Triumph and Tragedy was designed from the bottom up as a three-sided game, taking the viewpoint that the democratic/capitalist West, the fascist Axis and the communist Soviet Union were at bottom irreconcilable rivals for European (and possibly world) hegemony. A corollary is that the historical West-Soviet alliance was not inevitable, but arose from necessity (Axis aggression) rather than by preference or design. Other alignments were not unthinkable: an Axis-USSR alliance was a reality at one point and an Axis-West alliance was proposed at another.
I guess it’s been six or seven years now since I got a call from Rick Young asking me if we’d be interested in publishing games from a proven block game designer. I was a little hesitant, as we didn’t have many block games in the line back then, although Rick and Jesse had done a great job with Europe Engulfed and Asia Engulfed, both block games that were very successful for us. But when I learned the name of the designer who was asking, my own interest skyrocketed. Although he’d never done a game for us, I certainly knew the design work of Craig Besinque. In my mind, he was the “king of block game design.” My response was of course really reserved, something along the lines of “Craig has a game for us? Heck yeah!!!” So let’s just say I was “pretty excited” to get an opportunity to work with him.
Even though Craig was “new” to GMT, a bunch of our insiders knew him and some had worked with him before, so the working relationship was pretty smooth from the beginning. And then he and Joel Toppen gave us this beautiful re-creation of the Peloponnesian War that was elegant in its simplicity, yet dripping with historical flavor, game tension, and replayability. Hellenes is a game I REALLY like, so I couldn’t wait to see what Craig wanted to do next, but then again I didn’t really care that much which topic he chose. I knew we’d get a thoughtful, insightful, and elegant game.
I was a little surprised that he chose a 3-player WWII game, as I kinda thought we had plenty of WWII games in the hobby. But then I looked closer and saw that it’s a REALLY different take on the WWII period, and in some ways you wouldn’t even call it a WWII game. But I was right about the “thoughtful, insightful, and elegant” part. Triumph and Tragedy is that, in spades.
I hope you guys share in my excitement that we have Craig Besinque designing games for GMT, and that you’ll join me in welcoming him to the blog, as this is his first design post to InsideGMT. And I hope you enjoy this inside look at Triumph and Tragedy. Here’s Craig! – Gene
I find GMT’s embrace of “different” games like Leaping Lemmings, Mr. President and Thunder Alley an exciting development. While innovative new designs on more well-covered themes are also introducing creative new ideas, I for one am glad to see a broadening of game topics.
I played my old AH Anzio game until I could barely read the counters, so Tom Oleson was an industry icon to me long before I ever started thinking about starting GMT Games. When I designed those first three games back in 1990, Rodger suggested I send free copies to a long list of industry personalities. These were people who Rodger knew, but who to me were just the amazing designers whose games had brought me such enjoyment over the years. A bunch of those people responded to me with thanks and well-wishes and many became long-time friends (thank you, Rodger!). But Tom Oleson stood out to me, because he sent me a really nice note of congratulations and encouragement, and also included payment for the three games because he didn’t want to cost a start-up wargame company money. “Wow,” I thought at the time, “This guy has class.” And over the years, that opinion has only been reinforced, as I have observed his continuing contributions to the hobby, as well as the many ways he has shown kindness to us at GMT.
So I was thrilled to learn recently that Tom had a chance to playtest Craig Besinque’s design, Triumph & Tragedy, multiple times, and that he wanted to create a report to give us his impressions. Thanks so much, Tom, for taking the time to test the game and give us your thoughts. I appreciate your kindness. – Gene
In 1832 Clausewitz said “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. Craig Besinque’s new area movement card-driven block game “Triumph & Tragedy” focuses on the ETO but also includes the Western hemisphere and the East as far as Afghanistan and India.
It is not a traditional war game, but a Great Power Rivalry game. War is possible – and very cleverly modeled given the relatively small size of the game. But just as much attention is paid to what comes before the “continuation” – building alliances through diplomacy, and gaining strength through industrial mobilization. There are also many options for technological development, including going for the atomic bomb!
Games are all about choices, and here the players have very many. Do you play that card for diplomacy, or save it for deploying units? And if you do save it, might your opponent have a card permitting him to snatch it from you (all the cards have multiple options). If anyone violates a neutral, opponents get bonus cards!
As we play-tested it multiple times during a week, AHIKsers Walt Garman and Mark McCandless and I marveled at how many clever concepts have been subtly incorporated. Just one of so many – each year that a great power is at peace, it earns a secret Peace Dividend with a VP value of zero, 1, or 2. This could make the difference in deciding who wins. NOT going to war has value, as indeed it should.
Walt and I played the 2-player game with enjoyment, but the 3-player version is more fun. As the Axis I won narrowly the first time with a late-game war after dominating the Balkans through diplomacy. The second time as Axis I was doing well with an early war which gave me transitory naval supremacy enabling a blockade of Britain. But in the end, the Soviets were attacking Berlin and the West the Ruhr (both held).
Although this game is in the final stages of preparation, rules, play-balance, all the factors making for a finished product, were at least as good as many games already on the market. So many games these days, however well done, are repetitious, familiar themes reworked. It was a pleasure to try something new to my experience. Map, counters, and cards, will be handled by Mark Simonitch. Need I say more?