Only through heroic efforts of the translators, probably punctuated by richly Roman Catholic Italian curses directed at me, was the first printing of Shahida concluded just in time for Lucca. The award goes to Paolo Bosi for coordinating it all. I was surprised to discover that its word count is almost twice that of Spione, but upon reviewing Spione, I was also surprised to discover how sketchy some of its content seems to me today. I need another writing project like I need an extra pair of elbows, but perhaps a Spione upgrade is called for.
Anyway, physically, the thing looks great and I'm sure it's quite fascinating if I could read Italian instead of filtering it through my rusty Spanish. Claudia's cover is a knockout and I could see it draw gazes from across the corridor at the exhibitor's booth. Sales were excellent.
The current printing's text is still a little rough, and although I think it's pretty awesome, I also need one more editing run-through to smooth the tone and trim the wordiness throughout. I also think chapter 4 needs a closer look at women's lives in Lebanon, which are a bit hard to parse in the terms of American feminism based on the sources I've read and discussions I've had. But really, not much change is needed, and when it's done, the American layout will follow. It'll be available as PDF and book quite soon.
I gave two scheduled talks about Shahida and to a lesser extent Spione, one of which I think was only OK and, armed with some reflection about it, a really good one on the next day. I'll try to gather my thoughts about those and post them later.
I also played two Shahida games, or rather, one phase each of what would have been two games outside of the convention context. I let the players choose the period of war they wanted, and interestingly, both chose 1982, during the most extended Israeli occupation and the repeated bombing of West Beirut - the same period addressed in Waltzing for Bashir, which is maybe why people chose it. Both games ended in some good discussions too.
The first game was unscheduled, basically the gathering of people who were interested at the booth, and a little effort on my part to clear some space at the open gaming tables. There were seven of us, including me and Lavinia (also one of the translators), and the other five had not played before. The story centered on a middle-class Greek Orthodox family in downtown West Beirut who managed to keep their income reasonably high by running a glass/windows business (I based that on some historical accounts); I assigned the Witness to one of the new players (she chose the oldest person on the map, the grandfather), decided I'd be a War player, and assigned the person directly across from me to be the War as well.
This story was based on the current-events detail that the al-Murabitun militia (generally Sunni Muslim, generally pro-Palestinian, and quite politically radical) had fallen on hard times during the Israeli occupation, especially in battles against Amal, and we posited that some of them had turned to simple extortion of local businesses like this one. Events resulted in one of the husbands in the multi-generation family escaping a brutal kidnapping and saving his wife from the same, as well as getting the local al-Murabitun publicly executed by a third party (tied to one of the family member's Traits), but also seeing his little son blinded and ultimately killed. I was impressed that the Witness player really had to think about whether the Judgment was right or wrong (personally I thought the bastards had it coming), and also by the other War player, who was absolutely excellent, but as it turned out had never role-played before, ever. So her first time was as War player in Shahida -- which simultaneously delights and appalls me.
The scheduled demo was smaller, with five people, two of whom were Mauro and Moreno, who'd participated in playtests and in Moreno's case had been deeply involved in the translation. It was set in the same phase, as I mentioned, but this time it featured a rural Shi'a family living in al-Dahiya, the mix of tenements, shanties, and refugee camps along the southern border of Beirut. Despite having no overlap in persons playing aside from me, and without any input from me, the story was a bit similar in focusing on down-on-their-luck radicals, in this case, some marginal members of the Palestinian Liberation Front, who'd turned to kidnapping and extortion. Coincidentally, our family was also a bit richer than most in their circumstances, as one of the family members had worked abroad for a while, so maybe that played a role. And again, it was one of the younger husbands who eventually produced the Judgment, and in this case, was killed in doing so. The final scene was just before the funeral, and I found it pretty moving, with the emotions of his wife being particularly complex. In fact, this story was notable for its family structure, i.e., four married couples based on four siblings, with a rather moving set of contrasting values and choices among the four women, and with the Witness being the four siblings' mother - in fact, that's yet another coincidental parallel between the two games, in that the Witness was of the oldest generation, providing a patriarchal or matriarchal view.
The second demo was also a bit interesting in that I'd assigned the War parts to Mauro and Moreno, and found them curiously mild in that role. The cards didn't help us, providing multiple three-card stacks but never quite managing to give a War player the four-card stack he needed for a crisis. So I had to kick their ankles a little to elicit more severe War-type actions, and also got around to explaining the Judgment (I usually do this after the group gets comfortable with the ordinary round of play) - at which point Iacopo, the other non-Witness Family player, lit up and instantly delivered it when Mauro narrated that one of the family members was likely to be raped. In this case, I don't think the Witness player disapproved, if I recall correctly, when the offending group was murdered in a nighttime tenement fight scene, with gunshots and knife-fights in total darkness.
This game also led to a very, very personal discussion among some of the players about the issues related to the Italian Resistance during the Nazi-Fascist period, which I found later to be the big unspoken moral-historical crisis on nearly everyone's mind. Ezio has been threatening for some time to work on a game inspired by Spione and Shahida about this issue, and one of the players in this game even allowed as how he'd like to see multiple games of that kind appear, to generate a plurality of honest views and experiences.
I liked both of the games and both of the fictional families, and I liked the appreciation people seemed to acquire for both the immediate history of the setting and also for the general issues as they might apply to their own lives. I'm most disappointed that the game really showcased its potential for making people want to see what happened to the family in the next phase, but that the convention context prevented doing that.