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 their choice, they place their cylinder on the appropriate space, and the 2nd Eligible player may choose from any space adjacent to 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, they become 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).

If a player Passes, the executing Faction gets whatever number of Resources the game they are playing decrees for that Faction.

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.


NextLebwar charts v2

NextLebwarCRT v2

NextLeb OOB mats v2

NextLebwar rules v2 19 Mar 12

The map is still useful if you ignore the Disrupted penalty box, and restore the adjacencies that were dropped between my submitted map and this big hexfield one. It’s important because of the effect of the rule on Hez raids into Israel.

In the original version:

  • Al Naqurah and Rmaich are adjacent to Nahariyyah;
  • Rmaich and Bint Jubail are adjacent to Avivim; and
  • Bint Jubail, Al Tabbayah, and Marjayoun are adjacent to Quryat Shemona.
    The Israeli Sanctuary is contained within Avivim and so is not adjacent to any Lebanese area.

So you could mimic these relations by drawing a line at the bottom of the south vertex of Rmaich off the edge of the map to give a limit to Nahariyya, and another line off the eastern edge of Bint Jubail to make the adjacencies with Quryat Shemona obvious.
Then put in a black border on the northwest hexsides of Avivim and Israeli Sanctuary (with Shaqra and Bint Jubail, respectively) to show these are blocked and not adjacent.
Will look like crap but will show what’s adjacent to what.

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 eventually 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”.

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.

Free Games! page (scroll down to Third Lebanon War entry)

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.

Soldiers: Decision in the Trenches 1918 variant

Soldiers: Decision in the Trenches 1918 is the game in issue #280 of Strategy and Tactics magazine. It’s a fairly simple and easy to play game on an American infantry division going “over the top” into a German defensive position manned by a reinforced infantry regiment.
I posted a variant for the game over at boardgamegeek.com: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/130041/soldiers-decision-in-the-trenches-1918

Made up some new counters, and some added rules: American command control limitations, German hidden units, artillery bombardment patterns and drift.

All quite simple, all very optional, use or not use as you wish.

Balkans 1943-45: The Invasions That Weren’t

Okay, herewith a link to Balkans 1943-45: The Invasions That Weren’t.

http://www.islandnet.com/~ltmurnau/text/gamescen.htm (scroll down a bit)

This is a large variant I designed in 2005 for the Joe Miranda game Balkans 1941 (S&T #182, DG 1997,  http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/11135/balkans-1941). One of the great what-ifs of World War 2 in the Mediterranean theatre was the possibility of an Allied invasion of Greece and/or Yugoslavia after clearing the German and Italian armies from North Africa. In history, the logistical and political difficulties were rife and the Allies did nothing of the kind until Operation MANNA, the liberation of Greece in late 1944 after the German garrison had already withdrawn into Yugoslavia. But to Hitler and the German High Command, it was always a possibility and made them vulnerable to several Allied deception plans, which have been used as the basis for two scenarios in this variant. In response to these plans, the Germans held several critical troop formations in northern Italy and Yugoslavia in readiness for invasions that never came, when they would have been much more useful somewhere else.

To play this variant, the rules for the game are altered as described in the doc found at the link above; you will also need to make up 140 new counters from the included PDF files (one version in black-and-white to colour yourself, one in colour if you have a fancy printer).

Files have also been posted to the game’s topic on Boardgamegeek (see second link above).

My work on this variant grew into a completely new game, Balkan Gambit, but I have been waiting since 2008 for it to be published so I just thought I would at least get this variant on the same subject out there, so someone can play it.

One of the most onerous parts of the variant and the game, and yet what will probably the least appreciated, was trying to work out the Order of Battle for the campaigns – it’s one thing to find out which units were actually where at some point in time, and quite another to figure out which units could plausibly have taken part in a campaign that was never fought! For the Allied OOB I used half actual units and half deception units – the Allies had over a dozen fake divisions deployed in the Mediterranean, as well as several fictitious corps HQs, in order to confuse the Germans as to the real strength they had in the theatre. So I thought that if these invasions were to be the realization of German fantasies, then they should include units the Germans got sucked into believing existed too.

Hope this excites your interest!

Delirios Paranoides

Counters, translated into Spanish

Here’s a nice thing that “thredith undomiel”, someone I do not know from Bogota, Colombia did for me – translated my free game “Paranoid Delusions” into Spanish!

Go to his blog to download the materials here:

Or here:


He says:

Después de una ausencia de un par de meses, regreso con una nueva traducción lúdica. En esta ocasión, le corresponde el turno a un juego un tanto demencial llamado Paranoid Delusions, el cual es de 2 a 6 jugadores.

Creo que lo que más me llamó la atención fue la trama, y la simpleza pero genialidad de los componentes de juego. Ahora bien, se preguntarán ¿de qué va la trama? Pues es más o menos algo así: Cada jugador desempeñará 2 roles, el del “Paranoico”, y el del “Enemigo”, y se involucrará en el oculto mundo de las conspiraciones.

Lo interesante es que nadie sabrá qué conspiraciones hay en marcha, a menos que se trate de la conspiración propia, pero de igual forma tendrá que esforzarse por averiguarlo todo. Y no será sencillo, ya que las acusaciones que decida hacer, le afectarán su sanidad mental, llevándole poco a poco a la locura absoluta.

Es más, resulta probable que llegado un cierto punto, el jugador tenga que acusarse a sí mismo, con tal de intentar revelar todos los secretos y misterios que sus enemigos (sean reales o imaginarios) ocultan. ¡Todo un delirio paranoide!

Desde los Masones, Aliens, y Nuevaeristas, a la influencia de la Educación Pública, la Meditación o el Café para así llegar a formar un Nuevo Orden Mundial, o desatar el Calentamiento Global. Ninguna teoría será lo suficientemente disparatada, como para no ser cierta. En Delirios Paranoides, el Paranoico más grande, o el Enemigo más maquiavélico, será quien se lleve la victoria.

Todo lo que se necesita para jugar será: las reglas de juego (4 páginas en total), un par de contadores genéricos (como piedrecillas o botones), dos copias de la hoja de contadores (ver arriba), y tantas copias como jugadores.

Sin más que decir, les dejo el link de descarga de los componentes, y como de costumbre: ¡espero que lo disfruten!

Or (Google translated, unfortunately my Spanish is about the level of “Mas cervezas, por favor”):

After an absence of a couple of months back with a new translation of a game. This time turn it is an insane liottle game called Paranoid Delusions, which is for 2 to 6 players.

I think what caught my attention was the plot, but the simplicity and genius of game components. Now, you ask what is the plot? For it is more or less like this: Each player will play two roles, that of “Paranoid”, and the “enemy”, and will be involved in the hidden world of conspiracies.

The interesting thing is that nobody knows what plots are underway, unless it be the conspirator itself, but equally it may struggle to find everything. And it will not be easy, because the accusations you decide to do, it will affect your sanity, slowly bringing you to complete madness.

Furthermore, it is likely that at a certain point, the player has to attack himself, so to try to reveal all the secrets and mysteries that his enemies (real or imaginary) hidden. All paranoid delusions!

From the Freemasons, Aliens, and New Age, to the influence of public education, meditation or coffee so eventually form a New World Order, or Global Warming. No theory is crazy enough as to not be true. In paranoid delusions, the paranoid largest, or the most Machiavellian Enemy, who will take the victory.

All you will need to play: the game rules (4 pages total), a pair of generic counters (like pebbles or buttons), two copies of the sheet counters (see above), and as many copies as there are players.

Without further ado, here is the link to download the components, and as usual I hope you enjoy!

Spiffy cover art image he selected too, I never did get around to making a cover for this.