Adding the Replicators to Space Empires

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Jim Krohn is the creator of our really cool 4X space game, Space Empires. In the expansions to SE, Jim has managed to give us a bunch of cool new additions and options without making the game unwieldy – a considerable design accomplishment. In this, Jim’s first article for InsideGMT, he takes us inside his newest expansion, Space Empires: Replicators, on the P500 list now and slated for release in 2Q or 3Q, 2015. Enjoy the article! – Gene

SE CoverSpace Empires: Replicators is the second expansion to Space Empires:4x.  As the designer, I wanted to share a little bit about the design philosophy for the expansion.  This expansion introduces a number of great things that add to the game play:

  • Large Terrain Tiles that replace the planets, asteroids, nebulae, etc. when they are revealed. This not only makes the board look cool, but reduces counter clutter and saves space in each hex.
  • A Resource Deck that adds another layer of both strategy and tactics to the game.
  • New Ships (like Battlecarriers)
  • New Terrain

The coolest thing, however, and the name sake of the expansion, is the addition of the Replicators.  Replicators are “Von Neumann” machines, a class of machines that can replicate themselves.  It introduces a possible 5th player to the game as well as adding another way to play it with just two players.  While the first expansion had empire advantages, which gave each player a special power, the Replicators are a different animal altogether that play completely differently from all the other players.  It is not just an empire with a special power, it is a new way of playing the game – they don’t have the same ships, they don’t have the same tech tree, and they require less book keeping.

Interview with Developer Alan Ray

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Ludography

DEVELOPER

Great Battles of History:

Great Battles of Alexander Expanded Deluxe (P500 -2015)

Hoplite (2014)

Chariots of Fire (2010)

SPQR Deluxe (2008)

Chandragupta (2008)

Barbarian (2008)

RAN (2007)

Samurai 2nd Edition (2007)

Gergovia (2007)

C3I Simple GBoH Battle Manual (2006)

Mamluk (2006)

War Galley 2nd Edition (2006)

Caesar Conquest of Gaul 2nd Edition (2006)

Devil’s Horsemen (2004)

Alesia (2004)

Great Battles of Alexander Deluxe 4th Edition (2003)

Tyrant (2003)

Attila (2002)

Caesar in Alexandria (2001)

Simple GBoH (2000)

Cataphract (1999)

Ancient World:

Carthage (2005)

Rise of the Roman Republic (2003)

Non-Series Games:

Genesis (P500-2015)

 

Tell me a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in the Detroit Metropolitan area.  I have lived here all my life and went to college at Oakland University where I graduated in 1974.  Most of my career was spent either working for General Motors and then   its Information Technology (IT) subsidiary EDS in 1985 in both technical and leadership roles.

  1. Ross Perot!

Yes, I met him in 1985 during the transition period in 1985. He was a very dynamic guy, unlike many of the GM executives.  I had worked for GM for almost 14 years when he came along and it was an entirely different experience.  I continued as a Program Manager when HP bought EDS in 2008 and retired from there in 2012.

Perfect Openings: First Turn VC Strategy in Fire in the Lake

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Welcome to the first Strategy Article we’ve published in InsideGMT! Unlike the majority of our articles, this one was not written by one of our designers or developers, but by one of our players. I want to thank Mark D. (the new owner of Grognard.com)  for creating such a well-conceived and well-written article that’s aimed at helping players new to Fire in the Lake. I’d also like to take this opportunity to invite any of the rest of you who would like to submit a strategy article on one of your favorite GMT games to please do so. My hope is that over time, we can create an excellent online resource of player-created strategy articles to help others as they sit down to learn and play our games. Enjoy the article!  – Gene

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Overview

Fire in the Lake: Insurgency in Vietnam, designed by veteran designers Mark Herman and Volko Ruhnke and published by GMT Games is a 1 to 4 Player game that simulates either a part of, or the entire, Vietnam War. It’s a game with many moving parts and many interrelated methods, procedures, and techniques. The interaction of four players with competing, and often conflicting objectives (even for nominal allies) often results in a bewildering array of potential outcomes.

However, as in most games of skill or chance, there are fundamentals to which gamers should adhere, particularly new or inexperienced players. The player who gets the first move of the game should capitalize on this advantage. It can set the tone for the early portion of the game and, in Fire in the Lake, it’s the only move that can be planned with any certainty. After that very first move, the game can go off in a thousand different directions… but the first move can be carefully planned.

You can choose a “shotgun approach”, attempting to inflict damage on both of your historical enemies while simultaneously assisting your ally, or you can opt for self-promotion and the bettering of your own position. You can also choose to focus your aggression against one particular enemy player whom you consider the most immediate threat, hoping to rock him back on his heels for the next turn or two. Or you can try to do a bit of all the above.

Each player’s initial game situation is unique and demands a custom strategy that complements their peculiar capabilities. This article is geared towards inexperienced Fire in the Lake players who have a decent working knowledge of the game mechanics, but are still not “old pro’s”. It proposes a set of “perfect opening moves” for the Viet Cong, assuming the luck of the draw has granted them the very first move of the Short: 1965-1967 Scenario.

Time of Crisis Design Diary #2

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TimeCrisisTAB(RBM)The first question a lot of people ask about Time of Crisis is, “How does it compare to other deckbuilding games?”  This is something Wray and I thought about quite a bit throughout the development process.  When we first conceived of the base design for Time of Crisis, deckbuilding was still a new mechanic on the scene and we were clearly not the only ones who were intrigued by it.  Since that time, many new deckbuilding games have come into existence, many exploring new territory.  We knew we had to give Time of Crisis its own fingerprint, to make it distinctive in some way among games that utilize a similar mechanic.

First, what exactly is a deckbuilding game?  We need to begin with the first real ancestor, Rio Grande’s Dominion.  There may have been games in the past that used a deckbuilding-like mechanic, but Dominion is the one that really gave it an TOC Pic 1identity and turned it into a genre.  I suggest that the essence of what makes a deckbuilding game, as seen originally in Dominion, can be captured in the diagram to the right.  The main “loop” of actions in the game is to draw new cards and play those cards, thereby generating points that can be used to purchase new cards, and repeat.  Some of the cards that you buy are worth victory points (VPs), the accumulation of which is necessary for winning the game.  To make the game interesting, most of the cards allow the players to perform special actions, which may modify or enhance virtually any element of the game.  Seeking ways to exploit combinations of these special actions is a big part of the game, but it doesn’t change the fundamental core of the game, which is to create an engine that can buy victory points more efficiently.  Note that all of the action in the game is entirely encompassed within the scope of the player’s deck of cards.  Every action is about simply moving cards, from supply to deck to hand and into play.

A BECKONING VICTORY: THE BATTLE OF MARS-LA-TOUR 1870

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At Any Cost P500 Page

The tragedy is that, obsessed with avoiding defeat, he was blind to a beckoning victory.” – David Ascoli, author of A Day of Battle, referring to French Marshal Francois Bazaine

 

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The Battle of Mars-la-Tour was fought on August 16th, 1870 and is considered to be one of the more remarkable battles of military history. Not only were the circumstances under which it was fought most singular, but its impact on the future of Europe was monumental. The importance of the engagement on that “day of battle” alone makes it ripe for study in the wargaming community, having had such a significant impact on the rise of the German Empire and the fall of Napoleon III’s Second French Empire. Yet, the very uniqueness and oddity of that “murderous day” make it almost impossible to simulate accurately on the game board. Such was the challenge that Fred Manzo and I decided to take on with the design of the Mars-La-Tour scenario for At Any Cost: Metz 1870. So how does At Any Cost attempt to accurately simulate such an odd and convoluted battle? Well, let me tell you ……

The French army in the summer of 1870 was already in full retreat after its first series of engagements. A significant portion of the French Army of the Rhine was defeated at the Battle of Spicheren by parts of the Prussian First and Second Armies and being pursued, albeit loosely, to the fortress town of Metz. Without the possibility of any support, the French army huddled around the fort as it decided its next course of action. Emperor Napoleon III, pressured to return to Paris in order to deal with various defeatist political issues, turned over command of the Army of the Rhine to Marshal Achilles Bazaine. Not his first choice, Bazaine nonetheless reluctantly took the reins from Napoleon and received his final, somewhat contradictory, instructions – protect the army under all circumstances and get it to Verdun and Chalons to rejoin the Emperor to form a new army.

These multiple and divergent goals are reflected in the game’s Victory Track mechanic. The French player must not only try to open his retreat route to Verdun by capturing key towns and map edge hexes, but he must do so without losing too many units or – even worse – being cut off from Metz. The Prussians don’t need to worry about casualties at all and simply strive to take important towns on the map that threaten the French army’s position and thwart its mission.

Summary Changes between 7YW:Frederick’s Gamble & The Napoleonic Wars

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For background, please reference the previous  After Action Report of a play test of this exciting game: which is built on the game system pioneered by Mark McLauglin’s The Napoleonic Wars and refined with his GMT Wellington and Kutuzov designs.

Whenever Greg, I, or one of our fine play-testers teach 7YW:FG to individuals, at a club meeting, or in a convention setting, we’ve found explaining the game to those already familiar with The Napoleonic Wars (TNW) system, cross-referencing their existing rules knowledge by explaining the differences, the deltas, between TNW and 7YW:FG a great way to speed their achieving appreciation of how to play 7YW:FG.  By doing this, we spend less time explaining the rules and more time actually having the fun of playing the game.

This article is based on the “Hand Out” we use to review with gamers the changes between TNW and 7YW:FG.  We hope it provides another level of appreciation of this fine Greg Ticer design offering.

Brilliant Strokes in Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection

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LoD P500 TabVolume VI of the COIN series will bring a number of changes to the system to apply the realities of combat, politics and economics in the eighteenth century.   Each leader has a specific Brilliant Stroke card with capabilities that can be used by trumping an event card in play.   The mechanism allows each player, once per game, to utilize their current leader to deliver an earth shattering blow to the enemy.  Additionally there is a hierarchy of Brilliant Stroke cards so one side can trump another sides Brilliant Stroke.  In the end it is a threat that each player possesses and a threat to each player’s strategy.

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Where did the term Brilliant Stroke come from?  There are a number of references to the concept of a Brilliant Stroke in the writing of the time.

With the arrival of General Howe and his armada of ships and men near New York City in 1776 Washington called a council of his Generals to discuss a response.  He later wrote to the Continental Congress to communicate the results of the council.  In reference to the enemy they faced Washington wrote: “…it is now extremely obvious from their movements, from our intelligence, and from every other circumstance, that, having their whole army upon Long Island, except about four thousand men who remain on Staten Island, they mean to enclose us in this island by taking post in our rear, while their ships effectually secure the front; and thus, by cutting off our communication with the country, oblige us to fight them on their own terms, or surrender at discretion; or, if that shall be deemed more advisable, by a brilliant stroke endeavor to cut this army to pieces, and secure the possession of arms and stores which they well know our inability to replace.

After leaving New York, Washington wrote John Hancock and discussed the plan to “…wait for an opportunity when a brilliant stroke could be made with any probability of success”   Certainly Washington’s successful attacks at Trenton and Princeton that followed were “Brilliant Strokes”. 

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The Marquis de Lafayette proposed to Washington a “brilliant stroke: to rouse the people of France.”

General Charles Lee planned (and wrote about) but never attempted a “brilliant stroke’ into New York from New Jersey.  Perhaps the most professional soldier in the Patriot army Charles Lee was an extraordinarily controversial figure.  He and his guards were captured by British Colonel Banastre Tarleton at White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.  His time in British custody including plans he made for the British is controversial and documented by his own writings.  After being released through an officer swap he showed poorly at the Battle of Monmouth.  Washington dressed Lee down in front of the troops, Lee publicly expressed disrespect to the Commander-in-Chief and was arrested and later court-martialed.  After Lee appealed unsuccessfully to the Continental Congress to overturn the court-martial’s verdict he resorted to written and verbal attacks on Washington – not a popular move.

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After reading about the concept of the “Brilliant Stroke” it was easy to apply the label to the larger impact of leadership in the game.  Leaders also influence other aspects of the game like battle and each leader has special capabilities but the Brilliant Strokes will each change the momentum and potentially the outcome of the game.  What will your Brilliant Stroke be?

Liberty or Death P500 Page

Liberty or Death BGG Page 

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LoD Consimworld Page