Brief Border Wars quad now available for pre-order!

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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.

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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.

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Finnish Civil War is on sale, while the snow flies

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Cover of #84

Compass Games is having a sale, from now until January 15, 2019.

Paper Wars #84, containing Finnish Civil War, is among the items and it’s marked down to $33.00!

Enter the code HOLIDAY18 when you order to get the 30% discount.

https://www.compassgames.com/paperwars/issue-84-magazine-game-finnish-civil-war.html

Go here for the entire catalogue of sale items!

https://www.compassgames.com/holiday18

Back, then forth

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Thanks to LTC James di Crocco for the flyer, and for organizing the film!

Wow, what a busy week! But it was certainly worth it.

I got into Carlisle PA very late on Sunday night. The next morning I had breakfast at the nearby Hamilton Restaurant, a nice cheap diner place that’s been there for 84 years. I had scrapple for the first time in my life… it’s a regional delicacy, let’s call it that. Think of toast made of pureed meat.

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It’s the Pennsylvania treat!

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in meetings, panels and testing sessions, as well as the movie and game event on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday I had an hour or two in the War College Library and quite by accident, I happened to set my stuff down in a chair next to the very area I wanted to poke around in – urban guerrilla warfare! I found an old copy of “Report on Urban Insurgency Studies”, something put together under an old ARPA contract in 1966 by “Simulmatics Corporation”. Along with case studies of urban conflicts, including the Algerian insurgency, it also included “URB-INS”, directions and descriptions for making and running a manual game on counterinsurgency in a generic city. It was pretty sophisticated for its day – double-blind play with an umpire using a third board; time lag on intelligence and movements; uncertain information on sympathizers for either side; interrogation and arrest; etc..

Simulmatics was one of those little companies that sprang up like mushrooms in the early days of using social science and computers to defeat insurgency, funded by ARPA project money. Simulmatics did work in computer simulations in the early 1960s analyzing American voter behaviours, and so were pioneers in doing that kind of work for political parties, but  did not do well in contracted ARPA work in Vietnam trying to develop psychological weapons and predictors to defeat the Viet Cong (as described in The Imagineers of War: The Untold History of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World, a new book by Sharon Weinberger).

Tuesday morning I sat in on a panel on “Games and Innovation in the Classroom” with LTC Pat Schoof from the Command and General Staff College (James Sterrett’s delegate), Jim Lacey and Peter Perla. I was especially glad to see Peter, as I don’t get many chances to talk with this highly intelligent guy … luckily we were able to have dinner the night before, and talk up a storm. No pictures because it was in Collins Hall, a building where I had to lock up my tablet and phone before entering.

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Tuesday afternoon we were in Root Hall, the main building, and had a couple of hours of guided play of Colonial Twilight before the movie. The College has some nice printers, so they were able to make double-size maps which were almost too big to play on.

The movie went well too. I made some introductory remarks on the Algerian history and war development up to the point the movie begins in 1957, and some comments on how the movie came to be made (did you know Pontecorvo’s original idea was to make a dramatic movie called Paras, starring either Steve McQueen or Warren Beatty?).

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Halfway through the movie, after the scene of Colonel Mathieu’s first briefing with his officers, I stopped and talked about the historical and effective tactics the French used in the actual Battle of Algiers, and at the end I talked about some of the liberties the producer/star Yacef Saadi had taken with history, and about the historical impact of the film. My remarks are here, in case anyone is interested: remarks on the war and film.

On Wednesday I was in the War College Library for a playtest of South China Sea, a grown-out and complexified version of Breaking The Chains, a game on naval warfare in the area by John Gorkowski published by Compass Games (which will also be doing the new version). (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/137498/breaking-chains-war-south-china-sea) A class of students at the College will use this game at an event in the summer to explore the wild world of “joint operations”.

Wednesday night I had dinner with now-retired LTC Dave Barsness, who was my escort officer last year, and who has somehow contrived to look even leaner, fitter and more tanned than the last time I saw him! Afterwards I went to a talk at the Army Heritage Education Centre which is near the War College, where one of the faculty there talked about his recent book Elvis’s Army, on the US Army’s years between Korea and Vietnam. I’ve always been interested in this period, especially the brief and weird Pentomic Division reorganization, so it was a really interesting talk. One of the topics was the legendary M29 Davy Crockett recoilless gun, which fired a small Mk 54 nuclear warhead with variable yields in the 10-20 ton range. Problem was, the warhead’s danger radius was a considerable fraction of the launcher’s accurate range, so unless you had considerable ground cover (or preferably a ridge or mountain) between you and the explosion, you were cooked.

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On Thursday it went up to 32 degrees (90 F and humid) and I got a lift to the Harrisburg airport from LTC Jim Di Crocco, a friend and fellow gamer who had been my escort officer on and off and around the College, taking time out from his very busy week that would end with a trip to Bangkok the next day. Thanks Jim! After a delay caused by a certain amount of something observed leaking from the starboard engine, we took off for Toronto, affording me a nice view of the cooling towers of Three Mile Island.

However, that delay cost me my comfortable connection to the flight to Ottawa. The plane landed at what must have been the very end of Pearson Airport (gate F93?) and I galumphed as fast as I could through Customs and Security, making it to the plane just as they were about to close the door and leave… another two minutes and they would have been gone. We landed in Ottawa in a thunderstorm, and had to wait until the lightning stopped to disembark.

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My good friend Andreas playing the game with his kids.

I stayed with my friend Andreas and his family, here he is playing Guerrilla Checkers with his very smart children.

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Friday I was in a meeting with Rex Brynen and Tom Fisher, his partner in design crimes, talking with staff in Global Affairs Canada about a matrix game exercise they were planning to try out on their people. That morning I had had a chance to wander around Parliament Hill, where I hadn’t been since 1989 and my Class B days. It’s pretty much the same except for all the added security people, searches and roadblocks. I also saw them post the guard at the National War Memorial, something they did not do back in the day.

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I’m not smiling, I’m having an attack of colic. Photo by Denis Lavergne.

Friday night and Saturday  I was at the Cangames convention, showing and playing Colonial Twilight with Rex Brynen and Michel Boucher. On Saturday Michel taught me to play The Grizzled (Les Poilus), a co-operative game I had been meaning to try. It was very interesting and affecting, enjoyable (?) on a lot of levels. That night I went to Michel’s place for a delicious dinner of roast chicken, and I met his wife and daughter as well as getting a quick look at his massive and eclectic wargame collection.

Major score at the Cangames flea market: the complete (well, haven’t inventoried the counters but it looks so) set of Command Series Games, Volume I by Rand Games Associates, published in 1974, even with red drawer box in 1974-was-a-long-time-ago condition… for a very good price, with only a couple of missing counters. Maybe not hugely innovative or even good games but a piece of hobby history I have been looking for a long time. http://mapandcounters.blogspot.ca/2010/03/mixed-memories-rand-game-associates.html

Sunday it was time to go. I spent the morning playing Settlers of Catan with Andreas and the kids. Flight home not as stressful or sweaty as the flight in, but I was very happy to have Victoria Day off to depressurize.

In three days we are taking off for Tempe Arizona for the 2017 Consimworld Expo! Almost a whole week in the sun, it will probably be over 100 degrees every day. I’m bringing a bunch of stuff to test and show, and we’ll see who bites on what…

More later, during or more likely after the Expo.

Finnish Civil War (Paper Wars #84) has arrived.

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Cover by Knut Grunitz.

Today in the mail I got my subscriber copy of Paper Wars #84, containing Finnish Civil War.

Excellent map and counter art by Knut Grunitz, who put both together very quickly and effectively. Very pleased! I hope you will like this one.

Unfortunately, due to a layout oversight only the first half of the historical article I wrote on the War was printed in the magazine! The whole article will be uploaded to the Compass Games website or you can get a copy here:

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