Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development


This issue has now been resolved! For game historians amongst you, the now-ancient history is below

Recently Stronghold Games launched a new game project on Kickstarter, Aftershock.

In Aftershock, players will spend money to acquire planning cards, which are used to increase population, build bridges, and determine where aftershocks occur. Spend money wisely to acquire aftershocks that will allow you to move people into and out of the demolished areas. Planning and careful negotiation are essential in order to maintain your population and score your best-planned cities and bridges.

Since PAXsims published a game called AFTERSHOCK in 2015, this caused some considerable confusion. We received multiple queries—via the blog, Twitter, email, discussion forums, and even in person—asking if the new game was somehow a newer or updated version of our original game. It’s not.

The new Aftershock (by Bobby West and veteran game designer Alan R. Moon) is an earthquake-themed Eurogame. You actually cause earthquakes in this game.

The original AFTERSHOCK is a serious (but enjoyable!) game designed to teach about humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It has been used for training humanitarian aid workers, medical students, UN peacekeepers, and military personnel. We have run games for the US State Department, USAID, the Department of National Defence, the UK Ministry of Defence, and others, and it was a featured game at the Military Operations Research Society’s wargaming conference and the recent Serious Games Forum in Paris. The original AFTERSHOCK is also a non-profit fundraiser for frontline UN humanitarian agencies who respond to actual earthquakes and other humanitarian emergencies.

When we became aware of the name duplication, we reached out to the publishers. They  sent us a two sentence reply noting that “unfortunately, sometimes names overlap slightly in board games.” This is true, of course. There is another Aftershock out there as well, but that’s a terrain-building tavern game that no one would ever confuse with a game about earthquake response. In the case of the new Aftershock, however, the box font and theme are sufficiently close that there is already confusion.

We wrote back, suggesting that if it was too late to change their title, perhaps we could find a win-win solution—they might mention the existence of our game (to avoid confusion), and we would be happy to do the same. Perhaps they could even help publicize material on actual disaster relief operations. After all, our sales (in the hundreds, for a serious game with a particular niche) are hardly a threat to Stronghold Games (who will be hoping for sales in the tens of thousands). When they tweeted about their launch on Twitter, we issued a polite clarification.


Then it got weird. They blocked us on Twitter, and they blocked most everyone else who pointed out that these were different games.


Let’s be clear here, we’re not accusing them of nefarious motives. We absolutely accept that they failed to check and accidentally launched a game with a similar title. We recognize that they have a legal right to do this. We’re not demanding anything of them. However, an issue that could have been resolved in a few minutes has been blown up to the point that others are now discussing it on their blogs or posting about it in discussion forums. Given that our little non-threatening, non-profit project is designed to train people who actually save lives in humanitarian disasters, and raises money for disaster-affected populations in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, we would be sad if some cooperative, mutually-beneficial solution couldn’t be found. We’re also worried that actual humanitarian providers will find the wrong game when they search, and miss an opportunity to enhance their professional training.

However, we are also (as Brant Guillory recently pointed out on Twitter) Canadians, and hence are required by federal law to be stereotypically polite. On that note, rather than inject rancour into this unfortunate affair, we have decided to produce a special commemorative (original) AFTERSHOCK event card to mark the launch of the (new, not ours) Aftershock. You can download the pdf , and print this at home, either assembling it as shown below or simply pasting the text section onto one of the blank cards included in (original) AFTERSHOCK.

Aftershock Free Card.jpg

Long may your simulated humanitarian responses be coordinated and effective!


Stronghold games has now cancelled the Kickstarter. The following email was apparently sent out to backers:

As you may have been notified, we’ve decided to cancel the Aftershock Kickstarter campaign…for now.

So what next?

While the campaign funded, the Deluxe Edition upgrades (and their associated costs) weren’t resonating with as many people as we had hoped. We are going back to the drawing board – rethinking how to give Aftershock its best shot at doing well. Our next step could be a revised Kickstarter with different reward levels and perks for backers, or perhaps we just go straight to retail.

In either case, we’re still very excited about this game, and we’re 100% committed to bringing it to you. Thank you to every one of our amazing backers. We really appreciate you coming out and showing your support.

We’ll be sure to update everyone with our new plans once they’ve been finalized.

Thank you so much for your support,

Stephen Buonocore, President – Stronghold Games

There’s no mention of the naming issue in there. We certainly didn’t want to see a gaming project derailed—-the more games out on the market, the better! As we noted above, we think there are easy, cooperative, win-win solutions. Consequently, we will be reaching out to them (again) in the coming weeks in the hopes that we can become enthusiastic supporters of their future project relaunch.

One final comment, prompted by some of the increasingly heated language about this whole issue online. We’re not angry, just hoping for a cooperative solution—after all, some of us do peacebuilding for a living. You shouldn’t be angry either. Keep any discussion positive, respectful, and constructive!

Indeed, rather than see this descend into a personal debate, might we suggest that we all donate a little something to the World Fund Programme (the primary beneficiary of funds raised by AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game). WFP is the UN agency which provides emergency food supplies to millions of people around the world affected by natural disaster, war, and famine. We’ve just donated $100 (PayPal transaction ID 5YF57680T3388715F) in the hopes that all the energy spent on angry words can be diverted to better things. Anyone else? Every little bit counts!


9 responses to “AFTERSHOCK(s)

  1. Rex Brynen 07/02/2019 at 4:51 pm

    Brent, thanks for your comment. I don’t think “upset” characterizes our response at all, as we’ve tried to make clear. Rather, what we have been saying is “Can we find a mutual beneficial way of addressing the confusion this has created?” or perhaps “Could you help us clarify it’s a different game?” We’re happy to see an earthquake-themed Euro out there on the mass market. We just don’t want it to obscure a serious educational game/humanitarian fund-raiser, if at all possible.

    The Twitter-blocking by Stronghold of their own customers/fans was a self-inflicted PR fumble (we also teach crisis communications).

  2. Brent Henson 07/02/2019 at 3:01 pm

    To be fair Aftershock is a noun that describes what can happen after an earth quake.

    Also the game in question is not called Aftershock, it’s called
    AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game and it isn’t really a hobby board game.

    Stats on BGG say Own: 26 who have added it to their collection.

    Also I’m not really a big fan of Stronghold Games or Stephen, but you can’t be upset if another game uses a common word that was used in the title of your game.

    That is equivalent to being upset someone made a game with the word Mars in the title :

  3. sanbikinoraion 07/02/2019 at 7:54 am

    Surely a game of the same name and the same theme is infringing on some sort of consumer law? I can’t just go out and sell my island trading game “SETTLERS OF KATAN” even if the box art is different!

  4. Rupert 06/02/2019 at 1:55 pm

    I have no desire to see this thing resurface on KS. They need to put on their big boy pants and front their own capital to publish this as yet another quasi-interesting middle weight Euro that everyone will forget in about 6 months. KS is not the platform for these drab little things, and Stronghold just ain’t got the game to bring decent production or graphic design to anything that isn’t handed to them, fully formed, by another artist or designer. Back to retail with you, Stronghold!… (and rename your game unless you want to look even more unprofessional).

  5. brtrain 06/02/2019 at 1:54 pm

    I strongly doubt the naming issue had anything to do with their decision to cancel. From what I saw of the comments on the Kickstarter comments page where backers had cancelled their pledge, it was complaints about the costs and structure for component upgrades, shipping costs outside of the United States, and other points related to the getting and having of the game.

    This peevishness tees up with my own second-hand experience with Kickstarter, about a year ago when Nights of Fire was launched on it. The company was offering an upgrade kit with miniatures and cards together: the miniatures could be used in both this game and its prequel Days of Ire, some cards were for just the prequel, and some cards were for a “link” game between the two. A small but quite vocal group of people variously complained about how they wanted:
    – the miniatures but no cards; (gimme the toys!)
    – the miniatures but only some of the cards; (I don’t have that other game!)
    – all of the cards, but no miniatures; (No room for toys on my shelf!)
    – some of the cards but not miniatures; (I like cardboard!)
    – no cards and no miniatures (I can’t imagine why anyone would want these extras!)
    The publisher posted once or twice about how uneconomic it was for them to try and make these changes, to the point where the changes would threaten the viability of the game itself… but they weren’t having any of it, they wanted what they wanted.
    Some compromise was reached, but it impressed on me the volatility and volubility of the Kickstarter public: they want what they want, how they want it, when they want it and if you won’t supply it, and stretch goals, at what they believe is a reasonable price, they’ll walk.
    A far more compelling factor than their basic ignorance of the name duplication, since real money was involved.
    Still think your response was both measured and genius!

  6. RockyMountainNavy 05/02/2019 at 6:08 pm

    Nice card! Like you made it for somebody else to use….

    Guess not.

  7. mgacy 05/02/2019 at 3:56 pm

    Too true about Canadians! A US person like myself would have replaced the Cluster____ card with a picture of the new game!

  8. Jerry Elsmore 05/02/2019 at 2:24 pm

    Posted on Board Game Trading and Chat UK 12494 Members with Disclosure ” I have purchased and played Aftershock by Rex Brynen”

  9. brtrain 05/02/2019 at 12:01 pm

    Rex, you are a polite genius.

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