8 Games for the Labour Revolution

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

For no reason at all, this week seems like a good one to talk about labour. Here’s a selection of games that feature strikes, organised workforces, and labour disputes. They run the mechanical gamut from LARPs to cards to dice, and some of them are even free. These games often dive into history and take inspiration from real-world events — even though labour disputes are not, as we all know, just stories from the past.

The Price of Coal

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

One of my favourites on this list is The Price of Coal by Jen Adcock. Taking inspiration from the deplorable conditions in West Virginia coal mines in the 1920s, this 3-5 player game uses a deck of prompts to guide characters through different situations in the shadow of the mountain and the company. With easy gameplay mechanics and relationship-based character creation, The Price of Coal humanizes a tragedy that most folks don’t remember. The game ends with a re-enactment of the Battle of Blair Mountain, when the U.S. Army is called in to deal with the workers fighting to unionize.

STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

Tesa Collective has a reputation for releasing fun, collaborative political games with a sci-fi twist (check out Space Cats Fight Fascism, which is exactly what it sounds like, and a personal fave). STRIKE! is a multiplayer collaborative game where you serve on the Strike Committee, trying to beat back HappyCorp as it seeks to make the community into a company town. STRIKE!’s gameplay alternates between players and the pre-made opponent reactions, creating a high-tension board game where the company takes two steps forward for every strike you make.

’Twas The Last Labour Dispute Before Christmas

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

This wonderfully tongue-in-cheek game by Jonathon Greenall is a solo journaling game led by card-based prompts. You play an elf trying to unionize your workforce during the final crunch leading up to Christmas. Contend with union-busting efforts from Kris Kringle as you attempt to get better working conditions for you and your fellow elves… before you have to do it all over again.

Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

This comprehensive game, designed using the Powered by the Apocalypse system, allows players to recreate contemporary labour disputes and organising efforts across a variety of times and places. With a Game Master helping direct the drama, Comrades has a lot of room for intensity and surprise, giving the game a lot of freedom to explore different kinds of labour disputes and strike tactics. The strength of this game comes from its direct, easy-to-understand language that allows new players to quickly understand the mechanics and gameplay.

Beat the Boss

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

Beat the Boss is written by Doug Geisler, a veteran Dungeon Master and labour organiser of 18 years, and he brings the full bore of his experience to the design of this game, which is loosely based on the Powered by the Apocalypse system. It has a grassroots feel that helps create an intimate and nuanced understanding of labour issues, barriers, and how workers collaborate to overcome them. Beat the Boss is one of the few games on this list that feels like it could be used to teach people how to organise, rather than fictionalize the existential disputes and emotional struggles at the core of these games.

Bay

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

This game may be short, but it packs a heavy emotional punch, offering a grim and intense experience where players follow a riot dog through the streets of a violent revolution. Bay is a game for two to six players; one person plays the Dead and the rest of the group will play the Dog. There are very few rules, and as the Dead describe what happens, the Dog has to either endure the cruelty of the world or the players have to withdraw the game in order to change the flow of events.

Bitches in the Club

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

Honestly, if the name doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. Bitches in the Club is a game about women seizing the means of production in whatever kind of service job they have in a club run by a greedy manager. You play as women who are using your sexuality and wits to upend the status quo. Steffie de Vaan doesn’t shy away from confronting the patriarchal and sexist obsessions at the core of the service industry, and this game is a political critique of the way that our society views women who work for tips.

Paterson 1913

8 Games for the Labour Revolution

I’m including this educational Live-Action Role-Playing game for a few reasons, but mostly because Paterson, 1913 is simply one of the best researched and informative pieces I’ve ever read. Written by Simmons College professor Mary Jane Treacy, this game really forces the players to dive into the ideologies and struggles of the 25,000 workers at the Silk Factory in Paterson, New Jersey. This event is notable not only because of its scope, but also because the gender and nationality of the striking workers made them less likely to succeed. Paterson, 1913 respectfully and intensely recreates the struggle of immigrant women at the turn of the 19th century.