How To Kill A Rational Peasant


This post is half-placeholder, and half-recommendation to one and all concerning “How to Kill A Rational Peasant”: a very good film and article made in 2012 by Adam Curtis, on the history and development of counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine and its misapplications and perversions.

It’s necessary to do this because simply Googling the title of the film leads you to an old URL for the post which is no longer functioning.

So many great references… he leaps and bounds from the story of Jack Idema, a noted fake “security expert”, to David Galula to the film Battle of Algiers to the OAS to The Ugly American to the RAND Corporation’s cost-benefit theories of counterinsurgency, which approach is summarized in this book:


And thence to the failure in Vietnam, the Phoenix Program, CORDS and finally to the 2007 “Surge” in Iraq under General David Petraeus, equipped as he was with FM 3-24 which was in turn inspired by Galula’s theories.

Wargamers will be tickled to note that Curtis introduces one of the film clips thus:

I have also put at the front of the film a wonderful couple of minutes of two civilian “advisers” in Vietnam playing a board game called “Insurgency”. It had been designed by one of the team to express and test out their theories. It sets the weird context for the even stranger reality that then follows.

I don’t know how to embed the clip here, it’s about 2/3 of the way down the post and the initial image is of a bunch of flowers. Anyway, the two analysts are playing what appears to be an early version of the game Insurgency, published by Battleline in 1979, and one of them must be Blake Smith, whose debrief on his time with the AID Program in Vietnam has been published here:

Anyway, I highly recommend this… and now I don’t have to scramble around every time to point someone to it.



New from BTR Games: EOKA

As work finally winds down on Colonial Twilight, I finally made the last touches to EOKA, and journeyed to the copy shop to get some copies printed out. So, the game that I originally worked out in 2010-11 is finally available!
It is the first game ever published on this small but very interesting counterinsurgency campaign.
[ETA: it now has a BGG entry too:]
EOKA: The Cyprus Emergency, 1955-59

Greek Cypriot terrorists (EOKA) vs. British occupiers (Empire). A colonial situation, with both sides working under considerable strictures of resources and time.

One 11×17″ area-movement map of Cyprus, 140 double-sided counters (when assembled). Mission-oriented system, the most ambitious development of the Shining Path/ Algeria/ Andartes system yet, with additional rules to cover the lasting effects of violence and kinetic operations and requirements for government to maintain civic infrastructure. Also includes:

  • A third faction, representing non-state militias. During the historical conflict groups of Turkish Cypriots came together to form self-defence groups to protect their villages from ethnic violence. There were also small groups of British expatriates who acted as vigilantes. They supported the government in its opposition to EOKA, but were not under its control. These groups are represented in the game by “Volkan” units (named after the main such Turkish group), that are not played by a human player but which appear on the map in response to high levels of insurgent violence and perform in accordance with a set of “automatic” rules.
  • A simple intelligence – counterintelligence subsystem, where the counterinsurgent seeks to identify the insurgent forces and anticipate their actions, while the insurgent tries to evade and cloak his presence.
  • Lastly, solitaire play rules are included for a semi-randomized British player that will allow players to learn and play the game alone.

Like other games in the “Box4” system, the main currency of victory is the Political Support Level, and the game ends when one side zeroes out.

If the Empire PSL reaches zero, it means something along the lines of a negotiated settlement has been reached among the British, Greek and Turkish governments on the future status of Cyprus. Historically, one was reached at the beginning of 1959 which decided that Cyprus would be an independent country, without ethnic partitions, and that the British would be allowed to maintain several military bases on the island.

If the EOKA PSL reaches zero, it means something like a collapse of the viability of the organization has occurred –  the Greek government decides it should no longer be supported, the population of Cyprus turns against what EOKA proposes, the security forces manage to round up or eliminate much of EOKA’s field units, etc..

The usual terms: $15 US funds, which includes postage to anywhere. I take, and prefer Paypal: please pay to Like other BTR Games releases, the game comes in a comic book bag and you must mount and cut the counters yourself. (Tell you what, though, I will do that for you for an extra $35 US… a bargain, Tom Wham will charge you up to $200!

I hope you find this one interesting!


Western half of map. Note new layout of “4 boxes”.



Section of counter sheet. Yes, I am crude. Thanks to Tom Mouat and his Mapsymbs fonts!

Xmas Xhopping List

(original image by Kelly Freas)

Over at The Players Aid blog, some friendly direction on what to get for Christmas:

The Scheldt Campaign is #9 on the list, so yeah, you should get one of those. Or more.

Others on the list are Liberty or Death and Fire in the Lake, and a new one on me that looks interesting, The Fog of War by Geoff Engelstein.

“Kandahar: the dark, cynical, bitter sibling of GMT’s COIN series”


James Sterrett sees right through me:

James’ conclusion:

I mentioned these and a number of other factors to a co-worker (and fellow gamer) who served in Afghanistan; he was not sure the game was quite cynical enough to be accurate, but more so than A Distant Plain. You can make a case that A Distant Plain is a better game, but Kandahar feels like a better simulation, and if you are interested in the topic, it is well worth giving it playtime.

Thanks James! You have seen to the bottom of my insufficiently rotten soul.

Also, a quick link to Neal Durando’s cogent thoughts on the game, which James also references:


Interview on The Player’s Aid: The Scheldt Campaign


Over at the Player’s Aid blog, a long interview with me on The Scheldt Campaign.


Goodnight children, everywhere…. Uncle Mac

Home from BottosCon 2016!


Playing the short scenario with Lyman Leong. Photo: David Rice.

Like most cons, I spent most of my time talking to old friends I often see only once a year, catching up and discussing new projects and thoughts on game design generally. Though this time I met someone who I hadn’t seen in 35 years – we used to play matches of Richthofen’s War during lunch hour in high school! He’s a bit taller now…. And I met some interesting new people too.


Multiple games of A Distant Plain were played. Photo:Boaz Joseph, from the story that appeared in the Surrey Leader

I did get a bit of gaming in too, just one play-through of the short scenario of Colonial Twilight. And I did introduce Guerrilla Checkers to a fellow who brought his 12 year old daughter to the con… and she promptly kicked the stuffing out of him, twice!


Another great photo by David Rice… though as usual I am frozen in indecision and fatal distraction… I never said I was any good at actually playing these things.


New post on InsideGMT: Colonial Twilight Operations and Special Activities


Over at the InsideGMT blog, about 3,000 words on the menus of Operations and Special Activities available to the two players.

In a couple of weeks I will write another post on the Propaganda Round sequence of play, and about the Pivotal Event cards each side has. After that, I don’t think there is much more to describe about this game!

Leaving tomorrow for BottosCon 2016, the annual wargame convention in saturated Surrey. Always a good time, and nice to meet so many people I often meet just once a year at this event.

Items I will be bringing with me for people to paw through and try include: Caudillo, Chile ’73, Colonial Twilight, EOKA, The Little War, and Red Horde 1920. Plus giveaway copies of Guerrilla Checkers and Uprising.