Mr. President: A Month in the Life

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Last week, I let you guys know in our monthly update that I’ve been working on a solitaire game called Mr. President. Some of you read last year’s teaser article about the game, but virtually everyone is still in the dark about how this game plays. Well, it IS still in the design and alpha testing phase, but it’s starting to come together, so I decided to put together a sneak peek to give you a sense of how the game plays. So I’m going to let you guys virtually share in a round (one month) of game play – to look over my shoulder as I play – so you can get a sense of the flow of Mr. President and some of the things you have to think about as you play. I’m not going to teach you how to play the game in this article – that comes later – but I do hope to give you a sense of how you feel – and some of the things you think about – as you play.

One thing that I’d like you to pick up here is that I am not intending this to be a “beer and pretzels” surface level game. If that’s what you are looking for, RUN AWAY! :-) What I want is a game that is deep and immersive, one that will both frustrate and delight the solitaire player, an experience that will beckon you back to the game table after each round, turn, or completed game. I don’t think it’s quite “there” yet, but it’s well on the way.


As we pick up the action, we are six months into the game, my first playtest ever of the Moderate Complexity level in the game (we did all the initial alpha tests with the Easy Complexity level, and now I’m wanting to see how well the next level of challenge plays).

So in the first six months (Turn 1), chaos ruled, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia. Thus foreign policy took a big portion of my time and effort. The Moderate level At Start situation (I may have to tweak this) is pretty intense – Unstable Governments, Terror Groups, and Festering Crises are seemingly everywhere. I did get a little progress made on my two legislative programs (Homeland Security Improvements and Energy Independence) thanks to a couple of advisors who are quite skilled in the legislative process, but most of the action was overseas. I spent a few months tracking down the leadership of a huge (level 4 is highest in the game) Middle East Terror Group, and finally got actionable intel on their locations near the end of turn 1.  I gave the go ahead for a large SoF Raid in spite of the fact that the target location was deep in Indian country. Unfortunately, things did not go well; the terrorists somehow got wind of our intentions and the raid failed with heavy US casualties and the Terror leadership cell scattered. Public opinion took a big hit, and the ensuing scandal gave me no real choice but to replace my Secretary of Defense (one of the better Sec Defs available in the game). On top of it all, I lost a Legacy Point! Ouch! (Rolling 10’s is a bad thing in this game!) That was an ugly way to end turn 1, but it’s good to know that the game has some teeth and that the solitaire player can’t just Raid with impunity to solve the Terror problems.

Welcome to Centerville

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Behind the Curtain

So, you’ve read the description of the game or looked at the pictures of some playtest graphics, and you want to know more. Well, come on over here, mind your step around the 4-sided dice on the floor there and please ignore the man behind that curtain. That’s just Chad – hard at work on a game.

What is he doing? Probably writing the rules to Welcome to Centerville. No, I’m not kidding. It’s always the last thing to get done and the game just lives in his head until he is forced, through deadlines, to finally put it all down on paper. There’s no point in doing it any earlier in the process as things change so quickly – sometimes a small tweak, sometimes a drastic overhaul – and he would waste time writing and re-writing.

And before we go any further, let me state that all graphics used here are PLAYTEST GRAPHICS ONLY! We need something to print out so we can push around the pieces for playtesting. Once we get far enough along in the production queue, we’ll get the final art in place – but we’re not there yet.


Come join us on October 15-18, 2015, for our 30th 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:

  • Mark Herman plans to attend his first ever Weekend at the Warehouse! He’ll demo Churchill, play lots of CDGs, and perhaps show us something from his design table.
  • Volko Ruhnke plans to attend his 2nd Weekend at the Warehouse! It was great to have Volko out here with us last Fall and he’s coming back! Look forward to lots of COIN Series goodness, and who knows what else? :-)
  • Chad and Kai Jensen will attend and we think will have open testing of Welcome to Centerville and Fighting Formations 29th Infantry Division.
  • Harold Buchanon will be here to show us Liberty or Death and Tank Duel.
  • Kurt Keckley will be teaching Fields of Despair
  • Gene Billingsley will 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.


Date: October 15, 2015—October 18, 2015
Time: 8:00 a.m to late night, ending around noon Sunday
Event: GMT Weekend at the Warehouse - October 15-18, 2015
Venue: GMT Games Offices and Warehouse
Location: 13704 Hanford-Armona Rd, Suite B-1
Hanford, CA 93230
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Dark Sands – Compass Scenario AAR, Part 2

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Click this link to read Part 1 of this article.

Chit 6: Axis Half Move/Combat-1

Figure 6 Axis Half Move

Figure 6 Axis Half Move

Next Chit is an Axis HalfMove/Combat. The Axis takes it as a move and attempts to cover major crossroads. The Italians in Sidi Baranni attempt to move out of their predicament. At this point they will survive the attrition phase if the British do not do anything to change the situations. Helfaya Pass and Sidi Omar are covered, so the risk of a sudden breakout by the British is temporarily averted. If the Axis can get one more full move the will be in the best possible position.

Solitaire System for Fields of Despair, Part I

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    Designer, Fields of Despair

    Fields of Despair Banner 3

    Hey Solitaire Gamers!

    Now for Something Completely Different.

    Solitaire Design for a Block War Game!

    Solitaire play for Fields of Despair was first brought up by developer Mike Bertucelli who my family affectionately refers to as, “your other wife.”  Every so often Mike would say, “You know what would be awesome?” (pause – I know what’s coming) “If you could figure out a way to add a solitaire scenario!” Any rookie designer will tell you that the process can be exciting and overwhelming at times.  You’ve handed over your design to a developer.  You think it’s near completion.  Aaaand you would be wrong because here he is (again) asking for something that perhaps you never considered or maybe you considered but thought impossible.  Maybe he’s just toying with me because he knows I’m new….

     21 monty_python

    This article will cover the solitaire player turn and a future article will detail how the game’s AI moves and attacks. The easiest way to understand solitaire play is walk through an action phase (the heart of the game) so here we go. This seems like a good time to throw in the disclaimer that everything you’re about to see is play test art.  I stink at art.  I made this stuff. 

    Design Update from Mark Herman

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    I had the pleasure of spending a few days with Mark this week at John Kranz’s excellent Consimworld Expo in Tempe, AZ. I got to play the final version of Churchill and had a blast and also got some detailed updates on Mark’s upcoming games. Mark has a bevy of terrific titles lined up to grace our gaming tables over the next few years, so I wanted to make sure all of you got to see his latest update, posted recently in his personal design blog. Enjoy! – Gene

    mark-herman1Studiolo Designs Update: June 2015

    Studiolo Designs has just completed its first year of operation and I find myself at a good transition point. I thought it would be a good time to review the recent past and talk about what’s next.Fire in the Lake Cover

    My very enjoyable collaboration with Volko Ruhnke yielded gold, well at least it looks gold, from Boardgame Geek when Fire in the Lake won best 2014 wargame. Thanks to all who supported this title.

    I also am very appreciative for the support shown by the tribe in getting all of my GMT CDGs back into print. While Washington’s War and For the People are more or less straight reprints, Empire of the Sun 2nd Edition is the same design, but with significantly upgraded components and concepts such that it is the next evolution of this design. Folks should be receiving this one at their doorstep soon as it is being organized as I write this for the P500 orders in Hanford.

    Lion of Judah Units, Part 3: The Imperial Guards

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    Soldiers of the Negus

    The Ethiopian army that defended their country against the Italian invasion was more akin to medieval bands of warriors than a modern army under a unified command. The armies were nominally commanded by the Emperor, or King of Kings (Negus Negusti) Haile Selassie, but in reality each warlord, or Ras, did as they pleased. These Ras commanded their forces as they saw fit and only nominally followed the orders of the Emperor, who had a very limited ability to coordinate the operations of the different tribal levies. In fact two of them, Ras Kassa and Ras Mulugheta, were rivals that operated entirely on their own.

    Dark Sands – Compass Scenario AAR, Part 1

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    The following is the beginning of a multi-part After Action Review (AAR) by Tim Wilcox of the Compass Scenario from Ted Raicer’s Dark Sands. Enjoy!

    Turn 1

    It is December 1940 and O’Conner is leading the British attack to push the Italians out of Egypt.

    The Axis have two VPs, one for holding Benghazi, one for holding Tobruk and Bardia.   The British have zero VPs. In addition to the forces here, the Italian have a Garrison in Tobruk and the British have an Infantry Brigade in Alexandria.


    Figure 1 Opening Positions – Compass

    BLOODY THURSDAY: The Battle of Gravelotte-St. Privat 1870

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      Designer, At Any Cost and Hammerin' Sickles


      “It is difficult to think of a great passage of arms in which one critical day of battle was so strangely – and so soon – underscored by another” – David Ascoli, author of A Day of Battle

      On the evening of Tuesday, August 16th 1870, the battlefield of Mars-la-Tour looked much like countless other battlefields of history. The devastation spread from the Yron River valley in the west almost to Gravelotte on the eastern end of the field. Physical destruction and human sorrow was prevalent and overwhelming throughout the length and breadth of this deadly ground. After the exceptionally brutal “day of battle”, about 33,000 casualties had been inflicted on the two armies – roughly equally split – and both forces were spent. Superficially, the battle was a draw when scoring by a measure of raw casualties or relative field position of the combatants. But in actuality, this was an astounding Prussian victory and a near-miraculous outcome considering the odds against them at the start of the day. The Prussian 2nd Army of Prince Frederick Charles had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and Marshal Bazaine’s French Army of the Rhine had no one to blame but themselves.


      German period map showing troops positions of all three battles around Metz – August 14th (Borny-Colombey), August 16th (Mars-la-Tour) and August 18th (Gravelotte-St.Privat)

      Addition by Subtraction: Creating the 2-Player Bonus Variant for Triumph and Tragedy

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      Triumph and Tragedy was designed from the bottom up as a three-sided game, taking the viewpoint that the democratic/capitalist West, the fascist Axis and the communist Soviet Union were at bottom irreconcilable rivals for European (and possibly world) hegemony. A corollary is that the historical West-Soviet alliance was not inevitable, but arose from necessity (Axis aggression) rather than by preference or design. Other alignments were not unthinkable: an Axis-USSR alliance was a reality at one point and an Axis-West alliance was proposed at another.


      Sample Command Cards