Games which have a connection to our home province of Saskatchewan in some way are rather rare to say the least.
Only a handful of games that I have come across have been created here, or even by Saskatchewan people who have moved.
Fewer still use Saskatchewan as the location for their games.
So Prairie Aflame immediately drew attention. It is a genre game, one of a huge array of historic war games out there. For those unfamiliar with such games, they are generally designed around a particular historic battle, or era, allowing the players to recreate the events.
In this case Prairie Aflame centres on the Riel Rebellion of 1885, or more accurately the Northwest Rebellion as the history books tend to note it.
The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 was an uprising by the Métis people of the District of Saskatchewan under Louis Riel against the Dominion of Canada, perpetrated by the Métis’ contention the Canadian government had failed to address concerns for the survival of their people a position which had really carried forward from the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870.
The Métis forces had some skirmish successes at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion resulted in the destruction of the Métis forces at Batoche (now an excellent historic site), and Riel was later hanged as a traitor, a position which has really softened these days with Riel being seen as a leader fighting for his people’s rights.
As a gamer, it is quite exciting to unfold a map and see a map of the Prairie region as the play area of a game. In this case the map extends from Fort McLeod south of Calgary, north to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan and east to a line just past Regina, Humboldt and Prince Albert. Sadly Yorkton is not on the map folks.
The game, like most war scenario games, comes with cardboard punch outs signifying forces, including those representing historic personages including Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Poundmaker, Big Bear and General Frederick Middleton.
The pieces are small, so get a zip lock bag and be careful to preserve them.
Then there is a 21-page rule book, which includes a number of scenarios, including the Battles of Duck Lake, Fish Creek, Cut Knife Hill and of course Batoche.
Other than that you need a few dice, and away you go.
On one website I did note a player’s comment suggesting when they played out an historical scenario they found it unbalanced in favour of Government forces. As I recall from my school history, the Metis and First Nations led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont really had very little chance of victory especially at Batoche.
In fact, as I recall vaguely from discussion in history class with teacher Ted Degenstein, Dumont realized a face-to-face battle strategy was not going to work and argued for more of a guerrilla hit-and-run philosophy against General Middleton’s troops crossing the Prairies. This is a game which is for war buffs, or people interested in Saskatchewan history. It is not a game to be played for casual fun by gamers just looking to kill some time. That is not a bad thing though. The game covers an important battle in not only Saskatchewan, but Canadian history, and it is great to see someone recreate it as a war game, in this case the credit goes to game designer Mark Woloshen and Khyber Pass Games, which sadly has just recently gone out of business.
-- This review appeared originally in Yorkton This Week newspaper in Saskatchewan, Canada.
I just bought this game a couple of weeks ago and haven't had an opportunity to do more than look it over. I bought it because it's on a subject I'm familiar with--those of us born and raised even on the U.S. side of the Canadian border (at least used to) get a strong dose of cross culture even though the border's tougher now. For example, my home town of Newport, Vermont has many bilingual (English/French) street and store signs, many people speak or understand at least some French as well as English, and I got a good overview of Canadian as well as U.S. history and geography in high school and later at the University of Vermont. So you don't HAVE to be from Saskatchewan to appreciate the game, which does appear to be a fair view of the conflict.
The observation about the difficulty of the Metis to ever be successful is accurate: this whole conflict could be seen as a messy meeting engagement between two cultures that didn't understand (or care to) the others' viewpoint--so the government screwed up in how it handled the Metis, and the Metis failed to figure out how to leverage their ends short of open conflict. Riel didn't start it, but he was there to the end and he paid the price. This had no more chance of success than the very little known (outside Canada anyway) and ungamed Rebellion of 1837 or the Fenian invasions from the U.S.
I would argue that we need more games on obscure subjects like this. It's not that there are too many Russian Front games, just that we can all learn a lot more if we look more broadly. Good gaming, everyone!
Every weirdo in the world is on my wavelength
We carry a new world here, in our hearts.
So what do you think of the gameplay? What are the highlights of the rules?
It is great to see continued interest in Prairie Aflame as I was with Khyber Pass Games when it was released back in 2007, and did the map and counter artwork for the game. In fact I now own/run Legion Wargames and this game is still available for sale via the website, www.legionwargames.com.
You will also find two other games by this designer, Mark Woloshen, available for Pre-Order.
Battles of the Northwest Rebellion
The game includes the following 5 battles, each with it's own map and counters.
•Fish Creek - April 24, 1885
•Cut Knife Hill - May 2, 1885
•Duck Lake - March 26, 1885
•Frenchman's Butte - May 28, 1885
•Loon Lake - June 3, 1885
The Last Invasion
The Fenian Raids on Canada - 1866 & 1870
This is a pair of games, covering the battles of Ridgeway - 2 June 1866, and Eccles Hill - 25 May 1870, when large numbers of well armed and trained Fenians crossed the U.S. - Canada border. Their goal was to take territory in an effort to put pressure on the British government.
The goal of Legion Wargames is to bring to production the lesser known and undergamed battles/campaigns of history, and these definitley fit the bill. I have a total of 23 games available for Pre-Order, 5 of which will be released this year.
Mark is aware of this posting and I hope he will stop in and give a little more information about the game itself and the two new games he has in the works.