We have been covering the design and development of a multi-faction treatment of the Northern Ireland Conflict called The Troubles: Shadow War in Northern Ireland 1964-1998 for nearly 2 years now as we have hosted a few different items from designer Hugh O’Donnell on the blog including a 3-part series of introductory posts explain the game and its historical background. We have also hosted several Event Card Spoilers showing some of the many cards continued in the game. The game is an asymmetric treatment where multiple factions work toward victory in a simulation of events, both historical and political, that promulgated this 30 years struggle.

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?

The designer has worked hard to make this a learning experience where players will attempt to understand the motivations behind the various actors in the drama and how they each go about reaching their stated goals. While this is a game, it is more than that and should be viewed as a teaching tool that will help us all better understand the why’s and wherefore’s involved. In this new series of posts, Hugh will go into each of the playable factions and their role in the struggle.


The NAT Player

The NAT Faction is an amalgamation of Nationalist Parties and represents the Social Democratic Labour Party, Unity, and Sinn Fein. It was, for many years after the 1922 Partitioning, the minority party and only in very recent terms have achieved equity at Stormont and Westminster.

Gerry Fitt and Frank McGuire were lone voices until they were joined by fellow Nationalists riding on the optimism of the growing Civil Rights movement.

The NAT Faction’s aim is to achieve fair and democratic representation for its Nationalist communities. The SDLP was the most popular voice and unreservedly and publicly condemned the actions of the IRA; other Nationalists within parties such as Sinn Fein have been constantly accused of having dual membership in both organisations. The NAT Faction can be hampered by the activities of both the IRA and the UNI Faction, but it did benefit from public support of the former’s ‘Blanket Protests’ and ‘Hunger Strikes’, as the world’s media turned its spotlight on the Maze prison.

The Victory Conditions for the NAT Faction are both significant and challenging for the player to meet.

In 1964/1966, the majority of County Seats have significant Electoral Ratio differences, and these must be reduced. The Nationalist Faction must achieve at least 50% of Electoral Support in order to automatically qualify for Power-Sharing, or it may be offered by the UNI Faction (as an alternative to Direct Rule?).

The NAT Support value on the context tracker begins and generally remains positive. However, any deterioration from such actions from Event Card triggers or paramilitary activity will ultimately degrade any hard-earned political gains made at the doors of the electorate.

For the Nationalist Faction, it is likely to be a long road to success. But – as history has proven, it was a necessary journey.

If you missed the first entry in this series that focused on the Unionists, you can catch up here:

Part I – The Unionists

Thanks for this great insight into the Nationalist Parties. Hugh will be working on similar style articles on the other factions in the game over the next few weeks in a run up to the Kickstarter campaign launch soon but more on that later.