@Marshwiggle92 recently wrote a really nice first impression for #Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain. You can find it here: Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain first impressions | Board Game Atlas. I was originally going to write the same article but Marshwiggle beat me to it!
Instead I thought I would write a high level general overview of the COIN series from GMT games. I'm not an expert at the games but I have bit of experience and a growing collection:
(Also note, I had a bunch of mid-game photos from all the games in my collection but I lost them somehow. So I setup a couple of shots just to give you an idea of what things look like.)
The COIN (COunter INsurgency) series is published by GMT. They cover a wide range of conflicts such as the Cuban Revolution, the impact of the fall of the roman empire in the English Isle, the recent War in Afghanistan, and the decolonization of India.
Some common points among all the games:
- Multiple different factions (Typically 3 or 4)
- Typically one faction is dominant or in power. (The government, the Raj, The Dux)
- Each faction has its own victory conditions. Victory conditions often involve bases on the map, control of population, support for the ruling power, or opposition to the ruling power among other factors.
- The winning conditions inter-relate in some way. Two factions might work towards the same goal but have different winning conditions. (For example, in #Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947 the Congress Activists win by getting enough total opposition to the Raj, the Muslim League Activists also need to create opposition but only opposition in muslim provinces count for them.)
- Each faction has it's own set of operations and special operations. Some are shared with other factions while others are specific to that faction.
- Combat is typically a very simple affair. There maybe be a dice roll but usually it can be mitigated.
- Control on the map is important to one or more factions.
The government has 4 pieces to 2 for all other factions and therefore has control.
How does a Turn work?
At the start of the game and on every turn there will be an event card for the turn and also one shown for the next turn.
At the top of each card you will find faction symbols. Eligible factions in symbol order determine their action:
- Take the event - The player can choose to activate the event. There are typically two options on the events some of which can give permanent bonuses or negatives to various factions. If that player takes the event then the next eligible player can take an action with a special activity or pass.
- Perform an operation - The player takes an operation without a special activity. Operations include things like training troops, rallying protestors, assaulting in spaces, and marching. The next player can take a limited operation which is an operation that only applies to one space or they can pass..
- Perform an operation with special activity - Special activities include things like air strikes, bribing other factions units, and building forts. The next faction can either pass or activate the event.
- Pass - Perhaps the faction would prefer to use the next event or needs resources. Typically when the faction passes they get resources as well as staying eligible on the next card.
Any faction that takes an action or activates the event will be ineligible on the next card. (For most of the COIN games.)
This interplay is the real core of the game.
For example, the next event is really good for you and you are first on it. But the current event is really good for your main opponent right now and he's eligible next to take it. Do you pass or choose to take an operation only so the event can't be chosen?
If you take the operation only does the next player pass because they are up first on the next card? Or do they have a really juicy limited operation lined up now that they should just take?
As the third eligible faction on the card you may only get to take a limited operation but if you are going to be the thiird player up on the next card perhaps you just take that limited operation instead of passing and sitting idle on the next card. But perhaps someone might pass on the next card and you can get a juicy operation with special activity.
The typical sequence of play on the board.
Play continues until a propaganda card comes up. They typically shuffled in to the event deck at points. You can have an idea when they will come up but can never be sure.
At that point victory is checked for, resources are gained by factions, and a variety of other updates/actions occur depending on the game.
The propaganda phases are a vital part of the game and if you get yourself in to a good position to take advantage of them you can get a big leg up towards victory. Each game has it's own flavour of actions but an example for many games is you can take actions like creating support or opposition in provinces where you meet certain criteria. It doesn't use a turn or make you inelligible, you've typically just got an influx of resources, and you can often do it in more spaces than is typical. (But of course if you use all of those resources now you won't have them for the next campaign and they can be tough to come by.)
If the last propaganda card comes up and no faction hits their victory condition then the faction closest to it is the winner!
In Gandhi if the population in unrest plus bases is 15 or more during a victory check then the revolutionary guerillas win, if the muslim opposition plus double the population in muslim states is more than 15 the Muslim league wins.
The Taliban have sabatoged a pipeline and the Raj has control in Delhi.
How's the solo mode?
I have found that the solo mode can vary from game to game. In some games it seems pretty straightforward to figure out what is intended but in others it can get a bit tricky. The newer games use a card system along with decisions charts and tables to make the bots more realistic and competitve.
Depending on the game the bots are pretty good though they sometimes make some rather unintelligent decisions. The good news is that after playing through half a game or so you really get a feel for the flow of the game and I had some confidence in adjusting the bots actions a little bit when they did something really non-sensical.
I definitely find the solo modes enjoyable but they don't live up to playing with other players and the interesting interplay that occurs.
That said, I do think that these games are still a lot of fun to play solo and if you are a solo only player I can still recommend them overall. Some are easier to pick up than others for sure so time and patience will be required.
Where should I start?
From my collection the best game to start with would be #Andean Abyss or #A Distant Plain. These games are the most straight forward from my collection with Andean Abyss being the obvious starting place..
In the mid tier I would put #Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947 and #All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-1918. These both throw different curveballs at you with either the way the faction interplay works in Gandhi, and the two phased game state in All Bridges Burning.
At the complex tier I would put #Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain. This game has intricate combat, really interesting interplay between factions, and a lot more things to keep an eye on in general.
Mid-game maps from Pendragon and All Bridges Burning.
COIN games aren't a war game, they aren't a euro game, they aren't a dice chucker, and they aren't your typical dudes on a map game. For me at least they fit in to a new niche in gaming which birthed games like #Root (much beloved by this site!).
There is nothing quite as fun as sitting down and trying out a new faction you haven't tried out before to see how it meshes with the other factions. The players have to balance the game out amongst themselves and figure out when it is best for their faction to attempt to grab the reins and win it all.
I definitely put playing a COIN game on to my list of "things a die hard board gamer has to do at least once"!
You can find the COIN games on GMT's web site here: