Yanping Fulsome died a martyr. I met him in the park, just after I finished beating an amateur magician to death over his position on electoral reform, and our camaraderie was immediate and unwavering. His talent as a locksmith was invaluable, and together we were the voice and hands of the liberal revolution: a silver tongue and ten dexterous fingers, capable of winning almost anyone to our side and robbing the rest in the night.
But we got careless. Yanping got one on his left arm while he was robbing a downtown apartment block (liberally). An ultra-conservative construction worker had stayed home that day and disagreed when he noticed Yanping filling his pockets with jewelry and iPads. It was a matter of minutes before the DethSquad officers showed up.
Neither Yanping’s 9mm pistol nor his bodyguard Rane (a black belt martial artist I flirted with so much that he committed to a life of terrorism) could stand up to them. Rane went down first, and Yanping, soft, soulful Yanping, wasted time dragging his body into the elevator before succumbing to his injuries, a button’s length from flight. I replaced him with a 46-year-old football coach named Donovan. Donovan sells pot brownies to further the cause instead of dying in an elevator shaft. In fact, we are making more money now.
We need a motto!
This is Liberal Crime Squad (LCS), the little-discussed predecessor game from the developers behind Dwarf Fortress. A revolutionary cadre simulator that tasks you with implementing The Liberal Agenda through assassination, sabotage, kidnapping and robbery. LCS differs from Dwarf Fortress in that it actually has one goal in mind. Your task is essentially to make all of Glenn Beck’s nightmares come true at once.
By any means necessary, you have to build a grand liberal conspiracy, building a country-spanning web of activists who will stop at nothing to make sure gay people can get married and burn flags, undermining tradition through media both subtle and overt. Sometimes that means kidnapping a judge and bending them to your will. At other times, it means making and selling tie-dye T-shirts. Hey, the Bolsheviks sold postcards (opens in a new tab). Sometimes the revolution is about arts and crafts.
You won’t do it alone, of course. You are aided in this by your recruits, acquired by seduction and persuasion, who are divided into “active” liberals and sleeper agents embedded in the crucial interstices of conservative society, ready to wreak havoc every time you send a word.
You’re opposed by, well, almost everyone else in the world. The police, the state, even public radio are standing in front of the story and yelling “Stop,” which means you have to be smart. By placing your sleepers inside those institutions (and others), you can get advance warning of police raids, get out of a jam in the courts, even start subtly spreading liberal ideology over the airwaves, if you dare.
It’s a satire, of course, foreshadowing a political era, the early 2000s, when the most radical center-left voice in the American public eye was Jon Stewart. The idea that people as dumb as the leading liberals of 2004 formed some kind of New York Times Baader-Meinhof Group was patently absurd in those days, even if the idea of radical groups and blunt Political action from the left is easier to imagine in 2023.
It is a complex simulation and models several layers of public opinion and political power. You’re not just pushing a ‘liberal popularity’ meter one way or another, you’re impacting what people think about a variety of issues individually. There’s the presidential approval rating, naturally, which you’ll want to buoy or send down to Earth depending on the ideology of the person in power, but people also have their stances on issues.
Focus strictly on acts of sabotage and animal rights activism, for example, and you may end up in a situation where John Q. Public is willing to burn down an animal testing facility, but thinks executing human beings for minor infractions it’s fine. So it’s pretty realistic, is what I’m saying.
LCS is a crude and finite thing compared to the wild Dwarf Fortress expansion, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Once upon a time, LCS was the go-to for newcomers looking to get into Tarn and Zach Adams’ beloved dwarf management game – a way to dip your toe into the strange waters of a barely navigable, multi-systems ASCII game. . without having to monitor systems at a ‘my chicken’s left knee is wet’ level of granularity.
But Dwarf Fortress has a graphical Steam version with (somewhat of a) tutorial now, which means learning that game is probably best accomplished by playing. But does that mean that The Liberal Agenda will be allowed to languish?
Bay 12 went out of business in the LCS almost immediately after its first public release in 2004, so it’s arguably been languishing for a while now, but the cause has been taken up by a group of dedicated fans. The version I’ve been playing is King Drake’s Liberal Crime Squad. (opens in a new tab) (which adds an opposing Tory Crime Squad that uses its own tactics against you), but there are others you can find on the LCS wiki (opens in a new tab)including a new graphic version made by fans (opens in a new tab) if you can’t stand the charm of the ASCII version.
I suspect the game still has some life left in it, and might even see a surge of interest after the incredible success of the Steam version of Dwarf Fortress, but I’d hate to see it wither away now that it no longer works as a set. of training wheels for your successor set. I guess what I’m saying is, Kitfox, you did it once and you can do it again. Let’s get an improved version of LCS on Steam, ideally with input from the open source developers who have kept it running all this time. Do it for the revolution, comrades.