As the Covid 19 lockdown caused me to lose my regular tabletop war games opponent I haven't had much chance recently to play the wonderful GMT games I have. My wife is a great games player but she has no interest in war games, she preferes building, resource, management style games that last 45-90 minutes, so I have had no opposition. I was hoping this was about to change but it seems lockdown is coming again before we can get together again on a regular basis. Therefore I am revisiting some of the great GMT games reviewed on GGO in the past.
- One 22"x34" Mounted map
- 177 Wooden pieces (many embossed)
- 78 Playing cards
- One full-color countersheet
- Rules booklet
- 8 Player Aid Cards
DESIGNER: Volko Ruhnke & Brian Train
DEVELOPER: Mike Bertucelli
MAP, COUNTER, and CARD ART: Chechu Nieto & Xavier Carrascosa
ART DIRECTOR & PACKAGE DESIGN: Rodger B. MacGowan
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: Tony Curtis
PRODUCERS: Tony Curtis, Rodger MacGowan, Andy Lewis, Gene Billingsley & Mark Simonitch
Recommended Retail Price: $78.00
Having recently played and enjoyed the second COIN (COunterINsurgent) game, CUBA LIBRE I was eager
to play A DISTANT PLAIN which turns the COIN mechanics from Colombia (COIN 1) and Cuba (COIN 2)
to the Taliban insurgency of Afghanistan; this being a game of modern, recent and current warfare.
Once again we are treated to the exceptional quality of components and the very heavy and deep box in which
we find the now familiar sheet of die-cut counters, heavy duty card play-board, reference sheets for players and non-players, Random spaces map sheet and the Sequence of Play Aid; along with the deck of cards and the bag of wooden pieces and the two booklets, Rules and Playbook. This is indeed exactly what previous players of the COIN game series would expect. Also once more, the game is for 1 - 4 players; Rules for every number of players are included and are more than just take out this or that card etc.
The Factions available to the players are similar in name to the other COIN games though obviously not similar in make-up. The Government, International Coalition, Islamist Taliban and the Warlords. The card Deck contains 2 card types, the bulk of the cards are Events as usual, and the remaining 6 are Propaganda cards. For reference there is a card list on the reverse side of the Sequence of Play card sheet, the SoP is, with some editing, the same for each COIN game.
Apart from the names and location the Rules booklet is basically the same for all COIN series games. However this is not a case of played one, played them all, for each game has a solid selection of differences from the previous game - the authors expecting that you have played the games in order of release have included in COIN 2 and also COIN 3 a feature of Changes for experienced players. For example A Distant Plain is the first of the three games to date that has a Faction from outside the Country in which the game is staged. Their, the Coalition, Victory Conditions are quite unusual in as much as they are trying to retreat from Afghanistan not overthrow it. This is possibly the most intriguing and interesting Faction to play because of the different challenges they offer.
The PLAYBOOK includes a well designed Tutorial by which you can play the game as you go without reading the entire Rule Book and remembering it. When necessary the Tutorial directs you to a certain rule that you need to understand before continuing. Learning as you go is a great way to involve yourself in historical board war-gaming. The tutorials in the COIN series have been so extremely well written as they ensure the game flows smoothly and that players learn the rules quickly, although for each new game the changes bring somewhat more of a challenge to the learning curve.
It is quite unusual to play a game, an historical game, when the conflict is still continuing, especuially when playing as the Taliban. Players cannot play to actualities in most cases, only supposition and their own strategies, tactics and imaginations. I have to say that it was eerily uncomfortable playing whilst the news on TV and newspaper was still reporting on and from the Afghanistan conflict.
Pakistan has been purposely omitted as it has been determined by the authors that it is unlikely Pakistan would have committed its support solely to any one of the Factions involved. Also the map has compressed the regions of Afghanistan for a more playable game.
The Coalition and the Government need to work together, help each other, whilst working against each other. The Coalition wants to, as I said earlier, bring the country under control and then retreat without casualties, whereas the Government wants to bring the country under control with the Coalition's support.
I've mentioned Pakistan as not being involved but that is not absolute. There are border areas where the Taliban can escape to when they need to heal up, regroup and build their forces back up.
Because of the infiltration and terror tactics available to the Taliban and the cat and mouse strategies of the Coalition and Government there is always the possibility that the Warlords, with their abilities to encourage support from the Police and Armed Forces, will sneak a back door win.
This is a game with well designed and clearly written rules, but these hide complicated complexities and numerous possibilities afforded to all sides. Being so modern it may not be everyone's idea of an historical conflict but as the authors say in their notes, in the future it may well be so very correct or so very wrong in its assumptions. By playing we are becoming a part in making history.