Fields of Despair – The Economic System

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imageIn this blog post, I’d like to introduce you to the economic system found in Fields of Despair: France 1914-1918. Its development over the years has been one of my most enjoyable design tasks and one that receives a lot of positive feedback. Simple enough not to get in the way game play while important enough to have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.

Point of Reference
Each turn begins with a Production Phase. Two action phases follow each including: reconnaissance, movement, combat, breakouts and possibly more combat. Finally, strategic movement is completed before a turn ends and the next production phase begins. Point being, you have to live with your decisions in the production phase for a long time. They better be good.

The Player Board

The Player Board

The Battle of Serafim Farm – a Playtest AAR from Gallipoli, 1915

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GallipoliTABp500“The Infantry simply cannot get forward against those guns. They will see them coming from miles away.” Lord Hamilton chewed on his mustache.

Then the answer, my good man, is that they must not see us. Let me remind of you of the night attack by the Greeks against the Trojans – Troy is just down the road you know …”

And so was born the plan that led to the Victory at the Battle of Seraphim Farm, and the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.

In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers. By December, Russia was in trouble after being defeated by the Germans at the Battle of Tannenburg. Britain and France urgently searched for a way to send supplies to their Russian ally. The easiest route was by sea – from the Mediterranean, through the Dardanelles, and across the Black Sea. But the Dardanelles passed through the heart of the Ottoman Empire, who had barred them with minefields and forts. A combined Anglo-French fleet tried to force the Turkish passage but lost 5 battleships on the minefields. And so the Imperial War Council gave Sir Hamilton five divisions and the task of taking the forts for the landward side.

Going Solo & Schizoid in Hitler’s Reich – A Peek Into Conquering Europe All Alone

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HitlerReichTAB_P500(RBM)“World War Two for Two Players in Two Hours – or less” is the simplest way to describe Hitler’s Reich, GMT’s upcoming strategic game of the European theater in the Second World War.  Although designed for and best played by two players, it can also be played by as many three or four, or as few as one.  Although the specific guidance on how to game solitaire or multi-player are provided in the game’s Playbook, which is essentially a bonus booklet separate from the Rules, here is a quick peek into what it is like to try to conquer Europe all alone in Hitler’s Reich.

 Schizophrenic Puzzle Solving Solo Play in Hitler’s Reich

Solitaire gamers often feel like a God – they know and see everything, but as being omniscient and all-powerful not only gets old but gets boring from a lack of challenge, Hitler’s Reich offers solo gamers a unique twist: they play in Fog (of war) that keeps the game surprising.  As with many games, in Hitler’s Reich the solitaire player has to assume a schizophrenic attitude, trying to seek out the optimal strategy for one side and the best counter response by the other.  To speed up and ease that process, however, in Hitler’s Reich the solo gamer only has to make the BIG decisions – what Event Card to play for, what space on the map to Attack, and where to Fortify or place a Fleet.

As the active Player, the gamer can decide to use Event Cards in hand to increase their chances of resolving that play, and then as the opposing player can decide whether or not to toss in one or more of that side’s Event Cards to change the odds. From there on, the Fog of War takes over.

Design Update from Mark Herman

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Happy 2015… here is what I have been up to since my last blog post:


Churchill-P500-TabIf Churchill was a ship launching, we have hit the hull with a bottle of champagne and we are fitting it out. As I write this, I just sent Mark Simonitch the final counter corrections and all of the cards, map, etc. are in final form. For those who like to clip counters you will be disappointed as all of the counters punch out individually with rounded corners.  The last thing to do at this point is finish the final edit of the rules and this one goes off to the printer allowing me to move onto my next project. Watch Gene’s GMT update for shipping dates.

Space Empires: Replicators Resource Cards

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ReplicatorsP500-TABBecause I pushed for and laid out most of the Resource Cards for Space Empires: Replicators, Jim Krohn asked me to do a write up on how they came about.

When we were well into the design process for SE: Close Encounters, we got an email forwarded by GMT from David Ward with some ideas for cards that could be added to the game.  The ideas found fertile ground with the playtest group and a lot of possibilities were quickly thrown around regarding which of his cards would work and what other cards could be added.  Some of what he proposed was already going into the game with the Racial Ability Cards and the Alien Tech Cards, but some of the other ideas had merit as potential Resource Cards, too.  Unfortunately we had already filled up most of the 55 cards that the expansion was budgeted, so we could not work in those ideas at that time.

Knowing that there were some other things that did not make the cut for Close Encounters, I went over all of the suggestions that had been thrown out and made up a deck of 55 Resource Cards for a future expansion.  Through use of the Resource Cards, we would have an extra ability to give to the players that would not be a technology that they would have to research.  The core game is very finely balanced in the early game and I did not want to upset that balance by introducing Technology/Ships that would become must-haves in the early game.  I also knew at the time that neither Jim nor I wanted to start an arms race by introducing a Super-Titan.  So whatever new Tech/Ships that would be added in a future expansion would have to become available later in the game and be useful, but not game changers.  This led to the new units that are available after you research Advanced Construction: DDXs, BVs, Fighter 4s and Raider Xs.  That left the Resource Cards as something that would be new and available to the players right at the start of the game.

Sample Resource Card 1

Sample Resource Card 1 – Playtest Art

Designer Kurt Keckley and Developer Mike Bertucelli will be at OrcCon from Friday to Sunday, demoing the following games:

They will be set up in the war game room from Friday about 1 pm until Sunday evening. Drop by and meet them and check out the games!

Trevor Bender, designer of one of our newest P500 additions, Labyrinth II: The Awakening, 2010-?, will be running tournaments for both Labyrinth and Labyrinth II over the weekend.

Mark Kaczmarek and a couple of the GMT office ladies will be running a GMT booth at the show, so please drop by, say hi, and check out some cool games!

Date: February 13, 2015—February 15, 2015
Event: Strategicon's OrcCon 2015
Venue: Hilton Los Angeles Airport
Location: 5711 W Century Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90045
Registration: Click here to register.

Rendering Caesar’s COIN (Part II)

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For those of you who missed Part I of this article, you can find it here: Rendering Caesar’s COIN (Part I)

NoRetreatItaly-TabWelcome back to our answers to your questions about how our design Falling Sky
 adapts the COIN Series’ game system, originally about modern insurgencies, to depict the Gallic revolts against Caesar in the late 50s BC.  In Part I , we attempted to address the larger questions you raised about the change in era, and about player roles, incentives, and capabilities.  Now, as promised there, we delve further into the details of individual game mechanics, events, and aspects of war in ancient Gaul as explored in this upcoming COIN Series volume.  Thank you for joining us once more!  – Volko Ruhnke

How are Roman politics handled, when Caesar’s goal was power in Rome, and Gaul was just a way to achieve this?  Can the Caesar player lose the game by losing the support of the Senate?  If Caesar loses the Senate’s support, does it mean he has to go beyond the Rubicon? 

Volko:  As we touched on in Part I, the game treats Caesar’s exploits in Gaul as helpful to his power in Rome because they were an expression of Rome’s larger impulse to expand.  So, the degree of Caesar’s success in subduing the Gallic and Germanic tribes will influence the degree of the Senate (and other Roman interests’) approval of Caesar.  Each Winter, the number of subdued, dispersed, and Roman-allied tribes in Gaul—the Roman player’s victory score—can push Roman politics (a simple the “Senate” track in the game) from the usual intrigue to either adulation of or uproar against Caesar.  Various events (for example, “Cicero”) can have a similar effect.

Andrew:  It is definitely possible for Caesar to lose the game by losing the support of the Senate, although indirectly.  Instead of loss of Senate support causing an automatic defeat for the Roman player, it instead causes several nasty, negative effects, such as decreased auxiliary forces and more limited access to legions.  A Senate in uproar against Caesar will not take legions away from him, but will limit his ability to replace any legions lost.

We have also included an event card which, when played, will trigger a need for Caesar to cross the Rubicon and effectively end the Gallic War and the game and cause a final victory check.  An effect this drastic will of course need a certain prerequisite to be met:  that the Roman score exceeds a certain threshold.  This represents significant opposition from Caesar’s political enemies and a slightly earlier than historical Roman Civil War.  In this scenario, Caesar’s opponents have become alarmed enough by his military success to attempt to remove him as governor.

Silver Bayonet Archival Material, Part 1

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In the course of conducting research and going over old material, Gene and I have stumbled across some items, initially released via the original, paper (*gasp*) version of InsideGMT from 1991. Within those hallowed (and yellowed) archives, we found two additional scenarios as well as some Advanced Game solitaire suggestions. As I get the rest of them cleaned up and ready for consumption, here is the first scenario for your gaming pleasure.