Colonial Twilight: Propaganda Rounds and Pivotal Events

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In this article I will write about the specific activities that take place during the Propaganda Rounds in Colonial Twilight, and about the various Pivotal Events that players can execute during the game.

Colonial Twilight has three scenarios: Full, Medium and Short, consisting of 5, 4 and 3 Propaganda Rounds respectively. Like other COIN system games, in preparing the deck for play, one Propaganda Card is shuffled into each group of 12 Event Cards, so the run of cards between two Propaganda Rounds (the “campaign”) can be (but likely won’t be) up to 24 cards.

When a Propaganda Card does arrive, players follow this sequence:

Victory Phase 

If either player has met victory conditions (Government: Support + Commitment > 35; FLN: Oppose + Bases on map > 30), the game ends. Players do not check for victory on the first Propaganda Round.

Resources and Commitment Phase

Government adds Resources equal to Commitment, and the total Population Values of all Sectors with Government Control and at least one Government Base in them. The former represents the general willingness of the government in Paris to keep the war in Algeria going, and the latter represents the resources able to be diverted back to the military effort once control and functioning civilian government infrastructure (represented by Bases) has been established in sections of the countryside.

Government also adds Resources equal to the number of French pieces in the Available Box if the “Recall de Gaulle” Pivotal Event is not in effect, and adds Resources equal to total Support if “Recall de Gaulle” is in effect. In the first case this reflects the French Army’s ability to use resources more efficiently if it has a lighter “footprint” in the country, that is, fewer forces dispersed throughout the country. In the second case this represents the greater emphasis by the government on seeking support from the population, and rewarding progress on that point.

Finally, Government subtracts Resources equal to the number of Resettled Sectors. As detailed in the previous post on Operations and Special Activities in Colonial Twilight, Resettling a Sector reflects placing the civilian population in internment camps or villages, and having to use soldiers and resources to keep them confined and controlled.

FLN adds Resources equal to the number of FLN Bases on the map (represents low-level taxation supplemental to Extort operations) and the Resource number from the France Track (contributions made by Algerian expatriate workers, and other fund-raising in France). FLN subtracts Resources equal to the Border Zone Status number (shows the effect of interdiction of men and supplies moving into Algeria in amounts too small to show in distinct game operations, as well as the presence of the French Navy and police suppression of the FLN organization in France).

Next, Government adjusts Commitment. This can be raised by transferring French pieces from Available to Out of Play. It is lowered by doing the reverse, or incurring large numbers of French Casualties. The status of the France Track (reflecting the anti-war sentiments of the French civilian population, and to a lesser degree pressure from other countries) often lowers Commitment as well.

Support Phase

Government may Pacify in any spaces with Government Control and Police and Troops. Unlike the Train operation, there is no limit on suitable spaces and there may be up to two shifts per space. However, Government may not spend more Resources in this Phase than the current Commitment level.

FLN may Agitate in any spaces with FLN pieces and no Government Control. Again, unlike the Rally operation, there may be up to two shifts per space.

If this is the final Propaganda Round, players now determine Victory.

Redeploy Phase

Government may move any Troops on the map to any Cities or spaces with friendly Bases. Any Police on the map may move to any Government Controlled spaces.

FLN may move any Guerrillas from any spaces to any spaces with friendly Bases, within the same Wilaya. There is a Capability which allows FLN to move Guerrillas to any spaces with friendly Bases anywhere in Algeria, which is a significant help.

Reset Phase

 Players prepare for the next campaign. One-third of French and Guerrilla Casualties are placed in the Out of Play box, and the remainders return to Available. The France and Border Zone Tracks degrade towards their lower states. Finally: some housekeeping measures familiar from other COIN system games: removing Terror markers, flipping Guerrillas back to Underground, and discarding Momentum cards. Finally, the Initiative Track is reset to make FLN First Eligible.

And we’re ready for the next Event Card….

Pivotal Event Cards

Each player begins a scenario with up to three Pivotal Event Cards. This very good idea was stolen from Fire in the Lake of course, and it works to reflect the occurrence of significant political-military events that materially affected the course of the war.

How do Pivotal Events work in a 2-player system? Pretty simple. A player may play a Pivotal Event to replace the currently played Event card if all pre-conditions listed on the card are met, and the First Eligible player has not yet chosen an option. If both players want to play a Pivotal Event at the same time, the Second Eligible player gets priority and plays their card (and First Eligible keeps their card to play later). The player playing the Pivotal Event card places it on the played Event Card and executes the Pivotal Event instead. Also, the player of the Pivotal Event Card becomes or remains First Eligible, placing their cylinder in the “Event” box of the Initiative Track, so this can force a sudden swing in the rhythm of play.

FLN Pivotal Events

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Morocco and Tunisia Independent

Legally Morocco and Tunisia were French protectorates, not colonies, but they were part of the empire nonetheless. In March 1956 both countries became independent and the French garrisons left, as they were needed in Algeria and Europe. Throughout the rest of the war the FLN would treat these countries as sanctuaries, operating training and supply bases from their territory.

This card is used only in the Full scenario. It may not be played until the Government player has played “Mobilization” (which represents the withdrawal of French garrisons from these countries, making them available for use in Algeria). In game terms, executing this Event allows the FLN to enter, Rally and Extort in these countries, and a number of Event Cards in the deck become effective. This card also activates the Border Status Track.

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Suez Crisis

President Gamel Abdel Nasser’s government gave political and logistical support to the FLN in its early stages, which was a factor in France’s decision to join Great Britain in “Operation MUSKETEER”, the air and naval landings in the Suez Canal Zone undertaken in October-December 1956.

This card is used only in the Full Scenario. Like “Coup d’etat”, is has no pre-conditions (except that the FLN must have 6 Resources in hand) so may be sprung any time. When it is executed both players lose 6 Resources and the Government player must remove 1d6 French Troops temporarily from the game. The temporary cost in Resources to the FLN player reflects the interruption of arms and supplies coming to him from Egypt, but he will get them back after the invasion crisis has passed. For his part, the Government player will get his elite troops back in the Propaganda Round, but he left his Resources sitting on the beach at Port Said.

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OAS

The Organization de l’ Armee Secrete (OAS) was formed at the end of 1960 by right-wing military officers and members of “ultra” pied-noir groups who were disappointed and frustrated by Charles de Gaulle’s approach to prosecuting the war. For the final two years of the war the OAS was continuously active in both Algeria and France. They carried out selective assassinations and bombings to either silence people and organizations seeking progress in the peace negotiations, and/or to provoke violent reactions from the FLN to derail these same negotiations. Their actions in France, including several attempts to kill de Gaulle, brought them into conflict with the French security agencies and further alienated the French civilian population.

Hence, this card may be played only if de Gaulle is in power (that is, the Government player has played “Recall de Gaulle”) and is cancelled (or never enters play) if de Gaulle is “cancelled” in a coup d’etat. This is one of two “dual Capability” cards in the game, and playing it allows either player to sow Terror in a space, with a cost in Commitment for the Government player, and a greater cost in Resources for the FLN. These costs reflect the effects of one organization provoking the other, and the reflexive retaliation and violence that ensues.

Government Pivotal Events

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Mobilization

France was unable and unwilling to commit large numbers of troops to Algeria at the beginning of the violence in late 1954, as they were still trying to extricate themselves from Indochina. Also, the FLN revolt was treated at first as criminal activity to be dealt with by the police. But by the fall of 1955 the growing influence of the FLN, and the frequency and violence of insurgent operations, led the French government to mobilize new drafts of reservists for service in Algeria. In the end, over 1.25 million conscripts from metropolitan France served two-year terms in Algeria, most of them as “sector troops”.

This card is used only in the Full scenario. Play of this card is permitted by the FLN reaching the halfway point to its Victory Condition (Oppose + Bases = 15). It allows immediate transfer of most of the French forces in Out of Play to Available, and the Government player also gains the ability to Resettle sectors.

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Recall De Gaulle

To conclude a complex chain of events in the spring of 1958, including a revolt in Algiers by pieds-noirs, a conspiracy of senior generals, a threatened coup d’etat in Paris and the collapse of the Fourth Republic, Charles De Gaulle re-emerged from retirement and became Prime Minister of France in June 1958. De Gaulle was interested in pursuing some form of compromise end-state for Algeria between colony and total independence that would respect the wishes of the Muslim majority and protect both the pieds-noirs, many of whose families had lived in Algeria for over a century, and French commercial and strategic interests. This made him enemies.

This card may be played any time after the Government player has played “Coup d’etat” at least once (since it was the coup attempt of 1958 that placed de Gaulle in power). It may be cancelled later in the game if the Government player plays “Coup d’etat” again and wins the die roll (as the coup has effectively cancelled de Gaulle himself). But while it is in play, several rules change for the Government player, and combine to put Government operations on a somewhat different basis:

  • He may now Train in any Pop 1+ space on the same basis as during the Support Phase (i.e. with Government control and Troops and Police), though he is still limited to one space per Operation and one shift per Pacify;
  • In the Resource and Commitment Phase of the Propaganda Round, French pieces in the Available Box no longer provide Resources and French Casualties no longer affect Commitment.

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Coup d’etat

There were three major instances during the Algerian War where the French Army intervened in politics. As frustration grew in 1957-58, elements in the Army leadership and pied-noir community decided that Charles de Gaulle would be the man to prosecute the war as vigorously as they wanted. “Operation RESURRECTION”, a military revolt in May 1958 featuring an airborne landing and intervention by armored units in Paris, got as far as the bloodless seizure of Corsica by several French paratroop regiments before the government collapsed and De Gaulle assumed power. As de Gaulle attempted to engage the FLN in peace negotiations throughout 1960, the pieds-noirs and the elite troops of the intervention forces, particularly the paratroop regiments, felt betrayed by the man they had placed in power to help them win the war. In January 1960 the “Week of the Barricades” began as a pied-noir revolt in Algiers; the revolt was supposed to spread to the military and Paris itself but de Gaulle defused the situation through his personal influence. By the end of 1960 some leaders of the revolt formed the OAS, which would in the following years make multiple attempts to assassinate de Gaulle. In April 1961 the “General’s Putsch” seized power in Algiers, and it was feared that there would be a military-wide revolt. Again, de Gaulle saved the situation by appearing on radio and television to appeal to the French nation; the steam went out of the rebellion and several elite units were disbanded.

Unlike other Pivotal Event cards, this one may be kept and played again (but no more than once per campaign). To resolve the card, both players roll a die and compare their scores. Playing it may seem somewhat risky, as the Government player may lose Commitment or the use of some Troops: on the other hand, if he wins he gains Commitment and Resources. However, it’s a risk the Government player must take, if he wants to play “Recall de Gaulle” – though that also permits the FLN to play “OAS” later.


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