Andean Abyss: The AUC’s Right-Wing Army

Colombia in the mid-1990s—The leftist FARC insurgency is building its strength dramatically as it transitions from small-unit terror tactics to military attacks on the Colombian Army. But the Government is not yet on a war footing and still tacitly concedes immerse areas of countryside to the guerrillas. To protect themselves from FARC terror, landowners in several localities raise self-defense forces, autodefensas, that will use the FARC’s own tactics against it. By 1996, these local anti-FARC units form a nationwide force under the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) or AUC.

Over the next decade, the AUC grows to an estimated 17,000 fighters, approaching the FARC’s strength. Journalist and scholar Mario Murillo describes this illegal armed power:

Along with the ongoing collaboration between elements of the army and the AUC, [as of 2004] there are approximately 1,000 active AUC members who have served in the Colombian military, including fifty-three retired military officers who have served as advisors to the AUC. They have up to fourteen state of the art helicopters, a dozen small planes, and countless speed-boats with mounted machine guns to use in their war against the guerrillas. Indeed, they are a full-fledged army, operating almost with complete impunity throughout the country. – Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest, and Destabilization, p.100.


Logo of the AUC.

Paramilitaries of the Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá – a militia under the AUC.

AUC logo jpeg

Paramilitaries, photo by Chien

Potent Anti-FARC Faction in the Game

In Andean Abyss, the AUC Faction can build an army rivaling the FARC’s in the number of guerrilla pieces—and an army as military effective. Both FARC and AUC guerrillas can use an ambush special activity that guarantees a successful attack and the capture of materiel and recruits to form a new underground unit. And a variety of event cards depict additional AUC capacities, both military and terrorist.

AUC Aces in the Hole: Death Squads and Assassination

More than on military attacks, the AUC relied on terror and massacres as its principal means of taking control of FARC-dominated areas. They mimicked FARC terror, but on a more brutal level, including mass-murders of suspected FARC sympathizers—so-called “limpiezas” that resembled the “ethnic cleansing” that the same period featured in the Balkans. In the game, the AUC can accompany its terror operations with assassination special activities. Provided the AUC can position underground guerrillas in a target area, AUC terror thereby can eliminate an enemy base even when protected by enemy guerrillas. Because the AUC wins by reducing FARC bases to fewer in number than its own, assassination of FARC base pieces is a key AUC tactic.

Double-Edged Sword for the Government

The AUC as blood enemy to the FARC would seem unalloyed friend the Government, able to strike the enemy in ways that legal Government forces cannot. But the AUC nevertheless remains an insurgency—an illegal armed group that challenges Government law and order and must in the end be suppressed.

In the game, too many AUC forces in a region block Government control and thus the ability to build popular support—the Government’s victory condition. AUC terror wrecks not only FARC’s political base but support for the Government, as victimized populations resent the Government’s failure to protect them. And international suspicion of Colombian Army complicity in AUC atrocities costs the Government foreign aid resources. This interplay of capabilities and victory conditions sets the question every game of when the Government will turn on its brutal AUC helpmate—as it ultimately did historically—to trim its control of the country.

- Volko Ruhnke, August 2011


Andean Abyss playtest event cards.

Andean Abyss on Vassal: AUC guerrillas (yellow) have infiltrated a FARC stronghold in the Chocó-Córdoba region. Through a terror operation with assassination, they have dampened pro-FARC sentiments (from “active” to “passive” opposition to the Government) and eliminated one of the FARC’s two political-logistic bases (red discs).


AUC Cards

AUC Assassination