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.

Then there is Ribbit: the jump, move, and block game that I self published and produce with my wife. I would have published this through GMT but it is such a departure from anything else that I have ever done, I thought it would be easier to self publish this little design of mine. Check out this 4 minute video where you can learn how to play the game:

It takes about 1 minute on your own or 4 minutes watching the video to learn how to play and the rules, all of them are printed on the plastic board (yes plastic). The pieces are wooden meeples and discs, so it is quite durable for outside play. I have found that it is like a Disney movie. Kids like it and the adults also like it, but for different reasons. Many of my friends kids (7 years old, some younger) will go off for an hour and play amongst themselves without any adult supervision instead of using the internet or watching TV. Consider that the next time you are looking for something to do with your kids on vacation or a quiet weekend afternoon.

Churchill CoverLastly, there is Churchill. I have one of the few copies available, which I will be bringing tomorrow to the Consimworld convention in Phoenix. I am very excited about this title, but as always it takes a village. As many may know there were two versions of Churchill that beyond the title and time period bear no resemblance to each other. I would like to acknowledge John Leggit and his group of testers, whom I do not have names, as more than a year has passed since I scrapped that version. I will of course send them free copies, but I thought it would be appropriate to acknowledge this group publically.

Then there is the game that has been published. Check out the credits in the back, but particular mention goes to Wendell Albright, Gordon Pueschner and David Dockter plus their entire 1st MN crew out in Minneapolis who were the bulwarks of the testing plus my rules editor Steven Mitchell who raised the rules to the next level. As always I am truly advantaged to have the talents of Rodger MacGowan, Mark Simonitch, and Charlie Kibler to make my crayon drawings into works of art.

One interesting dimension of the last couple of years has been my effort to supply instructional videos for my designs. Upon review I was surprised that my feeble efforts had risen to a dozen videos covering a range of strategy and instructional topics. Of course there are also the unboxing videos where you get to hear me act like a kid in a candy shop when I get a game shipped to me from Hanford.

In case you missed any of my videos here is a list, with links (click to access):

Churchill Unboxing Video

Empire of the Sun Solo Tutorial

Empire of the Sun 2nd Edition Unboxing

For the People Strategy Video

Fire in the Lake Unboxing Video

Churchill Tutorial

Fire in the Lake Tutorial

Empire of the Sun Wargame Opening Hand Analysis

Empire of the Sun December 41 pt 2

Empire of the Sun December 41 pt 1

Empire of the Sun Opening Strategy

Ribbit: the Jump, Move, and Block Game

So, what’s next?

Right now I am working very actively on several games. First up is Plan Orange, which is Empire of the Sun set in a 1932 scenario. It is going to be published in c3i magazine with artwork by Mark Simonitch. This one is almost finished and I will be turning it into production next month.

The next major design is a sequel to Churchill, titled Pericles: The Peloponnesian War. While this new design uses the conference/issue mechanic from Churchill, it is a different beast in most ways. Those who know me know that I make the design fit the situation and not the other way around. The genesis of this design goes back to an unpublished variant of my earlier Peloponnesian War by Victory Games. If you want to see the first draft of the playtest map, check out the Churchill Unboxing video and you will see it in the background.

In this retelling of the war the game pits two teams of two against each other representing the Athenian and Spartan,  governments plus there are ‘Bots controlling Corinth, Thebes, and Persia. The two player teams each represent two factions from the respective cities. For a player to win, his city state (Athens or Sparta) must win the war AND you must be the player in charge of the government that turn. The two player teams interact using the Churchill conference mechanic with some interesting twists that make it a very different experience from Churchill. Of course there will be an option to play solo, two, three, or four player. Anyway I will publish more on this title as I move closer to a full up prototype.

The next title is the War is Hell, a four map American Civil War operational game. This one is in active development, but it is a huge undertaking and it will take a while until I have gotten this one into playtest shape. The good news is I have solved all of the design issues that I was wrestling with, so now it is a matter of research and rules writing until I have things ready for testing.

Last on the list for now is Sun Tzu, a CDG set in the Chinese Warring States period. James Pei has finished the basic research and I am significantly revising the design, so this one is on the horizon and should move faster than War is Hell just due to the smaller size and time investment to get it up and running.

Well, I think I will leave it there for now… more to follow later this summer. Until then…

Mark Herman

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10 thoughts on “Design Update from Mark Herman

  1. Really look forward to hearing more about Sun Tzu. I was thinking just recently how much I’d like a CDG strategy game based around ancient china or feudal Japan. I can’t think of any out there.

    • War is Hell is an operational level American Civil War game. It will have at least 4 maps, a couple of thousand counters, and a large number of small to large scenarios culminating with the entire war. Oye!!!

      • Count me in for this one, and luckily I have Churchill and Empire of the Suns Second Edition coming soon to help keep me going until War comes along!

  2. Mark,

    Congrats on FitS, which is definitely the best of the COIN games, and I play it at every opportunity.

    The question I have for you is that you once mentioned wanting to do a 1-2 map CDG on all of WW2. Will we ever see it?

  3. Good morning Mr Herman,
    it’s great to read the news about Pericles: very interesting subject and innovative concepts, as usual for your excellent desings.
    I’ve only one doubt. The solitaire option would imply the management of up to 7 bots: wouldn’t it be perhaps too much?
    On my wishlist: something on conflicts and politics in the Middle Ages (example: HRE or Italian city states).

  4. Always wonderful to read your updates, Mark. I remember some time ago you mentioned that you were interested in doing a horror themed game (hope I am not mis-remembering). No idea if that is passed the thought stage or not, but I would be extremely interested in your take on that genre.

    (but I basically buy almost everything you do, anyway)

    Very curious to hear more details on the Civil War operational game when you are ready to divulge them.