Operation “Breaking Terrorism”: the Third Battle for Fallujah


Joe and me, halted in “Albakoikee” in 2012.

On Monday, 23 May, after a three-month siege of Fallujah, the Iraqi Government launched Operation “Breaking Terrorism”, an effort by the Iraqi Army’s 1st Division and associated Shiite militia forces to take the city back from Islamic State forces.

I’ve created a variant scenario for Joe Miranda’s game Fallujah 2004: City Fighting in Iraq, appearing in Modern War magazine #23, to allow people to try and play this battle out as it unfolds in real time over the next few days or weeks. It may well be ridiculous, but it is yet another attempt of mine to commit “game journalism”, as I tried with Ukrainian Crisis.

The Iraqi Government forces are casualty-averse and want to avoid causing civilian casualties and collateral damage. The allied Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces are rather more casual about the latter, as Fallujah is largely a Sunni city. And ISIL forces, while they want to make a stand in this symbolic city, have somewhat brittle morale after being under siege for three months.

Try it out, if you happen to have the game! (Microsoft Word file, .docx)

OPERATION Breaking Terrorism

Editing notes: I made a small addition, a change to 9.2 OPFOR Morale Check, after my first post of the file. A few people might have been swift on the download and missed it, so here it is:

9.2 Morale Checks.

OPFOR Morale begins the scenario at Fanatic. Any time a Morale Check is required you roll 2 dice, not 3. In a Fail result, OPFOR morale will go down by 1 level; in a Pass result, OPFOR morale will stay the same. OPFOR morale will not go up during the scenario (the city has been under siege for three months and while ISIL wants to make a stand, they will at some point start to slip their forces away under cover of confusion and the refugees fleeing the city).

Also, players who think the scenario is too hard could give the Government forces one or more additional engineer battalions, or even a couple of tank companies on their reverse (1-step, 2-(0)-3) side.

Meanwhile, keep checking the newspapers for real-world updates on this scenario!

EDIT, Wednesday 1 June:

After a week of announcements and deploying, on Monday 30 June Iraqi government forces shuffled forward into the city’s outskirts from the south, meeting what was described as “determined resistance” from ISIL elements. The furthest advance was to the edge of the southern suburb of Al-Shuhada (not sure which phase line this would be, looking at the image ghosted on the map and comparing it to Google Maps it’s looks like barely Phase Line 12, Routes of Advance 3 and 4). Today, after two days of fighting, Prime Minister al-Abadi announced that Iraqi government forces have suspended the offensive for fear of civilian casualties, saying that ISIL is using them as human shields. But Iraqi forces are still lobbing shells and rockets into the city, hopefully not completely at random.]


EDIT, Monday 6 June:

Here is a good update on the situation from the Institute for the Study of War website, including a nice map:


The site has been doing weekly updates so there should be a new brief and map soon.

Not surprisingly, there are numerous reports of the Shia militias (the Popular Mobilization Forces are just one component of these) behaving provocatively as they edge in on the city. Though there are two “humanitarian corridors” set up to allow civilians to leave the city, they have not been heavily used as ISIS has been preventing civilians from leaving, or charging them a hefty exit fee. Today’s news features stories of ISIS fighters shooting civilians as they try to cross the Euphrates and get out of the city.

EDIT, Friday 16 June:

It seems that the government forces have been making progress, and have raised the government flag over the city’s municipal government building (“Government Centre” on the map):


Story also details continued fighting for the main hospital, between “Al Samari” and “East Manhattan” on the map.

ISW backgrounder for 9 June, a week ago, shows the advance getting under way from the south, along two axes.


Struggle for Kandahar: the rest of the story


“Struggle for Kandahar”, an article I wrote in early 2015 giving a history of the most recent fighting in Kandahar Province, was published in #21 of Modern War magazine, appearing at the end of 2015. An 800 word sidebar I had written on the Afghan National Security Forces was omitted. I reproduce it here, since it’s unlikely to see the light of day otherwise.

Also, here in PDF format is a small situation map I made that also did not run, related to Operation HAMKARI conducted in 2010.

Oct 2010 sit



Afghan National Army

As of 2014 there were about 170,000 members of the Afghan National Army (ANA). The actual number fluctuates considerably during each year as recruits arrive and deserters leave. It is organized into six regional commands or Corps, each one responsible for a section of the country, with a seventh divisional command responsible for the security of Kabul.

The 205th Corps is responsible for Kandahar, Zabul, Daykundi and Uruzgan provinces. It was established in the summer of 2004. The Corps consists of four brigades, a commando battalion, and transport aviation and logistical support elements. Each brigade consists of three infantry kandaks (battalions) of about 600 men each plus a fourth that serves as a training and replacement unit, a combat support battalion with heavy weapons (mortars or artillery), and a combat services support battalion.

Corps HQ, 205 commando battalion, and support depot (Kandahar Airfield)
1 Brigade (Kandahar Airfield)
2 Brigade (Qalat, Zabul province)
3 Brigade (Zhari district)
4 Brigade (Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province)

Afghan National Police (ANP)

As of 2014 there were about 150,000 members of the various agencies of the Afghan National Police. Problems of desertion and recruitment are even more acute in the ANP than in the Army, and are compounded by severe rates of corruption, drug abuse, poor discipline and theft.

The Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP)

The AUP is the main law enforcement agency. It is responsible for regular policing at the provincial and district levels. It is organized into six regional commands, with each regional command further divided into provincial and district commands. Ideally a district contains anywhere from 50 to 200 policemen depending on its size and civilian population, but many districts have little or no effective police presence.

Afghan Border Police (ABP)

The ABP is responsible for providing border security, surveillance, and control, including the prevention of smuggling, drug trafficking, and cross-border movement of insurgents. It is divided into Border Zones that correspond with the Army and Police Regional Commands, then further into Border Companies of about 150 men each.

Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP)

This force was created in 2006 as a higher-trained force designed to keep order in the cities, and to act as a better equipped quick reaction force to support the other police forces. It is organized along distinctly military lines into brigades and battalions (urban type, which are like SWAT units, and rural type which are more mobile and trained for patrolling). Discipline, pay and morale are better than in most ANP units.

Arbakai: Afghan Local Police (ALP), Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP), Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), Afghan Public Protection Police (AP3), Afghan Social Outreach Program (ASOP), Community Defense Forces (CDF), Community Defense Initiative (CDI)/ Local Defense Initiative (LDI), Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure (ISCI)

Localized armed groups, from tribal armies to private security companies, criminal gangs, and proto-insurgents, have long been the scourge of Afghanistan’s civilian population. The general term for these groups in Pashto is “arbakai”, or militia.

As the Coalition lengthened its stay in Afghanistan after the 2001-02 intervention, and the security situation worsened, it became policy to create more of these forces. Paragraph 3-125 of Section 3 of Chapter 3 of the United States Field Manual FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency says: “If adequate HN [Host Nation] security forces are not available, units should consider hiring and training local paramilitary forces to secure the cleared village or neighborhood. Not only do the members of the paramilitary have a stake in their area’s security, they also receive a wage. Providing jobs stimulates the economy. Having a job improves morale and allows locals to become a potential member of the local governmental process.”

All of the above named organizations were created, maintained, and eventually shut down by either the American command or ISAF, except for the Afghan Local Police which is the latest and so far the largest of these forces. It was created in the summer of 2010 and had a 2014 strength of (very approximately) 30,000. It exhibits the same faults as each of the other organizations that preceded it: its membership is not properly vetted; it is poorly trained, paid and supported; and its members have been found guilty of numerous and systematic human rights abuses and criminal activities (that is, against people who do not have weapons). There is little to distinguish these militiamen from the warlord groups and criminal gangs except a badge and a small regular salary; in fact, many ALP have themselves been members of such groups in the past. The ALP also presents a soft target to the Taliban insurgents, who regularly infiltrate ALP units to steal weapons and equipment. The ALP was also involved in several “green on blue” incidents in 2012, when ALP members turned their weapons on their trainers or fellow members.


Review of Next War in Lebanon (magazine version)

An interesting review of Next War in Lebanon  by Mitch Freedman, on the blog “The Boardgaming Way”.


The review is of the version that appeared in Modern War magazine, and Mitch fills in a bit about his reactions to the game, and my reactions to that… version of the game.

I hope he’ll give the original design, Third Lebanon War, a chance.




What is the sound of one hand waving?

Next War in Lebanon, redux rejoinder


I read your post about your dissatisfaction with the development of The Next War in Lebanon.

I am rather surprised about some of your complaints after our talk at the CSW Expo when I showed you the game.

I am more surprised about your comments about those issues that you already knew about (if you simply forgot – like the discussion I had with you during development about the need for the playing card game pieces, since your game requires a deck of cards – it sounded like feigned surprise when I read your complaints).

Furthermore, some of the complaints seem peculiar to me; e.g., the change from the squiggly map territories to the large-hex territories didn’t change the layout of the terrain as you had designed it, and furthermore you saw all of that when I showed the game to you at CSW Expo a few months ago. So, to hear of the complaint now strikes me odd.

All in all, I can only suggest that we agree to disagree, and I’m sorry that your game as originally submitted was not exactly suitable for the magazine-game customer that wants games with less complexity, by and large (as I explained to you when I showed you the printed version of the game at the convention).

I wish you had voiced these complaints to me at CSW Expo when I showed you the game, but that ship has sailed. Moreover, as I already told you, we have no objections to you putting up your own [original] set of rules to present the game per your true vision, but Doc would appreciate it if you’d not denounce the game publicly. Of course, going forward from here, this will no longer be an issue, but regarding your designs that have been published already, that’s not exactly cricket, as the saying goes.

Assuming my post isn’t deleted, thank you for listening, and I wish you all the good luck as a designer in the future.


That is Eric Harvey, chief developer for Decision Games, writing in a comment on the post preceding this one, received today.

Far from deleting Eric’s comment, I am going to give it a post of its own – it, and my response, should not be buried in a commment thread.

Fact: Eric did show me the counter sheet and map at the Consimworld Expo in Tempe AZ in late May 2014, for a few minutes. I did not have a copy of my original game with me for comparison. But Eric had told me about the card chits and the large-hex map before, so yes, I did expect to see that and no great surprises there. If what I’ve written gives the impression that I am feigning surprise about these points, I will say here that that was not the intention – what I wrote was to highlight the differences between the original version I first submitted, the revised edition I made for DG, and what was actually published. Meanwhile, the bits about the “1” and the Ace, and the “Disrupted” boxes not being explained in the rules, are just errata – slips happen. And the map is quite serviceable, as I noted in the preceding post.

But the most important part, and the basis of my concerns, was the changes in the rules. Eric did not have the most critical component, the rules, to show me at the Expo.  And frankly, that late in the game, the rules were the only component that could have been changed (DG gang-prints its maps and counters four to six issues in advance of publication, but the rules are last to be printed –  which is why, when you get your subscriber copy, some map or counter errata or corrections are already in the rules for you to make the changes).

I was not aware of the critical changes that had been made in the rules in the time since I had submitted the revised, simpler version of the game. Eric and I have discussed many times, in person and online, what DG feels to be an appropriate level of complexity for the games in its magazines. I thought that the changes I made to my original submission, which I had worked out with Eric, had addressed this issue. I did the revision work, then heard nothing for two years.

As for “denouncing the game publicly”: there is a line between pointing out what has been done to my original design and denouncing the final product, and if I have crossed that line, I will make amends. In my preceding post, I have deleted the word “mess”, the word “apologize” is now “explain”, and “restore” is now “change”. I was angry when I wrote the post, and I should have moderated my language.

Also, I have been at pains to point out, both here and  in threads at Boardgamegeek, that the game-as-finally-published is playable. I have never said otherwise. And in the end the game-as-published is the version that most people will play, now and in future, since very few people seem to have noticed (or are even in a position to know) that it is neither the game that I originally submitted, nor the one I revised.

It is a workable game, but it’s one that does not make the points and arguments I designed it to make, and my name is still on it. Also, this is the second time this has happened to me in five months. Pointing these things out is not a denunciation of the product; at most it’s a criticism of the process, which I felt (and feel) misrepresents my work and ideas.

Eric closes by saying that “going forward from here, this will no longer be an issue”, and in fairness I will say that with respect to another game I have in the hopper with DG, we have had extensive and very satisfactory back-and-forth over the game’s development.

Edited to Add: I would also like to add, in fairness, that they made minimal editing and retouches to the main article in the magazine, written by me, on the topic of the next hypothetical war in Lebanon. I was rather pleased with how that one came out, even though the game-as-published now contradicts the article-as-written.

Also Edited to Add: the game mentioned in the final paragraph was Korean War Battles, published in issue #296 of Strategy and Tactics. At the time I wrote the original post, Eric and I were having a satisfactory discussion over the game, but that stopped and somewhere in between that time and publication, the game got extensively changed (Eric told me later another person had stepped in to develop it, so I don’t know who was responsible for what changes in the end). Not pleased. Details at https://brtrain.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/st-296-korean-war-battles-is-here/


Next War in Lebanon, redux

Well, it happened AGAIN (refer to Greek Civil War, redux).

Constant Readers will recall that I sent “Third Lebanon War”, my original game design on a near-future Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon to defeat Hezbollah, in to Decision Games at the end of 2011. DG asked me several months later, in early 2012, to redesign the combat system, which also required some changes to other systems in the game. So I did, and that was the last I heard of it.

Rules: AGAIN, they made a number of major rules changes between 2012 and now, without my knowledge. Besides discarding the new combat system I had to work out for them in the original revision, there are a number of fundamental changes made, that make nonsense of my original points and emphases in designing the game, especially the victory conditions. There are also substantial errata and contradictions in the game-as-published, where they did an incomplete/inconsistent job in making these new changes.

Counters: besides going from a total of 228 to 176 counters, they have changed the unit ratings on some but not all Israeli units, and added some units. Counter layout is completely different. Insurgent unit counter mix completely different (cut it from 43 to 26 units, and changed all the ratings). And there are 18 new counters representing a deck of playing cards: 4 suits, 1-10, Jack, Queen, King, and an Ace for good measure, though it could also be another “1” – they don’t specify).

Map: my original map of 23 irregular areas is now 23 giant hexagons, with most (but not all) of the adjacencies preserved. Each hex now has a “Disrupted” square in it, which I guess is like a time-out box – it’s not made clear in the rules.

I do not agree with these changes, and my name is still attached to this.

Part of the publishing agreement a designer signs with Decision Games reads: “Decision is responsible for the development, graphics and publication of the Game. Decision is free to edit, develop, and make other changes it deems necessary for publication of the Game. Decision has final approval for all materials utilized in publishing the Game. Designer incurs no obligation for any of these, other than those specified above. Decision agrees to credit Designer in the published game rules.”

So, AGAIN, they have done their part in the above. The first time this happened, I felt uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with the publisher, and held my tongue for a bit. But I am also uncomfortable standing behind this game in its published form with my name on it; the final sentence in the above quote now has a new complexion for me.

Now, at this point I have two options. I think I will exercise both of them.


I thought that they might have left the counters and map alone, as happened with Greek Civil War, so you could just drop in the replacement rules. That’s not going to work this time. So, as I did before with Greek Civil War, I am making the REVISED rules and charts I submitted in early 2012 available here for download, so that players can play the REVISED game in the manner I originally revised it. You will also need to print out the set of counters (2 sheets, front and back), mount them and cut them out, and play with the rules etc. provided here. The map is still useful if you ignore the Disrupted penalty box.


NextLebwar charts v2

NextLebwarCRT v2

NextLeb OOB mats v2

NextLebwar rules v2 19 Mar 12

Edited to Add: The inestimable Ken from Japan has made a very nice and professional-looking Japanese-language translation of the v2 rules to Next War in Lebanon (the original revised version, with step reduction and 1d6 CRT). And here they are! Arigato gozaimasu Ken, o-tsukaresama deshita!

 NextLebwar rules v2 JPN


I plan to publish and sell in DTP format the “original original” version of the game, as I designed it in 2011 and first submitted to Decision Games, under the BTR Games mark and title “Third Lebanon War”. It will take a little time to get some snazzy cover art and a colourful but smaller map done, so that will come later in the year.

But in the meantime, I am making the files for this very first version available here, FREE. This is what I wanted to have run in the magazine; I’ve made a few edits relating to differences in the game’s physical components. You can still use the map from the magazine (ignore the Disrupted boxes), or use a smaller one I have made.

3Leb counters2

3Lebwar Cascading Effects Event Chart

3Lebwar rules 3 Nov 11

3Leb OOB mats

3Lebwar charts

 3Leb war map2

I realize that few of the total number of people who receive or buy copies of this game will read this; I wish I could explain to them but this is none of my doing. All I can do is offer them two free print-and-play game kits to change the game they paid for to something like what I intended.

Greek Civil War, redux

So, my game on the 1947-49 Greek Civil War is out, in issue #11 of Modern War magazine.

Constant Readers will recall that I sent my original game design, using a development of the game system I developed for Shining Path and Algeria, in to Decision Games at the end of 2011. DG asked me to redesign the game using a game system developed by Joe Miranda for his Decision Iraq game that was to appear in issue #6. So I did, at the beginning of 2012, and sent that in.

I had read some rules questions on the Consimworld and Boardgamegeek sites from subscribers who had received their copies that made me wonder. Then I got a copy of the e-rules and yes, DG had made a number of major rules changes between 2012 and now, without my knowledge. Finally I got my own subscriber copy. I do not agree with these changes.

Part of the publishing agreement a designer signs with Decision Games reads: “Decision is responsible for the development, graphics and publication of the Game. Decision is free to edit, develop, and make other changes it deems necessary for publication of the Game. Decision has final approval for all materials utilized in publishing the Game. Designer incurs no obligation for any of these, other than those specified above. Decision agrees to credit Designer in the published game rules.”

So, they have done their part in all of the above. I want to be fair: with other designs I have sent to them, DG has been more or less good with keeping me in the loop. And presumably they had their reasons for making the changes they did.

While I feel uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with the publisher, I am also uncomfortable standing behind this game in its published form with my name on it.

Therefore, I am making the rules and charts I originally submitted available here for download, so that players can play the game in the manner I originally intended.



As for the very first version of Greek Civil War, which I am going to retitle Andartes, I intend to self-publish this in DTP format later in the year.