Twilight Struggle KickStarter Update

6 people like this

Hi everyone!

We wanted you all to get the update on where we are with both the Digital Version and new Collector’s Edition of Twilight Struggle, which were funded by our successful Kickstarter Campaign this past summer. So here’s a copy of the update that went out today to Kickstarter backers. Enjoy!



Dear Backers,

It’s been a while since we’ve given you a proper update. So, in today’s update, we’ll do our best to give you a comprehensive look at where we stand with both the digital and physical rewards. I hope you’ll see that although we’ve been quiet of late, there has been a LOT of work going on in the background.

First off, here’s an update on the digital side from Programmer Randy Stevenson at Playdek:

Digital Version Update

Where We Came From

When we started the Twilight Struggle: Digital Edition project, Playdek had just made the decision to adopt a new graphics engine to take our products to the next level both visually and functionally. Our core existing technology behind all our games was about to get a facelift. The challenge was to separate our existing UI code from the game rules, AI & network code in a way that allowed our programmers to continue iterating on familiar technology while opening up a new playground of creativity for our artists to work in. As a result, the presentation of our games would get a huge boost in quality.

So, we went to work! Laying the groundwork for the new architecture — our existing game engine coupled to a spiffy new graphics engine — took some time to accomplish, but we did it. Progress during this period of development was ‘under the hood’ and not particularly visual. It took some time, but it has finally reached a stable and functional state.

Meanwhile, Gary Weis (Playdek’s CTO) crafted the game rules code for Twilight Struggle. This is usually the first step we take because the other major components of the program (AI and UI, particularly) benefit most from a solid and faithful rules implementation. As board gamers ourselves, we appreciate the importance of getting the rules right, and it is no easy task. In the ‘real world’ there can be numerous rules conflicts that we don’t ever need to think about unless they actually come up during a game. Even then, we can always check for a ruling on The Geek, or just improvise a ruling that seems fair and continue with the game. Not so in the digital realm! Every course of action, no matter how improbable, needs to be handled correctly.

During rules development, we have a barebones Windows client that allows us to play through the game and exercise the rules engine so we can find and fix bugs. This is the game in its first playable form, completely untouched by any artist.

Where We Are Now

Gary and I have been playing lunchtime games of Twilight Struggle using our game rules code for the past couple of months. Our goal has been to test out as many combinations of card play as we can, looking for bugs in the rules code. Sometimes the game would outright crash on us. Other times, we’d notice problems with certain cards not functioning correctly or bugs in the scoring sequence.

Gary also implemented Volko Ruhnke’s Late War Scenario (from page 12 of the Deluxe Edition rules), specifically so we could get better test coverage on the late war cards. Playing this scenario as the Soviets is brutal. The US must score 20+ points in order to win, and you are just trying to minimize the damage as much as possible. Preventing US dominance in any region when it is scored is often difficult for the Soviets in this scenario. By the time we returned to playing normal games, I’d lost all confidence in my ability to spread Soviet influence throughout the world. (Don’t worry, it’s back now. Ask Gary.)

We started out both playing on Gary’s Windows client. The interface is functional, but it can be unforgiving. Once, I entered the command to perform a coup only to realize I’d forgotten Cuban Missile Crisis was in play. Another time I performed a coup using ABM Treaty but I’d forgotten to play the card for its event — I’d used it for ops at DEFCON 2. Whoops! Too bad, there was no way to back out & no warnings given. Of course, our finished game client will do all the right things you’d want in situations like these. It’ll warn you when you’re about to cause Thermonuclear War. It’ll let you undo your actions during your turn, as long as you didn’t reveal any new information.

During all this play testing, I’d been working on the ‘real’ client, the program that will become our final shipping product. Right now, it is functional and runs on 3 platforms: MacOS, iOS and WindowsPC. I’ve been using it in my daily Cold War battles with Gary for the past 2 weeks. It doesn’t look much better than Gary’s Windows client, but it is the chassis upon which we will build our final UI. It currently allows asynchronous network play, hotseat play, and play against a rudimentary AI. Take a look:

I can tell already that playing Twilight Struggle this way will be a joy to fans of the game. I always used to lose track of what action round it was, but not anymore. The days of searching for a 5 influence marker, or improvising a second 8 marker (with a 5 next to a 3) are over! Now I can look in the discard pile without my opponent knowing instantly that I’ve got SALT Negotiations in my hand, and it’s easy to see what cards have been removed from the game. I can easily go back and review the sequence of events all the way to the beginning of the game. And finally, no more time spent setting up & putting away the game.

It is very important to point out the following: To date, not a single piece of art drawn by an actual artist has been put into the game. But that’s about to change…

Where We Are Going

As of today, we are finally ready for art staff to join us working on Twilight Struggle: Digital Edition. One of our artists, Ron Bourbeau, is already testing out some visual concepts. In a matter of weeks, the user interface should see massive improvements. We will soon be iterating the design of the user interface to make the product as slick as it can be. There are some things that probably won’t change too much, like placing & removing influence from a country by simply tapping/clicking on it. Other things will need to be explored a little more: What’s the best way to display log information? What’s the best process for indicating whether cards are played for Event or Ops? Opponent’s Event first, or Ops first? Ops used to Place Influence, perform a Coup or attempt Realignment? Right now the interface for these decisions is a series of functional but boring buttons. By the time we are done we will have settled on a process that is as simple and intuitive as we can make it.

Right now, I’m working toward our next major milestone: getting the UI functionality to a point where we can release a beta version to backers for online play. It will be good to get feedback from beta testers as we work to refine our interface. Getting test coverage on more card combinations and game states will also help us track down whatever bugs remain. Nothing beats playtesting to really whip your game into shape, so I am looking forward to getting the game into testers’ hands.

While UI work proceeds, Gary and I will also be working on improving the AI, which is still in the early stages of development. It has a long way to go before it can give us a challenge, but it will get there. Additionally, we still need to add the Chinese Civil War variant (does anybody use this?) and What If? Expansion to the rules code, as well as the ability to load more scenarios beyond the Basic and Late War scenarios. There’s still plenty of work to be done!

– Randy Stevenson, Programmer, Playdek


Physical Version Update 


That’s exciting news from Playdek! I can’t wait to try it out! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I plan to be at the Playdek offices next Monday, Nov. 17, to take a look at the program and meet with various team members. NDA allowing, I’ll update you guys on that visit when I get home.

Now for physical reward news from the GMT side of things. Here’s our status as of today:

  • $15 Off Coupon Code: We have everything ready to go to send out the Coupon Codes on Monday, November 17. We’re going to send these out using the same process we use for our monthly GMT customer email updates, so look for an email on the 17th from The e-mail will be a short note from us that will include your $15 off coupon code, that you’ll be able to use at checkout for any in-stock (not P500) order from the GMT website ( between now and June 30, 2015. Note that these codes are one-time use codes, but they are NOT tied to an individual account on our website. So if you’d like to give them to a friend or as gifts as some of you mentioned during the campaign, that will work just fine. But each code can only be used once.
  • Game Expansions (2 x Promo Packs + “What If?”): Ananda and Jason turned in the final versions of all the expansions about a month ago. Our artists are currently finalizing graphics and layout in preparation for sending them off to the printers.One thing we hadn’t thought about, which Mark Simonitch caught as we were doing the prep work on these, is that we’re going to need to do the cards for these expansions in two versions – one to match the 60K+ copies of the game that already exist, and one specific to match the Collector’s edition. So we’ll print enough “new versions” to match the # of Collector’s Editions we print, and send the new version to anyone who’s getting a CE.
  • Game Fulfillment (TS Deluxe Edition or 1989): We are going to ship these in March when we ship the Expansions and the Collector’s Edition. We looked at maybe shipping them sooner, but it creates a mess, tracking-wise, for our office folks, and it also wrecks the shipping budget to ship multiple times. So look for these in March with the rest of the goodies.
  • Collector’s Edition: We’re making progress on the Collector’s Edition, with an eye toward a March release. Tony tells me that all the files will be in to the printer by the end of November. Here’s a component-by-component listing of present status on the major new components, with more details where we have them:
  • Game Box. This will be the wooden, hinged box, that’s 4” deep, with ½” thick box sides, and elements of the TS logo stamped in the box top. Specs already in to the printer and ready to go along with the rest of our order at month end.
  • Game Cards. The card art is finished and they are ready to go to the printer. (See Sample Below.)
  • Map. You may remember that we decided to give you guys a double-sided mounted map for the CE. One side is the standard map from our Deluxe Edition, so of course the art for that is ready to go. The flip side features all new artwork from Chechu Nieto, the map artist for our COIN series games. Mark Simonitch tells me he’ll have the map from Chechu by this weekend. We may give you a sneak peek before we release – or maybe we’ll just surprise you, we’ll see!
  • Counters. All of the game’s influence markers are going to be die stamped wooden pieces. The rest of the informational markers will remain as cardboard counters. These, too, are already in to the printers in bid form – we just have to deliver the counter art for the markers around month end.
  • Miniatures and Dice. We’re still on track to deliver five metal miniatures and two 18mm custom-molded plastic TS-themed dice.

The Rules and Player Aids, Fabric Bag, and Certificate of Authenticity will all still be in the final CE product – just not a lot extra to say about those here.

Here’s that sample of the game cards I mentioned above. Hope you like them!

So, as you can see, we’re well along in the creation process, on both digital and physical products. We’ll update you guys again as we have more information. Thanks for all your support!

Enjoy the games!



Come join us on April 23-26th, 2015, for our 29th GMT Weekend at the Warehouse! We’ll spend the better part of 3 1/2 days, often long into the night, playing your favorite GMT (and non-GMT, if you’d prefer) games. This is mostly an open gaming event, although there are a couple of tournaments this time.

Gaming starts around 8 each morning and goes until Mike Lam and the Down in Flames Aces event players collapse from exhaustion in the wee hours of the morning.

Quite a few GMT Designers and Developers attend these weekends. We’ll be updating this list often between now and the event, but for now the tentative list of Designer/Developer attendees and events looks like this:

    • Gene Billingsley and John Welch will be here to teach and demo Mr. President.
    • As usual, Mike Lam will be running the Down in Flames Aces Event, including the two-player team tournament on Saturday.Luke (back to camera) playing in our first family game of Pandemic, with Mark K and John L., at GMT Weekend, April 2008
    • Ken Tee will be demoing Iron Butterfly, an upcoming COIN series title.
    • Kurt Keckley will be teaching Fields of Despair
    • Harold Buchanan will be demoing his COIN series game, Liberty or Death


Registration is $30, which we don’t charge until the week of the Weekend. We’re limited to about 100 attendees for this event, so if you’d like to attend, please contact the office ladies via online chat from the GMT website or at 800-523-6111 to reserve your spot.gmt-weekend-friday-4-25-14-a

There are several hotels within a few miles of our offices. The closest one, The Sequoia Inn, blocks rooms for our attendees at special rates. The hotel reservations # is 559-582-0339. Tell them you want the “GMT Group” rate.

We look forward to seeing you in Hanford in October!


Date: April 23, 2015—April 26, 2015
Time: 8:00 a.m to late night, ending around noon Sunday
Event: GMT Weekend at the Warehouse - April 23-26, 2015
Venue: GMT Games Offices and Warehouse
Location: 13704 Hanford-Armona Rd, Suite B-1
Hanford, CA 93230
8 people like this

Hitler’s Reich: A Card Conquest System Game: Extended Example of Play (Part 1 of 2)

3 people like this

HitlerReichTAB_P500(RBM)During October 2014’s GMT  “Weekend at the Warehouse,” I had the pleasure of teaching many of this wonderful event’s attendees how to play Hitler’s Reich.  The games were invariably entertaining, fun to observe, and players’ responses, both during and after the event, to this marvelous Mark McLaughlin design gratifying to experience. 

Prior InsideGMT articles hopefully provide insights as to the cards of Hitler’s Reich and my gaming buddies, The Rockland Guys, inaugural experience with the game.  That article includes an image of Mark’s not so aesthetic, but completely functional, hand-drawn play-test map.

With those articles and an image of the Hitler’s Reich play-test map before you; the ensuing “Extended Example of Play” should provide another layer of understanding of the kind of gaming fun the game offers.  There are cross-references to the game’s Rule Book Sections within the article.

Be warned: as with Mark’s other GMT designs, there is “luck with the dice and luck with cards” inherent to Hitler’s Reich… but that’s what makes this game, and our hobby, so much fun, eh?



This extended example of play is an Axis Player Turn after a not particularly effective “Operation Barbarossa” (7.8) resolution.  It is now 1942 with a fresh Axis deck.  The Axis Player reconstituted his roster of “Schwerpunckt” (German word for a concentration of military power at the spearhead of an attack) Event Cards and is ready to give the conquest of Russia another go.

Rendering Caesar’s COIN (Part I)

14 people like this

NoRetreatItaly-TabBefore GMT had announced Gallic War as an upcoming COIN Series volume, a couple images of our prototype posted on GMT’s Instagram site spawned a Boardgamegeek thread  contending that application of the COIN Series system to ancient Roman warfare was an unwise and awkward mismatch – a square peg in a round hole.  I was a bit amazed that a few cropped snapshots could generate such an impassioned discussion.   Andrew’s reaction to the thread was simply “well, we are changing the COIN mechanics, of course.”  

Thus, at first whiff, we faced the question of how the COIN Series would transition from modern to ancient.  How indeed are we changing the mechanics?  There is a lot to say to that, so to help us best address that question on InsideGMT, Gene back in August called for your questions.  Since then, Andrew and I have been busy supporting playtest of the game.  But now, finally, we have a chance to answer.  Part I below begins with the larger questions you raised about the change in era and player roles, incentives, and capabilities.  Part II later will delve into more details of individual mechanics and aspects of war in ancient Gaul. – Volko Ruhnke

Why the huge change in time period?

Andrew:  It’s a combination of me being personally interested in the subject, and our thinking that it would be an intriguing change of topic, after four volumes that all take place within a few decades of each other, to go back a couple millennia.  Gaul seemed like a good setting for the system, and a good system for the setting (as we will elaborate on below).

Volko:  Also, by showing how the core system fits a topic so far back from modern insurgency, we wanted by example to open the door to other designers to look across the span of all ages of history for topics that they feel the COIN Series mechanics might give new expression.  And that is happening!

The choice of Gaul, as opposed to any other ancient campaign, for me was simply an irresistible co-design opportunity that presented itself (as it has been with each of my other COIN Series co-designs).  Andrew had just read a translation of Caesar’s Commentaries and was redesigning to his liking the setup for the River Sabis battle from Commands and Colors: Ancients – Rome & the Barbarians.  We played the new setup and reworked it a few times, aiming for results as faithful to Caesar’s description as we could get them.  Andrew’s attention to the project told me that he had a focused interest in the topic, and we had done a lot of design work together for ourselves at home before.  So I knew that we could pull off a fresh co-design about the Gallic War.  With that, our conversations about the scope, roles, and victory objectives for a new COIN volume began….

Interview with Developer Mike Bertucelli

10 people like this

Mike Bertucelli has been with me and Liberty or Death every step of the way.  I feel lucky that he is interested in the game enough to develop it.  He is also a great guy to work with: larger than life both literally and physically and with a big heart.  He brings a lot to the table as the COIN series Developer.  He treats me with kid gloves as I am a first time Designer.  He diplomatically dealt with my crazy ideas like quadrupling the size of certain counters.

Talking with Mike on Skype is also good fun as the ambience is set by the chiming of his two grandbabies playing in his living room.  He impresses me as a guy that loves his family and loves spending time with them and gets great energy from it.



Navajo Wars – Developer

A Distant Plain – Developer

Fire in the Lake – Developer

Fields of Despair – Developer – P500

Gallic War – Developer – P500

Comancheria – Developer – P500

Liberty or Death – Developer –  P500


So Mike, how did you get your start working with GMT?

My first game was Navajo Wars.  Joel (Toppen) and I become good friends over Ventrillo (a VOIP system GMT uses for group communications) when he was first becoming a Developer.  I was play testing some of his stuff.  He asked me to look at Navajo Wars and I thought there was something really cool and different there.  He decided to submit it to GMT.  They liked it but it needed a lot of work.  We jumped on it together.  I ended up as the Developer and we did a lot of designing.  He had done Andean Abyss for Volko (Ruhnke) and I was one of the play testers on it.  The first time it had seen daylight, Volko showed it to Joel and I.  That’s how I met Volko – just the right place at the right time.  Then 2 years ago at Consimworld Expo in Tempe Joel was super busy with the many different projects Joel works on and Volko had an early prototype of A Distant Plain and I played it.  Volko asked if I wanted to be the Developer as Joel was too busy and the rest is history.

Mike points at a Resource marker in a prototype of A Distant Plain while Gene Billingsley and Jordan Kehrer look on.

Mike points at a Resource marker in a prototype of A Distant Plain while Gene Billingsley and Jordan Kehrer look on.

Gallic War and Liberty or Death are the two COIN series games I am working on.  Comancheria is new to P500 and Kurt came to me in December for Fields of Despair.

The Rockland Gamer Guys Meet “Hitler’s Reich”

5 people like this

Introduction: This provocative article title is not an ominous “Pulp Fiction” confrontation, but a quick After Action Report of my former New York gaming buddies first exposure to this latest game I’m developing with Designer Mark McLaughlin, Hitler’s Reich: A Card Conquest System Game (henceforth referenced “HITLER’S REICH”).

 Back when I resided in New York, prior to corporate relocations which now have me in Seattle, the four Rockland Guys and I had many happy decades of gaming together and attending numerous conventions (see below “selfie” photo: back left to right George Miksad/P.J. O’Neil… foreground left to right Steve Geisinger/Fred Schachter).  These fellows are veteran games who over the years helped Mark McLaughlin and I play test his other GMT titles.


 A visit to New York City allowed an opportunity for us to get-together.  The ensuing AAR, when referencing the admittedly amateur hand-drawn play-test map attached (wait until the GMT graphics team gets this!); should provide a sense of how the game action flowed.  Future “InsideGMT” articles will flesh out your perceptions of the game… so consider this a “teaser” which you’ll hopefully enjoy in the friendly spirit its offered.


HitlerReichTAB_P500(RBM)During my last visit with family to New York City, I took the metro north train to meet “The Rockland Guys” at Steve Geisinger’s home.  Rockland is a county just to the north of New York City.

What a “deja vue” experience that was!  With George helping PJ and I Steve; the first Rockland Guys HITLER’S REICH game was played.  With my being there, the rules were swiftly absorbed by these veteran gamers; although, as we observed previously, it’s one thing knowing the rules and the basic functions of the cards and quite another learning how to best apply that knowledge to achieve victory.

Being novices, PJ (Axis) and Steve (Allies) ignored the naval aspects of the game save for a bit of attention to the Sicilian Zone with FleetPlacement.  It was a “land war” all the way!  With George mentioning how at WBC he observed game after game of Italy being knocked out of the war during 1941 by the Axis ignoring the Balkans; PJ took the hint and conquered Yugoslavia and Greece.

Series Replay – Next War: India-Pakistan, part 4 (final)

6 people like this

“Kashmir”, Game Turn 4

Game Turn 4 in this scenario is an “Initiative” turn for the Indians. At this point both sides are quickly running out of units, with the Pakistan/China side having a bit of an advantage since they started with a larger force. The Next War combat results table has high attrition for both attackers and defenders, so units tend to get chewed up pretty fast if they are on the front lines for a long time.

At the start of GT4, the Indians still hold 4 out of 5 VP hexes. Each is worth 5VP at game end. The Indians are also still ahead on casualty VPs by 6VP. Mitch (India) opens up his turn with some repositioning of his few remaining units. Since he is ahead, he is being conservative and trying to make my attacks as risky as possible. But, the Indian lines are thin, with just 2 steps of units holding Bandipora (4610) and a lone one-step reduced brigade in the 4511 mountain VP hex. Here is the situation at the end of exploitation movement during GT4 (red stars / green stars added to show VP hexes):


Hitler’s Reich – The Event Decks: Broadening the Front in Hitler’s Reich

2 people like this

HitlerReichTAB_P500(RBM)Hitler’s Reich is World War Two in two+ hours – and sometimes less.   One of the reasons this game plays so fast, once players become familiar with the rules, cards and their interplay on the map, is that all conflict in Hitler’s Reich is resolved through the play of cards.   Each player has a designated War Deck of Axis or Allied cards to draw from to fill their hand (see prior “InsideGMT” Hitler’s Reich War Deck article regarding these cards).

To resolve combat on the map, each player selects one card from their hand and places it face down in front of them.  Both players then simultaneously reveal their cards and each then rolls three dice, adding the total to the value shown on the War Deck card.   Some cards allow for or prevent re-rolls of one, two or three dice, or change the value of the opponent’s card, while other cards determine which side wins ties.  There are also cards and map positioning which can add dice to the roll… to a maximum of five dice.  (No “buckets of dice” here to those familiar with my GMT “Nappy” design games: The Napoleonic Wars, Wellington, and Kutuzov.)

Mark's Hand-drawn playtest version of the Hitler's Reich map

Mark’s Hand-drawn playtest version of the Hitler’s Reich map

Time of Crisis: A Design History

9 people like this

TimeCrisisTAB(RBM)The design of Time of Crisis started with one fairly simple idea.  Wray was living and working in Chicago, so I was lucky to be able to meet with him in person fairly frequently.  At one game day at my house, we were discussing possible game design projects, and I related my interest in the (at the time) relatively new deckbuilding concept that had been made popular by Donald Vaccarino’s Dominion.  Wray and I were, of course, both fans of the card-driven game (CDG) framework, especially from our work together on Sword of Rome.  So I asked, “What if we designed a game that combined the best features of deckbuilding and CDGs?”  Wray was immediately interested, and this became the focus for our next project.

We first agreed on what we felt were the most salient characteristics of these two styles of games.  We believed that a CDG must have cards that are the primary driver for players’ actions on the board; additionally, the cards must have multiple uses, providing a choice between some type of action points for performing “standard” actions, and a historical event that typically provides a more powerful, but more specific or restricted “special” action.  The on-board action of a CDG typically involves moving and battling with discrete armies or units, overlaid with some kind of area control system.  Some CDGs provide a single deck of cards that all players draw from, while others provide a separate deck for each player.  A deckbuilding game must provide players a relatively weak set of starting cards that can be expanded and/or upgraded over the course of the game, as the player wishes.  So the hybrid game we were looking for would ideally be a CDG where each player would have a unique deck that they could build during the game, rather than being fixed at the start of the game.  We had other constraints in mind, though, as well:  we wanted to design a game that would be easy to learn and playable in about 2 hours, so it would be a fairly light wargame, accessible to a wide variety of players.  Put another way, a blend of “Euro” game and wargame design principles.  This balance point would become an ongoing consideration and touchpoint in our design efforts.


TOC pic 1

The 7 Years War: Frederick’s Gamble – Playtest Report

11 people like this

 I’m privileged to be Game Developer for The 7 years War: Frederick’s Gamble (henceforth referred to 7YW:FG).

This is a wonderful game based on the innovative and still ever popular card driven game engine from Designer Mark McLaughlin: The Napoleonic Wars.  If you’re familiar with TNW or its successor games, Wellington and/or Kutuzov; you’d have little difficulty getting into enjoying this debut Game Design effort by Greg Ticer.

The game’s title stems from Frederick the Great, King of Prussia’s 1756 land grab of the independent central European State of Saxony, right on his arch-rival Imperial Austria’s doorstep.  Frederick “gambled” he could get away with this annexation without triggering a general European War.  He failed, and when Austria was joined by its Ally France (Imperial Camp) and the Prussia had Ally Britain (Coalition Camp) with its mainland interests in Hanover/Hesse join the fray, that European War expanded into one of history’s first Global Conflicts.

To reflect the global nature of this conflagration, 7YW:FG has “mini-maps” off to the side of the main European theatre: one for North America and two areas of the Indian sub-continent.  These maps use a point-to-point map of “Duchies” similar to TNW.  An abstract “Naval Control Track” accommodates the war on the waters so players can concentrate on the exciting action ashore.

There are aspects of the game cards and rules which make this very much an Eighteenth Century rather than TNW Nineteenth Century gaming experience.  Future pieces within “InsideGMT” will provide more background and descriptions of what 7YW:FG has to offer. 

For now, with this article’s play test map before you along with your war gaming imagination, we hope you’ll enjoy this After Action Report of a 7 Years War: Frederick’s Gamble contest by the Metro Seattle Gamer guys play-test team, with yours truly supervising… somewhat akin to a line judge during a championship tennis match.  What makes this AAR unusual is the game starting as a two player contest, then, as more gents arrived at the club, growing to a 3 and then full 4 player version of the game.

Enjoy and feel free to pose questions interim to the next “InsideGMT” piece concerning this yet-to-be P-500 listed game. – Fred Schachter, Developer


Early Playtest Map for 7YW:FG     Note: For this and all images below, please click the image for better detail