I’m sure some of you have experienced love/hate relationships with things in your life. For me, often times it’s games. What games specifically come to mind are the COIN series of games from GMT Games.
I think most gamers either love ’em or hate’ ’em. I’m right on the fence.
I found Fire in the Lake: Insurgency in Vietnam to be far too complex for me so I ended up selling it. A Distant Plain: Insurgency in Afghanistan, although thematically interested me, it also looked too complicated for my tastes and as of now I have decided not to pick it up. Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar and Andean Abyss: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Columbia both just don’t grab my attention due to theme — I’m just not interested in those two time periods in history.
All these games have high praise in the gaming community, but I think it’s fair to say that that praise is limited to those who play COIN games which is but a subset of wargamers. The average board game player won’t touch these with a ten foot pole. I understand that. They are beautiful to look at without question, but they still represent abstracted elements of the military, political and socio-economic issues surrounding each individual conflict. That does not appeal to some.
That leaves three left:
Liberty or Death: the American Insurrection. This game looks amazing. Being an American History major in school, this theme certainly grabbed my interest. But….after reading the rules twice, it just didn’t click — at least not yet. I know I should break out the playbook and run through the tutorial but quite honestly, if the rulebook doesn’t grab my attention, then I might be in trouble. It still sits on my shelf waiting for someone to convince me to play it.
Next, Cuba Libre. This topic may not be of much interest to many as it deals with Fidel Castro’s insurgency and eventual take over of the island from dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívarta. It was my first COIN game so maybe there’s some sentimentalism there, but I also think it’s due to the much smaller board and areas of control. It makes for a much more approachable and tight board. That being said, much like the proto-COIN game Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?, sometimes I felt unsure as to what to do to trigger a win condition, or to even get there to begin with. All these games can be really deep, heavy, and complex. I don’t mind heavy as long as I can wrap my head around it.
Lastly, Colonial Twilight: the French-Algerian War 1954-1962. Now although the content is a bit of stretch for me, what drew me to it was the fact that it was only two factions instead of the usual four. The board wasn’t as tight as Cuba Libre, but certainly not as sprawling as Fire in the Lake. The board is beautiful, and in some ways, much like Cuba Libre, a much more manageable game with regard to components. Certainly, having less factions to worry about and less pieces scattered around the board, although that does happen here a bit, it seems to be more approachable and less daunting.
I am about as far away as you can get from a COIN expert. There are others who know far more about it than I. Some of these games I really want to like; I want to love. But it’s hard for me to get there. Perhaps, I need to play this multi-player with someone who can show me the ins and outs and allow me to better appreciate these games. I don’t discredit their genius, design or gameplay. I’m smart enough to appreciate that. However, I don’t think I have enough in my noggin’ to play these well, if not correctly. 🙂