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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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.

 

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/

 

Nights of Fire: almost here, I promise!

NOF first prodn copies

Photo: David Turczi, from Facebook.

Now appearing, on David Turczi’s living room carpet: the first production copies of Nights of Fire, the Nights of Fire expansion kit with miniatures and extra cards, and the reprint of Days of Ire.

Originally these were supposed to arrive in February or March, but there have been hitches of some kind at the factories so the new ETA is June… but with these production examples in hand, that should be a firm date.

Thank you for your patience! I think everyone will be happy with this game; I am certainly proud of it.

NOF credits

Photo and thumb: David Turczi, from Facebook.

 

Obligatory end-of-year-review, 2018

FranklinHowe_o

Can you mansplain convincingly while wearing breeches, stockings and buckle shoes?

Well, another year has zipped by. Maybe a bit early for year-end post-mortems, but I have been busy:

Game publishing

  • February: the Kickstarter launch for Nights of Fire. We made the first, most important target in 12 or 13 hours, and ended up with $87,821 pledged over 30 days. Nights of Fire: Kickstarter day at last!
  • February also saw Tupamaro come out, in folio format from One Small Step. Tupamaro is out!
  • March saw the release of Chile ’73 from Tiny Battle Publishing. I was pleased that this came out, but there were a number of unfortunate changes/additions of art, physical components and rules that lessened the “bang” for me. Chile ’73: errata file
  • May, and out came Strike for Berlin in #11 of Yaah! magazine. Very nice art and production, a really great overhaul of Freikorps. I was quite pleased with it, but it doesn’t seem to have garnered a lot of attention on BGG and other places. Strike for Berlin has struck
  • July: I posted District Commander: Maracas, for free print-and-play. This is presented as an example of how the District Commander system works (this and three other modules will be published by Hollandspiele over the next couple of years) and as an introductory essay of mine into operational level urban combat against irregular forces in a large city. New free game: Maracas
  • September: a second edition of Summer Lightning came out, from Lock n Load Games. This is a physically enlarged (one might say engorged) edition, the rules are the same – just all of the components are bigger. Pretty spiffy looking though! Summer Lightning: Second Edition!

Game design work and future publication

Work and or testing continued throughout the year on some of the following, while others have likely publishing dates in 2019 or later:

  • Thunder out of China (now renamed China’s War, at least until an even better title comes along): testing testing, and hoping to have this ready for GMT P500 by Consimworld Expo time.
  • Strongman, an extensive rework of Caudillo that may be a while coming, and publisher not completely confirmed.
  • Brief Border Wars Quad, from Compass Games – I handed this over to the guys at Consimworld Expo and understand that it will be up for pre-order in the next couple of months. Will be published all four in one box.
  • District Commander series, from Hollandspiele – I handed over four modules (Algeria 1959, Vietnam 1969, Afghanistan 2009, and Maracas 2019) to Hollandspiele at Consimworld Expo and they will be publishing these as separate single titles over the next two years.
  • We Are Coming Nineveh: This very clever game on contemporary urban combat (Mosul 2017) was designed by two of Rex Brynen’s students in a trial course he ran in getting students to design games. Rex and I have done a considerable amount of development on it, without changing its basic concepts, and I’m quite pleased at how this came out. Will likely be published in 2019 or early 2020.
  • Nights of Fire: Pretty sure this will be out in March 2019 or so. I think people will be pleased.

Conferences and conventions

Another busy year on this front, a week or more away at each of these events:

Writing

  • Only one formally published piece, the foreword to a book of wargames rules on irregular war situations published by History of Wargaming Project, John Curry’s imprint. New book out – Small Wars

Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

  • I seem to be cruising still at just below 2,000 views per month, a bit higher than the preceding two years. The five most curious countries were: US (by a very wide margin), UK, Canada, Spain and Italy. One guy clicked in from Venezuela!
  • Besides the then-current post, popular pages or posts included the BTR Games and Free Games pages, and the post containing the corrected Tutorial and errata for Colonial Twilight. Also popular was a new page of Scenarios and Variants I added in July, incorporating material lugged over from my old website as well as some new pieces (e.g. the 4-player variant for Colonial Twilight and the historical scenario for Operation Whirlwind).
  • 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 Desert Leader.

Colonial Twilight: a bot for the FLNbot

coltwibox2

BGG user Curt Sellmer has created a program that automatically implements the FLNbot that Vesa Arponen made for Colonial Twilight. He says it handles the details of ‘bot decisionmaking, and is similar to a program he created for the expansion to Volko Ruhnke’s Labyrinth game,  Labyrinth: The Awakening: 2010-?

It supports the the Short, Medium and Full scenarios.

It will run on a MacOS terminal, a Linux terminal and the Windows console as long as the Java JVM is installed and the path to the ‘java’ executable program is referenced in your PATH environment variable.

For more information and to download the built package, go here: https://github.com/sellmerfud/coltwi

Scroll down until you see section heading: “Downloading the package”. In that section is a link to the “built package” which is a zip file.

Finally, here is the discussion thread on BGG where he introduces the program, and where players (that’s you, cousin) will discuss questions and problems, when encountered.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2095115/software-runs-fln-bot

Thank you for your work Curt!