Known Bugs – Arab Israeli Wars

Arab Israeli Wars

Version 0.1.3.0. (April 22nd 2017)

  1. If you move a vehicle, and still have additional transfers left, but don’t want to use them, the system may wait forever for you to make another transfer. This doesn’t always happen, but if it does, moving a unit around within the same front will usually result in the prompt.
  2. If multiple informational displays are show simultaneously and overlapped, the hide button may show through the upper card from the lower card.

Ain’t she a beautiful sight?

There was armored cars, and tanks, and jeeps,
and rigs of every size.

Twenty-eight years after the Jerusalem riots saw the beginning of Operation Nachshon. The Operation was named for the Biblical prince Nachshon, who himself received the name (meaning daring, but it also sounds similar to the word for “stormy sea waves”) during the Israelites exodus from Egypt. According to one text, when the Israelites first reached the Red Sea, the waters did not part before them. As the people argued on the sea’s banks about whom would lead them forward, Nahshon entered the waters. Once he was up to his nose in the water, the sea parted.

Operation Nachshon was conceived to open a path between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to deliver supplies and ammunition to a besieged Jerusalem, cut off from the coast as the British withdrew from Palestine. The road to Jerusalem led through land surrounded by Arab controlled villages, from which Palestinian militia (under the command of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni) could ambush Israeli convoys attempting to traverse the route.

The operation started on April 5th with attacks on Arab position and, in the pre-dawn hours on April 6th a convoy arrived in Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. During the operation, the Israelis successfully captured or reduced more than a dozen villages, and took control of the route. Several more convoys made it into Jerusalem before the end of the operation on April 20th.

Operation Nachshon was also the first time Jewish forces attempted to take and hold territory, as opposed to just conducting raids.

Today also marks a first for A Plague of Frogs. We are delivering, for free download, a PC game depicting the Arab Israeli War of 1948. Click for rules, download link, and other details.

 

They Give Me Five Years. Five Years

I hope you do what you said when you swore you’d make it better.

A great irony is that when a people finally throws of the tyranny of a ruling empire, they so often find that it was their imperial masters that had been keeping them from killing each other.

By the time the Ottoman Empire was broken apart, it had long been seen as a system in decline. After their defeat in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Empire no longer threatened Europe with its expansion. After the loss of the Russio-Turkish War in 1774, the European powers saw the ultimate breakup of the Ottoman Empire as an inevitability, and began jockeying for control over the eventual spoils. In the mid-1800s, the term The Sick Man of Europe was coined to describe the Ottoman Empire. Compared to its counterparts in the West, it had lower wealth and a lower quality of life. Non-Muslims were accorded a second-class citizenship status but, even within this system, non-Muslims and particularly Christians were better educated and thus developed an economic gap relative to the Muslim majority.

As the Empire continued to decline, nationalist independence movements caused internal stress. Where armed conflict ensued, one might wonder whether my thesis applies. In the Levant, however, despite a multi-cultural population as well as a rising sense of Arab-nationalism independent from Turkey, there was relative peace. Movements for more autonomy tended to focus their efforts in the political arena rather than through violence. This was the period where the Zionism movement was taking form, but it too expressed itself mostly within the confines of civil government.

The final nail in the Ottoman coffin came from backing the Germans in the First World War. In the Middle East, the British had since 1882 occupied Egypt despite it technically remaining a province of the Ottoman Empire. Egypt became a focus of the British war effort early on, both as a base of operations for the Gallipoli campaign as well as to protect the Suez Canal. Eventually, the British took to the offensive in the Sinai and then Gaza, as a way to provide additional pressure on the Ottomans.

In 1917, the British army captured, from the Turks, Jerusalem and the lands that were to become the modern state of Israel. At the end of the war, occupation of the Levant portion of the Middle East was formalized by the Treaty of Versailles. The rule of London replaced the rule of Constantinople.

While the Arab portions of the Ottoman empire were not immune to nationalistic movements, pre-WWI Arabs under the Turks tended to see themselves as part of a Muslim nation. The advent of WWI and centralization of power in Constantinople, following a January 1913 Ottoman coup d’état, resulted in the Sharif and Emir of Mecca declaring an Arab Revolt in June of 1916. It bears considering that this revolt came after the British were at war with the Ottoman Empire. While many reasons were given for the Revolt, including Arab Nationalism and a lack of Muslim piety on the part of the Committee of Union and Progress (the party of the Young Turks and the Three Pashas installed of the aforementioned coup), Hussein ibn Ali al-Hashimi had made agreements with the British in response to their request for assistance in fighting the Central Powers.

Such understandings contributed to Arab unrest post-WWI, as pre-war promises of Arab Independence differed from the disposition of captured Ottoman territory after the war. It didn’t help with Arab sentiment that Britain, now in possession and control of Palestine, had issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which supported the concept of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. While modern Zionism had been an issue for decades, under Ottoman rule it was largely relegated to the political sphere. With the end of the supremacy of a Muslim power in Palestine, Arabs likely felt a more direct protest was necessary to assert their position in Palestine. Arab nationalism was also reinforced by anti-French sentiment in Syria, brought to a head by the March 7, 1920 declaration of Faisal I (son of Hussein bin Ali and a General in the Arab Revolt of 1916) as King.

Events of early 1920, and a lack of response from the ruling British Authorities, caused Jewish leaders to look to their own defense. By the end of March militia groups had trained something like 600 paramilitaries and had begun stockpiling weapons.

Jerusalem Riots

Sunday morning, April 4th 1920 found Jerusalem in a precarious state. Jewish visitors were in the city for the Passover celebration. Christians were there for Easter Sunday. Additionally, the Muslim festival of Nebi Musa had begun on Good Friday, to last for seven days. In excess of 60,000 Arabs were in the streets for the festival, and by mid-morning there was anti-Jewish violence occurring sporadically throughout the Old City. Arab luminaries delivered speeches to the masses, wherein they advocated for Palestinian independence and the expulsion, by violence if need be, of the Zionists among them. By mid-day, the violence had turned to riots, with homes, businesses, and temples being vandalized and as many as 160 Jews injured.

The British military declared, first a curfew, and then martial law, but the riots continued for four days.  Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a co-founder of the Jewish Legion, along with 200 volunteers tried to work with the British to provide for the defense of the Jewish population. The British ultimately prevented such assistance and, in fact, arrested 19 Jews, including Jabotinsky, for the possession of arms. Jabotinsky was sentenced to 15 years in prison, although his sentence was eventually reduced, along with all of those (Jews and Arabs) convicted as a result of the riots. The total number put on trial was approximately 200, with 39 of them being Jews.

By the time peace was restored to Jerusalem, five Jews and four Arabs were dead. Over 200 Jews were injured, eighteen of them critically and 300 Jews were evacuated from the Old City. Some 23 Arabs were also injured, one critically.

The aftermath of the riots left the British occupiers on everyone’s wrong side.

Among the Arabs, the feeling was that they had been wronged by the lack of independence after being separated from the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, in the Balfour Declaration they saw that ultimately the British would replace their own rule with a Jewish one. The riots also were the beginnings of a unique Palestinian nationalism, separate from Pan Arabism or the Syrian independence movements.

On the other hand, the Jews suspected British complicity as a cause of the riots in the first place. In addition to some unproven conspiracies, the British had several missteps which allowed the riots to escalate. For example, Arabs arrested during Sunday nights curfew were released on Monday morning, only to see the riots continue through Wednesday. The British halted Jewish immigration to Palestine, punishing the Jews for Arab aggression. The inadequacy of Britain’s defense of the Jewish population lead directly to an organized Jewish defense force called the Haganah (“defense”), which would later become the core of the Israeli military.

The incident surely tipped-off the United Kingdom that she had entered into a situation from which there was no easy way out. Nevertheless, for the next few decades she persevered in bringing enlightened British rule to a difficult region.

It would take more than 19 years before the British partially walked back the Balfour Declaration by halting Jewish Immigration to Palestine. It would be almost 27 years, in February of 1947, before British parliament voted to terminate the Palestinian Mandate and hand the issue over the the United Nations.

 

United We Fruit

Makin’ up a mess of fun,
makin’ up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone
Tra la la, la la la la
Tra la la, la la la la

On March 15th, 1951, Colonel Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was inaugurated as President of Guatemala. Alas, he found his new socialist policies earned him the ire of the United Fruit Company.

While the CIA had participated in regime change before, and while the U.S. had previously meddled in the Caribbean, this was the first exercise of the Cold War performed in America’s own near abroad. It was the start of decades of Cold War confrontation barely a stone’s throw from American soil. It would continue through, and perhaps culminate in, the early 1980s with the region embroiled in a long term conflict and with ramifications, like the Iran-Contra affair, that seriously shook up the U.S. government.

Fortunately for the world, much of this is quickly becoming ancient history. A 1987 peace agreement began to move the region back towards normalcy and what problems still exist are no where near the level of 3-4 decades ago. If we nonetheless want to relive those wild and crazy times, we might do so through a game called “Latin Intervention.”

Fun for Everyone

Latin Intervention is a one-page, print-and-play game freely available from Board Game Geek (and elsewhere.) As you might expect given that introduction, it is very simple. Players assume the role of the two superpowers and take turns placing pieces on the board. The combination of placed markers and a die roll determines the political alignment for the nations of Central America. A player wins by controlling five out of the seven Central American countries. One catch is that unit placement drives up a “Threat Meter,” representing world tensions. This restricts each players actions, as driving the threat meter over the top will result in losing the game.

Despite the simplicity of the mechanics, the game has real appeal due to its “color.” Pieces are labeled to represent the various means that the superpowers used to meddle in the affairs of third world countries: secret agents, monetary aid, revolutionaries, and the military. All of this was done through proxies, so as to not push the world over the edge into a direct conflict between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Another Board Game Geek user has redone the game art, making the print and play product look, actually, quite fetching.

Sadly, though, in playing through, the game is not quite right.

Critiques and Criticisms

There isn’t a whole lot out there on the internet written about this game. It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s probably not for everyone. For those that have expressed an opinion, there are positive comments, but also a few consistent criticisms. Please take a look at the game and the rules if you want to follow along with my narrative.

First off, there is a lot of confusion on the Threat Meter track. In the original game design, the threat track has both green and red steps and it isn’t entirely clear in the rules how they are to interact. The consensus is that they are together a single set of steps and each red step is merely two green steps. The new board has eliminated the “red” altogether, and simply has eight green steps, with counters being worth either one or two steps. One does wonder, given some of the other issues, whether we are missing something here, but I don’t see any other way to interpret this. For example, if the tracks were actually in parallel (that is, the red and green steps were separate), the “red” markers would be effectively free as there are only four of them in the game. That wouldn’t make sense at all.

One realization that I made quickly is that, with the eight step threat track, players must try to put the maximum threats onto the board as quickly as possible. In fact, the order seems pretty much proscribed. The Soviets play 1. Missile Base 2. Revolutionaries and 3. KGB agent. U.S must play 1. Carrier Group 2. CIA agent. At that point, the threat level is at maximum, and no more units can be placed. From this point on, no player would can reduce the threat level because the other side would immediate use that to place another piece. So the game must played out with six pieces on the board (the U.S. has Panama Canal to start). This seems like a poor use of the game, as it ignores the bulk of the available pieces.

The other area of agreement is that the Missile Base and Carrier Group, the two +5 units in the game, are overpowered. Because control is gained on a roll of “6 or higher,” these two units are essentially instant wins. I haven’t analyzed too carefully, but I’d think the game would probably see the Russians keeping their Agent and Revolutionaries together (for a +5) while moving the Missile Agreement to capture territory. The U.S. could challenge neither (as both sides would have automatic sixes), and would always have to move to protect his other two pieces if the Russians went after them. Like the Soviets, he probably has to group the two in Panama to prevent being taken out. Maybe I am missing something, but the win would have to come from taking a risk that you could neutralize your opponents +5 piece with a lesser piece by a couple of lucky rolls in a row, allowing you to pick up territory.

Strangely, with all of that, there are several players who talk about what a great game it is to play.

If you’re looking at the Board Game Geek site, there is a video review of the game by YouTuber marcowargamer. He also identified those two major areas of problems within the rules. He explains one workaround that seems to be used, and that is to have separate threat tracks for both players. Thus, you can attempt to, judiciously, lower the threat meter, giving up initiative in the current turn for more power during a subsequent turn. He also proposes a rule for making the +5 makers single-use, to prevent them from completely overpower the game.

He doesn’t mention it specifically, but he has also made a change where challenged countries are re-rolled every turn, not just after the placement of a new marker.

From the video review, he is not indicating whether his modified rules are play-tested and found to be balanced. He is more interested in the game as a launch point for discussions about history. The changes, and particularly the separate Threat Meters, open up a number of different strategies. However, it seems to me that the common threat track is key to the historical perspective of the game. Like the similar mechanic in Twilight Struggle, it captures the feel of the Cold War arms race. You may not want to escalate yourself, but you can’t let those Russkies develop a missile gap.

I’ve come up with my own variant that addresses the balance issues while preserving the single threat track. Thinking about it, it may just be complicating the rules while achieving the same results. On the other hand, I think these rules fit better with the historical “color,” which may justify the complexity.  I’ve posted my rules, so you can see for yourself.

The Rules

They are summarized on this page. I will note, that I will make changes at the link if I discover problems, so at some point the rules are likely to get out of sync with my commentary.

There are two major changes. I address the Threat Meter issue by making deployments to already-controlled countries “free” in terms of threat. Sending aid to an anti-government faction may be seen as threatening on the international level, but sending aid to a friendly government probably wouldn’t be. This essentially accomplishes the same thing as the separate tracks – a player can either play an existing piece now, or gain a new piece for play in the future.

For the +5 units, I assign a threat penalty for leaving them on the board. A Cuban Missile Base or a Carrier Group hovering off of Nicaragua would be seen as a continuing threat. Thus, you can deploy your (for example) carrier for “free”, but only have so many turns to use it before you have to pull it off map. Furthermore, in doing so you probably lower the threat level, opening up opportunities for your opponent. It it likely that this not only makes these units the equivalent of “one time” plays, but also demands that they be used at the beginning of the scenario, when the threat level can accommodate it.

I made the choice to allocate the threat points from the +5 units at the end, rather than during placement. This means if you are going first in the turn, use of a +5 counter might be an instant loss if your opponent can drive the threat meter up to the last position. It further weakens the play of the most powerful pieces.

The second major change I made was to restrict on-board movement. Movement for some pieces is restricted to adjacent countries. The “Aid” markers, otherwise the weakest of units, can be moved without restriction. This further shakes up the balance, as well as creates some strategic value for the map. The map is no longer just seven bins, into which you can place pieces. The layout of the countries matters, and it creates strategic value to hold some countries over others. It also makes some “real life” sense. It’s easy enough to send suitcases full of money anywhere in the world. But to actually move a couple of brigades of revolutionary armies, that might take controlling the ground that you are required to pass through.

One other change I made was to vary the player order. This helps create some back and forth in that, once you start winning the game, you are now disadvantaged by having to take the first turn. It may also throw the game into imbalance. The Soviets have better pieces, and this might make it so they can’t lose. To balance this out, I’ve tweaked the restrictions on the Aircraft Carrier allowing it to be placed directly into a contested country in response to the Soviet’s use of missiles. In terms of that color, projecting military power must be a lot easier for the Americans, who are a) so close to begin with and b) have the naval assets available. But in terms of game play, it gives the U.S. player a counter-strategy to the Soviet’s ability to grab an early lead. With the finite number of threat steps, it may be that this move remains merely a possibility. It all could use some play-testing to see if things are balanced.

So there it is. I’ve not done much checking for balance, and anyone who has a chance to do so before I do will have their comments welcomed.

They call it The Dance

So you think you know what’s going on inside her head

On June 24th, in 1354, the largest outbreak of Choreomania occurred in Aachen, Germany.It subsequently spread to other cities in Germany, the low countries, and Italy.

This phenomenon has been called, variously, Dancing Mania, Dancing Plague, and St. Vitus’ Dance. At the time, the cause was attributed to a curse sent by St. John the Baptist or St. Vitus, due to correlations between the outbreaks and the June feast days of those saints. Much later, the evolution of medical science diagnosed St. Vitus’ Dance as Sydenham’s chorea, an involuntary jerking of the hands, feet and face.

The mass phenomenon of the middle ages, however, is more often considered a social affliction rather than a medical one. The outbreaks are described as affecting up to tens of thousands of people at a time, making contagions or similar causes (such as spider bites) an improbable source.

The Aachen outbreak and other large outbreaks of the Dancing Plague occurred during times of economic hardship. This has suggested one medical cause, a hallucinogenic effect of a grain fungus that can spread with flooding and damp periods.

The affliction was said to be deadly, with the only cure being the playing of the right music.

Similarly, I have been trying to sooth the violent convulsions in this morning’s financial markets by playing selected songs from less troubled times. Feel free to join me.

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now.

In 1927, the term Mayday was adopted as a spoken equivalent of the Morse Code SOS signal. The term itself is an Anglicization of the French phrase m’aider (to aid me or to help me), itself a shortened version of the phrase venez m’aider (come to help me).

Also in 1927, the First of May was proposed as a celebration of the native culture of the Hawaiian Islands. It is known as May Day or Lei Day. The holiday is intended to be non-political, non-partisan, and non-religious.

This is in contrast to the significance of the date in much of Europe. International Workers’ Day was established as a commemoration of the Haymarket Riot. A labor strike was called on May 1st, 1886 in Chicago, IL to agitate for the establishment of an eight-hour work day. The strike turned violent on May 3rd, with the police firing on striking workers who were attacking replacement workers at the site of a lock-out. Between two and six workers were reportedly killed.

A flyer was printed by an anarchist group, calling the striking workers to a mass meeting as well as calling them “to arms.” The meeting, on the night of May 4th, lasted for several hours before the police moved in and ordered the crowd to disperse. As the police approached the crowd, and unknown person threw a bomb into the path of the advancing police, killing one officer instantly and mortally wounding six others. There was a firefight. At least four workers were killed, and sixty officers wounded as well as fifty or more strikers. The public opinion turned against the labor movement and ultimately a number of anarchists were executed on charges relating to the incident. The unions, however, suspected infiltrators were responsible for bombing so as to discredit the movement.

In 1890, the First of May was declared to be International Worker’s Day in an effort to unite Socialists, call attention to the eight-hour work day movement, and memorialize the (labor) victims of the Haymarket incident. Riots occurred in Cleveland in 1894 and 1919. It was not until 1978 when May Day (observed on the first Monday in May) became a labour holiday in the United Kingdom. In 2000, May Day riots resulted in (among other incidents) the destruction of a McDonald’s Restaurant on The Strand in London.

This has created a modern nexus with the traditional Anglo-Saxon holiday celebrating the coming of Spring and fertility. Modern celebrators connect the socialist roots where May Day equates to Labor Day with the pagan/earth/new age-y roots of the pagan fertility festivals.

Here at A Plague of Frogs Studios, we have the day off because it is Sunday. No political, partisan or religious connotations intended.