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

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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

 

Playtester call: Civil Power

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Provisional cover art, by “seado3”

Comrades, the time has come to render aid.

Civil Power, my tactical “sandbox” game on civil unrest will be published by Conflict Simulations Ltd. next year but first it’s time for some concerted playtesting.

Kevin Conway has made up a Vassal module, and we are looking for people to take the game and its scenarios for a spin. If you want to get involved, here are the requirements:

  • Have Vassal on your machine, and know how to use it.
  • Know what Basecamp3 is and how to use it, or have rudimentary experience with some similar web-based project management software (mostly leaving messages and downloading files).
  • Email rweiss@consimsltd.com to get onto the site.
  • Don’t be a flake. I appreciate your time and help; let’s make it worthwhile.

I’ve been doing some more work on this game the last while, overhauling language and revising mechanics. This is one of the first games I designed (technically the second; my very first was in 1982, a very derivative game on the Pusan Perimeter) and I’ve written a lot of rules since then.

I’ve also been revising, dropping and adding scenarios: currently there are 13.  Back in 1991/92 I was drawing them up based on newspaper headlines, so there are scenarios for things like the LA riots and one based on keeping Afrikaner neo-Nazis out of a hotel… but these are restive times we are in, so I have added 2019 Hong Kong and Caracas protest-counterprotest scenarios for 2019. It won’t be difficult for players to make their own.

“At man in purple suit waving axe, one round, FIRE!” – CIVIL POWER now available for pre-order from Conflict Simulations Ltd.

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Preliminary cover design by Ray Weiss.

Now it can be told:

CIVIL POWER, one of the first games I designed, will be given a proper publication by Conflict Simulations Ltd.!

Constant Readers and obsessive ludographers will know that this game has already had a couple of editions: in 1996, as the issue game in #294 of Strategist, the newsletter of the Strategy Gaming Society, and more recently from my BTR Games. In both cases they were DTP level products where you had to copy out the counters and mount them on cardboard and cut out – or just stick them to cardboard and cut out – but in either case you had to do a little craft project first.

Conflict Simulations is going to release this as part of their “2140” series, with 140 back-printed counters and nice maps (by Ilya Kudriashov) in a small cardboard  box (about the same size as GDW used to use for the boxed editions of its Series 120 games, if you go back that far in the hobby).

As of today, the game is available for pre-order for $34.99 at:

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

Expected release is Q1 or Q2 of 2020, if’n the crick don’ rise… Meanwhile, here is the ad copy:

“In this critical hour we don’t need love, we need WEAPONS — the newest and best and most efficient weapons we can get our hands on. This is a time of extreme peril. The rising tide is almost on us….” – Raoul Duke

Civil Power is a game from Brian Train which models mass civil disorder, riots, raids, and other violent urban phenomena. One player will take command of the Police/local authorities while the other player takes command of the Mob. The game is asymmetrical in its means, motives and opportunities: the Police player has discipline, firepower and esoteric technology while the Mob player has outrage, numbers and Molotov cocktails. The Police must manage to contain and subdue the crowd through carefully distributed violence: the right amount will suppress or demoralize Mob forces, while too much will cause casualties costing the police victory points. The Mob player is less constrained but is also aware that a riot is a temporary thing.

Scenarios are included for several types of situations: riots (including a five-day Chicago 1968 campaign and a three-player Belfast 1975 scenario); raids (featuring a skirmish by the Berlin Wall); and gang warfare (including the 1992 Los Angeles riots, a Crips-Bloods gang war, and a 1944 Warsaw Uprising scenario). There are enough examples supplied that players will easily be able to design their own scenarios, inspired by the headlines of today and tomorrow.

Brian Train was inspired to design this game after reading “The Police Chief”, a particularly savage article by Hunter S. Thompson writing as “Raoul Duke, Master of Weaponry” about the inadequacy of equipment in the police armory to deal with civil disorder. We hope you, animated by the Spirit of Gonzo, will take the chance to explore his take on modern urban violence.

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” – Raoul Duke

Civil Power includes:

2 8.5×11 geomorphic square-grid maps of an imaginary urban area
140 double-sided  counters
1 rulebook
Player aids & displays