Ukrainian Crisis and The Little War coming soon!


The release of the two-pack Ukrainian Crisis and The Little War from Hollandspiele is imminent! In the next five or six weeks, that is….

Just created a Boardgamegeek entry for The Little War

Here are samples of the final map and counter art. I think you’ll be pleased!


Ukrainian Crisis counters by Tom Russell.


Ukrainian Crisis map by Tim Allen.



Little War map by Jose Faura.

Coming soon from Hollandspiele: Ukrainian Crisis and The Little War!


Another interesting cover design by Tom Russell.

Coming in March 2017, from Hollandspiele!

Ukrainian Crisis will be much the same as the PnP version available now here, except that the Resource cards will be chits (they can’t print up that many cards), the game length is increased to 9 turns and there are a few extra units, for variety and to fill up the counter sheet.

Even better, this will be half of a two-game package… the other game will be the mini-game The Little War, on the brief Slovak-Hungarian border war of March 1939! This one uses only 30 counters and a deck of ordinary playing cards to drive the action. I designed this one last year.

The free print-and-play version of Ukrainian Crisis will remain available. But you know Hollandspiele and their printing partner Blue Panther LLC have been doing a very good job of production!



Ukrainian Crisis (Kryzyz Ukrainski) Polish rules

UkraineCrisis2014BrianTrain sm

Banner by Rodger MacGowan.

Thanks to the efforts of user “Grisz” on Boardgamegeek, Polish language rules for Ukrainian Crisis are now available!

Go here:

Many thanks Grisz!



(photo of Ukrainian Crisis in play, from Paxsims website)

Over at the Paxsims blog, Rex Brynen tells about a recent and very busy week spent at the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL):

Among many other things, people played a series of games to explore “hybrid warfare”, including LCOL Dave Barsness’ Kaliningrad 2017, Volko Ruhnke’s Labyrinth, and my own Ukrainian Crisis.

Rex concludes matrix games FTW for analyzing this form of warfare, at least for the broad strokes, and I would tend to agree. But here’s the typical Brynen wit:

Ironically, one of the problems of a matrix game approach is that it does not require a great deal of preparation, nor need it involve a great deal of materials and complexity. This makes it an unattractive proposition for defence contractors and consultants since product creation and delivery generates relatively few billable hours. Similarly, a sponsor may feel that it does not seem enough of a tangible product compared with a more complex, traditional wargame.

Hm! Words to live by, I guess… though a poorly prepared and executed matrix game is just as much a failure as a poorly done game of another type.

New New rules etc. for Ukrainian Crisis

A little early for St. Nicholas Day but I’ve made some changes to the Ukrainian Crisis game and want to share them with you.

The game now concentrates specifically on the first 6 months of the crisis, from Yanukovytch’s departure in late February 2014 to about the time of the adoption of the first Minsk Protocol in September. This was the period in which a large and overt Russian military intervention might have taken place, and while violence continues in Ukraine, the main threat of a military invasion seems to have passed.

Two important changes to the game include: game is lengthened to 8 turns, and instead of there being a pre-invasion and invasion phase of the game either player can declare a Combat or a Strategic turn . This gives players a bit more time to fill out strategies, and fits with the stop-and-start nature of how the crisis played out militarily. Following on from this, the map has been revised slightly and the cards also have additional or changed functions.

Still no NATO units.

The latest files for the game are here, and links are also on the original page:

uacr-rls-20 (the latest rules)

uacr-cds-20 (latest cards, to match the longer length of the game and some slight revisions to event cards)

UA crisis map1722-1 (latest version of the map with revised point values for Ukrainian ethnic zones)

UA_Crisis_ctrs2 (game counters, same as always; cut off and throw away the right-hand portion as the rules it refers to have been replaced)

Material is copyright 2014-2015 Brian Train.


Ukrainian Crisis published by Hollandspiele in March 2017!

Coming soon from Hollandspiele: Ukrainian Crisis and The Little War!

Playtesters wanted for Victory Point Games edition of Ukrainian Crisis

Chunk of new map, by Tim Allen.

Somehow I missed this… Victory Point games is looking for playtesters of their edition of Ukrainian Crisis, which they are calling Headline Ukraine. This was posted on May 4 so I don’t know if they have already found the four groups of two playtesters each they want for the game:

US residents only please (I’m guessing this is due to postage costs, not any innate need to snub other nations).


Play my games online, sort of…

One thing I have had to learn lately, in the process of playtesting my COIN system French-Algerian War game, is how to use VASSAL.

This word, not really an acronym, once stood for “Virtual ASL (Advanced Squad Leader)” because it had originally been programmed by people who wanted to play that game remotely, online, and in real time, as the next step forward from PBEM or PBF (Play By E-Mail, a method of playing a game by correspondence where you record your move in some fashion and then e-mail that to your opponent; and Play By Forum, where players submit their moves to an online forum, discussion board, etc..). But now it has grown into a strong application with which almost any board game can be converted into a version playable online, and it’s all free.

I knew how powerful this thing was, and how much potential it has, but just never found the time to do anything with it, either to play games (as I have hardly any time to play anything except my own stuff) or to write modules for my stuff (as I am the world’s worst programmer, even when programming is not involved!). I have never liked computer games, period; I am an old-school-cardboard, face-to-face experience man.

But now more and more playtesting is done through VASSAL, and it makes a lot of sense: no requirement to get people together physically; changes can be made to a single module in a central location as the game develops; and any number of games can be played at the same time, with results noted. It’s also great for making very old, long out-of-print games available again for people who can never own a copy. I’m grateful for all this, but I think I’m still a long way from designing my first module successfully.

Meanwhile, energetic folks have made VASSAL modules of my games, on their own time, and they are available for free on the central website at You can get the following titles:

Thanks to Michel Boucher, Martin Hogan, David Janik-Jones, and Joel Toppen for their work.

I mentioned PBEM – before VASSAL there was another program that allowed this, called Cyberboard ( It is only for Windows systems and stopped development about 5 years ago, but there are a lot of “gameboxes” available for it still. It’s also useful for creating new games: Dr. Phil Sabin of King’s College London swears by it for creating prototypes. Cyberboard gameboxes are available for these titles:

Many more PBEM resources available from Mr. Walter O’Hara’s comprehensive Emporium:

Thanks to Walter O’Hara, Mike Welsh, and Noel Wright for making these.

I also need to mention Limey Yank Games (, which also makes hundreds of modules and gameboxes available to players, including some of mine: 

Thanks to Andy Loakes, and Daryl Anderson who contributed the gameboxes.

STRATFOR thoughts on Ukraine scenarios.

Neat that they decided to do this, but hey, blackbox much?

They consider six scenarios, from little to big, and blithely come up with numbers of troops needed and time in days to accomplish, even the one that considers total Russian mobilization. One wonders, one does wonder….but the final paragraph restores a sense of reality to the exercise:

“For all of the scenarios considered, the findings were consistent: All are technically possible for the Russian military, but all have serious drawbacks. Not one of these options can meet security or political objectives through limited or reasonable means. This conclusion does not preclude these scenarios for Russian decision makers, but it does illuminate the broader cost-benefit analysis leaders undertake when weighing future actions. No theoretical modeling can accurately predict the outcome of a war, but it can give leaders an idea of what action to take or whether to take action at all.”

“<a href=””>Gaming a Russian Offensive</a> is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Night Wolves

No, I am not and was never going to make a “Night Wolves” counter for Ukrainian Crisis. But this is part of an interesting story. I recently finished reading Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, a look at the utterly (and deliberately) surreal and disorienting mirrored funhouse that is Putin’s Russia. There is an interesting page or three about the Night Wolves and their transformation from hooligans to State-sponsored enforcers.

And one more thing – why do the Night Wolves (and Putin) ride Harleys? Shouldn’t they be riding Urals, or maybe Dneprs? (Okay, maybe not Dneprs…)



Alexander Zaldostanov, Russian biker, makes Canada’s sanctions list

Leader of the Night Wolves, a pro-Putin motorcycle gang, targeted by sanctions

By Evan Dyer, CBC News Posted: Feb 19, 2015 4:03 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 19, 2015 4:57 PM ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin presents Alexander Zaldostanov with Russia's Order of Honour. Zaldostanov, described on Putin's website as 'head of a national motorcycle club,' has been added to a list of individuals under sanctions by Canada over Russian involvement in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin presents Alexander Zaldostanov with Russia’s Order of Honour. Zaldostanov, described on Putin’s website as ‘head of a national motorcycle club,’ has been added to a list of individuals under sanctions by Canada over Russian involvement in Ukraine. (Vladimir Putin’s website)

Canada has added the name Alexander Zaldostanov to the list of Russians under sanctions because of the war in Ukraine. But unlike the other prominent Russians targeted, he is not a senior military officer or the CEO of a major oil company. The 51-year-old Zaldostanov, nicknamed “The Surgeon,” is the head of Russia’s biggest biker gang, the Night Wolves. And his elevation to the ranks of Russia’s power elite says a lot about the country Russia has become under President Vladimir Putin. Born as an underground group of heavy metal and motorcycle aficionados in the dying days of the Soviet Union, the Night Wolves have become one of the props of the Putin establishment. According to the U.S. State Department, they sent members to fight in Ukraine and took part in storming the naval headquarters in Sevastopol. Last August, the Night Wolves staged a sound and light show in Crimea to celebrate the territory’s annexation by Russia. The leather-clad Zaldostanov told an audience estimated at 100,000 that “enemies who hated us, killed the Soviet state, and took away its territory and its army.” “We are celebrating our sacred victory at a time when fascism, like putrid, poisonous dough, has overfilled its Kyiv trough and begun to spread across Ukraine. The new battle against fascism is inevitable. Stalin’s 11th strike is inevitable.” The event was carried live on Russian state television.

Ties to the Kremlin

Around the same time, Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya and a close ally of Putin, became a full-patch member of the club. Putin has appeared with Zaldostanov at numerous public events, as well as riding with the club on his own Harley-Davidson three-wheeler on more than one occasion. In 2013, Putin presented Zaldostanov with the Russian Medal of Honour for “activity in the patriotic education of youth.”

Putin and Zaldostanov

Putin, left, rides with Zaldostanov, leader of the Night Wolves biker group, during his visit to a bike festival in the southern Russian city of Novorossiisk in August 2011. (Ivan Sekretarev/Reuters)

In one recent speech, Putin told the assembled bikers, “You do not just ride your motorcycles; you also perform military-patriotic work. Historical memory is the best cement that binds people of different nationalities and religions into one nation, in one powerful country — Russia.” The Night Wolves, in turn, have offered their 3,000-strong membership to the state as an unofficial militia. Zaldostanov joined a group of Russian nationalist politicians in setting up a pro-Putin movement called “anti-Maidan,” a reference to the protests in Kyiv that led to the fall of the previous, Russia-aligned Ukrainian government last year. At the group’s inaugural event, the Zaldostanov​ warned that his bikers would crush any attempt to launch a “colour revolution” street protest against the Putin regime on Russian soil. “The ‘orange beast’ is sharpening its teeth and looking to Russia,” said Zaldostanov, suggesting the anti-Maidan group could adopt “Death to Fags” as an alternative name.

Defenders of Orthodoxy

Zaldostanov’s Night Wolves have moved so far from their outlaw rebel roots that they now proclaim themselves protectors of the Russian Orthodox Church, which enjoys close ties to the Kremlin in Putin’s Russia.

Putin and Zaldostanov

Putin and Zaldostanov attend a ceremony to open a restored fountain, a symbol of the Second World War, in Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, in 2013. (Reuters)

Following the arrest of members of the punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who shot an allegedly blasphemous video in a Russian Orthodox church, Zaldostanovled a parade of bikers through Moscow carrying balloons with Orthodox symbols and pledged his bikers would defend holy sites. “I am against the ‘possessed’ who humiliate the believers,” he said. The Night Wolves have also announced a definitive rupture with the international biker movement, declaring on their website: “We do not want to belong to foreign bikers’ traditions that are not able to give good fruits to our Slavic Orthodox country! We Night Wolves are proud that we were born in the land of the great people, the land of Slavs, the rebellious Russians, land of undefeated heroes, the land which does not let the rest of the world sleep since the Roman Empire or even earlier.” Zaldostanov, who was already sanctioned by the U.S. in December, has welcomed his new status as a pariah in the West. “I would very much like to thank [U.S. President Barack] Obama for recognizing my modest services to the motherland. And I promise that I will do all I can so that his concern for me only grows.”

“Game over, man”?

Perhaps, if the ceasefire holds.

Let’s hope it does.

Let’s see… in Ukrainian Crisis game terms, the situation would be something like: the eastern areas of the pro-Russian ethnic zone well populated with Russian irregulars and Special Forces, opposed by a mixture of regular and irregular Ukrainian units; Crimea has joined Russia through a Critical Incident roll; Ukraine declared an Invasion Phase some time ago in its “Anti-Terrorist Operation” to get kinetic on the pro-Russian irregulars, with mixed results; final score somewhere between a Draw (crisis has stabilized for now, but the advantage will be to Russia should it resume) or Tactical Victory (Russia will continue to be the primary influence in Ukraine’s decision calculus). Or it could be that the Ukrainians have just gotten a Truce, to get to the end of the current Strategic Round.

Meanwhile, last week I got a note from the Victory Point Games people: they had been diverted by having to finish other games in the queue ahead of mine, and it will be a little while before they finish it off, but they expect to get back to it “fairly soon”.