Boardgame Bulletin 23-6: Reconstructing COIN with Robotech: Reconstruction (Strange Machine Games, 2023)

COIN. IN. SPACE. What more needs to be said? Actually alot more. Robotech: Reconstruction by Dr. Wictz from Strange Machine Games takes the proven (and becoming overused?) COIN game series formula and applies it to anime.



I am, alas, not a fan of anime. It’s not that I have anything against it, it’s just that I never got into it. Growing up I liked Speed Racer and G-Force in Battle of the Planets but those are kids cartoons, right? As I got older I have come to love Cowboy Bebop and I know about Ghost in the Shell but that’s really the extent of my interest.

Courtesy YouTube

One anime I heard much about but never got into was Robotech. To be honest, for the longest time I confused the Robotech franchise with the Battletech franchise. After all, they both had mechs, right? (In hindsight, Robotech had F-14 Tomcat-looking fighters so just why did I ignore it?)

Courtesy YouTube


It was on the strength of a recommendation by Brant, Regimental Commander at Armchair Dragoons, that I ordered the game Robotech: Reconstruction by Dr. Wictz from Strange Machine Games. Robotech: Reconstruction was described to me as “COIN in space” which interested me enough to overcome my hesitancy from its anime association.

A new COIN game arises…

COIN is a reference to COunter-INsurgency which not just a type of warfare but more relevant to this discussion a series of games from GMT Games. They describe the COIN series thusly: “This series features Volko Ruhnke’s game system presenting guerrilla warfare, asymmetric warfare, and COunterINsurgencies around the world – in both historical and contemporary conflicts.” There are 15 games in the series (Volume XI People Power: Insurgency in the Philippines, 1983-1986 is the next to release as I write this post). The COIN games usually feature multiple (often four) asymmetrically-powered factions each competing to win according to their own victory conditions.

I own three COIN games. Volume V Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection (2nd Edition 2017) by Harold Buchanan was my first COIN game. I also own Volume VII Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62 (2017) by Brian Train which is a unique 2-player COIN title. I also was able to get a copy of Volume II Cuba Libre (2nd printing, 2016) by Volko Ruhnke and Jeff Grossman which is perhaps the most pure of the COIN designs in my collection. I also own two COIN-adjacent titles which feature asymmetrically-powered factions battling for supremacy: Root (Cole Wehrle, Leder Games, 2018) and The Expanse Board Game (Geoff Engelstein, WizKids, 2017). All of which is a long-winded way of me trying to convince you, the reader, that I have some experience with the COIN series and understand the game system.

Or so I thought.

Small Change = Big COIN

Plainly speaking, Robotech: Reconstruction is the most straight-forward, easy to understand COIN game I have played.

Joining my pantheon of COIN…

At first glance, Robotech: Reconstruction seems as far removed from a COIN series game as is possible. Every COIN game to date has dealt with a historical insurgency or insurrection. COIN will be branching out into science-fiction with Volume XIII Red Dust Rebellion but that is still a ways off from publication. Robotech: Reconstruction, exactly because it is an anime setting that most players are likely not very familiar with, actually releases those players from potential political and intellectual biases they bring to the table. It is far easier to understand your faction’s objectives without influence from historical or political interpretations clouding your mind.

Second, Robotech: Reconstruction uses a very easy to understand faction relationship model. The general COIN factions mix is usually two major factions and two minor. Each major faction needs support of their minor ally. In Liberty or Death, for example, the major factions are the Americans and British with the French as the American’s minor ally and American Indians for the British. While two major factions usually dominate play, the minor factions can act as spoilers and one (or both) can run away with a victory if the major factions don’t pay attention. Robotech: Reconstruction simplifies the COIN faction model into a situation where every faction has an Enemy, a half-Ally, and a half-Enemy. Even the gray areas of faction relationships are easy to see and understand in Robotech: Reconstruction. In some ways Robotech: Reconstruction is a very balanced COIN game as every faction has the same Enemy/half-Enemy/half-Friend relationship. No faction is a “minor power” in this COIN.

With the removal of political bias and asymmetrically-powered yet balanced factions, the card-driven game mechanics of COIN as implemented in Robotech: Reconstruction really shine. On your turn you can Trade a Card, hopefully not to your Enemy but maybe to a half- Enemy/Friend with the further hope you haven’t just handed them a powerful game changer. You then play an Event Card, with the Reaction column showing you who goes next. This is yet another potentially agonizing decision…will this card that YOU need “give it away” to the next player? If the Event Card is your own you get to play the Event and one Normal Action. If the Event Card is for another faction THEY MUST play the action and optionally CAN play a second black box action [Thanks Dr. Wictz for clarification] and then you get two actions, choosing from your Normal or Special Actions. While that sounds complex the graphical player aids really explain it all with little reference to the rule book needed during play. Indeed, most of the rule book is game set up and explanation of the various factions; the rules for play are short and not complex.

Same yet different (Cuba Libre Government Actions Card on left, Robotech: Reconstruction RDF player board on right)

Playing time for Robetech: Reconstruction is also smaller. The game is rated at 60-120 minutes (my sessions tend to the long end). Compare that to most COIN series games with playing time rated from 3-6 HOURS (again, my sessions tend towards the upper end of the rating). While some might complain that Robotech: Reconstruction is a too simple version of COIN that has stripped away all the flavor all I will say is…


Pocket Change

Another advantage Robotech: Reconstruction offers is entry cost. Right now, Robotech: Reconstruction retails for $45 plus shipping direct from Strange Machine Games. This is the same price GMT Games is offering through their P500 pre-order program for People Power but once that game ships the price will jump to $70. Other COIN games are on P500 for between $55 and $66, but once they are released prices jump to between $72 and $95!

I have already read some people who accuse Robotech: Reconstruction of being inferior in production quality. All I can say is that the game doesn’t have wooden bits, instead relying on cardboard markers. Do I wish the markers were larger? Well, I’m an older Grognard so my eyes are not as good a before so larger helps, but just as important is playing under good lighting. Do I wish the board colors were different? Yes, I think the board colors and some of the markers are not as distinguishable as I would like but again, lighting helps more than I think many people understand. My bottom line here is that Robotech: Reconstruction is not a “luxurious” production but it is very true to its source material in presentation. In terms of functionality, the player aids and boards in Robotech: Reconstruction are laid out in a manner that I find much easier to understand than any of the GMT Games COIN series titles I own. You won’t find many games of this caliber at a sub-$50 price point.

No wooden bits and the colors need good lighting but it works…

Rattling Change

I am very happy that I listened to Brant and stepped out of my comfort zone and ordered Robotech: Reconstruction. I was happily surprised how Robotech: Reconstruction simplifies COIN to its essence and makes understanding the factions—and playing the game—that much easier. Robotech: Reconstruction will almost certainly become my go-to COIN introduction and core COIN system learning title. It’s so affordable and imaginative I hope other embrace the potential too.

Feature image courtesy RMN © 2007-2023 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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