Sitrep: the Syrian Arab Army

SAA Order of Battle early 2019

SAA OOB, early 2019. Credit: Gregory Waters.

https://www.mei.edu/publications/lion-and-eagle-syrian-arab-armys-destruction-and-rebirth

Here is a brilliant bit of contemporary history and analysis by Gregory Waters of the Middle East Institute on the collapse of the Syrian Arab Army during the Syrian Civil War and its rebuilding under Russian tutelage. Includes complete, detailed Orders of Battle for years between 2013 and early 2019. Current OOB was partly assembled and verified through checks of Facebook pages!

My Third Lebanon War game (which will soon be issued in physical form as a BTR Games product, I hope) has Syrian intervention units in it, however they were not given distinct numbers – I assumed at the time (2010-11) that they would be the 1st Corps, perhaps reinforced with some extra armoured forces. Apparently the 1st Corps has spent the entire Civil War still deployed in approximately the same area (covering the Golan Heights, Deraa, and Damascus generally). The divisions haven’t changed much though they are now more mechanized/motorized infantry since the Syrian tank fleet is quite reduced from what it was.

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Brief Border Wars quad now available for pre-order!

bbw-boxcover-1100px

All images from Compass Games website. All art by Mark Mahaffey.

Compass Games has just announced that my Brief Border Wars quad of games is available for pre-order!

$52.00 US now, $69.00 later.

https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/brief-border-wars.html

I’ve made a few passing references to this project over the last year or so, but here are the details:

BRIEF BORDER WARS

A set of four mini-games on short border conflicts of the 20th and 21st century, using a card-driven system that models the chaotic, stop-and-start nature of these impromptu wars. The system is a development of the one used in The Little War, the mini-game that was published with the Hollandspiele edition of Ukrainian Crisis. The main change is that instead of using a deck of ordinary playing cards with a linear set of values, there is a deck of special action cards that gives players a choice of movement or combat, with values on a bell curve – so players have some flexibility but must still do some improvising.

Each game is small (40 to 50 counters each) and short (one to two hours): an ideal short match to finish off an evening of gaming, or fill a long lunch hour. Each game also features rules additions and variations to reflect the peculiar nature of each conflict.

All four to be published together, in one box. Yes, I did hector Mark Mahaffey, the artist, into giving the game box the old SPI Quadrigame “look”. I’ve brought back the quad, in my shabby, nostalgia-fume-huffing way! 

Mark did a great job on the counters and map too.

bbw-counters

The four conflicts are:

The Football War

El Salvador vs. Honduras, 1969: this is one of history’s shortest wars, clocking in at about 100 hours. People often joke that this was was provoked by one side losing a soccer match: in fact, like most wars, the war was the climax of years of political and economic pressure. In the game, both forces are largely similar – El Salvador has a slightly larger ground force, while Honduras has a bit more airpower – and both must contend with rugged terrain and poor roads in their efforts to seize or hold Honduran territory. To my knowledge no one has ever done a wargame on the Football War, other than a short training scenario in the old Victory Games Central America.

Operation Attila

The Turkish invasion of Cyprus, 1974. Greeks and Turks have co-existed uneasily on the island of Cyprus since Classical times. In 1974 a coup d’etat by “EOKA-B”, a violent organization seeking unity with Greece, overthrew the Cypriot government. This was the trigger for the Turkish military to intervene, ostensibly to guarantee the safety of Turkish Cypriots living in small enclaves across the island. In the game, the Turkish player has a small number of professional units to seize and dominate as much of the island as possible, opposed by a larger number of Cypriot irregular forces. To my knowledge no one has published a wargame on this conflict before.

Third Indochina War

China vs. Vietnam, 1979. The Chinese government claimed that this brief war, purposely limited in its aims, was launched to “teach Vietnam a lesson”.  The real incentives behind this first war between two Communist countries were rather more obscure and remain so to this day. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which had not fought a war for 25 years, performed very poorly against the determined Vietnamese People’s Army, then one of the largest and most battle-experienced military forces in the world, backed up with a large force of determined local militia and guerrillas. This is the largest-scaled of the four games, with divisions instead of brigades and battalions and turns representing a week or more. Particularly galling for the Chinese player is having to contend with two widely separated, non-communicating battle fronts. A very undergamed conflict, at least in English: a scenario in the 1980 SPI game The China War (Strategy and Tactics #79) and there are some Chinese-language games including China-Vietnam War, a long out of print game from the early 1980s by a Hong Kong gaming club, and more recent games by Chinese publishers (Battle of South Caobang, Red Dragon Storm).

Second Lebanon War

Israel vs. Hezbollah, southern Lebanon, 2006. The action begins around July 20, 2006 which marked the beginning of increasingly large incursions by Israeli ground troops after eight days of intense aerial bombardment of Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. The time covered by an entire game may represent up to three weeks, ending in a ceasefire on August 14, 2006. The Israeli player’s main objective is to seek out and destroy the Hezbollah rocket and missile units raining destruction on their territory, while balancing the need to avoid mobilizing too many reserve forces. Another very undergamed conflict: Second Lebanon War, a small game by a former student in Phil Sabin’s Conflict Simulations MA course; and scenarios from Millennium Wars Advanced (The Lebanon Scenarios) and my Third Lebanon War game.

brief-war-map1

 

Back from Consimworld Expo 2019

 

nickkarp

I met Nick Karp (attending CSWExpo for the first time ever) in the dealers’ room!

Here I am again, after another hot week in the desert!

I can’t recall how many times I’ve been to CSWExpo, I think this might have been my tenth or something near that number. I always have a good time. I think the worst might have been the first or second time I went and got a horrible cold or something exacerbated by the air conditioning, caught laryngitis and couldn’t talk to any of the people I so much wanted to talk to. I recall there was no pharmacy nearby (there is a CVS now) and in my quest to get something like Listerine to gargle I ended up going to a Circle-K to get a mickey of their cheapest vodka, reasoning that it would a) sterilize my throat and b) be cheaper than actual Listerine. I was right about it being cheaper but still, won’t do that again.

Anyway, this year was fine though Lianne was laid low by the A/C monster this time, for a day or two.

China’s War got lots of attention, natch. I showed it to Gene Billingsley and he was quite happy to accept it for P500 after making one significant but also significantly simpler change in the design – so after making the proper edits I will be sending it off to GMT’s COIN family developer and it ought to hit the P500 list in a few months. Not much point in hurrying because it should make the 500 point briskly (appetite for COIN system is still strong and this is a better known war than the Algerian War) and GMT games now spend around a year in the physical pipeline between pulling final triggers and the physical product showing up in Oakland.

Gene and his son Luke also looked at Strongman, and were by and large impressed by it (Luke seemed particularly taken by the silly Spanish-language puns in the personality names). So that will likely be picked up once it has had more mechanical development; Gene also suggested some tricks for greater narrative development and involvement that will need to be framed up too.

Squares of the City and Virtualia II didn’t get a look in – they need some development and testing anyway, and when they are ready I will likely just upload them here for free download. Semi-abstract games aren’t all that popular anyway.

Designer dinner 2019

L to R: Bruce Geryk, me, Nick Karp, Harold Buchanan, Mark Herman. (photo credit: waiter who overheard we were all game designers and told us how much he loved Magic: the Gathering (hey, let people enjoy things!))

But what was really fine was running into and chatting with two of my design heroes while there – Mark Herman and Nick Karp! We went out to dinner in a group and had a great time telling stories and anecdotes about games, designers and publishers past and present. This was also my first time to meet Bruce Geryk, who I have corresponded with many times.

2019-06-25-19.42.04

Photo by Harold Buchanan. I must have nodded off in the middle of talking about myself.

Another fun thing was getting to talk with Harold Buchanan for another edition of his podcast “Harold on Games”… this time we talked about an even wider range of topics, from creativity and design innovation to the development history of the Pantzooka, a remarkable piece of sartorial ordnance (and sadly, now obsolete). I pity the man, having to edit my ramblings down to an hour or less of coherence.

pantzooka

Ave hominem vestitum.

 

Summer Lightning 2nd Ed: unboxing video

 

A short unboxing video by “Moe” at his game table showing the larger, nicer components of the second edition of Summer Lightning, including a quick flip through the rulebook.

Ukrainizona

 

pantzooka

Sorry, it’s been a while since I posted but Day Job has been very busy, and I have been busy running more playtests of China’s War. It’s looking good.

I’m also getting ready to bring China’s War, Strongman, Squares of the City and Virtualia II: Electric Boogaloo to show and test at Consimworld Expo in Tempe AZ, 22-29 June. More on those latter three anon.

Friend of the blog Paul Kreutzer pointed me toward this site Finabel, a Finland-based institution that concentrates on interoperability of European forces, which has posted an excellent paper on the military aspects of the Ukraine War:

https://finabel.org/land-warfare-in-ukraine-modern-battlefield-of-europe/

 

Play a game on nuclear war, help a research project.

 

ce1bf0d2c849c71d324bf21e7c7f7e47-terminal-dune

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/nuclear-conflict-researchers-want-you-to-play-this-game

Some researchers at UC Berkeley have created a simple wargame for people to play that studies the options and actions the players are likely to take depending on various weapons and force structures they have.

The game is called SIGNAL, and “…on its surface, SIGNAL looks like many other military strategy board games: Each online player represents one of three hypothetical countries, and the goal of the game is to maintain territorial integrity while amassing more resources and infrastructure than your opponents. Players have the opportunity to “signal” their intent to take actions such as building civilian and military infrastructure or attacking an opponent with conventional, cyber, or nuclear weapons. Players can also negotiate trades and agreements with other players.” (from the linked article).

Players play online against other live opponents during specific time windows (right now, 1-5 PM PDT Wednesdays and Thursdays; they may expand the hours if there is enough interest). You have to login and create an account. The project runs until the end of summer. Have a look!

https://www.signalvideogame.com/

 

Podcast: on Armchair Dragoons’ “Mentioned in Dispatches”, vol 2 ep 9

Recently I sat down with James Sterrett for an episode of Brant Guillory’s podcast “Mentioned in Dispatches.”

The occasion was the recent release of Matt Caffrey’s new book On Wargaming

On Wargaming by Matt Caffrey, out at last!

and we thought we would discuss, for well over an hour in our meandering ways, this book and other books we’ve found useful for thinking about games and game design.

James has a more practical take on this of course, as he teaches game design to his students at the US Army Command and General Staff College.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/teaching-wargame-design-at-cgsc/

Anyway, here is the link, go and have a listen!

https://www.armchairdragoons.com/podcast/mentioned-in-dispatches-season-2-episode-9-the-essential-wargaming-library/

In other news, this weekend is the inaugural Victoriaconn, a mini-convention put on here in town by local gamer Geoff Conns. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday (have to work Sunday), showing the playtest version of China’s War and the near-production copy of the Brief Border Wars quad. Maybe someone will notice….

http://www.victoriaconn.ca/