The Islamic State vs. Iraq Video Game

Watch a demo.

A simulation of the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Use the game editor to make your own game!

The Islamic State vs. Iraq simulates the current conflict between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Iraqi government. This game tries to capture a few unique elements of the current conflict in Mesopotamia:

1) ISIS territory straddles an international border. ISIS’s stronghold in Syria is technically beyond the reach of the Iraqi military. Some kind of ISIS military threat will always exist across the Syrian border as long as Syria remains in a state of civil war. Consequently, Iraq has to rely on proxies like Hezbollah, Kurdish groups, the Syrian Free Army and the US Air Force to fight ISIS beyond Iraqi borders.

To simulate this limitation in the game, GROUND ASSAULT cards only work inside Iraqi territory. There is no way to capture or destroy ISIS supply heads beyond Iraqi borders, so some kind of conventional ISIS threat will always exist.

2) The Iraqi Military is really bad. Lots of Iraqi troops deserted during the initial ISIS invasion/uprising in Iraq. Today, Iraqi troops are poorly trained and poorly led. In fact, the Iraqi Army is almost as bad as the US Army at the beginning of the US Revolution, the War of 1812, The US Civil War, etc. Like the US Army, the Iraqi Army should get a lot better as the war progresses. Unfortunately, this process of improvement will take years, rather than months. In the meantime, the Iraqi government has to rely on Shia militias, Sunni tribes and Peshmerga units to carry out most military operations inside Iraq. These groups have their own agendas, and do not follow Iraqi government orders.

To simulate this lack of coordination between allies, cards like PESHMERGA, FREE SYRIAN ARMY and QUDS FORCE, capture random enemy hexes. The advantage these cards have over GROUND ASSAULT cards is that they can capture enemy hexes beyond Iraqi borders. Basically, you can tell your allies when to attack, but not where to attack.

3) The US has very limited patience for another war in Iraq. Today, the US provides Iraq with substantial military aid and air support. The US was reluctant to get involved with Iraq’s fight against ISIS until the Iraqis replaced Al Maliki as prime minister. US assistance could disappear if America starts to lose confidence in its Iraqi partner again.

To simulate the fragility of American support in the game, there is no US SUPPORT resource card. The only way to add US support to your resource track is to use the RESOURCE EXCHANGE. US SUPPORT resource points are also critical for things like air strikes, ground offensives and logistical support. You really can’t win without them, so use them wisely.

The enemy ISOLATIONISM card also simulates a potential loss of American support. When this card is played, the five cards currently in your hand are discarded. The ISOLATIONISM card could potentially discard valuable passive cards like DRONES or AIRLIFT. This simulates the withdrawal of American air support.

4) ISIS is both a conventional military force and an insurgency. ISIS fighters are more than a match for Iraqi Army units on the battlefield. ISIS is also adept at using sleeper cells to incite uprisings behind enemy lines. Consequently, the Iraqi government has to fight a conventional war and an insurgency at the same time. The practical effect of this hybrid strategy is that conventional Iraqi forces have to capture ISIS territory, and then counter insurgency forces must pacify the area. This is not easy to do.

To simulate this element in the game, enemy secret agent markers (the yellow bars) are present within ISIS territory and in predominately Sunni areas under Iraqi control. These secret agent markers represent insurgents and sleeper cells. When you capture a hex with a secret agent marker, the secret agent marker remains in place. You could lose the hex again if ISIS plays an UPRISING card.

As always, you can edit most of the game features in this game by using the game editor. We encourage you to do so, as the war between ISIS and Iraq is far from over.

As far as we know, this is the first video game about the current fighting in Iraq. There is already a good card driven video game about the war in Syria from Game The News. The game predates the ISIS uprising in Iraq, but it gives you a good picture of the Syrian side of the conflict. PAXsims also has some interesting posts on a tabletop game about the fight against ISIS. You can actually download a PDF copy of ISIS CRISIS here. We will add more games as we find them.