Lately we have had a chance to run more playtest games of We Are Coming Nineveh, the tactical/operational-level wargame of the 2017 Mosul campaign being developed by Juliette Le Ménahèze, Harrison Brewer, Brian Train, and myself for Nuts! Publishing. It’s all coming along nicely, and feedback has been very positive indeed.
Playtesting at Connections UK. Juliette looks on as Phil Pournelle advances Iraqi forces towards the Old City. War is thirsty work.
More playtesting at Connections UK.
Counter Terrorism Service and Emergency Response Division troops break into the heavily-defended Old City. To the west and north, units of the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armoured and 16th Infantry Divisions close a circle of steel around their foe.
The (area movement) map and (block-based) combat system are working very well: they are fast and intuitive, and nicely model the tempo of the actual campaign. Consequently, most of our recent tweaks involve Capability cards and Event cards.
A game is about to begin at McGill University. Daesh has deployed most of its veteran units to the Old City, while using a screen of militia and IEDs to slow and disrupt the ISF offensive. If the ISF can cut the roads to the west and north it will hamper Daesh resupply.
The former represent what it is each side chooses to bring to the fight, above and beyond their core units. In the case of Daesh (ISIS), this includes such things as:
- arms caches
- IED factories
- a media production centre
- makeshift drones
- tunnel networks and “stay behind” forces
- primitive chemical weapons
- “mouseholes” and fortifications
- additional Improvised Explosive Devices of various sort
- human shields
- child soldiers
- better infantry training
- local spy networks
- smuggling networks
As for the Iraqi security Forces, they can call upon (amongst other things):
- additional military units (16th Infantry Division, Popular Mobilization Forces)
- Coalition air and artillery support, as well as UAVs (drones) and forward observers
- Coalition training
- Iranian advisors
- Iraqi air and artillery support
- HUMINT (human intelligence)
- SIGINT (signals intelligence)
- enhanced EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) capability
- additional ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) assets
- tighter Rules of Engagement (to reduce collateral damage)
- expanded humanitarian assistance operations
- field hospital
- improved logistics
- improved coordination
- airmobile and river-crossing operations
Prior to deployment, Brian considers what additional capabilities he wants for the forthcoming battle.
Each side is given 30 points to spend on such capabilities before the game starts, and they can tailor their expenditure to suit their campaign plan and preferred tactics. This dramatically enhances the replay value of We Are Coming, Nineveh!, since every game can be very different depending on how Daesh has chosen to defend its positions and what assets and capabilities the Iraqi side chooses to deploy.
The ISF gets lucky break: human intelligence (HUMINT) reveals the location of a senior Daesh military commander, who is promptly killed in a daring strike by Iraqi attack helicopters.
The Event cards are triggered by dice tolls during ground combat. Some generate collateral damage, especially when fighting is taking place in the densely-packed Old City. Some reflect the challenges of military operations in urban terrain: troops might get lost, pause to recover casualties, encountered unexploded ordnance, or have other encounters. Others present various tactical vignettes. Do you risk accepting the surrender of Daesh fighters, knowing there might be a suicide bomber amongst them? Do you open fire on the vehicle travelling towards your checkpoint? Does an officer risk death to rescue a child caught in the crossfire? Finally, still other cards reward success or capabilities—if the ISF has invested in improved coordination, for example, they’ll encounter fewer problems when Iraqi Army, Interior Ministry, or Counter Terrorism Service (“Golden Division”) forces attempt joint operations.
Iraqi forces (green) clear the last Daesh units (black) out of the Old City. In this case, the ISF minimized indirect fires and air support, and instead invested in better training and logistics. Their careful campaign was slower than the real one, but kept casualties and collateral damage down.
Victory is determined by three metrics: the time it takes to liberate Mosul, the casualties taken by the ISF, and the collateral damage (both physical and political) inflicted on the city. At the start of the game, each side secretly nominates the metric that it wishes to emphasize in its political messaging. We have also built in a system of narrative description, allowing players to gauge their progress against the real military campaign.
Juliette, Brian, Rex, and Harrison.
We hope to have the main game finalized by the end of December, at which point we will deliver it to Nuts! for further development We are also developing a solitaire system to allow solo play, but that will take a few months more of work. Keep your eye on PAXsims for further details!