You know that I appreciate COIN games very much – and Volko Ruhnke creations in general. So it does not take long to convince me to familiarize with yet another title in the system 🙂 This time we talk about Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917–1947. I had couple of solo attempts but when Brent let me know he will be organizing VASSAL Play-By-Email game, I immediately signed for it. As it occurred, we covered main scenario twice, with first session ending up as probably my shortest COIN experience ever, and second concluding in surprising result.
“Gandhi made it impossible for us to go on ruling India, but at the same time he made it possible for us to abdicate without rancor and without dishonor.”
— British Historian Arnold Toynbee
The Indian independence movement was a series of historic events with the ultimate aim of ending British rule in India. It lasted from 1857 to 1947. The scope of game is narrower, as it describes the years between 1917 and 1947. It is when Indian National Congress, which was mainly based on prominent moderate leaders, decided on adoption of Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violence and civil disobedience, and several other campaigns.
What is worth to remember, is that the Indian independence movement encompassed all sections of society. It was in constant ideological evolution. Although the underlying ideology was anti-colonial, it was supported by a vision of independent, economic development coupled with a secular, democratic, republican, and civil-libertarian political structure. After the 1930s, the movement took on a strong socialist orientation. The work of these various movements ultimately led to the Indian Independence Act 1947, which ended suzerainty in India, and created Pakistan.
Gandhi course of play
Gandhi is Volume IX of the COIN Series of games that use similar rules to cover modern and historical insurgencies – thus it is relatively easy to start a new one if you are familiar with the system. A deck of cards regulates turn order, events, victory checks, and other processes. Each turn, a new card is played from the event deck and it determines which two Factions will play this turn and their order. The choices of one Faction influence the others, as a new card is drawn and play continues.
Still, Gandhi offers a fresh perspective on the history of insurgency with the addition of a new type of factions to the COIN Series, the Nonviolent (NV) ones. Of course it retains the multi-faction, asymmetrical, card-assisted system of earlier titles in the COIN Series. Now let us see what sides we can choose from and what are their victory conditions?
- the British Raj – which seeks to control territory and influence the population of India to support its rule
- the Indian National Congress – which seeks to disrupt Raj control by building popular opposition to the British
- the Muslim League – which also seeks opposition to the British Raj as a means of establishing protected states for Muslim Indians
- the Revolutionaries – seek to disrupt British Raj control through unrest and to establish bases of Hindu and Sikh influence
In Gandhi, players will face a range of difficult and interesting strategic choices. Civil disobedience and non-cooperation, protests and terror, imperialism and constructive program, growing unrest, negotiation, agitation, assassination, persuasion, boycotts, martial law, and many other options await.
Enough of introduction, let me now jump to the session reports!
Ok, in our game we had following players taking command of the various Gandhi factions:
- Michael (British Raj)
- Neil (Indian National Congress)
- Brent (Muslim League)
- me (Revolutionaries)
The set-up of our game (as we did not switched sides) looked similar in both cases – the only thing variable was Gandhi placement.
PS. Please remember, you can can always click on the pictures to enlarge them in new window to zoom in for details.
Now, let us see how the gameplay went!
That was a complete knockout by Michael (Raj) vs the rest of us. He played very aggressively from the start, utilizing Sweep and Imperialism, spending tons of resources in process but gaining great position. That was very risky approach, of the “make it or break it” type but it paid off so well. We finished after 5 turns (!) – the early campaign definitely assisted here.
As you can see above I am presenting status at the end of campaign as numerical value for each faction from their Victory threshold. That clearly shows who is winning, who is contender and who falls behind. In above picture we all were far, far behind Raj! Once again, congrats to Michael!
Nobody (well, maybe with exception of Raj!) was very content after our initial game so we immediately jumped to the second session. This time we went through three full Campaigns and many sides were close to victory. Below slide presents situation after each Campaign and the paragraphs below shortly describe what was happening:
- First Campaign: We all were aware what Raj is capable of so… we played much more aggressively vs British rule than previously! That is clearly visible in VP value for Michael at the end of Campaign. My faction was far behind, still going through my newbie to Gandhi experiences. Brent was building slowly the position while Neil surprised us nicely as so far Congress was usually far away in points – here it was one of tow challengers.
- Second Campaign: Raj definitely started to be much more aggressive and build their base of support. Brent put first Muslim State to the map, I spread the unrest and rallied most of my guerilla while Neil was trying to build the popular support for Congress side. No breakthrough but things were getting tense.
- Third Campaign: Brent reached the victory threshold multiple times during this campaign (I think having as many as 3 Muslim States!), but was quickly and brutally pacified by Raj forces – still, British were under constant attack from all directions in that part of the game (visible in their VPs). Neil started to further develop the Congress, but the true surprise was done by my quickly and rapidly spreading guerillas – lowering of Restraint was very helpful! In the end Revolutionaries build such widespread base of support and unrest that the India was thrown into chaos!
Summary and some impressions
Wow, these were two completely different and very interesting sessions. First, the NV (Non Violent) factions are something completely new in the series. You really have to wrap your head around them to be able to effectively play. That was clear in the results, as the winners were Raj and Revos – two very aggressive sides.
Secondly, I learned a lot about history of independence movement in India. I love when the story and mechanics are backed by compelling historical background. It is definitely the case here.
Thirdly, our first game was definitely the shortest one I ever played in COIN 🙂 On the other hand, I was glad to see that I grasped the Revolutionaries mechanics well enough to win second game.
See you in another session report!
I’m currently playing a game of Gandhi via PBEM, also as the Revolutionaries! I feel like I’m slowly making progress in my goals; up until now I’ve been mostly ignored by the other factions (though the INC just removed some of my guerrillas with an event, which I did not take kindly to). I love how each game in this series provides entirely different experiences, even though the underlying mechanisms are the same.
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Keeping fingers crossed for our brothers in arms!
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I should definitely play one of these async. Tried Cuba Libre but the players weren’t very good.