Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62 is the most recent game in the COIN Series from GMT Games. The game covers the struggle between the insurgent Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), who are seeking independence from France, and the French Government using locally trained Algerian Troops and Police to keep the peace. The game is very much asymmetric, with each side having very different victory conditions as well as different abilities in the form of Operations and Special Activities.
The Government is more heavy handed in their methods, utilizing trained Troops to Sweep and Assault insurgent strongholds, moving around the board with great ease utilizing Troop Lift and Deploy. Once they have found and exposed insurgent pieces on the board, they can utilize Neutralize to simply remove them while gaining control of various sectors in order to build Support. In the end, the Government earns victory by keeping the Commitment level of the French people high while increasing support in heavy populated cities and regions.
The FLN is a little more subtle in their methods as they don’t have the power to simply overrun defenses in the country but have to bide their time, building up their presence in key areas by Rallying support for their cause through the establishment of bases from which they can train forces. They then must move unnoticed from region to region Ambushing unsuspecting Algerian Troops, Subverting Algerian Troops and Police over to their cause and raising the capital needed to fund a protracted war through Extortion. In the end, the FLN will win if they can build bases, and protect those bases from the Government, as well as build Opposition in key population centers around the country.
In this Action Point, I would like to show you the very unique and well designed Initiative Track used for this special 2-player only version of the COIN Series. Traditionally in other COIN games, initiative is determined by the order of icons located at the top of the next Event card. But in Colonial Twilight, initiative is determined in a very different method. The actions that you decide to take will determine your eligibility for the next round.
As you can see from the picture above, the Initiative Track is designed specifically for 2-players and as such has incorporated a very unique method into its function. Each new round, the FLN player will start as the 1st Eligible, meaning that they will get the first choice of the actions they will take, until that it is, they take an action that causes them to lose the Initiative. First off, you will notice that the various spaces are color coded with the 1st and 2nd Eligible boxes. The light tan spaces are similar to the 1st Eligible box, while the darker gray spaces are aligned with the 2nd Eligible box.
As you can see in this picture, the FLN player has chosen to take the Execute Op & Special Activity space, which will then force him to return to the 2nd Eligible box at the end of the turn. This space is more powerful than say the Execute Limited Op space which only allows for an Op to be taken in one space on the board, as opposed to the full Op which can be taken as many times as you have resources. The neat part of the design of the Initiative Track is that the 2nd Eligible then can only take the actions in a space that is adjacent to the space chosen by the 1st Eligible player. So in this example, the Government player has the choice of three spaces; Execute Event, Pass or Execute Limited Op. After this turn is over, because the FLN player chose the dark tan space with the Execute Op & Special Activity, they will then become the 2nd Eligible player and have effectively lost the initiative. The Government player will now move into the 1st Eligible space and will choose first at the start of the next turn. This mechanic is very well done for a 2-player game and is one of my most favorite parts of the design.
As you can see, the cycle will continue as in the above picture, the Government player now is the 1st Eligible and has the option to choose his actions first. Assuming he chooses the Execute Op & Special Activity space, he will then lose the initiative and become the 2nd Eligible again. This back and forth element of the game is very fun and can become quite strategic. For example, if I am the 1st Eligible, and the Event card that has been drawn from the deck severely damages me or gives the other player a great benefit, I can choose to make that Event impossible for him to take. This is done by simply choosing a space that is not adjacent to the Execute Event space. I can simply take the Execute Limited Op space to effectively block his play of the Event. Sure this action may not be the most efficient for me or give me exactly what I want to do or need at that time, but it is a way to strategically keep the initiative and eliminate that negative effect from the Event card. I love this element of the design, I think I have said that already, but it is true!
In our next Action Point, we will take a look at some of the actions that can be taken by the sides.
Also, if you haven’t, check out our unboxing video to get a great look at the components.