second chance games

Search This Website of delight

 FITNA from NUTS PUBLISHING Modern or   hypothetical modern warfare raises more uncertainties and qualms in wargaming circles than more fami...


For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

January 2023





Modern or hypothetical modern warfare raises more uncertainties and qualms in wargaming circles than more familiar traditional conflicts of the past.  I understand those concerns, but question why such issues don't trouble non-fiction and fiction writing that explores the same ground.
Certainly, FITNA with a sub-title Global War in the Middle East explores through its eleven Scenarios both very recent historical conflicts from 2012 - 2018 and speculates on the potential conflicts that might occur.  
The early historically based scenarios take us from the civil war in Syria through the fight against Islamic State and Russian intervention and the complexities of problems in Turkey and into the collapse of Islamic State.  From that point on the remaining scenarios explore possible developments in differing regions of the Middle East culminating in a full campaign game involving six players.
The scope of these scenarios allows play ranging from two-players up to that final six player finale, while including several three or four player scenarios that can easily be handled by just two players as well.  Consequently the game offers very good value with such a diverse and accommodating range of player count.
I have to admit that I was drawn to this game mainly for reasons that lie outside its geographical, political and military subject.  First it had been well recommended as a surprisingly swift playing and easy to understand game and second that the publisher was Nuts Publishing, a company that I have a high regard for.  
The first reason particularly drew my attention, as in the past nearly all the games on modern conflicts had turned me off with lengthy, and highly complicated rules with interminably long turns and often lengthy periods of inactivity as my opponent/s took their turns.
The Designer's Notes section of the rulebook clearly sets out his aim:
 "I conceived FITNA with two principal ideas in my head: to create a simple, fluid game to allow players, even beginners, to concentrate on their strategies and the search for alliances." 
So how has this been achieved?  Well, it's pitched at the grand strategical level with a point-to-point map, with a simple, short basic rule set and a card-driven motor.  

The suitably barren map in very muted colours covers Kuwait, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as parts of Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey.
With bi-monthly turns, there's no worry about detailed terrain charts - a simple one movement point moves you one box on the map. Airmobile capacity and strategic movement allow greater distances to be covered, but with equally simple, brief rules for doing so and a very limited capacity.  
A surprisingly short rule book, only16 pages in total, proves to have a basic core system covered in a mere 5 pages.  In outline, each player in turn performs the following sequence of Phases, with a maximum hand size of four cards.
The active player can play as many cards as they like.  If they play a reinforcement card, it can be played to take either a single batch of reinforcements or for replacements [i.e. upgrade 2 units on the map/return one eliminated unit.]
Check supply for all players.
The active player chooses 1 or 2 cards to play for their Operation Points [OPs] and then has to announce how many points will be spent on movement and how many on combat.
Each OP spent allows 2 units to move.
Offensives [i.e. Combat]
Each OP allows you to make one offensive with a single stack usually of up to 3 units.
Strategic Movement
A single supplied unit may be moved any distance from one friendly controlled space through friendly controlled spaces to another friendly controlled space.
Adjust Cards
Draw back to  4 cards in hand.

These rules governing the core of the game are refreshingly straightforward and swift to execute.  Whatever way you divide your OPs, there are only going to be three broad outcomes: mainly units moving with little combat, little movement and more combats or a balance of the two.  None of them involves the sort of numbers that will make a player's turn lengthy.
Any "complexity" to the game lies in the many small differences in a particular nation or faction's restrictions or allowances to the rules.  Typically such elements are the varied supply sources for the many nationalities/factions or Scenario specific details or exceptions.
What I've found is that if you handle these on a scenario by scenario basis as you come to play them, they are easy to assimilate into your game play.
The range of nationalities and factions in themselves make for a very colourful and diverse range, as seen in the three sheets of counters.

Be warned, these counters were so well punched that at least thirty or more fell out as I eased them ever so carefully from the box!  Frankly that's no problem, as they are so well colour coded - other than I wanted to be able to give you the neat, tidy picture shown above.  As I prefer to bag my counters, I also found the combination of background colour and colour-bar along the top counter edge very helpful to this task.  

For me, much of the "feel" and direct enjoyment of the game comes from the wide range of cards, that are divided into two decks: Events and Assets.  In particular, the inclusion or omission of specific Event cards help to create the appropriate historical parameters and, I suspect, for many of us provide previously unknown insights into the complex tangle of middle eastern conflict.  Because of the small hand-size [only 4 cards], the choices never become overwhelming and an aspect I like in CDG games is the constant tension between what you want to achieve on your turn and what you want to hold back for reaction in your opponent's turn.

Just a small sample from the all-important cards 

Another aspect that recommends the game to me is the handling of reinforcements and replacements.  First of all, these can only be accessed by play of a Reinforcement card and this brings your first choice whether to take a batch of pre-designated reinforcements or opt for replacements.  Normally an initial choice with be a batch of reinforcements, as choosing replacements allows either the return of only a single eliminated unit or the flipping to full strength of two reduced units. The strong point of  this element of the game system is the uncertainty of when you will draw a reinforcement card.  This lack of a totally predictable arrival is always a valuable feature.  [I think here of how many Gettysburg games suffer from knowing exactly where and when those reinforcements will arrive, so that units are being shuffled in the right direction to counter them, even before they arrive!] 
Supplementing game play are six player aids.  All have one side identical, carrying the Sequence of Play, the Combat Chart and explanation and finally actions that influence the International Tension level.  The reverse sides carry the set-up information for the final two scenarios, the major multi-player ones involving 5 or 6 players.

The Scenario Booklet opens with what is billed as a short two-player tutorial scenario Scenario.  In that it has a limited number of units and the play area is restricted to Syria, as seen below, it is definitely a good starting point.  However, don't think that it is a mere learning exercise.  It focuses on the early stages of the Syrian civil war and is the foundation for the four historically based scenarios

The set-up can be seen above, with one player controlling the Syrian army [brown background] and 2 Hezbollah units  [light green background] and the other elements of the Free Syrian army and Sunni and Shia militias [purple background], while Isis [black background] and Kurdish Peshmergas [yellow background] may come into play through card use. 
The map above displays the northern area of the game map which extends down to the Persian Gulf on the south edge, as seen below.

Along the map edges are the different Force Pool Holding Areas where you set up your Reinforcement batches, as well as the Turn Track and International Tension Track.  The latter is especially important for the introduction of some of the most powerful cards in the game along with the potential intervention of Russia and the USA.

However large or small the scenario you are playing, the footprint for the game, especially when engaged in the big multi-players, remains refreshingly compact, as the standard sized map encompasses all you need, other than each player's A4 player aid.

Nuts Publishing have achieved a remarkably accessible and playable game of a major modern conflict, largely overlooked by the western-centric American and European gaming world.  For that and for providing my review copy many, many thanks once again.