12 October 2016

Update: Soldier Sets New Sights on Seven Years' War

Jason Huffman with "1750: Britain vs. France" at GenCon 2014. PHOTO: Battle Hardened Games, Inc.
Editor's note: This post is an update to a Red Bull Rising post that ran Aug. 28, 2014. While the effort to meet that earlier, $28,000 goal proved unsuccessful, the game designers have recently launched a smarter, leaner attempt at funding the project. With more than 25 days to go, they seem well on their way to making their $12,000 objective.

Like many soldiers, Iowa Army National Guard member Jason Huffman loves history, loves games and simulations, and loves learning about history through gaming. After months of game design, play-testing, and even demonstrating at the 2014 GenCon gaming convention in Indianapolis, he and his colleagues at Battle Hardened Games have launched a crowd-funding effort to bring their inaugural game "1750: Britain vs. France" to full production.

Sample graphics from the game "1750: Britain vs. France"
The game "1750" is a 2-player card-based strategy contest, using both dice and cards to fight for control of the board. One player plays as Britain and the other as France, and each seeks to dominate the globe. Players leverage historical events, land and sea forces, generals and admirals, supplies, and allies to control the North American, African, and Indian colonies in the years leading up the American Revolution. The graphics incorporate the paintings, maps, and other artwork of the day.

A Kickstarter page for the project is here. A video is here, as well as below. A Facebook page for Battle Hardened Games is here. Huffman started his game company in 2013, and is trying to raise $12,000 by Wed., Nov. 9, 2016.

"My top priority is to deliver games that you'll enjoy playing, whether you are a history fan or not," he writes on his website. "But I do hope that you will learn a little bit about history when playing our games. I also hope that some educators will consider using our games as a framework for discussing history, particularly the leaders, battles, economics, and geography involved."

In 2007-2008, Huffman spent a year deployed to Western Afghanistan as part of an Embedded Training Team (E.T.T.). There, he saw the echoes of empires first-hand. (Also, be sure to ask him about the Taliban chicken.) In his first game design, however, he chose to focus on the 18th century struggle between imperial powers Britain and France—the "Seven Year's War." (In the theater that was to become the United States, the conflict is better known as the "French and Indian War.")

For Huffman, the historical milieu provides an opportunity to explore lessons on scales ranging from the global, to the individual. He writes:
Many British officers that would later play major roles in the American Revolution also fought in the Seven Year's War, with some of the younger officers in the American Revolution going on to fight in other British conflicts of the late 1700s.

There are a few British generals that I find particularly interesting in terms of their legacies from this era. They fought in multiple wars and had very different results in each of them. Growing up in an American school system, our history books didn't really address parts of their careers that didn't deal with American history. Basically they get mentioned within the context of the American Revolution and that’s it.
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, circa 1796
Take, for example, Charles Cornwalis. Huffman writes on his website:
Basically, looking at American history books, or watching [2000 film] The Patriot, Cornwallis would have been viewed as the biggest loser of the 1700s. He surrendered an army of over 7,000 soldiers, the act that ultimately broke military British efforts to retain the 13 colonies. This same person was hugely instrumental in the ongoing rise of British power in the Indian subcontinent. You can't look back at him and only weigh the Yorktown surrender in judging his performance as a commander [...]
The entrepreneurial Huffman is an Iowa National Guard signal officer, and also spent time as a civilian contractor instructing on mission command systems. He now works for a national healthcare insurer.

Huffman is a 2003 graduate of the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

"My love of military history was certainly a strong influence in my decision to join the military," he tells the Red Bull Rising blog. "My grandfather was also a medic in the 34th Infantry Division during WWII in North Africa and Italy, and that was always inspiring to me when I decided to join."

And ... what about the war story regarding Pashtun poultry? "I was driving wearing N.V.G.s [Night Vision Goggles] during an operation to cordon an Afghan village, when a chicken flew at our Humvee, knocking out a tactical satellite that had been zip-tied to the hood and really hurting our communications during that operation."

"That chicken," Huffman says, "was Taliban."

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