Over the past couple of years, I have become acquainted with a new Spanish wargame publisher called SNAFU Design. I first interviewed one of their partners and designer Marc Fiqueras in early 2021 on his new game called Ambon: Burning Sun & Little Seagulls. We next interviewed the incomparable Javier Romero for his design with SNAFU called Santander ’37. These games are very cool and cover lesser gamed subjects so these are right up my alley. Recently, I saw where Marc was back at it designing a game on the Perú-Ecuador War of 1941 called Equatorial Clash. I reached out to Marc and he was gracious enough to answer our questions about the design and also provide an update on the in-process games at SNAFU Design.
Grant: Mark how has SNAFU Design been doing since debuting their first game in 2020?
Marc: We’re quite happy with our first releases. After my Ambon: Burning Sun & Little Seagulls, our first game, we published Santander ’37 by Javier Romero, the second game in our Snafu Small Battles Series. The third one will be Equatorial Clash, hopefully in June/July 2022. Besides the Snafu Small Battles Series, some months ago we published a boxed States of Siege Series game called Molt Soroll per un Rei (Much ado about a King, for now only in Catalan), on the reign of Peter the Great of Aragon. And, of course, we offer our small Snafu Postcard Battles Series, which are freely available as pdf downloads in many languages. The first one was Battle in the Formigues Islands (some Middle-Age naval battles) and El Foc de la Gleva (a small engagement during the Third Carlist War near Barcelona).
Grant: How many games are currently in design and development under the banner?
Marc: After Equatorial Clash, we are currently developing 12 Hours at Maleme, a very interesting and innovative game by Ivan Prat on the first 12 hours of the German airborne operation over the Maleme airfield in Crete.
After this one, we plan to publish Nothing Left to Bomb, a new design by Nicola Saggini (one of the codesigners of By Stealth and Sea with David Thompson published by DVG) on the air campaign over Malta during WW2.
Other games in the development stage but planned for 2023 or later are From Guayaquil to Quito, a tactical (post)-Napoleonic system, with battles from the Latin-American Independence Wars (1809-1824), and Iron Belt, a solitaire game on the offensive against Bilbao in the Spanish Civil War.
And for the postcard games, our next one will be Fortes Fortuna Iuvat: Pliny against the Vesuvius, a small and cute solitaire game in which the player tries to rescue the survivors of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
Grant: What historical event does your new design Equatorial Clash focus on?
Marc: The game is based on the Peruvian-Ecuadorian War of 1941. It’s a quite unknown war, fought while WW2 was ravaging Europe and just a few months before Pearl Harbor. This border war laid its roots in the process of independence of many Latin American countries from Spain, which left imprecise borders between the newly created republics.
Grant: Why did you want to design a game on the border conflict between Ecuador and Peru in 1941?
Marc: Well, the reason is twofold: Firstly, as my wife is from Ecuador, I’ve always been interested in the history of the country, and I’ve been looking for wargames covering its history. Secondly, the war was quite unknown, without any published wargame (besides some scenarios for the Panzer Grenadier Tactical System) and was small enough to fit nicely in our Snafu Small Battles Series.
Grant: What from the history of this conflict were you careful to include and model in your design?
Marc: One key aspect of this conflict was the readiness of the Peruvian army and the passive behavior of the Ecuadorean government. This is modelled both by means of a political track (President Arroyo’s Track) and by means of the Action Points assignment for each player each turn. The game is centered on the main theatre, the coastal border area, but it includes the secondary theatres of the Andean mountains and the outposts in the Amazonian rivers as tracks in which the players can act.
Grant: What is your overarching design goal for this entry in the Snafu Small Battles Series?
Marc: As with the other Small Battles Series games, our aim is to offer a compelling game with a small amount of components (no more than 140 counters and a map in A2 format tops). The rules are simple enough for any experienced wargamer but as in our previous designs, they have some innovative touches here and there. Sort of a classical design with a twist. In this case, the “twist” is the Action Points expenditure mechanics.
Grant: What sources did you consult and what one must read source would you recommend to anyone wanting to know more?
Marc: There are many interesting references, although unfortunately there are very few sources in English, and those available are usually hard to find. One general work that I can recommend for having a clear overview of the conflict, and easily available, is Wars of Latin America 1899-1941 by René de La Pedraja. It’s a very interesting review of many unknown and interesting conflicts in Latin America (perhaps the best known being the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay).
Grant: What area does the map cover?
Marc: The map covers the border coastal area between the countries of Perú and Ecuador, from Tumbes in Perú to Machala in Ecuador, where the main operations took place. This is a border war so the action happens where the two countries come together.
Grant: What strategic pinch points are created by the layout of spaces and the terrain?
Marc: The geographic constraints between the coast and the first upslopes towards the Andean passes, and the lack of other roads or easy terrain, narrow the available terrain near Santa Rosa, which is usually a key point in the game.
Grant: Who is the artist? How has their style helped you in telling the story here?
Marc: The graphical design is by Nils Johansson, who was also the artist behind our two previous Small Battles Series games (Ambon and Santander ’37). In this case, he has made a superb work, with the game board resembling a newspaper front page, the map itself framed by an assortment of news from the war (all the text is from actual Peruvian or Ecuadorean newspapers of those days). The 40’s feel greatly helps in transporting the player to those years.
Grant: What is the purpose and uses of the Off-Map Fronts?
Marc: The Ecuadorean-Peruvian War was a fight over a wide area along the Perú–Ecuador border, but it consisted of very localized clashes, around outposts and involving limited numbers of men. The only zone in which there was a long front and many battalions involved was the coastal front which is the focus of the main map. The off-map fronts show the other two main scenarios: the Macará-Loja axis, up in the Andes, and the Amazonian outposts as a whole. Although the main action is played on the main map, players can influence on the other fronts to some extent, sending troops there.
Grant: What is the Arroyo del Rio Track used for?
Marc: A problem with the Ecuadorean player is that Arroyo’s government was completely passive before the outbreak of hostilities and remained so afterwards, leaving the main army battalions near the capital, for fear of a coup d’etat. This situation leads to few courses of action for the Ecuadorean player, so we considered that including the possibility of a more active Arroyo, pressed by the military staff, was a must.
Grant: What is the anatomy of the various counters used?
Marc: All counters have, besides their NATO symbols (or profile in the case of planes and ships) and identification, a combat value and a resistance value (this one in the form of one to three dashes). All combat units have a reduced or “disrupted” side, while assets (planes and ships) have a “spent” side.
Grant: What type of assets are available and how are they used?
Marc: The assets are naval assets and air assets. Air assets can be used in combat, increasing the likelihood of inflicting hits on enemy units (if they survive possible dogfights when bot players assign air assets to the same combat). Naval assets are placed in the Gulf of Guayaquil Box and can help or hinder the transport of Ecuadorean troops from the port of Guayaquil to the theater of war.
Grant: What is the makeup of the Combat Results Table? Any unique odds and why are they used?
Marc: The combat uses a CRT which assigns hits, and these hits are to be compared to the resistance of enemy units according to the Hits Assignment Table. Both players roll the die and each one assigns hits to the enemy. In the table, it is important to improve your odds with positive die roll modifiers, conferred by the presence of air assets, artillery and other units.
Grant: What is the purpose of the Hits Assignment Table?
Marc: The hits obtained in battle are to be compared with the resistance of enemy units. Hits are applied sequentially per unit, until the first one reaches as many hits as its resistance; then remaining hits can be applied to other units, and so on.
Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play?
Marc: Each turn begins with the political checks phase, in which the pressure on the Ecuadorean president Arroyo del Río is checked, and, in the last turns, the possibility of a cease-fire, as well. Then, after the reinforcement placement, Action Points for both players are assigned. Then players begin alternating impulses, in each of which the player can spend as many of those action points as he wants, but always of only one type in each impulse (there are 4 types: strategic, operational, tactical and command). Once both players have finished their impulses, the other fronts are checked, and VP are tallied if necessary.
Grant: What are Political Checks and how does this effect the game? What does this represent from the history?
Marc: During this phase, the position of the President Arroyo in its track is checked. This is important for representing the passivity (or not) of the President. Each box of the track gives a positive or negative value of victory points at game end, determines when a cease-fire is possible, gives a bonus or malus of Action Points to the Ecuadorean player and allows the release of the “blocked” units that the President kept in their quarters during the war.
Grant: What are Action Points used for and how are they collected?
Marc: Action Points are the key of the game. Each turn they are collected according to a base value (different for each player and turn), to which it is added the result of a 1d6, and some more for control of certain areas. Action Points to collect by each player are shown on the Turn Track with the Ecuadorian Action Points on top (red) and the Peruvian player shown on bottom (purple) in a colored diamond symbol.
Grant: What different actions are possible?
Marc: These Action Points are spent for performing almost all actions of the game: move units, combat, build roads, press the President, refitand recover units, etc. There are 4 types of possible actions: strategic, operational, tactical and command.
Strategic actions include rearguard movement, transport of troops from Guayaquil to the front or to the sierra zone to Guayaquil and send troops to the other war fronts.
Operational actions include standard movement of troops (that means in any area, while rearguard movement is only by road/rail and cannot enter areas with enemy units), road construction (only for the Peruvian player), and naval sorties, which means placing naval units in the Gulf of Guayaquil to help/hinder the transport of troops.
Tactical actions allow the declaration of combat in areas with units of both sides. The second tactical action is the airborne attack, only available to the Peruvian player.
Command actions include political pressure for advancing the President Arroyo’s marker along its track, refit (flipping a disrupted unit to its normal side) and recover (return to play an eliminated unit).
Grant: How is victory achieved?
Marc: Victory is achieved by means of victory points. Positive VP’s favor the Peruvian player, while negative ones favor the Ecuadorean player. There are two types of VP’s: The brown-colored VP’s in the game are awarded during the VP Tally phase of each turn, while violet-colored VP’s in the game board are awarded only during the VP Tally phase of the last turn.
This way, each turn, VP’s are awarded for Ecuadorean control of VP areas at both sides along the border, and at game end only, VP’s are awarded for Peruvian control of VP areas in Ecuador, for the position of the two “Other Fronts” markers and for the position of the Arroyo del Río marker.
Then, the final VP value is assessed against the turn in which the game has ended. If they are equal, it is a draw.
Grant: How does combat work in the design?
Marc: The combat action costs as many Action Points as attacking battalions and involves all friendly units and all enemy units in an area. And as long as the player has Action Points, units can initiate combat as many times as desired in the same area.
The attacker can assign air units up to a maximum of three air units. The defender can assign a maximum of one air (both spending additional Action Points). If there are air units of both players, or air units and AA units, an air battle ensues: each player rolls as many dice as indicated in his air/AA units and inflicts hits on enemy units, then the surviving units could add their bonuses to the land combat. In the land combat both players total the combat strength of their units and then each player rolls one die to determine how many hits they inflicts on enemy units, according to the CRT, applying all possible die roll modifiers.
Grant: What have been some changes that have come about through the playtest process? What still needs work?
Marc: Well, the Action Points expenditure system, which is the key to the game has changed substantially from its origins, being now much more flexible and interesting. Another key development issue was the balance of the game, quite difficult in this war; the main problem was giving the Ecuadorean player a chance of winning without boosting it in an un-historical way. The Ecuadorean army had to be brittle but at least capable of performing better than in real life, especially if President Arroyo is pressed enough and releases the “blocked” battalions.
Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?
Marc: Well, for me, the main drive of the design was to raise awareness about this war (and as a sideline, about the many neglected conflicts in Latin America), and I think that this target will be reached (at least among the wargaming community). For the design itself, I think the Action Points / impulses system works quite well and is a pleasant mechanic that can be tweaked in many ways for other conflicts.
Grant: What has been the response of playtesters? How do they feel about the time period now?
Marc: In general, the response has been very positive. They’ve been very active finding glitches and mistakes. And their work has been priceless when finding possible exploits. The Action Points system is somewhat peculiar, and it could lead to possible weird behaviors if not finely tuned.
Grant: What other games are you currently working on?
Marc: As commented earlier, I’m currently working on the (post-)Napoleonic game From Guayaquil to Quito, and also on a new game on the Greek-Turkish War of 1897, the so-called Thirty Days War. And besides that, I have a penchant for the postcard format and I’m always working on new themes fitting our collection of Snafu Postcard Battles.
Thanks for the great insight into the design Marc and for responding to my invitation for this interview. I really am looking forward to playing this one as it looks interesting and seems to have some interesting mechanics.
The game is not quite ready for sale but you can follow the status of the project by visiting the SNAFU Design website at the following link: https://snafustore.com/en/content/9-snafu-design