Springtime in Caracas

CP Cover

Civil Power for a tactical examination of the situation.


Caudillo for an operational, pol-mil look.











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


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”


“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.”




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:



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:


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:


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:


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.


More on post-Chavez Venezuela

Well, Nicolas Maduro won the election for President, so it looks as if it’s going to be Business as Usual for a while… or does it?

The last couple of weeks I have been working on a multiplayer card game (2-5 players but you could have more) on the building political and social crises in Venezuela today. The point of the design is to instil a balance and tension between individual competition (as players strive to build and maintain power bases within Venezuelan institutions and social groups) and limited cooperation (as players must work together to address the worst of the issues facing Venezuela’s economy and society, or else they will all be worse off).

Control, Secrecy, Hidden Agendas, “Alo Presidente”, Negotiation, Coups d’etat – what more could you want? Well, the actual product perhaps, but the last couple of weekends have been busy with tax return preparation and so forth, but I think I have the design the way I want it. Now for some testing.

Right now I am calling it Dios Y/O Federacion (“God and/or Federation“), a takeoff of Venezuela’s national motto. But I admit I am bad with titles.