Ludobits: 5 Eurogamer Mistakes When Learning the COIN System

Banner by Rodger MacGowan

Excellent advice on what to avoid when your’re a Eurogamer learning the COIN system.

I wish I could link to an article as concise and coherent as this one, with respect to the mistakes wargamers make when they learn the COIN system. Though writers of some reviews of A Distant Plain have talked about the epiphanies they had when the light went on and they realized they weren’t playing Kursk or Gettysburg.

Operation “Breaking Terrorism”: the Third Battle for Fallujah


Joe and me, halted in “Albakoikee” in 2012.

On Monday, 23 May, after a three-month siege of Fallujah, the Iraqi Government launched Operation “Breaking Terrorism”, an effort by the Iraqi Army’s 1st Division and associated Shiite militia forces to take the city back from Islamic State forces.

I’ve created a variant scenario for Joe Miranda’s game Fallujah 2004: City Fighting in Iraq, appearing in Modern War magazine #23, to allow people to try and play this battle out as it unfolds in real time over the next few days or weeks. It may well be ridiculous, but it is yet another attempt of mine to commit “game journalism”, as I tried with Ukrainian Crisis.

The Iraqi Government forces are casualty-averse and want to avoid causing civilian casualties and collateral damage. The allied Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces are rather more casual about the latter, as Fallujah is largely a Sunni city. And ISIL forces, while they want to make a stand in this symbolic city, have somewhat brittle morale after being under siege for three months.

Try it out, if you happen to have the game! (Microsoft Word file, .docx)

OPERATION Breaking Terrorism

Editing notes: I made a small addition, a change to 9.2 OPFOR Morale Check, after my first post of the file. A few people might have been swift on the download and missed it, so here it is:

9.2 Morale Checks.

OPFOR Morale begins the scenario at Fanatic. Any time a Morale Check is required you roll 2 dice, not 3. In a Fail result, OPFOR morale will go down by 1 level; in a Pass result, OPFOR morale will stay the same. OPFOR morale will not go up during the scenario (the city has been under siege for three months and while ISIL wants to make a stand, they will at some point start to slip their forces away under cover of confusion and the refugees fleeing the city).

Also, players who think the scenario is too hard could give the Government forces one or more additional engineer battalions, or even a couple of tank companies on their reverse (1-step, 2-(0)-3) side.

Meanwhile, keep checking the newspapers for real-world updates on this scenario!

EDIT, Wednesday 1 June:

After a week of announcements and deploying, on Monday 30 June Iraqi government forces shuffled forward into the city’s outskirts from the south, meeting what was described as “determined resistance” from ISIL elements. The furthest advance was to the edge of the southern suburb of Al-Shuhada (not sure which phase line this would be, looking at the image ghosted on the map and comparing it to Google Maps it’s looks like barely Phase Line 12, Routes of Advance 3 and 4). Today, after two days of fighting, Prime Minister al-Abadi announced that Iraqi government forces have suspended the offensive for fear of civilian casualties, saying that ISIL is using them as human shields. But Iraqi forces are still lobbing shells and rockets into the city, hopefully not completely at random.]

EDIT, Monday 6 June:

Here is a good update on the situation from the Institute for the Study of War website, including a nice map:

The site has been doing weekly updates so there should be a new brief and map soon.

Not surprisingly, there are numerous reports of the Shia militias (the Popular Mobilization Forces are just one component of these) behaving provocatively as they edge in on the city. Though there are two “humanitarian corridors” set up to allow civilians to leave the city, they have not been heavily used as ISIS has been preventing civilians from leaving, or charging them a hefty exit fee. Today’s news features stories of ISIS fighters shooting civilians as they try to cross the Euphrates and get out of the city.

EDIT, Friday 16 June:

It seems that the government forces have been making progress, and have raised the government flag over the city’s municipal government building (“Government Centre” on the map):

Story also details continued fighting for the main hospital, between “Al Samari” and “East Manhattan” on the map.

ISW backgrounder for 9 June, a week ago, shows the advance getting under way from the south, along two axes.

“Things could explode”


“Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said last week: ‘I want to tell the armed forces that the hour of truth is coming. You must decide whether you’re with the constitution or Maduro.”

I haven’t had Caudillo out for a look recently; been busy with other things, as you can see. Maybe I should get a move on before the next coup happens.

The thing that’s holding this up is I have had no time to get any art done or arranged for the cards. Mechanics seem fine, it’s an interesting game but no one wants to play with un-artified cards, natch.

Zero Hour – Over The Top

… was the stand-in for Mein Kampf written by Berzelius Windrip, the Fascist dictator of the United States in Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 satirical fantasy It Can’t Happen Here. Perhaps I should have named him the culprit in my game War Plan Crimson, instead of “General Secretary Hugh Johnson”, who was supposed to replace FDR in the actual, if not well worked out, Businessmen’s Plot (as described in Jules Archer’s The Plot To Seize The White House).

Anyway, what’s done is done, and the Yanks are going to cross the line and head for Montreal within the next two weeks! Here is a map sample, with counters, from the Tiny Battle Publishing page.


Aaaand here is where you can buy your copy: $23.99 for paper, but only $11.99 for the digital product. Either way, it’s your hard-earned electrons but they better be speaking American.




First review of Zones of Control sighted…

… and it’s a positive one.

Not that I was all that worried, mind you!

My contributor’s copy hasn’t arrived yet; perhaps this week.

Spielenexperiment: Turning 4 into 2

I had a thought, after I wrote this introduction to Colonial Twilight ( which explains how the 2-player Initiative Track works in that game.

Can any or all of the currently published 4-faction COIN system games be satisfactorily played with 2 players, using this mechanic?

First read a review of that mechanic, if you didn’t click through. Then print out the graphic.


How did we make the Sequence of Play work with only two players? Well, the sequence of play is still largely the same; like the other games in the series, you still always have two factions executing operations or events in a turn, except now it’s always the same two, who are 1st and 2nd Eligible. The Initiative Track (during testing it was variously called the Horseshoe, the Pentagon, or Home Plate) is a way to retain the flexible turn order of the 4-player iterations of the COIN system, and some of the gamesmanship involved in choosing what to do in a turn.

In each turn, the new Event Card is revealed and the 1st Eligible has a choice of any space on the Track. After executing their choice, they place their cylinder on the appropriate space, and the 2nd Eligible player may choose from any space adjacent to the 1st Eligible player’s cylinder. So, for example, if the 1st Eligible player executes the Event Card, the 2nd Eligible can choose between Op + Special or Pass. Sharp-eyed players will notice that the relations of the choices to each other are essentially the same as in the flowchart-like diagram on the Sequence of Play player aid supplied in the other, 4-faction games: I just came up with a different way to visualize it.

Less sharp-eyed players will notice the two shaded spaces on the Track. If a player is 1st Eligible and chooses either one of these, they become 2nd Eligible in the following turn.

Here’s the idea, using A Distant Plain as an example:

Players take 2 Factions each, with normal 1st and 2nd Eligibility determined by what they do on the Initiative Track; but which Faction they control that gets to do something is determined by the leftmost faction order on the Event Card drawn.

So, let’s say We are playing Coalition and Government, and They are playing Taliban and Warlords. (ho hum). The card drawn is “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, which has a faction order of Taliban – Coalition – Government – Warlords. According to the Initiative Track, We are 1st Eligible and can pick any space on it, but the action is done by the Coalition (as it is leftmost in the faction order). They is 2nd Eligible, so the choice of space is determined by what We did, and the action will be done by the Taliban (leftmost in the faction order).

If a player Passes, the executing Faction gets whatever number of Resources the game they are playing decrees for that Faction.

Be sure to use the No Reveal Option as detailed in 2.2; looking one card ahead in the 2-player iteration ruins the game. And for victory conditions, they are unchanged: use directions in 1.5.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who tries this out, to see if it changes much from the existing method.

Presentation at Universite de Montreal


Photo by Marc Guenette. Pensive pose provoked by perspicacious pupil’s point.

What a great time! The students asked so many great questions, very thought-provoking.  What was supposed to be a bit over an hour took over two hours. Afterwards we went upstairs to see the students’ graduating projects, both video and table games. Excellent work, they are so inventive!

Tomorrow starts Stack Academie, the game convention, and some of them will be there to give my work the once-over. Gulp.

Meanwhile here are my script and slides. They shot a video too, but I don’t know what they are going to do with it.

UdeM class 2016 26 apr (script)

UdeM 5may slides (slide deck, PDF)



Algiers and Algeria at AWC



This was the first time I had ever moderated a film. Unfortunately Lianne’s presentation style hasn’t rubbed off on me.

Had a great time at the US Army War College! Made very welcome by COL Jerry Hall and LCOL Dave Barsness, both long-time wargamers. I arrived very late Saturday and Sunday LCOL Barsness took me on a tour of the Army Heritage and Education Centre. A very well put together museum; one thing they do is give you a small plastic card which is a profile of a typical American soldier, from the time of teh Spanish-American War up to the GWOT and you can read about “your” soldier when you reach the right exhibit. I picked a Specialist from Vietnam and found at the end that he was killed in the 11th month of his tour. They also had some very nice outside exhibits including life size replicas of a redoubt and a blockhouse, and another interesting one showing the various ways IEDs could be concealed.

Monday was the event; we set up five copies of Colonial Twilight ahead of time and got into the movie. Attendance was a little light because the students are very busy and near  the end of their program, and the timing wasnot great. But it was great to meet and talk with those who came, including COL di Crocco with whom I had been corresponding for a while but as a gamer.

The movie went over very well and people enjoyed the games.It was a real privilege to be able to help with the program.  And at the end, the customary group picture!