Insurgency and terrorism
Tom Grant
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The vast majority of conflicts fought in the last century have been "internal wars," fought by revolutionaries using a mix of insurgent and terrorist tactics. The goals and tactics may differ, from Biafran separatists to Colombian guerrillas. However, they're unified in what they are not: conflicts between states, decided by the clashes between armies organized, trained, and equipped to fight conventional wars.

The vast majority of wargames, however, cover this minority of conventional wars. So where are all the games about insurgency and terrorism? There are a few worth mention, so I'm starting this Geeklist to (1) identify them, and (2) highlight what aspects of insurgency and terrorism they depict.

Important note: There are a few things that I want to keep out of this list that may appear on the surface to fit, but don't. We're not talking about coups here, which have good representation in games like Junta. We're also not talking about conventional operations in the midst of guerrilla wars, such as Silver Bayonet's depiction of the Ia Drang campaign in 1965. Sure, there were guerrillas around, but the game itself doesn't really depict guerrilla warfare per se. Please keep these guidelines in mind as you add titles to this list.

And yes, I've noticed that there are no games simulating terrorism or counterterrorism, because I can't find them. It's not hard to see why they don't exist--who would want to play the role of the 9/11 hijackers? However, at risk of inciting an imbroglio, let me just point out the value to learning about how terrorists think by putting yourself in their shoes. People in the CIA, the Pentagon, the FBI, and other federal agencies involved in counterterrorism do it all the time, through role-playing exercises (i.e., games) and other mechanisms.
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1. Board Game: Insurgency [Average Rating:5.42 Unranked]
Tom Grant
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An obscure game from a bygone age, Insurgency nonetheless was one of the most earnest efforts to depict guerrilla warfare. Its goal was to depict something like a province-level slice of an insurgency, using the Vietnam War as its template for how that should look. It had some interesting ideas, such as an orders system (simultaneously revealed), mechanics that made the political conflict between the government and the guerrillas the economic system for the game (i.e., the resource pool for building units), and even some chrome for terror tactics and other familiar aspects of insurgency. Aspects of it "just felt right," especially in the way it really boiled down to a struggle for the control of the villages.

Having said that, there were aspects of Insurgency that were a bit odd. There wasn't really any fog of war, other than guessing what orders your opponent might write. Although it's probably the most direct attempt to simulate guerrilla warfare, it didn't fully succeed.
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2. Board Game: We the People [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1310]
Tom Grant
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Mark Herman's game on the irredentist conflict that created the United States has a simple mechanic that other games about insurgency might want to borrow. You can play action cards to activate leaders or place political influence counter. In other words, you need to balance political and military action, a truism for anyone who's ever fought as a revolutionary or counterrevolutionary. The American side has to follow a classic revolutionary strategy: instead of trying to win an outright military victory, the American cause must stay militarily and politically credible long enough for the enemy's will to continue the conflict collapses (simulated by drawing the Lord North's Government Falls card).
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3. Board Game: Vietnam 1965-1975 [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:2031]
Tom Grant
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This well-respected--and deservedly so--simulation of the Vietnam War does a pretty good job of depicting the insurgency. However, it's strictly a military simulation, so the famous "hearts and minds" part of the conflict is fairly absent. (Politics does play an important role for the American player, however, since pursuing certain military options have political repercussions that can cost victory points.) However, Vietnam gets big points in my book for looking seriously at counterinsurgency strategy, including a bit of chrome depicting the Combined Action Platoons (CAP) program that the Marines implemented when the "big sweeps" and other strategies the Army was pursuing proved counterproductive.
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4. Board Game: Central America [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:10055]
 
Tom Grant
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This game was a real disappointment. Victory Games announced it while I was in the thick of my own research on the insurgencies in El Salvador and Nicaragua, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, it was really a Cold War overlay to the conflicts in the region, in which conventional forces (including Soviet and American intervention forces for hypothetical scenarios) played a much larger role than I had expected. Sure, the guerrillas had their place, and there were some mechanics like hidden movement that fit the operational character of insurgency. However, Central America didn't capture the political nature of guerrilla warfare, and even the other military details were not there.
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5. Board Game: Guerilla [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:5024]
Tom Grant
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A lot of people consider this game to be a lost classic—as a game, not a simulation. I'd agree with that statement, and it's worth tracking down a copy if you can. Guerrilla fits easily into the Eurogame mold, as a multi-player game of bluffing and secret agendas. Each player can control both the government and the guerrilla forces, but secretly supports only one side. You play cards depicting assassinations, police sweeps, world opinion, and other things that sound like the important aspects of guerrilla warfare, but they're actually highly abstract elements that fit the more "Eurogame-ish" character of this game. The best analogy I can think of is, Guerrilla is the soundtrack, but not the movie. You can get the feel of what happens from scene to scene, but you really don't see the action.
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6. Board Game: Afghanistan [Average Rating:5.36 Unranked]
Tom Grant
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Because of the brief time scale, only a few days per scenario, Afghanistan can't help but show only the tactical methods of insurgents and their adversaries. Still, it's a good game for that purpose, on a conflict that has received surprisingly little attention among wargamers.
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7. Board Game: Algeria: The War of Independence 1954-1962 [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:10969]
Tom Grant
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Of all the games I've listed here, this one seems to hit closer to the bullseye than any of them. Algeria has fairly clean, credible mechanics for depicting how insurgents and counterinsurgents choose a variety of methods to defeat the enemy on both the military and political planes. As the French, you feel besieged by an FLN insurgency that seems to grow no matter what you do. You're also tempted to take harsh measures to win, which can easily backfire. As the FLN, you have your eye ultimately on the domestic politics of France: at what point will support for the war crumble, giving Algeria its independence?
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8. Board Game: Partisan: ASL Module 4 [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked]
Tom Grant
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I've included this title only to show what a game about insurgency and guerrilla warfare isn't. First of all, partisans are not necessarily revolutionaries: they're groups who want to kick out a foreign occupation army (in this case, the Axis invaders across the map of Europe and, in later ASL modules, China). Partisan groups often did have revolutionary plans for the day after the foreigners left, and often fought each other during the occupation to set the stage for the revolutionary conflict to follow. (See the history of Yugoslavia during and after the war for an example.) However, the focus of partisan is far too tactical to show anything useful about insurgency per se. Partisans use hit and run tactics that mirror how insurgents fight—but so do special operations forces and other types of combatants. The partisan module for ASL, Lock and Load, Firepower, and other tactical games have guerrillas, but they don't really capture guerrilla warfare, something best depicted at the operational or theater level.
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9. Board Game: Tito [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:14847]
Tom Grant
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Ditto, but for different reasons than Partisan. Tito depicts the theater level, and you get a bit of the indirect warfare style that guerrillas use from playing the game. However, it's a game about the partisan phase of the conflict, and it's purely a military simulation (in other words, no political dimension to the conflict). It's also a pretty unimaginative, boring design.
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10. Board Game: Victory in Vietnam [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:8419]
Tom Grant
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I have this game, but I haven't played it yet. I'd welcome any comments on its ability to depict the insurgency in South Vietnam.
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11. Board Game: ¿Pasáran? The Spanish Civil War [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:13563]
Tom Grant
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Pasaran depicts the Spanish Civil War, but unfortunately, I've never played it. I'm a bit concerned that, as part of a series of WWII games, it doesn't really twist the mechanics around to depict an insurgency. I'm just speculating, so I invite any informed opinion on this game.
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12. Board Game: Age of Napoleon [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1996]
Björn Hansson
Sweden
Bromma
Stockholm
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Ok, I admit this might be a bit far fetched, but an essential part of the game is the internal uprisings (insurrections) of countries fed up with Napoleon's megalomaniac oppression. Viva la revolucion!

Guerilla warfare in the 19th century on a strategic level!
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13. Board Game: Nicaragua [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:10185]
Adam Starkweather
United States
Commack
New York
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The posterchild for Insurgency games.

This and some of Brian Train's interesting DTP efforts.
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14. Board Game: Crisis: 2000 [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:14908]
On Monday mornings, I'm dedicated to the proposition that All Men are created jerks.
United States
Stratford
Connecticut
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Uprising in the US of A
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15. Board Game: Bloodtree Rebellion [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:14534]
Richard Smith
Canada
Coquitlam
B.C.
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Wow, great list! This game was based on the Vietnam War but it is set in a science fiction universe. I've never had a chance to play it.
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16. Board Game: Bittereinder [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:10673]
Timothy Miller
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Boerne
Texas
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Haven't played it (and now with MDG gone it's OOP), but the Boer War had plenty of insurgent/guerilla aspects. From all I've read, this game does a good job of capturing the asymmetric nature of the conflict, and its this asymmetry that is an essential feature of all insurgencies.
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17. Board Game: Angola [Average Rating:6.10 Unranked]
Robert Wesley
Nepal
Aberdeen
Washington
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Here we have a '3'~sided 'conflict' taking place, with the Soviet & Cuban 'backed' MPLA forces, the UNITA 'insurgents' backed by South Africa, and the FNLA 'insurgents' backed up...against the WALL-mofo!~waaaaaah! ? ! All that was 'needed', was a "Machiavelli" to totally 'mess' things up to the MAX. Where's the 'Gray Geese' when you need 'em?
"Waiter! there's a SPY in my SOUP!"
"sssssssh! Not so loud SIR!...or everybody will want one!"
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18. Board Game: Junta [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1132]
Mike Ricotta
United States
Virginia Beach
Virginia
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LONG LIVE THE PRESIDENT...no wait...LONG LIVE THE NEW PRESIDENT!
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19. Board Game: Shining Path: The Struggle for Peru [Average Rating:6.73 Unranked]
Tom Grant
United States
Lafayette
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Haven't played it, but it sounds like it belongs on this list. (Thanks, Mav.)
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20. Board Game: National Liberation Front [Average Rating:6.56 Unranked]
Tom Grant
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Another new addition. (Thanks again.)
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21. Board Game: Grunt [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:12926]
Tom Grant
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Another possible fit, if perhaps a bit too tactical to capture the distinct qualities of guerrilla warfare.
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22. Board Game: Concrete Jungle [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Tom Grant
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Another recommended addition. I haven't played it personally, but see Mav's comments below. I'll just repeat the caveat: at the lower levels of strategy, what distinguishes a guerrilla or terrorist from, say, a militia soldier, a gang member, or just poorly-trained and poorly-equipped conscripts?
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23. Board Game: Ranger [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:6272]
Heraldo Makrakis
Brazil
Canoas
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Yours geeklists are very good.
I think that RANGER is a good simultaion about guerrilla/jungle warfare. In the simulation the player (a Lt Platoon Leader) has diverse challenges as if it was in a guerrilla environment.
SELVA!!! (it is a motto of jungle expert Brazilian Army)
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24. Board Game: Crisis Games: Colombia [Average Rating:6.14 Unranked]
Heraldo Makrakis
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I think that Crisis: Colombia is a interesting simulation about insurgency. The level of decision is strategy/operational (you are the President or narco lords... and manage the campaign... what is the operational level in Insurgency an Terrorism war?)
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25. Board Game: Cuban Revolution [Average Rating:5.78 Unranked]
Tom Grant
United States
Lafayette
CO
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Not familiar with this one...Opinions?
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