sábado, 16 de marzo de 2024

Coast Watchers Interview: Volko Ruhnke


Coast Watchers takes you into this struggle between Allied intelligence teams and Japanese hunters. Standup blocks hide coastwatching stations, guerrillas, refugees, and stranded Allied crew. Gameboard recesses hold the blocks snug. Facedown counters hide the buildup of Japanese forces, which the coastwatchers seek to observe and report to headquarters. Other counters show where Japanese patrols are searching for coastwatchers or go into and get drawn from a cup to run Japanese searches and Allied delivery missions.

The rules and images shown here are not final.

You can find it in P500
Why did you decide to make this game?

Hello, thanks for asking about Coast Watchers! I have long had an interest in“denial and deception” in wargames (and have an article about that in the current issue of C3i Magazine).That is, I am exploring how game mechanics help players hide key information from their opponents and also reveal selective information to mislead them.

This exploration led to a design coming up from Fort Circle Games called Hunt for Blackbeard, which uses blocks in a new way—not moving across the map but staying in each space to record who or what is there.

I have long been fascinated by the Pacific War between the WWII Allies and Japan, and the South Pacific in particular. The story of the coastwatchers there is almost entirely untold in wargames, so it seemed an exciting possibility to apply some mechanical design ideas from Hunt for Blackbeard to that setting.

Tell us about the mechanics

Coast Watchers depicts the struggle between Allied intelligence teams and Japanese security forces hunting them. Standup blocks hide coastwatching stations, guerrillas, refugees, and stranded Allied crew. Facedown markers hide the buildup of Japanese forces, which the coastwatchers seek to observe and report to headquarters. Other markers show where Japanese patrols are searching for coastwatchers. Some counters serve as chits that go into cups, and drawing from these cup runs Japanese searches for coastwatchers and Allied delivery missions in and out of coastwatching stations.

Each side gets dealt mostly secret Mission cards. Allied Missions assign side tasks to the coastwatchers. Japanese Missions lay out secret military objectives for victory points, including air and sea operations against which the coastwatchers are to warn Allied forces. By hunting coastwatchers while building up military readiness and guiding operations, the Japanese player seeks to slip through the enemy intelligence net.

Players also draw Asset cards: special abilities to augment actions and perhaps add victory points.

How do the different sides work?

One player runs Allied operatives in the South Pacific. A second player takes charge of Japanese forces in the area.

In each from two to five turns, the Japanese first can “Build Up” their military presence (switch out face-down markers) to achieve their Missions, “Ready” more Patrols (add markers to a Ready box), or “Augment” their Assets (randomly draw more cards).

Twice per turn, the Allies can Deliver supplies or personnel, then Operate their intelligence network, and finally Evade at exposed Stations or Train new Coastwatchers. “Deliver” uses Delivery Asset cards to Resupply Stations (add Evasion chits to the Patrol cup) and to Insert, Retrieve, or Rescue people (move blocks around the board). “Operate” seeks to Observe enemy Buildups (peek at markers) and Report on them—the network’s main purpose. It may also Recruit or Resist with Guerrillas (attacking enemy Patrols). Each such actions risk discovery (a Japanese draw from the Patrol cup). “Evade” Hides (stands up) Revealed blocks; “Train” adds Coastwatcher blocks to a Ready box.

Twice per turn, the Japanese will “Search” for enemies (at Patrol markers, drawing from the Patrol cup) and perhaps “Recall” Patrols to Ready them for later reassignment or “Deploy” Ready Patrols to Stations or the Patrol cup to grow their Search ability.

In between, the Japanese may Launch one or more “Operations” (certain Mission cards) for which they have Built Up (placed markers). Operations earn victory points but forego further Countermeasures and instead end the game. They are military maneuvers against which Coastwatchers can Warn—the Japanese trace Operations Paths from Buildups to Targets, and Coastwatchers along those Paths subtract from the Japanese score.

With or without Operations, both sides at game end add VP for other cards, the Japanese for Taking captives, and the Allies for their Network’s rescues and survival behind enemy lines.

Tell us about the scenarios and campaigns

The 15 “Situations” in Coast Watchers provide what is going military in the South Pacific during 1-3 months of the war—as context for the intelligence and security struggle that the players are waging. You can find some examples of the Situation sheets at the GMT Games P500 page for the game.

The Situations span January 1942, as the Japanese invade the region, to December 1942 with the last large-scale operation by the Allies aimed at the Japanese base of Rabaul. You can play any Situations you like in any order, but I have designed them to be increasingly challenging if played in historical order, as both players get more set up decisions as you go.

Finally, there are four “Campaigns” that each combine three different Situations to play in a row, so that early successes put a player at an advantage later.

Do you plan to release other games with the same system?

Thank you for asking! That is possible, depending on how well players like Coast Watchers. I already have another design well along, though little tested, that uses blocks and cups in quite similar ways, with even greater emphasis on denial and deception. I call that design Drachen—Reconnaissance at Verdun, 1916.

Thank you for this opportunity to say a little about Coast Watchers with your audience!

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