Greek Civil War in Japanese Command magazine

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In a forthcoming issue of the Japanese -language wargaming magazine Command: a reissue and updating of my game Greek Civil War!

This edition features lovely map production, fine counters, my original rules and an updating of the 1944-45 scenario that was thrown into the DG edition. Also some additional designer’s notes and a reminiscence of my time spent in Japan from the perspective of game design.

I see someone has taken the trouble to look at Ukrainian Crisis as well.

Nice item!

If and when you get a copy of this (production is small, but copies do make their way overseas) you can use these English-language rules and charts (and you can also use them if you have the Decision Games edition too; no changes required to the map or counters, just drop these in).

GCWrules11 18 apr 22

GCWchts11 18 apr 22

This is actually my second appearance in this magazine: back in 2002 my game Battle for China was in issue #42, apparently the first time in the magazine’s run that an original game by a non-Japanese designer was featured (they had been doing a lot of well-produced reprints of classics, for example much of the GDW Series 120 games). It was quite the best physical production the game ever got: larger, well-printed maps; SPI style matte counters, and best of all it included the expansion kit to take the game beyond 1941 and into the Civil War.

Zones of Control, yong zhongwen

zoc pub chinese

Huzzah!

Though perhaps, just perhaps, a pirated translation of the anthology has been circulating among the various departments of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party for some time… heh.

Obligatory end-of-year review, 2021

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Ohhhhh….

It’s almost over.

I thought 2020 was not that great, and boy 2021 was not an improvement.

  • My dad died in May 2021 and I spent the rest of the year doing executor duties and seeing his widow back to the UK where she has family. This put a big crimp into everything else, naturally.
  • I did not get back into my office until September 2021.
  • I did get my money back from the airline for my Hawaiian trip that never happened, but no other travel more than a few miles from home. I did participate in a few online events and things but it’s just not the same.
  • The renovations that started in August 2020 are still going on, though I have been promised carpets by Christmas. Doors, lights, kitchen appliances and other amenities will follow, as will the restoration of some game-playing space.

I’m not sorry to see 2021 go, and I know 2022 will not see the complete end of COVID-19, still less the beginnings of the necessary and obvious changes we’re going to have to make in order to flourish in the future. But like many people, I will adjust and carry on as best I can. Maybe next year I will get back to Europe, or Washington DC, or even Tempe AZ. We’ll see.

Game publishing and publicity

February: Posted PDFs of the 12 issues of Strategist magazine I edited in 2000, containing several PnP games in their pages: some WarpGames by Lloyd Krassner; Battle of Seattle by me; and the first appearance of Waterloo 20 by Joe Miranda.

March: Vassal continues to elude me, but after a lot of angst I finally got it together to build a couple of simple Tabletop Simulator modules for two of my abstract games, Guerrilla Checkers and Kashmir Crisis. It wasn’t much fun, but I hope people might try them. Meanwhile, I think I am irretrievably old-school: give this man some cardboard and markers and he’s happy.

April: James Buckley published #2 of his online zine Punched, in which he ran a lot of material related to the GMT COIN system games (published and future), and a very nice review of Brief Border Wars.

June: District Commander: ZNO was released, the fourth and so far final module in the series. District Commander Maracas continues as the free print-and-play module for anyone who wants to try out the system.

November: A 4th printing of A Distant Plain was announced. We’ll see how long it takes them to pull the trigger on this one; perhaps people want to forget about this war once and for all. Also, the International Conference on Games and Learning Alliance (GALA) saw a paper presented on a digital port of Kashmir Crisis. Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, wrote the paper with his student Charlie Murray, who created a digital version of the game.

Game design work and future publication

Work and or testing continued throughout the year on the following. Other projects languished.

Brief Border Wars Quad Volume II: Handed in the files for this to Compass Games in October 2021. The four battles are all pre-1945 titles: Second Balkan War 1913; Teschen 1919; Nomonhan 1939; and Italo-Greek War 1940. No idea when it will actually come out.

China’s War 1937-41: Development screeched to a halt when I lost my gaming space to renos in summer 2020. In the fall of 2021 I developed a 1938 scenario for the game. I recently heard from the GMT developer who also got sidetracked on things, and work will begin again in early 2022. We hope to finish testing and development by the end of summer. Over 1,500 pre-orders now.

O Canada: Now it can be told – this year I got a long way into making a power-politics, non-kinetic adaptation of the COIN system (something I always thought should be done). The situation I chose is a reboot of the old SPI game Canadian Civil War (1976). Four factions (Federalists, Provincial Moderates, Provincial Autonomists, Separatists) with asymmetrical force structures, menus of operations and special activities, and objectives; an Event Deck with jokes in it comprehensible only to Canadians; a Patronage Track that reflects the degeneration of political discourse and influence of foreign agencies; and conflict played out on two levels (one at province level where you have mostly Party structures and voting blocs but still need some Groups of influencers, and one at Issues level where Groups fight for control of intangibles). Quite a way down the road with this one, solo tests are good, work can continue when I have some more space to play the physical copy and maybe engage other people in it… but I strongly doubt anyone will want to publish this for like, money, so likely when I am satisfied with it I will put it out to free pasture, or a modestly priced PnP.

Conventions

Of course, nothing happened, at least nothing physical.

January: Pete Sizer and I spoke to the VCOW (Virtual Conference of Wargamers) on counterinsurgency games. I also spoke to the Cardboard Emperors Virtual Con II on the factions, mechanics and victory conditions of China’s War 1937-41. And a special episode of the No Enemies Here podcast by Dan Pancaldi, connected with the Armchair Dragoons virtual convention; some quite freewheeling conversation in that one.

November: had a nice chat with Harold Buchanan during his SDHistCon event, I would like to make it to the physical version in San Diego one day as I quite liked what I saw of the city that one time.

Conferences and professional wargaming stuff

No physical conferences, of course.

February: I talked to a group of officers at the US Army War College on “The Uses of Simple Games.”

April: As part of Connections-Online 2021, a virtual event with global reach, Mike Markowitz and I did a joint presentation on the practical matters within DIY game design. Mike talked about graphic design and talked about methods of self-publishing. Both were add-ons and developments of the talks we gave to the Georgetown University Wargaming Society in 2020. Also connected with this event, a very pleasant chat with Maurice Fitzpatrick et al on his Whiskey Charlie podcast about the Connections conferences of the past and future, and their enduring value. Shining Path was used with students at the Institute for World Politics (an independent graduate school that trains students for careers in national security and international affairs) in a class on “Counterterrorism and the Democracies“.

Writing and ‘casting

Nothing formally published, just the usual torrent of wise-guy stuff on blogs, sites and social media.

August: several posts on the end of the war in Afghanistan, that proved to be click-worthy (don’t know if they were read).

September: a great episode of Liz Davidson’s Beyond Solitaire podcast, with Volko Ruhnke. Not surprisingly, we mostly talked about A Distant Plain and the sensitivities of designing games on contemporary conflicts.

October: an episode of the History and Games Laboratory podcast, put on by Eduard Gafton at the University of Edinburgh. We talked about the origins of some of my game designs and how I got into game design, and focus on Brief Border Wars and the issues involved in designing games on sensitive and controversial topics (A Distant Plain got a look in, of course). I later wrote a blog post for them that was an abridged version of the chapter I wrote for the EuroWargames anthology about analog game design as a form of citizen journalism. (I handed the files for that in March 2021, and am still not sure when the book will appear – next year, perhaps.)

November: A great international panel on civilian victimization in wargames, as part of a probable series on “wargame ethics” hosted by Fred Serval (France). Other panelists were Javier Romero (Spain), John Poniske (USA) and Tomislav Cipcic (Croatia). I think we really got into it (the topic, not the practice itself). Also, I posted the popular piece “Quads That Never Were“: SPI Quadrigames that were proposed but never published.

Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

Overall traffic seems to be stable and improved a bit over 2020. I seem to be cruising still at around 1,600 – 1,800 views per month, for a total of about 21,000 views. About 8,000 visitors in all. The five most curious countries were: US (by a very wide margin), UK, Canada, Australia and Japan. One guy clicked in from Bhutan.
Besides the then-current post, popular pages included the perennial favourites Free Games, BTR Games and Scenarios and Variants pages. No surprises there. The two most popular posts were my Afghan War post-mortem pieces “Endgame” and “Some more Afghan post-mortem”, likely due to my posting links to them on Facebook groups.
The most downloaded documents were four items for SPI game variants by Alan Arvold: three for Lost Battles and one for Search and Destroy, either the article itself by Alan or the counter sheets I made for them. The file of FAQ and clarifications/errata for the District Commander series was also popular.

A Distant Plain: 4th printing in the offing!

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GMT Games has recently announced a new P500 for a FOURTH printing of A Distant Plain!

This 4th printing is identical to the 3rd printing, and incorporates all known errata. 

You can get your copy at the P500 price of just $56.00 here: 

https://www.gmtgames.com/p-961-a-distant-plain-4th-printing.aspx

No telling how long it will take for enough orders to accumulate for them to pull the trigger, but I will say I am very pleased to see this. 

Updated: Quads That Never Were

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Back in 2003 I wrote a piece for Simulacrum magazine on SPI Quadrigames that were proposed but never published. Today was a rainy day and I went through my collection of MOVES magazine to comb the Feedback sections for more Quads That Never Were, to add to the piece.

I found 47 in all!

Here is a link to the updated article. I hope you find it interesting!

NEVERQDS 2021

SDHistCon: Chat with Harold Buchanan, 0900 13 November

[EDITED TO ADD: here is the video of our very pleasant chat!]

Once or twice a year Harold Buchanan holds the San Diego Historical Games Convention or “SDHistCon”. The last while it has been an online event perforce, and so is this one, coming up next weekend.

Early next Saturday morning Harold and I will spend a pleasant (it’s always pleasant) hour or so chatting about whatever comes into our heads, gamewise. If you would like to listen in, it is $10 to get a badge for the Convention but all the convention events are free!

https://tabletop.events/conventions/sdhist-con-2021

Dates and times

Thu, Nov 11 2021, 8:00am – 10:00pm
Fri, Nov 12 2021, 6:00am – 10:00pm
Sat, Nov 13 2021, 6:00am – 10:00pm
Sun, Nov 14 2021, 6:00am – 10:00pm
Time zone: America/Los_Angeles (UTC -08:00)

There are dozens of events – panels, interviews, demonstrations of games and seminars. All free (but you have to reserve a ticket). Some of the notable ones that caught my interest include:

  • 0900 Fri 12 November: Harold Buchanan interviews Phil Sabin
  • 1800 Fri 12 November: Designer chat on John Company with Cole and Drew Wehrle
  • 0900 Sat 13 November: Harold Buchanan interviews me
  • 1100 Sat 13 November: Panel introducing the finalists of the Zenobia Awards
  • 1300 Sat 13 November: Panel on “History as Tourism in Modern Strategy Games” panel with Liz Davidson of Beyond Solitaire
  • 1700 Sat 13 November: “Inside GMT” night with company principals and designers
  • plus demos of various upcoming games I’m especially interested in (Cross-Bronx Expressway, In the Shadows, Order and Opportunity, The British Way, and various Zenobia Award finalists) throughout the weekend.

Hope you will join us!

Punched #3 out now

https://www.cardboardemperors.co.uk/punched-3

James Buckley of Cardboard Emperors has just put out #3 of Punched, his free online-only magazine on wargames and wargame culture. Contents include:

  • a feature article on five compact wargames that are really good (I’ve actually played three of them – Table Battles, Cousin’s War and 13 Days – and I agree)
  • the Mini Games series from Decision Games (IMO remarkable in its variety of subjects and the sameness of its treatments of same)
  • an article on Bonsai Games products (mostly designed by Yasushi Nakaguro) written by the entertaining Charles Vasey
  • an interview with Florent Coupeau of NUTS! Publishing (he makes a side mention of We Are Coming Nineveh)
  • an interesting article by Riccardo Massini on Napoleon Bonaparte as a “political” general (of course he was), and on the games that show his talent in this arena
  • and reviews of the Campaign Commander Series, Atlantic Chase, World War Africa, Battle for Kursk: The Tigers are Burning 1943, and Prophecy of Kings (TI4)

It’s World War Africa that attracts James’ attention (and mine! though as yet, I have no horizontal surface in my house to play it on, as The Great House Renos enter their 13th month), as in his editorial he discusses the termination of Modern War magazine.

I’m becoming ever more interested in magazine wargames. They often cover the less beaten path, and by their nature tend to be less complex and of lower counter density than big box games (a good thing, in my mind). Also importantly for me given the lack of shelf space in my stuffy London flat, I can fit five magazine zip lock games in the space that one larger production takes up.

The flip side is the games typically have much less time spent on design, play-testing and production, which can result in a fair number of duds and/or mountains of errata. Worth it though, I believe, for when something like World War Africa comes along.

So farewell Modern War magazine. It wasn’t in anyway modern in terms of graphic design, layout, or accessibility (probably a factor in it’s demise), but it sure produced some good games, and will be missed.

Well, I have my own take on why Modern War didn’t last and I do not agree that magazine wargames have more than their share of duds and errata… they do when they are cranked out in quantity by the one publisher that dominates the field (no names, no pack drill) and I think that rather spoils the impression for the remainder.

Anyway, go check out issue #3, it’s great!

Aint’a gonna study “Modern War” no more…

Greek Civil War, redux

Next War in Lebanon, redux

Struggle for Kandahar: the rest of the story

Decision Games’ magazine-with-game Modern War is dead.

Yesterday on Consimworld and Facebook editor Ty Bomba confirmed the rumour that had been flying around:

Ty Bomba – Aug 10, 2021 7:45 am (#2506 Total: 2512)  BookmarkEmail to Friend
The End of Modern War Magazine

Issue No. 55 is the last and final issue of MW, for both its no-game newsstand and hobby editions.

About the “Central Front Curse” — I am sure the regular attendees in this website’s Central Front Series folder WILL be blaming my “Seven Days to the Rhine Series” for the magazine’s demise.

When I asked Dr. Cummins about that, however, he said they had chosen issue 55, and its completion of the 7DttR Series, as the final issue “in order to go out on a high note.”

The simple problem has been — since the start of MW — insufficient subscription sales, which was then compounded on the single-issue impulse-buy side by the effective demise of bookstores during the worst of the pandemic.

I didn’t care for the 7 Days to the Rhine series, and while it wasn’t Central Front, it wasn’t Warmaster Chess either… though that series of games had nothing to do with the demise of Command magazine.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I long ago reached the conclusion that most wargamers, while they may have an incredible knowledge about certain historical periods, are no more interested in contemporary events than non-wargamers. Therefore they won’t subscribe to a game magazine devoted entirely to contemporary events, and magazines live and die on subscriptions.

A look at the 55 issue run shows more than 30 titles were hypothetical subjects: about 10 of them “past hypotheticals” like Objective Havana and the 1970s-80s “Cold War Goes Hot” chestnut and 20 were future hypotheticals like the “Putin Boxes The Compass” series. Twenty-two were devoted to actual conflicts, 13 from the 20th century and 9 from the 21st. So it goes.

Well, I will just say “Ave!” and turn the page, and hope that Javier Romero will be able to find a good home for some of the very good work he has been doing.

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.

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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!

CFS: TESA Collective wants to see your game design!

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https://www.tesacollective.com/we-are-seeking-to-sign-and-publish-new-board-and-card-games-about-changing-the-world

After 10 years of publishing work by internal designers and commissioned work by social organizations, the TESA (Toolbox for Education and Social Action) Collective is calling for outside designs.

A link for a submission form and additional details are available at the link above, but here is information on what they are looking for:

Please read: What we are and are not looking for

Here’s what we’re looking for: Board and card games that address an issue – such as nature and environmentalism, social justice/social change matters, historical events, building people’s power, climate change, and other important issues. The issue your game addresses can be big (like stopping climate change) or small (like growing a community garden) or anywhere in between. In summary, we are looking for games with a strong theme and a message about making the world a better place, in either a big or small way.

  • The game you pitch to us can be literal, but it does not have to be literal. Allegories or addressing important topics in fantastical settings is just fine. For instance, our games Space Cats Fight Fascism and STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion both do this. Either approach – literal or fantastical representation of the theme – is fine, as long as the game is about something.

  • We are primarily looking for games that would be exciting to be played during game nights with friends and family.

  • Your game doesn’t have to be finished for you to pitch it to us, but you should have a playable demo that you feel good about – even if it will still needs some fine tuning. Part of our responsibility is to help get the game to the finish line. We would prefer if you have at least some minimal graphic design and placeholder art (do not commission final artwork, that would be our responsibility) to help us when we play the game. But if we sign the game, it is our responsibility to make the game beautiful and ready for print.

  • We’re not looking for pitches that are just an idea you have for a game. (If you want us to develop a game for your organization, however, that’s a service we offer.) We are looking for games that have been created and playtested already (even if they are not 100% done).

  • We prefer games that are accessible. They don’t have to be super easy to learn, but we’re not looking for incredibly complex games that take an hour to learn and 4 – 5 hours to play.

  • We are looking to work with people who are open to collaboration. We may have some gameplay improvement suggestions as well as other ideas for marketability purposes. While we will not steamroll your vision, we want to make sure folks we work with are open to suggestions.

  • Though not a requirement, we have a preference for games that have a hopeful message.

  • We are open to both cooperative and competitive games.