Vive La Commune!

One hundred and fifty years ago today: March 18, 1871 marked the first of the 71 days of the Paris Commune, a remarkable episode of political, social and class revolt before it was crushed by its own government.

A “last stand of the Paris Commune” scenario is included in Civil Power.

Red Flag Over Paris, a game on the Paris Commune designed by Fred Serval and which uses the Fort Sumter system is on P500 at GMT Games. Looks interesting, I’m awaiting it!

https://www.gmtgames.com/p-849-red-flag-over-paris.aspx

Send in the drones

ads

Over at Forbes magazine, the very clever Michael Peck writes on a new move to place new technology on other new technology for an old purpose. It may take a while for the Pentagon to get what it wants loaded handily onto drones, but when it does we have anticipated it with optional rule 8.6 for Civil Power: Helicopters!

In the existing rule, Helicopters already come equipped with a searchlight plus the Police player’s choice one of a Gas Gun, a Sniper or an Active Denial System (optional rule 8.3). It’s easy enough to add a Baton Rounds capability to the aircraft (optional rule 8.1) reflecting the non-lethal munitions requirement; the Height Advantage of the Helicopter (now a drone) defeats the shelter a Barricade or Hedge would have given against these munitions. 

In the existing rule, Helicopters are eliminated by a “K” result in Fire combat. For balance, let us give Trained Crowds (1-6-3-3) laser pointers and let them apply their Fire Combat strength of 1 with infinite range against drones only, and treat a drone target as an individual, so it is removed on a “W” or “K” result (so 4 or more Trained Crowds using their laser pointers have a reasonable chance of overloading its sensors and bringing it down, as happened in Chile in 2019 (https://futurism.com/the-byte/protestors-kill-drone-using-laser-pointers ). Again, if it is a drone, its crashing to the ground will not be so dramatic an event so it would simply be removed.  

Helicopters are fairly expensive at 70 points each, but we have made them easier to shoot down, so let us say that if the Police player buys one (as a drone) with a Gas Gun, Baton Rounds or Sniper system aboard, it will automatically be replaced within 1d6 turns if it is eliminated. A drone with an Active Denial System aboard is removed from the game when shot down. Also, they are machines, and no one cares about machines: eliminating a drone does not add to the Tactical Disintegration Number (optional rule 8.9). For a bit more balance, we can also assume that a small drone will not have a lot of munitions aboard, so roll a 1d6 every time a drone uses any of these systems and remove it on a roll of “6”. It will be replaced 1d6 turns later, as above.  

However, I am not writing rules for the “optogenics modulation of high magnetic fields to disrupt the human nervous system”. That’s just freaky.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelpeck/2021/03/08/the-pentagon-wants-to-arm-drones-with-non-lethal-lasers-and-microwave-cannon

The Pentagon Wants To Arm Drones With Non-Lethal Lasers And Microwave Cannon
Michael Peck, Contributor, Aerospace & Defense Mar 8, 2021,10:29am EST

These devices would include exotic non-lethal gear, including directed energy weapons such as low-powered lasers and microwave beams, as well as more familiar weapons such as stun grenades and stink bombs. These weapons would equip aerial drones and manned and robotic ground vehicles, as well naval surface and underwater craft.

For most of history, armies have only enjoyed a binary option: either use lethal force or don’t use force at all. Employing regular troops – who often lacked appropriate equipment and training – for missions such as riot control and civil policing often had bloody and politically embarrassing results.

But a new generation of non-lethal weapons – and the advent of small drones able to carry them – offers new options for armies preparing for gray zone warfare, that netherworld populated by information operations, cyberattacks, state-sponsored political and militant groups, and special forces operations. For U.S. commanders dreading social media video of American troops firing bullets at a mob, a robot that can disperse rioters with a non-lethal laser or microwave cannon would be a godsend.

The Pentagon is examining multiple non-lethal weapons for tasks such as disabling people or vehicles, according to the research solicitation published by the U.S. Navy, which is acting on behalf of the other services. These weapons, called Intermediate Force Capability, include:

  • lasers to dazzle an opponent.
  • 12-gauge/40-mm non-lethal munitions, including “blunt impact, flashbang, riot control agents, human electro-muscular incapacitation and malodorant” devices
  • long-range acoustic hailing devices,
  • directed energy weapons “such as counter-electronics (e.g., high power microwave weapons) and Active Denial Technologies (ADT ADT +3.2%).”

Particularly intriguing is a call for development of “optogenics modulation of high magnetic fields” to disrupt the human nervous system. The proposal also mentions using drones for broadcasting long-range “hail and warn” messages,  as well as access denial devices to discourage people from moving into designated areas.

The Pentagon wants small weapons that can fit on small platforms, so they should be less than 3 cubic feet in size and weigh no more than 50 to 100 pounds. Given that directed energy weapons such as lasers gulp electricity, it is not surprising that the military wants systems that don’t neither require a lot of power nor run so hot that they need elaborate cooling equipment (temperatures should range from minus 55 degrees Centigrade to 125 degrees).

Phase I of the project calls for developing “non-lethal stimuli.” Drone payloads should be less than 3 cubic feet and weigh no more than 50 to 100 pounds.

The Pentagon also wants equipment with a price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars rather than “payloads that cost more than $1 million.”

“Phase I will not require human subject or animal subject testing,” the Navy added.

Phase II calls for integrating these non-lethal weapons on small manned tactical vehicles as well as drones. The Pentagon’s Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office (JIFCO, formerly the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate) “maintains a set of counter-personnel human effects and weapon effectiveness models and a full set of counter-personnel and counter-material test targets at various DoD labs,” notes the Navy, which suggests these weapons will not be tested on humans.

If the projects succeeds, it’s not just the military that will be using exotic non-lethal weapons. Other potential users include the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security – and even Customs and Border Security, according to the Navy. “Local civilian law enforcement has these specific type of missions to support both counter-personnel and counter-materiel missions for law enforcement as well as to mitigate terrorist acts. Currently overall system size, weight, and cost have hindered the use of these systems by these agencies.”

The project appears more than feasible. Machine guns and anti-tank missiles are already mounted on drones, robot tanks and the manned dune buggy-like tactical vehicles by special forces units. Mounting weapons like lasers shouldn’t be that difficult, assuming that scientists can miniaturize them sufficiently to fit on a small platform.

The Navy says these non-lethal drones will be used across the Range of Military Operations (ROMO), which includes conventional combat operations, as well as irregular warfare and civic stabilization operations. This raises the question of whether non-lethal weapons could be used on conventional battlefields when governments decide that it’s better to incapacitate than kill opposing forces.

Either way, the advent of drone swarms – hordes of small robots that overwhelm a target – combined with miniaturized non-lethal weapons raises the possibility of future warfare where deadly force isn’t the only option. The fact that these non-lethal weapons can also be used by law enforcement raises another possibility: instead of calling out the riot police, authorities can call out the riot drones.

 

So what was that all about?

i tawt i taw a coup

image: Paul Mavrides.

Some truly remarkable images and events this week in Washing Tundy Sea. I can’t pick a favourite. So I use this cute image by Paul Mavrides.

Was it a coup? Not really, in my view, or at least not the riot itself. Edward Luttwak’s remarkable 1968 book Coup d’etat: A Practical Handbook defines ” [a] coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.” He also gives some useful distinctions:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=bA7bCwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

It’s interesting to note that the words being tossed around are foreign loan words: coup d’etat, putsch, pronunciamento. Almost as if English didn’t want to be associated with such ruffianlike behaviour.

But it’s not just local language, it’s the concept. And one concept/term hasn’t been used much is “autogolpe” or self-coup. Basically it is a form of coup d’etat, in that it uses some of the machinery and organs of the State to seize power, but the objective is not regime change – it is to keep the regime (and head of state) in power, when it is supposed to leave. This is something that is not unique to South America, but the continent furnishes some good examples: Alberto Fujimori in Peru in 1992, and recent events in Bolivia. I would say that what we’ve seen is a clumsily attempted autogolpe through the legislature, with a noisy messy mob attack on top of it as a threat and distraction.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/01/08/no-its-not-a-coup-its-a-failed-self-coup-that-will-undermine-us-leadership-and-democracy-worldwide/

There was also a swell of online gamer interest in Civil Power, which is now in production by Blue Panther LLC, as one of the very few tactical games about riots… I would guess it’s the only one in print, even including miniatures rules sets. So yes, one could make up a Capitol Hill scenario fairly quickly – I’m not going to bother, I have other things to do right now – it’s not hard:

https://brtrain.wordpress.com/2020/12/21/civil-power-making-your-own-scenarios/

As I’ve said many times, this is deliberately a sandbox game. The range of scenarios with the game is illustrative and there are plenty of optional rules. People can experiment with this one as they please, and add what assumptions and conditions they like.

Really, this would be a combination of two scenarios that are in the game already: I-4 “Terre Blanche, Pretoria 1991” (rioting neo-Nazis trying to get into a building (how about that), just be sure to mark a limited number of entry points) and I-8 “Demonstration, American city 202x”.

And for the run-up to Inauguration Day, if there is sustained crowd and demo activity (and no shooting or bombing, despite what some blowhards have posted), Battle of Seattle (Free Games! ) could be updated or you could run a 3-5 day campaign scenario of Civil Power like the Chicago ’68 scenario in the game.

Please don’t accuse me of bad taste or “too soon” (unless you feel that way about the whole hobby, in which case it isn’t just me). I designed Civil Power in 1991, using then-contemporary news stories as the bases for scenarios, and it’s been available from me in one form or another for over 25 years. Battle of Seattle I did within a few weeks of the actual event at the end of 1999. I’m interested in these things, and I make my wee games of them; and sometimes, the world catches up with me.

Civil Power: rules, scenarios, VASSAL module available online

Untitled-1

Now that the game is officially out, CSL has made the rules and scenario booklet and VASSAL module available online here (if necessary, change the file extension from .zip to .vmod):

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1i19QZV5qBeZVHv1U5iucoW1tb8w2StEk

But we’re sure that you would like to have the physical product too, so the order page is here:

https://www.consimsltd.com/products/civil-power

Fight the Power!
(or be the Power, you can do both)

Civil Power: making your own scenarios

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Copies of Civil Power are starting to thud and rattle into mailboxes across the land.

https://www.consimsltd.com/products/civil-power in case you haven’t had a chance to order your copy yet!

I’ve mentioned this before, but from the beginning I purposely designed this to be a “sandbox” type of game, for people to experiment with new and revised scenarios, optional rules and so forth – there is also a points purchase system and force-package system so you can easily assemble opposing forces.
The game comes with two geomorphic squared maps of an imaginary urban area. Keeping in mind that each square is 20 metres across (~25 yards) or about the width of a street, you could take an image from Google Maps or something and make a squared map to suit your favourite location, with terrain interpretations informed by your knowledge of the area.
As an example, I made one such for the Legislative Assembly buildings in my capital city… took me a couple of minutes to do. (Yeah, it shows.) Though I hasten to add that while the front lawn has seen many demonstrations, they have all been fairly well mannered except one time in 1993 where protesters forced their way into the building, and broke a window (and a staff member was shoved to the ground and hurt their hip). A collection was taken up by the organizers to have the window fixed.
VicLeg 1

Civil Power: preview video!

Ray Weiss has gotten a proof copy of Civil Power! Here he spends a few minutes talking about the game, its mechanics, options and scenarios, and shows off the very nice components.

Sales should start Real Soon Now.

Civil Power: interview with The Players Aid

Will neither confirm nor deny this was considered for the rulebook cover.

https://theplayersaid.com/2020/09/28/interview-with-brian-train-designer-of-civil-power-from-conflict-simulations-llc/

Yes!

Over at The Players Aid, an interview about the provenance and mechanics of Civil Power

In this interview I was glad to have the chance to point out some of the obvious bits:

  • that while the technology might change, riots are still much like ancient/medieval battles;
  • even though it is a battle, it is still a confrontation with citizens in a relatively civilized overall situation and you cannot shoot your way to victory (except in the 1944 Warsaw scenario of course); and
  • using the idea of an Engagement Level to acknowledge that there are two mobs at every riot: the civilian and the non-civilian, and that while they have different structures they feed off each other’s energy.

We’re getting into the final stretch of Getting It Ready For You, laying out rules and player aids. 

Fight the Power!

(or be the Power, or both… there’s no solitaire AI or anything like that)

Heat Ray!

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54187961

An Army National Guard officer has testified that his unit was asked by military police whether they had a “heat ray”, more formally known as the Active Denial System, as Washington DC authorities prepared to clear demonstrators from Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020.

This is a vehicle-mounted system that uses a tightly focused beam of microwave energy to make the target feel as if their skin is burning, though the chances of actual physical damage are low. It was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 but sent back unused, and was proposed to be but wasn’t deployed to the US border with Mexico in 2018. I am not sure it has ever actually been used in other than demonstrations for the media; a smaller version may have been used in prisons (possibly to break up impromptu performances of “Telephone” in the exercise yard).

The National Guard unit did not have one of these jolly contrivances, but YOU can have one of your very own – IF you get a copy of my forthcoming game Civil Power!

The counter for it is pictured above (art by Ivan Caceres). Rules are as follows:

  • The ADS may be used in scenarios taking place after 2010.
  • The ADS may apply its Shock Combat strength of 10 to one target unit in the Fire Combat Phase. The die roll is not modified. In the case of an X result, no WIA is counted.
  • The ADS has an infinite range (even at night) but only one unit in a stack may be targeted. 
  • The ADS may not attack units that are in a building, in the same area as a Gas cloud, or units where the LOS to the target crosses a Fire area or Barricade (the beam does not penetrate solid objects, and even a small amount of smoke or mist will reduce its power to the point where the target only feels toasty warm).

[EDITED TO ADD: The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has developed its own version of the ADS, and has reportedly used it against Indian Army troops in the Himalayas: November, 2020. (Source is the Daily Mail, but if I find a more reputable source I will link it here too.)

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8957019/China-used-secret-microwave-pulse-weapon-Indian-soldiers.html

A Force More Powerful

b4s93

Akito and I made a large version of Battle of Seattle with dollar-store miniatures… the cops came ready-made, we repurposed some of them as protestors.

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/May-June-2020/Chambers-Beehner-Competing-Below

Quite fresh from the pages of Military Review, an interesting article on nonviolent action and how it has been and can be harnessed to drive opposition to foreign regimes.

A good quick introduction to techniques, advantages and examples of its use. Written from the perspective of “hey, this is a great force multiplier for the USA”, but the point is taken… and still effective. The concluding paragraph:

The U.S. military must look past its institutional biases toward large-scale combat operations, and in line with MDO [Multi-Domain Operations], truly look toward converging political and military capabilities across multiple domains to create windows of advantage.54 If we look at future conflict through the lens of most likely and most dangerous, the most likely form is low-intensity, gray-zone type conflict. In these types of conflicts, third-party nonviolent intervention is a viable course—within its constraints—which allows nations to achieve strategic objectives without resorting to large-scale troop deployments, and in some cases, maintaining plausible deniability. As the ubiquitous “small wars” continue and the U.S. military prioritizes preparation for large-scale, decisive-action type conflict, policy makers need a capability to limit U.S. entanglement while still achieving strategic objectives. Support for nonviolent action fills this niche, and consequently, deserves recognition and resources.

PDF of the article is available at the link above, Military Review also has a collection of interesting past articles on civil disobedience, Colour Revolutions and “democratic coups”:

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Special-Topics/Hot-Topics/Coups-CR/

And just to tie this back into gaming, there are a couple of computer games on the topic.

Image: ICNC.

People Power: the game of civil resistance, a free game for Windows or Mac from the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC).

http://peoplepowergame.com

Rex Brynen on on Paxsims reviewed it in 2011, the game was revised in 2015.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/people-power/

People Power is the sequel to A Force More Powerful, an older game on the topic of colour revolutions that uses Gene Sharp’s writings as a basis and came out some time ago as a companion to the 1999 documentary of the same name (available on Youtube). The latter game is abandonware and Windows only; I snagged a copy in a local thrift store years ago.  Rex and colleague Gary Milante were less than impressed by its sedate pace.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/a-force-more-powerful/

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/a-force-more-tedious/

 

Soundtrack to Civil Power

In the new year a revised version of Civil Power, a tactical-level game I designed on urban riots and mayhem, will be published by a company called Conflict Simulations. I first designed this game back in 1991-92, and it came with a set of scenarios taken from history and then-contemporary headlines… this new version has a lot of changes informed by over 25 years of designing in between, and a whole new cast of global angst and violence.

https://www.consimsltd.com/shop/civil-power

So I thought, why not make a playlist to serve as a sort of soundtrack to playing it? The above is 78 minutes of anti-authority music of many genres (most of them loud and snotty), in an easy-to-handle 44K VBR. Hope you enjoy, even if you don’t order my game!

 

Track listing:

Glory to Hong Kong – anonymous student rebel orchestra
Tommy Gun – The Clash
Fist – Test Department
Solidaritätslied – Ernst Busch Chorus (film clip)
Landlord – Test Department
Ready to Blow – KMFDM
Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts
Wake Up – Rage Against the Machine
Riot – Dead Kennedys
Ghetto Defendant – The Clash
All That I wanted – Belfegore
Smash It Up – International Noise Conspiracy
Kick Out The Jams – MC5
Fight The Power – Public Enemy
Rise Above – Black Flag
Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
Guns of Brixton – The Clash
Police Truck – Dead Kennedys
Wild in the Streets – Circle Jerks
General Strike – DOA
Clampdown – The Clash