Colonial Twilight: Operations and Special Activities

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In this article I will write about the menus of Operations and Special Activities available to the two factions in Colonial Twilight: the Government, representing both local Algerian and metropolitan French authorities; and the political and armed fighters of the Fronte de Liberation Nationale (FLN), the insurgent force.

You may wish to refer to the previous two posts on the game, which explain the major differences and features of the game, and the forces and structures that meet in conflict within the game.

Players experienced with the COIN system games will notice a broad similarity of operation and activity names between this and other games, which is not surprising since these cover a range of basic military activities – building up forces, moving, and striking the enemy. The FLN especially may seem to resemble the Taliban in A Distant Plain. However, as in every other COIN system game Colonial Twilight introduces some new concepts and combinations, to fit the unique situation.

GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS

TRAIN

46-moghazni2

Purpose: Add Algerian cubes to the map, Pacify (build Support), affect France or Border Zone Tracks.

Location: City, Sector with Base, France or Border Zone Track.

Cost: 2 Resources per location selected.

Procedure: Place up to 4 Algerian cubes. Then in 1 selected space with Government Control, remove Terror and Pacify up to 1 level after first removing Terror. If France or Border Zone track, move marker 1 box.

Pairs with: Deploy, Troop Lift.

Comment: This is how Algerian Troop and Police cubes make it to the map, or are placed from elsewhere on the map if none are in Available. This is also one way for the Government to bolster security (i.e. gain Control) in a space while selecting it for Pacification, and allowing a combination with a Deploy to bring new French forces onto the map or Resettle a Sector.

At the beginning of the Full and Medium scenarios, the Government player is limited to selecting a narrow range of map spaces to Train in: Cities and Sectors with Bases. Later in the game, and at the beginning of the Short Scenario, the Pivotal Event Recall de Gaulle allows the player to Train in these spaces, but also in any Sector where they have Control and Troops and Police – the same circumstances which allow Pacification in Propaganda Rounds, though limited to 1 space and 1 level at a time. This brings an important change to the game, if and when the Government player decides to pursue more of a “hearts and minds” strategy, as opposed to one of strictly whacking insurgent moles.

The France Track reflects the attitudes of the French civilian population and government, and the influence of the FLN among the hundreds of thousands of Algerian expatriates in France: as the marker slides up the Government player loses Commitment and the FLN gains Resources, so this is how the Government counters that process.

The Border Zone Track reflects the state of manning and construction of the Morice and Pedron Lines, barriers built to prevent infiltration to and from Tunisia and Morocco. The Border Zone Status (from 0 to 4) acts during campaigns as a number of “virtual cubes” in Sectors adjacent to the international borders that act to Activate FLN Guerrillas crossing them, and are added to the total of Troop cubes in Assaults on Guerrillas in border Sectors. The Border Zone Status also deducts Resources from the FLN total during Propaganda Rounds: this represents the interdiction of men and supplies moving into Algeria in amounts too small to show in game operations, as well as the presence of the French Navy, which patrolled the Mediterranean to prevent insurgent movement of people and supplies into or out of Algeria by sea.

GARRISON

47-third-force

Purpose: Move Police, Activate Guerrillas.

Location: any Pop 1+ spaces (including Resettled Sectors)

Cost: 2 Resources, total

Procedure: Move up to 6 Police cubes between locations. Then, in 1 space, Activate 1 Guerrilla for each Police cube there (1 for every 2 in Mountain).

Pairs with: Neutralize, Troop Lift.

Comment: Colonial Twilight does not feature Lines of Communication to patrol, or Economic Centres to defend. The Garrison operation models the French Army strategy of deploying large amounts of “sector troops” throughout the country in an effort to provide area security to dispersed populations, and the ability of the Army to shift some of these troops around to respond to FLN threats and locate some Guerrillas. Note that it costs only 2 Resources to shift up to 6 Police Cubes among any number of populated and/or Resettled spaces: this can be a quick way to deny the FLN Control of a space, which they need to perform an Extort or Agitate, and it’s how you can set up a space for a subsequent Neutralize or Pacification (if Recall de Gaulle is in effect).

SWEEP

1-quadrillage

Purpose: Move Troops, Activate Guerrillas.

Location: Any spaces.

Cost: 2 Resources per space selected.

Procedure: Move Troops (not Police) into adjacent spaces. Then Activate 1 Guerrilla for each cube there (1 for every 2 cubes in Mountain).

Pairs with: Neutralize, Troop Lift

Comment: Not much to say about this operation, which is familiar from other modern-period COIN system games and is the basic method to move Troops around and Activate Guerrillas. There is an Event Card (Commandos de Chasse) which gives the Government player a Capability where Algerian cubes Activate Guerrillas on a 1 for 1 basis in Garrisons or Sweeps in Mountain Sectors.

ASSAULT

algerie7grand

Purpose: Eliminate enemy.

Location: Spaces with Troop cubes and enemy pieces.

Cost: 2 Resources per space selected.

Procedure: In each selected space, remove 1 Active Guerrilla or Base for each Troops cube (1 for every 2 in Mountain; in City, Police count as Troops; in Border Sector, add Border Zone Status). Removed Guerrillas go to Available and Casualties boxes alternately, Available first. Bases last, do not remove if Underground Guerrillas remain. +1 Commitment for each Base removed.

Pairs with: Troop Lift

Comment: Another familiar Operation. There are two important changes here from previous games, though:

  • Assaults that take place in Sectors on the international borders are augmented by the Border Zone Status number (representing the additional forces available and better detection of enemy forces), though at least 1 actual Troop cube has to conduct the Assault.
  • Guerrillas lost in multiple numbers in Assaults, Neutralizes, and attrition resulting from Attacks are placed alternately between Available and the Casualties Box. It is therefore possible, if the FLN offers the Government large enough bodies of Guerrillas often enough, for his forces to become badly worn down. So try not to bunch up! There is an Event Card (Napalm) which gives the Government player a Capability to “flatten” the hills and remove Guerrillas on a 1 for 1 basis in Assaults in Mountain Sectors (the flip side of the Capability increases the Resource cost of Assaults to 3).

GOVERNMENT SPECIAL ACTIVITIES

DEPLOY

campconcentration

Purpose: Move French pieces among Available and spaces, or Resettle 1 Pop 1 Sector.

Accompanying op: Train

Location: Up to 3 spaces (City, Sector with Base or Government Control) and Available box.

Procedure: Move up to 6 French pieces among selected spaces and Available. Or, in 1 Pop 1 Sector with Base or Government Control, Resettle.

Comment: This is how the Government player gets the French forces from the Available Box onto the map; it is also a method to move French Police cubes into and out of Population 0 spaces, and it is the only way to move Bases around once they are on the map.

Resettlement is a new feature. It is the reverse of the Govern Special Activity in A Distant Plain: where in that game the Government player could add new population to the map, in this game Resettlement converts Population 1 Sectors to Population 0.

Forced resettlement of indigenous populations is a common method to deal with insurgencies: if you conceive of the guerrillas as fish, you can catch them by draining the ocean. In the Algerian War over 2 million Algerians (over 25% of the Muslim population) were forced to leave their homes. Most were placed in internment camps in primitive conditions, others were placed in villages in areas firmly controlled by French forces. In game terms, this physically prevents large numbers of people from actively helping the FLN; on the other hand, the government must use soldiers and resources to keep them confined and controlled.

The Resettlement option for the Government player is a tricky one. The short-term incentive is that reducing the total population on the map will save the Government some security headaches, and add difficulties to the FLN’s operations (inhibiting Rallies and forbidding Extorts). But there is a recurring cost in Resources, as the Government must pay Resources each Propaganda Round, to reflect the political, social and administrative/ security implications of resettling and controlling hundreds of thousands of people, and these Population points are also lost to the Government as a potential source of Support.

And no, there is no method for the Government player to “put them back.”

TROOP LIFT

12-ventilos2-1

Purpose: Mass French Troops quickly for an operation.

Accompanying Op: Any

Location: Any 3 spaces.

Procedure: Redistribute any French Troops among the 3 selected spaces.

This special activity is familiar from other modern-period COIN system games. It can accompany any operation, and using it well is crucial to the Government player’s ability to activate or destroy concentrations of FLN forces (e.g. the now-familiar Sweep – Troop Lift – Sweep, or Assault – Troop Lift – Assault, to get double duty out of your “Airborne Hammer” of concentrated French Troops). There are Momentum Event Cards that temporarily raise or lower the number of spaces among which the Government player can do Troop Lift.

NEUTRALIZE

casbahdalger

Purpose: Destroy exposed FLN pieces.

Accompanying Op: Garrison or Sweep.

Location: Up to 2 spaces with Troops and Police.

Procedure: Remove total of up to 2 Active Guerrillas or Bases from among all selected spaces.  Removed Guerrillas go to Available and Casualties boxes alternately, Available first. Bases last, do not remove if Underground Guerrillas remain. Shift each space 1 level toward Opposition (place 1 Terror if already at Oppose). +1 Commitment for each Base removed.

Neutralize represents the combined efforts of security forces (hence the requirement for both Troops and Police) to root out and destroy smaller amounts of insurgent infrastructure, where there are not enough Troops available for an Assault. Neutralize can fit well with a strategy of dispersing Troops and Police widely, in anticipation of conducting a large amount of Pacification in the Propaganda Round. The difficulty with Neutralize is that its use antagonizes the civilian population, building Opposition (or making the space even harder to Pacify through adding a Terror marker, if the space was already at Oppose).

There is an Event Card (Torture) that confers a dual Capability on the players: it penalizes the Government player -1 Commitment for each Neutralize, but the Government player may remove 1 extra piece, which may be Underground, in each space selected for Neutralize. Another Government Capability (Overkill) allows up to 4 pieces to be removed among the 2 selected spaces.

FLN OPERATIONS

RALLY

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Purpose: Add forces, build Opposition, affect France Track.

Location: any Sector, non-Support City, Morocco, Tunisia, France Track.

Cost: 1 Resource per space/action/track selected.

Procedure: Place 1 Guerrilla or replace 2 with a Base. If Base, instead may place Guerrillas up to Population plus Bases, or flip all Guerrillas Underground. At 1 selected space with FLN Control or Base, remove Terror and Agitate up to 1 level. If France Track, shift marker 1 box.

Pairs with: Extort, Subvert

The mechanics of this operation are largely similar to other modern-period COIN system games, except that Rallies may take place in any Sector regardless of its current alignment, and the addition of the France Track gives the FLN a method to simultaneously attack Commitment and to recoup at least some of the Resources spent affecting the Track.

One important point to note is that if the Available box is empty, the FLN can take Guerrillas and Bases from other spaces on the map when placing pieces in a Rally. However, they may be taken only from spaces in Algeria: any pieces originally placed in Morocco or Tunisia must stay there until replaced with a Base or Marched into Algeria.

MARCH

memoria-n16-001

Purpose: Move Guerrillas.

Location: any spaces

Cost: 1 Resource per destination.

Procedure: Move Guerrillas into adjacent spaces. If space moved into has Support OR Guerrillas moved across an international border, AND moving pieces plus Government cubes exceed 3, Activate moving Guerrillas (if crossing border, add Border Zone Status to # of Government cubes). If same Wilaya, may March again.

Pairs with: Extort, Subvert

Another familiar basic operation. Guerrillas are especially challenged when crossing into Algeria from Morocco or Tunisia; when the Border Zone Status is 3 or 4, the Guerrillas will be Activated even if no actual cubes are present in the Sector entered.

Guerrillas may conduct multiple Marches within the same Wilaya, but must stop when they cross a Wilaya border – this reflects the poor coordination and sometimes outright paranoia and jealousy the insurgent Wilaya commanders exhibited. There is a Momentum Event Card (Paranoia) that shuts inter-Wilaya movement down completely.

ATTACK

27-covert-movement

Purpose: Eliminate enemy.

Location: Any spaces with Guerrilla and enemy.

Cost: 1 Resource per space selected.

Procedure: Activate all Guerrillas. Roll 1d6: if =< # Guerrillas, remove 2 pieces to Casualties (Police first, then Troops, then Bases); remove 1 Guerrilla Attacker for each French piece removed. -1 Commitment for each Base removed. Removed Guerrillas go to Available and Casualties boxes alternately, Available first. If rolled “1”, place 1 Underground Guerrilla.

Pairs with: Extort, Ambush

This operation is similar to that found in other system games, though there are two additions:

  • Police are removed before Troops, which are removed before Bases. This represents the FLN’s prudent reluctance to engage the Government’s elite troops head-on, and to defeat the French in detail through many small ambushes and raids on isolated outposts held by police and sector troops. The FLN player may choose whether Algerian or French cubes are removed within each category. Large numbers of French Casualties will affect Commitment (though they are not as sensitive to casualties as the Coalition in A Distant Plain or the US in Fire in the Lake). And if the FLN manages to bag a Government Base, this reflects a catastrophic collapse of administration and authority in the region, which will have a morale effect beyond its physical one – hence the cost in Commitment.
  • “Attrition”, where Guerrillas are removed in equal numbers to French cubes, represents heavy return fire and the disproportionate casualty ratios that nevertheless occurred in engagements with the French Army, which had access to artillery and airpower. This useful mechanic was stolen from Fire in the Lake, of course.

TERROR

Taleb the Bomb Maker

Taleb the Bomb Maker

Purpose: Neutralize Support.

Location: Spaces with Underground Guerrillas (not Pop 0).

Cost: 1 Resource per space selected.

Procedure: In each selected space, Activate 1 Guerrilla. Add a Terror marker (if none already), set space to Neutral.

Pairs with: Extort, Subvert

This operation can be very effective for the FLN if they can manage to infiltrate a Guerrilla into a City space, and then conduct Terror to knock down Support. However, unlike A Distant Plain, Terror cannot be used to build up Opposition. The Government is in an analogous position: by Neutralizing in a space that is already at Oppose, will place Terror on top of the Opposition, reflecting the hardening of attitudes against the authorities. But both sides have made their jobs more difficult – they must themselves clear away any Terror before building up their own side through Pacification or Agitation.

FLN SPECIAL ACTIVITIES

EXTORT 

les_poseuses_de_bombes

Purpose: Gain Resources.

Accompanying Op: Any.

Location: Any Pop 1+ spaces with Underground Guerrilla and FLN Control.

Procedure: In each space: Activate Guerrilla and add 1 Resource.

Unlike the Government, the FLN can raise new Resources during campaigns by Extorts. Guerrillas can be Activated with impunity in Morocco and Tunisia, so these two countries can be used like cash machines for the FLN once these countries become independent.

SUBVERT

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Purpose: Remove or replace Algerian cubes.

Accompanying Op: Rally, March or Terror.

Location: Up to 2 spaces with Underground Guerrilla and Algerian cubes.

Procedure: Remove total of 2 Algerian cubes (Troops or Police) from spaces, or replace 1 Algerian Police with an Underground Guerrilla. Cubes removed to Available.

There are 30 French cubes in the game and only 10 Algerian ones, but the Algerians are still an important addition to the Government forces, especially if the player gains the Commandos de Chasse Capability.  But via Subvert, these cubes are vulnerable to removal or (if Police) even to changing sides! This represents the FLN’s continuous campaign to encourage desertions and turncoats, or to reduce a unit’s effectiveness through threats, blackmail and other psychological operations. Subvert can also accompany any Operation except Attack, so it can be usefully combined with, say, a March into a non-Support space, or to double the effect of a lone Guerrilla placed in a Sector through a Rally.

AMBUSH

58-army-in-waiting

Purpose: Ensure Attack success.

Accompanying Op: Attack

Location: Up to 2 Attack spaces with Underground Guerrillas.

Procedure: Each Ambush Attack Activates 1 Underground Guerrilla only, and it automatically succeeds (do not roll). Remove 1 enemy piece; do not remove Guerrilla if French piece removed. -1 Commitment if Base removed.

The effect of Ambushes are somewhat reduced from A Distant Plain, but the ambushing Guerrilla does not pay with its life if it takes out a French cube. Zonal Commandos is the flip side of the Commandos de Chasse Capability and permits an Ambush without Activating the Guerrilla: highly effective!

More Later

I hope this brief rundown of the different menus of activities available to the players has aroused your interest. In a later post I will write on the activities conducted during the game’s Propaganda Rounds, and the different Pivotal Event cards available to each player.

– Brian Train


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2 thoughts on “Colonial Twilight: Operations and Special Activities

  1. One correction concerning Assaults: the InsideGMT piece was written while we were still doing final tweaks to the game.

    The reference to the Border Zone Status number being added to the total of Troops in Border Sectors is outdated; it was too fiddly.
    Instead, we changed it to have Police count as Troops in Border Sectors, just as they do in Cities.
    (However, this goes into effect only after Morocco and Tunisia have become independent and the Border Zone comes into being.)

    Brian Train