Late last year, we hosted a 3-part series on an upcoming COIN Series inspired game called The Troubles which deals with the struggle in Northern Ireland. Through that process I came to appreciate the designer Hugh O’Donnell’s take on this difficult conflict and really felt he was going about dealing with the nature of this bloody war as tactfully as possible as well as simultaneously providing some enlightenment and understanding about some of the issues.

Here are links to those three posts:

Part 1 – Uncomfortable questions about a game on this subject

Part 2 – Look at the map and the process behind it’s creation and genesis of events

Part 3 – Design progress to date and what “victory” looks like?

After those posts were received well, we asked Hugh if he would be interested in doing a series of Event Card spoilers for the game. The game is not yet published and has just started playtesting so there is a long road yet to travel but we thought an early look would be a good thing.

*Please keep in mind that the artwork and layout of these cards is not yet finalized (although they are getting close) and is only for playtest purposes at this point. Also, as this game is still in development, card details may still change prior to publication.

The Troubles Card Spoiler People's Democracy March Burntollet#20 People’s Democracy March: Burntollet

Smiling astronauts. A soaring rocket. Looting. Racial tension. Demonstrations.

But not 1960’s America; 2020’s America.

With peace existing in Northern Ireland for almost twenty years, it seems that events more than 50 years ago in the United States had more resonance and more effect with communities 4,000 miles away than it did at home.

The American Civil Rights Movement, which features so heavily in the iconography of 60’s America – the Vietnam War, those bold Apollo Missions – would serve as both catalyst and model for the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland.

From humble beginnings, The Campaign for Social Justice was established in 1964 by Patricia and Dr. Conn McCluskey. The husband and wife team were based in County Tyrone and were the founding fathers of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, in response to the discrimination against the Nationalist Catholic communities in aspects such as housing and employment.

And their issues were starting to attract both governmental and media attention.

Formulated by the MP for Manchester Blackley, Paul Rose, The Campaign for Democracy in Ulster was at least an attempt to highlight the discriminatory practices in Northern Ireland. Elected as a Labour MP in the 1964 Westminster Election, Rose with fellow Labour members and trade unionists established the earliest attempt at a civil rights movement to reform electoral laws and investigate allegations into religious discrimination. The CDU failed to achieve its aims, but Republican MP for West Belfast, Gerry Fitt, used their energies to pressurize the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to address the situation in Northern Ireland. (Fitt would later become the sole Nationalist MP in the 1966 General Election, occupying Belfast West for several years after.)

The Sunday Times, on the 3rd July 1966, coinciding with a royal visit to Northern Ireland, published the article ‘John Bull’s Political Slum’, criticising Britain’s failure to intervene in the gerrymandering of the political architecture of Northern Ireland, the high levels of unemployment and lack of opportunity for those in mainly Catholic communities. This was against the backdrop of three recent killings carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force, which was led by Gusty Spence (and accomplice) who was later arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role.

On the 5th October 1968, the Royal Ulster Constabulary prevented the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) from undertaking a pre-planned civil rights march. There was a significant media presence; also present was the MP for West Belfast, Gerry Fitt – the only non-Unionist Member of Parliament representing Northern Ireland in the Westminster Government. The RUC baton-charged the marchers, with many people injured; these scenes were broadcast worldwide, and politically damaging for the British and Northern Irish Government at a time when Civil Rights was being championed in the United States and elsewhere.

Two days of intense rioting in Derry ensued.


Beginning in Belfast on the 1st of January, The People’s Democracy March was destined to culminate in Derry four days later after highlighting the need for greater social justice in Northern Ireland; it aimed to mimic the Selma-Montgomery march of 1966 by anti-racist civil rights activists in America.

However, at Burntollet Bridge in Derry, and due to (according to witness accounts) a lack of proper supervision by the police and security forces, the demonstrators were ambushed by approximately 200 Loyalist protesters and ‘B-Specials’. Thirteen marchers required hospital treatment, and there were accusations of impartiality on the side of the RUC, the state’s police force which was there to safeguard a legal demonstration.

That evening, the Bogside area of Derry erupted in rioting that continued for several days.

Burntollet Bridge Picture

You can catch up on the series to date by following these links:

#34 Provisional IRA Formed

#63 Four Square Laundry/MRF

#24 RTÉ Television Centre Attack

#122 Brighton Hotel Bombing

#108 SAS – Peter Cleary

#103 General Election 1974 & #130 Labour Government: No Confidence

As always thank you Hugh for this great insight into the history behind the game and the salient issues. One of things that draws me to these COIN Series games is the learning of something about history and this game is going to shed some really interesting light on the subject for many who do not know much about the details.