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 Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)

The Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC was the major police and security force of Northern Ireland, but was viewed as favouring one community in this bitter divide, namely the Unionists, since the majority of its members were Protestant. The Catholic/Nationalist community accused the RUC force of generally displaying a lack of impartiality and that it carried out unlawful assaults directly, or indirectly by colluding with Loyalist paramilitaries.

By 1983 the RUC was deemed, globally, the most dangerous police force in which to serve. Over 300 officers were killed whilst on duty; with 9,000 being injured. The IRA committed most of these fatalities and injuries. The RUC have the assistance of the BF Faction, as well as specialist support from the Republic of Ireland – although limited – through the Special Branch mechanic.

The ‘B Specials’ were the Ulster Special Constabulary, an overwhelmingly Protestant reserve Northern Irish police force that was later disbanded in 1970.

The British Forces (BF)/Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR)

The desire to remove the British imperial presence from Irish soil for centuries meant that the small expeditionary force of the British Army that remained in the early to mid Sixties was still a major target for the IRA, certainly in its Original and later in its Provisional forms.

With no associated cost, the British Forces player has unlimited Resources but begins the story with a small deployment. The Unionist Government may Call for Troops, but there is a danger of inflaming Dublin, reducing Anglo-Irish Relations, and surrendering political autonomy through the imposition of Direct Rule. It is difficult but not inconceivable that the paramilitaries may reduce the BF available for use.

More able than the RUC in Rural areas of the map, the BF remains challenged by the many urbanised areas exploited by the paramilitaries. It can improve or degrade both the efficacy of all eleven Border Crossings and deploy Military Checkpoints upon LOC’s.

Only its proficient but limited Special Forces (SAS) may operate in the Republic and Europe.

By 1975, it undertakes a policy known as ‘Ulsterisation’, keen to criminalise and remove the military status previously afforded IRA and LOY paramilitaries, and introduces the Ulster Defence Regiment to limit the sense of British Imperialism and be seen to return security and policing to Northern Ireland itself.

It will be satisfied with the extinction of both paramilitary forces and a reduced presence in Northern Ireland.

If you missed the first two entries in this series that focused on the Unionists, the Nationalists and Paramilitaries, you can catch up here:

Part I – The Unionists

Part II – The Nationalist Parties

Part III – The Paramilitaries

Thanks for this great insight into the Security Forces Factions and their motivations and role in the greater conflict. This is the final entry in the series and the Kickstarter campaign will be here before we know it. Not much longer now!