Meanwhile… in a faraway city

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/08/venezuela-caracas-gun-battles-police-gangs

H/t to James Buckley for noticing this one!

What would Jesus Shaves do?

Get your free print-and-play copy of District Commander Maracas here!

Free Games!

A tale of two surges

battle-of-algiers

https://mwi.usma.edu/it-was-the-best-of-coin-it-was-the-worst-of-coin-a-tale-of-two-surges/

Over at the Modern War Institute, an interesting short article by LCOL Michael Nelson comparing the respective surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, outlining how local conditions, history and prospects will trump or at least modify general principles of counterinsurgency doctrine (assuming your army even has such a doctrine).

As often happens, the lead and final paragraphs are the most significant and I quote them here… but the whole article is worth a read:

….. Scholars and practitioners alike are familiar with the axiom that one should avoid fighting the last war. It should go without saying, then, that one should also avoid trying to fight two distinct, concurrent wars as though they are the same conflict. While there are guiding principles for counterinsurgency, there is simply no one-size-fits-all template for success.

However, heavily relying on methods from a different conflict is roughly what the United States tried to do in Afghanistan in 2009 with the attempt to replicate the apparent successes of the surge in Iraq. The fatal flaw in this plan was predicated on a misunderstanding of the circumstances and the environment that had created the conditions for reduced violence in Iraq. Perhaps most disappointingly, these plans for Afghanistan were made and implemented by some of the same leaders who earned praise for having turned the Iraq War around when it was at its most bleak.

……

All warfare is political, and all warfare shifts on human decisions made in complex circumstances. But this is doubly true of counterinsurgent warfare. It is a complicated endeavor that requires deft understanding of the motivations and goals of multiple actors. America’s mistake, in two theaters, was in trying to reduce one of the more complex forms of conflict into something simple, uniform, and replicable without regard to the environment. While the United States should not shy away from studying, determining principles of, developing doctrine for, and preparing to conduct counterinsurgency, we must remember that these guidelines are only as good as the means by which they are adapted to the fight at hand.

These words are especially poignant to me as a designer of games on insurgencies in many different countries at different historical periods.

I have published some 11 games using three general “system” mechanical approaches: the “4 box” system (Shining Path, Algeria, Andartes, EOKA, Kandahar), the GMT COIN system (A Distant Plain, Colonial Twilight) and the District Commander system (Maracas, Binh Dinh, Kandahar, ZNO). Each game was adapted to reflect the particular historical, geographical, political and military conditions of the conflict, within the general “grammar” of the game system.

But I have a further set of eight historical insurgency-related games that use mechanics unique or near-unique to their design: Binh Dinh ’69, Chile ’73, Green Beret, Nights of Fire, Operation Whirlwind, Somalia, Tupamaro, Ukrainian Crisis. 

I haven’t yet designed anything on the Iraqi insurgency, but when that day comes, I will do my best to assure it will not be a cookie-cutter effort.

District Commander ZNO: now available!

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https://hollandspiele.com/products/district-commander-zno

Now available – the fourth and so far final module in the District Commander series.

ZNO stands for Zone Nord Oranais, the operational area depicted in this game… the hill country generally to the south and east of Mostaganem in Algeria, around Mascara – Pelikao – Relizane.

external image

The game is set roughly during 1958-59, when generally either the 4th Motorized Infantry Division or the 5th Armoured Division was responsible for most of the area (it’s difficult and rather pointless to pin down as areas of responsibility were constantly in flux depending on mission and deployments of other units).

French combat units that appear in the game include:

Cavalry
1st Cuirassiers (French Army unit, cavalry reorganized for infantry role)
2nd Spahis (mixed French-Algerian cavalry unit)
30th Dragoons

Infantry
6th Chasseurs d’Afrique (mixed French-Algerian light infantry unit)
19th and 20th Chasseurs (French Army light infantry units)
21st Regiment Tirailleurs Algeriens (mixed French-Algerian unit)
battalions of the 93rd and 158 French line infantry regiments

Other
4th, 31st Bataillon Parachutiste Coloniale (elite French parachute unit)
8th Regiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine (elite French parachute unit)

Fun things you get to play with in the game include:
– FLN supply convoys;
Commandos de chasse (special small units of mixed French-Algerian troops (including turned guerrillas) who specialized in reconnaissance and tracking);
Sections Administrative Specialisees or SAS (French officers given special training and sent to assume control of all aspects of life in selected rural villages to organize indigenous resistance to the insurgents);
– population resettlement (when the SAS didn’t do a good job);
– double agents and psychological war assets;
– terror cells;
and more!

Note: Now that this one is properly published, I will be taking the PnP files for this module (with my substandard artwork) down and substituting PnP files for the Maracas module, so a free game of the District Commander system will still be available.

Free Games!

District Commander: FAQ, errata, clarifications and comments document

DC_FAQetc_12_apr_21

Here and now: a FAQ-so-far, together with collected errata, clarifications and some comments on play on the DC system and the three modules released. Also posted to Boardgamegeek under the DC: Maracas module page and on the Free Games page.

Thanks to James Buckley for his help and editing! James has also written a longer, joined-up example of play for the Maracas module on Boardgamegeek.com for people who want a bit more demonstration on how to put missions together.

District Commander Maracas: VASSAL module available!

dc_maracas medium

Trevor Lieberman has braved the demons of Vassal and created a module for District Commander Maracas!

Download it here: http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:District_Commander_Maracas:_Virtualia_2019

It needs a few people to work it and check it over for errors or bugs, so this may not be the final version, but there is the page to find it when it is.

Thanks so much for your work Trevor!

(Honestly, I have tried off and on for the past few weeks to finally get it together to understand Vassal and Tabletop Simulator, and both have thoroughly defeated me except for the simplest things. I did make a functioning version of Guerrilla Checkers on TTS, but have no idea how to distribute it now.)

[ETA: Trevor also made an Excel spreadsheet to automate scoring for Population and LOC Control victory points for the module: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/213982/automated-scoring ]

District Commander Kandahar: quick look by Maurice Fitzpatrick

Moe’s Game Table has a look at District Commander: Kandahar, the Afghanistan 2009/10 module of the series. He likes what he sees.

Thank you Moe!

District Commander Kandahar: unboxing by Armchair Dragoons, shrink-rip by Big Board Gaming

Armchair Dragoons does a decloaking of District Commander: Kandahar. You can get a pretty good look at the components.   

They were sent a copy to review, and review it they shall… later.  

Also, Kevin Sharp rips the shrink on his review copy of the game!

Unboxing videos by The Players Aid: District Commander Maracas and Brief Border Wars

Today, a Brian Train double feature as Alexander of The Players Aid does unboxing videos for District Commander Maracas and Brief Border Wars.

Interview with TPA about the game: https://theplayersaid.com/2019/07/22/interview-with-brian-train-designer-of-district-commander-maracas-from-hollandspiele/

Interview with TPA about the game: https://theplayersaid.com/2020/02/17/interview-with-brian-train-designer-of-brief-border-wars-from-compass-games/

District Commander: on sale, sale, sale!

Starting today, District Commander Kandahar is on sale from Hollandspiele!

In fact, all three District Commander games are currently on sale.

Buy two and use the discount code “DCdiscount” at checkout will save an additional $5.

Buy all three modules and use “traingames” to save an extra $10.

I’ve made it, I’ve become a discount code!

I really like Tom’s ad copy for this one:

District Commander: Kandahar simulates the problems facing insurgent and counterinsurgent commanders in southern Afghanistan circa 2009-2010. This is not Brian Train’s first or even second game about this conflict, and you might be wondering, what does this one have to offer? We think that the District Commander system – with its emphasis on bluff and deception, scarce resources, and shifting operational goals – is an especially good fit for capturing the pace and nature of operations in Afghanistan. 

Brian Train’s District Commander is a series of operational games on counterinsurgency situations. The players alternate activation of groups of units (stacks) to perform discrete operations (missions) through the expenditure of Task Points (TP). Some missions are Tactical Missions – straightforward military tasks such as performing patrols, ambushing or attacking enemy forces, or moving from one place to another – and these may be performed multiple times by a stack during a turn. Other missions emphasize the “non-tactical” end of the campaign, establishing friendly influence, control, and infrastructure in an area, reducing the enemy’s claim to the same, and recruiting or training troops. These missions take more time to perform and so unlike the tactical missions may be the only mission performed by the stack during the turn. 

Missions are resolved by play of secretly-held Chance Chits, each with ratings that are better or worse for certain types of operations. Chits are played simultaneously and the ratings compared, modified by units, assets, and the current board state to determine the outcome. Using the right chit at the right time – knowing when to save a good chit for later and when to use it, and trying to determine if your opponent is going all-in or holding back – will require steely judgment in an atmosphere of doubt and deception.

All this is done in pursuit of objectives handed down to you by your superiors (i.e., chosen randomly) and kept secret from your opponent – objectives that may even change over the course of the game. Within this framework, the two sides – Government and Insurgent – play very differently, with the Insurgent player, in particular, depending on bluff and deception to achieve their goals. A large number of variant rules allow you to turn the game into a sandbox for exploring counterinsurgency doctrine and practice.

Now go have fun in the sandbox….

District Commander Kandahar: preview video from Hollandspiele!

Coming next week from Hollandspiele: District Commander: Kandahar, the third in a series of four volumes using the District Commander system.

Tom gives a quick introduction to some wrinkly and attractive parts of the system, and references the procedural videos he made last year to introduce District Commander: Maracas.

I hope you’ll give this one a look!

The fourth and final (so far) volume will be District Commander: ZNO, which takes place in Algeria 1959. It will be out some time next year but meanwhile you can get it for free print-and-play here.

Free Games!

Link: DC Maracas: Two Videos

Link to the Hollandspiele store: https://hollandspiele.com/collections/all