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Subject: Some rules/variant suggestions rss

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Alex F
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After playing a good number of games, both head to head and solo, I found the game could get rather frustrating when some lucky dice rolls decided everything.

In my opinion, there's three main things that can cause frustration:

- if the Revolutionary Suicide Force (btw...did that unit actually exist with that name? I tried googling for its name but found nothing, it seems like a name that makes it extremely hard to find volunteers! Also, why is it one of the only units in game that can retreat?!? ) and the Simba unit can retreat the Ugandan Player has an extremely useful ability: attacking weak Tanzanian forces with this stack means 0 % risk of elimination (ie. attacking a stack with only 3 dice or less, quite common once the powerful Tanzanian stacks are eliminated). That can very much decide the game with such a low number of units on the map. So, if it gets destroyed early on the Ugandan player faces a HUGE disadvantage compared to when it can retreat.

- Usually the war devolves to the Ugandans holding a small stretch of the border, and all the Tanzanians can do is continually attack until the Ugandans are completely destroyed.

- Ugandan air units are thus basically impossible to eliminate when it actually matters: once the Tanzanian player reaches the Ugandan airfiels the game is decided anyway because a defense in depth is just not feasible for the Ugandan player. Once the Lybian air unit(s) arrive, the Ugandan player actually has MORE air forces available than the Tanzanian player. I don't think that makes a lot of sense.


So, here's what I have been trying out to make it more balanced/interesting - I played two full games solo, and I enjoyed the changes, especially the second one. Of course there is a lot of luck in the game, so I can't judge balance from 2 games only and maybe - propably - this completely destroys the game balance.

[9.6] Tanzanian Initiative: During the first turn only, the Tanzanian player gets a +1 on all combat dice rolls for ground units (ie. black dice hit on a 5 and 6, red dice on a 4-6). This does not apply to Momentum Attacks.
This should ensure that the RSF is extremely likely to be at least partially eliminated. As it does not apply to Momentum Attacks the weaker, but still very useful, Simba unit has a higher chance to survive.

[9.7] Ugandan Troops Unwillingness to Fight This rule is only in effect beginning on Turn 3 and if the combat is not a Ugandan defense of a City. It applies during both the Ugandan and Tanzanian Phase, i.e. even if the Ugandans are attacking. It applies only to Ugandan national unit, i.e. not Lybian units. After Phase B of every combat but before Phase C roll a die for every Ugandan unit that has no red movement and/or combat value. On a roll of 5 or 6, this unit retreats. The retreating rules are identical to [9.5]. If it can not retreat, it is not eliminated but instead fights regularly.
That's of course a huge change but I like how it changes the game so far. First, it means the game will hopefully be played over a larger part of the map than only the border region. Secondly, it means defending key cities is very important because that is the only situation where the Ugandans don't retreat. I know basically only nothing about the war but wise Wikipedia states that "The Ugandan Army retreated steadily." and "However the Libyans soon found themselves on the front line, while Ugandan Army units were using supply trucks to carry their newly plundered wealth in the opposite direction." so it seems very fitting to me.

[10.5.6] Striking Air Fields: During the first turn only, the Tanzanian player can use his air units to attack Ugandan air fields. This is basically only step B of the Battle Sequence, which means the Ugandan player can not strike back. Only the air units stationed in that air field can be hit, no regular units. Regular hit distribution rules apply (i.e. first hit choice of attacker, subsequent hits choice of defender).
It's not guaranteed but very likely that at least one Ugandan air unit is taken out of the game, which is a good thing if you ask me. Restricting it to the first turn only means the air unit can't be used against the RSF, so there's a choice for the Tanzanian player there.

Considering all these disadvantages for the Ugandans, it is of course pretty much required that the Lybians send their whole Islamic Legion. If that is not enough, you could for example make the Lybian People's Militia unit retreatable, turning it into a very powerful fire-brigade of sorts that is unlikely to die too fast (as otherwise in every combat it participates this is the unit that gets eliminated first).

So, what do you think?
 
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Dennis Bishop
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1. The Masaka Mechanized Specialist Reconnaissance Regiment was also known as the Revolutionary Suicide Force, or the Suicide Headquarters. The title had nothing to do with the way in which the unit conducted operations. Then colonel, later brigadier general, Bernard Rwehururu (Mukiga tribe) was in temporary command of the regiment in 1979. The performance of the regiment (battalion strength) resulted in the defeat of the TPDF 205 Brigade and forced the replacement of its commander Brigadier General Herman Lupogo with Brigadier Muhiddin Kimario. The RSF was one of the best units in the UDF during the war and there was no shortage of Bantu volunteers for the unit.

2. I am not sure as to why the situation in the air "does not make sense." Africa is not Europe or the US. Tanzania was fighting a war on its most remote border far from its airfields and supply depots. Tanzanian planes had considerably less time over target than the UDFAF and Libyan planes, and a TPDFAF squadron lost several downed planes early in the war from friendly AA fire.

3. I encourage any tinkering with the game to make it align with players' expectations. However, the game as published is balanced (years of play testing) and it does reflect an objective presentation based upon both Western Press and Ugandan officer perspectives.

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Alex F
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Thanks for the reply! Don't get me wrong, I still really enjoy the game, otherwise I wouldn't have even thought about posting something like this here.

These rules are not supposed to make the game more historical or anythingy, which is why I am not suggesting these as "this would make the game better", of course including rules that portray the conflict completely differently are not suitable to include in any historical wargame.
Just thought that this might make the game more interesting again once you played it a couple times.

dennisbishop21 wrote:
1. The Masaka Mechanized Specialist Reconnaissance Regiment was also known as the Revolutionary Suicide Force, or the Suicide Headquarters. The title had nothing to do with the way in which the unit conducted operations. Then colonel, later brigadier general, Bernard Rwehururu (Mukiga tribe) was in temporary command of the regiment in 1979. The performance of the regiment (battalion strength) resulted in the defeat of the TPDF 205 Brigade and forced the replacement of its commander Brigadier General Herman Lupogo with Brigadier Muhiddin Kimario. The RSF was one of the best units in the UDF during the war and there was no shortage of Bantu volunteers for the unit.


Interesting. Do you happen to know why it was named that way, still seems like an odd name to me?

dennisbishop21 wrote:
2. I am not sure as to why the situation in the air "does not make sense." Africa is not Europe or the US. Tanzania was fighting a war on its most remote border far from its airfields and supply depots. Tanzanian planes had considerably less time over target than the UDFAF and Libyan planes, and a TPDFAF squadron lost several downed planes early in the war from friendly AA fire.


Alright, I just assumed that Tanzania was more powerful than the Ugandans because the rule book says that Ugandan air craft were captured intact or the pilots deserted. What I meant doesn't make much sense is that since aircraft are only usable offensively, the Ugandan player is basically forced to go on the offensive to actually use his air power. Maybe that's how it should be historically, just seems odd to me gameplay-wise.

dennisbishop21 wrote:
3. I encourage any tinkering with the game to make it align with players' expectations. However, the game as published is balanced (years of play testing) and it does reflect an objective presentation based upon both Western Press and Ugandan officer perspectives.


As I said, it's an enjoyable game. It just always feels very static to me. Is that how it's supposed to be, i.e. was the real war very static until the Ugandans were routed completely?
 
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Dennis Bishop
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1. I do not know why the Masaka Recon Regiment took the alternative name. It might have been an ironic title of which it appears Bantu are fond of using. The Ruwandan "inYenzi" for example translates into "cockroaches."

2 - 3. The issues that you bring up are a bit difficult to portray in a wargame that focuses primarily on the military aspect of the war. Both the Ugandan and Tanzanian armies had never been in combat prior to the war. I state this because both militaries had recently (as of 1978) Africanized their militaries (meaning no outside Anglo officers or international advisors). Libya's intervention only occurred due to Amin's Islamic conversion of Uganda's international alignment. Nyere in Tanzania had reorganized the military not only by Africanizing it, but by socializing it (Similar to the Communist Chinese model) which created numbers without quality. So, by 1979 Tanzania's invasion was marked by leg infantry brigades launching "human wave" assaults against entrenched Ugandan positions. However, this is mitigated by the late 1970's Soviet doctrine which stipulated that defensive positions were to be only temporary positions from which offensive operations could be launched. This was the doctrine used by the Ugandan officers.

Neither country made good use of their air capabilities. The Ugandan air force had radar capability (again Soviet doctrine) but failed to use this to effectively scramble air units to make contact with Tanzanian planes. Conversely, the Tanzanian air force appears to have concentrated on tactical support missions usually at high altitudes. It does not appear to have had the capability of attacking strategic targets. The Ugandan air force was similar in this aspect, and the use of air is not that different from the air war over Viet Nam in 1975.

4. As for the static nature of the game - I suspect that this is the result of player choices. Historically, Amin planned a fighting withdrawal that would allow the TPDF to advance into Uganda bleeding at every possible defensive position. Amin then planned to launch a massive "blitzkreig" using all of his armor, mechanized units, and airpower to destroy the strung out TPDF brigades piecemeal. Nyere's generals literally followed the UDF plan, and narrowly avoided defeat at the Battle of Lukuya. By the time of this battle, the TPDF had only three effective brigades and the Libyan/Ugandan counterattack neutralized one of those brigades. However, the death of Colonel Sule ended the counterattack, and the two TPDF brigades (with air support) destroyed the Libyan/Ugandan columns.

This is counter-intuitive to most wargamers' mind-set which has been conditioned to throw everything to the front and roll dice. The result is that a front is established and a war of attrition ensues which should end in a Ugandan defeat. However, due to the unreliability of the units involved (random dice), this can end in a Tanzanian defeat as well. As for the alternatives, the TPDF player can play for a left hook with a brigade (reinforced), or combine the armor into the original Independent Armored Battalion (that's where all the TPDF tanks orginated) to force the UDF player to spread his units out. Another ploy that play testers used was to drive on Kampala with the "Left Hook."

Something that I did not include was the amphibious capability of the TPDF which would allow two battalions of infantry to land on any shore hex of Lake Victoria. There were plans for such an invasion, and it might have the same effect you are seeking. The invading battalions would be treated like paratroops for supply purposes.

I am happy to read that you are enjoying the game.
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Geoffrey Wilson
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Mr. Bishop,

With all due respect: I find the game horribly unbalanced. I like the theme, I like the art, the components.

But I've never seen the Tanzanians win. Every time, the Ugandans just attrit them into oblivion right on the border. The Tanzanians sometimes push up a bit late game, but not with enough time to win. Even when I use air units.

Do you have any tips on playing as the Tanzanians?


Thanks!
 
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Dennis Bishop
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Mr. Wilson,

I noted your frustration in the Unbalanced file. Without watching your games, it is difficult to provide you advice. The Tanzanians have an obvious advantage in numbers of units, and a strong tank corps. With the advantage in numbers of brigades the Tanzanian player can mass three brigades against one Ugandan brigade. With the tank and artillery support, this is usually enough to smother the Ugandan brigade, and air power usually ensures this.

The Libyan brigade can be a potent counterattacking force, but play tests showed that this only lasts for one turn. One lost unit from any Ugandan/Libyan brigade limits the stacking of units after for those units.

I have written before on this topic, but play testing on this game for balance was the most comprehensive and thorough job I have ever experienced in a game. Tracking the responses almost produced a perfect bell curve of wins/loses/ties. The majority of games ended in ties.

If you can be more specific in what is happening in your games, I will try to be more help. I am happy that you like the topic and components.

 
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Dennis Bishop
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Here is a variant for those who cannot get the Tanzanian Army to win:

At the beginning of the Ugandan Movement Phase, roll one die to determine how many Ugandan/Libyan units can move that turn.
 
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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I use a house rule that after the first logistic breakdown the Tanzanians suffer they do not have to roll again for this (as it can often decide the game if the Tanzanians are unlucky and fail this roll more than once)
 
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Dennis Bishop
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Brian,

I suggest that your house rule might be more closer to history if you applied it once the Tanzanian player has captured one of the Uganda supply hexes. At that point one might consider that the TPDF began using Ugandan/Libyan munitions and supplies. In other words, once an Uganda Supply hex has been captured, the TPDF no longer rolls for Supply Breakdown.
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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That sounds more realistic but unfortunately it doesnt adress the problem I am trying to solve as such a capture most often doesnt not happen before turn 7 or 8 in most games.

I wanted to make the outcome of the game less dependent on a single "die roll of doom" as it is practically inpossible to win the game if supply breakdown happen 2 or more times.
 
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Dennis Bishop
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Then you might try starting rolling for "Supply Breakdown" on Turn 8, if one of the Uganda/Libyan supply hexes has not been captured.
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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Im not sure I understand... There are only 8 turns
 
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Dennis Bishop
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I am just trying to provide you with a variant that matches your play experience. If you are not capturing the Ugandan supply hexes until the last turn of the game, you could extend the number of game turns beyond the historical framework of the war and begin rolling for Tanzanian "Supply Breakdown" beginning the last turn of the historical game.

In play tests the Ugandan Supply hexes at Kampala and Mubende usually fell between Turns 4 - 5. So - I am just offering an variant for you that makes the game longer; perhaps by doubling the number of game turns, and prolonging the period before the Tanzanian player must roll the "Supply Breakdown."
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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In my experience the game works and is very balanced IF the Tanzanians do not roll more than one supply breakdown during the game.
But I think that adding turns would cause major balance problems as there are few (or even none) Ugandan units left on the map in most games (even in the games the Ugandan player wins).

I have been thinking about it, and have come up with this variant.
Do not roll for Supply Breakdown after it has happened the first time, BUT, if no Ugandan supply hexes have been captured at the beginning of turn 8 AND no supply breakdown has happened during turns 4-7, then an automatic supply breakdown happen.(even if it has happened earlier)

Does this sound realistic to you Dennis ? (I have little knowledge of the war)

I have a hard time seeing how Kampala can fall as early as turns 4-5 against determined Ugandan/Libyan defense. (And Mubende is not a supply center on my map).
As Kampala is KEY to winning the game, and rather tough to take back if lost, the Ugandan/Libyan player will often defend this one hex with his best units and keep it stacked to the limit all the time, which means a grinding match that will likely not end before the last turns of the game.
One of the things I really look forward to in future games in the series is the option to fight a more mobile fight. The rule system makes it interesting, but the victory conditions in LKoS prohibit it from being a viable tactic for more than a turn of 2 as Kampala is so close to the border and cant be abandoned.

BTW: I am also playing with a variant on the air rules that limits the number of planes that can be committed to a combat to the same or fewer than the number of attacking units.
Does this sound realistic to you?
My gaming partner suggested it after being disillusioned by hordes of Ugandan and Libyan planes supporting the attacks of a single Ugandan infantry unit. It felt a bit too effective with such a concentrated effort for so little a force and it actually makes such attacks a very viable strategy as the only loss you can suffer yourself is that one infantry unit, while you can potentially eliminate whole hexes as airplanes are not effected by terrain. (another rule I would like to know the background behind)
 
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Dennis Bishop
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Brian,

It is always a pleasure conversing with you. If your variant works for you, then use it. The historical situation with transportation and supply for the TPDF was that it broke down almost immediately after the TPDF took the Kagera Salient. It seems that we think of the world as Europe or the US, and 1979 as fairly modernized. However, the Tanzanian border with Uganda was nearly a frontier in 1979. It had no paved roads, and the dirt roads were often little more than safari tracks. The TPDF had few military vehicles at the time of the war and transported supplies with civilian vehicles that had been requisitioned (taken) from private owners. In fact, motorized infantry were created by loading troops in civilian buses. Avirgan and Honey write about the breakdown of the supply system where troops were fed on one occasion by a fortuitous cattle drive by civilians to the troops. Dar es Salaam was unable to provide more than sporatic rations and ammunition. Meanwhile, most of the TPDF walked and foraged.

Mubende was not marked as a supply center (it was a supply depot historically) because it was not as important as the airfields where Libya transported thousands of tons of supplies. Kampala became a depot for the supplies and ammunition transported to Entebbe. If Libya had a successful department, it was the air transport department supported by the quartermaster corps. By the time that the TPDF captured these depots, the Tanzanian supply system had completely broken down and the TPDF ate Libyan food supplies and fought with Libyan weapons using Libyan ammunition. All this was way too complicated for the size of the game, so the effects were abstracted. That is why I am able to accommodate any thoughtful variants.

Also abstracted into the supply breakdown was the horrendous morale problems faced by the TPDF. Unlike the propaganda of the western press, the TPDF was barely trained, and used 15 year olds taken straight out of the classrooms and given guns. The TPDF tactics were based upon the 1970's Chinese doctrine which encouraged massed infantry attacks which often failed, and at different times, the TPDF units simply refused to move or attack. The solution was to replace the older British trained brigadiers with younger Chinese trained CCM (political) brigadiers. Often these CCM commanders were able to get things moving again. However, as before mentioned, this was too complicated for the game format, so it was rolled into the generalized die roll. For those interested, had the Ugandan Army (Amin remained in Kampala) lasted until one month longer, the TPDF would been forced to withdraw from Uganda due to its losses and morale problems.

One of the problems with any simulation (or wargame) is that players tend not to make the same mistakes as the historical counterparts. Probably Amin would have been better off defending Kampala as you describe. He refused to blow the bridges at Lukuya because he wanted to use them in his planned counterattack. Certainly we can see this in Cambodia about the same time, but Amin was obsessed with the idea of a major counterattack to save Uganda. Rather than play the time game, he wished to destroy the TPDF and discredit the invasion. So, historically, he fought the "Battle of the Bulge" at Lukuya, and nearly won the war. However, the Libyan Brigade dallied and was destroyed in the Tanzanian counter-offensive. So, there are no "idiocy rules" that prohibit players from doing what the Ugandan officers wished to do, but Amin vetoed. Hence, the "smart" Ugandan player in some ways has an advantage.

The air rules are a variant. As such, you can do with them as you wish. Historically, neither the TPDFAF or UAAF were very effective. The largest numbr of aircraft destroyed were five TPDFAF fighter-bombers shot down by friendly AA fire. The Libyans sent too few planes to have much impact and the Ugandan air commander fled early in the war, forcing Amin to appoint another officer with a great deal of confusion resulting. So - both air forces are evaluated by what they could optimally have done, not what they historically did. Limiting the number of aircraft is possible as an alternative as you describe.

"C'est le Congo" is a very mobile game with units entering and leaving the map, the weather changing throughout the game making operations only possible on one half of the map at a time. Planning ahead two to three turns is a must for both the APL and ANC players. Also the capitols are on the opposite sides of the map. One of the other things is that VPs are scored for occupied hexes making for some interesting choices about where to fight and when. Combat is more complicated in that attacking units can be ambushed or can surprise the enemy. Conventional combat is also possible. Air units are very powerful, but can be negated by the use of hostages. Paratroops are real in this simulation, as are mobile columns. Play testers have really enjoyed the Alpha games due to the mobile nature of the system.

A variant of this game is based upon the proposed US conventional intervention in the war. This was the other choice to the one historically taken in Viet Nam.

"The Ogaden War" is a desert war game pitting quality against quantity, but in this one, air power becomes more important and air to air, ground to air, and air to ground are introduced. This also introduces radar in air operations. Essentially, the 1970's Soviet doctrine faces itself in Africa in a real war.
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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I am really loving all the historical detail you reveal in your post here Dennis!
I hope that future modules will include a booklet on the history behind the game like VPHG just did with Days of Battle: Golan.
The rather obscure (to most gamers) subjects of the African Wars series really scream out for this, as you apreciate a game much more, and learn/understand a lot more, if you get this extra information.

Quote:
Historically, neither the TPDFAF or UAAF were very effective. The largest numbr of aircraft destroyed were five TPDFAF fighter-bombers shot down by friendly AA fire. The Libyans sent too few planes to have much impact and the Ugandan air commander fled early in the war, forcing Amin to appoint another officer with a great deal of confusion resulting. So - both air forces are evaluated by what they could optimally have done, not what they historically did. Limiting the number of aircraft is possible as an alternative as you describe.


If they were not all that effective I think the easiest "fix" to them being too powerful would be to let (non-river)terrain modifiy air attacks, and just add the air attack dice to the ground attack dice when resolving combats.
Is there any special reason why air attacks ignore terrain?

Quote:
"C'est le Congo" is a very mobile game with units entering and leaving the map, the weather changing throughout the game making operations only possible on one half of the map at a time. Planning ahead two to three turns is a must for both the APL and ANC players. Also the capitols are on the opposite sides of the map. One of the other things is that VPs are scored for occupied hexes making for some interesting choices about where to fight and when. Combat is more complicated in that attacking units can be ambushed or can surprise the enemy. Conventional combat is also possible. Air units are very powerful, but can be negated by the use of hostages. Paratroops are real in this simulation, as are mobile columns. Play testers have really enjoyed the Alpha games due to the mobile nature of the system.


This really sounds like a wonderful game! I hope it is not much more complicated than LKoS (As I like the simplicity)

Quote:
"The Ogaden War" is a desert war game pitting quality against quantity, but in this one, air power becomes more important and air to air, ground to air, and air to ground are introduced. This also introduces radar in air operations. Essentially, the 1970's Soviet doctrine faces itself in Africa in a real war.


This sounds even better! - Let me know if you need a tester for this one
 
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Dennis Bishop
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Brian,

I should have an article in Modern War magazine on the Tanzanian - Ugandan War coming within a year. I turned in all of the stuff and it has been accepted.

I like your idea about the historical article attached to each game. Researching this stuff is a challenge because not much is released on many of the wars. For example, Cuba has not released the names of the units deployed in Africa. I think that I have only verified one FAR battalion in Angola. Ironically, Che Guevara's adventure into the Congo is well documented and the FAR columns appear in "C'est le Congo." Points are scored for eliminating the "Tatu Column" which was Commandante Ernesto Guevara's column. Also, a strange collection of documents exists (in French) detailing the APL and ANC from 1964-1965. A local library happens to have this collection simply entitled "1964" and "1965." If I wasn't addicted to haunting library stacks, I probably would never have found them.

As for terrain effects on air attacks, most of the attacks were conducted against units on roads in columns. When defensive positions were attacked, there was no where to hide. There were no bomb shelters, and buildings offered little more than additional shrapnel. So - I decided that based upon the lack of terrain defense against air attacks that there should be no terrain modifiers.

I will contact you when I get something together on the Ogaden War. I have most of the research done, and a pretty good collection of maps. However, currently I am intrigued with a couple of other projects. One is Sand Creek 29 November 1864. I know "Bad Monkey," but I find glossy history fascinating (like the Uganda war). Often, what we think we know is not quite the real story. I found this true in the Congo Crisis as well. "The Wild Geese" film is not a historical re-enactment of the Congo. "Simba" was not the name of a bunch of drug-crazed natives, but the title of APL regulars who were organized into battalions and brigades like their ANC opponents. Also, the APL were not communists.

The other project is tracking down the paper trail of an 11 year odyssey of an Italian POW who was captured in AOL, sent to a POW camp in Sri Lanka, and was released in 1945 in India. The gates were opened and the POWs were pointed the way home to get there the best way they could manage.
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Geoffrey Wilson
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Sorry for my delayed response about the game's balance.

I just played 3 games, solo, to test this again.

In all my games, all the Ugandans have to do is mass all their units to the front ASAP and counter-attack as much as possible, focusing each attack as much as possible.

The Tanzanians rarely hold Mbarara at the end of my games.

Even if the Ugandans don't attack, they just have SO many units the Tanzanians have to slog through to get anywhere, provided the Ugandans mass those units on the border.

I use air units, and that makes the Tanzanians do marginally better.

I just don't see a lot of strategic options for the Tanzanians to turn it around.

I've tried flanking around the Ugandan's right, but I still need Mbarara for supply and it's extremely difficult to capture and hold that city.

 
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Brian Berg Asklev Hansen
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Remember that the enemy choses which unit must take the first loss in a combat. The Ugandan army depends a lot on a (relatvely) small number of elite units. Concentrate the tanzanian attacks on those stacks and kill as many of the units with 2 red combat factors.
Also remember the stacking exceptions for intact brigades. This allows the Tanzians to hit a hex hard! (All 3 aircraft + 2 whole brigades)

Brian
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Dennis Bishop
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Thanks, Brian, for providing two important tips.
 
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