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Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62

Corrected Cards 52-55   I tried to find a list of the original cards but failed and so I printed off a copy of the new #52 and cut and pasted it onto the old #55 card, which was a duplicate of card #56. I checked through the Deck of 71 cards and couldn't find any other duplicates and therefore I assumed (possibly wrongly) that there shouldn't be 2 "Hardened Attitudes" (#55 & #56)  cards and that the new #52 "Cabinet Shuffle" (which wasn't anywhere else to be found in the Deck) replaces either #55 or #56. If you use the Corrected cards, printing, cutting and pasting, them you will have to do this for 5 cards. I only did it for the one card (#55) and have to date found no problem with the renumbering of it.

COMPONENTS

  

COLONIAL TWILIGHT: The FRENCH-ALGERIAN WAR 1954-62 is Brian Train game that uses GMTs famed COIN system. It is Volume VII in that series.  If you haven't encountered a GMT COIN game before then you should know that no actual coins are used, and that they are basically Card-Driven reinactment tabletop board games where players have the opportunity to change history. The COIN in the explanation is an acronym of COunter INsurgency. COIN games generally deal with historical situations such as rebellions and guerilla warfare, mixing these with the political aspects synonymous with each. In fact it is fair to say that the COIN system (as with other GMT games of this genre) can be called "History in a Box".

I was born in 1950 and this period of conflict, 54-62, isn't one I have studied or taken any interest in, at least until COLONIAL TWILIGHT came along. I can't say that it is a particularly popular era in either mine or my friends historical interests and it was only because I have friends who, like myself, enjoy and respect the majority of GMT games that I got to play it with 2 players as well as Solo - it is a very intuitive and good game for single play because the Rules and Playbooks are written point by point and thus very easy to follow. In GMT' thermometer terms it hits 5 (medium) on the complexity level and 9 (highest) on the solitaire play chart.

As a 2-player game the players control the two warring factions; one being the Front de Liberation Nationale (throughout the game known as the FLN) and they are opposing the French Government. As a solo game the rules are designed for the player to control the French Government with the FLN as an NPC, or the single player can control both factions. The 6 year War/Insurgency came about because Algeria wanted to break away from French rule, they wanted Independence. During play, if things go as intended, Morocco and Tunisia will also be freed from French rule and once they are the FLN can count on them as allies, at least as far as shelter and freedom of movement are concerned; but not for additional troops.As a balance to this the Government may use some of their resources to keep the two new Nations sweet and prevent the FLN from using their bases within them as inroads. This control is via the Border Zone Track which is only activated after the two new Independences are founded.

 

In many card-run games, in this genre or others, players have a hand of cards from which they decide what card to play and when. COLONIAL TWILIGHT: The FRENCH-ALGERIAN WAR 1954-62 drives the game through events that occur when their card is flipped over from the Draw Deck - there are no Hands of Cards. The Forces are represented by wooden pieces: Dark Green and Light Green are Algerian, Troops and Police, Dark Blue and Light Blue are similar units but French. The FLN Guerillas have Black hexagonal pieces with the Crescent & Star symbol on one end. If this symbol is upside (visible to all players) then the unit is active, face down they are underground; Bases are Black counters for the FLN and Blue for the Government.

This game is played with one of the three provided scenarios, Short, Medium or Long. The difference in these is basically the length of time required to play, the number of Event cards in each: 36 cards in the Short game, 48 for the Medium game and 60 for the Long game. There is also a Tutorial game in which instead of creating a Random Draw Deck the Deck is stacked so that the cards come out in the required order and each part of the game is explained thoroughly using this play-through method. If. like me, you have an early copy of the game and have had to do as I did with the "Corrected Cards" then just make sure that instead of by number you place cards by Title/Name; as there are only 5 cards involved this is not a problem. Remember though that the Deck is only stacked for the Tutorial. In all other games a random number of cards are used, thus making the Short and Medium games even more random than the long game as they use an adventitious Deck of cards whereas the Long game uses all 60 Event cards.

When preparing the Decks for the scenarios you split the required deck into Stacks of 12 and add a Propaganda card into each Stack. It isn't made clear whether the Propaganda* card is added to the 12 or as part of the 12; we play 12+1, the stacks are then combined to make one Deck (not to be shuffled now). Even though I have played all three scenarios I still read each one thoroughly through each time because there are small changes that need to be addressed. In my copy of the game when I play the Tutorial I have to ensure I have the correct cards by name (not by number) in the pre-made deck. It is important to remember when you first begin playing that the Edge Track notes both the current resources for each side and also the Commitment of the Government because unlike many games where you are told to "move the resource markers back as resources are used" (or something similar) Colonial Twilight just says that resources are used; there is no additional reminder. Okay this isn't so important once you have played numerous times and are totally au fait with the rules but is until you are that experienced.

*Propaganda cards: When these cards are turned up (randomly during any scenario except the Tutorial) they trigger various functions including Victory checks, Resource and/or Commitment movement (up or down).  All Key Words and Terms are described on pages 17 and 18 in alphabetical order.

LIVING RULES

 

Amongst the list of Contents it says there are 2 Fold-Out Player Aids and 1 Non Player Faction Aid. Actually there are 2 single-card, double-sided Player Aids and 1 Non Player Faction Aid that is folded and also double-sided. This isn't a major factor or problem of any kind, it isn't even a problem at all to be honest, but if, like me, one of the first things you do is check the Contents are complete then it is something you should be aware of. Another minor anomaly (unless of course it is me who is misreading or am otherwise incorrect) is in the Tutorial when you flip over the second card. From the rules: "He does a train* in Constantine and in Oran, placing 4 Algerian Police cubes in each ...."  At the beginning of the Tutorial scenario there are 7 Algerian Police cubes and two of these are placed on the board during the setup. One is removed by the FLN on their first turn, leaving just the one remaining in Algiers. If you only begin with 7 Algerian Cubes in the game, how do you place 4 in each of two places ? 

*Train: This is when the Government run an Operation to place Algerian cubes or Pacify/Affect either the Border or the France Track

ONLINE RESOURCES

REVIEWS

 

NEWS

    

The Initiative Track is used not only to determine which player/side has the first turn and is also a reminder of what Action/Activity each player has chosen for their turn. At first it looks like the markers on this Track will move around it according to the orders that border the current location of the marker, especially as during setup the two markers are placed on the 1st Eligible and 2nd Eligible spaces, but this isn't actually the case; the player whose marker is in the 1st Eligible space has the first choice. The FLN player taking the Execute Op & Special Activity space can then, if they wish, action one of the four choices in the left column of their Reference/Aid sheet and one on the right, so the example given is call for a Rally and then a Subversion before the Government player makes their choice of Action. The FLN take the first Eligible space which is the left side clean space marked "1st Eligible" and thus the Government player's marker begins in the shaded right side space. The FLN player has the first choice of the Initiative box actions but what they choose will also determine if they will go first or second, the colour of the action box, clean or shaded, relates to the Eligible box they return their marker to after completing the action - a very neat, clever yet uncomplicated mechanic.

It is sometimes the case where activating the flipped (face-up) card is not always the better thing to do as a part of it may also give an advantageous move/action to the FLN opposition. This is one of the reasons each game takes a fairly long time to play - there are so many things to consider prior to making a decision on each turn that the game slows almost to a crawl. Whether this replicates the way this War went I am not in a position to say - I have already stated that this isn't an era I am truly interested in or have knowledge of - although the COIN system does make it playable it doesn't create the atmosphere. One thing that will please players who have a dislike of tabletop wargames that use counters (rather than wooden blocks or miniatures) is that although there are some cardboard counters in use on the board there are only a few and so you do not get the main problem that those players dislike when 2 or more counters are stacked in piles and become awkward and cumbersome to move; the main troops are the wooden cubes and they are easily identified (by colour) and easier to move on the board (as they don't stack) or fall over. 

Naturally the quality of the components, map and cards etc are up to the very high standards set by GMT Games, but having said that it should also be noted that the Rules Booklet and the Playbook are designed and written for experienced players; this isn't a game for players new to tabletop wargames, not even if they are professors of the covered period. I believe it would be quite difficult for such a new player to open the box, read the rules and begin playing without having someone who has either played COLONIAL TWILIGHT before or who is at least knowledgeable of the COIN system.

  

PUBLISHED 2017
DESIGNER Brian Train
DEVELOPER Jordan Kehrer
MAP ART Chechu Nieto
CARD & COUNTER ART Chechu Nieto & Mark Simonitch
PRODUCERS Gene Billingsley, Tony Curtis, Andy Lewis, Rodger MacGowan, Mark Simonitch
© Chris Baylis 2011-2015