Interview with Developer Mike Bertucelli

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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”

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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)

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“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

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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 Design Diary: A Design History

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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

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 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

Series Replay – Next War: India-Pakistan, part 3

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“Kashmir”, Game Turn 3

Game Turn 3 in this scenario is a “contested” turn; with much more limited movement/combat segments. In the Next War series turns are either “Initiative” turns (that have 3 move/attack cycles for the attacker and 2 move/attack cycles for the defender) or “Contested” turns that provide only 1 move/attack cycle for each side. These turns represent the need for both sides to sometimes slow combat operation in order to address logistical issues and plan for future operations.

Here in Kashmir, the Pakistan/China side has so far been stopped at the north end of the Kashmir valley. Airmobile and Airborne operations in the Indian rear area at the south end of the valley have met with limited success.

Before going into GT3, a quick note on the air situation. In the Next War series control of the air and fully taking advantage of your air assets is a critical part of the game. The air situation in “Kashmir” in GT3 is now basically even. In the “Standard Game” in the Next War series the air war is somewhat abstracted with “Air Points” being provided to both sides that can be used for fighter escort of Airmobile and Airborne missions as well as ground combat support. By comparing Air Points, the “Air Superiority Level” for each turn is set, which then determines the level of air defense threat to each side (less threat if you have superiority). In the first two turns of “Kashmir”, the Pakistan/China side has “Air Advantage”, which is the lowest level of air superiority. Still, that gives them the ability to move units by Paradrop and Airmobile movement with only limited risk of Air Defense Fire (at least in theory, although Mitch’s ADF dice have been hot). They also get a slight edge in Air Points to use in combat. In the “Advanced Game” scenarios players get much more detail (and work) to fight the air war, with individual air unit counters, SAM/AAA defense tracks, and a host of mission options including combat support, strike missions, and air-to-air combat.

The Campaign of 1777 – Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection

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We’ve just added Liberty or Death to our P500 list today, so order away! 🙂 Liberty or Death P500 Page. Enjoy! – Gene


Below is a narrative from a recent playtest of Liberty or Death at the Camp Pendleton Conflict Simulations Club here in San Diego.  I am indebted to my friends for taking the time on a Saturday to play the 1776 scenario (four Campaigns) and for giving me such great feedback (except for Tim, who kept prodding me about certain one sided markers in my prototype!)  Don’t worry, “Gentleman” Tim – they will be two sided after we are finished with production!

1777 Pic 1
The game features Trevor “Swamp Fox” Wilcox as the Patriots, Trevor’s father “Gentleman” Tim Wilcox as the British, Pete “Cornplanter” Martin as the Indians, and Ken “The Comte” McMillan as the French.

It is the start of the 1777 Campaign; this is the second Campaign of the Medium Scenario.  The Patriots have done well building Opposition to the British government in the population.  They have been active in the Colonies Rabble-Rousing and building forts.  The forts will improve their ability to Rally Militia and Continentals.