DGS Games

Tag Archives: COIN

The Tuesday Interview – COIN on Mars!

The designer of the home-brewed COIN-on-the-Red-planet game gives us the scoop on his personal design ~

Brant Guillory, 25 July 2017

The COIN system has taken a variety of odd directions – some modern, some not – many of which we’ve covered here at GrogHeads.  One place the COIN system had not yet gone was to space.  Until now.

A home-made COIN-based game, set on Mars, has started to capture some attention, and there’s some buzz about it on teh interwebz.  With that in mind, we tracked down the creator (wasn’t too hard, he’s on BGG!) and bugged him with some questions about his design.

First, the obvious question – this wasn’t anything official from GMT, was it?  You’re not just part of a, ahem… “guerrilla” marketing campaign, are you?

Not official from GMT in any way shape or form. When I first had the idea for the game I messaged Volko and asked his permission to use the game engine. He was 100% cool with that and said if I ever wanted to publish the game, that GMT would be the place to do it.

As it stands, there is no agreement, formal or informal, with GMT to publish the game.  Ideally, there will be. Otherwise this will end up being a free PnP game.



Vietnam ‘65 vs Afghanistan ‘11 – Two sides of the same COIN?

How do the two counterinsurgency games stack up? ~

Boggit, 10 June 2017

Developed by Every Single Soldier and published by Matrix/Slitherine

The opening screen summarising the game parameters. A player can tweak these in the options screen.

A couple of years ago I did an article on Every Single Soldier’s debut release – Vietnam ‘65. At the time I thought with a bit of tweaking and updating of the game engine they could make a decent Afghanistan game, which is exactly what they have done. So what is different and how does it play out?


GrogHeads Advanced Research on Projects Advisory #85

GARPA!  Special Weekend Edition ~

Invierno Cubano: Castro’s Counterinsurgency, 1959-1965 (GMT Games)
p500 $19, MSRP $28 (not there yet)

An expansion for Cuba Libre, Invierno Cubano expands Cuba Libre to focus on Castro’s initial time in charge, as he consolidated power through his own counterinsurgency.  Factions include Casto’s forces, the rich landowners threatened by the socialist revolution, the escapees to the US that want to strike back at the new government, and Batista’s holdouts hoping to take the country back.  It’s almost like a whole new game on the same map.  Wade ashore at GMT’s p500 site to get your order in!


Grogheads Reviews Shining Path: The Struggle for Peru

Review by Vance Strickland, 21 March 2015

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: “Brian Train designs an asymmetric warfare game!”  Vance gives us the low-down on how it plays.

Shining Path is the common name of the Communist Party of Peru, one of several communist groups in the country. At the beginning of 1980, they began a guerrilla insurgency against what they saw as the corrupt bourgeois government. They are still fighting, to bring a Maoist “New Democracy” to the people of Peru, to this day.

Brian Train has been designing games since the early 1990’s and has covered a very wide array conflicts. These range from more mainstream conflicts like Summer Lightning: The Invasion of Poland 1939, from Lock ‘n Load Publishing, to asymmetric warfare like A Distant Plain, from GMT. Most of his designs focus on lesser known conflicts and rarely-gamed ones.

This game is a look at the struggle between Shining Path and the government for the hearts and minds of the people of Peru. In it you control either the Shining Path forces or the government in the form of army, police and politicians.

The version reviewed here is the new edition published by One Small Step, the first of their Folio Series games. It currently sells for $22.95 USD.

GrogHeads Interviews Harold Buchanan (GMTs Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection)

Brant Guillory, 11 February 2015

Harold Buchanan gives us the low-down on the next COIN game from GMT, and turns the tables on our interviewer!

We had a chance to chat with Harold Buchanan, Designer of GMTs Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection. This one takes the COIN system to the American Revolution. This is Harold’s first game, but he is well supported by series creator Volko Ruhnke and series developer Mike Bertucelli. Örjan Ariander is designing the ‘bots’ that control the factions not represented by a player in the game. Harold is also an expert on the period and has a degree in Finance and Game Theory from MIT. He resides in San Diego, California where he lives with his wife of 22 years and has 3 kids in college, so he needs all the help we can give him with pre-orders.




GrogHeads: Do we really need another American Revolution Game?

Harold Buchanan: Are you kidding me? Absolutely! I love 1776 and played it a lot in my youth. I love the Area Status Chart and how British pieces in a Region reduce reinforcements to the Patriots! A game ahead of its time in incorporating regional politics. Then came We the People/Washington’s War with its breakthrough card driven mechanics. I enjoyed it as an elegantly playable innovation and really enjoyed timing the game end through the use of the “War Ends” cards. Plenty of room exists for new and different approaches in it.

Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection looks at the same war as so many other games have but from a different angle: it identifies the four factions critical to the conflict and plays off how they interacted politically, economically and militarily. The game is driven by a detailed set of historical events cards on the topic. Grab three friends and give the conflict a look from a new perspective. It may change the way you think about the American War of Independence.

Given the Patriots won the Super Bowl I am considering adding another card to the mix—the Pete Carroll event card. If you are the Seahawks and you are winning the game during a Winter Quarters Round you must first roll a die: 1-5 you do something stupid and the Patriots win and 6 you actually get to win.

More playtesting.

More playtesting.

GrogHeads Reviews Fire in the Lake

Michael Eckenfels, 25 October 2014

Michael gives GMT Games’ latest COIN offering a work-thru


It’s 2014, and when you take stock of history, it’s almost unbelievable how time has marched on. The strangest thing is that our Vietnam War vets are in their 60s and 70s these days, whereas back in the 80s when I was in high school, this was the age range of our World War II vets. As these soldiers fade into history through inexorable tick-tocking of time, it’s good to know that the subject of the Vietnam War remains in the modern psyche, whether through books or companies like GMT producing games such as this.

Games simulating the Vietnam War (and yes, I’ll call it a war – let’s not get into a debate over ‘war’ or ‘police action’ or ‘conflict’ – unless you want to take it to the GH forums, of course) are fairly rare, though if you enter “Vietnam” in the BGG website you’ll get 45 titles, about 12 of which have been done since 2010. This of course doesn’t include games that have to do with Vietnam, but don’t have ‘Vietnam’ in the title – like this very game.

Several are all about tactical combat, though, and few actually try to detail the entire war including combat, politics, and internal struggles between alliances. When you buy Fire in the Lake, you’re going to get a complete package that includes all of this. If you’re only interested in the military aspects of the Vietnam War, you’re going to miss out on some interesting game play. First, let’s take a look at what comes in the box.


Fire In The Lake – First Look!

By: Michael Eckenfels, 17 September 2014

I’ve never played any of the COIN (COunter INsurgency) games by GMT (so far, there’s A Distant Plain, Andean Abyss, and Cuba Libre). To be honest, only A Distant Plain sounded interesting to me personally, though I’d heard good things about all three. When Fire in the Lake came around as a possible review title, I jumped on the chance. The Vietnam War is of interest to me and I wanted to learn some more about their COIN system, so I jumped at the chance.

I did watch the tutorial video that the designers (Volko Ruhnke and Mark Herman) produced for YouTube – you can check it out here. I highly suggest it if you’re interested in the game and want to get a feel for its flow; it’s what sold me on my choice to check this out for review. (The camera work is, well…let’s just say there’s an immediate apology from Mark on his camera work. But that’s easily overlooked.)

A review will be coming by the end of October to a beloved wargaming website near you (cough, cough). In the meantime, I thought I’d provide some teasing bits through an unboxing ceremony that, for me, has become a standard thing now with every game I buy, it seems.


FITL-coverThe box in all its shrink-wrapped glory. This thing is thick and heavy. I love the good feel of a heavy wargame box in the morning (though it’s late in the evening when I take these pics). It feels like…well, you know. I really like the cover artwork and the subdued darkness that makes you feel like you’re staring into a quagmire. Huge props to the artist on this venture!

A Review of GMT’s A Distant Plain

Brant tackles GMT’s latest COIN series game, A Distant Plain, and reports from the front.

GrogHeads has covered A Distant Plain with an interview with the designers, and the photos of the unboxing.  All well and good, of course, but how does it play?

There are several reasons why A Distant Plain can be tough to review.  That said, they are all the same reasons that make it a compelling game.  How many multiplayer wargames have you played where the players are not simply extensions of a team, but rather working at cross purposes as often as not?  How many wargames have you played with an elastic time scale?  How many wargames eschew anything resembling unit factors or quantified values?  And now take all those tweaks and roll them into a single game, and drop into an ongoing conflict whose outcomes are not yet truly determined.


The Story

There are four players: The Coalition, The Government, The Taliban, and the Warlords.  Of these, the Taliban are the only one for whom you can draw a reasonably straight line directly from the real life organization in Afghanistan directly to a game role.  The Government essentially represents the Karzai administration, but there are game effects that seem to clearly outstrip the existing government’s capabilities.  The Coalition is a mix of ISAF, the US, some NGO capabilities, and other external actors attempting to influence actions in Afghanistan.  Finally, the greatest amalgam – the Warlords – are the ultimate ‘floater’ faction representing a collection of decidedly non-aligned ‘real’ actors who nevertheless represent a unified set of goals within the mechanics of the game.

The varying scenarios allow you start the war in 2002, 2005, or 2009, but all tend to end around 2013 or so.  Obviously, the 2009 scenario is the quickest of them, but any of them will take most of an afternoon, if not more.


The setup for the “surge” scenario, starting in 2009.


Opening the Box

We’ve covered the unboxing before, but to save you jumping to the link, here’s what you get: a solid, 8-panel, mounted, folding map with a ton of useful marginal tracks, boxes, and record-keeping tools; a single sheet of mounted, die-cut counters that are virtually all administrative in nature; a bag of Euro-game-ish markers for the players, representing bases and forces; some dice and pawns; a bunch of plastic bags; the deck of cards used to drive the game along; and a ton of very clear, useful, and well-designed player cards that clearly lay out what players can do on any given turn.