A Simulation of America’s Next Civil War
September 1, 2020. 2040: An American Insurgency is available for pre-order at Compass Games. This is a two-player strategy game similar to Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth. The subject, however, is a conflict between forces of the US Federal government (Blue) and an insurgent faction (Red), in the medium-term future. Two scenarios are presented: One with insurgents based on the coasts and in central cities, and another where the insurgents are in the Midwest and South, in the countryside.
The game is a simulation of the fundamental strategic mechanics of a future counter-insurgency operation in the US. It does not get involved in the politics of our day.
The game is the final outcome of a two-year project, first announced in the post below. Teachers are invited to download and use a much simpler, and free, classroom exercise here: American Abyss Student Edition.
What would it be like? Defense and security experts have extensively modeled contemporary civil wars. The models expose the fissures and forces that make counter-insurgency (COIN) operations bloody and difficult. COIN situations are hard to stop; nobody wins; it is a dumpster fire.
Recently, CIA analyst Volke Ruhnke published a commercial game based on COIN models. Andean Abyss (GMT 2012) is set in Colombia in the 1990s. Four separate factions with different resources and goals are mired in a formless, ever-shifting conflict.
- Government: Many resources, trying to calm the entire country
- Communist rebels: Few resources, trying to control part of the country
- Pro-government vigilantes: Few resources, trying to destroy Communists
- Drug cartels: Wealthy, trying to exploit the chaos to make more money
I think 1990s Colombia is a good model of what America will experience if we fall into civil war today. My analysis is non-partisan: It does not matter which parties are the government and the rebels. We have in our country today four armed factions: The State, Antifa, Tea Party, and Crime.
- The State: Whoever is in charge will be trying to calm the whole country.
- Rebels: The government will have armed opponents. If the government is Right, the rebels will be Antifa. If the Government is Left, the rebels will be Tea Party.
- Vigilantes: Whoever holds the government will lose control of armed “allies” who have more bloodlust than the officials in Washington. The Left will lose control of Antifa, the Right will lose control of the Tea Party. These rogue forces will conduct an extra-legal vendetta against the other side.
- Crime: Armed criminal gangs are already active in this country. The chaos of a COIN situation will provide ample opportunities for expanding.
To show what this horrible war would be like, this variant of Andean Abyss is set in the United States in the year 2040. In order to play this variant,
you must it is strongly suggested that you first buy the base game Andean Abyss to obtain its pieces, cards, and core rules. However, if desired, the game can be built at home by downloading and printing the items in the links above, and gathering the appropriate pieces.
Now, because Andean Abyss is a realistic simulation, the rules are complex. This is not a family board game. Therefore, in order to deliver the lesson at a simpler level, I also designed a student edition (American Abyss Student Edition). This packet provides a stand-alone, extremely simple game that illustrates the core problem of a four-faction conflict like the one we face. The packet also includes everything you need for running a classroom exercise on the topic. No additional materials are needed.
Update 19 December 2018: In response to player requests, here is a print-and-play version of the modern US civil war simulation. The full game can be made at home for free using the following components.
These materials are offered free of charge in the hopes that we will all realize how foolish it would be to draw blood over whatever it is that divides us now.
- Map: american_abyss_v2.png
- Counters: AMAB_Counters_FRONT.pdf and AMAB_Counters_BACK.pdf
- The rules to Volko Ruhnke’s Andean Abyss (GMT Games): AARules-1c.pdf
- Specific rules for American Abyss, including two scenario setups: AMAB_Rules_v2.pdf
- Deck of 76 cards: AMAB_Cards.pdf
- Pieces. Recommended pieces are below, but of course pieces of any size and shape may be used so long as ownership and the type of unit is clear. Pieces identified as a “token” below are for marking card eligibility and resources. “Cubes” are Troops and Police. “Cylinders” are Guerillas; they should be marked on one end to indicate Active status. “Discs” are bases.
- Blue: 2 large blue tokens, 30 dark blue cubes, 30 light blue cubes, 3 discs
- Red: 2 large red tokens, 30 red cylinders, 9 discs
- Yellow: 2 large yellow tokens, 18 yellow cylinders, 6 discs
- Green: 2 large green tokens, 12 cylinders, 15 discs
- Miscellaneous markers, tokens, and notes as needed (to denote Rebel Zones, Shipments, Capabilities, etc.)
- Six-sided die
*Apologies for the poor quality of the art on the cards. Card design is hard.
Update May 29, 2020. A two-player version of the game has been picked up by a commercial publisher. Look for 2040: An American Insurgency later this year.