As you know, I love the COIN Series and anything associated with it. Stephen Rangazas has been active over the past few years behind the scenes with the COIN Series with his development work on Fall of Saigon: A Fire in the Lake Expansion. He has used his background and research capabilities to great effect as he did the background work on the Event cards in the game. From that experience, he has now come forward with his own design in The British Way: Counterinsurgency at the End of Empire from GMT Games which was announced last year.
The COIN Series Multi-Pack format is new and The British Way is the first game in this new shootoff from the main series with the games containing two to four separate games exploring a series of thematically related insurgencies. If you want to better understand this new addition to the COIN Series, you can read the excellent InsideGMT Blog post by Stephen Rangazas with an introduction to The British Way as well as a look at what you can expect in the Multi-Pack format at the following link: https://insidegmt.com/the-british-way-introduction-to-the-multi-pack/
We have agreed to provide a home for this series of quick articles on the History Behind the Cards involved in the game as the design continues to move through development and playtesting. Thanks go out to the game’s developer Joe Dewhurst and designer Stephen Rangazas for their work on these articles which are very informative and should give you a better understanding of how The British Way deals with each of these counterinsurgencies.
One other note, I think that the new layout and design of the cards looks really great and this work is being performed by Matthew Wallhead. Keep in mind though that nothing is finalized and these layouts are still just “near final”.
*Note: The cards highlighted and their event text, as well as any pictures used showing any of the various components, are still just the prototype versions which is only intended for playtesting purposes and the design and event effects and text might still change prior to final development and publication.
History Behind the Cards – The British Way: Malaya
British counterinsurgency strategy shifted over the course of the Malayan emergency. During the initial years of conflict, the British focused on a counter-terror strategy that focused on breaking up large formations of Malayan Communist Party (MCP) guerrillas and using collective punishments to deter villagers from supporting the insurgency. The declaration of the emergency granted the British colonial government the authority to impose collective punishments on communities deemed sympathetic to the MCP. These punishments included fines, house burnings, curfews, detention, and deportation. Although the counter-terror strategy prevented the MCP from creating liberated areas in the countryside, the collective punishments did little to win sympathy for the British.
To increase British control over the MCP’s civilian support base, British counterinsurgency shifted toward a policy of forced population relocation. Nearly half a million Chinese squatters were resettled into fortified New Villages. New Villages placed strict restrictions on the movement of people and food to deny supplies to the MCP. Although these restrictions could also coerce uncooperative areas to provide information, the forcible relocation and tight restrictions were not surprisingly unpopular with those moved. Forced relocation was expanded with the regroupment of Chinese laborers into fortified sites. As with resettlement into New Villages, the initial conditions in regroupment areas were often poor, eventually improving with time. Over the course of the emergency, 650,000 laborers would be regrouped in addition to those resettled.
The tight controls over the Chinese squatter population through population relocation and regroupment put pressure on the MCP. British counterinsurgency strategy shifted again with a focus on optimizing the population control measures in place and improving conditions within the New Villages to win the support of those relocated. As MCP activity fell in an area, New Villages were designated ‘white’ areas where the restrictions on food and movement were lifted. However, areas perceived by the British to be ‘black’ areas of strong MCP support received additional restrictions and punishments. The British used the examples of ‘white’ areas with limited restrictions and ‘black’ areas of heightened restrictions to encourage other areas to cooperate in reducing MCP activity by providing information.
The shift in British counterinsurgency is not only depicted with the Event Cards, but also modeled in the game’s British Commander Track. The British Commander Track nudges the British player toward using a similar progression of strategy: Reprisals to disperse MCP forces and Opposition, Relocation to place New Villages and separate the MCP from the population, then Pacification to shift New Villages spaces to Support and consolidate spaces under British control. However, skillful MCP players will likely make pursuing the historical British strategy not so straightforward.
In the next article in the series, we will learn about some of the cards and events in The British Way: Kenya.
If you missed the previous entries in the series, you can catch up on the posts to date by following the below links:
If you haven’t paid attention over the past few years, Stephen knows his stuff and does a bang up job of explaining how the history of the highlighted conflicts has been incorporated into the design of The British Way. I feel like after reading these cards I can better understand and see the connection and motivations behind the events of the various conflicts.
If you are interested in The British Way: Counterinsurgency at the End of Empire, you can pre-order a copy for the special P500 price of $55.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-945-the-british-way-counterinsurgency-at-the-end-of-empire.aspx
We also published an interview with designer Stephen Rangazas and if you are interested you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/03/07/interview-with-stephen-rangazas-designer-of-the-british-way-counterinsurgency-at-the-end-of-empire-from-gmt-games/