Chile ’73: review at Paxsims

c73 tbp cover

Over at the redoubtable Paxsims blog, Rex Brynen and students try Chile ’73 and find they like it!

I’m not sure I would ever use it to teach about Latin American history. It is, however, a terrific design with very different pre- and post-phase phases, and it does get at the uncertainties and strategic considerations characteristics of successful and unsuccessful military takeovers.

“As you know, Bob,” Chile 73 is a historically-themed version of my multi-player, hidden-agenda and -information game Palace Coup, which is itself an extensive re-do of Power Play, one of the very first games I designed… back in 1991. But the basic concept of very different pre-coup and coup phases was there from the beginning. And it joins the very small group of games that deal with the coup d’etat:

Rex is certainly right, I would not ever use this to teach about Latin American history either. Almost all coups are very unbalanced affairs, by design, and succeed or fail in a matter of hours.

In Chile 73 game terms the actual coup of 9/11/73 in Santiago would see about a dozen Army units including at least one Tactical air unit,  plus one or two Paramilitary units, sitting in different objective areas while Allende and the GAP (his personal bodyguard) are in the Palace. Whoosh, one big attack backed up by the Tac air and the defenders are eliminated.  This  doesn’t make much of a game, which is why we try to make something interesting of the pre-coup phase.


4Box system: series video review

On Youtube, Randy Strader has posted a 22-minute video on the games of mine he owns that use the 4Box system, beginning with Andartes.

This is a good explanation of the system and variations thereof: he runs through all six or so games that use the 4 box system (Tupamaro (as prototype), Shining Path, Algeria, Andartes, Kandahar, EOKA) and other area-control games of mine he also owns (Green Beret, Binh Dinh 69 and Operation Whirlwind).

Seven of these nine have been published in folio format by One Small Step, and their production gets a good look-in. He’s also kind to the much more modest graphic and production standards of my own BTR Games products.

He also acknowledges the influence of the 4Box system on the development of Volko Ruhnke’s COIN system, and my two games using that exact system (A Distant Plain and Colonial Twilight)

Thanks Randy! I appreciate your work.

Binh Dinh: unbagging video by Players Aid

Over at the Players Aid blog, the indefatigable Grant Kleinheinz unbags and explores the contents of Binh Dinh ’69 from OSS Games.

Thanks Grant!

Kandahar: unboxing video from The Players Aid



Grant Kleinheinz does an unboxing (technically unbagging) video of Kandahar from One Small Step Games.

Thank Grant! I hope you will enjoy the game.

2:02 Green Beret and a couple of other titles are “out of stock” right now because the publisher ran out of folio covers… so as soon as he has some more printed, these will be back in stock! Real Soon Now.

3:45 counters and map by Ania Ziolokowska! Very nice.

4:15 playable solitaire, no AI, though more fun with two certainly.

4:50 there is one enormous long (2 pages) example of play at the end of the booklet to show how it all works together.

8:06 That’s right!

9:20 Right again!

13:45: eight games of mine? You have a few to go before you can call yourself a true completist! B~)

Binh Dinh ’69: review of related book, Losing Binh Dinh


Kevin Boylan has written several books and articles on the general topic of the Central Highlands throughout the Vietnam War. I wish that I had had his work available to me when I was designing Green Beret and Binh Dinh ’69. Here is a review of a recent book by Boylan on the situation in Binh Dinh. (review originally appeared on the site H-War)

Kevin M. Boylan. Losing Binh Dinh: The Failure of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1969-1971. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016. 365 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7006-2352-5.

Reviewed by Heather P. Venable (Air Command and Staff College)
Published on H-War (March, 2018)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air War College)

Printable Version:

Kevin M. Boylan’s Losing Binh Dinh: The Failure of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1969-1971 seeks to test the revisionist claim that the United States was winning the Vietnam War through its pacification efforts after the Tet Offensive but lost anyway because policymakers did not stay the course. Boylan does this by focusing on a particular province to explore the interrelationships between pacification and Vietnamization, arguing that they worked at cross purposes, ultimately failing both to prepare South Vietnamese troops to fight independently and to eliminate the VietCong insurgency. Vietnamization, in particular, could not succeed because of poor South Vietnamese leadership, which also challenges the revisionist claim that indigenous leadership improved significantly after Tet.

Kevin Boylan draws on his dual background as a defense analyst concerned with Iraq, among other issues, and as a graduate with a PhD in military history from Temple University, where he studied under Russell Weigley. The author recently left his position as a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to support his wife’s academic career.[1]Overall, Boylan challenges revisionist approaches, claiming they rely excessively on top-down assessments made by high-ranking policymakers and overly sweeping views of South Vietnam. By contrast, Boylan takes a bottom-up view focused on the specific province of Binh Dinh in order to better understand the localized and multifaceted nature of insurgencies. While certainly not the first to take this approach, he has chosen a province that represents a geographical aberration in South Vietnam, which made it especially challenging to pacify. In particular, it had poor soil that made it difficult to sustain its overpopulated numbers. Communist ideology thus found a receptive population, becoming entrenched as early as World War II, when the Viet Minh filled a power vacuum enabled by French defeat and gained a reputation as nationalists for battling the Japanese. In short, the province could be considered the Appalachia of South Vietnam.

Ironically, early pacification efforts made significant headway, offering hope that they might be successful. From April 1969 to December 1970, the 173rd Airborne worked in Binh Dinh to “secure individual hamlets” while providing training to the Territorial Forces that ultimately would replace it (p. 8). In this way, the approach certainly represented a more population-centric method of counterinsurgency than the United States previously had attempted in Vietnam, although it would be dangerous to draw many comparisons to recent US COIN efforts in Iraq and elsewhere because this program did not attempt to win “hearts and minds”. Rather, it represented a “quick fix” designed to regain “military control of enemy-dominated communities” (p. 48). This approach rested on policymakers’ assumptions that villagers were “apolitical” (p. 287). By contrast, the VietCong had a more targeted policy of maintaining their “psychological grip” on those villagers most likely to be active in leading their communities (p. 289), which provided them with an important advantage.

If Communist morale and activity did suffer greatly in 1969, however, those gains resulted from the efforts of US rather than South Vietnamese troops. Moreover, all of the US military effectiveness in the world could not counterbalance the local government’s political shortcomings. Simultaneously, the Phoenix program failed to destroy the Vietcong infrastructure even as the Communists increasingly responded to pacification’s successes by engaging in acts of terrorism against local government officials. By 1970, policymakers problematically sought to both enlarge and consolidate pacification, effectively working at cross purposes. The exodus of US troops from the country only made this even more unrealistic.

Meanwhile, the United States hoped optimistically that more training of the Territorial Forces might turn the tide. But Boylan compellingly argues that all of the training in the world could not solve the real reason Vietnamization failed—an almost unsolvable problem with South Vietnamese leadership. He depicts Vietnamese officers who eschewed the support of their advisers, just seeking access to “stuff”—particularly the logistical and firepower support the US provided. Most of their “casualties” resulted from desertions rather than battle. Advisers bemoaned that belaboring Vietnamization just made these patterns worse, because the South Vietnamese only became more dependent on the United States. In short, the South Vietnamese simply had not “commit[ed]” themselves to winning (p. 83). In large part, though, Boylan concludes that this can be explained by the fact that the “South Vietnamese themselves were never fooled” about the depth of US commitment (p. 295). This conclusion, however, rests on the kind of sweeping generalization about South Vietnamese morale that he critiques the revisionists for making, which ultimately challenges his provincial focus. A clearer overarching roadmap to guide the reader either in the introduction or within the individual chapters themselves also might have helped to alleviate some of these problems, as one frequently arrives at the end of a chapter with only the unfolding of the narrative to guide the reader as to the author’s overarching purpose.

It is almost impossible for the reader to avoid drawing tragic comparisons between today’s current conflicts and debates about how and if victory is even possible. Ironically, the United States did make substantial short-term progress in pacifying Binh Dinh, but it failed utterly at Vietnamizing the war, which made victory unattainable. Pursuing both at the same time was impossible. As a high-ranking US official wrote in 1970, “We have gone about as far as we can go in turning this country into an armed camp” (p. 289). This work could have done more to shed light on perspectives from the Vietnamese “camp,” but it does provide an excellent exploration of how Vietnamization and pacification coexisted uneasily in a challenging province in South Vietnam.


[1]. LinkedIn profile,, accessed January 22, 2018.

Citation: Heather P. Venable. Review of Boylan, Kevin M., Losing Binh Dinh: The Failure of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1969-1971. H-War, H-Net Reviews. March, 2018.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Chile ’73: first review!

c73 banner

Over at SP’s Projects Blog, “Pete” (I don’t know his name but he comments here frequently) writes about his purchase and play-through of a PnP copy of Chile ’73 with his friend Paul.

He enjoyed himself quite a bit!

Thanks Pete!

By the way, the game now has a entry so you can see some pictures and see what other Geeklists and things it is involved in.

One thing I have posted over there already, and make available here now, is a one-page expanded sequence of play that summarizes the rules. Help yourself:

CL73 expanded sequence 8mar

Colonial Twilight: review, yong zhongwen


Across the ocean, Mike Yuan of Taipei writes his impression of Colonial Twilight:

Unfortunately, I do not speak any Chinese and the machine translation is not very good…

Back to the front, compared to the four people may continue to soy sauce this situation, a little look you will find that in the CT, continuous action often occurs, so players will not only have a flexible schedule, but also make a good To be full, the ability to effect very strong.  At the same time the goal of action is also simplified; So I line up the skateboard machine to not finished thinking immediately turn to me, how do I use this opportunity?

But I think I get the gist of it – he was not entirely happy nor unhappy with the game.

  • He found the two-player mechanics interesting, and that they mitigated some of his frustrations with the 4-player mechanics and stabbery in the other COIN system games published so far.
  • Some of the Event Cards are quite strong (e.g. Napalm) while others are uninteresting or indeterminate in effect (he cites the “many” +/-1d6 cards in the deck – there are 6 that effect either side equally, of 60). Of this he says, “This is indeed Brian Train’s style, enhance the player’s sense of dilemma, sense of historical experience; in Chinese is called: ‘unlucky in rotten peach’ (「在爛桃中挑顆不爛的」)”. I liked that.
  • His impression is that the game is unbalanced against the Government; I think he played the Short scenario, twice, for this review so that is perhaps understandable.

Perhaps next time I should soy sauce my skateboard machine. Internet translation has a long way to go!