Pete Atack
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I'm posting these as I run thru my second solo playing of the game.

The format is simply flipping thru the rules book and making comments on each section of the rules and some of my personal thoughts on each.

Map
Not spending much time on this. The map is extremely functional, has the artwork you'd expect from a wargame, and blends a point-to-point look (for towns and cities) with an area look (for the regions - i.e. most of the map space). Most of the necessary charts and tracks are posted on the map for quick updating and reference.

Game Basics
Combat units for the French are pretty standard being rated for quality and strength. Troop types are Mech, Legion, Para, and Infantry. Some units have special capabilities (i.e. skills in mountain fighting). For the most part, to me, these differences are more "flavor" than anything else since once the French decide to attack conventionally, the FLN will generally lose regardless of French troop type involved.

FLN troop types run the range of the part time guys, to the standard fighters, to the trained units. They move about in a hidden status, but I've yet to see where this Fog of War makes that much impact on play since again, in 98% of the cases, the French player will demolish the FLN in open fighting. Now I have no issues with that since the FLN does not win by fighting French regiments, but I wonder if having some variation in the better FLN troops could have been an option (i.e. making a few of them stronger than the rest).

Troop Density. This refers to the French garrisons and police holding down the countryside, not the combat units. These garrisons are very nicely handled on a track as opposed to counters, can increase based off chit play, and can vary from region to region based on the size of the population. Troop density is key in making it difficult for the FLN to control a region. My gripe : troop density only goes up and at no cost to the French. Late in the game this forces the FLN to maintain large garrisons of troops themselves to keep areas under their control, even if the population is distinctly pro-FLN. Not sure of any clean way to address this, but it feels slightly constraining on the FLN.

Contest or Control? Regions can be contested or controlled by either side. Have a strong garrison (troop density) and control goes to the French. Let the FLN pile in the troops and the region goes to the FLN. If neither side presses, the region is contested. Control impacts everything from French movement, to FLN recruiting, to running insurgency and counter-insurgency operations.

Population Marker. This shows a regions support of one side or another and is measured by an on map scale ranging from 0 to 20. It can be impacted by chits, FLN attacks, and insurgency / counter-insurgency related missions and ultimately decides the winner thru referendum.

Political Phase
Yeah - it's a wargame, but this is the meat of the game. Thankfully it is not overdone and does not turn combat into a sideshow. It is handled in a clean, crisp, and fast moving manner.

First - Operations points are gained / modified. Ops points let you move (in some cases), fight, search for FLN units, conduct insurgent and counter-insurgent ops, impact the population, and recruit new units. They can be modified by controlling regions, political standing, & chits. Manage them carefully as using them all for one thing gives your opponent a distinct advantage.

Political chits. For me - not knowing much about this conflict, the chits are brilliant. The chits cover the major events in Algeria, France, and some world events that shaped actions in the fight. if you want to push it, it could also help build a narrative since the chits can only be used in certain spans / years and can run the risk of not being played. At the start of the game you will get a pick of selected and random chits. be careful in your selections to avoid losing key chits to the random draw, and be careful not to go stretches of turns where you have no valid chits to play (I've messed up both of these and the consequences are noticeable).

Pied-noir, French public and French Govt. This is the key to winning. If the Pieds keep getting mad due to French actions or FLN attacks, or the French mainland population tires of the war, the French govt is slowly dragged into collapse. Both sides have ample opportunity to impact the scales in either direction so it becomes a balancing act. I know I should write more on this, but in it's simple form : the Pieds track is impacted by chit driven events. When it bottoms out, it starts over, but the bottoming lowers the French govt scale. Each space lowered on the govt scale impacts French ops points or units or the feelings of the on map population in the regions (i.e. pro-French or pro-FLN). Once the French public tires of the war a referendum is held. The first occurance of this can impact the population of Algeria (again, pro-French or pro-FLN); the second occurence can determine the winner of the game (if more regions vote pro-French, France wins, etc...).

Now if this all sounds difficult (and it does when reading the rules), it is actually very simple as it is managed on tracks, and events clearly tell you which track is impacted. Not much factoring or independent thought here...

Now... to killing and breaking stuff...

Reinforcements

The FLN have to recruit or upgrade existing units. Recruiting is based off the FLN supply state (via a track on the map and impacted by chits) and the level of support in the regions. Ops points are spent and costs can vary based on the above conditions. France is easier : any available units are brought on by random die rolls, arrive in a port, and cost Ops points to bring on. They can also rebuild destroyed or reduced units.

Move and Attack

Movement for the FLN can be slow since you are required to stop when entering French controlled regions or towns and cities. So you'll have a slow spread across Algeria, but it's key you move to the right places to either slow French movement or taregt regions with large population bases. The FLN also checks to see if the FLN unirts in a region can be supported, and can gain new ops points for holding towns and cities.

FLN "attacks" are not aimed at French units, but at the population in order to spread some good old fear and get the population to move more pro-FLN and get the Pieds steamed up. Ops points are necessary for the attacks and do not always succeed. These attacks can take place wherever the FLN has units as opposed to conducting insurgency related ops which requires a region be under FLN control or contested control.

French units are far more conventional. They move any distance along the roads (can increase thru FLN controlled regions), can spend ops points to search for FLN units (this is based off the number of units searching and the troops density / garrison level), and attack along conventional lines.

This combat is off map on a track and uses a 5 or 6 to hit method. This can be modified by unit quality or the combat chits. The combat chits may not be as good playing solo, but each side picks a chit giving an intended mission (attack, recon, stand, retreat, etc...) that can dive DRMs when compared to your opponents mission.

This combat can also be 'modified' by the fact this is an insurgency. In pro-FLN regions, the French can't search for and find the last FLN unit, some FLN units in towns and cities can't be found in areas bordering pro-FLN regions, and destroying the last FLN units in a region makes the population marker go more pro-FLN (as surviving fighters head back to their villages and 'spread the good word') so comabt, while necessary for the French has to be a measured response.

Insurgency

This is where you start to drag the Algerian population one way or another. by spending ops points in controlled regions the French and Algerians can move regions thru a scale of support :

FLN : population supports the FLN (recruiting and such is easier; more likely to vote pro-FLN in a referendum, etc...)
Purge : headed to the FLN, or headed to the Activist French side
Activist : just the opposite of Purge
Support : population supports the French (more likely to vote pro-FLN in a referendum, difficult to recruit for the FLN, etc...)

Additionally the French have some other actions : don't want the population to help the FLN, just Resettle them! It makes them mad and pro-FLN, but fewer FLn units can stay in that region. You can infiltrate FLN regions and try to make the population more pro-French. Or you can do the dirty work and purge a region. This is teh only way to move a region away from "FLN". There is an on map track that shows three levels of FLN leadership. France will roll dice and "capture" those leaders. Capturing all of a level allows for the next level to be targeted. By capturing the top level, the region moves off of "FLN". There is the option to use "harsh interrogation" which makes it far easier to capture the cells, but makes the population of the region move a bit more pro-FLN. Honestly - if you want to purge a region, make sure it is worth purging, and go all out to crush the FLN.

---

So in a rambling summary, there it is.

My overall opinion :

Rules : you will have to read these more than once (only 10 pages) and may get frustrated the first time (not poorly written, just different due to the political stuff). I'd recommend playing the first turn slow and step by step with the rules open so you get the flow of each action and where tracks need to be updated.

Play : after 2-3 turns, it's very quick and simple, but forces you to think of many angles due to the population and political aspects. I think this is no problem for solo play, but will lose out on the combat chits portion and may feel a bit repetitive at times, but the chits save you from the frustration as they will change things frequently. Plan on 20-30 minutes per turn at 4 turns per year and 8 years so this is not an 'one evening sit down and finish' game.

I have to say this does a great job of capturing the nature of an insurgency oriented action where both sides have opposite means of attaining goals but that seem focused on the same 'base' represented by the people and political willpower of those people.

If I think of anything else I'll post additional comments. Likewise, I'll do my best to dodge complaints, difficult questions, or constructive criticism.
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Kim Kanger
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Quote:
They move about in a hidden status, but I've yet to see where this Fog of War makes that much impact on play since again, in 98% of the cases, the French player will demolish the FLN in open fighting.


It is correct that FLN units usually get trashed when found. But there is a difference. Good units have a much better chance to survive than bad ones. The main reason, though, for this fog of war is to deny France the option to freely pick which unit to attack. This, so that France will not be able to create artificial shortage of certain FLN units (this will matter when it comes to FLN recruitment).


Quote:
My gripe : troop density only goes up and at no cost to the French. Late in the game this forces the FLN to maintain large garrisons of troops themselves to keep areas under their control, even if the population is distinctly pro-FLN. Not sure of any clean way to address this, but it feels slightly constraining on the FLN.


Yes, FLN may well lose control in a region and perhaps the ability to contest also through the increasing French presence (troop density track) and by not being able to increase the number of FLN units there. This could be even it the region is FLN level (regarding the "insurgency level"). This might sound strange but you have three parallel "controls:

1) The insurgency level: From French support to FLN level. This represents control of their official attitude = Who does the population fear and who will they support, FLN or France?

2) The population's position on the population track: From 0-20. This represents their inner mind. Who does the population really like, feed and give information to, FLN or France?

3) Military control or contest in a region. This shows who has the ability to conduct most of the violence there, who can best make his presence felt among the population there, FLN or France?

You have to balance and use to your benefit these three different ways of imposing your will upon the population.
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Pete Atack
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The main reason, though, for this fog of war is to deny France the option to freely pick which unit to attack.


Had not thought of it from that design perspective. But I see what you are saying and how this makes things different from other games where combat is odds based.

Quote:
This might sound strange but you have three parallel "controls:


Yeah I understand this. It just seemed odd to me that you could have a circumstance where a region was FLN controlled, the population could be wildly pro-FLN, but an increase in the troops density makes the region easily fall back under French control. Not saying it's wrong and I understand it, but at first glance, it may make one go "huh?".
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Kim Kanger
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Yeah I understand this. It just seemed odd to me that you could have a circumstance where a region was FLN controlled, the population could be wildly pro-FLN, but an increase in the troops density makes the region easily fall back under French control. Not saying it's wrong and I understand it, but at first glance, it may make one go "huh?".


But, just because if becomes French controlled doesn't mean that FLN has lost its control of their minds (if it is FLN level). It just means that France now has the possibility and power to start conducting counterinsurgency there (if so wished). If the region is somewhere between 0-10 on the track then it will most probably vote pro-FLN regardless of French control and a few counterinsurgencies made. Even if it is brought up to support level it probably just ends up in slot 11 on the track. Then it is still a good chance that it will vote FLN.

So, a change of control is not the end of things, just the eventual start of things.
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Pete Atack
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Maybe control is not much of a key to the FLN except in the large population regions. If you can turn the population to pro-FLN, it seems best to become a mobile base and move any large groupings of FLN units on to the next region, gain control and then work on the population.

I've tried this in my second match and have had decent success. The key is turning the population marker quick as the -1 DRM constantly annoys French efforts.
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