Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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1. Introduction

 

A common saying among wargamers it that "Wargames do not have a theme; they have a subject." In past discussions on the wargames forum, I have contended that this distinction exits merely as a conceit in the minds of wargamers. Frankly I was just dead wrong, as this game has shown me, and as such I apologize to those wargamers whom I argued against on this point.

Quite some time ago, I was sent this game in a batch of four games to review by the designer of whom I think highly. Frankly, I was extremely tempted simply to refuse to do the review and to let that refusal be put down to merely "personal reasons". Yet I think doing so would be a disservice to those who might consider buying this game; after all, I am a reviewer of games and was given this one to review. I consider the game to exists due to a serious lack of judgment on the part of those involved with its publication because its treatment of its horribly tragic subject matter is so utterly disrespectful. Now, I do not think for a moment that anyone connected with putting this game out intended to be disrespectful in the slightest. The problem lies in more than the light-hearted approach to the Shoa (Holocaust) but in the lack of effort to bother getting any of the details of the subject matter even vaguely correct. True, wargames do deal with war, one of the most horrific realities in all of human civilization, for purposes of mere entertainment; yet they can do so legitimately and indeed respectfully by dealing with the tactical and strategic aspects of war. The horrors of war as neither mitigated nor denied,and most importantly the designers and publishers of the games have a moral obligation to those involved in the wars to make an effort appropriate to the level of abstraction in the game to get the details correct. In my view, no such attempt is made in this game. It is about raids of concentration camps by Allied soldiers, a type of raid which never happened, to kill as many guards as possible, using prisoners who do nothing but act as a scoring mechanism in the game for counting coup.

A friend of mine, an expert on the Shoa and a wargamer, dismissed my attitude to the game saying that the idea of using a dreidel to kill Nazis is "just fun". The problem with this view is that the game uses the Shoa as a cheap marketing ploy by which to associate the game more strongly with a Jewish market. The Nazi guards could for game purposes just as well be defenders and the concentration camps fortresses or look out posts. If a subject matter as terrible in reality as was the Shoa is to be involved, it should be needed as something integral to the game. It simply is not in this case. Therein the Shoa is treated casually and cheaply, whatever may have been the actual intent.

2. Overview of rules and components

 

In many ways, this game's quality is up to the same high standards of related games like Maccabees (reviewed here) and Matzakoman (reviewed here). The computer graphics used however, especially on the cover of the box and on the sniper card, are not up to the same standards by any stretch of the imagination.
 

Players do not combat one another but only fight the Germans. So it is like a cooperative game in that sense but it is not actually a cooperative game. In many ways, this is a game which can't decide what it wants to be. One of the things that bothers me most about the board, even beyond the inconsistent attempts at marking terrain (which sometimes just fills hexes and sometimes doesn't) is that the Russians approach from the same side of the board as the other players. Where is this place supposed to be? It has one-hex size death camps sprinkled over it like toppings on a cheap pizza on a board which otherwise looks like something from a bad late 1980's arcade game. The object, as much as there is one, is to collect enough prisoners from the death camps by picking off Nazi guards like targets in a carnival shooting gallery. Oh yes, you knock them over with spinning dreidel and movement points on a turn result from the spin of a dreidel, modified by cards.
[thing=1110476][/thing]

 

The German, excuse me, Nazi figures look like they have been borrowed temporarily from an Axis & Allies game.

3. Gameplay?

I'll be honest. If this were in terms of its mechanics, the best game ever, I would not want the current incarnation. It just isn't. This is a game that aims at both Jewish non-gamers or light gamers and at wargamers. It tries to be light-hearted but is about death camps.

I showed it to a close member of my family who is the child of a Survivor. This person is not a gamer but is the fairly secular Jewish person at whom this game is largely aimed. The reaction was revulsion and disgust. Certainly without me saying anything to this person, that person explained to me why the game is using the Shoa of all things as a cheap marketing gimmick. I am also bothered by the apparent assumption that (if this were an appropriate game dealing with the Shoa in a respectful manner) relating it to the Shoa automatically makes it appeal more to Jews and from what I can tell only Jews. I am under the impression that of the 11 million people murdered by the most conservative estimates, 6 million were Jews and the other 5 million included among others Roma, gay people and the disabled. The packaging and rules in only Hebrew and English suggest to me that the game is not intended for other European populations that were also massacred. That point seems all the more odd when the other games in the series include rules in Spanish, Italian and French. In short, a Jewish audience is most likely to be horrified by this game; I would not recommend this as a gift to anyone you want to keep as a friend.

What about wargamers then? This isn't a wargame. There is no historicity whatsoever. Guards at death camps were deservedly not accorded the dignity of being treated as fellow soldiers in combat. Light-hearted this game just isn't. It does not even offer players anything genuinely approaching strategy or tactics except it the loosest sense of the words.

The other games in this series are not intended as gamer's games but have aspects which make that okay more or less. This one does not offer a game either for gamers or non-gamers. The only people I can think of playing this comfortably are people to whom the term "Nazi" just means a cartoonish bad guy. To me, the Shoa is terribly real and personal. I cannot recommend this game to anyone.

EDIT:
Please note that a number of gallery images from the designer used in this review were withdrawn after the review was published. These now appear as either blanks or N/A.
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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I'll send you some dreidels, yes. I'm sorry you're offended but we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

EDIT:
Please send me the directions where to ship them.
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Flaster Siskin wrote:
Moshe - Let me guess you hated Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds as well, right?

P.S. - don't you own me some dreidels? I want my dreidels!


I did. I thought it was absolutely disgusting on all levels. It's been called "Jewish revenge porn" or "Kosher porn." It's absolutely disgusting on every level. Why did you feel the need to tell us about your family and the Shoah? Is that some kind of guilt thing you're trying to push or?

Maybe he didn't miss the point of the game. Maybe the game just sucks.

As for your family...I don't see how it's relevant at all.

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Dreidels as a game mechanic: Cool idea.
Using this mechanic in a game not related to Hanukkah: Why?

Yes, I know the game has the word Maccabee in it, that doesn't make it about using guerilla tactics to fight Ancient Greeks.
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whac3 wrote:
A friend of mine, an expert on the Shoa and a wargamer, dismissed my attitude to the game saying that the idea of using a dreidel to kill Nazis is "just fun".

Your expert friend is right - Yes, it is fun to pretend to kill nazis with a dreidel. It is a board game. Board games are meant to be enjoyed and be fun. But this game does also stand as a reminder of the Holocaust so we never forget. In no way was this game meant to trivialize the Holocaust. It was meant to bring attention to it.

I really do not appreciate your assumptions about the motivations behind this product.

If anyone is interested in a different perspective of this game I recommend watching this review.[/size]
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FS, you're making the case against my ever buying your company's games just as quickly as you can.

The reviewer took the time and trouble to write a thoughtful, serious review of your game. If you can't take a negative review well, then you should at least take it in silence. It would look much better for you, and for your company's professionalism.

If another person who was both an expert on the Holocaust and a wargamer took the reviewer's position, would you then feel obliged to listen to that person? Opinions are funny things: everyone has one. What's more, it's meaningless to say you 'reject' someone else's opinion. How exactly does one reject something that someone else holds?

The reviewer's opinion was very helpful to me. Trying to shame him into removing his review is a blatant push for silencing of your critics. And that's very bothersome to me, beyond any of the (possibly inadvertent) minimization of the Holocaust that your game may effect in the eyes of those to whom that atrocity is nearer than most.

It's clear that to some people, your game is troubling vis-à-vis the Holocaust. And you should respect that, and not try to shout them down and belittle them because their lives intersect with the Holocaust in ways and by associations that perhaps yours does not.

I would think that as a publisher, this would be the most helpful sort of review you could have received under the circumstances. It's a review enlightening you to something of which you were previously unaware: the ways this game might give offense to its target audience. The reviewer has done you, and us, a favor. If your game is likely to revolt and disgust many among its target audience, don't you want to know?

whac3 wrote:
I showed it to a close member of my family who is the child of a Survivor. This person is not a gamer but is the fairly secular Jewish person at whom this game is largely aimed. The reaction was revulsion and disgust. Certainly without me saying anything to this person, that person explained to me why the game is using the Shoa of all things as a cheap marketing gimmick.

Tell me in what universe this isn't invaluable design, production, and marketing feedback.
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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It is my practice as a reviewer to state dissenting opinions when I am aware of them in order to let readers make up their own minds, especially when a review is negative. Were my review, unfair or unbalanced, I would not have included such dissenting an opinion. Rather, I state it and explain why I disagree.
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BGG facilitates the illegal sale of unauthorized copies of games. Due to BGG refusal to prevent such illeagal activities, FlasterVenture will not interact or participate with BGG If you need help or have question please go to www.boardgaming.com
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Basically what you are saying is he can express his opinion and I cannot? I have never responded to a review before but due to the nature of this one I felt I had to. I wanted to emphasis an important point from his own review that even the reviewer's friend disagreed with him and also wanted to counter it with a different reviewers opinion which I will post again

I am not shaming him as you say, I am vehemently disagreeing with him on everything he has said.

 
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Flaster Siskin wrote:

I am not shaming him as you say, I am vehemently disagreeing with him on everything he has said.


Your point was made the first time. Saying it a second (or third or more) time is unnecessary.

Remember - if you see something you want to react negatively to, flag it and forget it.

Using the icon serves two functions - first, if enough users flag a post then it will be collapsed from general view. Second, flagging posts helps bring them to the attention of the forum moderators.

Thanks!
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I am sorry but reading this review was absolutely devastating to me and I reacted to it in that way. Not only do I put a tremendous amount of time and effort into my games but to be accused of trivializing the holocaust has caused me tremendous pain and anguish. The intent of this game was quite the opposite.
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Rick Baptist
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Flaster Siskin wrote:
I am sorry but reading this review was absolutely devastating to me and I reacted to it in that way. Not only do I put a tremendous amount of time and effort into my games but to be accused of trivializing the holocaust has caused me tremendous pain and anguish. The intent of this game was quite the opposite.


I can speak for Mr. Siskin being a great guy, as I have met him in person. He loves playing and designing games and is a great guy to play games with due to his fun nature.

It is tough when someone outside of your world questions your intent in such an opposite way. But the theme is such that it WILL be polarizing to some people. I, for one, enjoy the game for what it is and I think it's a lot of fun. I would also not be surprised for someone to hate it. Love and hate is a very fine line in board gaming!

Don't worry, Flaster. There are a lot of folks that enjoy Op: Mac and some that don't. That is true of every game on BGG. As far as the trivialization of the theme goes, while *I* know that you would never design a game with that intention, it is a fact that some will think of it that way. I imagine that would be difficult, but it is a risk when designing a game of this manner.

I will continue to enjoy Op: Mac as one of the most unique designs of its kind, anywhere!



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Flaster Siskin wrote:
whac3 wrote:
A friend of mine, an expert on the Shoa and a wargamer, dismissed my attitude to the game saying that the idea of using a dreidel to kill Nazis is "just fun".

Your expert friend is right - Yes, it is fun to pretend to kill nazis with a dreidel.

Fun is always subjective. You must know that.

Quote:
It is a board game. Board games are meant to be enjoyed and be fun. But this game does also stand as a reminder of the Holocaust so we never forget.

It's not a 'reminder' of anything that actually happened. Possibly/probably it (the Allies actually trying to liberate the concentration camps, rather than simply coming across them along the way when then finally won the war) should have happened, but how is a major distortion a testimony? I've read, and even enjoyed on occasion several novels based on the actual history of the Holocaust. There's plenty there to write a book on, maybe even to make a game on, although that is always going to be difficult, precisely because, as you point out, in most cases, "Board games are meant to be enjoyed and be fun."

Do you remember the 1997 film Life is Beautiful? That caused huge controversy because it was a comedy set not only during the Holocaust but in a concentration camp. My mother and I talked and pondered for a good while before eventually deciding to go see it in the cinema, and while I don't remember her reaction afterwards, I enjoyed it. What swung us towards it, though, was that the story was based on the actual experiences of the director/star's father.

Quote:
In no way was this game meant to trivialize the Holocaust. It was meant to bring attention to it.

I really do not appreciate your assumptions about the motivations behind this product.

I don't believe anyone accused you of meaning to trivialise the Holocaust, or of having questionable motives. In the review, Moshe was very clear he thought you didn't, in my opinion. Whether or not the game actually does trivialise that terrible epoch is evidently subjective, and those of us who believe it does are entirely entitled to that opinion, especially when backing it up as Moshe did.

Quote:
**Being accused of trivializing the Holocaust is a very painful accusation. I did not react well to such harsh and in my opinion unfair criticism so after some reflection I have edited this comment as many of you can tell.**


Believe me, we understand that it's painful for you, and was never your intention. The fact remains, however, that it's a valid reflection on the game, and one that both you and potential buyers/players should be aware of.
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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If anyone would like to discuss religion, women's issues, etc., RSP is a fun place to do that. Personally, I highly recommend it. Of course, knowing what you're talking about (like for example realizing that in Orthodox Judaism Paul of Tarsus's idea of a "submissive wife" is foreign) is recommended but indeed it is not necessary.

Such things have nothing to do with my review or responses to it, and poster's responses are their own-- whether I happen to personally know them or not.
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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The Hoff wrote:
I live and work as an attorney in Beverly Hills. Yes 90210. Pretty much the Jewish Capital of the west coast and loving it. This review and discussion is just pure silliness. As you can see from my avatar and microbadges I’m a huge Mel Brooks fan. If there is something that man did right is comedy and furthermore making fun of f-ing Nazis! So many of his films have made light of that very serious subject matter but we all have laughed at his films and stage plays, loved producers by the way, spring time for hitler anyone?! He is not making light of it … he is making fun of it. One great thing about being a Jew who is alive today is that we get to make fun of Hilter and the Nazis ridicule them and put them down. It is part of our Jewish Identity. You people need to light up and take a lesson from old Mel. Oh hell, when accepting his Kennedy Center Awards a few years back he put a comb to under his nose to make the iconic hitler stache and did the nazi salute. Why? Because he was an a-hole? No cause he is a comedian and a genius at that. Its called satire people! So spinning a dreidel to kill Nazis is fun, heck yeah, its called poetic justice. Cause we are alive and hilter and nazi germany is dead! Mazel Tov Mothafers!

I'm not a Mel Brooks fan myself but even were I one, I don't think the approach is this game is comparable to that kind of humor. You are welcome to disagree. My reasons are stated fairly clearly in the review.

Satire to be funny has to warp a basically correct presentation of a situation, to exaggerate certain aspects and downplay others to create a caricature. Take a look at those Mel Brooks movies or even Fellini's La dolce vita again. Then look at this game. They have an aspect of faithfulness underlying the silliness that this game just lacks.
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Moshe Callen
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The Hoff wrote:
whac3 wrote:

I'm not a Mel Brooks fan

That is what in my business we call a non sequitur. You and I have very different taste. I simply do not get you at all. But I would like to understand someone like you better. Share with us what you think is a funny movie or great comedy if you don't mind.

Try a chit-chat thread.
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bjlillo wrote:
Where did all the images go?

I assume their original uploader (I guess probably the game designer?) deleted them, possibly to gut the review of its visual impact.
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See the end of the review:
whac3 wrote:
EDIT:
Please note that a number of gallery images from the designer used in this review were withdrawn after the review was published. These now appear as either blanks or N/A.


Well I feel for both the reviewer and the designer. They are both trying to respect those who perished. It's a shame that their approaches have temporarily divided them.

I'd own Operation: Maccabee as a piece of art but I'd never want to play it.
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