Brant Guillory, 31 March 2021
Wrapping up our attempt to steer Rhodesia through the choppy waters of an insurgency, and bring the fractured nation to an equitable, and popularly-accepted, member of the international community.
Are we ready for the 80s? Yes, yes we are.
Rhodesian Herald phase
Turn 15 plus a die roll of two gets me a 17 again.
- Coup in Portugal! – already happened, doesn’t matter.
- Drought – I only have one fist so my population only drops one, but it’s dropped several times in the last few turns.
- ZANU Factionalism – Mugabe still is not in charge and I roll a 4 to eliminate a whole bunch of ZANU units. There’s nothing specifying how to choose which units to eliminate, so I try to spread it around and take two of the four from Mozambique, plus one of the two in Tete, and then the one still hanging out in Mashonaland.
- Rampages – although I am eligible to build the Pfumo re Vanhu units, I have yet to do so. This has no effect.
- British Election – the Tories managed to win so let’s see if we can hang on to them for now.
- Radio/TV – still no effect since my popularity is maxed and the Portuguese are no longer on the board.
- Outrage– I didn’t send anyone abroad last turn so this one doesn’t affect me this time around.
There are no elections this turn at all
I start off at $6, and add $2 for my population. I had $4 for global trade, and another $5 from the map, which maxes me out at $16 before I add any money coming from overseas governments. I’m going to need it all this time too.
I don’t need to adjust morale because we eliminated the ZANU unit that was left inside our borders. I do need to spend $1 on the RhAF, though.
Policy Review phase
This is going to be a tough policy turn because I have to get the Quenet Commission policy play to have any chance of winning the game. That means I’m going to end up skipping the Detente policy and that will cost me my allies from South Africa.
Detente should have come up 6 years ago, so it’s a little surprising it’s lasted this long and it has not hurt that Mugabe has stayed in jail all this time.
The inaction on this policy means that we flip the South African government to red and raise the terror level one and we also lose our two orange South African police units. While my RF popularity goes up 1D6, my treasury goes down 1D6 also and I roll a 2 to drop to $13.
Instead, we have to play the Quenet Commission policy from back on turn 10.
- There are several immediate actions. First, I have to try to pass the bill with an RF party split that will hurt me on the die roll. That said, I do get to add one back to the die roll because of my earlier liberal constitution.
- However, I only roll a 3 and that’s not enough to pass it right now. So, I need to hold a Rhodesian election and then try again.
- For my Rhodesian election, I need to roll two dice and add the total as well as adding my RF popularity. I’m going to skip the $2 to advertise from the coffers because honestly, a lower result in the House of Assembly is actually going to help me this time around
- I roll a 4 on 2D6, and add the 5 for my RF popularity which gets me a total of 9. However, because I did not advertise my final result is a 7 in the House of Assembly. That makes liberal bills significantly easier to pass, but cost me one on my RF popularity track.
- Now we try to pass the bill again, and this time we only need to roll a 3 or better because of the party split & liberal constitution modifiers canceling each other out. This time around, we roll a 6 which would have done it even with the earlier House of Assembly results. Oh well, such are the vagaries of the dice.
click images to enlarge
We aren’t adding any new troops to the force pool because there are a bunch we have to refit. The north end of the country is on fire and we are burning through a lot of troops up there.
- We move all five of our used units from Mashonaland back to Salisbury and pay the $5 to refit them all, dropping our treasury to $8.
- We send three of the five right back, and keep one of them in the Midlands and move one to Manicaland.
- We are redeploying one of our Renamo units back to Mozambique.
With a terror level at 7, we have a lot of bad guys to put on the map.
- We roll a 1, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6 and dammit if that isn’t going to overwhelm the north end of the country again.
- The 5s and 6s put some terrs into Tete, where they will cross into Mashonaland
- The 1 puts another one into Zambia, where there’s a chance it’ll join the others on the north end of the country.
- In between that, the 3s and 4s go into Mozambique, and there’s a ⅓ chance that they end up in Mashonaland, too. Not good.
First things first, the two Renamo units pair off with a terr each, and we roll double-4s. So both are stuck to their terrs but no one dies. It’s like the A-Team meets a unit of Stormtroopers – lots of bullets and no deaths.
The remaining 3 ZANU units in Mozambique all end up moving into Victoria instead of going north, and there’s one very lonely RAR battalion waiting for them there. Fortunately, Victoria is a ‘handshake’ province, so let’s see how the locals react to the terr incursion. We roll a 2, 4, and 6, so one slips through, one is chased home, and one is killed, but most importantly, our handshake survives.
We have 1 ZAPU unit from Botswana that rolls up into Matabeleland, but a roll of 5 on the handshake table puts him out of my misery.
The ZAPUistas in Zambia roll a 1 & 2 for where they cross, so they both head into Matabeleland also. The handshake rolls come up 2 and 4, so one slips thru and one runs home, but as above, we don’t lose our handshake, so that’s the real key at this point in the game.
And Tete… Ah yes, Tete. All four of those bastards are coming across to Mashonaland. And it’s not a handshake province, so all four of those bastards are coming across. Fortunately, 3 of my biggest hitters are up there. We end up with 2 DRs and 1 DE and one leftover unit that we’ll fireforce off the map in a minute.
Meanwhile, in Matabeleland, I also roll a pair of DRs that send the ZAPUs back to Botswana. That uses all 3 units there, but since Matabeleland is still a handshake, I won’t have to pay to refit them next turn.
We now have a quandary.
We have two ZANU units left on the map, and only one place the RhAF can support them. We’ve got a fairly weak one down in Victoria, but we have no ground units left in Mashonaland and pretty much have to launch a fireforce mission if we’re going to get that guy. Looks like 1RAR is in for a tough fight as they only have a combat factor of 2. But they managed to roll a 5 which forces that unit to retreat back to Mozambique
We launch a fireforce raid using 2RAR in Mashonaland, and rolling with 4 combat factors, we roll a lowly 2. However, because this is a fireforce raid, the DR is treated as a DE and that unit is eliminated.
End result for the turn is that we have seven used units, plus the RhAF, but only have one surviving terr, And he’s in a non-handshake province anyway.
- We got a US election because it’s 1980. We roll a 3 for a Democratic win, which doesn’t change the existing government or the terror level. It does however, put the Carter counter back over the global trade box and will cost us $4 in income next turn. We also need to remove Reagan from the map, and that will cost us another $1 next turn.
- There are no changes to the terror level or terr unit locations, because we are already maxed out and the remaining in-country unit is in a fist province.
- We are not going to employ any protected villages and have them backfire on us this late in the game.
Because we activated the Quenet Commission policy, we now have to try to establish the ZR at the end of this turn.
We take the number of collaborators in the box in the middle of the map (2) and add 1D6. And of course, we roll a 2. However, we can try again at the cost of $1. We’re going to pay that $1 and try it again, and this time we roll a 6. That’s 6, plus the 2 collaborators, give us a total of 8 on the new ZR election results track.
That gives us a narrow majority victory and a heavy turnout.
This also flips our Rhodesian flag on the map.
As a result of landing on an 8 for our ZR elections, we also get to flip one foreign nation in our favor. That will also allow us to lower the terror level by one. because the Democrats just won a US election this turn, narratively it would be kind of dumb to flip that one. So we’re going to flip the South Africans from red to green and drop the terror level by one.
Next turn’s going to be fun. Sort of.
~~ end of the turn ~~
Rhodesian Herald phase
We roll a two, plus the 16 for the turn, and that gives us an 18 and our events are
- Lancaster House – we get to ignore the rest of the events because at this point the peace conference is being held in London and the game ends
- Atrocity – eh
- Communist Subversion – eh
- Tribalism – eh
- Outrage – eh
- Tan-Zam Railway – eh
Time to ignore the rest of the phases and calculate the victory points
- We have 4 handshake markers
- We have +4 for RF popularity
- -2 because our population is falling
- We have two ‘green bar’ political units on the map, in Britain and South Africa
- + 8 for our ZR election result
- We add 3 for our liberal constitution, 2 for amending the land tenure agreement, and 1 for the integration policy
- We had another 2 for the collaborators in the box
- And finally add 1D6 to all of that
- +4 handshakes
- +4 RF popularity
- -2 population growth
- +2 overseas political support
- +8 ZR election result
- +6 previous policies
- +2 collaborators
- +5 on the die roll
- -1 for the ZANU unit lurking around Mashonaland
Which gives us a total of 28
Somehow in all of that, we scored an overwhelming victory which says that the world community accepted the new ZR government as legitimate and pulled the support for the guerillas.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good
~~ end of the game ~~
So there’s probably a rule or two we screwed up along the way, but overall, we tried really hard to stick to exactly what the rules said, in the order they were specified to be executed.
The biggest boon for us? That detente policy was buried until late in the game, and we were able to keep Mugabe and several other leaders locked up for quite a while longer than they really were. The Portuguese also seemed to hang on in Mozambique a bit longer than they did in real life, which also helped keep the terrs under wraps there for quite a while.
The other big surprises in having such a successful outcome are that (1) I’m still not sure I understand how to add more Corsans to the map, and (2) I didn’t appreciate the role that the collaborators would play in my eventual success until pretty late in the game, so I wasn’t able to flip as many as I should’ve tried to.
Anyone listening to podcast appearances with me over the years knows I’ve been wanting a good Rhodesia game for a while. I was really excited to try this one out, and intrigued by the mixture of politics / combat that the designer (the incredibly-talented Ben Madison) put together. The rules are very clear, and give a good step-by-step walkthrough of exactly what you’re doing each turn. There’s enough decision-making for the player that you don’t feel like you’re just a die-chucker for the AI in the system. In fact, the way in which the terr opposition behaves in the game doesn’t even feel like an AI or a bot.
That said, there are so many different, separate checks to make for literally any action that you get a little frustrated/bored after a while with constantly looking things up over and over. There’s a different ‘combat table’ for the Renamo combat than there is for the Rhodesians, which you have to remember to look up, instead of just incorporating it into the overall combat table on its own column. Separate tables for literally every possible election could somehow have been massaged into a consolidated election table, especially since the UK/US elections cause the government to change hands on the exact same die rolls, and the SA/US Congressional elections flip so rarely that you almost wonder why that extra check is even in the game. You also have several events that are randomly generated on the Rhodesian Herald table that immediately lead you to another table for another die roll (and, if you’re really lucky, you get an assassination attempt, and you’re now on your third table for a single event).
So yes, the die rolls and bots feel far less deterministic than many other solo games. But the numbers of charts and die rolls you have to go through just to get past a single turn starts to feel tedious, and it feels that way pretty early on. By episode 5, I was ready to be done with this, just out of frustration. It took a while to get through episode 6, never mind this one.
So yes, I did enjoy the game, and the insights into the conflict were very cool. The detail and research that Mr Madison put into the game – especially on the political side – gives the player a much richer understanding of the nuances of the decision-making that faced the Rhodesians on economic, diplomatic, and military fronts, and a great appreciation for the political tightrope-walking job they had to try to do. The production values are top-notch, too. Especially for a POD game, this is as nice, or nicer, than most magazine games I own, as well as a lot of old SPI flat-packs & folios.
But I’m not sure I’m going to play this one again any time soon. The repetitiveness of some of the events in the Herald, especially when you keep rolling events that are no longer valid, coupled with the continual flipping around different charts to find the one time you need to use that one chart for the one-off random thing that’s happening just dissolves some immersive decision-making into pure tedium after a while, and the game starts to overstay its welcome around turn 11 or so.
I wish I could be more effusive my praise for The White Tribe because it’s a rare game on a topic I wanted to explore. But in spite of Mr Madison’s excellent historical and design notes, the actual turn-by-turn gameplay felt flat to me, especially as the turns moved on.
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