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Subject: 21st Century Pirates in Somalia rss

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Pete Belli
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A number of interesting articles about pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have appeared in the news recently. Perhaps the biggest story was the capture of a tanker carrying millions of dollars worth of crude oil.

These Somali pirates are holding many ships for ransom along with dozens of hostages. Naval forces from several countries are operating in the area. NATO is getting involved. The depradations of these modern pirates have begun to affect shipping schedules and maritime transportation routes.

There must be a game in there someplace... we might hear some fascinating ideas from the creative minds on BGG!
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pete belli wrote:

A number of interesting articles about pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have appeared in the news recently. Perhaps the biggest story was the capture of a tanker carrying millions of dollars worth of crude oil.

These Somali pirates are holding many ships for ransom along with dozens of hostages. Naval forces from several countries are operating in the area. NATO is getting involved. The depradations of these modern pirates have begun to affect shipping schedules and maritime transportation routes.

There must be a game in there someplace... we might hear some fascinating ideas from the creative minds on BGG!

This has been going on for some time. I heard an interview with a US navy captain I think that was involved in trying to help fight the piracy. Piracy is alive and well in the world, I think a game on modern piracy could be interesting.
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Mark Casiglio
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When I heard the news story I thought the same thing (re: a game). I'm glad I'm not the only one ... cool
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Dibs on the Indian navy!
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ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
Piracy is alive and well in the world, I think a game on modern piracy could be interesting.


How so?
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Wade Broadhead
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Fess us Pete, you have been designing a "somali pirate game" for some time now (wink wink)
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Eldard wrote:
ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
Piracy is alive and well in the world, I think a game on modern piracy could be interesting.


How so?


Modern piracy should not be supported and glorified by making a cool game from it. Instead, we should send a message to all would-be modern pirates by created a property buying roll-n-move type game: Somalian Piratopoly.
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Leo Zappa
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I don't know if there's a game in here or not. A realistic simulation of the current situation would probably look something like this...

1. Tanker/Navy player moves tanker...
2. Pirate player attempts captures tanker on roll of 1-15 on D20
3. Tanker/Navy player rolls for Navy intercept on 1 or 2 on D20
4. Pirate player makes demand for ransom...
5. Tanker/Navy player rolls again for Navy to surround Tanker on 1-10 on D20. Fail means tanker makes it to pirate port!
6. Pirate player makes threat to sink tanker...
7. Tanker/Navy player can decide to:

A. try to board tanker, success on 1-6 on D20, modified if the Navy player had successfully surrounded the ship and prevented it from reaching port. If fail, Tanker/Navy player rolls for tanker sinking - tanker sinks on roll of 1-15 on D20

B. Pay the ransom.
8. Repeat steps 1 through 7!

Maybe work something in there that the Tanker/Navy player can decide to station more Navy ships in the region, which would increase interception chances, but cost that player money and/or victory points. Maybe both players could spend money/points on attempting to influence local governments, which would lead to basing changes for each, which would impact their capture/interception rolls.

Maybe the pirate player has to pay his pirates and local governments to continue to operate, plus profit, so if he is unsuccessful often enough, he runs out of money and loses. Maybe the Tanker/Navy player has to pay for Navy ships, insurance settlements, and local governments, and if he is unsuccessful enough, he runs out of money and loses...

Maybe the pirate player can choose to either concentrate his effort to attempt to capture just one tanker on a turn, or split his forces in an effort to capture multiple ships in one turn, but with consequent decrease in odds of success for each such attempt???

Throw in some event cards to spice things up ("Storm at Sea - decrease capture and interception success rolls...")

Yeah, I guess you probably could make an at least somewhat interesting game of the situation.

Still, I think some "Munchkin"-style card game is probably more appropriate...
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There is a push your luck game. A single deck of cards each with a ship on it and an amoumt of ransom money.

Players take turns drawing cards and getting money, first player to draw the "Indian war ship" ends the round and loses all of the money he has so far accumalated.

On to round two...
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Look for the coming Blackbeard expansion from GMT which will feature:

New board (covering Yemen, Somalia, Magadascar and a large part of the Indian ocean)
New pirates
Super Tankers !!!



Now, is anyone worried about these pirates holding for ransom a tanker full of the latest boardgames? Maybe that explains the shipping delays with Valley Games...



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Why not make it a "Battlestar Galactica"/"Junta" style hybrid game ?

The players are the leaders of a pirate crew on a mothership.

They have to seek out targets and avoid being boarded by warships.

Cards determine what defenses the target ships have on board . . . nothing, high pressure water hoses, Blackwater security guards, US marines !!! . . . if you are really unlucky, combat helicopters or fighter jets show up to help.

players use their ill-gotten gains to buy more equipment, weapons and speedboats for their ships, and to hire more crew, bribe officials and crewmembers on target ships.

how to win: Earn 1000000000$ and retire to a life og luxury and debauchery arrrh
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Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
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fractaloon wrote:
Modern piracy should not be supported and glorified by making a cool game from it. Instead, we should send a message to all would-be modern pirates by created a property buying roll-n-move type game: Somalian Piratopoly.


I think the British sent a message to a couple of them last week.
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Alan Pengelly
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oneilljgf wrote:
fractaloon wrote:
Modern piracy should not be supported and glorified by making a cool game from it. Instead, we should send a message to all would-be modern pirates by created a property buying roll-n-move type game: Somalian Piratopoly.


I think the British sent a message to a couple of them last week.


And the Indian navy added their comments today.
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Russ Williams
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Why are pirates a fine idea for a game (I'm not bothered by the idea of a pirate game either), but a game about suicide bombers caused recent intense outrage and anger and letters to the publisher and encouragements to other gamers not to buy the game?

Pirates murder civilians for personal profit.
Suicide bombers murder civilians for a political cause they believe in (whether or not the means and the cause are just).

But pirates clearly have better PR agents because it is widely accepted that pirates are cool - they even have their own emoticon arrrh - while it is widely accepted that suicide bombers are evil cowardly fanatical deluded morons! I just find this fascinating.
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Sam Carroll
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fractaloon wrote:
Modern piracy should not be supported and glorified by making a cool game from it. Instead, we should send a message to all would-be modern pirates by created a property buying roll-n-move type game: Somalian Piratopoly.


Quite honestly, what are the odds that potential pirates will ever encounter a "cool game" made about their actions? We're in a niche hobby, my friend. But if we make Piratopoly, it's just possible that they would encounter it, since mainstream stores might stock it. And people whose values are so messed up that they might engage in modern piracy are also probably messed up enough to think Monopoly is fantastic.

Anyway, in what possible way is the making of a gamers' game "supporting" modern piracy? What are they going to do, drag us into court if we don't pay them licensing fees?
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I bet if the victims of pirate violence were heavily represented in the population, people would react differently.

I was strongly affected by the bombings in my own nation, London, Spain, and the Beslan school in North Ossetia. Then I went to Southwest Asia and saw what happened first hand when bombs went off in unexpected places. So, for me at least, it is purely emotional and not rational.

Pirates, in my own personal experience, might as well not really exist. Strong armed robbery on the high seas can still exist as something dangerous and on the edge without any of the real world baggage of screaming babies with missing limbs, screaming parents with missing babies, and school buses full of black canvas body bags.



russ wrote:
Why are pirates a fine idea for a game (I'm not bothered by the idea of a pirate game either), but a game about suicide bombers caused recent intense outrage and anger and letters to the publisher and encouragements to other gamers not to buy the game?

Pirates murder civilians for personal profit.
Suicide bombers murder civilians for a political cause they believe in (whether or not the means and the cause are just).

But pirates clearly have better PR agents because it is widely accepted that pirates are cool - they even have their own emoticon arrrh - while it is widely accepted that suicide bombers are evil cowardly fanatical deluded morons! I just find this fascinating.
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russ wrote:
pirates are cool


Indeed they are - some believe they counter climate change. Doea the recent increase in pirate activity mean that we have nothing to fear climate-wise?
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Mark Aasted
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pete belli wrote:

There must be a game in there someplace... we might hear some fascinating ideas from the creative minds on BGG!


When I read todays news I thought the same thing.
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Barry Kendall
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I can't for the life of me understand why the maritime insurance people don't offer shipping lines a discount for employing an armed escort, either aboard the merchantman or as a sailing consort.

I would think a couple of sunk pirate vessels would stimulate reflection by the rest on the merits of another line of work.

For that matter, why not add some "Q" ships to the shipping lanes?

"Stop your engines, you will allow us to board you or we will fire our RPG at you."

"Message received. Reply forthcoming."

BANGBANGBANG--BOOM.

"Gee," said the surviving pirate in the water, "I thought that was a cargo container, not a concealed 25mm autocannon."

Game over.
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Xander Fulton
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BeatPosse wrote:
Pirates, in my own personal experience, might as well not really exist. Strong armed robbery on the high seas can still exist as something dangerous and on the edge without any of the real world baggage of screaming babies with missing limbs, screaming parents with missing babies, and school buses full of black canvas body bags.


Building on a part of that comment - the other major issue is that a suicide bomber targets markets, schools, hospitals, gov't buildings, etc. Essentially, a resulting HUGE part of their victims are women and children. Who, traditionally, "we" (society) react very poorly to having specifically targeted.

On the other hand...there aren't many women on oil tankers and freighters. And no children at all. And they are basically sitting on top of millions of dollars worth of material - often (especially in the case of oil tankers) - the property of 'greedy corporations' that many people have a negative reaction to in the FIRST place. So there is a hell of a lot less 'moral outrage' about it.
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Russ Williams
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XanderF wrote:
On the other hand...there aren't many women on oil tankers and freighters. And no children at all. And they are basically sitting on top of millions of dollars worth of material - often (especially in the case of oil tankers) - the property of 'greedy corporations' that many people have a negative reaction to in the FIRST place. So there is a hell of a lot less 'moral outrage' about it.

XanderF wrote:
On the other hand...there aren't many women on oil tankers and freighters. And no children at all.

Good points... I think you are right. But don't forget that (despite the current headlines about oil tankers) an awful lot of modern-day pirates attack yachts (which have men, women, and children).

But again, people on yachts are probably rich, so probably there is that same loss of popular sympathy, as for "greedy corporations".
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As a retired US naval officer who's actually done counter-piracy patrols, and was in charge of coordinating anti-drug smuggling activities in the eastern Pacific (which is very similar, operationally speaking, to counter-piracy), I really don't think there's much potential for a decent game here -- at least not from the perspective of the coalition running the anti-pirate side of things.

For the most part, finding the pirates is a matter of luck. Yes, you know roughly where they usually operate, but it's still a big ocean and there are lots of little boats out there. Then there's the issue of identifying which of those little boats is a pirate and which is a legitimate fishing boat or coastal cargo carrier. You can board the boat to search it, but that takes time (even a simple search and siezure of a very small craft can take upwards of an hour) and still doesn't guarantee you're going to find the evidence necessary to impound the vessel (all they have to do is drop their guns over the side and *poof* -- unless you see them do it -- you have no grounds to take them into custody). We'll avoid discussing the legal issues involved in getting permission to board a foreign vessel, but suffice it to say, I've seen the process take anywhere from 2-4 hours to in excess of 3 days.

From a game perspective, this would be incredibly dull. You're basically rolling a die or drawing a card to see what you found, and then assuming you did find a suspected pirate, you effectively end up eliminating your patrol asset as it then has to transport the detainees back to some collection point for interrogation.

But let's say, instead, that you're responding to the siezure of a merchant ship by pirates. Your patrol assets get on station and then what do they do? They sit there "observing." You can't board the captued ship until/unless both the country where the ship is registered and the ship's owners (which typically aren't the same nation) authorize you to do so. So, your patrol ship sits around for days or even weeks waiting for authorization to do something. And typically that authorization never comes (and you have virtually no influence on effecting the outcome of that process -- it's a political/economic decision that's made well outside military channels).

Now, in those rare instances where authorization does come, the outcome of the "use of armed force" option is pretty much a foregone conclusion. The pirates (who are ill-equipped and have little to no formal training or combat experience) are totally outclassed by the elite commando teams that conduct the opposed take-down boardings. Yes, the attack can go awry -- but that's most often because of some random accident, totally out of the control of either side, which results in hostage or boarding party deaths. So again, from a game perspective, it's pretty dull: roll a die and see if a blunder ruined the take-down (no detailed planning, no carefully mini-max'ed modifiers -- just roll and "oops, got snake-eyes, they killed the hostages").

Basically, the whole game would boil down to managing the logistics of maintaining a maximum presence of patrol ships on station at any given time. Dull.

Now, if instead you tried to orient the game to the pirate's perspective... it's not all that different. Roll/draw to see if you encounter a merchant ship or run afoul of a coalition patrol ship, attempt to board the merchant or evade the patrol, repeat until you successfully capture a merchant or get sunk/impounded by the coalition, and if you do get a merchant run back to your home waters and try to fence off the siezed cargo/ransom the crew. Again, no real planning involved -- it's almost entirely luck driven. Yawn.

The "real" game here is trying to find a solution to ending the root causes of the piracy in the first place. That means getting a consensus in the UN to go back into Somalia (highly unlikely, given the fact that they're still smarting from the spanking the warlords gave them back in the '90s), stabilize the internal politics of that unfortunate benighted country, changing their "bandit" culture, and giving these poor starving fishermen/herders some prospect of being able to provide a living for their families other than piracy. But something like that lacks the "excitement and color" of a game associated with *PIRATES* and would only attract a handful of grizzled grognards to buy/play it.
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Lance McMillan
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XanderF wrote:
...there aren't many women on oil tankers and freighters. And no children at all. And they are basically sitting on top of millions of dollars worth of material - often (especially in the case of oil tankers) - the property of 'greedy corporations' that many people have a negative reaction to in the FIRST place. So there is a hell of a lot less 'moral outrage' about it.


Not to be pedantic, but this is inaccurate. While you won't find "women and children" on the larger supertankers owned by the likes of Exxon or British Petroleum, those sorts of ships constitute only a small minority of the ships that ply the waters off the Horn of Africa. Most of the merchant ships in that region are smaller vessels, owned/registered in local third-world nations to small shipping businesses (not faceless multi-national "greedy corporations"). As of this morning, according to Reuters, there are some 14 vessels currently in the hands of Somalia pirates, with roughly 240 crewmen being held hostage (approximately half of these are Filipinos, with a signficant number of Turks, Ukrainians, Croatians, Chinese, and Koreans as well). The ships in question include fishing boats, grain transports, chemical (not oil, usually fertilizer) carriers, and container ships. It is not at all unusual for the crews on such ships to bring their families (women & children) onboard with them.
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Lancer4321 wrote:
XanderF wrote:
...there aren't many women on oil tankers and freighters. And no children at all. And they are basically sitting on top of millions of dollars worth of material - often (especially in the case of oil tankers) - the property of 'greedy corporations' that many people have a negative reaction to in the FIRST place. So there is a hell of a lot less 'moral outrage' about it.


...
It is not at all unusual for the crews on such ships to bring their families (women & children) onboard with them.


I can't, however, find any evidence that any of the 240+ hostages are women or chilren. It's easy to say 'such and such isn't unusual'...but I can't seem to find any data to back up that this is a factor, here.

Lancer4321 wrote:
For the most part, finding the pirates is a matter of luck. Yes, you know roughly where they usually operate, but it's still a big ocean and there are lots of little boats out there. Then there's the issue of identifying which of those little boats is a pirate and which is a legitimate fishing boat or coastal cargo carrier. You can board the boat to search it, but that takes time (even a simple search and siezure of a very small craft can take upwards of an hour) and still doesn't guarantee you're going to find the evidence necessary to impound the vessel (all they have to do is drop their guns over the side and *poof* -- unless you see them do it -- you have no grounds to take them into custody). We'll avoid discussing the legal issues involved in getting permission to board a foreign vessel, but suffice it to say, I've seen the process take anywhere from 2-4 hours to in excess of 3 days.

From a game perspective, this would be incredibly dull. You're basically rolling a die or drawing a card to see what you found, and then assuming you did find a suspected pirate, you effectively end up eliminating your patrol asset as it then has to transport the detainees back to some collection point for interrogation.


Obviously, you'd need to kick this up a scale or two from the tactical level. As you say - it's no good to try to replicate all the 'sit and wait' and luck involved.

Instead, break the S Atlantic/Indian/S Pacific oceans into 'zones'. Each zone allows the players to deploy a certain 'presence' of pirate vessels or naval escorts/patrol. You are rolling for things like 'values of ships captured' in a zone, based on the number of pirates you have allocated to operate in that area, and the naval force can roll on 'value of ships protected/recovered' based on the number of naval vessels in the area (presumably, with many modifiers for both depending on political will, media outrage, economic considerations, etc).

It'd definitely have to be an area-control game. And a 'push your luck' mechanic should probably work into it. Perhaps there is a positive "political modifier" for the naval 'protect/recovery' rolls that increases with every pirate success in a zone. So the longer you leave pirates allocated to a zone, the greater the risk to them. And you risk losing 'everything' if they fail one of these matches, as you don't score them until they move to a 'pirate port' zone. (Maybe allow a 'prestige' modifier for the pirates, too - capture 1 ship in a zone, it's worth 1 VP. Capture 2 in that zone before 'scoring' it, each is worth 2 VPs, etc. So the pirate has an incentive to push against the increasing die roll modifiers for the navy.)

Anyway, just a few ideas. A game is doable about it - you just have to pick the scale well.
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denverarch wrote:
Fess us Pete, you have been designing a "somali pirate game" for some time now (wink wink)

I think Pete just wants to be a pirate!

I mean, what's not to like? The weather is AWESOME. The beaches are pristine. Risk of getting shot is pretty low...

- - - - -

I think where this turns really ugly is when terrorists figure out they shoud be doing the same thing, only blowing up the tankers.
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