A Beginners Guide to COIN Games
Justin Berman
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So, hopefully either you enjoy wargames... or you enjoy Eurogames... or maybe both.

You might have heard of the popular COunter-INsurgency (COIN) games and want to dive into them, but you’d like to know where to start.

This was me after the release of Andean Abyss (the first game in the COIN series).

And, I dived in. It was daunting. But, I quickly fell in love with the system, the historical context and the asymmetry in play. I’ve played all of them now and most of the scenarios of each.

So, I’ve developed this Geeklist to serve as possible pointers for people who want to try COIN games but want to know more where to start. A list not informed by me but by the community of COIN lovers (at least that is the goal).

It isn’t a full blown reference, but is designed to be hopefully a useful tool for my friends and perhaps other to learn more (and perhaps engage) COIN games.

I’d recommend a few things first:
Visit GMT’s site at the following: GMT's COIN Page.
Check out the BGG GMT COIN Series Family of games for more on COIN releases and ranks.
Scan and perhaps review comments from the great Geeklist called Guide to GMT Games's COIN Series. This contains details on existing and upcoming COIN efforts in development.


If you have played COIN games, please view and take the polls. These will be aggregated to shape ideas for people to consider before venturing in to COIN. For those who have played...

First Question: What are simple things people should know when starting to play COIN games? If in general, then post as a comment at the end of the Geeklist. If specific to one of the COIN games, post as a comment to that game. Please, limit keep the ideas simple: a sentence or phrase is sufficient.

Second Question (it is OK to change your answers with new releases):
Poll
Vote for the one published COIN game you think is the easiest to learn.
Andean Abyss
Cuba Libre
A Distant Plain
Fire in the Lake
Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection
Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar
Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62
Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain
      436 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Third Question (it is OK to change your answers with new releases):
Poll
From the ones you have played, vote for the COIN game you enjoy the most.
Andean Abyss
Cuba Libre
A Distant Plain
Fire in the Lake
Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection
Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar
Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62
Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain
      420 answers
Poll created by j-berman

For games released after the above, here are new polls:
Poll
From the ones you have played, vote for all the COIN games you think is the easiest to learn than Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947
Andean Abyss
Cuba Libre
A Distant Plain
Fire in the Lake
Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection
Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar
Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62
Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain
      8 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
From the ones you have played, vote for all the COIN games you enjoy more than Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947
Andean Abyss
Cuba Libre
A Distant Plain
Fire in the Lake
Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection
Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar
Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62
Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain
      7 answers
Poll created by j-berman

The list below is ordered based on Era (historical century / decade) to allow people ease in identifying their historical timeframe of most interest. New games COIN entries (and there are multiple coming as of Summer 2018) will be added after release.

I’m not a statitician or poll developer. I’m just someone trying to make a great series even more accessible to those who dare.

Last, but not least, there are several users I found particularly informative / insightful and I want to thank them and others for their contributions to our hobby:
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1. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:2958]
Justin Berman
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No, this is not an "item". Rather, this is what to do after you checked out
,
, and
above.

The polls above tell you that there are roughly two tiers of COIN games: easiest to learn and other (but not necessarily hard to learn). So, Starting with the easiest to learn, Cuba Libre:

Check out Cuba Libre. Whether this is the era of interest to you or not, as per the above poll this is the most accessible of the COIN games. Read about it, search BGG on it, etc.

Next, read the Rules of Play that can be found at Cuba Libre Rules. This provides the rules, defines key game terms in an index, and provides game set up instructions at the back of this rule book. If you have the game, then also check out the player aid sheets which summarize the important game functions.

Finally, scan the Playbook that can be found at Cuba Libre Playbook. This has supplementary materials you won't need for your first game but adds history and the Tutorial and Role Summaries sections are priceless.


One more pointer...

What better way to learn how to play the game then by making yourself learn how to teach it. Some excellent advice on teaching the games (which expose where to learn the games) are at this BGG thread: How to Teach COIN Games

Now, the good news.

Most of the Rules of Play and Playbooks for all the COIN games are structured the same way. Learning the player roles and "propaganda round" (which has different names in different games) for Cuba Libre will allow you to navigate the other COIN games more rapidly.

If you are comfortable with Cuba Libre or just want to try the next tier of games (i.e., "easy to learn") then as the poll suggests, for multiplayer try Andean Abyss or Liberty or Death; for two player try Colonial Twilight. Falling Sky would be the next choice, followed by the others. (This last sentence is totally my own opinion but the rest is poll data driven). Want other options, then as suggested in comments below skim these threads: this, this, or this.

Details on all the COIN games ordered based on Era are below with general strategy tips in the last item. Tips for solo play you say? Visit here.
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2. Board Game: Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:802]
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Era: 54-52 BC
COIN Series, Volume VI

COIN Series Ease in Play:
Consider trying after you’ve gathered some other COIN game experience.

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 3
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
"The Great Revolt" Scenario: 52 BC Spring or
“Reconquest of Gaul" Scenario: 53 BC Winter

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
"Pax Gallica?" Scenario: 54 BC Summer

Tips for new players (from Brian Stephens’ comment below):
1. Read the first two sections of the Rulebook (1.0 & 2.0) to get an overview of the board, pieces and sequence of play.
2. Find somewhere nice and quiet, open up the playbook and let it take you through setup and gameplay. Refer to the rule sections when it instructs you to, so that you slowly assimilate the rules. What each side is doing makes more and more sense as you slowly work though each card. If you want to continue the example game beyond this, just do what you think is best for each side when their turn comes up; don't try to use the bots.
3. If you think you are getting a handle on the game proceed to 4. If you are still confused, watch the below youtube playthrough of the game. These explain what his going on and gives a good example of game play.

4. Don't proceed to here until you have a good feel for the game. If you want/need to use the bots work through the non-player example which begin later in the playbook.
5. Play a game and don't sweat if you make a mistake or two... or ten.
6. Have fun.
Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
"The Great Revolt" Scenario: 52 BC Spring
"Reconquest of Gaul" Scenario: 53 BC Winter
"Pax Gallica?" Scenario: 54 BC Summer
      35 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.

"The Great Revolt" Scenario: 52 BC Spring
"Reconquest of Gaul" Scenario: 53 BC Winter
"Pax Gallica?" Scenario: 54 BC Summer
      29 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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3. Board Game: Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:1602]
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Era: Late 300s-400s AD
COIN Series, Volume VIII

COIN Series Ease in Play:
Consider trying after you’ve gathered some other COIN game experience. In my experience, this has a steeper learning curve.

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 6
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
"Barbarian Conspiracy" Scenario: Late 4th / Early 5th century

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
"De Excidio Britanniae" Scenario: Late 4th through 5th century

Tips for new players: Follow Brian Stephens’ tips under Tips Item using the video below.

View the other Redboot videos for detailed card play.
Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
"Barbarian Conspiracy" Scenario: Late 4th / Early 5th century
"Petty Tyrants" Scenario: Late 5th century
"The Harder They Fall" Scenario: Mid 5th century
"De Excidio Britanniae" Scenario: Late 4th through 5th century
      28 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.
"Barbarian Conspiracy" Scenario: Late 4th / Early 5th century
"Petty Tyrants" Scenario: Late 5th century
"The Harder They Fall" Scenario: Mid 5th century
"De Excidio Britanniae" Scenario: Late 4th through 5th century
      24 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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4. Board Game: Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:869]
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Era: 1776-1780
COIN Series, Volume V

COIN Series Ease in Play:
This is one of the easiest to learn

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 4
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
Short Scenario: 1778-1780 (The Southern Campaign – standard)

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
Long Scenario: 1778-1780 (A People Numerous and Armed)

Tips for new players: Follow Brian Stephens’ tips under Tips Item using the video below.

Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
Short Scenario: 1778-1780 (The Southern Campaign – standard)
Short Scenario: 1778-1780 (The Southern Campaign – optional sprint)
Medium Scenario: 1776-1779 (British Return to New York)
Long Scenario: 1778-1780 (A People Numerous and Armed)
      39 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.
Short Scenario: 1778-1780 (The Southern Campaign – standard)
Short Scenario: 1778-1780 (The Southern Campaign – optional sprint)
Medium Scenario: 1776-1779 (British Return to New York)
Long Scenario: 1778-1780 (A People Numerous and Armed)
      38 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
As a seasoned COIN player, do you prefer Basic Game "Standard" or "Period Event" Options?
Standard Option
Period Event Option
Does not Matter
      38 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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5. Board Game: Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947 [Average Rating:8.31 Overall Rank:3524]
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Era: 1917-1947
COIN Series, Volume IX

COIN Series Ease in Play: TBD (take poll near end of header)

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: TBD (take poll near end of header)

Recommended scenario for start players: TBD

Favorite scenario for seasoned players: TBD

Tips for new players: Follow Follow Jason Carr's tips under Tips Item, and then follows the video below.

Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
Short: 1930-1947
Main: 1917-1914
      3 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.
Short: 1930-1947
Main: 1917-1914
      3 answers
Poll created by j-berman


Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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6. Board Game: Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62 [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:1522]
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Era: 1954-1962
COIN Series, Volume VII

COIN Series Ease in Play:
This is one of the easiest to learn

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 8, but remember this is the single COIN game that takes a maximum of two players. It is a great game but won’t accommodate three or four players like the others. and you can try a four player variant here!
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
Short Scenario: 1960-1962 (The End Game)

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
Full Scenario: 1954-1962 (Algerie Francaise!)

Tips for new players: Follow Brian Stephens’ tips under Tips Item using the video below.

Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
Short Scenario: 1960-1962 (The End Game)
Medium Scenario: 1957-1962 (Midgame Development)
Full Scenario: 1954-1962 (Algerie Francaise!)
      32 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.
Short Scenario: 1960-1962 (The End Game)
Medium Scenario: 1957-1962 (Midgame Development)
Full Scenario: 1954-1962 (Algerie Francaise!)
      30 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
As a seasoned COIN player, do you prefer Basic Game "Standard" or "Open" Deployment?
Standard Deployment
Open Deployment
Does not Matter
      29 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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7. Board Game: Cuba Libre [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:479]
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Era: 1957-1958
COIN Series, Volume II

COIN Series Ease in Play:
This is clearly the easiest to learn

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 2
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
Rulebook Scenario

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
Also, the Rulebook Scenario

Tips for new players: Follow Brian Stephens’ tips under Tips Item using the video below.

Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
Rulebook Scenario
"Election of 1958" Variant Scenario (C3i #37 article)
      53 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.
Rulebook Scenario
"Election of 1958" Variant Scenario (C3i #37 article)
      46 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
As a seasoned COIN player, do you prefer Basic Game "Standard" or "Variable" Deployment?
Standard Deployment
Variable Deployment
Does not Matter
      53 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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8. Board Game: Fire in the Lake [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:396]
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Era: 1964-1972
COIN Series, Volume IV

COIN Series Ease in Play:
Consider trying after you’ve gathered some other COIN game experience. In my experience, this has a steeper learning curve.

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 1
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
Short Scenario: 1965-1967 (Westy’s War)

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
Full Scenario: 1964-1972 (Nam)

Tips for new players: Follow Brian Stephens’ tips under Tips Item using the video below.

Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
Short Scenario: 1965-1967 (Westy’s War)
Medium Scenario: 1968-1972 (A Better War)
Full Scenario: 1964-1972 (Nam)
      49 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.

Short Scenario: 1965-1967 (Westy’s War)
Medium Scenario: 1968-1972 (A Better War)
Full Scenario: 1964-1972 (Nam)
      46 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
As a seasoned COIN player, do you prefer Basic Game "Standard" or "Period Event" Options?
Standard Option
Period Event Option
Does not Matter
      51 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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9. Board Game: Andean Abyss [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:815]
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Era: 1990s-2000s (early)
COIN Series, Volume I

COIN Series Ease in Play:
This is one of the easiest to learn

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 7
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
Either the Rulebook Scenario or the Quick-Play Scenario (found as an article in the C3i Magazine #36)

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
Either the Rulebook Scenario or the Quick-Play Scenario (found as an article in the C3i Magazine #36)

Tips for new players: Follow Brian Stephens’ tips under Tips Item using the video below.

Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
Rulebook Scenario
Quick-Play Scenario (C3i #36 article)
      25 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.
Rulebook Scenario
Quick-Play Scenario (C3i #36 article)
      24 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
As a seasoned COIN player, do you prefer Basic Game "Standard" or "Open" Deployment?
Standard Deployment
Open Deployment
Does not Matter
      25 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Leave comments below for new player tips / advice.
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10. Board Game: A Distant Plain [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:716]
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Era: 2003-2013
COIN Series, Volume III

COIN Series Ease in Play:
Consider trying after you’ve gathered some other COIN game experience. In my experience, this has a steeper learning curve.

COIN Series Ranking for Favorite: 5
(1 most favorite and 8 least favorite)

Recommended scenario for start players:
Short Scenario: 2009-2012 (Obama’s War)

Favorite scenario for seasoned players:
Extended Scenario: 2003-2013 (The Afghan Insurgency)

Tips for new players: Follow Brian Stephens’ tips under Tips Item using the video below.

Poll
Recommended scenario for new COIN players.
Short Scenario: 2009-2012 (Obama’s War)
Main Scenario: 2005-2012 (Taliban Resurgent)
Extended Scenario: 2003-2013 (The Afghan Insurgency)
      26 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
Favorite scenario for seasoned COIN players.

Short Scenario: 2009-2012 (Obama’s War)
Main Scenario: 2005-2012 (Taliban Resurgent)
Extended Scenario: 2003-2013 (The Afghan Insurgency)
      26 answers
Poll created by j-berman

Poll
As a seasoned COIN player, do you prefer Basic Game "Standard" or "Variable" Deployment?
Standard Deployment
Variable Deployment
Does not Matter
      23 answers
Poll created by j-berman

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11. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:2958]
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So, you’ve done a little research, read up on the most accessible of the series (Cuba Libre) and perhaps have even played a COIN game a time or two.

Now what? You are now probably ready to venture into more scenarios and games.

Consult the games above for games that have eras that may be of interest to you and your friends. Download the GMT accessible Rules of Play and Playbook and check the game BGG files section for useful tools as there are many.

Most players agree that playing with standard (set) deployment of units is the preferred way to play. There are often COIN game options that allow open / variable deployment of units (some set and some added) but players find these either not the preferred choice or a non-issue with preference.

However, if given the chance to use standard or period event options (cards to be used), players often prefer the period event option. This is logical as as all of these games have a strong historical tie-in to the cards and choice selection of those cards for a given scenario provides more realism in game play.

If there is an option, consider using Standard Deployment and Period Event Options for more realistic play based on the history of the era.

And

Now, and this is critical, Have Fun!

But wait, there is more! New COIN games are coming out more than ever. Here is a brief list of games that you can order from GMT on their P500 (they have an ordering system that results in product made after 500 orders have been committed):
Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar – Ariovistus
Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917 – 1947
All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-1918
People Power
I will be adding the new games once they are officially released to the list above, but they won’t be added to the polls since the polls are static items set up for the eight games.

Still want MORE?

Try these games as nice recommended games (I can't personally recommend as I have not played):
Root
The Coin Tribes' Revolt: Boudica's Rebellion Against Rome

Cheers!
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12. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:2958]
Justin Berman
United States
White River Junction
Vermont
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Solo Play Tips

From Brian Stephens' comment below:
Quote:
The solo player should play both the "Allied" Factions (Government & The Syndicate OR 26July and Directorio in CL, Aedui & Romans or Averni & Belgic in FS, etc).

The solo player can win during the first three Propaganda rounds if both his factions fulfill their Victory conditions simultaneously.

After the second last scoring card has been played (the 3rd Propaganda in CL, the 4th Winter in FS, etc.) if, at the end of the round, neither the player or the bots have won, the player uses the 1-Player Victory section of the rules to calculate each of his factions scores. He then takes sole control of the faction with the lowest score; the other "ally" reverts to being a bot. (If both factions are tied he can use the one of his choice). He only wins if his remaining faction achieves Victory during or after the final Propaganda round.

I have used this extensively playing CL and FS and it works really well. It also speeds up play as you have only two bots to control, not three, for most of the game.
Want to see what others say? Check out: this or this.
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