Hello all! I have upped my COIN collection to 4 games. Two more than I anticipated... especially as we will be getting two more releases next year, both of which I am interested in (which will put me up to 6).
Regardless, over the past year I've enjoyed learning each of the games, even if I don't have time to really dig my teeth in because of work and small kids (leaving them out is not a choice, because my workshop is not well-sealed against the dust storms out here).
So I want to know: what are your favorite mechanics in the game?
One thing I noticed in Liberty or Death was the "winter quarters" cards, or propaganda cards in other games, which have little actions that happen.
For instance, one card is "floods shift the balance," and it reads that if the "patriots or indians are ahead in their second victory condition" they lose two resources. This is a great way to differentiate the cards without shifting the whole game-state.
That's probably one of my favorite mechanics that I've seen.
I must say a close second is the "lines of communication," which can generate resources for the British in Gandhi. Since I play entirely solitaire, I never see them much as the bots don't track resources.
My least favorite is probably when the Taliban (or similar force) strike, they have to roll a d6 and only kill anyone if they roll equal to or less than the number of agents they flipped over. Of course, this can be mitigated with a special action and by attacking in many districts at once... but I still don't enjoy it (when I'm playing the Taliban, specifically...).
What about you? What are your favorite and least favorite mechanics?
Who am I?
Solo-ability. What originally drew me into these games was the non-players. It's really nice to be able to play a wargame by myself. I still prefer to play with people, but the non-player system is what makes these games so accessible to me. The non-player system also helps me to iron out edge cases before teaching the game to a group of people. The non-players therefore make this a smoother experience for my first multiplayer games too.
Next is probably the open information card draw system. The turn order is driven by these cards, and people can really difficult decisions between the Event, and variable power level turns.
Another would be the tactile nature of these games versus traditional chit wargames. I like table presence (even if it's not minis). The wood cubes etc. look really good and give these games a lot of eye appeal.
Comeback mechanism. While not explicitely part of the game; I've seen players make a comeback over a couple of rounds from almost no map presence to once again contending for first place many times. This has even happened to the "Government"-type type player in my games a few times, though not in Cuba Libre yet.
Regions versus map positions. I really like that the spaces in these games are just squares on a map, but the actual geographic regions. It makes sense in these games because they are operational, but I also just like games which do this. I really makes me feel like I'm in control of some actual large "part" of the map rather than some specific spot.
I really would like another designer to swoop in and use the above in a completely different dynamic. It would be awesome for someone to create a more battle oriented game in the vein of Pendragon using the items I listed above. I'm almost tempted to work with my friends to try and design one, but my lack of experience in doing something like this would make it very difficult and tedious.
Least favorite (please don't anyone take these way too seriously, I still think these games are some of the best games I've played):
Some factions in COIN are very nuanced to play. To the point where figuring out how they are supposed to play is extremely difficult from actually learning in a game. I found the INC faction in Gandhi almost impossible to play until I read a guide on bgg, and the guide's recommendation was sometihng I would have really doubted I could have figured out on my own as it locks you into taking the same SA over and over (which makes for a really linear style of play). The Gandhi example being one of the more extreme cases, but still this aspect exists in the games. I like having unexpected nuance to a degree, but some factions are very extreme on this scale.
Some cards in the deck are extremely powerful and game changing in a few of the COIN titles. I feel like sometimes when you are doing poorly, only to have a random card draw make it even worse, can be a little frustrating. (this also happens in reverse where you get a great card to help you out)
More often than it should happen; the last card draw before the final propaganda card can decide who wins the game. This both serves to keep tension up and make the game matter until the end, but it can also make you feel like you lost a 3+ hour game due to a single card draw.
More Meta type comments on COIN games:
A lot of the stuff used in the COIN system really makes for a great game, but doesn't have to be directly tied to Counter Insurgencies. It's sad that no one has taken these aspects of the system to create more complex war games using battle systems like in Pendragon or Liberty or Death to represent other aspects of military history. I can see these concepts used in other operational style wargames to make really great games.
Some of the designers seem (and I want to emphasize "seem") resistant to moving what they percieve as too far away from the archetypical COIN design created in Andean Abyss. In doing so, I feel like some of the titles are too similar from a game mechanics perspective, even if the subject material is very different. My buying of games in the COIN series is driven more by the mechanics in the game rather than conflict they are protraying. If a designer wants someone like me to get engaged in the historical aspect of the game, they need to first have an interesting game to get me there. One of my fears is that too many of the mechanics used in one title will be used almost exactly the same in another and I will eventually get bored of the COIN series. I hope we see more divergence from the archetypical mechanics in future titles, which was already done in titles like "Liberty or Death," "Ghandi," and especially "Pendragon".