I’m introducing a new mechanic to augment the COIN Factions in light of recent research: Special Forces.
And today, from the wonderful https://www.spielmaterial.de/ more components arrived, including the octogons to represent the SAS, RUC Special Branch and – and this may work – Gardai Special Branch.
These new components will allow for more simulating targeted, clandestine operations limited to the border County of Armagh and Newry initially; this reflects their restricted deployment and operations between 1976 and late 1977, before Roy Mason 1978 widened their scope of operations.
The RUC Special Branch and SAS are mutually exclusive and it will not be permissible to have both in the same county seat – mirroring the discord and rivalry that was present between the two allies; it will also present interesting meta dynamics between the participants operating these two forces.
Lastly, I have begun to produce the accompanying narratives for each Event Card and which shall appear in the Playbook; I’ve completed 30 of the original set, but as is the case, I have identified Event Cards that should warrant inclusion, particularly around the time of Terence O’Neill’s reign – a very interesting time, indeed, and one which I would envisage and hope that players will discover as adding political nuance to the early period of the Troubles.
The SAS and SB may cross the border into Republic of Ireland in an attempt to secure arrests or assassinations, but potentially leading to the deterioration of Anglo-Irish Relations and the lowering of UK Prestige – all of which are damaging during Election Rounds and act as ‘recruiting seargants’ for the paramilitaries.
There are approximately 200 such cards that provide – hopefully – the full gamut of political and social context upon which the activities play out.
I had the privilege of GMT emailing me last Friday to reiterate their desire for adding The Troubles to their established COIN Series.
And on that note, I shall shortly have the honour of working with a renowned boardgame graphic artist on taking this historical study to the next stage.
Playtesting of the Event Cards between 1983 and 1987 generated very interesting results. Firstly, for a solo player there is significant cognitive load particularly associated with the Election Round. Secondly, the in-game Westminster Election results were fairly analogous to the real world.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone was won instead of South Down, as was the newly created Foyle; West Belfast and Armagh and Newry were held.
The Belfast to Dublin line was a precious economic target for Republican paramilitaries, primarily the IRA but also the INLA; two attacks related to this important rail-link feature on 1985 Event Cards.
I have attached an initial Economic Value of ‘4’ to the railway itself, with successful operations on associated stations – possibly – securing the insurgent faction the economic value of the county seat.
In the meantime I’ll think about extending this, conjuring perhaps more narrative ‘flavour’.
I’ve been running through the Setup spreadsheet trying to get a handle on set up values for each post-election phase: I’m keen on allowing participants to enter the play immediately after any General Election, mimicking the ‘Scenario’ features of A Distant Plain. And in doing so, I’m consolidating troop numbers, faction numbers and – importantly – civilian and other casualties; I have to have a physical way respectfully accomodating the death toll, and I need to provide an analogue to the increase in security forces.
And the number of Volunteers on each side is likely to increase.
I’m thinking of adding a Punishment Operation or Special Activity for IRA and LOY factions, providing them a way of removing Supergrass or members associated with Collusion; a route to the eradication of informants.
I’m hashing out an idea: swapping out cubes for octogons for the BF Troops, so that their flipped side designates airborne status. The border counties were particularly treacherous for the British Military – almost No-go areas – and the introduction of Helicopters circa 1974 is reflected as a BF Capability.
I’m pleased with The Player’s Aid coverage – it has allowed me to demonstrate the power of the COIN series in telling of their stories – and, in particular, the feedback from GMT themselves on the matter of narrative has been exceptionally positive.