GAMES OF FUTURES PAST
David Patterson
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There are plenty of science fiction games out there, most of them set in the distant future when humans and aliens roam the galaxy.

But there are games that were based on predicted or possible futures when they were published - but whose then-future dates now lie in our past.



Just like golden-age pulp science fiction tales or the projections of Popular Mechanics, it can be fun to look back at what game designers thought might happen - but didn't.

I'm starting this list with games I've picked up over the years - but feel free to add your own.
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1. Board Game: Mawari-Sugoroku [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
David Patterson
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The earliest example of such a game I have is this Japanese sugoroku entitled Modern Military Science.

It was published in the 1930s, but shows a variety of weapon systems that never did get built, including rocket-powered flying boats, amphibious infantry on water skis and anti-aircraft ray guns - right alongside an image of charging cavalry!







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2. Board Game: Europa Rundreise [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
David Patterson
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This game is included not because it was trying to predict the future, but because of some unintentional irony.



In this 1930s German game, players drive cute little ceramic cars all over Europe. But the easternmost point on the map that German drivers are able to reach is Stalingrad - which is a penalty space with directions that say the driver "decides to stay a few days in the city of Tractor Works", and loses two turns.

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3. Board Game: GHQ [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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This British game was published in late 1939 or early 1940 and portrayed the expected German invasion of France. Its pieces and rules correctly noted that the Allied forces were not that different in strength across armoured, motorized and regular infantry, and anticipated the possible violation of Belgian neutrality - but completely missed the boat in terms of how German blitzkrieg doctrines had changed the rules for the looming real-world battle.

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4. Board Game: Anno 2000 [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
David Patterson
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This mid-century French game was the inspiration for this list. Its beautiful techno-optimistic art is accompanied by rules that begin:

"According to the latest scientific research, it will be possible at the latest in about 50 years, to voyage to the Moon, to other planets and even to stars much further away."

Players roll and move around a lavishly illustrated solar system while one of them tries to intercept and destroy the rest using a mysterious and dangerous robot.



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5. Board Game: Space Pilot [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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A 1951 American game on the same theme has a more capitalist theme - be the first to reach planets and exploit them for billions of dollars in precious metals, from gold to plutonium.

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6. Board Game: Cosmonos [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
David Patterson
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My third mid-century space exploration game (there are others, but I'm going to stop here) comes from Belgium. I suspect a close connection with the publication of Hergé's Tintin comic adventure On a marché sur la lune, since Hergé himself was Belgian and that particular story was published in 1953-4.



Certainly the cover art is very similar to that in the Tintin story, especially the red-and-white chequered space ship.
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7. Board Game: Big Boom... or Golden Age [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
David Patterson
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From Cold War to No War, from poverty and famine to a golden future ... all through the miracle of World Government through the United Nations: that was the premise of this 1951 game in which one player ticks down the clock toward nuclear war while the others cooperate to bring together global peace and prosperity before the world blows up.



Global disarmament and peace continue to elude us ... and we certainly haven't achieved the predicted 4-hour workday!
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8. Board Game: Munich Decathlon Game [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
David Patterson
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This sports game was issued in 1971, anticipating a typically competitive but friendly round of Olympic Games in Munich the next year.

Of course, everyone was caught by surprise when the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took 11 members of the Israeli team hostage and eventually killed them. Five of the eight terrorists and a German police officer were also killed during an unsuccessful rescue attempt. The remaining three terrorists were captured, but released about a month later after the hijacking of a Lufthansa airliner.

Let's hope this year's Winter Olympics enjoy peaceful sports rivalry without any violence.
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9. Board Game: Triplanetary [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:5475]
David Patterson
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Set "sometime in the 21st Century" this game brought vector mechanics to a crayon rail game in space.

The board covers the solar system out as far as Jupiter, and scenarios range from peaceful races to piracy and invasion, but the key to victory is always the careful management of scarce fuel and the judicious use of gravity wells.



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10. Board Game: NATO: Operational Combat in Europe in the 1970's [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:8820]
David Patterson
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NATO was a division/brigade-level wargame postulating a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe later in the 1970s.

The game generally assumed conventional combat, but did include rules for the use of tactical nuclear weapons and an infamous provision for the use of strategic warheads:

"To simulate the use of strategic nuclear weapons, simply soak the map with lighter fluid and apply a flame."


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11. Board Game: The East is Red: The Sino Soviet War [Average Rating:5.83 Overall Rank:11145]
David Patterson
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A year after NATO was published, this game suggested that ongoing skirmished on the border between the USSR and China could lead to a full-blown war between the erstwhile Communist allies.



The game offered two scenarios, one a near-term hasty attack by the Soviets, the other a delayed and more concentrated assault. In both cases, the game provided for the use of tactical nuclear weapons and atomic demolitions, but did not anticipate any need for strategic lighter fluid.
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12. Board Game: World War 3 [Average Rating:4.94 Overall Rank:14840]
David Patterson
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This 1975 game looked at how the Cold War might run hot on a global scale. The set-up and rules anticipated a fairly quick Soviet take-over of Europe (with the possible exception of Norway) and probably Iran, and then a long slog for the Western powers to build the forces needed to re-take Europe.

The rules recognized the constant potential for conventional warfare to lead to the use of nuclear weapons, but took a more nuanced approach than NATO. The optional Armageddon rules had a table setting out the odds of any use of nuclear weapons leading to full nuclear war. The rules also noted that for playability, the odds of Armageddon were reduced considerably, and would in reality be at least twice as high as suggested in the game's table.



If nuclear war did break out, the rules say the loser would be the attacker, while noting:

"Of course, if this happened in reality, the question of 'winner' or 'loser' would be a moot point - such terms are value judgements that would require the presence of human life."

It is another war that thankfully never happened, and one hopes never will.
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13. Board Game: After the Holocaust [Average Rating:5.98 Overall Rank:7830]
David Patterson
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This game took the opposite tack to the previous ones: it assumed both a large-scale thermonuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the survival of enough Americans to try to put the country back together again.

Since the game is set 20 years after a nuclear war with the Soviets, that would date the scenario at somewhere prior to 2009.



While presenting a more optimistic picture than that of NATO or WWIII (humanity survives), this game suggests that life would be grim indeed for the survivors. The winner of this game can be the player who loses by the least.

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14. Board Game: Invasion: America [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:5077]
David Patterson
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Wargames got a bit more speculative as the Seventies moved along. In 1976 came this game, which assumed that the rest of the world simply got tired of American bullying and decided to wipe it out - the hard way, with conventional forces.



One player takes the American side (which includes Canada). The other three players represent the European Socialist coalition from the east, the Pan-Asiatic League from the west, and the South American Union from the south. The American player won by holding out through 60 turns; otherwise, the win went to whichever invader manage to gobble the biggest piece of the American pie.
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15. Board Game: Objective Moscow: The Death of Soviet Communism [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:6943]
David Patterson
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This 1978 game offered a flip-side to Invasion: America - various scenarios leading to the demise of the Soviet Union.

Short-term scenarios included a NATO counter-attack after a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, a Chinese invasion of Siberia and even an attack by an obstreperous Iran in the South.



The more speculative and larger scale game involved an all-out attempt to wipe out the USSR through an invasion from all sides by an alliance of the USA, a United Europe, China, Iran and other assorted allies.

As things turned out in real life, Soviet Communism collapsed of its own weight just 11 years after the publication of this game, without the need for an invasion from any direction.
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16. Board Game: Car Wars [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2065]
David Patterson
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Ontario
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From global conflict to the daily commute: this Steve Jackson gem kicked off a wave of games that took open carry to the open road.

Players prep their cars, trucks and bikes with assorted lethal and non-lethal weaponry, power plants, suspension and armor, and take the demolition derby to new heights on the streets and highways of the near future.



The original cardboard cut-out pieces have given way over the years to fancy custom vehicles and elaborate tournament layouts, and the continuing enthusiasm for motoring mayhem suggests that this game's future is not yet out of the cards.



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17. Board Game: Red Sky Morning [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:10228]
David Patterson
Canada
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Ontario
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Through the 1980s, the Japanese economy looked unbeatable, but its real estate and stock markets got hammered as the 90s arrived. This game was published in 1991, but was clearly designed earlier.

Its premise of a "second Japanese-American war 1997-1998" is based on a declining United States trying to make itself great again in the Pacific by blockading a now nationalistic as well as resurgent Japan. In a reversal of the situation leading to WWII, war is supposedly provoked by a Japanese embargo of its electronic and cyber exports that will only be lifted if the U.S. guarantees complete access to Alaskan oil.



The resulting game is primarily a military contest between the Japanese maritime defense force and the U.S. Pacific fleet, with victory points awarded for sinking ships, downing aircraft and conducting successful raids, but it has economic and political elements as well.
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18. Board Game: Shadowrun: Crossfire [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:611]
J Vomkrieg
New Zealand
Wellington
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The timeline for Shadowrun was written in the 1980's and we have already passed by certain major events pivotal to the setting. Including

2006: Japan invades North Korea
2010: VITAS plague kills half a billion.
2011: US government siezes all native reservations, mexico collapses
2012: The first dragons reappear and so does magic
2017: Native American nations, using magic, smash the US
2018: US & Canada effectively split in half by the treaty of Denver.


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19. Board Game: 2nd Fleet [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:2082]
suPUR DUEper
United States
Villa Hills
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Thankfully, we never got it on with the Soviets....

2nd Fleet was/is a very good game. Trouble with creating a game of naval warfare in the missile age is that nobody really knows how all the weapons systems will interact. Everything is just pure speculation.

I believe the only active ship in the USN to sink an enemy vessel is the USS Constitution.
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20. Board Game: Marine: 2002 [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:11134]
Marcus
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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A tactical game covering the First Russo-American Lunar War of 1998-2002.

And that is about it in terms of background story for the game.

A more recent game that covers warfare on the moon at a higher level and worth playing, is also full of references to past TV shows (Space: 1999) and SF novels from the 1960s (Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", Keith Laumer's Bolo Tanks):

Moonbase Alpha

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21. Board Game: War in the Ice [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:7318]
Marcus
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War in the Ice is a future history simulation of a limited scale war for the energy resources of Antarctica between the world’s superpowers... back in 1991-1992.

The game also includes "a special scenario that pits the Subterrans, a cryogenically frozen race from prehistory, against the modern forces", at the Mountains of Madness.
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22. Board Game: Last Battle: Twilight – 2000 [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:11840]
Big Sean
United Kingdom
Leicester
Leicestershire
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Twilight 2000.
The entry is for the boardgame which transferred from the RPG.

Set in a post WW3 scenario with the breakdown of structured society.
The source books were excellent, especially the UK based one. It covered such things as organised crime and football club gangs and their ares of influence geographically in the UK.

Fortunately, it did not come to pass.

If you want to read a good book on an alternative modern conflict on a global scale:

Total War 2006 by Simon Pearson. Mixes fact and fiction brilliantly in my opinion and also quite prescient for its time.
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23. Board Game: Space: 1999 [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Big Sean
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Leicester
Leicestershire
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Spin off from the Gerry Anderson TV series.

By 1999 there would be a colony on the Moon. Mind you we all thought that in the 70s.

This had the best space vehicle ever, the Eagle transporter> Dinky Toys made a beauty in the 70s.

The only thing that got me was the back story.
Massive nuclear explosion on the moon which throws it out of earth orbit and sends it hurtling through space! If they were using solar power how did it work, also if there was a huge nuclear explosion where did the remaining power come from.
But hey! that's the beauty of Sci-Fi

Check out the programmes on YouTube etc.
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24. Board Game: Invasion of the Air-eaters [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:7395]
Grand Prince Poutine Lord High Thrifter
Canada
Metro Vancouver
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This microgame from Metagaming has such a great title and was released in 1979. From the back of the game's rulebook:

"It's 1983 and our air is going bad. An Alien generation ship invades earth with fantastic weapons and Air Converters. These survivors from another star are remaking Terra to suit their needs despite "indigenous biological activity". Mankind's back is against the wall - we must win or die gasping. The monster's mother ship beams down Crawlers, Production Bases and Atmospheric Converters. Our almost useless armies and sub fleets must be improved through crash research and development. All the world's nations must fight as one to protect industry and resources so new weapons can be produced. We can even learn to "reconvert" the air."
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25. Board Game: Terminator 2: Judgment Day [Average Rating:3.82 Unranked]
James Clarke
United Kingdom
Caithness
Scotland
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I think we already know that the prediction of a 2029 Future War is false. Either that, or show me a Terminator.

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