UPDATE: The game is now available for pre-order here: https://www.compassgames.com/product/the-troubles-shadow-war-in-northern-ireland-pay-later/. Enjoy!

During one of my boardgames discussion on social medias I had a pleasure to meet Hugh O’Donnell – and pretty quickly I learned Hugh is designing a very interesting game – The Troubles, about 40 years conflict in Norther Ireland. I knew I need to learn more – and if possible, assist in spreading the world.

Before going into the game details, couple of sentences of personal note from me. Unlike most wargames / political games I am playing this will be one telling the tale of conflict which I can clearly remember. In my childhood I saw on TV many times the news form Ireland / UK about things happening in Ulster, about IRA raids and British forces reprisals. This is very very vivid in my mind and I will never forget the child feeling that such horrible things can happen so close to us.

In 2000’s I had opportunity to be in Norther Ireland and to my surprise the memories and evidence of the just finished struggle were visible everywhere. A chill was going down my spine when I was walking through the now open gates separating the catholic and protestant districts and watching all the murals (some of them above). Well, that definitely was a an experience to remember. But let us be honest – also a perfect material for great boardgame.

Enough of this personal note, let us focus now more on the Hugh’s design!

The Game

The Troubles is a 1- to 6-player board game depicting Paramilitary and Security Force conflict against the backdrop of political affairs in Northern Ireland. Each player takes the role of a Faction seeking to guide Northern Irish affairs:

  • the British Forces (including the UDR) – BF
  • the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Government security force) – RUC
  • the Provisional Irish Republican Army – IRA
  • the Loyalist Paramilitaries – LOY
  • the Nationalist Politicians – NAT
  • the Unionist Politicians – UNI
  • BF faction
  • RUC faction
  • IRA faction
  • IRAb faction
  • LOY faction
  • NAT faction
  • UNI faction

Using military, political, and economic actions and exploiting various events, players build and manoeuvre forces to influence or control the electorate, or otherwise achieve their Faction’s aims. A deck of 250+ Event Cards regulates turn order, events, victory checks, and other processes. More important, it provides a narrative of a conflict that lasted for four decades, which claimed the lives of over 3,000 human beings during the British Army’s longest deployment in its military history.

Game map

The Troubles – unlike many card-assisted war games – does not use hands of cards. Instead, cards are played from the deck one at time, with one card ahead revealed to all players. Each Event card depicts a historical event and shows the order in which the Factions become Eligible to choose between the card’s Event or one of a menu of Operations and Special Activities. Executing an Event or Operation carries the penalty of rendering that Faction Ineligible to do so on the next card. General Election cards mixed in with the Event Cards provide periodic opportunities for instant wins and for activities such as collecting resources and influencing popular sympathies.

Separate to the main Event Card deck, Arms Dump Random Event Cards (REC) are designed to mimic the sporadic and surprising nature of incidents involving the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland in addition to providing opportunities for the Security Forces to mitigate events that demonstrated their intelligence and reconnaissance efforts.

You can find more info about the game on Authors webpage.

Next Steps

So what next? In March 2021 The Troubles will hit Kickstarter under the Compass Games publisher logo. I really hope the campaign will go smoothly and the game will be published. You may count on more materials form me in the meantime!