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Subject: No idea what I was doing! Our first game of A Distant Plain. rss

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Merric Blackman
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By now, I've played six games of Andean Abyss and, though not an expert player by any means, I have a good understanding of the basic strategies you need to win the game.

Then I went to Afghanistan...

A Distant Plain is the third game in the COIN series of Volko Ruhnke , although it was published at the same time as the second game, Cube Libre. Brian Train is the co-designer of A Distant Plain, where the COIN series moves to the current situation of Afghanistan and looks at the situation between the Government, the Warlords, the Taliban and the Coalition forces. A four-player game, with two counterinsurgency forces and two insurgent forces. And a very complex web of interrelations.

This game saw me taking the role of the Coalition with my "partner" being Jesse as the Government. Against us were ranged the forces of Jon playing the Warlords, and Sarah playing the Taliban.

And the strategies we'd learnt in Andean Abyss went out the window. The games look similar and a lot of the rules are similar, but the strategies are very different. There's also a lot of fiddling of markers on the board as keeping track of COIN, Taliban or Uncontrolled status is an ever-changing affair.



We made a bunch of errors this game; in particular, I think I surged into some illegal areas at once point, and Jon also decided to reshuffle the deck for some reason - Jesse reset it, but improperly, so Sarah was greatly disadvantaged when the fourth Propaganda card came up too early.

The one overriding feature of the game for me was how hard it seemed to win as the Coalition. Getting rid of Taliban forces? When we worked together, Jesse and I could do an excellent one-two punch; however, the Government had quite different goals to my Coalition, and my efforts to win the game seemed very much to go in Jesse's favour. Of course, the mechanics of the game meant I spent a lot of time spending Jesse's resources, so I'm sure that Jesse felt similarly about me.

On the map, the Coalition forces and bases are in gold, the Government is in blue - light blue cubes for police and dark blue for troops. Jon's warlord pieces are green, and the Taliban are in black (pieces very familiar to me and Sarah, as we've played a lot of Labyrinth).

There was one province in particular where the COIN forces and the Taliban were busy in; here's a picture of it (with the overflow counter) and the contents in the overflow box to the left. We spent a lot of time there, trying to destroy the Taliban, only to have them rebuild and hide again. Jesse and I were very hampered by a lack of resources, and Sarah had some good capabilities to aid her. Eventually



Two-thirds of the way through the game, with the war going pretty well against the insurgents, I withdrew my forces from the map. My victory conditions are based on how many available forces I have added to the population In Support. The withdrawal didn't put me in a winning position, but opened up the game to Jesse. It was very instructive to watch Jesse plunder the aid and increase his "patronage" greatly - instructive in the way that a train wreck is instructive. It certainly made me very aware that the Coalition would have to stay in Afghanistan longer than I did in this game!

Jon also happily increased his recruitment of forces, and used them, as much as possible, to stop COIN control of various areas. Good for him, bad for Jesse, and not so good for me as I couldn't easily get back on the map.

Sarah, having had her plans dashed by Jon's reshuffling, wasn't able to rebuild quickly enough. She was able to finally get into a "winning" position, but by then Jesse was too far ahead.

The final propaganda card was something of a relief for the Coalition.



Final Margins of Victory:
Jesse/Government: +10
Sarah/Taliban: +3
Jon/Warlords: +3
Merric/Coalition: -9

So, the game definitely warrants more investigation. At some point, we'll work out what the proper strategies are. This game played long - a five-propaganda card game went for about 4-1/2 hours or so. It will likely become significantly shorter with experience.
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Adam Parker
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Great game design makes the complex simple, replayability maximum, and abstraction credible.
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Hey Merric, just wondering if the government was Deserting its forces after Propaganda rounds?

That was a leveller in my practice games (that to date have never really ended properly due to rules stuff ups somewhere down the track each and every time)
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Volko Ruhnke
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Welcome to the Sandbox, Merric, Sarah, and company!

Thank for the splendid readout and images.

Best regards, Volko
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Merric Blackman
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Adam Parker wrote:
Hey Merric, just wondering if the government was Deserting its forces after Propaganda rounds?

That was a leveller in my practice games (that to date have never really ended properly due to rules stuff ups somewhere down the track each and every time)


Yes, they were certainly deserting! And then I'd train more troops for the government.
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Great write-up.

I had my first game last night. I was playing the Warlords. It seemed like most of the action was in the south so I settled on a strategy of a slow expansion throughout the north, trying to draw as little attention to myself as possible. The game ended quickly though on the second Prop card largely because of careless government play that handed the coalition the victory.

If was fun, though, and the players I introduced it to enjoyed it as well.

Brian
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Steve Carey
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MerricB wrote:
Jon also decided to reshuffle the deck for some reason


Gotta watch those shifty Warlords!


That was a terrific write-up Merric, and I especially appreciate the insightful commentary.
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Brian Train
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Thanks for the great write-up Merric; don't worry, you'll get a handle on it.
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Merric Blackman
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ltmurnau wrote:
Thanks for the great write-up Merric; don't worry, you'll get a handle on it.


I'm sure we will - eventually. Although we found many actions to be similar, the changed victory conditions really messed up my ideas about how to play!

Cheers,
Merric
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