Spielenexperiment II: turning 2 into 4

Katie Aidley with CT from twitterfeed

Katie Aidley with CT rulebook. (photo: Katie Aidley, Twitterfeed)

So, Colonial Twilight has been out for a few months now, some reviews have appeared (Armchair General , Space-Biff! , No Fun Allowed , The Players Aid , Katie’s Game Corner) and the comments on Boardgamegeek.com have been piling up , for whatever they might be worth.

They have been mostly very positive, but once in a while someone has said that a COIN system game with two factions does not have the depth, complexity, and interaction (which I think is euphemism for “backstabbery, bickering and scheming”) that a four-faction game does… like in A Distant Plain or Fire in the Lake.

I won’t deny that “2 < 4”, even for very large values of “2”. I’ve also done my best to explain why the “2”, when others thought it should be 3, 4, 5 or more. But I was thinking the other day: what if you had four people who wanted to play Colonial Twilight and there was only one copy? Or even less likely, you had a group of four who wanted to explore some of those divided aims, treacheries and further asymmetries within those two monolithic factions?

So here are my proposed rule changes to accommodate four people in a match of Colonial Twilight: preliminary, untested, result of solitary musings but mostly thought through (I think). Likely immediate results will be overall lengthening of game time and extensive bickering, followed by a longer-term resolution not to have anything to do with that Train fellow anymore….

VARIANT: FOUR-PLAYER COLONIAL TWILIGHT

(10 January 2018)

Concept

  • Each of the two factions is played by a team of two players (if you have three, subdivide Government). The players have different responsibilities (geographical and functional) within the team.
  • During each campaign, one of the two players in each faction will be the Leading player, determined at the beginning of each Propaganda Round by who is leading in terms of Victory Points (VP). These VP have different sources, depending on player and faction. The Leading player will make some, but not all, decisions for the team during the campaign.
  • The ultimate winner among the four players is the Leading player of the team that won the game, at the moment the game ends.

Definitions

  • The FLN is divided into Interior and Exterior players (that is, controlling the FLN forces inside and outside of Algeria, respectively).
  • The Government is divided into Intervention Force and Sector Force players (the first represents the professional and more kinetic-minded parts of the French Army and their political backers (both French and pied-noir); the second represents the conscript sector troops, police, civil administration and parts of the civilian government in Paris).

Setup

  • This variant can be played in the Medium and Short Scenarios only. Set up pieces and markers normally, but when building the Event Deck players should remove Event Cards #49 (Factional Plot) and #58 (Army in Waiting) from the Event Deck before play, as these cards would unfairly affect the Exterior player.
  • At the start of the Medium Scenario, the Interior and Intervention players are the Leading players for their teams. At the start of the Short Scenario, the Exterior and Sector players are the Leading players.

Actions during Campaigns

FLN:

  • The Leading player for the FLN faction will decide what option on the Initiative Track to take, and which Operation (and possibly Special Activity) will be executed  (this holds whether the faction is First or Second Eligible). Each player within the faction will carry out Operations and Special Activities as required, alternately and within the areas over which they have responsibility:
    • Internal: all spaces within Algeria
    • External: Morocco, Tunisia and the France Track
    • Leading player: Event Card, Pass
  • Players will select spaces for conduct of the Operation alternately, one at a time and Leading player first. If a Special Activity is involved, both players must conduct that Special Activity at the time the Leading Player chooses (i.e. before, during or after the Operation).

Example: The FLN is 1st Eligible. The Leading player for the faction is the Internal player. He decides to do an Operation + Special Activity: in this case, Rally + Extort. The Internal player begins by selecting Tizi Ouzu (-1 Resource), then the External player selects Morocco (-1 Resource), then the Internal player selects Mostaganem (-1 Resource), then the External player selects the France Track marker (-1 Resource). That’s 4 Resources expended so far and the stock is getting low, so the Internal player chooses to Extort at this time. She selects Tlemcen (+1 Resource), then the External player selects Tunisia (+1 Resource), then the Internal player selects Tizi Ouzu and Bordj Bou Arreridj (since there are no more spaces where the External player can Extort; +2 Resources). The Internal player finishes by selecting Tlemcen, where the FLN happens to have Control, to Agitate one level, for -1 Resource. Finally she places the FLN cylinder in the “Execute Op + Special Activity” space on the Initiative Track.

Government:

  • The Leading player for the Government faction will decide what option on the Initiative Track to take, and which Operation (and possibly Special Activity) will be executed  (this holds whether the faction is First or Second Eligible). The other player decides where and how the Operation (and possibly Special Activity) is executed, if it is their responsibility (it would be nice if the Leading player agreed, but it is not necessary). Responsibilities are as follows:
    • Intervention Forces: Sweep, Assault, Troop Lift
    • Sector Forces: Train, Garrison, Deploy, Neutralize
    • Leading Player: Event Card, Pass
  • If a Special Activity is involved, the responsible player must conduct that Special Activity at the time the Leading Player chooses (i.e. before, during or after the Operation).

Example: The Government is 1st Eligible. The Leading player for the faction is the Intervention Forces player. He thinks it’s time for some strategic movement of pieces around the country and decides to do an Operation + Special Activity: in this case, Garrison + Troop Lift. Because the Sector Forces player is responsible for the Garrison Operation she executes the Garrison, moving 5 Police cubes around, Activating 2 Guerrillas in Souk Ahras and expending 2 Resources (the Intervention Forces player would have preferred her to Activate a Guerrilla in Tlemcen, but too bad, she’s setting up for a Neutralize in Souk Ahras). The Intervention Forces player is responsible for Troop Lift and so redistributes French Troops among 3 spaces. He could have done the Troop Lift before or after the Garrison was executed.

Actions during Propaganda Rounds

  • Victory Phase: If Victory Check ends the game, the Leading player of the winning faction during the immediately preceding campaign is the ultimate winner.
  • Resources and Commitment Phase: The Leading player for the Government faction decides which French pieces will be moved between Available and Out of Play.
  • Support Phase: The Leading player for each faction decides which spaces will be Pacified or Agitated, and by how many levels. At the end of the Support Phase judge who will be the new Leading player for the following campaign. See below for how the players score Victory Points (VP); the new Leading player is the one with more VP. If the two players tie, there is no change in Leading player. If this is the final Propaganda Round, the ultimate winner is the one who would be the Leading player of the winning faction, if another campaign were about to be run.

FLN Victory Points:

  • Internal player:
    • + Total Oppose
    • +2 for each French cube in the Casualties Box
    • +3 for each Government Base in the Casualties Box
  • External player:
    • + Resource number from box on the France Track
    • + total number of Guerrillas and Bases in Morocco and Tunisia

Government Victory Points:

  • Intervention Forces player:
    • + the number of Guerrillas that were removed in Assaults this campaign (keep a total of this during the campaign; the player gets credit for these “kills” even if Police were part of the Assaulting force (e.g. an Assault in a City or Border Sector, or if the Challe Plan card was in effect)
    • +2 for each Base that was removed in Assaults during this campaign (keep a total of this during the campaign; player gets credit even if Police were involved, as above)
  • Sector Forces player:
    • + the number of Guerrillas that were removed in Neutralizes this campaign (keep a total of this during the campaign)
    • +2 for each Base that was removed in Neutralizes during this campaign (keep a total of this during the campaign)
    • + Total Support

Example: It is the Support Phase of the first Propaganda Round of the Short Scenario. During the campaign the Intervention Forces player has removed 8 Guerrillas and 1 Base in Assaults. His VP total is therefore (8+2 =) 10. The Sector Forces player has removed 4 Guerrillas and Total Support is 7. Her VP total is therefore (4+7 =) 11. The Sector Forces player will be the Leading player in the next campaign.

  • Redeployment Phase: The Intervention Forces player redeploys Troop cubes as desired and permitted. The Sector Forces player redeploys Police cubes as desired and permitted. The Internal player may redeploy Guerrillas within Wilayas with friendly Bases, but the External player may not move Guerrillas between Morocco and Tunisia.

Event Cards

The Leading player for each faction will be the one to select and execute the text on the Event Card. However, no player ever gets Victory Points as a result of executing any of this text (e.g. removing pieces): Victory Points are calculated only in the Support Phase.

Pivotal Event Cards

If any player has control over play of a Pivotal Event Card, and wishes and is able to play it (see 2.3.2: pre-conditions are met, and 1st Eligible has not yet chosen an option), that action pre-empts anything any other player was about to do.

FLN: the Internal player has control over the play of the OAS card, and is the only FLN player who can execute the OAS-related Capability the card confers.

Government: In both scenarios, the Intervention Forces player has control over the play of the Coup d’etat card (edit: see additional suggestion below). If the FLN has played the OAS card, the Intervention Forces player is the only Government player who can execute the OAS-related Capability the card confers. In the Medium Scenario, the Sector Forces player has control over the Recall de Gaulle card.

Conclusion

By reading through this simple variant, you can see the divisions within the different organizations. The FLN within and without Algeria had divided aims – the units within the country needed to win the people over to their side and continue resisting the French on the ground, while the FLN sitting in the sanctuaries of the Tunisian and Moroccan camps were concerned with preserving an army and government in waiting, to assume power quickly when the French finally left. Meanwhile, the different elements in the French Army, the pieds-noirs and the civilian government had rival methods in mind to deal with the insurgency.

But neither player can give themselves over completely to actions that will benefit only them; they must use all the methods and resources at their disposal in order to win the game.

Let me know if you try this!

Below is a link to the variant rules for you to print out, if you like.

4pct-100118

14 January 2018: After posting these rules, I had a thought, based on the suggestion of “Fred J”, a user on Boardgamegeek.com:

  • If the Intervention Forces player plays the “Coup d’etat” Pivotal Event and wins the die roll, they become the Leading Player for the rest of the campaign. If they lose, no change.
  • In the Propaganda Round, judge the VP and assign the Leading player for the next campaign normally (no change if the two are tied).

This way, the Intervention Forces player has the option during a campaign to “grab the steering wheel” and throw things his way (and maybe grab a bunch of Commitment and Resources too, as well as getting rid of De Gaulle if he was in play – which will make things less easy for the Sector Forces player).

Try this and let me know how it goes… I think I might add this rule to this ongoing experiment permanently.

Meanwhile, my only concern is that the FLN Exterior player might not have much to do (in the game), so this variant might make a better three-player game than a four-player – that is, with two Government players and one FLN player.

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Obligatory end-of-year review

kidchicken

So, that was 2017.

This year I published these games, or got them down the slipway:

strangelove

It was also a busy time for conferences, events and conventions.

  • April: we went to San Diego for the Popular Cultural Association conference where I made a presentation on “News Paper Games”, about journalism in analog game form. Next year’s conference is in Indianapolis so no way am I going there, but I think I am about done presenting my ideas in this kind of academic venue… not much left to say.
  • May: I went back to the Army War College to screen The Battle of Algiers for them, and do some guided play of Colonial Twilight with the guys of the Strategic Simulations Division. Also sat in on a very good panel with Peter Perla and Jim Lacey. Then I went up to Ottawa for the Cangames convention, where I played some more Colonial Twilight and met up with Rex Brynen, who was running a zombie game. I also learned The Grizzled from Michel Boucher, and had dinner at his place… I did not know of course that this would be the last time I would see him.
  • June: Consimworld Expo at Tempe AZ. Hm, I seem not to have written anything about that. Well, it was the usual good time among the hardest-core gamers, and nice as always to meet with publishers and discuss future projects. Lianne and I went to the local art museum and saw a neat exhibition on Frida Kahlo. Unfortunately Tom Russell hurt his back so Hollandspiele could not make the 800 mile drive to get there, but I’ll see them next year.
  • September: Back to Kings College London for the 2017 Connections-UK conference, boy that was fun! Also had a couple of extra days to look about in London, so that was great too.
  • November: BottosCon, like always, and it was a great weekend, like always, though I see I have not written anything about it either. I think I like the new hotel.

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Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

  • I seem to be cruising at between 1.4 to 2.1 thousand views per month, definitely higher than the preceding two years. Not surprisingly, the five most curious countries were: US, Canada, the UK, France and Australia. One guy clicked in from Jersey (the Channel Island, not the toxic waste dump).
  • Besides the then-current post, popular pages or posts included the BTR Games and Free Games pages, and the post about how to use the “horseshoe” in Colonial Twilight to play any four-player COIN system game with two players (this was also published in issue #31 of C3i magazine).
  • Even less surprisingly, the most clicked-on documents were the rules, corrected tutorial and playbook for Colonial Twilight, followed by the free PnP files for Ukrainian Crisis, Third Lebanon War and Caudillo. The page for all my presentations and other material got a lot of visits, but very few people downloaded the files. Oh well.

Now on to 2018, and further dumpster fires. Things I am pretty sure will get done in the coming year include:

  • Nights of Fire on Kickstarter in January, might be produced in time for Essen but we’ll see
  • Tupamaro will come out in 1Q as well, from One Small Step
  • Strike for Berlin will be in the next issue of Yaah! magazine (#11)
  • Chile ’73, folio game on the coup that put Pinochet in power
  • A quad of mini-games on border wars, using a development of the Little War system
  • Finish off design work on Thunder Out of China (China 1937-41, COIN system, 4 players, different emphases)
  • And there will likely be other stuff besides…
  • …so get to work, ya bastich!

Nights of Fire, prototype components

NOF proto setup

Today (after several days of delay, stupid brokerage fees and why should I pay GST on something that was not made or sold in Canada, in fact was not sold at all, but given to me? Argh!) I got a copy of the prototype version of Nights of Fire, sent all the way from Hungary.

Here it is set up, ready for a game with Akito. He took the Soviets and ended up with a Grand Soviet Victory. Sabotage, I suspect sabotage….

The cards are nicely printed and finished, the counters thick with good die-cutting, the stickers stuck to the wooden blocks nicely… the only complaint I have is that there need to be some more changes made to the layout of the map: its total area is almost exactly twice that of the playtest map I made, yet my map makes far better use of the available space. Changes will be made.

Meanwhile, it was great to play a test game with these very nice pieces!

Coming soon: Strike For Berlin!

s4Bctrsnip

Chunk of the playtest countersheet. Proper counters will be done by John Cooper, who also did Winter Thunder and Red Horde 1920.

s4Bmapsnip

Elongated blurry slice of the playtest map. Proper map will also be done by John Cooper.

Yaah! magazine #11, which I am told will probably ship in March 2018, will have my game Strike For Berlin in it. Opening blurb to the rules:

STRIKE FOR BERLIN is a simulation game of a hypothetical invasion of Germany by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’s (RSFSR) armed forces in 1920.  The game is for two players, one representing the irresistible forces of proletarian revolution (called the Red Player), and the other the (hopefully) impervious alliance of anti-Bolshevist forces that would have been arrayed to oppose such an invasion (called the White Player).

The game begins just after the Red Player’s forces have won the Battle for Warsaw in mid-August 1920.  Sensing that “over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration” (Tukhachevsky, leader of the Red forces, in a communique), the leadership of the RSFSR has decided to go for broke and seize Berlin, capital of a Germany in political and economic disarray.  However, it is already late summer and they cannot sustain a military effort of this size past the onset of bad weather at the end of October. The Red Player has just ten weeks to change the course of world history.

This is a complete makeover of 1998’s Freikorps, just as Red Horde 1920 was a complete makeover of Konarmiya. 176 counters, 17×22″ hex map. Same updated and revised system, and like Red Horde this one has lots of optional rules to vary the game, including: armoured trains; the Trotsky Train (making a reappearance); the Red Baltic Fleet; Entente units and the Royal Navy;  different deployments and structures for the Reichswehr; Danzig – what of Danzig?; and Red conscription on the march.

And of course, just as with their predecessors the two games can link, so you can play one long game from May to October of 1920, on a combined map that stretches from Kiev to Berlin.

I just handed in the files for this game, so no better samples or even kooky cover art to show… but when it’s time, you can pre-order your copy here. Price will likely be $40 but there’s usually a 10% pre-order discount, and the PnP version is generally less than $20.

https://flyingpiggames.com/t/yaah-magazine

Nights of Fire – prototype components!

prototype

Here you are – an advance look at the prototype version of Nights of Fire!

Not the largest image – best I could get – but you can see some details. The green wooden blocks are the Insurgents, divided into Fighters and non-mobile Locals (sticker sheet in the foreground). The 10 large red triangles are Garrison markers, and the 9 large red hexagon pieces are the different regiments in the three divisions involved in the battle for the city. The small gray squares on the counter sheet are Civilians, to be rescued or arrested depending on which side you’re on, the 10 orange squares are Barricades/Rubble, the red circles are Wounds (I think), and the number counters at top are for use in the solo mode.

The glass stones (in the small bag) are markers for game parameters like Soviet Prestige, Hungarian Morale, etc.. There is one die but it isn’t used much, only for resolving Soviet counterattacks against Insurgents (simple roll against the current Readiness level, which moves up and down during play).

Lots of cards. Cards for the Insurgents to undertake operations, Hero cards for extra insurgent fun, Tactics cards for the Soviets, Headline cards to provide temporary objectives, Scenario cards to vary conditions of play, “Konev mode” cards to handle solo play, and so on… you will have lots of replayability with this game.

The map is an area movement map of downtown Budapest with objectives marked on it; the artist has gone for the “map looks like a map on a table overlaid with images of other documents” look. Somewhat the same look but much more sensible and intuitive to me than the map for Days of Ire.

And yes, we are working on a way to have a “campaign” between the two games.

I’ll be getting a sample in a few weeks to play with. More pictures then.

And finally, another look at the cover art!

NOF cover art mid

(by Kwanchai Moriya, a remarkable fellow:  https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgameartist/28024/kwanchai-moriya)

Operation Whirlwind: more historical scenario.

FS04OW

Last night I put together a scenario for Operation Whirlwind with some simple rule changes to reflect the historical and operational limitations placed on both sides. OK to use for any of the game’s three or four editions. Briefly:

  • The city is divided into three divisional sectors that constrain Soviet movement and operations;
  • Hungarian Civilian and Recruit units cannot move (Recruit units represent the large numbers of semi-organized insurgents who turned out to defend their own neighbourhoods);
  • There is no Western intervention and there are no Hungarian Army units (the deserters have been subsumed into the Insurgent counter mix).

This will likely give a greater challenge to both sides, for what people tell me is already an interesting situation. Have a look! (PDF file)

opwwhistorical

Nights of Fire now on BGG

nofbox

Cover art by Kwanchai Moriya.

Yes!

Now officially added to the Boardgamegeek.com database, I can now say and show a bit more about what David Turczi (designer of Days of Ire, a card-driven game on the October 1956 Hungarian Revolution) and I have been working on all year.

From BGG:

Nights of Fire: Battle for Budapest is the second game in our duology adapting the events of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution for modern board game form. Following the Hungarian success in part one, this game starts as the Red Army arrives at the edge of the capital and pushes into the heart of the city; bent on retribution, destruction, and ruthless pursuit of control. For the players in charge of the Hungarian defence there is no time left for organizing and sedition. This is a hopeless war of survival, plain and simple.

Combining card and action management mechanisms of modern euro games with the theme and feel of a classic block wargame, players can experience the rush of a true no-win scenario, and see how long they can keep the flame of the revolution going under the pressure of the unstoppable march of the Soviet military machine.

The game can be played by up to 2 Revolutionary players against either a live or an automated opponent.

In response to a question announcing the sequel to Days of Ire (DoI), David describes the game mechanics very well:

Yes it’s card driven, but no it’s not like DoI.

The Hungarian side plays a light block wargame with area movement, where the stronger actions require an icon on the block to match an icon on the card. It’s a bit of action allowance and a bit of card management. Cards are randomly drawn, but the deck is small enough to guarantee a reshuffle in every game, so you see every card roughly twice.

The Soviet side plays more of an hand building-action management game. He has 12 cards, each with a mix of actions and a mix of combat values. At the beginning of every round the Soviet picks 6 cards he’ll play one at a time for his actions. The remaining 6 cards are shuffled together into a “combat deck”. Every time he attacks, he flips the top card of that deck and uses the appropriate combat value on it. The more hits he suffers, the fewer cards he can pick from.

If you held a gun to my head and asked me to compare it to other games, I’d compare the Hungarian side to Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan. The Soviet side I had no direct inspiration for, some of the “feel” was inspired by the Empire’s metagame in Star Wars: Rebellion, but it’s an extremely thin comparison. (As opposed to DoI’s Soviet cards which were directly influenced by Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?)

A few things in the game have the feel of a COIN game (both Brian and I were very conscious of that) – flipping units, asymmetrical actions, but it’s less “inspired by COIN” and more “how can you do it differently than COIN”.

I would say the luck element is even smaller than in DoI.

I’m very pleased with how this one has worked out. David’s design background is Euros, but he speaks some Wargame, so I think we have created an interesting hybrid. I know I have learned a lot from him about the use of different mechanics. This one is quite removed from my earlier Operation Whirlwind, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Not much to see so far, but you may want to subscribe to the BGG entry:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/236125/nights-fire-battle-budapest

The game will be up for Kickstarter in 1Q 2018. We’re still talking about stretch goals.