Friday, 9 July 2010

Brainstorming: Regional Government

Why devolve the game setting to the Sub-Regional Seats of Government (SRSG)? Well, a couple of reasons.  I have to admit that I 'm having trouble rationalising how an armed revolution can be turned into a civil war whilst central government mainatins it's grip on a country the size of the UK. Not without it seeing it being a long and protracted affair.

Pushing the government of the hypothetical crisis out to the regions actually makes the whole thing more realistic - to me at least - and means we can define a specific region as our gaming area of operations to play out the ebb and flow of the revolution and onset of civil war.

I'm not sure how much of the sixties/early seventies national crisis/emergency and war Sub-Regional Seats of Government infrastructure existed in 1979 - Emergency Planning taking over from the defunct Civil Defence in the mid-1970's - but it works for me as an assumption for my games, especially as they were aligned with the local military command District.

For an outstanding work on emergency and war government in the UK see Steve Fox's excellent thesis THE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL: Governing Britain After The Bomb, which is wholly available online. I'm sure you'll find plenty there for your own game setting.

There's a lot of potential within this framework - attacks on the regional centres of governments, local coups, military take-overs, division and civil war at a county or borough council level. Do the local Territorials who are local civilian workers after all, many of whom may be unemployed, follow orders or do they whole or in part declare for the local opposition - shades of the first days of the Spanish Civil War in Madrid and Barcelona?
Any thoughts are welcome.



  1. Given that this is still the cold war, I would have thought that plans for regional government in the event of a nuclear war would still be in place.

    I think Gorbachev is in power by '79 - isn't that when the Sovs go into Afghanistan? - and the nuclear war rhetoric has been ratchetted down, though Reagan does his best to warm things up again. Even so, there are probably "war" plans for devolution still sitting around in CD/Emergency Planning offices.

    So, why would power devolve in your scenario? I t would indicate that the central government has been taken out, has been forced to flee the country (Canada was a favourite destination from the 2000AD stories about the Volgan (?spelling) invasion), or has been unseated in a coup.

    Taking out the central government could involve assassination (IRA) or plague (The Survivors), or something that the locals don't know as communications with London are down.

    Given the temper of the times, there could be a coup happening in London where the ultra-right is trying to drive out Centralists and Leftists/Communists, with support from right-wing elements in the security intelligence organisations or even the CIA (to the CIA, Callaghan and Labour were practically communists, anyway). Though, thinking about the way things seem to be 'done' in the UK, I would envision a sudden increase is car accidents, hunting accidents, sudden retirements and lurid scandles ruining careers, rather than gun battles in the streets. And the Civil Service would just keep things ticking over as they usually do. So, to disrupt Central Government, you probably need a bomb :)

  2. Hi Kobold

    The whole structure of government is outlined in The Struggle For Survival mentioned in the post. I've only had a brief opportunity to pick out the broad details of the late 70's structure - but enough at this stage to use it as a potential Maguffin.

    Probably the best time for a right-wing coup setting is probably around 1974. It surfaced in a Sunday Times series called The Mood of the Nation and Frank Kitson's book Low Intensity Operations caused a stir in public and private circles as it envisaged the possibility of insurgency in mainland Britain and appeared to have official sanction.

    According to Chapman Pincher dirty tricks were in play against PM Harold Wilson (Operation Clockwork Orange) and the talk in the clubs of Pall Mall was of the a generals coup - one happened in Portugal in the seventies. Clockwork Orange has been linked by some to Operation Gladio.

    Similar talk had surfaced in 1969 with Mountbatten being "invited" to lead a coup against the then Labour government - names of interested parties included David Stirling. See my future post "Some Talk of Private Armies".

    1979-80 is not out of the question for a coup - this is a wargame dramatisation of hypothetical events rather than a historical thesis. Kitson, is probably our key man - in 1980 deputy C-in-C UKLF.

    IRA bomb? Yeah sure - let's bring forward Brighton if you want and make it more devastating. Perhaps a Militant rather than IRA operation (read GB84).

    I strongly disagree about Callaghan and the Labour party. Callaghan was nowhere near a communist and in 1977 personally interceded to reverse a severe gap in Britains' defences which had been caused in part by the Defence Review of 1974-5.

    Communist membership in the UK fell during the period in question. Trotskyism was on the rise particularly after 1980 - a signficicant and important difference.

    Certain Trade Union leaders were however communists. For instance, Jack Jones TGWU, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, was a communist and alleged to be in the pay of the Soviet Union.

    As followers of Dropship Horizon will know, I laugh in the face of highly developed backgrounds. "Left-Wing Revolution in 1979 Brit against Brit" or "1984 Miners Strike turns into Civil War" is all Maff and I need as background to get on with it. If we want gun battles in the streets - there will be sten guns and SLRs in the streets of Borchester and East Whittington. :-)


  3. I think that there are two distinct strands here. First the alternative history in the sense of a Harry Turtledove novel - in which as Kobold says - you need to assess exactly who did what to whom and when to bring you to the diversion from real events. Second you have a much looser backdrop to games - not so much a day by day timeline as the edges and shape of a big sheet of paper we are filling in with doodles of mayhem. I think both Mark and I were inspired by the throwaway references in songs by TRB to the army being on your back, people trying to make it to the docks (polish freighters to riga?) and The Clash and the "Clampdown". I think my main image is that people "ain't gonna take it" - whatever it is, and it all goes downhill from there.....

  4. I suppose if the metagame elements - the whys, whos, whats that created the situation you are gaming - are of less importance, then you just decree the parameters - "Central Government has broken down, devolving command to local area commanders. These are the forces you have at your disposal, play on". The fact that Central Government has broken down due to coup, bomb, plague, rapture or invasion of fungoidmen from Venus is immaterial to the immediate story/scenario you wish to game out and happens off stage.

    The metagame can, perhaps, feed interesting elements into your county sandbox game area, though. For example, the US has a large number of bases with various very nasty weapons scattered about the UK (Greenham Common for example), US Special Forces or Marines attempting to pass through the sandbox and secure such a site could easily add a complication to the various groups engaged in the "struggle", especially if the outside forces have strict rules of engagement which can only be altered under certain circumstances - the situation where someone attempts to create the change-circumstance for their own ends shouldn't be ruled out - "Sleeping Dogs", the movie of the book "Smith's Dream" by CK Stead has a similar scenario set in New Zealand in the early/mid 1970's. The follow up of this was the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand - at the time, we seemed to be about one gunshot away from either a totalitarian state, or an armed insurrection.

    From a low-level game point of view, these outside elements/forces/distractions almost invite being played as chance cards.

    Re Callaghan - I never said he was a communist - I said that "to the CIA" he would appear to be a Communist, as did many centralist or socialist politicians of that time, espcially while Angleton and his Mole Hunters were running amock in Langley, and similar crews were hunting the Fourth and Fifth Men of the Cambridge Circle though Whitehall. This is the same period as the juntas in most Central and South American countries, the "Domino Theory" in South-East Asia, and the proxie wars in Africa.

    From what Master Chef has posted, I gather you're aiming at a very low-level, almost skirmish sort of game - "Song of Blades and Heros (?)" or something similar might be fun for 'The Sweeny/The Professionals' style scenarios - rather than the alt.history scenario that Steve Blease is working on. I suppose my point is that even these low level events don't happen in isolation. The dissatisfaction and anger in the music from that period that inspires you has its roots in the society and political events of that time. Why people felt this way, and why they didn't go beyond pickets, and the odd riot and "spot of biffo" are questions as interesting as what would have it taken to bring them out on the streets and ready to fight?

  5. My take is that the East Whittington Flying Squad dont actually know what the blazes is happening. If Box 500 have guys on the street watching the Trots, no one is telling them. The first thing they will know about the Hereford Gun Club being sent to intervene is when a bloke in a balaclava offers them a brew.

    Sure, I have an idea for my games which feature gradual escalation of civil mayhem. Mountbatten and Frank Kitson could have held up Maggie Thatcher at gunpoint for being a "pinko liberal" but the lads at East Whittington nick wouldnt know, they'd just be told to "nick these bankrobbers so you can get onto nicking trots."