Brief Border Wars quad now available for pre-order!

bbw-boxcover-1100px

All images from Compass Games website. All art by Mark Mahaffey.

Compass Games has just announced that my Brief Border Wars quad of games is available for pre-order!

$52.00 US now, $69.00 later.

https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/brief-border-wars.html

I’ve made a few passing references to this project over the last year or so, but here are the details:

BRIEF BORDER WARS

A set of four mini-games on short border conflicts of the 20th and 21st century, using a card-driven system that models the chaotic, stop-and-start nature of these impromptu wars. The system is a development of the one used in The Little War, the mini-game that was published with the Hollandspiele edition of Ukrainian Crisis. The main change is that instead of using a deck of ordinary playing cards with a linear set of values, there is a deck of special action cards that gives players a choice of movement or combat, with values on a bell curve – so players have some flexibility but must still do some improvising.

Each game is small (40 to 50 counters each) and short (one to two hours): an ideal short match to finish off an evening of gaming, or fill a long lunch hour. Each game also features rules additions and variations to reflect the peculiar nature of each conflict.

All four to be published together, in one box. Yes, I did hector Mark Mahaffey, the artist, into giving the game box the old SPI Quadrigame “look”. I’ve brought back the quad, in my shabby, nostalgia-fume-huffing way! 

Mark did a great job on the counters and map too.

bbw-counters

The four conflicts are:

The Football War

El Salvador vs. Honduras, 1969: this is one of history’s shortest wars, clocking in at about 100 hours. People often joke that this was was provoked by one side losing a soccer match: in fact, like most wars, the war was the climax of years of political and economic pressure. In the game, both forces are largely similar – El Salvador has a slightly larger ground force, while Honduras has a bit more airpower – and both must contend with rugged terrain and poor roads in their efforts to seize or hold Honduran territory. To my knowledge no one has ever done a wargame on the Football War, other than a short training scenario in the old Victory Games Central America.

Operation Attila

The Turkish invasion of Cyprus, 1974. Greeks and Turks have co-existed uneasily on the island of Cyprus since Classical times. In 1974 a coup d’etat by “EOKA-B”, a violent organization seeking unity with Greece, overthrew the Cypriot government. This was the trigger for the Turkish military to intervene, ostensibly to guarantee the safety of Turkish Cypriots living in small enclaves across the island. In the game, the Turkish player has a small number of professional units to seize and dominate as much of the island as possible, opposed by a larger number of Cypriot irregular forces. To my knowledge no one has published a wargame on this conflict before.

Third Indochina War

China vs. Vietnam, 1979. The Chinese government claimed that this brief war, purposely limited in its aims, was launched to “teach Vietnam a lesson”.  The real incentives behind this first war between two Communist countries were rather more obscure and remain so to this day. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which had not fought a war for 25 years, performed very poorly against the determined Vietnamese People’s Army, then one of the largest and most battle-experienced military forces in the world, backed up with a large force of determined local militia and guerrillas. This is the largest-scaled of the four games, with divisions instead of brigades and battalions and turns representing a week or more. Particularly galling for the Chinese player is having to contend with two widely separated, non-communicating battle fronts. A very undergamed conflict, at least in English: a scenario in the 1980 SPI game The China War (Strategy and Tactics #79) and there are some Chinese-language games including China-Vietnam War, a long out of print game from the early 1980s by a Hong Kong gaming club, and more recent games by Chinese publishers (Battle of South Caobang, Red Dragon Storm).

Second Lebanon War

Israel vs. Hezbollah, southern Lebanon, 2006. The action begins around July 20, 2006 which marked the beginning of increasingly large incursions by Israeli ground troops after eight days of intense aerial bombardment of Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. The time covered by an entire game may represent up to three weeks, ending in a ceasefire on August 14, 2006. The Israeli player’s main objective is to seek out and destroy the Hezbollah rocket and missile units raining destruction on their territory, while balancing the need to avoid mobilizing too many reserve forces. Another very undergamed conflict: Second Lebanon War, a small game by a former student in Phil Sabin’s Conflict Simulations MA course; and scenarios from Millennium Wars Advanced (The Lebanon Scenarios) and my Third Lebanon War game.

brief-war-map1

 

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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.

 

On Wargaming by Matt Caffrey, out at last!

 

https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/newport-papers/43/

At long last On Wargaming, Matt Caffrey’s book on the history and uses of wargaming is out and freely available as a PDF at the above link. Released through the Naval War College. You can also obtain a hard copy version through US government printing offices but I am told that there is a quite small print run.

Here is the list of chapter headings. You can see it’s a comprehensive history of the practice, and you will find it’s quite well written and researched. Matt Caffrey, who created and has been running the annual Connections conference on professional wargaming for over 25 years, has been working on this for a very long time, and it shows up well as a labour of love, devotion and hope.

Go, get your copy!

PART ONE: THE HISTORY OF WARGAMING

The Rise of Modern Wargaming: Prehistory to 1913

Wargaming and the World Wars: 1905–1945

Wargaming in the Cold War: 1946–1989/1991

Wargaming after the Cold War: 1990s–10 September 2001

Post-9/11 Wargaming: 2001–2011 

Wargaming in Transition: 2012–2016 and Beyond

PART TWO: TOWARD MORE EFFECTIVE WARGAMING

The Taxonomy of Wargaming 

The Utility of Wargaming

Wargame Participation

Wargame Practitioners

Leaders and Wargaming

Wargaming and Your Personal Objectives

Conclusions: Toward Peace Gaming

Remembering to Forget

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photo: bbc.com

https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2019/03/us-army-trying-bury-lessons-iraq-war/155403

As has been explained to me by senior officers who are still on active duty, the conventional wisdom today is that our military has moved on — and in an odd redux, they note that we have returned to the philosophy of 1973. Similar to how the Pentagon abandoned its doctrine of fighting counterinsurgencies and irregular conflicts in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, today’s military has shifted away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of preparing to fight insurgents and guerrillas, our security establishment has refocused almost exclusively on the realm of great power conflict — in their parlance, peer or near-peer competitors such as Russia or China.

Distressing, but hardly surprising… the same thing happened after Vietnam, though the external circumstances were quite different. The US Army may be a “learning organization” but it keeps forgetting that it needs to retain some of that learning.

As the world continues to migrate to cities and pressures from failed or failing states push populations toward armed insurrection, it is quite possible that our next conflict could be another irregular war fought against guerrillas and insurgents. Even if we do end up facing a peer or near-peer competitor as the defense establishment is predicting, many of the lessons of the Iraq War still ring true. If we find ourselves facing such a foe, it would be highly likely that our opponents would fight us with a blend of conventional warfare—using ships, tanks, and warplanes—as well as with irregular tactics such as we faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blending both types of warfare, which has been called “hybrid warfare” or “conflict in the grey zone” enables our enemies to counter some of our conventional advantages asymmetrically, and challenge us symmetrically with forces that are on par with our capabilities. The use of paramilitaries or militias rather than uniformed soldiers, ambushing logistics convoys with improvised explosive devices, and hiding soldiers and resources amongst the civilian population- all staples of the Iraq conflict- are tactics that have also been used by Russia and other states because they make attribution and retaliation more difficult. It would be a dangerous proposition to hope that nation-state competitors we face in the future have not studied the war in Iraq and adapted their tactics. 

The two volumes of the Iraq War Study, completed in 2016 but not released until the very end of 2018, may be found here. Download them if you’re interested, just so you can have them for later….

Volume One (2003-2006): https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/publication-detail.cfm?publicationID=3667

Volume Two (2007-2011): https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/publication-detail.cfm?publicationID=3668

 

Aftershocking, hardly.

O0pg

Screenshot of Despair by Lloyd Burchill, ca. 1997.

Okay, I am sorry but I couldn’t do better at a punny title… puns are the lowest form of humour anyway, though Joe Miranda differs with me on that.

Points the main:

  • In 2015 Rex Brynen, great educator and friend of the blog, published Aftershock, a serious board game on the difficulties and processes of HADR (Humanitarian Action and Disaster Relief). The game grew out some ideas floated at a “game lab” session held at Connections-US 2012.
  • Since its publication, this game has been used (with or without Rex’s facilitation) by large numbers of humanitarian aid workers, medical students, UN peacekeepers, and military personnel. Rex also uses sales of the game as a non-profit fundraiser for frontline UN humanitarian agencies who respond to actual earthquakes and other humanitarian emergencies.
  • Here’s a link to my review of it: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1467592/review-aftershock-humanitarian-crisis-game
  • Recently Stronghold Games launched a Kickstarter for a board game called Aftershock, designed by Alan R. Moon and Bobby West. This game imagines that the San Francisco Bay area has been hit with a mega-earthquake, and focuses on rebuilding the city. Here is the ad copy from BGG.com:

Aftershock is an area control game. Players will spend money to acquire cards, which are used to increase population, build bridges, and determine where aftershocks occur. Negotiate with other players to score areas on the placement board. Spend money wisely to acquire the needed cards that move people back into the demolished areas. Make deals to score points in Aftershock!

So, in this game you are not directly working on saving helping anyone, and in fact plan on the placement of subsequent quakes (whence the title) to drive people around on the board. It reminds me of an old Macintosh game my son liked when he was little called Despair, where you chase little meeples around with different disasters and woe. The image at the top of the post is from that game.

It is apparent that Stronghold just did not bother to search if there were any other games with the title already in print – 15 seconds on BGG.com would have told them all they needed to know.

When Rex informed them politely that the two games were quite close in theme and appearance, he got a “well, that happens, whatcha gonna do” reply… and when he pointed out on Stronghold’s tweet about their game launch that there was a different game with this title, he got blocked by them… and so did everyone else who tweeted about it.

There are at most several hundred copies of Rex’s game out in the world, produced on a non-profit basis. Stronghold, a for-profit company, expects to sell tens of thousands of their game. While it may not be all that likely that people will mistake one for the other and buy something in error, Stronghold’s dismissive and high-handed response does not do them any favours. Comments on this have appeared on the Kickstarter comments page.

More details, and Rex’s very creative response to all this, at https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/aftershocks/

[EDITED TO ADD: 8 February – Rex reports that the issue has been resolved! Stronghold, after cancelling the Kickstarter for reasons other than the name issue, also discussed the situation with Rex… and when they attempt to bring the game to market again (might be crowdfunding, might be straight to retail) it will have some form of name change. Good-oh, and I’m glad cooler heads prevailed, even if it means I’m wrong.]

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/a-happy-aftershocks-ending

The Forgotten Faces

Peter Watkins is the film director whose work you likely haven’t seen, but definitely should.

He is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s, including Culloden, The War Game, and Punishment Park. The common method for these films was to take a “you are there”, documentary approach and treat the camera as if it were an actual witness to the events as they unfolded. So while it may be a bit jarring to see and hear a TV film crew interviewing and reacting to Scottish rebels in 1745, you see his point in doing so pretty easily.

It was certainly a method commonly used in comedy, but Watkins uses it to great dramatic effect, particularly notably in The War Game, a 1965 film that documents the aftereffects of a nuclear detonation over an area of Kent. It was such a horrific film that the BBC, who produced it, refused to broadcast it on TV and the film was not shown publicly in the UK until 1985. Watkins did not take kindly to this suppression of his work and left the UK. He has since lived and made films in Sweden, the United States, Denmark, Canada, Lithuania and France. His most recent film was La Commune in 2000, on the Paris Commune. (It’s probably his last film too, as he no longer gives interviews and has largely withdrawn from public life.)

http://pwatkins.mnsi.net/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Watkins

Another trademark of Watkins’ work is to use people who are entirely untrained in acting, or are at most amateur theatre performers. He began this practice with his early amateur films but kept on with it throughout his career.

It’s one of these early amateur films I want to draw your attention to today. It’s The Forgotten Faces, an 18 minute film made in 1960 with amateur performers in a back street in Canterbury. It’s an impressionistic view of the Hungarian Revolution in October 1956.

In all the work and thought I’d invested in Nights of Fire, this film was always in the back of my mind but I never mentioned it until now.

I hope you find it interesting.

Nights of Fire is still on track for a March release.

Hollandspiele + Second Chance Games = $ales$ !!

Even since Hollandspiele got started, they have had a rising tide of interest from customers in the UK and Europe – interest that was promptly deflated by their  production costs (print-on-demand) and postage (which could sometimes be higher than the cost of the item) and probability of exorbitant customs and duties once the item reached foreign shores.

The print-and-play version solution was always there, and it’s the same price to everyone on the planet. But there are lots of people out there who value their time more highly, and their crafting skills less generously.

So today Hollandspiele announced its partnership with Second Chance Games in the UK, as their retailer Across the Water.

https://www.secondchancegames.com/index.php/component/virtuemart/manufacturer/hollandspiele/

Prices range, and I am not sure how much shipping would be, though certainly it would be more reasonable than sending from California. But as an illustration, Scheldt Campaign and Ukrainian Crisis/Little War are 49 pounds each.