Busy week ahead


I take off Saturday for a busy week of gaming and talking, and more gaming!

On Monday I will be at the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA to cover another event in their Strategic Wargame Program. See https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/us-army-war-college-strategic-wargame-program/ for a full description by its director, COL Jerry Hall. So far they have done events using Fire in the Lake and Game of Thrones.

We’ll start with a screening of the Pontecorvo film The Battle of Algiers, maybe a bit of discussion about it, then onto guided play of Colonial Twilight. Should be great fun!

After that I am heading to Montreal for Stack Academie, the gaming convention organized by Marc Guenette.

Marc is also a student in the “DESS en Design de jeux”, a one-year post-degree program in game design run by the University of Montreal. (https://admission.umontreal.ca/programmes/dess-en-design-de-jeux/). Marc has asked me to conduct a “master class” in the design of games on modern irregular warfare, with particular attention to the COIN system. So, I will largely be amplifying my remarks from the PCA conference, with more emphasis on the potential of these games to enlarge and modify wargame design as a whole. Luckily, Volko Ruhnke will be in the audience to correct any egregious errors I commit. I will post my script and slide deck later, as usual.

That’s on Thursday; from then until early Sunday it’s going to be more playtesting of Colonial Twilight and some other games I am bringing – the revised versions of Algeria and War Plan Crimson coming soon from Tiny Battle Publishing, Chile ’73 (new mini-game on the coup against Allende, multiplayer), The Little War (new mini-game on the March 1939 border war between Slovakia and Hungary), and for the very brave, District Commander: Binh Dinh. And the usual Guerrilla Checkers giveaways, of course, unless the officers at the Army War College grab them all first…

“It’s going to be fun, Dryden.”

“It is recognized that you have a funny sense of fun.”

Struggle for Kandahar: the rest of the story


“Struggle for Kandahar”, an article I wrote in early 2015 giving a history of the most recent fighting in Kandahar Province, was published in #21 of Modern War magazine, appearing at the end of 2015. An 800 word sidebar I had written on the Afghan National Security Forces was omitted. I reproduce it here, since it’s unlikely to see the light of day otherwise.

Also, here in PDF format is a small situation map I made that also did not run, related to Operation HAMKARI conducted in 2010.

Oct 2010 sit



Afghan National Army

As of 2014 there were about 170,000 members of the Afghan National Army (ANA). The actual number fluctuates considerably during each year as recruits arrive and deserters leave. It is organized into six regional commands or Corps, each one responsible for a section of the country, with a seventh divisional command responsible for the security of Kabul.

The 205th Corps is responsible for Kandahar, Zabul, Daykundi and Uruzgan provinces. It was established in the summer of 2004. The Corps consists of four brigades, a commando battalion, and transport aviation and logistical support elements. Each brigade consists of three infantry kandaks (battalions) of about 600 men each plus a fourth that serves as a training and replacement unit, a combat support battalion with heavy weapons (mortars or artillery), and a combat services support battalion.

Corps HQ, 205 commando battalion, and support depot (Kandahar Airfield)
1 Brigade (Kandahar Airfield)
2 Brigade (Qalat, Zabul province)
3 Brigade (Zhari district)
4 Brigade (Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province)

Afghan National Police (ANP)

As of 2014 there were about 150,000 members of the various agencies of the Afghan National Police. Problems of desertion and recruitment are even more acute in the ANP than in the Army, and are compounded by severe rates of corruption, drug abuse, poor discipline and theft.

The Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP)

The AUP is the main law enforcement agency. It is responsible for regular policing at the provincial and district levels. It is organized into six regional commands, with each regional command further divided into provincial and district commands. Ideally a district contains anywhere from 50 to 200 policemen depending on its size and civilian population, but many districts have little or no effective police presence.

Afghan Border Police (ABP)

The ABP is responsible for providing border security, surveillance, and control, including the prevention of smuggling, drug trafficking, and cross-border movement of insurgents. It is divided into Border Zones that correspond with the Army and Police Regional Commands, then further into Border Companies of about 150 men each.

Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP)

This force was created in 2006 as a higher-trained force designed to keep order in the cities, and to act as a better equipped quick reaction force to support the other police forces. It is organized along distinctly military lines into brigades and battalions (urban type, which are like SWAT units, and rural type which are more mobile and trained for patrolling). Discipline, pay and morale are better than in most ANP units.

Arbakai: Afghan Local Police (ALP), Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP), Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), Afghan Public Protection Police (AP3), Afghan Social Outreach Program (ASOP), Community Defense Forces (CDF), Community Defense Initiative (CDI)/ Local Defense Initiative (LDI), Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure (ISCI)

Localized armed groups, from tribal armies to private security companies, criminal gangs, and proto-insurgents, have long been the scourge of Afghanistan’s civilian population. The general term for these groups in Pashto is “arbakai”, or militia.

As the Coalition lengthened its stay in Afghanistan after the 2001-02 intervention, and the security situation worsened, it became policy to create more of these forces. Paragraph 3-125 of Section 3 of Chapter 3 of the United States Field Manual FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency says: “If adequate HN [Host Nation] security forces are not available, units should consider hiring and training local paramilitary forces to secure the cleared village or neighborhood. Not only do the members of the paramilitary have a stake in their area’s security, they also receive a wage. Providing jobs stimulates the economy. Having a job improves morale and allows locals to become a potential member of the local governmental process.”

All of the above named organizations were created, maintained, and eventually shut down by either the American command or ISAF, except for the Afghan Local Police which is the latest and so far the largest of these forces. It was created in the summer of 2010 and had a 2014 strength of (very approximately) 30,000. It exhibits the same faults as each of the other organizations that preceded it: its membership is not properly vetted; it is poorly trained, paid and supported; and its members have been found guilty of numerous and systematic human rights abuses and criminal activities (that is, against people who do not have weapons). There is little to distinguish these militiamen from the warlord groups and criminal gangs except a badge and a small regular salary; in fact, many ALP have themselves been members of such groups in the past. The ALP also presents a soft target to the Taliban insurgents, who regularly infiltrate ALP units to steal weapons and equipment. The ALP was also involved in several “green on blue” incidents in 2012, when ALP members turned their weapons on their trainers or fellow members.


Tupamaro now available in UK/EU

Tupamaros Cover

Nello Cozzolino runs Brascogames, an online game shop in London (not that that matters for other than postal purposes, since it’s an online shop). By arrangement with me, he is selling a limited number of copies of Tupamaro through his shop, for £10 each. He takes Paypal, too. Check his shop out, there are lots of other items too!


Introducing Colonial Twilight on InsideGMT

CT banner1

Image from GMT Games pre-order page, using French anti-war poster.

About 1,500 words introducing Colonial Twilight and its gizmos over on the InsideGMT blog:


Check it out!

“Zones of Control” is out!

ZOC book cover

Hurrah, MIT Press has released Zones of Control, the massive (848 pages!) anthology on wargaming edited by Pat Harrigan and Matt Kirschenbaum! Here’s the blurb:

Games with military themes date back to antiquity, and yet they are curiously neglected in much of the academic and trade literature on games and game history. This volume fills that gap, providing a diverse set of perspectives on wargaming’s past, present, and future. In Zones of Control, contributors consider wargames played for entertainment, education, and military planning, in terms of design, critical analysis, and historical contexts. They consider both digital and especially tabletop games, most of which cover specific historical conflicts or are grounded in recognizable real-world geopolitics. Game designers and players will find the historical and critical contexts often missing from design and hobby literature; military analysts will find connections to game design and the humanities; and academics will find documentation and critique of a sophisticated body of cultural work in which the complexity of military conflict is represented in ludic systems and procedures.

Each section begins with a long anchoring chapter by an established authority, which is followed by a variety of shorter pieces both analytic and anecdotal. Topics include the history of playing at war; operations research and systems design; wargaming and military history; wargaming’s ethics and politics; gaming irregular and non-kinetic warfare; and wargames as artistic practice.

Contributors: Jeremy Antley, Richard Barbrook, Elizabeth M. Bartels, Ed Beach, Larry Bond, Larry Brom, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Rex Brynen, Matthew B. Caffrey, Jr., Luke Caldwell, Catherine Cavagnaro, Robert M. Citino, Laurent Closier, Stephen V. Cole, Brian Conley, Greg Costikyan, Patrick Crogan, John Curry, James F. Dunnigan, Robert J. Elder, Lisa Faden, Mary Flanagan, John A. Foley, Alexander R. Galloway, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Don R. Gilman, A. Scott Glancy, Troy Goodfellow, Jack Greene, Mark Herman, Kacper Kwiatkowski, Tim Lenoir, David Levinthal, Alexander H. Levis, Henry Lowood, Elizabeth Losh, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Rob MacDougall, Mark Mahaffey, Bill McDonald, Brien J. Miller, Joseph Miranda, Soraya Murray, Tetsuya Nakamura, Michael Peck, Peter P. Perla, Jon Peterson, John Prados, Ted S. Raicer, Volko Ruhnke, Philip Sabin, Thomas C. Schelling, Marcus Schulzke, Miguel Sicart, Rachel Simmons, Ian Sturrock, Jenny Thompson, John Tiller, J. R. Tracy, Brian Train, Russell Vane, Charles Vasey, Andrew Wackerfuss, James Wallis, James Wallman, Yuna Huh Wong

Can’t wait to read this, meanwhile excerpts are available for viewing via GoogleBooks:


Obtain your copy through Amazon.com; in Canada, Chapters also has it (or place a special order through your accommodating local independent bookseller – they’ll appreciate it).

Happy happy joy joy!


Thoughts on Kandahar



Some recent posts from Neal Durando’s Defense Linguistics blog:

Kandahar Hot Washup

Through a Glass, Darkly

I think this man gets what I’m trying to say, or at least that I’m trying to say something.

Money quote from the latter, at least for me:

Of Brian’s designs with which I’m familiar all attempt a similar level of honesty. They are deeply skeptical of ideology and other power fantasies. Their mechanisms give you plenty of rope with which to hang yourself. Glorious blitzkriegs, chevauchées, razzias, and shit-hammerings are rare and never engaged without careful calculation of the downsides. If he had designed OGRE, there would be the possibility of co-opting the cybertank by surrendering power stations along with a good wash and detail. I still say his Algeria is way too hard on the French, although I’ve been able to win playing both sides.

These are, in their way, anti-games. They resist commercialization in the best way by raising the bar for their audience while keeping their author impoverished and angry.

Go read the rest of it! This man is a WRITER.

Much appreciated, Neal.

War Plan Crimson: new edition coming from TBP

WPC Cover 8sm

Coming in May: a new edition of War Plan Crimson, my alt-hist game on an American invasion of Canada, some time in the late 1930s.

It is largely the same game as earlier editions, only much better presented.

pc west map snip

Map snippet: approaches to Montreal.

pc ctrs snip

Counter sheet snippet.

The map is larger and has great art, the 176 counters are nicely die-cut and two-sided, and the rules have been updated and streamlined. And “damn fine” cover art by the inestimable John Kula! (I know, I’ve tried to estimate him….)

Available soon from Tiny Battle Publishing, price probably about $22.



Balkan Gamble – short second chance!

I made up a few more copies of Balkan Gamble. Here’s your second chance to get one!

BGmbl cover


The Allied invasions of the Balkans that never happened. One of the great what-ifs of World War 2 in the Mediterranean theatre, at least to Hitler and the German High Command, was the possibility of an Allied invasion of Greece and/or Yugoslavia. The Allies knew the Germans perceived such invasions as a credible threat and created several strategic deception plans, leading the Germans to move or keep critical troop formations in northern Italy and the Balkans when they would have been much more useful somewhere else. Scenarios for 1943, 1944, 1945, and a hypothetical 1950 Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia. Uses the Autumn Mist/ Summer Lightning/ Winter Thunder system of formation activations and almost-diceless combat with mission matrix, at a larger scale: 1 week/turn; 30 km/hex; division/brigade; 17×22″ hex map and 280 double-sided counters. Many “chrome” rules to cover the fragmented human, political and physical terrain of the area.

Only TWENTY copies have been made. Most have been sold. But you can still get one!


“Now, Maitland! Now’s your time!

The price for these is $25 each, since it has twice the map, printed (not copied) onto quality heavy stock, and twice the usual number of counters (though you still have to mount and cut them). That also makes it heavier, so postage costs more (but is still included in the cost of the game).

If you want a copy, please let me know at brian.train@gmail.com. I take, and prefer, Paypal.