Civil Power: correction on ADS

ads

Erratum for Civil Power:

I have been informed that the Active Denial System (ADS, colloquially known as the “heat ray”) described in the game does not emit microwave energy. The system emits millimeter wave energy at the very high frequency of about 95 GHz, and so its ray does not penetrate skin and flesh to the same degree that microwave energy does (a microwave oven emits at about 2.45 GHz).

I apologize for my technical ignorance and misrepresentation of this non-lethal weapon system. Players should change the word “microwave” to “millimeter wave” in section 8.3 of the rulebook.

https://jnlwp.defense.gov/About/Frequently-Asked-Questions/Active-Denial-System-FAQs/

Zones of Control, yong zhongwen

zoc pub chinese

Huzzah!

Though perhaps, just perhaps, a pirated translation of the anthology has been circulating among the various departments of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party for some time… heh.

Obligatory end-of-year review, 2021

goldblum

Ohhhhh….

It’s almost over.

I thought 2020 was not that great, and boy 2021 was not an improvement.

  • My dad died in May 2021 and I spent the rest of the year doing executor duties and seeing his widow back to the UK where she has family. This put a big crimp into everything else, naturally.
  • I did not get back into my office until September 2021.
  • I did get my money back from the airline for my Hawaiian trip that never happened, but no other travel more than a few miles from home. I did participate in a few online events and things but it’s just not the same.
  • The renovations that started in August 2020 are still going on, though I have been promised carpets by Christmas. Doors, lights, kitchen appliances and other amenities will follow, as will the restoration of some game-playing space.

I’m not sorry to see 2021 go, and I know 2022 will not see the complete end of COVID-19, still less the beginnings of the necessary and obvious changes we’re going to have to make in order to flourish in the future. But like many people, I will adjust and carry on as best I can. Maybe next year I will get back to Europe, or Washington DC, or even Tempe AZ. We’ll see.

Game publishing and publicity

February: Posted PDFs of the 12 issues of Strategist magazine I edited in 2000, containing several PnP games in their pages: some WarpGames by Lloyd Krassner; Battle of Seattle by me; and the first appearance of Waterloo 20 by Joe Miranda.

March: Vassal continues to elude me, but after a lot of angst I finally got it together to build a couple of simple Tabletop Simulator modules for two of my abstract games, Guerrilla Checkers and Kashmir Crisis. It wasn’t much fun, but I hope people might try them. Meanwhile, I think I am irretrievably old-school: give this man some cardboard and markers and he’s happy.

April: James Buckley published #2 of his online zine Punched, in which he ran a lot of material related to the GMT COIN system games (published and future), and a very nice review of Brief Border Wars.

June: District Commander: ZNO was released, the fourth and so far final module in the series. District Commander Maracas continues as the free print-and-play module for anyone who wants to try out the system.

November: A 4th printing of A Distant Plain was announced. We’ll see how long it takes them to pull the trigger on this one; perhaps people want to forget about this war once and for all. Also, the International Conference on Games and Learning Alliance (GALA) saw a paper presented on a digital port of Kashmir Crisis. Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, wrote the paper with his student Charlie Murray, who created a digital version of the game.

Game design work and future publication

Work and or testing continued throughout the year on the following. Other projects languished.

Brief Border Wars Quad Volume II: Handed in the files for this to Compass Games in October 2021. The four battles are all pre-1945 titles: Second Balkan War 1913; Teschen 1919; Nomonhan 1939; and Italo-Greek War 1940. No idea when it will actually come out.

China’s War 1937-41: Development screeched to a halt when I lost my gaming space to renos in summer 2020. In the fall of 2021 I developed a 1938 scenario for the game. I recently heard from the GMT developer who also got sidetracked on things, and work will begin again in early 2022. We hope to finish testing and development by the end of summer. Over 1,500 pre-orders now.

O Canada: Now it can be told – this year I got a long way into making a power-politics, non-kinetic adaptation of the COIN system (something I always thought should be done). The situation I chose is a reboot of the old SPI game Canadian Civil War (1976). Four factions (Federalists, Provincial Moderates, Provincial Autonomists, Separatists) with asymmetrical force structures, menus of operations and special activities, and objectives; an Event Deck with jokes in it comprehensible only to Canadians; a Patronage Track that reflects the degeneration of political discourse and influence of foreign agencies; and conflict played out on two levels (one at province level where you have mostly Party structures and voting blocs but still need some Groups of influencers, and one at Issues level where Groups fight for control of intangibles). Quite a way down the road with this one, solo tests are good, work can continue when I have some more space to play the physical copy and maybe engage other people in it… but I strongly doubt anyone will want to publish this for like, money, so likely when I am satisfied with it I will put it out to free pasture, or a modestly priced PnP.

Conventions

Of course, nothing happened, at least nothing physical.

January: Pete Sizer and I spoke to the VCOW (Virtual Conference of Wargamers) on counterinsurgency games. I also spoke to the Cardboard Emperors Virtual Con II on the factions, mechanics and victory conditions of China’s War 1937-41. And a special episode of the No Enemies Here podcast by Dan Pancaldi, connected with the Armchair Dragoons virtual convention; some quite freewheeling conversation in that one.

November: had a nice chat with Harold Buchanan during his SDHistCon event, I would like to make it to the physical version in San Diego one day as I quite liked what I saw of the city that one time.

Conferences and professional wargaming stuff

No physical conferences, of course.

February: I talked to a group of officers at the US Army War College on “The Uses of Simple Games.”

April: As part of Connections-Online 2021, a virtual event with global reach, Mike Markowitz and I did a joint presentation on the practical matters within DIY game design. Mike talked about graphic design and talked about methods of self-publishing. Both were add-ons and developments of the talks we gave to the Georgetown University Wargaming Society in 2020. Also connected with this event, a very pleasant chat with Maurice Fitzpatrick et al on his Whiskey Charlie podcast about the Connections conferences of the past and future, and their enduring value. Shining Path was used with students at the Institute for World Politics (an independent graduate school that trains students for careers in national security and international affairs) in a class on “Counterterrorism and the Democracies“.

Writing and ‘casting

Nothing formally published, just the usual torrent of wise-guy stuff on blogs, sites and social media.

August: several posts on the end of the war in Afghanistan, that proved to be click-worthy (don’t know if they were read).

September: a great episode of Liz Davidson’s Beyond Solitaire podcast, with Volko Ruhnke. Not surprisingly, we mostly talked about A Distant Plain and the sensitivities of designing games on contemporary conflicts.

October: an episode of the History and Games Laboratory podcast, put on by Eduard Gafton at the University of Edinburgh. We talked about the origins of some of my game designs and how I got into game design, and focus on Brief Border Wars and the issues involved in designing games on sensitive and controversial topics (A Distant Plain got a look in, of course). I later wrote a blog post for them that was an abridged version of the chapter I wrote for the EuroWargames anthology about analog game design as a form of citizen journalism. (I handed the files for that in March 2021, and am still not sure when the book will appear – next year, perhaps.)

November: A great international panel on civilian victimization in wargames, as part of a probable series on “wargame ethics” hosted by Fred Serval (France). Other panelists were Javier Romero (Spain), John Poniske (USA) and Tomislav Cipcic (Croatia). I think we really got into it (the topic, not the practice itself). Also, I posted the popular piece “Quads That Never Were“: SPI Quadrigames that were proposed but never published.

Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

Overall traffic seems to be stable and improved a bit over 2020. I seem to be cruising still at around 1,600 – 1,800 views per month, for a total of about 21,000 views. About 8,000 visitors in all. The five most curious countries were: US (by a very wide margin), UK, Canada, Australia and Japan. One guy clicked in from Bhutan.
Besides the then-current post, popular pages included the perennial favourites Free Games, BTR Games and Scenarios and Variants pages. No surprises there. The two most popular posts were my Afghan War post-mortem pieces “Endgame” and “Some more Afghan post-mortem”, likely due to my posting links to them on Facebook groups.
The most downloaded documents were four items for SPI game variants by Alan Arvold: three for Lost Battles and one for Search and Destroy, either the article itself by Alan or the counter sheets I made for them. The file of FAQ and clarifications/errata for the District Commander series was also popular.

A Playful Learning Exercise: Kashmir Crisis

KC_Cover mid

The International Conference on Games and Learning Alliance (GALA) is underway, and one of the papers being presented is on a digital port of my free game Kashmir Crisis.

It was written by Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and his student Charlie Murray who created the digital version of the game. I contributed a couple of paragraphs (and the original game design, of course).

Abstract
This paper summarises the development and evaluation of a digital board game on the “Kashmir Crisis” in 2019. It is based on a card-driven board-game design of one of the authors, with the concept of “games as journalism” as one underlying design principle. As such, this is a serious game with the aim of providing information on the context of recent political events in Kashmir. In this paper we focus on the design, implementation, and evaluation of a multi-platform, digital instance of this game. The evaluation results of using the game show significantly increased engagement and slightly better learning effectiveness, compared to a control group using standard learning techniques.

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-92182-8_1

Because it’s Springer, you have to buy it I guess, in PDF for $29.95 or eBook for $54.99. Unless you are associated with an institution that has a subscription, in which case it’s free. In either case, the original game is free and I can answer any questions you have about the physical game, also for free.

Analog Print and Play version of the game is available here: Free Games!

Cite this paper as:
Murray C., Loidl HW., Train B. (2021) A Playful Learning Exercise: Kashmir Crisis. In: de Rosa F., Marfisi Schottman I., Baalsrud Hauge J., Bellotti F., Dondio P., Romero M. (eds) Games and Learning Alliance. GALA 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13134. Springer, Cham.

https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-92182-8_1

A Distant Plain: 4th printing in the offing!

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GMT Games has recently announced a new P500 for a FOURTH printing of A Distant Plain!

This 4th printing is identical to the 3rd printing, and incorporates all known errata. 

You can get your copy at the P500 price of just $56.00 here: 

https://www.gmtgames.com/p-961-a-distant-plain-4th-printing.aspx

No telling how long it will take for enough orders to accumulate for them to pull the trigger, but I will say I am very pleased to see this. 

Hollandays Big Sale: buy buy buy!

It’s that time of year again!

Hollandspiele is having its big sale: for two weeks (November 15-28) you can get substantial savings on all of their titles. Everything is $5 off, and if your order total before shipping is at least $100, you’ll get an additional 10% off (deducted automatically at checkout, no codes needed)!

Order two or more complete games and you get a free copy of this year’s mini-card-game, Republic of Virtue (for two players, about surviving the Reign of Terror).

Europeans are reminded to order from Second Chance Games in the UK, Hollandspiele simply cannot make it work from their end without suspending laws of time, space and thermodynamics.  https://www.secondchancegames.com/index.php/component/virtuemart/manufacturer/hollandspiele/

My Hollandspiele titles:

  • No. 1 The Scheldt Campaign $45 => $40
  • No. 9 Ukrainian Crisis and Little War $45 => $40
  • No. 43 District Commander Maracas $50 => $45
  • No. 47 District Commander Binh Dinh $50 => $45
  • No. 54 District Commander Kandahar $50 => $45
  • No. 60 District Commander Zone Nord Oranais $50 => $45

Go there now!

https://hollandspiele.com/pages/hollandays-sale

History and Games Lab blogpost: Analog Newsgames as Citizen Journalism

uacrlwcover

https://historyandgames.shca.ed.ac.uk/analog-newsgames/

As a follow-up to our very pleasant interview a couple of weeks ago, I put together a post for the History and Games Lab blog about analog games as a form of citizen journalism.

It’s a cut-down version of the piece I have written on the same subject for the EuroWargames anthology (no news lately on when that is coming out) so perhaps nothing new for many of you; if not, then have a look.

Compass Games: titles on sale!

Compass Games has launched its holiday catalog sale!

Many nice deals, but of more interest to my Dear Readers:

Paper Wars #84 with Finnish Civil War, marked down to $25.00

Brief Border Wars reduced to $45.00 (that’s less than $12 a game, friends!)

No coupon code required and prices are good until January 25, 2022.

See this and all the other on-sale goodies at https://compassgamesbucket.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/downloads/Compass+catalog+2021+web+optimized.pdf

Aint’a gonna study “Modern War” no more…

Greek Civil War, redux

Next War in Lebanon, redux

Struggle for Kandahar: the rest of the story

Decision Games’ magazine-with-game Modern War is dead.

Yesterday on Consimworld and Facebook editor Ty Bomba confirmed the rumour that had been flying around:

Ty Bomba – Aug 10, 2021 7:45 am (#2506 Total: 2512)  BookmarkEmail to Friend
The End of Modern War Magazine

Issue No. 55 is the last and final issue of MW, for both its no-game newsstand and hobby editions.

About the “Central Front Curse” — I am sure the regular attendees in this website’s Central Front Series folder WILL be blaming my “Seven Days to the Rhine Series” for the magazine’s demise.

When I asked Dr. Cummins about that, however, he said they had chosen issue 55, and its completion of the 7DttR Series, as the final issue “in order to go out on a high note.”

The simple problem has been — since the start of MW — insufficient subscription sales, which was then compounded on the single-issue impulse-buy side by the effective demise of bookstores during the worst of the pandemic.

I didn’t care for the 7 Days to the Rhine series, and while it wasn’t Central Front, it wasn’t Warmaster Chess either… though that series of games had nothing to do with the demise of Command magazine.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I long ago reached the conclusion that most wargamers, while they may have an incredible knowledge about certain historical periods, are no more interested in contemporary events than non-wargamers. Therefore they won’t subscribe to a game magazine devoted entirely to contemporary events, and magazines live and die on subscriptions.

A look at the 55 issue run shows more than 30 titles were hypothetical subjects: about 10 of them “past hypotheticals” like Objective Havana and the 1970s-80s “Cold War Goes Hot” chestnut and 20 were future hypotheticals like the “Putin Boxes The Compass” series. Twenty-two were devoted to actual conflicts, 13 from the 20th century and 9 from the 21st. So it goes.

Well, I will just say “Ave!” and turn the page, and hope that Javier Romero will be able to find a good home for some of the very good work he has been doing.

GMT goes SPI

https://www.gmtgames.com/p-945-the-british-way-counterinsurgency-at-the-end-of-empire.aspx

Four-on-the-floor, that is… as in Quadrigame!

A while ago I had a talk with Stephen Rangazas, who has come up with an interesting way of distilling much of the 2-player COIN system experience down to a few cards and a small number of pieces… and he has put four examples of such in one box, called:

The British Way: Counterinsurgency at the End of Empire is the first of several COIN multipacks, containing four separate games exploring a series of thematically related insurgencies. Between 1945 and 1960, the British fought four major “emergencies,” as they referred to their counterinsurgency campaigns, each trying to manage their retreat from empire. The four games in this pack focus on exploring British counterinsurgent responses to a variety of different opponents, including communist insurgents in Malaya, militant nationalists in Kenya, and smaller and more clandestine terrorist organizations in Palestine and Cyprus. The games adjust the core COIN mechanics to provide a compelling new way of handling two-player conflicts, while also streamlining several mechanics to quicken gameplay. The British Way offers an approachable introduction to the COIN series for new players, while presenting experienced players with four mechanically distinct games to explore and compare.
 

Highlights:
  • Four full games in one box: Explore four different conflicts set during the twilight of the British Empire in the 1940s and 1950s. Each game uses a unique ruleset building on the same general mechanical structure, ensuring that they are easy to pick up while still offering a distinctive experience.
  • A new adaptation of the classic COIN system: Improved two-player sequence of play and a versatile Political Will track for determining victory. 
  • Unique mechanisms reflecting the British approach to each conflict: New Villages in Malaya, the ‘Pipeline’ in Kenya, Curfews in Cyprus, and Mass Detention in Palestine.
  • Small board footprint with quick-but-deep gameplay: Each game plays in under 90 minutes and takes place on a single 17×22” board.
  • An “End of Empire” Campaign: A campaign scenario allowing players to play the four games in a linked series with a cumulative scoring system, random ‘external’ events relating to British decolonization, and new mechanics to integrate each game into the campaign.

Prototype maps for Kenya and Malaya

Malaya
The British Emergency in Malaya (1948-1960) is viewed by some as the classic case of a successful counterinsurgency campaign, fought against an insurgency led by the Malayan Communist Party. The Malayan Emergency significantly influenced counterinsurgency theory and would become a model case, later appealed to by commanders in conflicts ranging from Vietnam to the present. The British Way: Malaya is the perfect introduction for players new to the COIN series, offering a shorter two-player game experience that will give players some familiarity with Government and Insurgent factions in other modern COIN volumes, such as Cuba Libre or A Distant Plain. For experienced players, it also serves as a good introduction to the new core mechanics in The British Way by offering Factions and Operations that will be familiar from previous COIN volumes but with several new systems, such as the Political Will track, streamlined Sequence of Play, and a shifting British Commander Capability.

Prototype event cards for Malaya


Kenya
The British Emergency in Kenya (1952-1960), fought against the Mau Mau insurgents, dramatically departed from the strategy modeled in many of the modern COIN volumes, with a heavy focus on coercion rather than winning ‘hearts and minds.’ In game terms, this means a shift away from building ‘Support’ towards new mechanics modeling various forms of repression used by the British in Kenya. However, their use of repression can have political consequences back in Britain, represented as a potential penalty to Political Will—as one British official noted, “If we sin, we must sin quietly.” The British player must balance this core tradeoff, while the Mau Mau player must mobilize the Kikuyu population and expand their revolt to survive the overwhelming British response. The British Way: Kenya depicts a dramatically asymmetrical conflict where an extremely poorly equipped insurgency must utilize clever (and in some cases brutal) tactics to try and ride out an overwhelmingly powerful, often unconstrained, and increasingly criticized counterinsurgency campaign.

Prototype event cards for Kenya

Cyprus and Palestine: New Counter-Terrorism Mechanics
The next two conflicts in the pack depart more significantly from core COIN concepts because Britain’s two opponents in Cyprus and Palestine operated as smaller clandestine terrorist cells rather than the larger insurgencies depicted in Malaya and Kenya. Instead, new “counter-terrorism” tactics are modeled, such as Curfews, Intelligence, Arms Caches, and a more detailed Sabotage and Terror system. These two games offer a fresh approach to a different kind of conflict and provide an even quicker play experience for two-player COIN duels.

Prototype maps for Palestine and Cyprus

The British Emergency in Cyprus (1955-1959) was conducted under the shadow of international opinion and increasing pressure from the international community to respect human rights. As the British player tries to balance locking down the population while managing international pressure, the EOKA player will launch sabotage attacks in towns across the island while building their organization in the mountains. The British Way: Cyprus is probably the simplest of the four games in the pack, although the new counter-terrorism mechanics it introduces are significantly different from anything that has appeared in previous COIN volumes.

Prototype event cards for Cyprus

Likewise, during the Palestine campaign (1945-1947), the British player will be faced with the Jewish resistance groups Irgun and Lehi launching sabotage and terrorist attacks across Mandatory Palestine, while risking criticism from the US and other international observers if their response is too heavy-handed. The British Way: Palestine further develops the new counter-terrorism mechanics introduced in Cyprus, while also including unique game systems to model the British use of the blunt tool of Mass Detention, the shifting cooperation of Haganah (the Jewish Agency’s armed wing), and high-profile terrorist attacks such as the King David Hotel bombing.

Prototype event cards for Palestine

A Note on “The British Way” of Counterinsurgency:
“that nauseating phrase I think I invented” – General Sir Gerald Templer on the term ‘Hearts and Minds’
The historical simulations included in The British Way are designed to depict the full array of strategies used by the British during these conflicts, ranging from the more benevolent provision of material benefits through pacification programs to the horrific measures used to gain control over the local population. Many myths have arisen about an ‘enlightened’ British approach to counterinsurgency that emphasized the use of minimum force and focused on winning the population’s “hearts and minds,” compared with the supposedly more violent approaches taken by the United States in Vietnam or by France in Algeria. However, new scholarship on these conflicts has confirmed the brutality of the methods commonly used by the British in their counterinsurgency campaigns. As summarized by the historian Hew Strachan, these conflicts were often decided by “the firm smack of government,” not the popular winning of hearts and minds. This multipack is intended to help synthesize and present these crucial developments in our understanding of British counterinsurgency, even if that means the simulations depicted are at times more thought-provoking than fun. The designer’s main goal is that players find these games informative about what happened during each conflict and why, and that the gameplay leaves them wanting to learn more. Each game will come with a detailed Background booklet describing the events depicted and listing additional sources, while the combined Playbook will include comparative essays discussing British counterinsurgency across the four games and how it is depicted in conflict simulations.

Game components
  • Two double-sided 17×22” mounted game boards
  • 4 Game Event Decks and 1 Campaign Event Deck
  • 54 Wooden Pieces
  • 8 Pawns
  • One full-color counter sheet
  • Eleven double-sided player aids
  • Two 6-sided dice
  • 4 Combined Rule/Background Booklets
  • 1 Combined Playbook/Campaign Guide
Number of players: 2
GAME DESIGN: Stephen Rangazas
DEVELOPER: Joe Dewhurst 

 

You better believe I signed up for this!

I believe I am customer #303, snicker….

A word about that “hearts and minds” aspect, though… I have been extremely busy lately and have not been able to finish work on a post I was making in response to “The Hearts-and-Minds Myth: How America Gets Counterinsurgency Wrong”, an article that appeared last week in Foreign Policy magazine by Jacqueline Hazelton, who teaches at the Naval War College. She also wrote Bullets Not Ballots: Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare which has been poked my way more than once recently. 

I don’t understand the binary, all-or-nothing thinking that goes into commentary on these things… it’s not a stark choice between “pyramid of skulls” or “armed social work”, it never is. If you never punish or pursue the insurgents, you will not win. But if you never do anything to address “why?”, the concerns of the insurgents or the populations they spring from (because no one ever does this for fun), you will not win either. 

But I am looking forward to these sporty little fellas. Happy to see a second game on Cyprus, too!