod:

    Since I have a few spare minutes, I will invest them in the next installment of our discussion of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST and the presence (or absence) of an authoritarian subtext in Simonsen's design. However, because I am allowing myself the luxury of presenting my response in stages (installments), allow me to address a couple of issues that, while not directly raised, nonetheless bear on our current discussion.

    The first is the issue of an author's or game designer's "point of view" as expressed in their finished creative product. As an example, I will use perhaps one of the most famous (and important) creative influences in the hobby of board wargaming, James F. Dunnigan. No one has probably had a greater impact on the hobby than Dunnigan, and no one has probably done more to bring the idea of "historical simulation" to life than Jimmy Dunnigan during his tenure at SPI. Nonetheless, anyone with a reasonably nuanced knowledge of history also knows (or at least suspects) that virtually all of Dunnigan's designs are "outcome oriented" and are often highly manipulative of important game variables in a not-so-subtle attempt to produce the results that Dunnigan wants.

    Perhaps the most obvious (if not egregious) example of this design trait is Dunnigan's ground-breaking design, PANZERBLITZ. On its face, this game seemed to have it all: lots of tanks, fast-paced manuever, and desperate (bloody) action on the Russian Front. However, what it did not have -- at least in my opinion -- was any type of balanced view of the two opposing sides: the German units in PB are always and in virtually every way superior to the Russian units and hence, the lesson that players take away from the game is that the Russians prevailed in their war against the Nazi invaders only by swamping them with vastly superior numbers of men and tanks. This is a bias that tends to show up again and again in Dunnigan's World War II game designs. However, it is not a bias shared by a number of other, equally-gifted designers. SQUAD LEADER, for example, offers the perfect counter-argument to Dunnigan's design bias. If players attempt to convert any of the scenarios from PANZERBLITZ into a scenario using SQUAD LEADER counters, it immediately becomes obvious that the converted scenario is completely unplayable: the preponderance of Russian units is so great as to border on the absurd!

    My point in recounting all this is not that Dunnigan is bad designer, but only that he tends to bring to every project that he undertakes certain opinions and strongly-held views that can dramatically influence the historical narrative that emerges from his designs. In point of fact, I and the other players in my old college wargaming group found Dunnigan's pro-German bias so pronounced that we coined a saying in his honor: "If you want to win a Dunnigan game, figure out who Jimmy thinks the Germans are, and then only play that side!"

    The significance of all this is that I believe that every game designer, no matter how gifted, brings certain personal viewpoints and prejudices to the table when he designs a game. That being said, I believe that Simonsen, like Dunnigan, invests a certain point of view in his game designs and that it is a legitimate, if not essential part of my role as a reviewer and critic of games, to comment on these underlying designer viewpoints and biases when I detect them. The subject matter may only be games, but if they are worth investing hours of our time in, then they are worth discussing critically.

    Next, the requirements -- at least as I understand them -- of decency on the part of a blogger and game critic, like myself.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • found this game review while trying to find the game. also found the comments to be more interesting than the review. for myself, after the holocaust never hit me as a political "statement", but rather as a political problem. and, that problem was: how do you win this game? which I enjoyed. and, even put into a traveler campaign. at one point, I tried to win by selling my military to the highest bidder. it almost worked. almost was the problem I hit every time I tried a different solution to the game. a game that provokes such thought IS a successful game. the deeper meanings of who am I in this game?" do not pop up, ever. whatever force I command on the game board, is not played as an historical person, but as me trying to solve a problem. still the debate was of great interest. thank you for that.

  • Greetings Anon:

    Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    So much time has passed since I wrote the "profile" for AFTER THE HOLOCAUST I actually had to go back and reread it just to refresh my memory as to what had originally kindled all the back-and-forth in the post's comments section. And I agree with you, the spirited debate was both more interesting and enjoyable than either my admittedly "snarky" review or the game itself. In point of fact, had I not suddenly encountered some health issues towards the end of that debate, it might still be going on as both I and Rod were fairly entrenched in our respective positions.

    On a completely different topic: Your idea of renting out your military as "for hire" mercenaries, I found a little Evocative because I had once done something somewhat similar myself. In one play-through of the World War II scenario in STRATEGY I (a very long time ago, now that I think about it) I took the "British" and spent the first few game turns sailing around the game board extorting the other players to either "sell" me their fleets (at a substantial discount) or face their destruction at the hands of the Royal Navy. After this early phase of the game, I then spent the rest of the afternoon renting the combat and convoying services my now quite massive fleet to the highest bidder. This was probably not particularly sporting on my part, but it did give my play of the British a certain Nelsonesque flavor.

    Thanks again for visiting and

    Best Regards, Joe

  • yes. hell-o there. sorry to hear about the sudden illness. in axis and allies, I once had both Russia and England paying me not to attack (Russia on its east coast, while they fought Germany tooth and nail. and, England to keep me from taking china and viet nam, where I spent some time as a medic.) I was playing japan. of course, everything went south since that is the only way for the axis to win, but there are times when WINNING comes in a distant second to having FUN. it is strange that a game like after the holocaust, even after these many years, can begin such an energetic debate, which I completely enjoyed? the rules transfer well into traveller. and, you and rob both had good points, since the official traveller universe is under an emperor and noble families. now, in roll playing, I DO take on the person that I am playing (when refereeing, that has been the emperor), and ATH economic rules, as abstracted as they are, fit well and behave well during these rpg games. I find that interesting. I see nothing wrong with the fact that such a game was designed so long ago and yet still holds good play, even in other games. I would give ATH four stars out of five, even though I have never found a solution to the problems the game presents. still, well over thirty years later, I am looking to rebuy that very game. that is a design success. played the game in va hospital with players that were not that jazzed up on War games, but seemed to enjoy the economic aspects of ATH. and, there were those players that did find solutions to the problems. no one said anything about real live politics, or thought the game to slow or boring. it held the same effect in the rpg as eacy player had a noble family and several planets to run, although they also had adventure characters to play as well. I left the last thirty minutes of each session for the nobles play, keeping the same game tracks as ATH, but replacing the US with star systems. this became the last hour in a very short time. the ATH rules were that amazing. I have reread the debate and still find it interesting. my name is lundy. and I thank you for the game page and, again, for the debate and exchange of ideas. the designer of ATH would be pleased, I think.

  • this is lundy. I am truly in your debt. after writing the above, it occurred to me that your review was so complete, so excellent, that I could take the rules from them and adjust, as before, the turn phases into traveler again. thank you. for although you did not care for the game, you gave an excellent breakdown of it (including the counters and charts needed). this is VERY rare in todays reviewers. Angry Joe would never give a game he disliked that much of a chance for others to decide rather they wanted to risk buying the game and giving it a try. it reminds me of a time when the hobby came firdt and compition second. "those were the days my friend". just thought a quick Kudos was due to you. now, I have much work to do in getting an old beloved game back into my traveler campaign,without having to find it. ps not good rnough on the computer, yet, to get much from PDF drive through. again, my many thanks. take care of your self. you are a rare and good reviewer. the hobby needs you.

  • Greetings Again Lundy:

    Thank you for your kind words; I fear, however, that you have been more generous to me than I was to friend Simonsen. Be that as it may, I am pleased that you enjoyed both my profile of AFTER THE HOLOCAUST and the spirited back-and-forth commentary that my less than lauditory review provoked among my blog's readers.

    Regarding GDW's TRAVELLER, I'm afraid that after a half-hearted attempt at playing a few of the early RPG games back in the 70's I pretty much decided that they just weren't for me. Moreover, not only was Marc Miller's TRAVELLER an RPG, but it was also a "Science Fiction" game and, as I indicated somewhere in my previous comments, this a "genre" that, with only a very few exceptions, I tend to avoid. As if all this weren't enough, it also turns out that I personally consider Marc Miller -- whatever his other talents -- to be the worst "rules writer "to EVER work at GDW, or anywhere else for that matter.

    By the way, before I forget: you indicated previously that you were a "medic" in Viet Nam; which means that you were Army and not Navy or Marine Corps. Where were you deployed? For my own part, I shipped over to the RVN in February of '65 and rotated out (after numerous extensions) in Aug '68. Being a glutton for punishment, I spent a few weeks in the States and then went right back to work as a civilian contractor for the Dept. of the Navy. During my time in the Republic of Viet Nam, I got around fairly extensively and managed to see most of the country; which is to say, I spent extended periods in the "I Corps" region up near Phu Bai/ Hue, on the Cham Coast (mainly around Nha Trang), and in the Rung Sat region mainly in and around Saigon. In fact, the only part to the country that I didn't serve in or pass through at one time or the other was the "Mekong Delta". Looking back now, it is hard to believe all that happened so very long ago. I guess we're just getting old.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • hi. hell-o. lundy here. I cannot defend marc miller, sorry to say. traveller (the classic) was taken, almost idea by idea, from e.c.Tubb and his "dumarest" saga, which I am now reading again in vol.1 the omnibus. sadly tubb died not long ago at the nice age of 96 (I think). he was a great writer and will be missed. marc miller compounded his rip-off by not giving tubb any credit in traveller. oh hey, in an rpg of science fiction, marc miller, in the classic, did not even list science as a skill, because dumarest was a wanderer, not a scientist. but, dumarest did carry a long knife, thus the anachronistic weapons in traveller. Traveller is now being made by mongoose publishing and is worth a look-see. classic traveller needed a lot of rewrite (then again, what rpg did not back in the days?) and that helped me when it came to adding such things as "after the holocaust" rules into the game. then, marc miller trashed traveller in the fall-down mega-traveller, again in new era, and again in the now monster "travelller5". what I hold against marc miller most is his refusal to credit e.c. tubb. many a gamer missed a chance to read "dumarest" because of that with-hold of ideas. still, the straight forward 2d6 system was welcomed (by me anyway) as an alternative to Dand D. since I am mostly a referee, I like to keep things simple with the design (being more than an expert at complicating things all on my own), as for viet nam (a beautiful country with beautiful people), I was there in 1967 to 1968 in Pleiku. was lucky to be able to drive amblance in convoys, which allowed me to see that wonderful country, driving to Da Nang and Nha Trang and Cam Ranh and Qui Ngai. (on a personal note, I believe strongly that we lost that war by keeping those fantastic people of viet nam impoverished and prostituted. THEY deserved better), on a much lighter note, your review has allowed me to get a hold on getting" after the holocaust" rules into a Herbert like "dune" campaign, each player having 1d6+4 planets to manage as great houses. as referee, I will be managing the emperor, the league of planets, the house of nobles, and the eccuminical church with its brother- hood and sister- hood charter houses. players want "dune", well then players will get "dune". hoo-ra. (a term, which I never heard in viet nam,by the way). could be I was just not listening, which amblance platoon master sargent would say "sure was not". take care of your self. lundy. ps. again really great review. thank you. only game geeks would be that complete on a game system.

  • hi. hell-o. lundy here. well after two months of trying, getting "after the holocaust" into a traveller game was a failure. without the board game and tracks, the attempt went down under a mountain of paper-work. still, enjoyed the review and the feeling of yesterday. many thanks. lundy.

  • Greetings Lundy:

    I am sorry to hear that your 'TRAVELLER' project ended up being a bust. On the other hand, I have personally found that attempting to graft an existing rules platform onto a new situation can often turn out -- in spite of herculean efforts -- to be an exercise in futility. Sometimes one gets lucky, but more often than not, the newly hybridized game system just doesn't seem to work as one would have hoped.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • hi. hell-o. lundy here. have a general question about gaming. do you find it difficult to get players to play hands on games. board games or rpgs? it seems to me to be getting difficult to compete with the electric worlds of gaming. the group who sooooo wanted a "dune" type traveller game vanished from comic store where idea was birthed. a friend said that they had all gone to an "on line" game. is it just me and age, or are younger players drifting to the easy and more visual games. hope not, but it is getting hard to keep in touch with most gamers. just wondering. lundy.

  • Thanks for the funny review. I quite fancied this game when I was a kid (I was a weird kid), I never had it though. I've taken the liberty of quoting a chunk of your review on the Guardian's "Worst board games of all time" comments page. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/02/are-these-the-10-worst-board-games-of-all-time#comment-60677727

  • Wow. Returning to offer a comment after all these years!

    First, upon re-reading my initial response to your review back in 2010 (I was the very first comment here), I actually feel I owe you an apology. Not over disagreeing with your review (which I still very much do) but over being almost as snarky towards your review as it was to the game! That was just bad form on my part.

    Also, I was surprised to see the extent of the debate that was launched by all of this. That was a great thing. I learned all kinds of things about the game and what folks other than my narrow "experiential" point of view had provided. Perhaps surprisingly (because most reviewers persist in calling this a "bad game") was how many people had enjoyed it over the years. Though maybe that's just an product of the fact that you panned it so hard, which tended to bring those of us who had enjoyed it out of the woodwork, as opposed to those who pretty much agreed with your estimate! ;-)

    One thing that I probably should have said way way back in the day was, I actually feel you kind of hit it more on philosophy and "not being what you wanted it to be" rather than on any virtues or sins of the system itself. And I failed to clarify that my opinion was based more on my perception of what it did well -- which was simulate the macro-economic effects (in a pretty simplistic way) of a large scale economy. It seemed to me that Redmond was exploring more how labor gets allocated and what trade-offs have to be made in terms of production versus tax policy than anything else, and the mechanisms he chose to do that smacked of "central planning" to you. Somewhere in the rules, however, he notes that while you can look at it that way, you could also assume that labor reallocation came about because internal market forces and the increasing availability of "mechanization" in the various economic sectors.

    Anyway, I don't want to restart the debate, just wanted to apologize for being snarky to you back then, and perhaps re-state a little more clearly what parts I liked about the game, and one possible reason why our opinions differed so wildly. I respect your opinion and like reading your reviews, for whatever that's worth.

    On Redmond, I don't actually disagree with your opinion of him as a game designer. I feel he hit a couple of home runs with things like StarForce (heck the "new" SPI is even talking about republishing it soon), but overall, while his artwork advanced the gaming hobby by leaps and bounds, I have to agree that many of his designs seem a bit overly mechanical and don't really provide the "flavor" that most of us like in our wargames. ("Dixie" certainly is a telling argument for you there!)

    Finally, in the "for whatever its worth" column, I did retrofit the economic system to the "Neocolonial" scenario from Strategy I, and the little group that played that absolutely loved it. What I learned from that experience was that the more advanced the economy is (i.e., the more mechanization it has available which in turn means the more available labor it has), the more fun the players had with it -- not every decision was immediately a crisis, and you had the labor available to build military units AND improve your economy. All very enlightening AND, apparently, a lot of fun for the players.

    Anyway, I hope this finds you in good health! And keep up the good work with your reviews.

    v/r,
    Jeff

  • Greetings Jeff:

    Yes, your latest comment -- appearing, as it did, so long after this particular thread had "gone quiet" -- was a bit of a surprise; but a welcome one, nonetheless.

    Regarding the long string of arguments and counterarguments that followed in the wake of your own spirited defense of Redmond's design, I can only say that I found the various follow-up observations of the review's readers (even when, as often happened, their views ran contrary to my own) quite interesting. In fact, rereading some of these entries, after all these years, almost convinces me to resume regular blogging again.

    In any case, thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and

    Best Regards, Joe

    PS: While I have been inactive when it comes to "Map and Counters", I have not been inactive when it comes to wargaming. In point of fact, I decided to resume serious competitive play a few years ago and, since making that decision, have spent the bulk of my free time ether playing some of my old favorites or, in some cases, conducting online "tutorials" for those opponents who have -- in the course of our PBeM matches -- evidenced an interest in my thoughts on ways that they might improve their play.

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