If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium: Shunning the Schlieffen Plan in Fields of Despair

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Part One

For the past several months, I’ve been involved in the latest round of playtesting for Fields of Despair.  I’m playtesting with a couple of my regular wargaming buddies (Phil Mowatt and Dave Moseley) using VASSAL and Skype. After about 7 or 8 games, in which each of the short scenarios as well as a couple of campaign games were played, we were impressed that this is a game that invites repeated plays.  This is at least partially due to the great variety of possible strategies and outcomes that it offers.  I realize that the purpose of playtesting is to determine whether the game has balance issues or incomprehensible/contradictory rules or a variety of other problems, but because this game has been tested for several years by a fairly large and varied group of people, my fellow playtesters and I weren’t finding any gaping holes in the rules.

Solitaire System for Fields of Despair, Part III

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Here are links to the first two articles in this series: Part I   Part II

Welcome back to the overview of the solitaire system for Fields of Despair: France 1914-1918.  A huge thank you goes out to everyone who has helped us get across the 500 order mark.  The development team and I are thrilled and humbled at the same time.  Now on to the game…

This article focuses solely on how the game’s AI plays the Central Powers against you.  As is custom, I should note that all of the components, art, etc you’ll see are play test and a work in progress.  Below is a prime example.  The Central Powers side of the Solitaire Play Aid walks you through the Central Powers action phase.  I’ll refer back to it as I go.

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Central Powers Solitaire Play Aid

Solitaire System for Fields of Despair, Part II

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You can view Part I of this article here.


With air recon complete it’s time to move any/all of your blocks into position for the attack!  Block movement remains the same as in the 2-player game. 


The solitaire combat sequence has a small departure from the 2-player game where artillery is committed and resolved before you send your boys “Over the Top!”  Solitaire combat requires you, the player, to commit to all of your attacks and add any artillery to those attacks before checking to see how the AI responds.  The combined value of your blocks and artillery equal the strength of your attack.  Attacks are resolved in order from your strongest to weakest.  This prevents “gaming” of the system with little attacks away from the real objectives.  The AI is far more likely to match strength for strength but it is by no means a certainty.  Much like a human player might.

Solitaire System for Fields of Despair, Part I

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Fields of Despair Banner 3

Hey Solitaire Gamers!

Now for Something Completely Different.

Solitaire Design for a Block War Game!

Solitaire play for Fields of Despair was first brought up by developer Mike Bertucelli who my family affectionately refers to as, “your other wife.”  Every so often Mike would say, “You know what would be awesome?” (pause – I know what’s coming) “If you could figure out a way to add a solitaire scenario!” Any rookie designer will tell you that the process can be exciting and overwhelming at times.  You’ve handed over your design to a developer.  You think it’s near completion.  Aaaand you would be wrong because here he is (again) asking for something that perhaps you never considered or maybe you considered but thought impossible.  Maybe he’s just toying with me because he knows I’m new….

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This article will cover the solitaire player turn and a future article will detail how the game’s AI moves and attacks. The easiest way to understand solitaire play is walk through an action phase (the heart of the game) so here we go. This seems like a good time to throw in the disclaimer that everything you’re about to see is play test art.  I stink at art.  I made this stuff. 

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

Fields of Despair and the 100th Anniversary of the German Attack on Liege

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When I met Kurt Keckley at a GMT Weekend at the Warehouse in 2013, he wanted to show me a WWI block game. Now the success of games from Ted Raicer and Mike Resch has shown me that I should never say “no” out of hand to a WWI title, but I have to admit, I had my doubts. That is, until Kurt drove 90 miles to my house one night and walked me through how to play. I was blown away (although he would tell you that I hid it well! 🙂 ) Here was a strategic West Front WWI game with really fun fog of war, production choices, cool mechanics for air and artillery development, and an elegant and well-thought out flow of play. I was “in,” so Fields of Despair came to the P500 list earlier this year.

Kurt is a teacher by profession, and his instructional and organizational skills shine through in his game design. I think you’ll see from his article, below, that Kurt really pays attention to detail, and that’s great news for all of us who love games, because Fields of Despair is a gem! I hope you guys enjoy Kurt’s first InsideGMT article, and look forward to future installments. – Gene


Today, August 5th, marks the 100th anniversary of the German attack into Belgium.  What better day to give you a little peak at where we are with development as it relates to the opening moves of the war?

When playing the 1914 Mobile War or Grand Campaign of Fields of Despair, your first order of business is to plan the attack into Belgium.  In your way is the fortress city of Liege just as it was 100 years ago.  Below is a photo of the scenario set-up and my awesome hand-drawn arrows to illustrate the German war plans.