So what was that all about?

i tawt i taw a coup

image: Paul Mavrides.

Some truly remarkable images and events this week in Washing Tundy Sea. I can’t pick a favourite. So I use this cute image by Paul Mavrides.

Was it a coup? Not really, in my view, or at least not the riot itself. Edward Luttwak’s remarkable 1968 book Coup d’etat: A Practical Handbook defines ” [a] coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.” He also gives some useful distinctions:

It’s interesting to note that the words being tossed around are foreign loan words: coup d’etat, putsch, pronunciamento. Almost as if English didn’t want to be associated with such ruffianlike behaviour.

But it’s not just local language, it’s the concept. And one concept/term hasn’t been used much is “autogolpe” or self-coup. Basically it is a form of coup d’etat, in that it uses some of the machinery and organs of the State to seize power, but the objective is not regime change – it is to keep the regime (and head of state) in power, when it is supposed to leave. This is something that is not unique to South America, but the continent furnishes some good examples: Alberto Fujimori in Peru in 1992, and recent events in Bolivia. I would say that what we’ve seen is a clumsily attempted autogolpe through the legislature, with a noisy messy mob attack on top of it as a threat and distraction.

There was also a swell of online gamer interest in Civil Power, which is now in production by Blue Panther LLC, as one of the very few tactical games about riots… I would guess it’s the only one in print, even including miniatures rules sets. So yes, one could make up a Capitol Hill scenario fairly quickly – I’m not going to bother, I have other things to do right now – it’s not hard:

As I’ve said many times, this is deliberately a sandbox game. The range of scenarios with the game is illustrative and there are plenty of optional rules. People can experiment with this one as they please, and add what assumptions and conditions they like.

Really, this would be a combination of two scenarios that are in the game already: I-4 “Terre Blanche, Pretoria 1991” (rioting neo-Nazis trying to get into a building (how about that), just be sure to mark a limited number of entry points) and I-8 “Demonstration, American city 202x”.

And for the run-up to Inauguration Day, if there is sustained crowd and demo activity (and no shooting or bombing, despite what some blowhards have posted), Battle of Seattle (Free Games! ) could be updated or you could run a 3-5 day campaign scenario of Civil Power like the Chicago ’68 scenario in the game.

Please don’t accuse me of bad taste or “too soon” (unless you feel that way about the whole hobby, in which case it isn’t just me). I designed Civil Power in 1991, using then-contemporary news stories as the bases for scenarios, and it’s been available from me in one form or another for over 25 years. Battle of Seattle I did within a few weeks of the actual event at the end of 1999. I’m interested in these things, and I make my wee games of them; and sometimes, the world catches up with me.

Qwexit: a scenario for Canadian “Civil War”


CCW qwexit variant cover

Variant cover by Cavan Cunningham!

My non-Canadian readers may or may not know that on October 21, 2019, Canada had a general election. The incumbent party, the Liberal Party of Canada, was returned to power, but with fewer seats in the House of Commons. This strong-minority government was the most likely outcome predicted by most media outlets and polls, at least in the final ten days before the election itself, but two things were unusual:

  • the resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois, a party that ran candidates only in Quebec and whose platform includes a drastically altered relationship between Quebec and the federal government; and
  • the near complete dominance of representation by Conservative Party of Canada candidates in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta (though the popular vote was more diverse), combined with the accession to power in recent years by right-wing provincial governments there that have been quite vocal about the imbalance of power in the current federal-provincial relationship, at least where the Prairie provinces are concerned.

Neither of these movements is new. I recall attending a meeting of the “Western Canada Concept” party in Victoria BC in 1980, for the sake of research – I was then in my high school’s debating club and we were going to debate a resolution on Western separatism. The meeting was led by WCC founder Doug Christie, who gained notoriety by defending Ernst Zundel for denying the Holocaust, got slung out of the WCC for being too extreme and backed other right-wing movements (including a provincial WCC party in BC) ( And it was the surge to power by the Parti Quebecois in the mid-70s that prompted James Dunnigan to design Canadian ‘Civil War’, the sixth and last of the SPI Power Politics series of games, in 1976-77. 

For obvious reasons Canadian Civil War was not popular in the US, and there were few Canadian wargamers to buy up the remaining copies, so it has survived as more or less an orphan game with no updates or scenarios save a “Meech Lake” variant that ran in #23 of The Canadian Wargamers Journal in July 1990. Like many other Dunnigan designs, the game has some interesting mechanics in it, presented in a less appealing framework – and a requirement for four and only four players for the full game.

So, after having a look at the electoral map after October 21, I thought I would try my hand at an updating and variant scenario for the present situation.

The first thing I ought to say is that I do not think that the country of Canada itself is at serious risk. The Bloc Quebecois rhetoric is far less heated than in the 1970s, and it is unlikely that there will be any more referenda on sovereignty-association; the last one was in 1995 and I think it will remain so. I also think that the Western separatist talk is mostly that, just talk, that will be used by the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan when and how it pleases them ( Not surprisingly, the founders of the “Wexit Alberta” movement have been identified as far-right activists, including a former spokesman for the Prairie Freedom Movement, a Western separatist organization that preceded this one ( ( ) . Also not surprisingly, “bot” and aggregator activity has considerably boosted the signal and apparent numbers of the movement in Alberta ( so when people talk about tens or hundreds of thousands of signatures on an online petition, those signatures weigh about as much as that petition does.

However, we have never let facts get in the way of an interesting game problem, so the following is presented as a thought-experiment expressed through a rather old Dunnigan game: the “Qwexit” scenario. We hope you’re able to give it a try.

qwexit-4 nov  introduction and scenario rules

Cdn Civ War ctrs 2 nov  new counters

CCW var cards 30 oct  new cards

ccw spi ctrs, changes SPI conversion kit: if you happen to have a punched copy of Canadian Civil War, and don’t want to make up a whole new set of counters, this sheet gives you images for a small set of replacement counters and notes the changes to the Political Opportunity Cards.

EDITED TO ADD (3 November):

This may end up to be a bit of a work-in-progress… I was making up a set of the new counters last night and a thought struck me that should have struck me before.

One thing that bothered me a bit about this game is that one Interest Group is much like any other – so why not map them to their (most of the time) logically prime interests, and give them a game function?

So, game function is that an Interest Group gets a favourable column shift on the Contest Table when attacking or defending an Issue that it maps to: 1-1 becomes 2-1 on the attack, 3-1 becomes 2-1 when defending, eg.. Recall though, that an Interest Group cannot control an Issue by itself, only a Constituency piece can.

INTEREST GROUP -> ISSUE (# issue chits)

Chemical -> Healthcare (1)
Farmers -> Environment (2)
Francophone -> Language (1)
Hydro -> Territory (2)
Indigenous -> Indigenous (1)
Intellectual -> Education (2)
Manufacturing -> Industry (3)
Media -> Media (3)
Petro -> Finance/Banking (2)
Transport -> Transport (1)
Unions -> Immigration (1)
Wood -> Tariff/Trade (2)

Most of these are fairly logical I think, and cover all of the Issues except Foreign Affairs and Taxes.

I thought of letting the Prime Minister match to Foreign Affairs, since the PM counter isn’t the PM him/herself but the Prime Minister’s Office and functionaries/staff, who wield even more power than they did in 1976, but decided to leave it consistently Interest Groups, which don’t change when there is a change of government. Also, Taxes didn’t have a logical single IG match, quite complex so best to leave it as it was, I thought.

Anyway, if you give this scenario a try, add this small change to the rules. Or even retrofit it to the original game.

Site addition: Scenarios and Variants page

One thing I like to do, when I have the time and inspiration, is to write scenarios and variants for other peoples’ games. I think this is probably how many designers got started. Sometimes I write or revise items of my own work, too.

Anyway, today I created a page on this website for these items, moved over from my other older website. Have a look, there are items there for many old and new games!

Scenarios and Variants

Copyrights remain with the original creators or holders. No challenge is intended. The variant material is all created by me and is free for the downloader’s personal use, but I would appreciate name-checks and notifications of its use… motivates me to make more of these. Right?

I’d appreciate if you would send me any comments you may have, provided they are constructive and/or adulatory. (as always, I am not responsible if any of these files make your machine go **SPUNG**… though I don’t see how, they are all .docx and .pdf files)


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