What I learned from our first play test

Even before the game, we were already talking about the how things would play out.  Ed and Ed, both old hats at miniature wargaming, pointed out that since the Palestinians would not use violence, the commander of the initial Israeli company would not be distracted if the Palestinians marched to the settlement, thus causing a serious problem if they attacked the settlers/colonists, or marched to the checkpoint, thus cutting off the Israeli's retreat.

The game tended to play out as such:

  1. The Israelis advance;
  2. The Palestinians concentrate on the bulldozer and mechanized infantry,and stop them;
  3. The Israelis push forward dispersing some of the Palestinians or arrest some of the Palestinians clearing the way;
  4. The Israelis request to increase their level of violence, but failed everytime due to the presence of the two media teams;
  5. Reinforcements arrive and help push forward to the houses and the Mosque.

The Israelis got to the houses after around three hours of game time.  It is likely that they would have demolished at least some of the houses in the remaining six turns if we continued the game.

The after action report

Here are some of the observations on areas I need to modify the rules:

  • Need to model command and control on both sides better.  Perhaps use some form of actions system.
  • The escalation system was not very realistic.  Given past actions, it is likely that the Israelis would have escalated sooner to at least tear gas and rubber bullets.  There needs to be either a flow chart/if-then system (is progressing to objective, # of unshaken units left) or make it easier to escalate at the lower levels of violence.  Another thing would be to subtract a lower value for each media stand up to a certain limit.
  • There is a need to think about what different tactics would be used and how they would play out.  The examples given generally ones of police/military formations such a wedges, etc.
  • There should be a mechanism for the nonviolent actionists to trigger a violent response on the part of police/military forces.  Well someway besides using violence.  Gandhi organized actions that did this and so should the game.
  • There is a need for the nonviolent player to dedicate forces to act as monitors to keep the actionists nonviolent or to deal with violent resistance groups who wish to use the nonviolent resistance group as cover.  Gene Sharp, in his The Politics of Nonviolent Action series notes such a need for monitors.  Likely, the need for monitors would be less as the skill level of the actionist increases.
  • The crowd action and the dissuading/dispersing mechanics need to be simplified.  Half an hour to play a turn is too long.
  • While, initially, the nonviolent actionists could be dispersed, they came back into play immediately on the next turn and the Israelis did not make progress.  This appeared too easy to even the nonviolent actionist players and we added a rule that dispersed stands could only be placed back on the board at a rally point or within the town.
  • The nonviolent actionists concentrated on certain units, namely the mechanised infantry and the bulldozers.  The rules tried to model them as a group, but aided such tactical concentration.  There is likely a need to make it easier to dissuade, but limit the number of nonviolent actionists who can concentrate on any one stand.
  • Need to add rules for maintaining nonviolent discipline.
  • Arresting nonviolent actionists proved to be one of the more effective tactics the Israelis had.  It seems reasonable that each military stand can watch three nonviolent actionists stands, but that police could watch more, perhaps up to six.  However, there needs to be a limit on the number of armored vehicles that can be used to watch prisoners.

The turn sequence

It became clear pretty early on that the turn sequence was overly complex and we modified it by removing the Defensive movement and conflict phases and just had a movement phase and a conflict phase.  The movement phase changed to:

  1. Both sides move units or place hold markers
  2. Move units that have hold markers a half move
  3. Reveal any units that are in sight of an opposing unit

However, even this was not sufficient as having both sides move at the same time would allow a players to react during step 1.


The Eds suggested that an action point system would work better.  The number of actions would be based on the number of leaders that each group has.  The more actions the more flexibility for the commander.  Such a system would better model a commander's possible decisions.

Possible actions:

  • Move
  • Disperse
  • Breech (?)
  • Rally
  • Block (?)
  • Keep Peach/Monitor
  • Swarm (?)
  • Bring in Reinforcements
  • Escalate Violence
  • Build barricade

Action points would allow the introduction of different leader personalities (passive or firebrand) that could effect which leader gets which task and, possibly, how effective they are at carrying it out.  Other action point systems tend to be a UGO/IGO system, and this slows down play in a multiuser system.  One way around this is to have each side place all of their actions at once with the offensive side going first and the defensive side going second.


The sighting rules just tended to get in the way.  Changing to a smaller scale (say 1 inch = 25 feet) makes the sighting rules less necessary.

Suggested Scenario Changes

I purposefully limited the level of violence that the Israelis could use.  They would likely at least start with the ability to use tear gas. 

Others suggested that replacing one of the tank platoons with a border guard platoon would help them since it would give them an increased capability to use arrest the nonviolent actionists.  Additional tanks could be an escalation option.

One thing I forgot

One suggestion I forgot to mention is that as the nonviolent actionists' morale goes down, more reinforcements would arrive, until at some point the morale does down enough that supporters start to leave.

First “With Weapons of Will” Game

I have been thinking about writing a miniatures game that would simulate civilians nonviolently resisting military or police power since 1999. The Battle of Seattle further heightened my interest, but other events over the last few years prevented me from pursuing this game.

In 2004, I decided to try my hand at writing such a game, and finding a manufacturer of 6mm figures that could be used as nonviolent protesters (rioters actually) from Irregular Miniatures only pushed me on.

After several drafts of my game, With Weapons of Will , and with the figures I need painted, I got four folks together to try out the rules.

The scenario is centered on the Palestinian town of A’nata which is being separated from other parts of the West Bank by the Separation Wall. In reality, several houses and a mosque were destroyed to make way for this wall. In this scenario, the Israeli military sends in one company of soldiers and an armored bulldozer to demolish the structures. The Palestinian nonviolent resisters aim to stop them.

A full victory would require the nonviolent protesters to prevent the Israeli bulldozers from destroying the houses and the mosque in 12 turns (6 hours of game time). A partial victory would result if even one house was not demolished. A bulldozer would destroy a house if left to do so for a turn. The mosque would take three turns.

You can find maps of the area here and photos of the game are here. There is a bit of commentary on the progress of the game in the pictures

I’ll list the players’ observations on the rules in another post

For those interested in such details, the Israeli vehicles are GHQ. The houses are either painted monopoly houses or hand built houses provided one of the players. The figures are all from Irregular Miniatures as are the armored bulldozers.

My thanks to Ed for providing a whole bunch of stuff including the hills, trees, houses and the ambulance.