Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for....Insurrection

It appears that a fair amount of my interest in games these days (and war gaming subjects) is around insurrection. As defined by Free dictionary: A violent uprising against an authority or government: "opposition to the new regime led to armed insurrection".

I was reading my new book "The other side of the mountain" by Lester Grau today on the bus, and came across some quite interesting information in the preface. Here is a quote: 'Afghanistan was not a guerilla war ala Mao Tse Tung or Vo Nguyen Giap. The Mujahideen were not trying to force a new ideology and government on a land. Rather, they fought to defend their Qawm and their religion against a hostile ideology, an atheistic value system, an oppressive central government and foreign invader. It was a spontaneous defense of community values and a traditional way of life by individual groups initially unconnected to a national or international political organizations.'

The interesting part of this quote to me is the idea that there really are so many types of insurgents who have very different objectives and values. If we look to Carl von Clausewitz' maxim that war is an extension of politics it helps shed more light on how we should consider the roots and reasons of various insurrections as informative to what their strengths, weaknesses, and objectives would be.

Why would this be important in a wargame? I like having context in games and that the battle is merely a part of a larger mission/war/whatever. This should help inform the objectives of the player(s). While line em up, shoot em down battles were interesting, I find it much more fulfilling to have side specific objectives to achieve. By adjusting the objectives and matching them to their strengths you can have very 'imbalanced' games where each side has a good chance of winning.

The ambush alley line of products certainly fits into this mold. Two Fat Lardies product, Charlie don't surf, has distinct objectives for both the VC and the free world forces (and both military as well as political). It's really the campaign play, though, that I think would be important for gaming out insurrection material.

I was trying to play through a FNG (2 hour war games vietnam ruleset) supplement, FNG operations, where you command a firebase in vietnam and are trying to control VC activity in your Area of Operations. It was a bit unwieldy in the amount of information you needed to track, and there were (to my mind) some misses information in the rules, but it was interesting trying to build the base, manage limited air strike resources, patrol troops and support battles. It was also bleak as well, my base ended up getting overrun within the first 10 days and I scrubbed the mission at that point.

Similarly, the classic Traveller adventure, Broadsword that I see people play out occasionally on the blogosphere involves a mercenary company (platoon really) that is called into a world to help maintain order in the face of unrest in the countryside and an unreliable armed forces. A war breaks out in the background and suddenly the mercenaries are facing a trickier situation with less backup than anticipated. The adventure as written leaves lots to the'd be great, in my mind, to have some sort of rules set for helping track the contest for the hearts and minds (and troops losses/gains) of both sides. FNG Operations probably has some useful mechanics to lift, but I don't think it's the bee's knees.

I'm finding the Hokastani campaign (Big Force on Force blog) to be fine reading as well. I like how they have a board that queues up table top battles. It seems that it's largely a regular vs regular-ish campaign...but we may see some new things emerge. I imagine that a GM moderated campaign would be almost mandatory for a insurrection campaign (certainly it appears there is a GM introducing new developments in the Hokastani game). If you can convince the players to place the campaign/war rather than the ruleset with a GM you can end up with all sorts of interesting outcomes. I distinctly remember reading a AAR report where the rebel forces were able to video tape the governmental forces fighting badly and freely attaching civilian structures that it was obvious that even if they had acheived their objectives it would have been a strong victory for the rebels. It's great to have that sort of free idea capability in games....and able to model it's results in some way within the sytem.

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