Third War Lebanon/Next War: Lebanon, a case study in game development

The print-and-play version of Third Lebanon War, BTR Games


Game development is one of those things you recognize when you see it. Yet, absence of development is a portmanteau upon which a reviewer might hang any sort of criticism without going into too much depth. I’ve always found this unsatisfying, even though I’ve made the same criticism myself. This is a case study of Third Lebanon War (3LW), which became Next War Lebanon (NWL) upon publication by Decision Games. I tried to tease out a useful definition in the hope of moving discussion about development in the wargaming community toward better publication practice.

I first played designer Brian Train’s 3LW in advance of receiving NWL. The former is the designer’s edition, informed only by his own playtesting whereas the latter was the version DG brought to market, benefitting from the attentions of an in-house playtest and the effort of developer Eric Harvey. I’ve appreciated Train’s irregular warfare designs since 2007 when, in preparation of a presentation on French influences on US counterinsurgency, I came across his rather sober game Algeria, which was welcome compliment to my reading.

Over subsequent posts, I’ll try to set out the differences in game play between 3LW and NWL, set out the changes made over development, and come to a conclusion about the relation of each to the conflict they model.

Two Depictions of Military Geography of Southern Lebanon

Schematic of military geography in 3LW and the older Lebanon ’82. The same area is depicted with the summary effect for combat in similar sectors. What a difference a basic assumption can make!


I’ve been working rather hard on an article about game development, particularly magazine game development, for a good while now, taking Brian Train’s Third Lebanon War and Decision Games’s Next War: Lebanon as an occasion.  I won’t belabor you with a quote before I’ve rendered my work a little more coherent. The above image compares 3LW to a third, much more traditional hex-and-counter game. The article is meant to be an appeal to improve games criticism  such that the coherence of the geographies (and many other aspects) are more seriously treated analysed. I suppose the public for this is rather small–and even within that tiny arena this would probably be considered pedantic. But the geographer and cartographer in me can’t be kept down.

I’m also working just about as hard on a chapter for Chris Engle’s upcoming book on matrix games. Both of these are going to take me into January before revisions are finished. I’ll get back to posting on FTGU design soon thereafter. Remember to drop me a message if you’re going to be in North Texas over the holiday season. I’ll be travelling with an FTGU counterset. Watch this space.