Operation Whirlwind: more historical scenario.


Last night I put together a scenario for Operation Whirlwind with some simple rule changes to reflect the historical and operational limitations placed on both sides. OK to use for any of the game’s three or four editions. Briefly:

  • The city is divided into three divisional sectors that constrain Soviet movement and operations;
  • Hungarian Civilian and Recruit units cannot move (Recruit units represent the large numbers of semi-organized insurgents who turned out to defend their own neighbourhoods);
  • There is no Western intervention and there are no Hungarian Army units (the deserters have been subsumed into the Insurgent counter mix).

This will likely give a greater challenge to both sides, for what people tell me is already an interesting situation. Have a look! (PDF file)



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!

Network-centric Go



Well now, this is kind of interesting:


Basically, about 10 years ago the author came up with an idea to re-wire the Go board. The new Network-Centric Go board had the same number of nodes and links (381 nodes, 684 links), but were arranged according to the “preferential attachment” process that researchers have found in models of the internet and world-wide web. You can see from the diagram this kind of network has a very, very large number of lightly connected nodes, a moderate number of moderately connected nodes, and a very small number of very, very well connected nodes.

The first-move advantages are obvious: the move in each turn will be to occupy the point with the highest number of nodes connected to it, until all available points have the same number of nodes. The author claims to have fixed this and made it susceptible to analysis by reducing the board to about a quarter of its size (a 10×10 grid) and adopting a “decreasing clustering coefficient” strategy. (“Clustering Coefficient is a measure of local cohesion, representing the proportion of a node’s neighbors that are also neighbors of each other” – so it kind of sounds like he decided to play normal territorial Go).

Now he has an Indiegogo project to make this game playable online. And you can give him your money!


Operation “Breaking Terrorism”: the Third Battle for Fallujah


Joe and me, halted in “Albakoikee” in 2012.

On Monday, 23 May, after a three-month siege of Fallujah, the Iraqi Government launched Operation “Breaking Terrorism”, an effort by the Iraqi Army’s 1st Division and associated Shiite militia forces to take the city back from Islamic State forces.

I’ve created a variant scenario for Joe Miranda’s game Fallujah 2004: City Fighting in Iraq, appearing in Modern War magazine #23, to allow people to try and play this battle out as it unfolds in real time over the next few days or weeks. It may well be ridiculous, but it is yet another attempt of mine to commit “game journalism”, as I tried with Ukrainian Crisis.

The Iraqi Government forces are casualty-averse and want to avoid causing civilian casualties and collateral damage. The allied Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces are rather more casual about the latter, as Fallujah is largely a Sunni city. And ISIL forces, while they want to make a stand in this symbolic city, have somewhat brittle morale after being under siege for three months.

Try it out, if you happen to have the game! (Microsoft Word file, .docx)

OPERATION Breaking Terrorism

Editing notes: I made a small addition, a change to 9.2 OPFOR Morale Check, after my first post of the file. A few people might have been swift on the download and missed it, so here it is:

9.2 Morale Checks.

OPFOR Morale begins the scenario at Fanatic. Any time a Morale Check is required you roll 2 dice, not 3. In a Fail result, OPFOR morale will go down by 1 level; in a Pass result, OPFOR morale will stay the same. OPFOR morale will not go up during the scenario (the city has been under siege for three months and while ISIL wants to make a stand, they will at some point start to slip their forces away under cover of confusion and the refugees fleeing the city).

Also, players who think the scenario is too hard could give the Government forces one or more additional engineer battalions, or even a couple of tank companies on their reverse (1-step, 2-(0)-3) side.

Meanwhile, keep checking the newspapers for real-world updates on this scenario!

EDIT, Wednesday 1 June:

After a week of announcements and deploying, on Monday 30 June Iraqi government forces shuffled forward into the city’s outskirts from the south, meeting what was described as “determined resistance” from ISIL elements. The furthest advance was to the edge of the southern suburb of Al-Shuhada (not sure which phase line this would be, looking at the image ghosted on the map and comparing it to Google Maps it’s looks like barely Phase Line 12, Routes of Advance 3 and 4). Today, after two days of fighting, Prime Minister al-Abadi announced that Iraqi government forces have suspended the offensive for fear of civilian casualties, saying that ISIL is using them as human shields. But Iraqi forces are still lobbing shells and rockets into the city, hopefully not completely at random.]


EDIT, Monday 6 June:

Here is a good update on the situation from the Institute for the Study of War website, including a nice map:


The site has been doing weekly updates so there should be a new brief and map soon.

Not surprisingly, there are numerous reports of the Shia militias (the Popular Mobilization Forces are just one component of these) behaving provocatively as they edge in on the city. Though there are two “humanitarian corridors” set up to allow civilians to leave the city, they have not been heavily used as ISIS has been preventing civilians from leaving, or charging them a hefty exit fee. Today’s news features stories of ISIS fighters shooting civilians as they try to cross the Euphrates and get out of the city.

EDIT, Friday 16 June:

It seems that the government forces have been making progress, and have raised the government flag over the city’s municipal government building (“Government Centre” on the map):


Story also details continued fighting for the main hospital, between “Al Samari” and “East Manhattan” on the map.

ISW backgrounder for 9 June, a week ago, shows the advance getting under way from the south, along two axes.


Spielenexperiment: Turning 4 into 2

I had a thought, after I wrote this introduction to Colonial Twilight (http://www.insidegmt.com/?p=10121) which explains how the 2-player Initiative Track works in that game.

Can any or all of the currently published 4-faction COIN system games be satisfactorily played with 2 players, using this mechanic?

First read a review of that mechanic, if you didn’t click through. Then print out the graphic.


How did we make the Sequence of Play work with only two players? Well, the sequence of play is still largely the same; like the other games in the series, you still always have two factions executing operations or events in a turn, except now it’s always the same two, who are 1st and 2nd Eligible. The Initiative Track (during testing it was variously called the Horseshoe, the Pentagon, or Home Plate) is a way to retain the flexible turn order of the 4-player iterations of the COIN system, and some of the gamesmanship involved in choosing what to do in a turn.

In each turn, the new Event Card is revealed and the 1st Eligible has a choice of any space on the Track. After executing his choice, he places his cylinder on the appropriate space, and the 2nd Eligible player may choose from any space adjacentto the 1st Eligible player’s cylinder. So, for example, if the 1st Eligible player executes the Event Card, the 2nd Eligible can choose between Op + Special or Pass. Sharp-eyed players will notice that the relations of the choices to each other are essentially the same as in the flowchart-like diagram on the Sequence of Play player aid supplied in the other, 4-faction games: I just came up with a different way to visualize it.

Less sharp-eyed players will notice the two shaded spaces on the Track. If a player is 1st Eligible and chooses either one of these, he becomes 2nd Eligible in the following turn.

Here’s the idea, using A Distant Plain as an example:

Players take 2 Factions each, with normal 1st and 2nd Eligibility determined by what they do on the Initiative Track; but which Faction they control that gets to do something is determined by the leftmost faction order on the Event Card drawn.

So, let’s say We are playing Coalition and Government, and They are playing Taliban and Warlords. (ho hum). The card drawn is “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, which has a faction order of Taliban – Coalition – Government – Warlords. According to the Initiative Track, We are 1st Eligible and can pick any space on it, but the action is done by the Coalition (as it is leftmost in the faction order). They is 2nd Eligible, so the choice of space is determined by what We did, and the action will be done by the Taliban (leftmost in the faction order).

Be sure to use the No Reveal Option as detailed in 2.2; looking one card ahead in the 2-player iteration ruins the game. And for victory conditions, they are unchanged: use directions in 1.5.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who tries this out, to see if it changes much from the existing method.

New (kinda) rules for Ukrainian Crisis

I meant to do that.

I meant to do that.

Well, it is nearing the end of November and there is no news to report on the Victory Point Games edition of Ukrainian Crisis, other than VPG’s admission in September that their playtesting (with which I was not involved, except to answer questions later) had “gone off the rails” during the summer.

In June I made some revisions to the rules to suit VPG, to recap from July posting:

  • All processes will use d6, not via the substituting method I listed in section 2.1 of the rules though – for Efforts there will be a “normed” result which I did briefly consider when originally designing the game. This required a couple of changes to processes, notably the Diplomatic resolution and the introduction of random Critical Incidents that can occur when players make a Maximum Effort on something. I do like this way better.
  • Some minor Russian OOB changes to reflect the ID numbers and likely composites of units that appear to have been actually fielded, rather than my original guesses (most of which were right, but they were obvious ones). There is no overall change in Russian combat power though, so I did not make up replacement counters.
  • A completely deterministic version of the game that doesn’t use dice at all, if you feel that rollin’ dem bones is a sin (though it does use playing cards, so you are halfway to Perdition anyway).

I think it less and less likely that this will hit the presses any time soon, so I have decided to publish the revised rules anyway. You can find them both here and at the original post for all the game files for Ukrainian Crisis.



Let me know if you try these out!

And in the fullness of time, if/when VPG gets it out the door, you will have a truly beautiful map and nice thick counters to play it with….

Next War in Lebanon, redux

Well, it happened AGAIN (refer to Greek Civil War, redux).

Constant Readers will recall that I sent “Third Lebanon War”, my original game design on a near-future Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon to defeat Hezbollah, in to Decision Games at the end of 2011. DG asked me several months later, in early 2012, to redesign the combat system, which also required some changes to other systems in the game. So I did, and that was the last I heard of it.

Rules: AGAIN, they made a number of major rules changes between 2012 and now, without my knowledge. Besides discarding the new combat system I had to work out for them in the original revision, there are a number of fundamental changes made, that make nonsense of my original points and emphases in designing the game, especially the victory conditions. There are also substantial errata and contradictions in the game-as-published, where they did an incomplete/inconsistent job in making these new changes.

Counters: besides going from a total of 228 to 176 counters, they have changed the unit ratings on some but not all Israeli units, and added some units. Counter layout is completely different. Insurgent unit counter mix completely different (cut it from 43 to 26 units, and changed all the ratings). And there are 18 new counters representing a deck of playing cards: 4 suits, 1-10, Jack, Queen, King, and an Ace for good measure, though it could also be another “1” – they don’t specify).

Map: my original map of 23 irregular areas is now 23 giant hexagons, with most (but not all) of the adjacencies preserved. Each hex now has a “Disrupted” square in it, which I guess is like a time-out box – it’s not made clear in the rules.

I do not agree with these changes, and my name is still attached to this.

Part of the publishing agreement a designer signs with Decision Games reads: “Decision is responsible for the development, graphics and publication of the Game. Decision is free to edit, develop, and make other changes it deems necessary for publication of the Game. Decision has final approval for all materials utilized in publishing the Game. Designer incurs no obligation for any of these, other than those specified above. Decision agrees to credit Designer in the published game rules.”

So, AGAIN, they have done their part in the above. The first time this happened, I felt uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with the publisher, and held my tongue for a bit. But I am also uncomfortable standing behind this game in its published form with my name on it; the final sentence in the above quote now has a new complexion for me.

Now, at this point I have two options. I think I will exercise both of them.


I thought that they might have left the counters and map alone, as happened with Greek Civil War, so you could just drop in the replacement rules. That’s not going to work this time. So, as I did before with Greek Civil War, I am making the REVISED rules and charts I submitted in early 2012 available here for download, so that players can play the REVISED game in the manner I originally revised it. You will also need to print out the set of counters (2 sheets, front and back), mount them and cut them out, and play with the rules etc. provided here. The map is still useful if you ignore the Disrupted penalty box.


NextLebwar charts v2

NextLebwarCRT v2

NextLeb OOB mats v2

NextLebwar rules v2 19 Mar 12

Edited to Add: The inestimable Ken from Japan has made a very nice and professional-looking Japanese-language translation of the v2 rules to Next War in Lebanon (the original revised version, with step reduction and 1d6 CRT). And here they are! Arigato gozaimasu Ken, o-tsukaresama deshita!

 NextLebwar rules v2 JPN


I plan to publish and sell in DTP format the “original original” version of the game, as I designed it in 2011 and first submitted to Decision Games, under the BTR Games mark and title “Third Lebanon War”. It will take a little time to get some snazzy cover art and a colourful but smaller map done, so that will come later in the year.

But in the meantime, I am making the files for this very first version available here, FREE. This is what I wanted to have run in the magazine; I’ve made a few edits relating to differences in the game’s physical components. You can still use the map from the magazine (ignore the Disrupted boxes), or use a smaller one I have made.

3Leb counters2

3Lebwar Cascading Effects Event Chart

3Lebwar rules 3 Nov 11

3Leb OOB mats

3Lebwar charts

 3Leb war map2

I realize that few of the total number of people who receive or buy copies of this game will read this; I wish I could explain to them but this is none of my doing. All I can do is offer them two free print-and-play game kits to change the game they paid for to something like what I intended.