OTK Meetup 23/8/2013 – GMT Meetup featuring Andean Abyss Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 23/8/2013 – GMT Meetup featuring Andean Abyss
By jack208

After two weeks of KICKSTARTER fun, it’s time we switch tack to another boardgame publisher known for their wargames but have lately been spinning off into non-wargames. Best known for their TWILIGHT STRUGGLE which now occupies the #1 spot in Boardgamegeek, OTK gamers took time to try out Volko’s first COIN CDG wargame, the highly anticipated ANDEAN ABYSS. Also on the OTK tables tonight were Chad Jensen’s URBAN SPRAWL and Rick Young’s LEAPING LEMMINGS.

Gamers: Jatsern & frens, Ken Yen, Hiew, Allen, Ivan, Heng, Kareem, Waiyan, CK Au.

Games:  Leaping Lemmings, Urban Sprawl, Andean Abyss, Troyes.

Location: OTK Cheras | Google Map | Lat-Long: N 03° 06.179′ E 101° 44.237′
Date/Time: 23 August 2013 (Fri) 9.00 PM – (Sat) 3:30 AM


Wolfx – since he didn’t bring his PACIFIC TYPHOON – decided to start another GMT game LEAPING LEMMINGS with Jatsern’s group.

Leaping Lemmings one of GMT’s foray into non-wargames and a pretty interesting / cute attempt. 🙂

Try it if you love sending lemmings to their death jumping over cliff! And yes, lemmings will be harmed in the playing of this game. If you have any issue with harming lemmings, we can do a few games of killing humans in the name of war instead. 😛


The Midah gamers were here tonight and brought out URBAN SPRAWL. Aww… that’s one game I would have wanted to try very much.

Chad Jensen was working on this game before DOMINANT SPECIES but Dominant Species was subsequently published first, received rave reviews which brought attention back to his earlier game of simcity building. But since I’d committed to do the other table ANDEAN ABYSS, I’d to reluctantly give this a pass tonight.

They did a 3-player game among Hiew, Allen and Waiyan.

It’s city building so you’ll be plenty of building blocks to form your city-scape. I haven’t play this – and was not following this table so won’t be able to do much write-up except share some pics taken. Hopefully Hiew writes about this session. Will cross-link over when his blog entry is ready. 🙂

Update: Here’s Hiew’s brief write-up about this Urban Sprawl session and if you wish to know more about Urban Sprawl, you might also want to read his early sessrep which provides a more detailed description of the game.

The city getting into a rather “developed” state.

Resource cards. There’s also money in the game (not shown in pic).

Waiyan with the box cover… J Guess who won? Haha.


This is not err.. a GMT game. Then what’s it doing on a GMT Theme Night? 😛

This group finished their Leaping Lemmings while the other two tables were still doing Urban Sprawl and Andean Abyss, and there’s no other “short” multi-player GMT games to bring to the table so they kinda settled on TROYES, one of Woflx fave. And a good game by itself.

Wolfx did the rule teaching and at game end, he was telling us he just saw the highest scoring game of Troyes he’d played in – no, he didn’t win. I think Jatsern – or one of his frens – won with a high 65+ score.


Volko Ruhnke, a wargame designer, became well known for his first CDG (card driven game) wargame LABYRINTH (War on Terror), which is based on the highly successful Twilight Struggle system. In 2010, he has won the Charles S. Roberts awards for Labyrinth.

What’s a Card Driven Game, you may ask. Here’s a great write-up from Mark Herman on “What is CDG” and Mark should know since he’s the designer of We The People (arguably the game that started the CDG movement).

Note: 2-player games like Twilight Struggle & Labyrinth often do not get enough play-time in our OTK meetups. Part of that reason is that in a group meetup like ours where the ideal table size is 4-5 gamers, it’s hard to get 2-player games to the tables. Having said that, we are planning to have a “2-player Theme Nite” sometime soon which would then allow us to bring out all rarely played 2-player games from the light card games such as Lost Cities, Hera & Zeus, Kahuna, Cold War, Jab to board/card games like Twilight Struggle, 1960 The Making of the President, Labyrinth War on Terror, Memoir ’44; A Few Acres of Snow and to heavies like Breakout Normany, Hannibal, Rommel, Victory in the Pacific. I’ll omit the super heavies for now (ASL Starter Kit, Paths of Glory etc)

Always looking to improve a game system, Volko has went on to modify the Twilight Struggle / Labyrinth CDG system to allow for 1) more than 2 players and 2) asymmetrical winning conditions. The latter is probably key turning point in the design as it then allows Volko to drop that new system into non-WW2 politically charged situations where you have multi-faction conflict with the factions all having different end-game objectives – unlike 2-player wargames. He named this system COIN.

In a multi-faction conflict like the Colombian insurgency, the Government, the leftist FAC, the right-wing AUC and the Drug Cartels are locked in carrying out insurgency and counter-insurgency actions against each other. The end objective is clear – control of Colombia – but the finish line is different for each of these factions. The challenge lies in how do you craft a game from this asymmetrical situation using a card driven system.

Volko’s COIN system manages to capture not just the theme of such multi-faction conflict but also the sense of plotting, temporary alliances and sacrifices where it’s expedient. Sounds like A Game of Thrones? It has some similarities but this plays very differently. I felt it’s more elegantly implemented.

Alrite, let’s take a deep dive and see how ANDEAN ABYSS plays.

The stage is COLOMBIA in the mid-90s; four factions vie for control of this conflict-torn country… (from left) Heng (yellow) controlled the right-wing paramilitarist group AUC, Ivan’s (blue) the legitimate bully aka Government while Kareem (red) is the opposition FARC. CK (green) owns the Drug Cartels.

The asymmetrical victory conditions meant each of the four factions have their own end-game objectives. This does not mean a solo-ish multi-player game coz in order to achieve your faction’s own victory condition, you most likely need to step on someone else. Such is how the four factions are entwined.

FARC – Left-wing Opposition (red)

Above: The right-wing FARC – the main insurgency in Colombia – wins by driving up Opposition support to 26+ points. “26” is half the Pro-Government Support needed by the Government player (ie 50); this does not mean the FARC has an easier victory condition than the Government. The FARC’s not strong enough to hold a city or LoC (line of communication which is basically the economical pipeline for the Govn) long enough to change their pro-Government support to Active Opposition (which is what scores them their VP) while the Government player has the devastating Sweep & Assault actions that can clean an area quickly of guerillas.

The Govn forces are too strong in the city areas and their troops can quickly sweep out the underground guerillas and “retire” them. It does cost the Government two actions to do so but the option for quick removal of guerillas remains at their disposal. The FARC remains strong at the outskirts of the city centres and while at the beginning they tend to use guerilla tactics to attack the LoC with the intention of disrupting the Govn’s economic engine – and at the same time cutting a deal with the Cartels to protect their backs in the lush jungle of Amazons – the FARC player will need to change from hit-n-run guerilla tactics to taking bolder risks moving into the city areas to swing support to Opposition.

AUC – Right-wing Paramilitary (yellow)

The AUC – the bane of FARC – wins when they can grow into a larger military forces than the FARC – by dropping more (yellow) bases than the FARC (red). The AUCs are more brutal than the FARC and one tactic they likely use to achieve victory conditions would be to assassinate the FARC base. AUC does not have to build all six bases to win; they simply need to have built more bases than the FARC.

The Government would usually leave AUC unchecked since they are “loose” allies that helps the Government check the insurgency momentum of the FARC and to some degree, the Cartels. However at some point (especially if the AUC is close to winning; in which case the FARC is usually on the backfoot and weak), the Government would still need to step in and suppress the AUC. They can be “friends” but at the end of the day, the AUC is still an insurgent military forces; one that would eventually challenge the Government’s law & order.

The Drug Cartels (green)

Hah.. This is the interesting x-factor (one I’m happy to pick up and play in this session) to this setup. You might wonder what has the drug kingpins got to do in a war / political game of control between the Government and insurgency forces. It seems the drug cartels were so powerful in Colombia they could literally “run” the country if their powers were allowed to grow unchecked. That’s represented in this game as having 10 or more bases and a wealthy warchest (ie 40 resource points).

Ten bases is a lot since relatively the FARC and AUC would have 9 and 6 bases max. If the drug cartels can drop 10+ bases into the map, they could literally control Colombia, not necessarily by military force (as the number of guerillas available to them is pathetic – just a mere 12 – compared to the huge forces at FARC and AUC disposal) but thru economic influence (bribes).

P/s Cartels start the game with 5 bases on-board and victory condition is 10+ bases but the game comes with 15 bases for Cartels! Would be interesting to see a game when Cartels are running all over Colombia with their bases.

Initial Setup – Let’s Start!

The initial setup has the Government forces (blue) having firm control of the city areas and LoCs except for the town of Cali (top left of picture below) where there’s a rather substantial Cartels (green) presence. The light blue cubes represent police forces while the dark blue cubes are the stronger and more lethal army troops. You can kacau the light blue ones but dun mess with the dark blue fellas, man.

The FARC and AUC are located around the outskirts of the city… yet near enough to be within striking distance to disrupt or sabotage the Government’s pipeline or even step into the city areas to try and swing the support from Pro Government to Opposition (never easy in city areas as the Government support is very strong here). Or for the heck of it, just terrorize those city folks and kidnap one or two rich fellas to increase your booty (resource points which is essentially the currency in this game).

The Drug Cartels are started further away from the city (they dun welcome us, man!) and very close to the Amazon jungles. They could move further in-city but I find it’s hard to keep your foothold there for long (with the strong Government presence). Eventually the cartels would be forced to consider setting up bases in the Amazons.

Which is not a bad idea since it’s far enough from the actual conflict (city centres) the Government would usually leave you alone – for a while. Until the Cartels grew into a noticeable threat (either with large base count or rich resource points or most likely both, which meant they are threatening a victory), the Government can easily send in their airpower to eradicate these rural Cartel bases.

The Government would also have another reason to earmark Cartels bases to eradicate as the USA grant them foreign aid (translate: resources) for each Cartels base eliminated as part of USA’s global campaign against drugs.

The revised Card-Driven Game system for COIN
Let’s now look at the often-mentioned revised card driven system and see how it works.

The “heart” of the COIN system in Andean Abyss (AA) is the event card deck. In Twilight Struggle / Labyrinth’s CDG system, cards are drafted into individual player’s hands, while in COIN the CDG system plays a card to the common deck and the events in the active card can be played by any faction (there’s however a specific turn order for each faction that varies based on the event card).

In AA, you’ll always get one active card in-play (the one on the right – Drogas La Rebaja) and another event card as a look-ahead (the one on the left – Darien). This should provide you with full information needed whether you wish to take an action this turn, or pass (and remain eligible to take an action in the next turn ie for the Darien event).

Most of the event cards are “dual-event”, meaning there’s one (usually) pro-Government event at the top, and another pro-Insurgent event at the bottom (the shaded box). When executing an event action, a player can choose to do either.

Some of the events are directly harmful to a faction but in those cases, that faction’s turn order is always higher (if not highest) hence the player would have the chance to either execute the alternative event (which would likely be helpful to his faction) or “block” the event by executing another action (more on this option later).

For eg in the Drogas La Rebaja event above, the pro-Government action (top) resulted in a transfer of 9 resource points from Cartels to the Government. If this happens early in the game (as in ours) it can be pretty damaging to the Cartels since the drug lords have not yet ramped up their production and quite cash-strapped. The alternative event is very happening for the Cartels as it not only increases the Cartels’ resource points but also adds two cartels bases in the city areas.

The turn order for this turn – as specificed by the active event card (Drogas La Rebaja) in-play – starts with Cartels-green, Government-blue, FARC-red and AUC-yellow. Therefore the Cartels is in control of whether the “Drogas La Rebaja” event turns out positively or negatively for him.

Sometimes it’s not always an “easy decision”. Using the above example, it might be obvious for the Cartels to take the bottom event action to grow it’s influence but doing so would mean the Cartels has taken an action this round and would be ineligible for any action in the next round where the event card “Darien” would be in-play.

The event “Darien” has another good move for the Cartels by allowing it to add 1-2 new bases into Panama (which is protected from the Colombia government). This event is also good for the FARC and AUC but the Cartels would have first dip to carry out that action – unless it’s ineligible in that round (becoz it has taken an action this round). The Cartels – or any other factions – would always have to evaluate these (open) information to form it’s best course of action in any given round.

There are only two actions possible in each round. Given there are four factions in the game, two (or more) of them won’t be able to take an action in any round. However they’ll remain eligible to take action in the next round, while those factions who have committed to an action in this round would become ineligible for action in the next. Briefly, it translates to one action for your faction every two rounds.

Referring to the Sequence of Play table above, there are three possible options for the 1st faction to take an action in the current round ie

– Operation Action only
– Operation Action plus one Special Activity
– Execute the Event

The other interesting element of the AA CDG system is the action options for the 2nd faction is influenced by the action option selected by the first faction. As you can see from the table above, if the 1st faction took the “Event” action (the last option), the 2nd faction has the option to do a “Operation Action plus one Special Activity” (which is pretty good for the 2nd faction).

However if the 1st faction decided to do the “Operation Action only (the first option), the 2nd faction only has the “Limited Operation Action” if he chooses to take an action in this round. This is another way for the 1st faction to lock down the options available to the 2nd faction. Event actions are strong but if a faction chooses to take an Event action, he allows the 2nd faction to take a full Operations + Special Activity action which is equally strong.

Operations & Special Activity

The heart of the movement and engagement system in this COIN game lies in the choices for Operation & Special Activities available to each faction. While the Government (being counter-insurgent) has a set of 4 operation actions (train, patrol, sweep, assault), the other 3 factions (being insurgents) has a common set of 4 operation actions that differ from the Government (rally, march, attack, terrorize).

It is in the Special Activity that Volko differentiates the 3 insurgents. Cartels have (Cultivate, Process, Bribe) while FARC has (Extort, Ambush, Kidnap) and AUC (Extort, Ambush, Assassinate). These are totally different from the Government (Air Lift, Air Strike and Eradicate).

I won’t go into details how each of the operations & special activities work but their differences – and in some cases similarities – brings thematic flavor to each of the 4 factions. To do well, you need to understand how each of your opponent’s 4 operation actions and 3 special activities can affect your faction; and counter-measures against each of them.

In our game, Cartels-green decided to execute the Drogas La Rebaja event as it’s very favorable to the Cartels, allowing it to gain resources and also add two new bases to the city areas. Keeping those bases for long is another story. 😛 Taking the event action this round moved the Cartels-green token to the 3rd action square in the 1st Faction column.

This gives the next faction Government-blue the option to do the “Operation Action plus one Special Activity” option only. He cannot execute the Event action. The Government-blue decided to execute the action options available to him.

Both the green & blue tokens are now placed in the actions taken square and they’ll be moved to the “Ineligible Factions” box at end of the round to indicate they are no longer allowed to take any action in the next round. FARC-red and AUC-yellow – since they have not taken any action this round (being lower in priority / turn order for this round) – would remain in the “Eligible Factions” for the next round. As there are two available actions in each round, red & yellow are guarantee an action in the next round.

The common Event deck, and the Action Options & Sequence are two of the mechanics introduced by the COIN system and as I understood, it’s a common system across the other games in the COIN series. This meant that once you understood this mechanic, you can bring this knowledge to the next COIN game (and that’s what we are looking forward to).

Three’s A Crowd

But wait.. It’s not always two factions taking an action in one round leaving the remaining two factions to take action in the next round. Two’s always company but Three can sometimes be a crowd!

In the above example – which would be a typical round – Cartels-green and AUC-yellow were in the Ineligible Factions box becoz they’d taken an action in the previous round, while FARC-red and Government-blue decided to take an action each in this round.

In the housekeeping phase of this round, Cartels-green and AUC-yellow would be moved to the Eligible Factions box to start the next round, while FARC-red and Government-blue would be moved to the Ineligible Factions box (and won’t get any action next round).

However a faction can always pass (and gain some resource) if it’s not interested to take any action this round. The catch is if more than two factions passed (it’s possible as we’ve seen this happened a few times in our session), you might not get to perform any action in the next round even though all three factions would be in the Eligible Factions box (see below).

(Above) AUC-Yellow has performed an action this round and thus won’t be eligible next round. But the rest have passed and all three are now in contention for next round’s action. Who gets to go first would depend on the Faction Turn Order of next round’s event card. Anyway the info in that card is available in current turn so it’s open info to all. But it’s an interesting mechanic where the tempo and timing of your actions are sometimes important in executing your strategy to capture Colombia.

That’s basically how the CDG system in COIN works. We find it pretty innovative and introduces a different flow into the game as compared to Twilight Struggle’s CDG system. The good news is that once we learned this COIN CDG in one game, we can take our learnings to the next game easily.

Three for Short, Four for Full

The full game is played over four Propaganda cards, each of them signifying an election campaign where a new El Presidente is elected for Colombia. A short learning game would be to play to three Propaganda cards.

Note: Apparently there’s a short variant of the game, Volko posted in C3i magazine which can be used as a learning game. You can get the full details in this forum post.

The Sessrep
Time to dive in and see how the game plays…..

The Government-blue (Ivan) obviously didn’t like the presence of druggy lords (green) in Cali and immediately muster a strong posse of armies & policia into that town. Okie okie.. We get the message. Bummer. L

The Government also swiftly trains up it’s resources… and started moving armies in force to territories with guerillas presence (be they FARC or AUC – even Cartels) in an attempt to clean-up the city areas of negative influences. The Government gets plenty of help in terms of resources and while they’ll spend truckloads of resources to train up armies & policia, they can regain resources quickly which makes them a potent force. Their downside is their limited bases and very weak influence once outside the city areas.

(Above): FARC-red and AUC-yellow being told they are not welcomed in the city!

(Above): Cartels-green making a play for one of the northen city, an early incursion when there’s only a small police force guarding it. Question is how long can the Cartels stay in that city before the Government flushes them out.

Above: The Government-blue quickly emptying it’s coffers to put more troops and policia on the cities while AUC-yellow made a surprising early move for Panama securing both bases and making it harder for the other factions to gain a foothold into this strategic spot.

Above: The Colombian situation after a few rounds. The Government-blue have all but secured the city areas but the FARC-red has been quietly assembling in the outskirts. Notice the growing presence of red guerillas in the plains / jungle (green) territories.

Above: The Cartels initial incursion into the Amazonas before they realize, hey these nice places for us to hide! We can now grow poppy seeds in peace. J

Above: Another deadly pair of Event cards. The resource setback from the Airdropped AKs event can hit both FARC-red and AUC-yellow badly as their resource levels were at a lowly 13 pts. The AUC-yellow in particular does not have good ready access to generate resources and needs to be frugal in their spending. The FARC-red shares the same challenge but they have a special action “Kidnap” which can be used to raise the much needed funds.

The Cartels obviously hate these FRACkers as they suka suka kidnap the drug lords and demand ransom for their release! Aduh….

Above: Both AUC-yellow and FARC-red starting to make trouble for the Government. The FARC-red with their guerilla attacks on the LoC pipeline which disrupts the Government’s cashflow. Those single red guerillas sitting on the LoC pipeline above are a nuisance and while they can be easily removed, it does distract the Government from the bigger picture.

AUC-yellow has also started setting up bases in the cities, which would swing the influence to the Opposition, something the Government would not be very keen to let perpetuate. The large number of FARC-red forces on the outskirts, just a step away from the city centre would remain a thorn in the Government’s side.

At this point, the Cartels were all but chased out of the city centres and we were operating very much on the rural jungle areas, keeping to a low profile, minding our own business though there’s the occassional interruption when the Government decided we were growing a little bit fast and sent in the airforces to “eradicate” some of us. L

Balance of power, they claimed. My foot… they just wanted to whack us for the USA Aid money… I told you the Government is corrupted! We were just minding our own business, doing some “gardening” stuff. 🙂

The AUC and FARC were fighting tooth-to-tooth. The AUC has already laid down all his 6 bases (below) and were basically looking to eliminate the FARC bases to claim victory in the next Propaganda round. You can see above pic the FARC-red were fighting with the AUC-yellow for contorl of Huila Tolima. Where’s the freaking Government when you need them? 😛

AUC-yellow at this stage has been making lots of inroads into Government-controlled cities… beside wrestling with FARC-red for control of Huila Tolima, they were also making strong claims in the northern city (above) including an increased presence in Panama (far top centre).

The Cartels did ask them nicely if they can “share” Panama but they assassinated our messenger!! Aiyoh….

Above: Yay! The (trusted) dark blue troops came…. and when they came, they came in force! Literally the Government-blue swept & removed all FARC and AUC from Huila Tolima (forcefully I’ve to add). Meanwhile FARC-red forces were mobilizing just outside the cities at Meta West.

The red guerillas with the “star” symbol meant they were uncovered (discovered) guerillas and vulnerable to a swift Government attack. Guerillas without the “star” symbol meant they were still operating underground and while the Government is aware of their presence, they cannot attack them until they first swept them out (ie change to uncovered status). Blending in with the theme.

The Blackhawks event (above) is another dual event card that can either hamper the Government or provide them with a boost. In our session, Ivan hardly used the “Airlift” special activity action so this event did not have any impact on the Government. Looking back, Airlift can be an efficient way for the Government player to re-deploy his troops and if this Blackhawks event is activated to the Government’s favour, it’ll literally allow the Government to move his troops (unlimited) easily from one territory to another.

Just another example of a thematic event card that the players can decide to ignore or implement; and one which could change the face of the conflict.

The game is timed using Propaganda cards. In a full game, you play to 4 cards but in our short game you do only 3 Propaganda cards. In COIN, a faction does not win just by being the first to reach it’s victory conditions. A faction only wins when it has achieved and held it’s victory conditions till a Propaganda card is turned up in the card deck.

During the Propaganda card stage, there’s a series of steps to go thru to determine if there’s already a winner (tie-breaks) and if not, some housekeeping actions. The upside of this mechanic is that it does not reward the “last minute rush” winner… as you will still need to hold your victory conditions until the Propaganda card is opened.

We reached our first Propaganda card fairly early in the game and obviously no faction was near their victory condition. A new El Presidente was appointed, one who’s favorable to the FARC as it allows one territory to be designated a FARC zone – which is a no-go zone for Government forces but favourable to the FARC, and we continued with the 2nd period (ie. playing to the 2nd Propaganda card).

The Cartels-green meanwhile has been largely staying “quiet” and grew poppy trees everywhere in the Amazonas.

The Government were kept really busy at this stage, with the FARC-red busy disrupting their LoC pipelines and even the AUC-yellow were massing heavily on their border. The AUC-yellow was quietly confident victory was within their grasp hence the increased aggression towards FARC bases.

Above: This is how the FARC swings influence from “Active Support” to “Active Opposition” – by performing the “Terrorize” action in a territory which would shift the Support/Opposition mode one level towards “Active Opposition”. This Support/Opposition mode ranges from “Active Support – Passive Support – Neutral – Passive Opposition – Active Opposition” and is a key metric for both the Government and FARC to determine victory.

The dynamics for the Government and FARC are interesting (they are similar to each other but very different to those of the AUC and Cartels). They do not win by force – you do need a measure of force to control the board and situation but force itself can’t win you the game. They’ve to win by garnering the support of the people to their causes – for the Government, it’ll be getting Passive/Active Support and for the FARC (the opposite) ie Passive/Active Opposition.

Above: In one round which demonstrated perfectly the constantly shifting alliances between the factions, the Cartels were threatening victory having achieved 10+ bases and more than 41 resource points. The next event card is the (2nd) Propaganda card (which would check for victory conditions and the Cartels will win unless checked).

FARC was the only faction able to stop the Cartels – by kdnapping and demanding ransom payment (which would reduce their resource points to below 40). The FARC successfully did that… and in the same round without blinking, the Government executed the “General Offensive” event to remove – in one broad stroke – a large number of FARC guerillas. Tsk tsk.

I guessed that’s the THANK YOU from the Government to the FARC for a job well-done. 😛

The FARC went on a counter offensive next… running literally everywhere and Terrorizing the neighbourhoods – note the Terrorize and Sabotage counters above. The Government can’t ignore this as each Terrorize token cost them additional 3 resources to remove later and would impact support points.

“Terrorize” is a very powerful action the FARC – and AUC – can perform on any territory to swing the support their way. Since FARC has no readily available resource engine, they frequently resorts to kidnapping & extortion (special activities) targeting either the Governments or Cartels (both usually flushed with resources) to fill up the FARC warchests.

The problem for the Cartels started after they amassed huge wealth during the 2nd Propaganda which resulted in them being painted as bullseye by both the AUC and FARC. The Cartels have always been the Government’s nemesis since there’s that sweet USA Aid given to the Government for every Cartels base they eradicate – which is another source of resource/income for the Government faction.

So we now have three factions coming for our bases… just because we’ve been good “farmers” and have made lots of customers “happy” with our poppy seeds! I suppose success breeds envy. 😛

AUC-yellow and FARC-red were stalking the Cartels bases… setting up bases where Cartels were. It’s not that Cartels don’t mind sharing their lovely neighbourhoods with these AUC and FARC, but being in the same neighbourhood as them meant the Cartels – arguably the weakest among the 3 insurgents from a military strength perspective – were opened to attacks/ambushes, kidnaps, extortations and worse, assassination from the brutal AUC.

While Kidnapping is a FARC speciality, Assassinate is the AUC’s. The AUC can literally assassinate any faction’s base – even when they are protected by guerillas (usually you have to remove all the enemy’s guerillas before you can take out their base) so having that AUC-yellow guerilla next to my Cartel-green base was not good at all!

The situation gets a whole lot more tense as we near the 3rd Propaganda card. Every faction was now jostling for the “kill position” to get closer to their own victory conditions while at the same time doing their best to hamper the other factions from achieving theirs. For eg the Cartels’ riches have been trimmed down significantly by the FARC thru kidnappings, kidnappings and more kidnappings!! Grrr….

FARC-red were coming out in force (note the number of red guerillas on board) and the Government-blue has their hands full trying to maintain control & order in the cities (which they are doing pretty well from the board position above) except they’d already given up the rurals for the Cartels, AUC and FARC to fight over.

The Cartels were sharing Ecuador and Panama with the FARC and AUC respectively. Strange bedfellows…

Here was the last stand-off. Cartels have reached their victory objectives but the FARC could possibly achieved theirs. A huge sweep carried out by the Government in Huila Tolima exposed all the FARC guerillas and a follow-up attack took all of them out of the game. The Government was able to restore order in Huila Tolima (swinging the city back to Active Support).

The FARC was just one action away from claiming their victory (not sure how the tie break would work in the case of Cartels & FARC claiming their victory conditions) but in the end, the happy-together poppy seed farmers won.. Yay!

Note: Any inaccuracies and mistakes from the above sessrep are intentional (what? You expect a report about the Colombian insurgency to be factually correct???)

Thoughts on our first COIN game

Think it took us about 4+ hrs to complete this session including going thru the rules. All four of us already planned to do this game a couple of weeks back and agreed to read up on the rules (and playbook) individually before meeting for tonight’s session. We even picked the faction we’ll be playing. Though Ivan was designated as the main rule explainer, I think the rule explanation at the beginning went thru pretty fast since most of us already have some understanding of the rules and only needed gaps to be filled in. I think this is how we should approach all future multi-player GMT games (which are known for their rule complexity).

We only played to 3 propaganda cards while the full version would play to four. The initial rounds were slow moving as we were getting ourselves familiar with the COIN CDG system, the various Operation actions & Special Activities available at our disposal, and trying to align with the current board situation to determine what’s the best play. We were also trying to understand the effects of the actions from the various factions on ours – and how to counter them.

But once we got thru this phase, the pace of the game really picked up.  I shared Kareem’s feeling that the game felt very tense & tight towards the second half when you have set up your campaign moves and are now going in for the possible head-shot. The first half were mainly about jokeying for positions and favors. And trying to understand why that FARC dude kept kidnapping my Cartels!

In our session, even if we’d decided to play for 4 Propaganda cards, the game would still end in the 3rd since Cartels have already achieved their victory conditions. Therefore my thought is more plays will only reduce the play time. It’s still a relatively “long” game (unless if you are a heavy gamer) and there’s still a number of things I didn’t cover in my sessrep above so there’s still plenty for us to explore.

ANDEAN ABYSS won Volko another Charles S. Roberts last year for 2012 Best Post WW2 Era game, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the first in the COIN series and already CUBA LIBRE (which plays in half the time as Andean Abyss) and A DISTANT PLAIN (set in the Afghan theatre) are on their way to us. The 4th COIN game A FIRE IN THE LAKE (about the insurgency in Vietnam) has already made the GMT P500 cut but likely scheduled for a 2014 shipping.

That’s four great games in 3 years and if all four prove equally engaging in their gameplay as ANDEAN, then Volko has got himself a winner here with his COIN system!

Do note that only Andean Abyss is designed solo by Volko, the other three are co-designed with other wargame designers which probably explained how Volko can get so many COIN games out in such a short timeline. The interesting nugget is that his latest FIRE IN THE LAKE is co-designed with Mark Herman. Yup, that’s the same fella who did WE THE PEOPLE (which started the CDG stuff) and also the highly rated recent release WASHINGTON’S WAR.

In closing, let me re-quote from another wargamer’s review why he loves the COIN series.

1. Kinda like a Wargame where you have Direct Conflict.

2. Kinda like a Euro where you play your own game with you own Victory Conditions.

3. Kinda like an Economic Game where your resources are a limiting factor and need to be managed well enough, but not to the point where you need to be an accountant.

4. Artwork, rules, components, mounted map! And Volko’s quick responses to all threads regarding the series makes it badass!!

Design notes from GMT (worth reading as the game will become more immersive in your next play)

AANotes 1 – Government (Local security)
AANotes 2 – FARC (Nation hostage to FARC)
AANotes 3 – AUC (The Right-Wing Army)
AANotes 4 – Drug Cartel (Chess Player of Cali)

I’m certain these will hit the OTK tables again. If you wish to play, just stay tune for either our next GMT or COIN game night and book yourself a place! If you wish to get a copy of these games for yourself, pls get in touch with us. Andean Abyss is in stock but Cuba Libre & A Distant Plain are just shipping but we are happy to take pre-orders.


by Volko Ruhnke

This setup allows for completion of a game of Andean Abyss in less than half the usual time and is well suited to introduce new players to the COIN Series system. It depicts, roughly, the Pastrana and early Uribe eras, the middle portion of the period of Colombian history covered in the full game.

Deck Preparation: Shuffle the 72 Event cards and deal face down 4 piles of 6 cards each (24 Event cards total). Set the rest aside they may not be inspected and will not be used. Shuffle a Propaganda card each into the 2nd and 4th piles, then stack the piles into a draw deck, 1st pile on top, 4th pile on the bottom. The remaining 2 Propaganda cards are not used.

Game Board: Set up forces and markers per rule 2.1 (see Rules of Play page 14 and the images on the map). Then modify the set up as follows

  • Medelln: Add 4 Cartels Guerrillas and 1 Cartels Base.
  • Cali: Place Active Support. Remove the Cartels Guerrilla and Base. Add 4 Police.
  • Bogot: Add 6 Troops.
  • Santander-Boyac: Add 1 AUC Base.
  • Arauca-Casanare: Remove Opposition (the space starts Neutral). Add 1 AUC Guerrilla.
  • Meta West: Place a FARC Zone. Add 4 FARC Guerrillas.
  • Huila-Tolima: Place Active Opposition. Add 3 FARC Guerrillas, 2 AUC Guerrillas, and 1 Cartels Base.
  • Vaups: Add 2 FARC Guerrillas.
  • Edge Track: Adjust Resources to AUC 5, FARC 10, Cartels 20, Government 30; Opposition+Bases to 22; and Total Support to 56. (Leave Aid at 9.)
  • El Presidente: Advance to Pastrana.
  • Propaganda: Skip the Victory Phase (6.1) of the first Propaganda RoundFactions cannot win until the second (last) Propaganda card.

Flip the first card and have at it! Be aware that, with far less time for development of board position than in the full game, different strategies may be needed!  vfr


Interestingly we didn’t see the (light but popular) BATTLE LINE getting playtime tonight. Again that might be due to it being a 2-player game which makes it hard to get to an OTK game night where we would normally expect 4-5 gamers per table.

On the other hand, happy to see two great games from GMT getting to the OTK tables – URBAN SPRAWL and ANDEAN ABYSS. And also the cute – and totally un-GMT-like – LEAPING LEMMINGS. J

I also saw SEKIGAHARA in Allen’s bag but that was canceled in faour of URBAN SPRAWL, with Sekigahara being a 2-player game and they have 3-players to start.

Other notable GMT games we didn’t get to bring to the tables tonight, but fret not – am sure we’ll get the chance to try them next time.

We really love using theme nights to set the tone for the evening.. as it allows us to rotate thru the hundreds of games we’ve in our library and ensure we are not playing the “same game” Friday after Friday.

For more photos, pls visit our Facebook album above.

Till our next OTK Friday Nite, ta-da!

For more photos of this gaming session, visit our Facebook Album.
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6 replies »

  1. Great session report on Andean Abyss. The game looks absolutely fantastic, and sounds like it plays great too! I actually own Volko Ruhnke’s Wilderness War, and even bought the deluxe map, but still have not got around to play it. 😛


  2. Yeah, Wilderness War is Volko’s early CDG design. LABYRINTH brought the attention to him. Should certainly try to get this to the table. Would be good to compare how the design has evolved from WW to Labyrinth and now the COIN series.


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