MacArthur did not return… (Labor Day Churchill Playthrough)

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mark-herman1I just had the best Labor Day weekend with my whole family hanging out, eating, drinking, swimming, and playing Churchill plus a little MechWarrior. My boys and I played a campaign game with my son Grant (Stalin), son-in-law Dan (Roosevelt) and I was Churchill. Grant and Dan were play testers and both of them are very skilled at the game, so I had to play very well or lose. In fact the last time I played two games with them at Monster Con in Arizona they each won one game, to my none, which they have not let me forget. The trash talk indicated that they were confident of a repeat performance.

Conference 1

Now when I play with the boys it always works out in the beginning that they are not going to let the old man have any leverage, so at the end of the first conference I actually won no issues. Stalin won the conference and managed to gain sufficient offensive support to advance against stiff German opposition. During play testing Grant specialized as Stalin and he invented most of the known Soviet strategies. New players and those who have not had success as Uncle Joe need to remember that the Soviets are locked in a titanic struggle on the Eastern front. They need to focus on gaining offensive support in excess of 5 to advance. It is important that they advance at least once during the first two conferences to keep pace with the Western front.

This takes winning Western Allied directed offensives and production. The issue choices based on which cards you are holding determining whether you pick two directed offensive issues or a one of each. Grant’s performance was a primer in how to dominate scoring with the Soviets. As it turned out he was just a little too good at it this time.

Once D-Day has occurred continuing this strategy should result in at least one breakthrough, there were two in this game, giving the Soviets military leverage. With all concerned focused on Europe and the US early focus on political moves there were no advances in the Pacific.

Post Conference 1 situation

Post Conference 1 situation

Post-Publication Musings on Churchill

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mark-herman1Well, Churchill has finally hit the market and I am very pleased with the production values and the initial reception. Only time will tell if this one becomes a cross-over design, but I could not be happier with how it came out.

I was at the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) in its farewell to Lancaster PA, and I never saw less than four ongoing games of Churchill being played in open gaming. A new phenomena for me was in most cases there were at least one if not two females playing in each session (three person game). This is the one game that I have done out of over sixty that my wife will play, so it hopefully will be a more accessible game to the most important part of the human race.

For those who have not followed my earlier blog posts, I wanted folks to experience a different narrative of World War II. Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for Third Reich and the multitude of big picture strategy games on the war, but I have “been there, done that” and I have over 50 games in that category. Churchill’s genesis was based on his World War II memoirs and his big picture perspective. I wanted to sit in the big chair and win a global war, not drive tank divisions across Europe.

Churchill Map

Churchill Strategy Primer #2: Defeating the Axis

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Now that the game has begun to get into people’s hands and is getting some initial plays,  I thought I would continue my series of Churchill strategy primers. My goal is to accelerate our collective understanding of the art of the possible in Churchill, although I continue to discover new tactics as I continue to play with friends and family.

In case you missed it here is a link to my first strategy primer in InsideGMT.

Churchill Strategy & Tactics Tips

The main theme of this strategy post is the intersection of victory conditions and forcing Axis surrender.

Churchill Strategy and Tactics Tips

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mark-herman1The ship has arrived in Oakland and WBC is just around the corner, so 1200+ Churchill games will soon be arriving at front doors around the world. I just completed my next Clio’s corner #6 for c3i magazine that covers many aspects of design theory through the lens of Churchill. Unfortunately, the magazine will not hit the market until after your games have arrived, so I thought it would be useful to write a short strategy primer to improve everyone’s first experience with the game.

First here are a few important tactical tips. If someone appears to have come up with an unstoppable strategy, take a deep breath and consider the following:

1. Take their stuff away: Each player has a limited amount of production, and each player has a Directed offensive issue plus inCHL-US-22-nf the case of the US and UK production issues. For example, if the UK were to have the other two players control their Directed offensive and production issue, the British would have one production marker out of four that they could control. The same is true for the other two sides. So, if any player seems to be driving the game and looks unstoppable, the other two players need to get these issues on the table and neuter whatever the third player is doing by taking their stuff.

2. Playing order matters: Each side has a national characteristic. The British capability is the Imperial Staff that adds one to the value of its staff card played during the Agenda segment. This means that if Churchill always plays a five card they will go last in the conference. This will seem to be an overpowered capability unless you know how to deal with it.

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.

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.

On the Design Table: Mark Herman

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Over the past several years, my regular phone conversations with Mark Herman have usually included me – or sometimes Mark – referring to how great it would be when Mark finally could  retire from his day job and get to design all those games he’s been wanting to create, essentially full-time. Well, those phone pipe dreams have become reality this year (!), as Mark got to retire and is (at least for now) pretty much a full-time game designer.  When you read Mark’s Guest blog, below,  you’ll see that he is not letting any grass grow under his feet – he is off and running on several designs that he’s been wanting to finish for some time now. (And there are more, but we don’t want to cause you guys to weep with joy all at once :-), so we’ll save info on those for another day ! ) So, get ready for a treat – Mark is one of the best, if not the best,  pure systems designer I know, and he’s running at full-throttle now. Hang on! It’s going to be a fun ride!  Here’s Mark. – Gene



Hi everyone! I’m happy to accept Gene’s invitation to write a Guest blog on the new InsideGMT blog. I’m also posting this information on my personal design blog, which I invite you all to visit any time.

I want to catch everyone up on where I have been over the last couple of months and where I am going.


Empire of the Sun:

Since my last blog post, the Empire of the Sun reprint has been on the front burner. One of the perennial WBC champions, Antero Kuusi, stepped up to re-write the rules to make them more accessible. I want to say he has done a fabulous job in reorganizing and rewriting many of the trickier sections. While EotS is still a very intricate design I believe that he has lowered the barrier to entry for those who want to get involved. Backing him up is a crack team of editors drawn from the elite staff players on Consimworld who have been playing the game continuously since its publication almost a decade ago. Besides the rules rewrite I have incorporated a few of the more important c3i variants into the core rules, so there is a lot to like about the reprint rules.

On the card front, about 60 of the 160 cards have had a rewrite to incorporate FAQ questions and I took the opportunity to insert a bit more history into the game with new bonuses on many cards that were not in the original. A good example is the small naval force that was under MacArthur’s command is now incorporated without any extra rules. MacArthur’s navy allows an Army activation of one non-carrier naval unit while under ISR. The rest of the new bonuses I will leave as a surprise.

eotscoverThe counters are almost unchanged except we added many of the c3i mnemonic counters that the team have found useful plus I renamed a few counters to give each counter a unique name so instead of BB Kongo 1 and BB Kongo 2, we now have BB Hiei and BB Kongo.

Probably the most interesting dimension of the reprint is the incorporation of the Card Driven Solo System that is based on my experience designing the US ‘Bot for Fire in the Lake. Essentially I am writing a Japanese and Allied ‘Bot for EotS. When I told Mark Simonitch what I was doing he wrote, “you’re crazy”. While that may be true, it works. I learned a long time ago that if you tackle the hardest problem last, you end up solving lots of small issues that do not add up. To avoid this pitfall I started by building the logic for a non-player Japanese opening. My current version captured Malaya, the Philippines and the DEI plus set up a defense perimeter in 9 cards. Not too bad… The way I see this working out is you will have the option to play the Japanese, play the Allies, or what I like best is start as the Japanese with a non-player Allied side. When the Japanese have reached their apogee switch sides and become the Allied player against the Japanese ‘Bot. This way you are always on the attack. So, far I have finished the version 1.0 Japanese opening logic, with much more to do before this is fully up an running.

Now what you will get in the reprint is the version 1.0. It will not be perfect but I am looking at this as a work in progress. I will do the first cut, put it up on line with a template and the EotS tribe can continue to improve and develop it.  That’s about all I have on the EotS reprint other than a few minor map improvements to handle the revised India surrender procedure and a couple of nits.  All that is left is to proof the revised rules layout, which I should see shortly.