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Cuba Libre» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Che and COIN - Until the Eternal Victory rss

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Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
Hong Kong
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Cuba Libre is receiving continuing support from the local society. We are going to organize a tournament in June with two tables of four people each. On two consecutive weeks, we had a practice match and the result of the first game, from first to last, Syndicate, Directorio, Government and July 26, and the second game, Directorio, Syndicate, Government and July 26. A discussion was held and it was believed that Syndicate would be the easiest player and Government the most difficult one.

Physical components of the game are the usual high quality from GMT, to a standard that one would say that the components as contained in deluxe edition. Sturdy box, thick for usage in a long time to come and colorful cubes representing forces of the four factions. 4 player aids summarizes all the factions' available actions (COIN operations and special activities and how to perform them), the victory conditions. They facilitates the game a lot easier as the players can look at a glance what the players can do and what they cannot. There are also two identical player aids for solitaire AI routines in flowcharts. Another player aid summarizes dieroll results, randomizing the determination of spaces on the map for the event or AI decisions to call for. The mapboard is mounted, something you don't usually see nowadays for wargame.

The rulebook is a very nice colorful presentation. It's absorbingly detailed but flows with the go on the sequence of play, though on some occasions some terms and concepts might not have been explained well enough. But they are easily overcome as the rules are not that long, with standard magazine game rules of 16 pages only. The index at the back of the rulebook certainly helps. A set-up table is also included at the last page for quick set-up and play. A very big plus is that there is a playbook inside the game, giving you further insights into the game with tutorial gameplay in conversational s(AH) style, the rise of revolution in Cuba and why it succeeds in an article, design notes and background to the card events. As rare as gaming revolution that not many games have done before, these additional materials adds to the package much more value. Cuba Libre is not a difficult game at all to learn.

Historicity is very high as each faction plays to its unique abilities and different paths to victory according to the historical context. The Syndicate are gangsters operating casinos on the island, looking for opening as many casinos and as much money (resources) as possible. They are short on men and so their cash can be taken away by Government skimming and rebels' attacks. They look vulnerable like bystanders but all that matter to them is business. The Government is always busy fighting and controlling the growth of the rebel forces and there are two factions, Directorio and July 26 on the opposite side. US support to the Government is gone very soon in the beginning of the game and so the Government has to turn to the Syndicate for resources and funding. It has to garner support from the population but the event cards at times topple the Bastista government. The government has manpower more than any other but there is a whole lot of pressing issues on the Government. The Directorio is interested in competing with the Government by expanding the control over the population on the one hand and with the July 26 by expanding its bases into different spaces and regions. Directorio has to strike a fine balance between the two factions by tactful manipulations, subversion (adding resources and neutralize the population support level) and ruthless assassinations (eliminate other units without the need of dieroll). July 26 has almost the exact same operations and special abilities of the Directorio, except that its manner is more restraint with no assassination but kidnap to take money from either Directorio (closing the casino) or Government (the Government has to pay for civilian hostage, right?). The amount of money taken from kidnap could be quite random from time to time with result of a dieroll. July 26 starts from the southern part of the Cuba island and has to, step by step, infiltrate north and expand its influence. It takes time to grow strong enough and to reach Havana, the capital in the northern part of the island, and hence it has to survive the game long enough by the test of the propaganda cards (four in the deck).

Playability level is extremely high. Not only that you can play different faction each time but also the one-player solitaire version. It almost guarantee you a lifetime choices to make and enjoyment to indulge in. The game looks like a Eurogame on the surface with the cubes moving on and off the board like worker-tile placement game. There are some dice rolling to resolve conflicts but nothing major. Players have to focus on their general strategy on the board while reacting to the changing circumstances and happenings out of the events. The sequence of the players taking turn is determined by the random draw of the event cards, knowing it how does it go one turn in advance. To the more serious wargamer in the traditional sense, it is not a military game but a light, fun "political" game that can be completed in three to four hours. Cuba Libre will give you a broad-brush picture of what actually happened more than 50 years ago.

While I am not keen a all into Columbian insurgent and counter-insurgent operations, the system is effective at what it is trying to portray. I have not yet played the solitaire version of the game but am really looking forward into it. The COIN series should be the next GMT series that should become popular among the wargamers and it should be very well adaptable to PC conversion. I would definitely get Fire in the Lake, testing the system's ability for a full scale conflict in Vietnam, when it releases in this year summer.
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Matt Clark
United States
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Great review, Lawrence. I'm more of a eurogamer who is learning to play and appreciate wargames, but I believe the COIN games are a good common ground for both euro and wargamers to explore various conflicts and periods in history (as well as current events).

I'm planning a trip to Hong Kong this Summer, but it will not be until after your tournament. Perhaps I can get in touch with your local group to arrange some games, though.
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Luis Fernandez
Venezuela
Caracas
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good review! thanks!

VIVA LA REVOLUCION!
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Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
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MplsMatt wrote:
Great review, Lawrence. I'm more of a eurogamer who is learning to play and appreciate wargames, but I believe the COIN games are a good common ground for both euro and wargamers to explore various conflicts and periods in history (as well as current events).

I'm planning a trip to Hong Kong this Summer, but it will not be until after your tournament. Perhaps I can get in touch with your local group to arrange some games, though.


Thanks Matt. Do let me know when you come and what game you would like to play.
 
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chris leko
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Brooksville
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What's so great about it?
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Peso Pete wrote:
Actually, in the games I have played, the Syndicate and Directorio make good allies since the Directorio needs money and the Syndicate needs guerrillas.


The Syndicate also needs to government in their back pocket in order to win too! It's tough for them on many ways, as they get a huge target on their backs at the end of the game.

Anyway, great review of a game series I love!
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Steve Walker
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Liphook
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Great review - I played this recently at a recent convention - a table made up of Eurogamers who like to play wargames occasionally with a couple of wargamers who also like eurogames - it was that sort of convention

It was the first of the COIN games I have played and I found it a great game (I was playing as the syndicate). One of the players walked away from the table far less satisfied - he liked everything about the game except that the first 3 times the victory check event came up he was one of the players unable to react - he felt that this was too random a mechanism for victory checks despite hime winning on the 4th.

I can see his point although I think with more familiarity with the game and it's tempo would reduce this - but do other players find this an issue - I am on the verge of ordering at least one game in the series but not if this aspect is a prevalent cause for concern

Thanks for any feedback

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Joel Tamburo
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stevepwalker wrote:
Great review - I played this recently at a recent convention - a table made up of Eurogamers who like to play wargames occasionally with a couple of wargamers who also like eurogames - it was that sort of convention

It was the first of the COIN games I have played and I found it a great game (I was playing as the syndicate). One of the players walked away from the table far less satisfied - he liked everything about the game except that the first 3 times the victory check event came up he was one of the players unable to react - he felt that this was too random a mechanism for victory checks despite hime winning on the 4th.

I can see his point although I think with more familiarity with the game and it's tempo would reduce this - but do other players find this an issue - I am on the verge of ordering at least one game in the series but not if this aspect is a prevalent cause for concern

Thanks for any feedback



It is zero cause for concern. I would think his own experience should have shown him that being able to act on the card right before Propaganda is not as crucial as it may seem.
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