MT, 19 November 2020 ~ #UnboxingDay
RAND’s Hedgemony: Unboxing a Rare Species of Wargame
It is a common understanding within our activity that wargaming involves two parallel but overlapping universes: the “serious” universe that leverages wargames for training or informing (for good or ill) policy or military decisions and the “entertainment” realm. Innovations in one domain often inspire innovation in the other as designers in both areas seek solutions for design challenges. Titans in the serious game sector – like Peter Perla – are well known in the hobby wargaming community and publish successful entertainment designs, but we often do not have a chance to see or play the games that they have produced for governments, militaries, or businesses that arguably are their most impactful. Those games are often classified, proprietary, or involve such small production runs that they become a rare and mysterious species of games.
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The Rand Corporation’s recent publication of its Hedgemony: A Game of Strategic Choices is an exceptional – probably unique – look at the type of serious boardgames that can inform government or military decision makers. The Rand Corporation, one of the premier think tanks that specializes in providing high-quality and innovative research to inform different elements of the US government and military, has been a key institution in wargaming going back to the 1950s. Rand wargames looked at political issues and military topics ranging from conventional wars to global thermonuclear conflict. Rand games incorporated many features that wargamers now take for granted, such as combat results tables, counters, and even hexes. Charles Roberts adopted “hexes” for wargame maps after having glimpsed such a feature of a Rand game that he saw in passing. Rand’s wargaming experts are among the most respected in the world, although at times maybe fairly obscure to many of us in the hobby domain.
Hedgemony is Rand’s first wargame that has been offered to the public for purchase. (Some may, like me, may begin to raise an objection and refer back to an obscure set of games from the 1970s published by “Rand,” but that two volume set was published by the unrelated Rand Game Associates). Assembled by a team of RAND experts, the game was designed as a tool to inform thinking and development of the US National Defense Strategy, a key document in US policy circles. The game was available for purchase on RAND’s webpage for a whopping $250, although the more financially disciplined of us can find the rules and a players guide on the site.
Given the difficulties of arranging in-person games during the pandemic, we will focus less on the design and the play of the game and focus instead on the components in something of an unboxing. PAXSims published a review in October.
The GameCrafter was the source for the materials and components. The production qualities on the game are up to the standards of most commercial hobby wargame companies and is arguably superior to other boxed games that one could acquire from the GameCrafter.
The box is well constructed with a tasteful design on the box top, but also with a description of the game on the bottom and example pictures of the board and components. Inside, the components are neatly packed and separated into various ziplock bags and packing materials that prevent shifting.
There are a bunch of action, event, and investment cards.
There is also a deck of international event cards that are larger, bigger than tarot cards. The finish on the cards is also quite nice.
There are also screens for each country and various player mats that track resources.
The card stock on these are fine, but the unusual part is that the same details are printed on each side of the mat.
The board consists of two mounted parts which together depict the globe as organized into the combatant command construct. The packaging includes tissue paper in between the various folds of the board, offering it some protection.
The counters are thick and laser cut, so soot is another element of the assembly process. There is smudging in places, but easily wiped off.
Thanks for joining this month’s #UnboxingDay with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you enjoyed our recon of our recent acquisitions.
You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
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