Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
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Islamic State: Libya War is a game that I happened to luck into, literally. I won the game in a free contest on the game’s artist Facebook page. (She does free game giveaways bi-monthly and they are 100% free, a great way to try to get some free games if you are so inclined) After having played it a few times, with a helpful suggestion, and seeing that this game has no reviews, I figured I would put one up.

Background:
The game covers a hypothetical liberation of Libya by a coalition of European NATO, US, Egyptian, and Libyan forces to root out and destroy DAESH insurgencies that control Libya’s vital oil fields and cities. These forces included in the game are a wargamers dream modern warfare smorgasbord of Infantry, Armor, Marines, Mechanized Infantry, Scouts, SOF troops, and their supporting units in the form of Aircraft, Drones, and Artillery. You play against the game which controls the DAESH forces, your job is to prevent the DAESH from accruing VP’s while denying them access to the oil fields. Easier said than done, for sure.

Components:
The map is excellently illustrated, provides clear and concise information to the player. The symbols for the terrain (Urban/Deserts) and key objectives/oil wells are readily identifiable. They are even readable with a control marker on them, which is nice as the game starts with most of Libya under DAESH control so you aren’t constantly picking up a counter to see where your objectives are. Now yes, once multiple units come onto the board, then it does cover them, but that is to be expected.


The counters are something I very much enjoy, the units are standard NATO symbols, while the support units are accurate silhouettes of their respective countries aircraft. Example, the Egyptians have F-16’s on their aircraft support counters, the Libyan’s MiG-21’s, the NATO forces are represented by the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the US forces have F-35’s.

Something I personally love about the counters as well is the ‘ghosting’ of the nation’s symbol behind the unit art. This is just something that makes them pop while on the board, yet manages to not be distracting to the player.


The rules are fairly easy to understand overall, though they could have been slightly better laid out in my opinion. First few turns I had some questions, but then things started to click. There are also some rules holes, but those have been readily answered here by the designer’s excellent support here on the forum. Not an exaggeration, every single rule question I had, I found here, already asked, and answered. I do understand the restraints of a magazine set of rules needing to be only a certain amount of length.

I also would have preferred a separate player sheet that had all the charts and tables needed on the front and back of them. As they are they are split up on a back half page of the rules and the back full page of said page. Not a terrible thing to do deal with, but I just like that sort of thing to separate from the rules proper. It would be very easy to just type up everything and put it on its own two sheet PDF. I think I will do so and upload it, as there is no art on them (This is not a knock against it).

Flow of the Game

Each turn consists of 5 actions per side, with the potential of a 6th from each side if you successfully roll for it. The Allied player phases first, then the DAESH. After these have been completed you go through the end game phase, which allows the player to:
- Interrogate any captured DAESH leaders.

- See if the DAESH execute any hostages or captured pilots.

- Create Libyan National Army brigades to garrison important locations.

- An optional rule (Which I recommend) to see if any on map DAESH leaders, hostages, captures pilots are ‘relocated’ by the DAESH and go back to the generic holding box. This does make the game more difficult but is incredibly accurate.

- DAESH forces are put back into their draw cup.

The DAESH actions are randomly drawn and the number is consulted on their reference which tells you what they have done, this ranges from once per game events like a suicide attack on the Vatican, to actions that are put back into the cup at the end of every turn like kidnapping journalists, sabotaging pipelines, ambushing Allied patrols. Some of these actions are able to be mitigated by the Allied player, while others are simply beyond their control. Most of the beyond their control are one time events only though which is nice. Though some like the ‘Ambush’ action is not, as is accurate.

The Allied actions range from:
- Standard movement, which enables forces to move up to 3 friendly spaces or stopping upon entering a DAESH controlled city.

- Snatch and grab operations by SOF troops to capture DAESH leaders, hostages, and downed pilots that have been located on the board.

- Amphibious landing operations along the Libyan coast.

- Helo/Para insertions on the map, targeted killings performed by drones or aircraft.

- Recon by SOF which provides a positive drm bonus to the last action of strikes.

- Strikes, which can be performed by aircraft and artillery to soften up an area that you are planning on attacking.

After your action is conducted, then combat (If any) is resolved. This involves, usually, assigning your troops present at the location to the tactical battle map, applying any support you desire, and drawing the appropriate amount of DAESH forces randomly per the terrain. Desert you only draw two DAESH units, Urban has you draw 4, and if the terrain has a key objective/oil symbol then you draw 5. Then dicing on the combat table, Allied generally goes first, then any surviving DAESH units.

The CRT is very interesting as it is what drives your intel in addition to inflicting losses on the DAESH, some combat results will give you intel on the location of Hostages/Downed pilots (If there are any) and DAESH Leaders.

Feel of the Game:

The game is a balancing act, you are trying to prevent the DAESH from acquiring 15 VP’s by the end of 8 turns. This is tough to do, as most of your actions against the DAESH have the possibility to result in generating losses on your part, and even more of a possibility result in things like collateral damage against Civilians which the DAESH will exploit to the hilt internationally gaining them VP’s.

You must go for the strategic oil production/wells as well as cutting the head off the snake so to speak by capturing/killing the DAESH leaders (Both of which generate VP’s for the DAESH at the end of the game).

The game also forces you (In a good way) to kick in some doors to get at the intel for the locations of leaders and hostages, as the only way to get said intel is to initiate combat in DAESH held areas to potentially gain access to intelligence caches via the combat CRT. This is of course risky because any time you get into combat with the DAESH there may be civilians involved, as well as the potential for them inflicting losses on your own forces, which is a dangerous prospect for the DAESH VP accumulation.

The DAESH units in combat will never actually deplete or destroy Allied units, they will simply attempt to inflict casualty points, which again drives their VP’s. If at the end of the rolling for each unit in combat the surviving DAESH units will simply melt away.* This means the DAESH will never actually hold onto an area as the result of combat. Allied units retain control of an area as long as they occupy said area. Should the Allied troops move away the area automatically reverts to DAESH control. This makes the Libyan National Army garrison’s key, because you definitely want/need to free up your hard-hitting NATO/US/Egyptian forces to assault other objectives. You are limited to the counter mix for these troops, only 8, so again, a balancing act.

Knowing which cities to hold and which to use just as stepping stones to the vital oil fields then abandon is a big deal as well.

In my games, I never felt like there was just one thing to do, or as if I was just reacting to the game either. I always had options and most of the time they were tough choices, do I try to soften up that objective before attacking it, but at the risk of inflicting extra civilian casualties, do I go after that leader now, or hope he doesn’t go underground, etc.

What I liked:
(Keep in mind this is all subjective but provided as a reference for your own interests/tastes)

Choices, you have choices, you are not just stuck in a corner responding to the game being railroaded.

Quick playing, has good replay ability as it is hard to win it seems, but is not just the same thing over and over, plenty of various strategies to try, again it’s that clever balancing act that Javier has tapped into.

The counter/map art. There is no counter errata, something that for whatever reason, I really, really, dislike in a game.

The variety of units and their respective capabilities. The DAESH troops get various bonuses/advantages depending on what they are armed with per their counter. I admit wholeheartedly I have a soft spot for games that have SOF troops and Helo/Airborne capable troops. I don’t know why, but I just love games where you can send spec ops troops in to do spec ops things. I also love helo insertion and para dropping forces across the map, having them show up and do what they are meant to do. It just provides an easy layer of variety and uniqueness to the table of troops in a game without much difficulty added to the game itself. Also it just feels ‘cool’.

Finally, this game, has for me, what I call the ‘it’ factor. This is largely imagination driven, in that this game tells a story and I can see it in my head while I play. This game tells a story, when I send a SOF counter to conduct a snatch and grab operation, I can see them breaching, entering, and depending on the roll, suddenly becoming embroiled in an ambush firefight, taking casualties, failing, or successfully clearing, and capturing their query or rescuing innocents.

I can see the armor moving into the streets or through the desert, the oil fields burning from sabotage, the DAESH exploiting the civilian casualties, the pang at that imagery being broadcast despite the fact we’re trying to remove an oppressive, draconian organization.

This sort of thing is something I absolutely love about solo gaming. It’s incredibly easy with this game to create that story in your head, for added flavor/story for example, despite not being required by the rules, if NATO troops uncover the location of a leader/hostages my first choice is to send the SAS in to get them. Or if they’re not available, then it’s easy to see them requesting help from Delta Force or the equivalent.

You may ask, “If you/I have an active imagination, shouldn’t this always be the case no matter what game you are playing?” for whatever reason, no, it doesn’t always come to me. I’m not sure what/how it’s driven to be honest. Either a game has it or it doesn’t. It’s not just a ‘theme’ thing as there have been games set in periods that I love, haven’t been too distracted by the rules etc but just didn’t work in this way for me. Your mileage, of course, may vary, and I apologize that I cannot elaborate on what drives ‘it’ for me.

What I didn’t like:
(Keep in mind this is all subjective but provided as a reference for your own interests/tastes)

The rules holes were a little disappointing but made up for by the fact Javier is active in answering them online. I feel another page or two would have fleshed things out nicely, but again a magazine game has its restraints. Nothing terrible though.

There are a few misspelling discrepancies between the map and the random location chart, as well as some of the OOB’s names of troops don’t match what is on their counters. This of course does not affect the actual game play but is a little distracting when trying to match up a location on the map to the location on the chart.

The CRT explanations of Intel and Leader rolls also has some copy/paste short comings, regarding the result rolls of ‘Leader’ where it states you should ignore the ‘I’ instead of ignoring the ‘L’. Again, nothing that affects game play.

Not a ton of variety for the DAESH actions, especially after you experience the once per game ones. Still though, accurately speaking, Javier has covered what I perceive to be an accurate range of things the DAESH could accomplish given their structure and resources. I may like more variety but I get why it doesn’t have it.

Lack of a separate player aid chart with which to reference without the rules.

Conclusion:
I’ve played this twice so far and have it set up again for a third play. It’s simple, engaging, and a great bargain for a magazine game (I realize I won it, but I would buy this/not have buyer’s remorse if I purchased it). It has some short falls, but nothing insurmountable. It tells you a story that you feel like you are orchestrating rather than just having the AI tell it for you/shove it down your throat. If you like modern solo games, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy this.

I am incredibly eager to get my hands on his next game in the series:
Islamic State: The Syria War
(I also have a soft spot for Soviet/Russian forces in games, so having Spetsnaz to command is exciting to me on its own) also the fact that Javier is not just copying and pasting the same style of game over in just another setting is very exciting to me so they should feel different from each other, as they are completely different types of ‘wars’. I have Syria on pre-order and am ready to put my money where my mouth is.


8/10
Very good game. Rarely disappoints me. High on my request/recommend list.

Thanks for reading.

*There is an optional rule to have them go ‘Underground’ which means they will stay in the area flipped over (This does not affect your control of the area if your units are present). They potentially show back up when the ambush action chit is drawn in addition to anything else the ambush forces are doing and would have to be removed with an Allied counterinsurgency action. Operating under the influence of that action chit, DAESH gets to shoot first rather than Allied. (I have not played with this rule since I have yet to win, as it ups the difficulty against the Allied player by driving Casualty Points)


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Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
United States
Sellersburg
Indiana
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"By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe."
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For those interested my separate player aid sheet with all the die rolling tables on it has been approved! https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/152011/libya-war-tables
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Lance McMillan
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Very nice review. I would echo everything you said except that I think the rules are very poorly written, to the extent that "straight out of the package" it borders on unplayable. You really need to read the forums (both here and on CSW) to get everything clarified. The designer (Javier) has been good about responding to questions and explaining things, but it would be hugely helpful if 'CounterFact' would re-write the rules to incorporate all the additional/new info and hang an updated version on their website.
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Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
United States
Sellersburg
Indiana
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Lance, thank you very much sir!

I agree an updated PDF would be very nice. I am glad that once past the initial shortcomings you were able to enjoy the game as well. I just played a third time today. laugh
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Javier Romero
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Thanks for the review.

I've agreed with the editor to upload a "living rules" file to boardgamegeek, consimworld and the OSS site, including all the errata and clarifications.

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Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
United States
Sellersburg
Indiana
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"By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe."
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romerj wrote:
Thanks for the review.

I've agreed with the editor to upload a "living rules" file to boardgamegeek, consimworld and the OSS site, including all the errata and clarifications.



Javier, this is grand news! Will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for your design!
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Kylor
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Did these updates ever get posted? I'm not seeing them anywhere.

Thanks.
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Javier Romero
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Quote:
Did these updates ever get posted? I'm not seeing them anywhere.


Thanks for the reminder. They will be uploaded soon on the counterfact magazine/OSS page.
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Javier Romero
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The "living rules" for IS: Libya can be found here:

http://ossgamescart.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPa...
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