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Subject: A Sneak Peek at an Upcoming COIN Title rss

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I had the privilege of playtesting an upcoming COIN title and with permission from the designer
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I thought I’d share some basic info and observations here. Here’s hoping we’ll see the game in P500 sooner rather than later; this unique and fascinating design certainly deserves as much.

So then, which conflict gets the COIN treatment this time? It’s a bitter civil war… still a difficult and polarizing topic for many. Many elders will still avoid talking or even thinking about it, the pain and suffering of their parents or relatives still fresh in their minds after all these years. A last stand against communism. Brother against brother, all bridges burning. A desperate struggle of a nation under someone else’s rule for so long… Check this out: The Finnish Civil War https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Civil_War

Read some history about the conflict and most likely you’ll imagine a two-player game. But a COIN veteran may have some suspicions about that, having seen novel approaches in previous COIN titles. And rightly so, for we’re looking at a three player COIN fight here! (Possibly the first of its kind, depending on the order GMT decides to publish all the COIN designs waiting in the line )

There are three player and two non-player factions. Falling Sky introduced the Germanic barbarians as a non-player faction, sometimes acting on their own and sometimes under directions of a player faction. German and Soviet troops in the Finland COIN function the same way. The Government faction has the difficult task of trying to make use German firepower and still maintain independent power. The Bolsheviks want help from the Soviets, but they have their own internal problems in the WWI era. Finally, The Social Democrats are trying to unify the nation, find peace and counsel moderation instead of kill-them-all-dead attitudes.

It's a tight fight. Someone described Cuba Libre as a knife fight in a phone booth, and the description fits well here. The participants were mostly untrained and had poor equipment, so the knife fight analogy has nasty reality in it. The three-player sequence of play works very well after you get the basic idea. All factions may have a chance to make a move on each card, and player order is uniquely dependent solely on their previous choices, as there is no faction order printed on the cards. Speaking of cards, the deck is currently deceivingly small and campaigns between propaganda cards seem terribly short. No time to waste if you want any chance of actually winning!

During play, whenever I was thinking aloud or comparing gameplay to the previous COINs, the designer immediately offered historical and thematic reasons for each design decision. The historical research and homework has obviously been meticulously taken care of and carefully crafted into COIN mechanisms. Consider a quote cutout from Design Notes in the rulebook:

Quote:
[Finland COIN] makes a case for viewing the conflict as a three-party affair. Why? Historically, the Government won by suppressing the Bolshevik revolt, yet arguably, the real winners were the Social Democrats, a political party represented in the game abstractly by certain historical individuals or Personalities and the networks around them.

After the civil war, the Social Democratic ideas and certain prominent politicians ... prevailed to re-unify a badly divided country addressing both the demands of the working class as well as those of the upper class. Highly indicatively, the Social Democrats came out as the most popular party (38% of the vote) in the first post- war General Election in March 1919. Arguably, a victory in the civil war by either of the other two historical factions would not have led to the kind of independent social democratic Finland as we know it from the history books.


[RSP warning!] Since all the political parties currently sitting in the Finnish parliament are social democrats of different flavors and have only superficial differences in their programs, I have to admire the bold decision to go for a three player design where a two player game would have been the most obvious (and unsurprising, possibly to the point of being dull) choice. [Okay, enough RSP!]

I’m just starting to see the agonizing decision making involved in Finland COIN. You’re trying to win a war but in a way that doesn’t divide the nation permanently or steer it into a foreign rule once again. Yeah, you really hate those commie/capitalist bastards but if you kill or imprison them all, who’s gonna do all the rebuilding? There’s never enough resources or time to do everything you have plans for, not even close. Keep spamming those Terror ops and you’ll win the war, but for what price? How can there ever be peace again?

We had some technical problems with our comms (it was an online session using VASSAL) and decided to save the game and finish it at later date, so my first game is still unfinished. If I have new thoughts to share, I’ll do so here after the game is finished. If you have questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m happy to say the multiplayer part of the game looks pretty finished, but the bots are still work in progress. In conclusion, I’ll just repeat my sentiment and wish that there will be a new COIN entry in P500 soon – and that it will be Finland COIN!
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Olli Juhala
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Zelroy wrote:


[RSP warning!] Since all the political parties currently sitting in the Finnish parliament are social democrats of different flavors and have only superficial differences in their programs, I have to admire the bold decision to go for a three player design where a two player game would have been the most obvious (and unsurprising, possibly to the point of being dull) choice. [Okay, enough RSP!]



Protip: Don't make RSP asides if they are blatant bullmanure. Just edit that out and we are fine.
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Yes meeplemeeplemeeplemeeplemeeple
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Brian Train
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I think a lot of people here know Vesa's excellent work on the bots for the existing COIN games, now he is making a complete design of his own!
He and I started talking about this some time ago when he wanted to bounce some ideas off me.
I think he is really on to something here, and he has really done his homework!

Mechanically it's very interesting how he makes the 3-player arrangement work.
Philosophically, it's extremely interesting in that the game design takes notice of the postwar or reconciliation phase of a civil conflict.
This is something that is almost never done in wargames, and I welcome it.

The Finnish Civil War is starting to get some historical notice, nearly 100 years after its conclusion.

Brian
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Yes, it is true, I've been working on a COIN game on the Finnish Civil War. Juha has done great job describing the game.

@olli: I believe Juha is making reference to the globally quite unique model of the scandinavian wellfare state and the ideals upon which it is based which, arguably, are social democratic in character yet were never championed in Finland by the social democratic party alone. Historically, the foundations of that model in Finland were laid down in the decades following the war in part as a response to the inequalities and unwell-being that certainly were a partial cause of the civil war.
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masil wrote:
Yes, it is true, I've been working on a COIN game on the Finnish Civil War. Juha has done great job describing the game.

@olli: I believe Juha is making reference to the globally quite unique model of the scandinavian wellfare state and the ideals upon which it is based which, arguably, are social democratic in character yet were never championed in Finland by the social democratic party alone. Historically, the foundations of that model in Finland were laid down in the decades following the war in part as a response to the inequalities and unwell-being that certainly were a partial cause of the civil war.


I still don't see the point of the RSP chapter, since it's just wrong. EDIT: I mean, I'm interested in the game very much, and not just because knowing several well-educated historians the reaction is going to be hilarious on many levels once I bring it to the table. The historical subject matter is a minefield to begin with, why bring up current politics into it?
 
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Important: the game does not in any way bring current politics in it. It's a historical simulation.

I suggest you refrain from using words like "hilarious" to describe your reaction to the game before you've had a chance to form your own view of how precisely the game treats the conflict as a three-party affair. I can assure everyone that a lot of historical research has been done to ground the game's basic philosophy and interpretation of history.

For those of us who read Finnish, the war time memoir of the social democratic politician Väinö Tanner, titled Kuinka se oikein tapahtui, is a great start to learning about what those guys in the social democratic party who did not join the armed red revolt were up to during the war.

It's good to see debate on the game already. We've seen similar discussions in the series before (Fire in the Lake and Liberty or Death spring to mind first).
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Brian Train
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It's amazing to see what leaps into play, based on someone even mentioning something is being done on such-and-sch a topic.

When we first announced we were working on A Distant Plain, a thread over 150 posts long erupted over it.

GMT P500: A Distant Plain

Bear in mind that this was at the point where it had only been announced that there was going to be a COIN system game on Afghanistan.
It had just been put up on P500: no one had any idea what it would look like, what was in it, what mechanics it would have, what position it would take on any point about the war, etc. there wasn't even a BGG entry for the game yet...

But that didn't stop people from having strongly held opinions about it, with nothing but their own imaginations to back them up.
Except for the one guy who posted, five pages in, specifically and only to tell us that he had no interest in Afghanistan... 'cause it was BGG!

Many facets of the game design were revealed during the discussion, which I think in the end was positive, at least when the moonbats went away after we refused to yell back at them.

Later, a thread erupted, over 250 posts long and full of yelling, over Volko Ruhnke designing a COIN system game on the Gallic Wars, prompted only by two small photographs of a section of a playtest map - not even a P500 announcement.
Again, that's BGG for you.

Brian
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I don't know much about the Finnish Civil War (eager to learn more), but I know that any discussion or game about the Irish Civil War (pretty much the exact same time) absolutely would impinge on present-day politics. In fact, almost all the COIN games have so far. That's one of the reasons why they are important.

I don't know if plans for A Terrible Beauty are on hold but this and Colonial Twilight are both extremely relevant in terms of developments in the COIN system which would be appropriate for that conflict.
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Count me in, Vesa. An amazing topic that people are going to eat up. Can't wait to watch your design unfold.
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achates wrote:
I don't know much about the Finnish Civil War (eager to learn more), but I know that any discussion or game about the Irish Civil War (pretty much the exact same time) absolutely would impinge on present-day politics. In fact, almost all the COIN games have so far. That's one of the reasons why they are important.

I don't know if plans for A Terrible Beauty are on hold but this and Colonial Twilight are both extremely relevant in terms of developments in the COIN system which would be appropriate for that conflict.


Um... (points at Finnish Civil War)
(Unfortunately, they printed only the first half of the article I wrote to accompany the game... you can get the rest from my website at https://brtrain.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/finnish-civil-war-p... )

The thing about civil wars is that they are never, ever over.
When things get so bad in your country that people take up arms against each other, it can never be remotely like it was before.
The way to mitigate this is to try and address it through a just peace and an effort at reconciliation.
This is why I am glad to see Vesa touch on this in his game.
Maybe this removes it from consideration as a "wargame" in the eyes of some purists, but that seems rather pointless and evasive of the larger and more lasting issues.

Brian
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Olli Juhala
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masil wrote:

Important: the game does not in any way bring current politics in it. It's a historical simulation.

I suggest you refrain from using words like "hilarious" to describe your reaction to the game before you've had a chance to form your own view of how precisely the game treats the conflict as a three-party affair. I can assure everyone that a lot of historical research has been done to ground the game's basic philosophy and interpretation of history.

For those of us who read Finnish, the war time memoir of the social democratic politician Väinö Tanner, titled Kuinka se oikein tapahtui, is a great start to learning about what those guys in the social democratic party who did not join the armed red revolt were up to during the war.

It's good to see debate on the game already. We've seen similar discussions in the series before (Fire in the Lake and Liberty or Death spring to mind first).


Again, I'm not opposed to the game or it's take, since I don't know exactly what it's take was. I was opposed to the Juha's inaccurate and pointless RSP aside in the OP, which is just inviting all sorts of trouble and frankly entirely capable of tarnishing your game beforehand, if he goes about talking about such things in that context.

As for "hilarious", I am sure you have done your due diligence. I am not describing your game's portrayal as hilarious, but the reaction people with views on the matter will have to it.

Btw, id you know the first board game on the Finnish civil was was published less than a year after the war ended. A copy is viewable at the Museum of Games in Tampere, Finland.
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Shader10 wrote:
Juha's inaccurate and pointless RSP aside in the OP, which is just inviting all sorts of trouble


After all your posts, it's clear you're completely unable to grasp the connection between the historical conflicts portrayed in the COIN series and modern day political situations in general, and the unique Finnish version of it in particular. Several people have tried to explain it to you, but to no avail.

When I read Finland COIN's rulebook's first page for the first time, I immediately knew many people of certain political affiliations will be triggered and stuck on the basic premise of the game, unable to see or remember anything else. You immediately proved me right, the RSP one-liner burning a hole in your brain. It's not surprising though, we've seen this since the first announcement of Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?.

Shader10 wrote:
and frankly entirely capable of tarnishing your game beforehand, if he goes about talking about such things in that context


Your concern is sweet, but I'm sure the game will do fine despite me. You have defined and dehumanized me in your mind based on just one sentence, much like people did during the war. But not everyone thinks like you, even if it seems that way in your social circle of Finnish university professors with just one accepted political truth between them.

Vesa, you know you've done something right when your game ruffles some feathers less than an hour after the first vague description of the prototype.
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Guys, you are crossing certain lines here and it's getting nasty. I suggest you stop.

Olli, I'm getting a test game going via Vassal with a friend. If you're intersted, do join us to get to know the game first hand.
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Quote:
Btw, id you know the first board game on the Finnish civil was was published less than a year after the war ended. A copy is viewable at the Museum of Games in Tampere, Finland.


I have seen pictures of that game, but not the text - I don't read Finnish anyway. It looked like a roll-and-move game to me, with its various tracks - can anyone supply some more details?

My comments about the war getting its notice in games was aimed more at the overwhelmingly American audience here on BGG, most of whom aren't even aware that your country had a civil war.
How is this period taught or talked about in schools in Finland?

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ltmurnau wrote:

How is this period taught or talked about in schools in Finland?


One of my players has a kid in school - or had, he just graduated. There is one chapter in the 9th grade (the last grade) history books. About 15 pages or so. My friend/the player felt it was ok and pretty neutral in its tone. Just the facts, plus some personal letters and diary entries from people who lived the period.

Personally, I'm too old to remember much from my history lessons... Almost everything I know, I know from boardgames and other such sources
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Whatever the tone and content of the teaching on the war might have been back in the 1980s/1990s when I was in school, I don't remember.

However, if the developments in Finnish academic scholarship on the war over the last 50 or so years are any indication, there's been a shift from the victor's "war of liberation" version to a more nuanced story.

The top rungs of the Red leadership were "professional Bolshevik revolutionaries" (as a Finnish anthology on the war put it some years ago) and sought to have Finland follow the footsteps of what the Bolsheviks were trying to do in Russia with an apparent intention of tightly coupling Finland with the emerging Soviet Union. The Red rank and file, however, would have been less motivated by ideology than the idea of overthrowing the vestiges of feudal societal structures within which they lived. The White guards are usually cast as motivated by the idea of Finnish independence being under threat by Russia and the Bolsheviks, but I think especially the nobility as well as the industrial and agricultural business owning classes would have been fighting to preserve the perks and advantages of the old societal order.

There exist an English translation of the classic Finnish novel Under the North Star (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_North_Star_trilogy, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/422732.Under_the_North_S...). This book is a wonderful, if you like, "philosophy of history" in that it shows us --albeit in the form of a fictional novel-- the quite heterogeneous make up of the Red rank and file randing from Halme, the village agitator and keen follower of Marx, to the landless tenants and leaseholders.

For English language reading, the Finnish historians Tuomas Tepora and Aapo Roselius recently published a collection of English language papers on the war titled "The Finnish Civil War 1918: History, Memory, Legacy".

The introduction to that volume can be read for free online at: https://www.academia.edu/7930626/Introduction_The_Finnish_Ci...

That introduction is an accessible and authoritative crash course on the Finnish Civil War. Recommended!
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Brian Train
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Thank you both.
It's always interesting to hear how the history of one's own country gets told... in Canada we have had no civil wars or even very great domestic disturbances, but I was amazed at the shift in interpretation between the history text used in my high school and that of my son, 30 years later.

Brian
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ltmurnau wrote:
in Canada we have had no civil wars or even very great domestic disturbances


While I would agree that Canada hasn't had a civil war on the scale of many other countries, I'm not sure I would agree about it not having "great domestic disturbances". The 1837 rebellions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebellions_of_1837%E2%80%93183...) and the Northwest Rebellion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North-West_Rebellion) were violent and quite consequential for Canadian national politics. The comparatively low death tolls in them was certainly in large part (if not mostly) a function of how thinly populated the country was at the relevant times.


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I was totally unaware of this conflict, but after reading the wikipedia article, it looks like a good candidate for a COIN game. So it will be a good excuse to buy the game and learn some history at the same time

Now again, I lack knowledge about the subject, but according to wikipedia it looks more like a 4 faction game than 3?

Apparently factions were in the lines of whites, reds, soviets and germans.
In the context of COIN, maybe germans and soviets could be thought as non players, but I do not see how any of these factions can be combined to only have 3.

What is the reasoning behind the 3 faction choice?
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Hey thanks for asking, Mr Jedi! I'm be very happy to expand on this topic. Many thanks for your enthusiasm and interest ---and may the force be with you!

So, to answer your question, yes, there'd probably be a standard 4-player COIN game in this conflict as well: White Govt + Germans vs Red Socialists + Russia/Soviets. The 4-player angle, however, might be taken to cast the conflict as this bulwark war against the spreading of Bolshevism / socialism / communism towards the West combined with the view of the Finnish Civil War as a spin-off of the bigger super power struggles going on in Europe at the time. No doubt there are those aspects to the conflict, and accordingly, my game contains the Germans and the Russians as well (as these fairly simple non-player factions somewhat akin the Germans in Falling Sky).

But to me that's not, so to speak, the scoop about the historical conflict ---or, better said, it's not the whole story.

I'm a Finn by birth (though residing elsewhere these days), and I wanted to study the conflict as the birth process of Finland; what forces shaped that process around those times?; whose victory meant what for the country?; how could a Scandinavian welfare state begin to emerge from such a savage civil war?

(This is what Brian Train meant when he said above that the game covers the conflict but looks beyond it to the future.)

From such a perspective, it began to seem to me that victory neither by Govt+Germany nor Reds+Russia could tell us the whole story ---I needed a third faction!

From the Finnish internal perspective, the conflict was one about achieving national cohesion, reconciliation and independence (from Russia and from the Germans as well, for that matter ---something that for example the supreme commander of the White Govt forces, Mannerheim, was adamant about) AND it was about politically reforming a country that in many respects still had feudalist societal structures.

So the third faction in the game kind of represents those goals and I've designated them as the Social Democrats. The faction represents, on the one hand, those politicians of the social democratic party who stepped aside in late 1917 as the rest of the party was led by "professional Bolshevik revolutionaries" (as a recent history book put it) to attempt an armed revolt.

The historical works on the subject don't usually make much of these social democrats but there's evidence they did much to thwart the war efforts on both sides (reluctance to co-operate while occupying key bureaucratic posts, distributing info, publishing armistice proposals, leaking a secret report on the catastrophic conditions in the prison camps spawned by the war, and more). They were also the people who led the Social Democratic party to being the biggest party in the first post-war parliamentary election. They championed a message of reconciliation and societal reform.

The game kind of makes the case for the claim that, historically, the Finnish Civil War was "won" by a non-combatant side, namely, the idea of national reconciliation and societal reform. Finland became what it did thanks, in part, to the survival of those ideals.

So, on the other hand, alongside quite particular individuals and groups, the third faction represents the ideas of national reconciliation and reform. Every Finn will know the novelist Juhani Aho, a self-confessed bourgeoisie and a vehement critic of the Red revolt. Nevertheless, Aho wrote in his war time diary (my translation):

"Those ideals, that drove the worker's movement, have also belonged to others, to us as well, to that entire generation to which I belong"

and later

"wide spread among the working class is the sincere belief that the Reds are fighting for justice. Do we not see thousands of them unflinchingly sacrifice themselves for their putative cause? That builds upon a certain seriousness. We have to recognize that. We can no more return to the old forms. A new society must be built. We must begin with a confession of sins. The causes that have led to this situation must be eliminated."

So that's the kind of considerations that have contributed to this game having become a three-faction affair.

(Just to be clear, this game is still very much a war game as well with plenty of quite traditional fighting taking place between the Red and the White forces.)
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Sakari Lindhen
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I hate getting into online arguments, but I am worried about a few things. Admittedly, its been years since I was taught this subject in school, and
am unfamiliar with any newer research (post 2000), but from the perspective of a family that fought for the Reds, calling the White side 'Government' confers a legitimacy on them that they didnt have at the time; calling the Red side 'Bolsheviks', even if a few leaders were, misrepresents the attitude of the workers and tenants fighting for social justice...Also, and I again plea that there might be newer research, we were taught that the Russian garrison troops present in Finland during the Civil War were mainly confined to barracks waiting to be repatriated, and were not participants, unlike the German Jäger battalions.

With all due respect.
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Great questions, Sakari! Much appreciated. Let me respond to each.

Quote:
from the perspective of a family that fought for the Reds, calling the White side 'Government' confers a legitimacy on them that they didnt have at the time


Not quite true. The White army was called the senate army also by contemporaries. Still, I've often wondered myself why the White army got the distinction of fighting for the "legal order" because the Social Democratic party and politicians were equally present in the parliament and elsewhere in the legitimate organs ---hell, Tokoi, one of the Red leaders, had been the senate leader just a few months prior. But then for example the contemporary commentator Aho (mentioned above) does argue that the Reds rose up to overthrow the elected government --which is true-- and so these labels seem to have stuck.

You will find that the game treats the Red rank and file cause with utmost understanding and respect --I've read my Under the North Star very carefully (and for what it's worth, I hail from the town the Finns call "the Red Kemi").

The fact remains though, regardless of the motivations of the Red rank and file, had the Reds won, Bolshevism and all that follows from it would have followed simply because the Red leaders were Bolsheviks to a good extent.

Quote:
we were taught that the Russian garrison troops present in Finland during the Civil War were mainly confined to barracks waiting to be repatriated, and were not participants, unlike the German Jäger battalions.


Correct. You will find that the game captures this very carefully. The Russian presence gradually auto-declines during the game and usually reaches zero by the game end. The Bolshevik player has the costly option of rewriting the history but ... yeah, it's costly and not terribly effective.
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Sakari Lindhen
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Thanks for your reply.

One request, I hope in the final rules that you include a bibliography, including Finnish sources...I was on Adlibris sometime back looking for books on the Civil War, and couldnt find anything that seemed deep enough...(I'll go back through this thread to find Aho, I think I missed him)....
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The playtest rules already include a bibliography including both Finnish- and English-language sources, so I expect the final version to do so as well

Vez, if the Whites where called "the senate army" at the time, can't we too use that name for the White faction instead of the generic COIN standard term "Government"? FitL calls its "Govt" faction "ARVN" for a touch of extra flavour, after all.

Regards,
Oerjan
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