Saturday, 21 January 2017

Thoughts on wargame scenarios for modern (2001-2011) Afghanistan

Now that I have enough terrain and figures to run games inspired by current and recent events in Afghanistan, I'm now giving some thought as to what sorts of scenarios I want to put on.  Looking at various wargame scenarios posted on the web or otherwise published, I get the takeaway that almost every battle is between Taliban and/or Al Qaeda forces versus western forces (US/UK/Australians or other OEF/ISAF forces).  More specifically, there is a tendency to present a very large number of fanatical insurgents (who operate with little concern for their own casualties) taking on a very small number of western soldiers.  I don't think I've found any scenarios where local Afghan forces take the lead.  For example, I've got a copy of the Force on Force Enduring Freedom source book, and while it looks like a detailed and comprehensive set of scenarios, I think there is maybe one scenario where US special forces work in conjunction with local Afghan forces.

However when I look at the conflict, I see much more complexity, and a lot of factions that fall out of this simple NATO versus Islamist equation.  I'd like to come up with a scenario or maybe a small campaign that includes at least these factions:
  • Taliban
    • Need to distinguish between hardcore/fulltime Talibs and short-term local recruits (experienced, highly motivated versus inexperienced, in the fight for some quick cash).  Both types are in their native land and can expect to shelter in the local population
  • Al Qaeda and other foreigners (Arabs, Chechens etc) fighting to re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan:  highly motivated, to the point of fanaticism, experience/skill level varies, may be unpopular with locals (so cannot hide as easily among local populace)
  • Afghan National Army (ANA):  decent but variable skill level, tend to be popular with local populace, morale decent but local factors may bring it down (being subordinated to foreign forces may be a bonus or penalty depending on circumstances)
  • Afghan National Police (ANP) and the Border Police (ANBP).
    • ANP tend to be low morale, low skill level, corrupt, poorly paid and unpopular with local populace.  This is due to a number of factors (conscripts from various parts of the country, often illiterates who are sent to serve in a part of the country where they may not even speak the language, pay is often months in arrears, so they shake down the locals just to get food)
    • ANBP tend to be tribally based and serve or close to their own communities, so cohesion and morale is better
  • Western forces (US/UK etc) operating as part of ISAF or OEF.
    • Depending on the country of origin, may have restrictions on rules of engagement or terms of service. 
    • Wherever they are from, they tend to have top-notch equipment and good training/skills, good morale. 
    • Access to air support, artillery and other off-board assets (eg drones)
  • Private security forces, which could range from the low-grade rentacops through the most expensive Blackwater types
  • Criminal organisations, running protection rackets, construction rackets or involved in the drug trade or other smuggling (and who are likely to be in competition with other criminals...).  May be allied to or opposed to Taliban and/or local government officials
  • Local government officials who may be working for self-advancement in a way that does not conform to the plans of the central government (diverting taxes for their own purposes, may or may not be allied to one or more criminal groups or with Taliban depending on the way the wind is blowing)
  • Local militias, who might be pro-government or they might not - as with local government officials!
Each group has their own motivations, goals and ambitions, which will likely be in conflict with those of other groups.  Criminals will use the conflict to hide or mask their activities, blaming murders on the Taliban or the government.  Taliban may take credit for criminal actions if it suits their purpose.  ANP are corrupt and generally despised, so no one likes them.  And as their pay is often stolen or in arrears, they will shake down local civilians for money or food, adding to the general dislike they experience.

There's a great opportunity here to create a multi-party conflict.  Most players will not know for sure who is on their side and who is not.  Western forces won't know if that armed civilian is a local government militia member or a Talib, so will need some means to confirm identity before engaging.  Killing an ally will likely have greater (negative) impact on victory conditions than allowing a Talib or AQ to escape.

So I'm considering setting up a multi-faction scenario, give each player a different set of goals and seeing what happens.  I'm sure a mini-campaign would be even better but there's no way I think I could pull that off (I don't have time for multiple games).  I'll probably go with Osprey Games Black Ops, create custom card deck that allows activation cards for each player.  And no player will be told who the other player is, they'll have to figure that out based on the actions of the figures (although anyone uniformed should be pretty obvious).

I'll need different rules for civilian reactions for each faction - the civvies will know everything but won't share that info with anyone they don't like!