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Italian Guerrillas: the Guillet Detachment (1942-1943 What-if Scenario)
From the Allied liberation of Ethiopia in 1941 until late 1943, the Italians mobilized guerrillas to fight in the former Africa Orientale Italiana. They were organized into mobile guerrilla ‘bandes’ or detachments and were armed with Italian and captured British weapons. Often they received the support of local tribesmen who were traditionally hostile to the Ethiopian Empire, such as Eritreans, Somalis, and Galla tribes from southern Ethiopia.
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This update is to let you guys know that we are making good progress on both the digital and the physical rewards for our Twilight Struggle project! I know last month’s update might have been a bit of a downer, as you read about delays on both the digital and physical fronts. So I’m happy to report this month that we’re going full steam ahead again! Here are a few specifics, to give you a sense of what we’ve accomplished of late:
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No Retreat! The Italian Front will be released soon! I have been very busy with the details of the design work and haven’t been able to spend much time online telling you all about its peculiarities and qualities. So please, let me correct this lapse today.
Why This Game?
This is the fourth game in my “No Retreat!” series, which premiered with No Retreat: The Russian Front, my favorite WWII topic. This was followed by the North African Front (1940-43) game. The third was about the French Front (1940), published by Victory Point Games, and currently on GMT’s P500 list as No Retreat: The French and Polish Fronts, with the Polish campaign added in for this version. My initial goal was to make just the first NR! game, but things got out of hand and I was somehow goaded into adding more and more titles to the list. My goal right now is to make five games total, the final one covering the West Front (1943-45). This series is a tribute to the old Avalon Hill “Classics”: NR1 = Russian Campaign, NR2 = Afrika Korps, NR3 = France 40, NR4 = Anzio, NR5 = D-Day. We now are at number four: The Italian Campaign.
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As mentioned in previous articles (Design Diary #1 and Design Diary #2), I believe that one of the most distinctive aspects of any card-driven game (CDG) is the set of historical events that are featured on the operations cards used in the game. Not only should the events provide players with interesting alternatives to the standard operations points offered by the cards, but they should also evoke the correct historic setting for the game as a whole. These points equally hold true for deckbuilding games as well – the events on the cards players choose for their decks must be interesting in play and must also fit the game’s theme.
Designing the events for a card-driven game can be a very difficult balancing act. Of course it is important to make sure that no event has a disproportionate effect on the game, and it can take a great amount of playtesting effort to properly exercise candidate events. However, the events in a deckbuilding game can be an even greater playtesting challenge. While events in CDGs tend to be a) unique and b) drawn randomly, events in deckbuilding games are frequently purposely selected by players in multiple copies. This means that the relative effect of events in deckbuilding games can be greatly magnified, and any issues that may exist with combinations of certain events will most assuredly be found and exploited.
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Thunder Alley did exactly what Carla & I had hoped it would do. It brought the feel of a stock car race to our table. No runaway leaders, frequent yellow flags and when there were no yellows, there was tension around the event cards with half the table hoping for a yellow to catch up and the other half hoping for a green to hold the lead. If played in the right spirit it is a game that begs you to keep your car in good enough shape to the last half lap when you can try to sprint to the finish and take the checkered flag. I like the constant re-organizing of the pack that is an American stock car event. And if I like it, Carla loves it. No one is in complete control and no one is ever out until the cars start crossing the finish line.
However, that style is not for everybody. Most of the world does not see the weekly banging of metal and spinning tires that we see and have come to appreciate. When the rest of the world goes racing they witness a more strategic and consistent event. Cars get to the front and they stay there, daring those behind to find the right opportunity to challenge them. The back of the pack does not get bailed out by an accident and must claw their way out of the rear to get into the points. Carla & I took this as a challenge, to try and make a game that uses similar components, that can share tracks with its sister game Thunder Alley , and that feels more like a F1 road race than a NASCAR tri-oval. In the end the changes are significant but the game-play is easy to pick up if you have any experience with Thunder Alley .
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In my previous InsideGMT post, I compared the expansion Labyrinth II: The Awakening, 2010 – ? with Twilight Struggle, and gave some examples of play to shed light on the similarities between both games.
In this post, I will describe some of the challenges in designing a simulation on a very recent and still evolving topic, and give additional examples of play based on ongoing events.
I first discussed the idea of designing an Arab Spring simulation based on his Labyrinth game to Volko Ruhnke at the GMT Weekend at the Warehouse (Hanford CA), 16 – 19 October 2014. We agreed that it made sense to have the starting point (the first book end) of the Labyrinth II expansion commence with the beginning of the Arab Spring in late 2010, as this was also roughly the same point that the events in Labyrinth tailed off from the historical record. I actually do have a few pre-Arab Spring events in the expansion deck that cover the gap from where Labyrinth officially ends and Labyrinth II officially begins, most notably the Maersk Alabama affair, as shown so well in the Tom Hanks “Captain Phillips” movie, and the popular reaction to the Iranian Elections of 2009, which some actually consider as the popular movement that inspired the Arab Spring that followed in the other countries.
I have had a much more difficult time deciding where to end the game expansion. The Arab Spring officially began on December 17, 2010, when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi committed an act of self-immolation to protest harsh treatment by local authorities. His sacrifice brought down the Tunisian government a month later and sparked a popular movement to be known as the Arab Spring (or Awakening) that spread across the Muslim world, toppling 6 governments and igniting 4 Civil Wars…and establishing a democratic government in Tunisia. The popular street protests of the Arab Spring had run their course by June 2012, or about 19 total months, and this would be a logical second book end for the expansion, except that the street protests in some cases evolved into more violent forms of political expression and seamlessly transitioned into Civil Wars in Libya, Syria and elsewhere. In this broader sense, the events that naturally flowed from the Arab Spring protests have not run their course and will likely not do so for several more years, perhaps decades.
A few early version Sample Playtest Cards for Labyrinth II. Development and editing continues.
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Genesis Developer Update – April 2015
As we enter the month of April, the creation of the game’s components is in the final stretch. The map, counters, Event Cards, and Kingdom Display/Victory Point Cards are complete. The rules and the Player Aid cards have moved through the layout and internal edit process, are off to the game’s proofreader and group of the play testers for a final edit. The final component – the Playbook – is in the layout and internal edit process and will be sent to the proofreaders and play testers later this month for a final edit. The Playbook features an extensive Example of Play of a complete game turn of the three person version of one of the shorter scenarios, covering the middle part of the historical period represented in the game.
The game includes eight scenarios:
- one short solitaire learning scenario designed to introduce the player to the basic mechanics of movement and combat
- one full 10 turn Campaign Scenario design primarily for 3-5 players, which also has a two player variant where the players control two empires
- three 3-4 turn scenarios playable by 2-5 players covering portions of the period
- three 3 turn scenarios playable by 2 players or solitaire
Now for the eye candy:
The map shows Anatolia (modern Turkey), the Levant (Middle East/Egypt) and Mesopotamia as they possibly appeared in The Late Bronze Age, approximately 1700 to 1200 BC.
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How could the French or Indians win the American Revolution? If you define winning the game as controlling North America in some way – they can’t. But the question for me is a broader question: How can these Factions, each important to the outcome of the conflict, win their situation? With that question the answer to “How can the French win?” becomes more clear. Each Faction comes to the conflict with different goals, expectations and capabilities. Capturing this asymmetry is one of the strengths of the COIN system.
The French interests were much broader than the British Colonies in North America. Coming off the Seven Years War and the competition with the British around the world, the French view was this Insurrection in America can be an opportunity to pull British resources away from other more important areas, like West Indies and Europe itself. This leads to the Secondary Victory condition between the French and British: pieces eliminated. Make the other Faction pay a high price for involvement and pull pressure off other critical theaters (outside the game.)
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This article is the first of a series of short articles that take you inside various military units in Javier Romero’s Lion of Judah, just recently added to our P500 list. Enjoy! – Gene
Gideon Force (1940-1941 Scenario)
Gideon Force was a small native African force led by Major Orde Wingate (1903-1944), who would later gain recognition as commander of the Chindits in the Burma campaign. Wingate arrived in Khartoum, Sudan, in November 1940 to raise a guerrilla force that would harass the Italians. Wingate proposed to create a guerrilla in the Italian rearguard, stating that a“… thousand resolute and well-armed men can paralyse 10,000”.
We’re thrilled that MBT (along with a reprint of the sold-out Panzer) is now in our production queue for late 2015/early 2016. Clearly, a lot of you play and like Panzer, and the MBT P500 numbers have been very good, as well. As we near getting this game into our final art and production stages, we want to get you guys some examples of how this game plays and especially, “what’s new” in MBT that you didn’t see in Panzer (the two series’ do share the same basic system engine). So today Jim is giving us an example of how helicopters work in MBT – something you clearly didn’t get to play with in Panzer.
I hope you can see from the example what I think is one of the great strengths of the system that Jim has created and streamlined over time: the game provides rich detail without massive complexity. Jim has managed to encapsulate very complex battlefield physics into the data cards and look-up charts, so players can focus on tactics, with quick look-ups to handle the complexities of combat resolution. In my experience, there aren’t a lot of games/series that can deliver that, and when you find one, it’s usually a gem. I believe that is the case with the Panzer/MBT series, and hope you guys who are new to the games can get a sense of that from this example. Enjoy! – Gene
Helicopters are a very versatile combat option available to modern forces. They carry a heavy load of weapons and may quickly transport troops to the battle area. Their speed and maneuverability make them quick strike weapons. Helicopters are armed with vehicle-type weapons, including machineguns, heavy machineguns, cannons, rockets, and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), their primary anti-armor weapon. The mix and availability of these weapons varies from helicopter-to-helicopter.
Depending on their altitude, low or Nap-of-the-Earth (NOE), helicopters function as a cross between vehicles and fixed-wing aircraft.
For the most part, they spot, move and engage in combat in a similar manner to vehicles. They resolve combat and movement during both of MBT’s two Aircraft Phases, whereas fixed-wing aircraft activate in just one of the two Air Phases.