Games which have a connection to our home province of Saskatchewan in some way are rather rare to say the least.
Only a handful of games that I have come across have been created here, or even by Saskatchewan people who have moved.
Fewer still use Saskatchewan as the location for their games.
So Prairie Aflame immediately drew attention. It is a genre game, one of a huge array of historic war games out there. For those unfamiliar with such games, they are generally designed around a particular historic battle, or era, allowing the players to recreate the events.
In this case Prairie Aflame centres on the Riel Rebellion of 1885, or more accurately the Northwest Rebellion as the history books tend to note it.
The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 was an uprising by the Métis people of the District of Saskatchewan under Louis Riel against the Dominion of Canada, perpetrated by the Métis’ contention the Canadian government had failed to address concerns for the survival of their people a position which had really carried forward from the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870.
The Métis forces had some skirmish successes at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion resulted in the destruction of the Métis forces at Batoche (now an excellent historic site), and Riel was later hanged as a traitor, a position which has really softened these days with Riel being seen as a leader fighting for his people’s rights.
As a gamer, it is quite exciting to unfold a map and see a map of the Prairie region as the play area of a game. In this case the map extends from Fort McLeod south of Calgary, north to Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan and east to a line just past Regina, Humboldt and Prince Albert. Sadly Yorkton is not on the map folks.
The game, like most war scenario games, comes with cardboard punch outs signifying forces, including those representing historic personages including Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Poundmaker, Big Bear and General Frederick Middleton.
The pieces are small, so get a zip lock bag and be careful to preserve them.
Then there is a 21-page rule book, which includes a number of scenarios, including the Battles of Duck Lake, Fish Creek, Cut Knife Hill and of course Batoche.
Other than that you need a few dice, and away you go.
On one website I did note a player’s comment suggesting when they played out an historical scenario they found it unbalanced in favour of Government forces. As I recall from my school history, the Metis and First Nations led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont really had very little chance of victory especially at Batoche.In fact, as I recall vaguely from discussion in history class with teacher Ted Degenstein, Dumont realized a face-to-face battle strategy was not going to work and argued for more of a guerrilla hit-and-run philosophy against General Middleton’s troops crossing the Prairies. This is a game which is for war buffs, or people interested in Saskatchewan history. It is not a game to be played for casual fun by gamers just looking to kill some time. That is not a bad thing though. The game covers an important battle in not only Saskatchewan, but Canadian history, and it is great to see someone recreate it as a war game, in this case the credit goes to game designer Mark Woloshen and Khyber Pass Games, which sadly has just recently gone out of business.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec 30, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada