The journey to introduce my wargaming group to variety of COIN (COunter INsurgency) games continues. In my articles I already covered Falling Sky and Fire in the Lake; this time I decided to bring the classic, Cuba Libre, to the table. We played it around New Year and unfortunately one of the players dropped out in last moment. That still did not prevent us from having a great and a balanced session!

The Game

Let me first tell you a little about the game.

Cuba Libre is Volume II in the COIN Series of games that use similar rules to cover (usually) modern Insurgencies and other inter-factional conflicts. This is a 1- to 4-player board game depicting insurgent and counter-insurgent (COIN) conflict during the the Cuban Revolution.

Who are the main actors of this conflict? Let us name them:

  • Batista’s Government,
  • Castro’s 26 July Movement,
  • Directorio,
  • Syndicate.

Castro’s 26 July Movement” must expand from its bases in the Sierra Maestra mountains to fight its way to Havana. Meanwhile, anti-communist student groups, urban guerrillas, and expatriates (Directorio) try to de-stabilize the Batista regime from inside and out, while trying not to pave the way for a new dictatorship under Castro. Batista’s Government must maintain steam to counter the twin insurgency, while managing two benefactors: its fragile US Alliance and its corrupting Syndicate skim. And in the midst of the turmoil, Meyer Lansky and his Syndicate bosses will jockey to keep their Cuban gangster paradise alive.

All in all, definitely one of the smallest (map and forces sizes) and quickest (number of events and campaigns) COIN games in the series – and a perfect entry title for the new adepts to this genre. Which does not mean that less fierce then other COIN conflicts 🙂

Ps. Here you can find great storage solution:

Sessions Report

As mentioned above, we were supposed to play in four but one colleague got sick and there was only three of us left – me (already pretty experienced with COIN), Kuba (with moderate number of plays) and Filip (for whom it was first COIN game). Having such possibilities and outright eliminating the use of bot we decided on following set-up:

  • Michal Batista’s Government & Syndicate,
  • Kuba Castro’s 26 July Movement,
  • Filip Directorio.

Rationale: one player had to cope with two sides; Government and Syndicate seems to have most synergies (and is also suggested in rulebook as 3-player set-up). As I played most COIN, that befallen me of course. Kuba was given Castro’s faction as this is definitely not a good place for a new player. Somebody has to oppose the regime! Filip received Directorio as seemingly best option for a new player to the series – although the development of “yellow forces” takes time, it has some respite in the beginning when the main axis of conflict is Batista vs Castro.

Important note: when you play with two factions, only your worse result counts in final scoring. So there is no way to accelerate one side at the expense of the other; you need to balance development of both.

As always, picture being worth 1000 words, please accompany me to the picture-rich session report. PS. You can click every image and enlarge it to see the details.

Set-up of our game; I like the fact that most COIN games allow for all components to be kept on the main board.
Main actions till First Propaganda: it is always time of gradual development of insurgent factions while Government tries to build up for inevitable clash (see the base in Las Villas?) Main area of attention for everybody was Oriente – a juicy area both for Directorio and 26th of July, which in the end landed in Government hands (another base!)
Everybody during this session had its moment of glory. For Filip’s Directorio that was definitely situation when he took over Havana. The Batista’s troops were in the field, crushing more aggressive rebels…
Main actions till Second Propaganda: definitely turn of intensive Syndicate casino building; the threat to Havana was in the end crushed by Batista ; Kuba’s 26th July was struggling with resources but managed to establish himself in La Habana province, next to the capital.
There are some very powerful events in this game. That have a lot of new insurgents (free of charge) to my opponents.
Culmination of “Las Villas” incident. Insurgents cooperated (finally!) together and using the events, managed to get foothold in seemingly unconquerable province. They also almost stolen Cartel’s Cash!
Main actions till Third Propaganda: first of all, Directorio is in full swing – just as Government. They clash a lot, still having almost all their pieces on the map. What is disturbing, is the investment of Castro into civil disobedience.
During last turn everybody plays for himself. Is it not a beautiful event for Government? With some other temporary abilities that allowed me for a crushing military wins. Control is important, but hearts and souls also. As visible below…
Final results after Fourth Propaganda: what a finish it was! 26th July heavily invested in terror and opposition buildup. Syndicate surpassed all its goals; Directorio tried to hold its possessions while Government was rampaging on the map.


The final victory went to… Castro (played by Kuba)! As stated earlier, I was responsible for both Government and Syndicate and my score was worse out of those two. So it was -1 (one point below victory) from Batista regime. Kuba and Castro had the same score, but in the case of ties, the revolutionary wins! It is worth noticing that Filip’s Directorio was just one point short of joining our tie-breaker (and then he would be the victor).

That was a great experience. Definitely, as introductory COIN Cuba Libre plays excellently. Not only the rules were pretty easy to grasp, but the area and number of choices limited enough for the guys to be able to quickly grasp what the best moves are.

I have already a group of 5-6 colleagues introduced to COIN so playing the next titles are only a matter of time! Stay tuned!