An early example of an urban COIN megagame

pentagonurbancoincover

Very new from the History of Wargaming Project by John Curry, is a book reprinting rules for making up and playing a multi-player game on urban counterinsurgency, along with analysis of many urban insurgency incidents… including the Battle of Algiers, which was still quite recent as the original documents are from 1966.

Unless I miss my guess, this is “URB-INS”, contained in the “Report on Urban Insurgency Studies”, done in 1966 by Simulmatics Corporation. I remember examining a copy of this in the US Army War College’s library briefly (Back, then forth); I found it by chance there, but I wasn’t going to pass up a look at such an early example of a manual game on counterinsurgency in a generic city. I recall it was pretty sophisticated for its day – double-blind play with an umpire using a third board; time lag on intelligence and movements; uncertain information on sympathizers for either side; interrogation and arrest; etc..

Buy your copy at:

http://www.wargaming.co/professional/details/pentagonurbancoin.htm

EDIT: I was wrong! Turns out the game in question is URB-COIN, developed by Abt Associates in 1966. It is related to two other games Abt did for the US military, AGILE-COIN and POLITICA. Faithful Readuhs may recall my mention of AGILE-COIN as an early attempt to model rural insurgency in a couple of my presentations, and the game is described in greater detail in Andrew Wilson’s very good book The Bomb and The Computer (also available from John Curry as a reprint).

http://www.wargaming.co/professional/details/awthebomb.htm

Clark Abt did very well for himself and the world of simulations and games, as he was one of the first major designers and promoters of “serious games”. He designed dozens of games on a very wide variety of topics, most of them educational and policy games though he had quite a few DARPA contracts too. He is still alive and his company, Abt Associates, is doing very well (and seemingly not doing work for the military any more, at least not overtly). You can see part of his “Serious Games”, a major work, here:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=axUs9HA-hF8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22Clark+C.+Abt%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj238Tq8b_cAhWCJ3wKHf0GD0kQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

 

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New free game: Maracas

Maracas mapsnip      Maracas ctrsnip

Maracas is one of the four games I’ve designed so far that uses the District Commander diceless, operational-level counterinsurgency system.

It takes place in Maracas, the fictional megacity capital of the equally fictitious nation of Virtualia (which was also the locale for my game Caudillo).

I am making it available for free print-and-play download as an example of

a) the District Commander system itself; and

b) an introductory game on asymmetrical warfare in a modern large city.

I intend to do more of this kind of thing. I’ve been interested in urban combat for a long time (Tupamaro was one of my first game designs) and I think this is a crucially important topic for present-day and near-future wargame work. There’s certainly going to be a certain amount of the real thing soon enough.

Game components consist of:

The counters are made to be printed out at 5/8″ and the map at 17×22″, but if your eyes are young and strong and your fingers nimble go ahead and print them out smaller. Or if you’re half-blind and near-palsied like me, print them out on 1″ foamcore and as big a map as you can find.

Permission is granted to downloaders to make a copy for their own personal use, under the usual Creative Commons Licence adopted for this website.

NOTICE:

All material on this website, including all its subsidiary pages, that is written by me is made available through a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

This game, and up to three or more other modules in the system (so far Algeria 1959, Vietnam 1969, Afghanistan 2009, Maracas 2019), will be released over the next year or two by Hollandspiele.

I hope you will give it a try.

Thanks!

Off to Consimworld Expo 2018!

lawrncoarabia_032pyxurz

Best cut in cinematic history.

So, very early tomorrow we take off for a week and change in Tempe Arizona, to attend Consimworld Expo 2018. This convention gets bigger every year, there will be at least 275 hardcore gamers there this time.

I am taking lots of things with me, to show and/or test with people:

The Brief Border Wars quad:

Four minigames on border conflicts. Uses a development of the system in The Little War. Pretty much done testing but they are fun and short. El Salvador-Honduras 1969, Turkey-Cyprus 1974, China-Vietnam 1979, Israel-Hezbollah 2006.

Thunder out of China:

4-player COIN system for China 1937-41, I got this one to the 50% mark in 2015 but had to stop due to the need to finish off Colonial Twilight. Event Deck needs work as do a few tuneups. This will be a different twist on the COIN system but only slightly; twist of emphasis, not addition of mechanics.

The District Commander quad:

What, am I bringing back the Quadrigame? This is a diceless system of counterinsurgency at the operational level that I have been working on for a few years. Standard rules are rather long but they are “chatty”, the system is pretty simple and there are lots of possible options/ variations on play; each set of module exclusive rules is written as additions and exceptions to the standard rules.

Four modules: Mascara (Algeria 1959); Binh Dinh (Vietnam 1969); Kandahar (Afghanistan 2009); Maracas (imaginary megacity 2019). Modules feature things like population resettlement, airmobility, insurgent logistics, Agent Orange, monsoon rains, Phoenix Program, non-state militias, criminal gangs, insurgent command nodes, informers, sabotage, etc..

Caudillo:

Multi-player game on Latin American power politics, this brings up the tension between cooperation and competition. Not testing but CSW is a good place to try and snag people for multi-player games (3-5).

We Are Coming, Nineveh

Something new, not my design but I am helping on its development and need some playtester input. Designed by two graduate students of Rex Brynen, a Political Science professor at McGill University in Montreal who uses games in his classes a lot. This is their first essay into game design and it’s good enough that Rex and I are helping on its development for commercial publication.

It is an operational-level game of the Iraqi government campaign to liberate the western half of the city of Mosul from the forces of Daesh between 19 February and 9 July 2017. This was one of the largest and most difficult urban operations of the post-WWII era, and marked a major defeat for Daesh and its so-called “Islamic State.”

Area-movement map of west Mosul, including the densely-built Old City where Daesh forces made their last stand. Unit scale is groups of 100 or so Daesh fighters each, or battalion-sized units of the Iraqi Army, Ministry of the Interior, and elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS). Time scale is about 2 weeks/turn but this is flexible, and not that important. Blocks for both sides, to maintain uncertainty and the “fog of war.”

Capability cards: Before the operation starts, players choose a number of special capability cards. Gives great replayability.

Also during each turn, event cards can be triggered at any time by either player. Some of these indicate the growing collateral damage done to the city and its people. Others generate tactical vignettes: troops can get lost in the maze of small streets, communications can break down, and commanders can be faced with difficult moral and operational choices.

Victory: Unlike most wargames where there is a single measure for victory or loss, the game assesses three key aspects of the campaign: the speed at which the operation is completed, the casualties suffered by Iraqi government forces, and the collateral damage done to Mosul. One might outperform the historical case, capturing the Old City faster—but at a terrible civilian cost.

Going to be HOT and sunny, every day!

I may post from there, probably not as I will be working off a tablet with a tiny keyboard that is an exercise in patience to use.

Be good to each other while I’m gone.

Nights of Fire: Kickstarter day at last!

nofbox

Cover art by Kwanchai Moriya

It’s taken a year and a half but today is the day – the designing is done, the testing is completed, the components are composed – and Nights of Fire is launching on Kickstarter!

Here are two videos to entice you, if you hadn’t made up your mind already… and of course, if you had, these will make you feel good about doing it!

 

Paul Grogan explaining how to play the game. This should answer any questions you may have left about play mechanics, especially after reading the long interview I did with The Players Aid blog recently where I went into the sequence of play.

Nights of Fire: quite long interview at The Players Aid

 

 

And here are Grant and Alexander from The Players Aid blog, giving you their impressions after a good play-through. I really appreciate the help and attention these guys have given me and my games over the past year and more. I wonder if we’ll ever meet in person… but if we do, I owe them several beers!

And finally, here’s what you’ve been waiting for: the link to Kickstarter!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mightyboards/nights-of-fire-a-sequel-to-days-of-ire

Let’s go, man, GO !!!

Edited to add: Sometime during the night we made the first goal! 0900 PST right now, 19 hours after the launch, and we are at over $29,000 US pledged, over the first goal of $25,000 and past the first stretch goal of $28,000, which sees two extra leader cards added. So the world will get this game, after all, and then some.

Twenty-seven days to go in the funding period… let’s see how it goes.

Further edited to add: some people on BGG and on the Kickstarter site have complained that the $35 expansion kit is composed of cards (with short rules for playing the game with added details, and the campaign game that joins the two) and 28 miniatures (which are usable in both games). They would like to have just the cards and not the minis. I will quote the publisher, from the Kickstarter site, who explains the economics of the decision quite well:

With regards to questions regarding the combination of campaign mode and the minis in one product, this is related to economies of scale, and it is actually what makes that product possible.

If we were to separate the two, the mini pack would still need to sell at the current price point due to a high Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ), whilst the campaign mode, with the costs of new packaging design and material, additional warehousing and added costs in fulfilment and management of pledges, would need to sell for a separate 15-20$.

Because our game has no miniatures in the base game, and they are an optional add on, for us to be able to create them we need to commit to a very high comparative MOQ (when considering it is an optional add-on). This means that combining the two, and therefore increasing ever so slightly the attach rate, is what makes the product possible at all.

Thanks to this we feel we have achieved quite an aggressive pricing range for our entire Days of Ire line. The game is now cheaper than it was in the original Kickstarter and the Days and Nights pack is the best value Mini-Pack we have ever offered (in comparison, the Vengeance Saboteurs pack went for 45$ for fewer miniatures on KS).

This way, we are able to offer the Expansion for NoF AND the campaign mode, in a product that would essentially still cost the same without them. We feel this is much better way of doing this, as you, the backers are helping us reach that steep MOQ, while we offer you more content at no additional cost.

Furthermore, notice that our first few stretch goals (which we seem to be getting to soon!! :D) are specifically directed to adding value to the Days & Nights pack, with even more content at no extra cost as we reach more economical numbers.

Even more edited to add: It’s just over 24 hours in and total pledges have almost hit the $32,000 mark which is the second stretch goal. There are 423 backers at the moment of writing, distributed as follows:

Support (pledge without a reward): 10 backers
Access to Pledge Manager (choose a reward later): 26 backers
Insurgent (Nights of Fire only): 60 backers
Leader (Nights of Fire plus Days and Nights expansion pack): 213 backers
Combined Insurgent (Nights of Fire plus reprinted Days of Ire): 24 backers
Combined Leader (both games plus expansion pack): 81 backers
Army (“if you want lots of copies, contact us for a good deal!” – this must be for people doing a group buy in a remote city or maybe a dealer): 2 backers

Interesting.

Aw c’mon, just write another post already huh: Publisher Mighty Boards has decided to listen to the complainers above (some of whom had written on BGG that because they didn’t like the way the extras were offered, they were going to pass on the game completely, in any version) and partly decoupled the expansion cards plus miniatures, for early backers only:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mightyboards/nights-of-fire-a-sequel-to-days-of-ire/posts/2120640

Good for them for responding to customers, albeit a small number of vocal (real and potential) ones… though this does pose a small but real risk for them, because of the Minimum Order Quantity issue discussed in the publisher’s quote above. Hopefully it will not come back to bite them in their fourth point of contact.

And the next day: we are at $37,000, and a new stretch goal has been revealed – if they make it to $45,000 you can read my designer’s notes!

Days and Nights: preview of expansion kit!

nof exp pack box

The Kickstarter launch is imminent. And today we have a preview of the expansion kit that adds to and joins both Days of Ire and Nights of Fire!

Days & Nights: Red Army Pack is an add-on pack that contains 28 miniatures compatible with both games. It also contains a small deck expansion to Nights of Fire, and an additional deck allowing campaign play.

In Campaign mode you can play a game of Days of Ire followed by a game of Nights of Fire (solo, cooperative, or conflict mode up to 1v2 supported), and have the winner decided only at the end!

BGG link: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/247103/days-nights-red-army-pack

I have seen the renderings for the miniatures and they are very, very good. There are three figures: a T-54 (12mm tall including the base, so about 1:200 or around “Z” scale), a standing infantryman with a PPSh41 sub-machine gun (34mm tall including the base, so about 1:64 or “S” scale), and a kneeling sniper with a scoped Moisin-Nagant (15mm tall).

Purely coincidentally, the infantryman bears a strong resemblance to Yul Brynner, as he appeared in the role of “Major Surov” in the film The Journey!

Nights of Fire: quite long interview at The Players Aid

NOF cover art mid

Over at the Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz has posted a very long interview I did with him on Nights of Fire.

https://theplayersaid.com/2018/02/19/interview-with-brian-train-co-designer-of-nights-of-fire-battle-for-budapest-from-mighty-boards-coming-to-kickstarter-soon/

Lots of details on how the game came to be, history of the situation, changes during design, detailed look at the structure of the game’s sequence of play and components.

Coming to Kickstarter Real Soon Now!

Thanks Grant!

Nights of Fire: unboxing video

 

Grant Kleinheinz has made an unboxing video for a prototype copy of Nights of Fire!

I sent him this copy after I had looked it over, so it is the same as the one pictured in this blog earlier… but now you can get a close up look at the components.

The art is pretty close to the final versions. There will be some adjustments to the layout of the board.

https://theplayersaid.com/2018/02/10/unboxing-a-prototype-copy-of-nights-of-fire-battle-for-budapest-from-mighty-boards-coming-soon-to-kickstarter

Grant hadn’t learned to play the game when he made this video, so his guesses as to what the components, icons etc. stand for are amusing! However, Grant and Alexander did later make a video of them playing a game, along with their observations and thoughts, and it will be posted in a week or two. Looking forward to that (spoiler: he liked it!).

I have also finished writing a very long interview with Grant about the game, and he will be posting that to his website in due course.

Thanks as always Grant!