A Distant Plain is a complex war game based on the war in Afghanistan. It is meant to be played by four players, but can be played by fewer. The four warring factions in the game are the Taliban, Opium Warlords, Afghan Government, and the Coalition. Each faction has different goals they must meet in order to win. There are three different versions of the game, short, main, and extended. We played the Main version and it took 7 ½ hours to complete the game.
On each turn the eligible factions can preform an operation, an operation with a special operation, the action on the card, or pass and receive resources. Which of these a faction can do is determined by what the first player to do an action each turn does. Each player has a paper, which lists their options for their actions, which is helpful when playing the game. A faction is only eligible every other turn, so if the Coalition acted on turn 1 then they would be ineligible on turn 2. However, if they passed on turn 1 then they would be eligible for turn 2. The players can see one card ahead, which can effect what they decide to do. Each card has a different faction order on it. One card might have the Taliban, Coalition, Government, and Warlords, which would be the order the eligible factions moved in. Only two factions act per turn. If the government was eligible and so were the Taliban and Warlords, the government might not act if the card listed the others before it. In the Main game, there are 5 Propaganda rounds, distributed through out the deck of cards. A player can only win during the beginning of the Propaganda round. The Propaganda rounds reset many of the aspects of the board, such as terror markers or sabotages. It also re-distributed the government forces and reduces them. For the full set of rules: http://www.gmtgames.com/living_rules/ADP-RULES-FINAL.pdf
I played as the Coalition. It benefited me to try and keep as many of my pieces off of the board as possible, as part of my victory goal was to get my troops home. I started out with a base in Kabul, but ended up removing it, as with or without a base I was able to train government troops in Kabul.
The Taliban tended to rally, they are the only faction that can have pieces in Pakistan. It seemed to me that it was easier for the Taliban to get their victory goals than it was for the coalition or government. The Taliban could rally in nearly any province, but the government can only train in Kabul, or COIN(Counter Insurgency) controlled spaces with a Coalition base, and the Coalition could only surge between 3 spaces.
The Warlords tended to rally or march and then traffic to get resources. They could also rally in nearly any space. Their move of Suborn was really annoying as the Coalition, as it could remove government pieces easily from multiple spaces, and the government pieces are the buffer for the Coalition troops.
The Government tended to train and did some sweeps to make the Taliban and Warlord insurgents vulnerable to attack.
The Taliban ended up winning the game. Two turns before a Propaganda round I had enough provinces in support that when I surged and removed almost all of my pieces from the board I was at my victory goal. However, the turn before the Propaganda round the Taliban did terror on enough of the provinces that I had support in to turn them neutral or to opposition, and at the start of the Propaganda round he had his victory goal complete, and so won.
I probably should have assaulted more. However, I wanted to keep my pieces off the board as much as possible to minimize the possibility of them getting killed, and therefor me having to have even more provinces in support in order to win. It was interesting to me that there in no way for the Coalition to win a tie. There is an order to the factions in the event of a tie, in which the Warlords then Government and then Taliban win, but the Coalition cannot win a tie.
The game was enjoyable even though it was long. It might not have been as enjoyable if all 7 ½ hours of play were in a row as opposed to broken up over 3 days. It is a social game, and I think that how the other people you are playing with play would also impact your enjoyment of it.