I love asymmetrical gameplay and one series that has stood out for me recently is the recent one from Volko Ruhnke and GMT Games: COIN. This series is all about counter-insurgency and explores unconventional conflicts such as the one in Columbia at the end of the 1980s (Andean Abyss), the war in Vietnam (the upcoming Fire in the Lake, which I took a look at here). As there are very few games that explore COIN-type conflicts (most wargamers tend to prefer games that have direct conflict instead of more subtle conflicts like Vietnam and Algeria), any game that deals with that topic will always gets at very least a peek from me.
So it’s no great surprise that I’ve P500ed and couldn’t wait to receive the second and third volume in the series, namely Cuba Libre and A Distant Plain. Weighty games on very interesting subjects, they should be very interesting to dig into, using a system that I’m familiar with. It should be interesting to see how the system both adapts to the very different conflicts and offers new challenges to those who’ve played Andean Abyss before.
Cuba Libre (GMT Games) by Volko Ruhnke and Jeff Grossman is the second game in the COIN series and it takes a look at the Cuban revolution, with the four players taking on the roles of the Batista Government, the leftist Movement of the 26July, the anti-communist and anti-Batista Revolutionary Directorate, and finally the organized crime Syndicate. Like Andean Abyss and Fire in the Lake, the factions in this game are opposed but must still work together to keep one faction from pulling ahead while working to place their pieces to win. This is the smallest game in the series, with a small deck of cards (only 48, not counting the Propaganda cards), a much smaller map and a handful of pieces. I’m hoping that both the smaller size and shorter play time means that I can introduce this games series to the Ubisoft Montreal gaming group.
The third game in the COIN series, A Distant Plain (GMT Games) by Volko Ruhnke and Brian Train takes a look at the current war in Afghanistan and all the problems the four different sides are facing. This time the different groups are the Government, the Coalition (mainly the US forces), the Drug Warlords and the Talibans. The biggest difference here is the lack of symmetry between the different factions and the very interesting twist that the Coalition gains VP for having little troops on the ground. I’ve played this one before in its late playtesting form and quite liked it. I had the chance to play it again this weekend at Stack Academy and really like the dynamics of what was done with the system this time around. Spoiler: it helped that I won as the coalition, working closely with the Government player.
The physical quality of both games is exceptional, with GMT Games once again delivering gorgeous mounted boards, very nice wooden pieces and sturdy decks of cards. Overall, the COIN series has been fascinating so far, offering a very tight, frustrating experience that satisfies enormously. Well worth getting in my opinion.