Off to Consimworld Expo 2018!

lawrncoarabia_032pyxurz

Best cut in cinematic history.

So, very early tomorrow we take off for a week and change in Tempe Arizona, to attend Consimworld Expo 2018. This convention gets bigger every year, there will be at least 275 hardcore gamers there this time.

I am taking lots of things with me, to show and/or test with people:

The Brief Border Wars quad:

Four minigames on border conflicts. Uses a development of the system in The Little War. Pretty much done testing but they are fun and short. El Salvador-Honduras 1969, Turkey-Cyprus 1974, China-Vietnam 1979, Israel-Hezbollah 2006.

Thunder out of China:

4-player COIN system for China 1937-41, I got this one to the 50% mark in 2015 but had to stop due to the need to finish off Colonial Twilight. Event Deck needs work as do a few tuneups. This will be a different twist on the COIN system but only slightly; twist of emphasis, not addition of mechanics.

The District Commander quad:

What, am I bringing back the Quadrigame? This is a diceless system of counterinsurgency at the operational level that I have been working on for a few years. Standard rules are rather long but they are “chatty”, the system is pretty simple and there are lots of possible options/ variations on play; each set of module exclusive rules is written as additions and exceptions to the standard rules.

Four modules: Mascara (Algeria 1959); Binh Dinh (Vietnam 1969); Kandahar (Afghanistan 2009); Maracas (imaginary megacity 2019). Modules feature things like population resettlement, airmobility, insurgent logistics, Agent Orange, monsoon rains, Phoenix Program, non-state militias, criminal gangs, insurgent command nodes, informers, sabotage, etc..

Caudillo:

Multi-player game on Latin American power politics, this brings up the tension between cooperation and competition. Not testing but CSW is a good place to try and snag people for multi-player games (3-5).

We Are Coming, Nineveh

Something new, not my design but I am helping on its development and need some playtester input. Designed by two graduate students of Rex Brynen, a Political Science professor at McGill University in Montreal who uses games in his classes a lot. This is their first essay into game design and it’s good enough that Rex and I are helping on its development for commercial publication.

It is an operational-level game of the Iraqi government campaign to liberate the western half of the city of Mosul from the forces of Daesh between 19 February and 9 July 2017. This was one of the largest and most difficult urban operations of the post-WWII era, and marked a major defeat for Daesh and its so-called “Islamic State.”

Area-movement map of west Mosul, including the densely-built Old City where Daesh forces made their last stand. Unit scale is groups of 100 or so Daesh fighters each, or battalion-sized units of the Iraqi Army, Ministry of the Interior, and elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS). Time scale is about 2 weeks/turn but this is flexible, and not that important. Blocks for both sides, to maintain uncertainty and the “fog of war.”

Capability cards: Before the operation starts, players choose a number of special capability cards. Gives great replayability.

Also during each turn, event cards can be triggered at any time by either player. Some of these indicate the growing collateral damage done to the city and its people. Others generate tactical vignettes: troops can get lost in the maze of small streets, communications can break down, and commanders can be faced with difficult moral and operational choices.

Victory: Unlike most wargames where there is a single measure for victory or loss, the game assesses three key aspects of the campaign: the speed at which the operation is completed, the casualties suffered by Iraqi government forces, and the collateral damage done to Mosul. One might outperform the historical case, capturing the Old City faster—but at a terrible civilian cost.

Going to be HOT and sunny, every day!

I may post from there, probably not as I will be working off a tablet with a tiny keyboard that is an exercise in patience to use.

Be good to each other while I’m gone.

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Springtime in Caracas

CP Cover

Civil Power for a tactical examination of the situation.

caudillo-cover-2

Caudillo for an operational, pol-mil look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/venezuelan-anti-government-protests-leaves-3-dead-1.4076408

Three dead yesterday, bringing the total to eight. Pro-government armed groups threatening and sniping at marching protesters, while the police and military deal with any heavy-duty confrontations. Arrests of real or imagined “coup plotters”. Economic and industrial chaos spins further out of control.

This looks bad, and it’s going to get worse, even if (or especially if) Maduro leaves office, through the door or on it.

Caudillo now available for free PnP

caudillo-cover-2

Cover by John Kula. His last published work.

Several times over the past few years I have mentioned Caudillo (pronounced “caw-DEE-yo“), a 2-5 player card game I designed three years ago on power politics in the fictional Latin American country of Virtualia, after the departure from power of its strongman leader Jesus Shaves (pronounced “hay-sus sha-bezz“).

The game was of course about a thinly-disguised post-Chavez Venezuela (though in 2013 it wasn’t post-Chavez yet), and just to drive it home, its original title was Dios o Federacion, a takeoff on “Dios y Federacion”, the national motto of Venezuela.

I liked working on this game because there is a constant tension within it between competition and cooperation. As players vie to create the largest and most durable personal power base, the card deck delivers more and more crises that players must deal with collectively, or the country will collapse. There are coups, too!

Anyway, I do not think that there will be any time soon that I could find this game a properly professional publisher, with 90 pieces of original card art and high-class production to match. And Venezuela looks as if it is really about to implode, with rampant inflation, riots, political intrigue and so on.

So, as my Christmas present to you all, I am now making the files for Caudillo available for free download and print-and-play (PnP).

The free PnP version consists of 90 cards, 230 counters, and the usual rules and play aids. You print ’em, you cut ’em, you stick ’em or sleeve ’em.

And, just for fun, I will also be making a limited number of hand-made copies of the game for sale too, through BTR Games. Besides the rules and play aids, this version has:

  • 90 cards printed on coloured cardstock and hand-cut;
  • 120 die-cut, pre-punched counters;
  • 120 small coloured wooden cubes;
  • nice cover art by John Kula. His last published work.

Price is $50 US, which includes postage. If you want one of these, let me know at brian.train@gmail.com; I take (and prefer) Paypal.

Here are the files for the free version:

caudillo-pnp-crisis-cards (Crisis cards and Scoring Round cards)

caudillo-pnp-group-cards (Group cards, Personality cards, Sequence of Play reminders)

caudillo-ctrs-pnp191216 (counters)

caudrls-124 (rules and play aid)

caud-pnp-assembly-notes (notes on how to print and assemble the cards and counters)

I hope you will enjoy this game, in either format.

Feliz Navidad!

PS: the game now has a Boardgamegeek entry: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/216686/caudillo

“Things could explode”

venezuela-politics

“Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said last week: ‘I want to tell the armed forces that the hour of truth is coming. You must decide whether you’re with the constitution or Maduro.”

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/venezuela-economic-meltdown-pressure-nicolas-maduro-1.3596682

I haven’t had Caudillo out for a look recently; been busy with other things, as you can see. Maybe I should get a move on before the next coup happens.

The thing that’s holding this up is I have had no time to get any art done or arranged for the cards. Mechanics seem fine, it’s an interesting game but no one wants to play with un-artified cards, natch.

To Coup or Not to Coup, in Venezuela

What could have been… this image from the 2002 coup, when Hugo Chavez was thrown out of power for 72 hours, and somehow talked his way back into it!

Minimal or no coverage in US or Canadian media, but these links are from the BBC and the Guardian:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-31464248

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/13/venezuelan-plot-topple-president-maduro

The articles make the point that Maduro often alleges coups or conspiracies by foreign powers, as a way to distract attention from the very real social and economic problems in Venezuela. But the conspiracies may be real, for all that.

However, when is a coup not a coup? The parties responsible say that it wasn’t, that it was only military action against their head of state, justified by their belief that he isn’t exercising power in the right way:

http://en.mercopress.com/2013/10/15/venezuelan-retired-officers-justify-military-action-against-maduro-and-claim-it-s-not-a-coup-d-etat

Seems to me to be pretty familiar rhetoric, with an identical end state… reminds me of that group of mutants the Oath Keepers in the US. Also interesting that these coup plotters are also “birthers” who claim that Maduro was born in Colombia, and therefore cannot rule Venezuela!

Anyway, just another end-of-player-turn shenanigan in Caudillo….

Ukrainian Crisis to be published by Victory Point Games

Well, I was holding my tongue but Alan Emrich let the cat out of the bag hisself… this from the 3 July number of the Crimson Courier, Victory Point Games’ (VPG) electronic newsletter:

Putin Pressure on Ukraine: Designer Brian Train has his first design with us which he originally published as a print-and-play game. This is a simulation of maneuver and pressure (political, economic, and military) rather than a straight force-on-force wargame. The international dance for prestige and resources over the territories of the Ukraine (and its neighbors) today is a fascinating study in current events in the guise of a clever simulation.

While I was at the CSW Expo in Tempe, Alan approached me with his interest in publishing the game. Besides vastly improved components which you don’t need to assemble yourself (full colour, die-cut, a box, all that neat stuff) this game will have a few other changes incorporated besides the name (Alan’s idea, not my boring original title):

  • All processes will use a d6, not via the substituting method I listed in section 2.1 of the rules though – we are going to a dice-averaging system which I did briefly consider when originally designing the game. This required a couple of changes to processes, notably the Diplomatic resolution and the introduction of random Critical Incidents that can occur when players make a Maximum Effort on something.
  • Some Russian OOB changes to reflect the ID numbers and likely composites of units that appear to have been actually fielded, rather than my original guesses (most of which were right, but they were obvious ones).
  • A completely deterministic version of the game that doesn’t use dice at all, if you feel that rollin’ dem bones is a sin (though it does use playing cards, so you are halfway to Perdition anyway).

The game is now in the hands of the VPG developers, so no telling what will emerge in the end, nor when that will be. Stay tuned!

[EDIT: In the end, VPG did not publish the game, and it was published by Hollandspiele in March 2017 in slightly different form. ]

Coming soon from Hollandspiele: Ukrainian Crisis and The Little War!

Now, if that had been the only good thing to come out of the CSW Expo, I would have been happy, but there’s more… can’t talk about all of it right now, but I did score some nice old SPI games and magazines at the Flea Market and Game Auction (a highlight of the week, ably and amiably cried by Alan Emrich) and had a very good playtest session of Dios O Federacion – which I have now renamed Caudillo, for now – with some of the Vancouver gang plus others:

Dios test csw expo

Just a few of the testers – from left to right, John “Tex” Teixeira, Clayton Baisch, Kerry Anderson, Me, The Forearm of Jamie Shanks, and Rob Bottos took the picture.

Playtesting Dios O Federacion

Spent a great afternoon and evening playtesting Dios o Federacion with the Class Wargames gang and associates:

 testgp1

From left to right, near to far: Kateryna Onyiliogwu, James Moulding, Fabian Tompsett, Richard Parry, Richard Barbrook. Everyone’s so intent on making up stories about what is happening in the game they are ignoring me and my camera!

And Fabian won, by being The Quiet Banker Type Everyone Ignores Until It’s Too Late:

Fabwins 

The group was a really quick study, got right into it and had some very valuable suggestions. Thanks everyone!

Later we played a game that James and Kateryna had designed in Richard’s class, Imperialism in Space – by far the easiest chunk of Lenin I ever swallowed.

Having a very busy but great time in the UK!

More later.