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Wargames with No Victory Conditions

As a game designer, I often loathe victory conditions.  It is fun to research the battle and OB.  Set the map scale and scope to fit the battle.  Develop a system that models and explains the flow and events that took place.  Most of the time, this all comes together easily.  The trouble starts when you have to define who wins.

Kriegsspiel is like a breath of fresh air.  There usually aren’t any Victory Conditions at all.  Who won?  I don’t know.  Discuss it.  If there are any Victory Conditions, they are usually informal guidelines.  This is a sample from our Brandy Station Scenario:


Victory

Though Stuart was able to hold the field at Brandy Station, the Federals inflicted double the losses on the unprepared Confederates. The raid was a Federal success!

On the other hand, part of the Federal goal was to break through and locate Lee’s Army. Longstreet’s Corps was in Culpeper, only 3 miles to the west. On this account, Pleasonton failed but was much closer than he realized.

Consider the historical result to be a moderate Federal victory. Inflicting heavier losses on the Confederates and forcing them to withdrawal would be a Major Federal victory.

Can the Confederates keep the Federal forces contained to the eastern half of the map? Can they fight the Federal cavalry to a stand still without the aid of Rhode’s infantry Division? Can they preserve their force and suffer fewer casualties? These achievements should earn a Confederate victory.

What about a 2nd day? It may be tempting to see how this plays out but this is highly unlikely. Neither side was looking for a big battle. Pleasonton had planned for a 1 day raid and certainly wasn’t looking to take on a whole infantry Division.


 

 

To me, this makes much more sense.  I also find it more ‘realistic’ to true life.  Who won in a real battle?  They don’t earn VPs for hills or cities.  Do I just want to be lazy as a designer?  Probably.  If we made Victory Conditions like this for all of our games, my life would certainly be much easier.  

Would wargamers accept Victory Conditions like this?  What about no Victory Conditions at all?  Just play and then discuss it afterwards.  Imagine playing Germany in the last 6 months of WWII.  You lasted 1 month longer than Hitler did.  Great.  Does that mean you won?  You got conquered 2 months early.  Does that mean you lost?  Comparing your self to the historical benchmark is a guide but what does it really mean?  

I notice that in most of our non Kriegsspiel games we often debate and discuss who won at the end, regardless of what the official Victory Conditions are in the rules.  Many times, we don’t even look them up.  We ‘know’ who won.  In fact, often times we don’t finish wargames.  We play until we ‘know’ it is won.  Then we stop, discuss and move on to the next game.  

Many times we find ourselves at odds with the rules.  “Well, according to the rules, this side won but I really think the other side won because of….”  How many times have you heard that debated after a game?  Analyzing, discussing and debating victory after the game is one of the most enjoyable parts of wargaming to me.  

A question this leads to is:  Why do you play wargames?  Do you play to learn about history?  To learn about a specific battle or campaign?  To learn the tactics and strategies of the times?  To have fun spending time with a friend?  To role play and imagine yourself commanding a force in those times?  To compare and test your self against the historical leaders we read about?  To compete in a challenging game and beat someone?  To prove your superior knowledge and skill in the arts of war?

I guess I play for all these reasons to varying degrees.  Some gaming circles maybe more competitive than others.  Some more interested in the role playing aspects.  Some players find the idea of playing a game with no Victory Conditions absurd.  What is the point of playing?  Why even have a game then?

Good Victory Conditions do serve an important function.  Why do anything in a game?  Why attack that stronghold?  You are going to take massive casualties.  Well, you must.  That is the objective.  Good Victory Conditions give the player motivation.  What are you trying to do?  What are you trying to avoid?  Why should you do it?  Ideally, these should be in line with history.  If written correctly, victory conditions should encourage a player think and behave like their historical counterparts.

A noble pursuit.  It is extremely difficult to pull off.  I find Victory Conditions in almost all games to miss this mark.  They often seem empty, hollow and meaningless.  I guess that is why we still debate who ‘really’ won after the game, regardless of what the rules say.  


How do you feel about Victory Conditions?  Are they relevant and helpful?  What are bad conditions?  What are examples of games with really good Victory Conditions?  Would you play a game with no Victory Conditions at all?  What about Victory Guidelines like the ones above on Brandy Station?  Is this approach better than the traditional approach to wargaming?  

Comment below:

 

Pub Battles 2.0

We have an all new rules update available for Pub Battles now!  This is going to make things much easier going forward.  

The new format is made to fit in a regular 3 ring binder.  We like to slide the Terrain Effects chart into the back cover for easy reference.  This will keep our rules from being curled. 

It also makes it easy to keep all your Scenarios, rules and expansions all in 1 place.  

 

 

We have complete updates for Antietam and Marengo Scenarios.  The rest should be complete soon. 

You can get zip lock pouches for these that are perfect for storing your dice, measuring sticks and chains:

 


Fields of Fire

What has changed in the rules?  Very little.  Mostly just some minor tweaking, re-wording and clarification.  There is one ‘change’.  We don’t consider it a change because it is the way we’ve always played.  Strangely, as a system evolves, sometimes you have to ‘change’ the rules to keep the game the same.  This is one of those cases. 

We have introduced the concept of Fields of Fire.  The sets firm restrictions on how you can maneuver when you get close to the enemy.  The basic idea here is that if you are going to attack, then attack.  If you are going to fall back and avoid the enemy, then fall back.  You can’t do gamey things like disengage but only fall back 1 mm, or you move up to attack the enemy but you don’t attack.  You stay back 1 mm.  

In real life terms, that IS combat.  You are still in close range of heavy musket fire.  We didn’t want to bog the system down with complex rules on assault vs ranged fire attacks.  This simple restriction forces you to maneuver like an Umpire would require you to.  No more trickery.  Fight like gentlemen.  🙂

 

Some of you will immediately think of the different musket ranges.  Yes, there is a difference between smooth bore and rifled.  At this scale, we are only talking the difference between 1/2″ and 1″.   We are still in the same 1/3 move range if you round.  You may want to mark the exact ranges on your sticks and chains if you want to use the real distance.  

However, while testing new Ancient battles between Rome and Carthage, we noted that this rule still mostly holds true even without any muskets at all.  A better term might be:  Proximity to the Enemy.  When the enemy is that close, everybody is kind of on edge.  Either side could rush at any moment.  There isn’t much time to react at that range.  It is very….   uncomfortable.  

In all ages, troops didn’t tend to get real close to each other and then just sit there all day.  You either attack and fight or you pull back and plan.   


How do I Get the New Rules?

If you already have Pub Battles, you can get the new updates for FREE!

Just send us an email.  (we won’t put you on a spam list)  We will send you a pdf of the Rules, Terrain Effects and Scenarios we have now.  You just need to print them out double sided and get a 3 ring binder.  We think black looks best with the clear view pockets.

 

Pub Battles -mini review

Pub Battles.  What is it like?  Is it really good?  Worth the price?  Blah, blah, blah.  I could talk all day about the system.  “Yeah, of course YOU say it’s great.  You’re supposed to say that.  What do other people say?”  It always carries more weight if somebody else says you’re great.    

We get feedback emails like this all the time from people.  I thought it would help to post some online.  This isn’t meant as a formal review.  It is hardly even a mini review.  The important thing is that it is not from us.  I think it does a good job of capturing some key concepts in the game.   

 


 

 

 

There is a fine line between simple enough, and too simple. As far as wargames go, Pub Battles is so simple that many feel the rules are incomplete. And yet to new players it is still intimidating.  

Pub Battles is perfect for me. It gives the feel of commanding an army without all the minutia that is actually required to run an army. 

I like how it mirrors the look of maps of the battles that we see in history books. The long rectangular blocks. It is as if you just blew up the map from a book and placed your blocks on the starting positions. I had always dreamed of doing that, and then Pub Battles! 

I’m also of the opinion that the more detailed the rules, the farther away one gets from an actual simulation. 

It’s like this; you have a mental image of a battle that the game is attempting to simulate. All of the rules are essentially an awkward interface with your mental image. Elegant rules are rules that seem intuitive, the kind you don’t have to keep looking up. Every time you have to stop and check the rules you’re breaking the spell. It’s like the film breaking during a movie. 

Many of my rules misinterpretation with Pub Battles come from never looking at the rules. For months I played Antietam almost daily, yet I never looked at the rules after day one.

I was doing a couple of things wrong, but it didn’t matter. It worked for me and I had fun. None of the grognards that I played it with ever thought anything was wrong either. They played the rules as I explained them and felt they were good rules. 

The biggest adjustment was the non-linear movement. When they would question a block moving out of contact I would just explain that it is simultaneous movement and the enemy wasn’t there when they arrived. If you move second you’ve hoodwinked your opponent. They liked this. 

 

Mike Strand 

Real War vs Wargames

What is the difference between wargames and what really happens in war?  While working on our new Battle of the Bulge design, I can’t help but notice the impact of unit boundary lines.

 


Well it’s another cold snowy Sunday.  Too miserable to go out.  The perfect day to work on our Battle of the Bulge design.  Lol…  Is that a common wargamer thing or am I just a nut?  Do you guys do that too?  Play games like Battle of Moscow, Bulge and Austerlitz in the winter?  Then Vietnam, Pacific, North Africa in the heat of summer?  We need to make a Normandy Pub Battle that you can play at the beach!

 

I digress.  So we are working on our new Bulge game.  For a starting map, we just printed off a real military map of the battle.  We’ve come up with an OB and made a set of Kriegsspiel blocks set to scale for Divisions. 

 

 

In the opening turns, 5th Panzer Army in the center, did well and broken open the front easily.  6th Panzer to the north got stalled and bogged down. 

 

 

As a wargamer, I figured no problem.  Next turn, I’ll just reinforce success.  I’ll peel all the armor off of 6th Panzer and shift them south.  Leave the infantry there to keep slugging away.  I don’t want to hold up progress.  It is critical to drive as deep and fast as possible in the opening of the operation. 

 

That is all true but there is a huge problem with this in the real world:  the unit boundary line.  You can’t just randomly send units willy-nilly all over the map on a whim.  All of those free SS Panzer Divisions can’t move there.  That is out of there area of deployment and chain of command.  They are in the 6th Panzer Army.  All the openings are in 5th Panzer’s area of operation. 

 

But 5th Panzer doesn’t have enough free units to exploit this opening.  I know!!  The technical military term for this is:  SNAFU,  Situation Normal, All F*#%ed Up. 

 

I suppose you could make a shift like this but it would take time.  Meetings, order changes, reassignments, etc.  By the time you go through all of that, it’s too late.  The open door has been shut. 

 

Here is another issue.  Look at the German 7th Army down here in the south:

 

 

5th Panzer in the center has broken out.  They are spread pretty thin and dangerously stretched out.  7th Army is all bottled up.  All those units sitting there with nothing to do.  Why?  Unit boundary line.  In fact, look at the unit boundary line drawn for 7th Army.  It is the long skinny one drawn at the bottom of the map:

 

By the way, that is Patton’s 2 Corps sitting off the edge of the map waiting to come in as reinforcements later.

 

How is 7th Army even supposed to do that?  They are supposed to drive long and deep.  Fine along what MSR (main supply route)?  Look at the terrain.  Up and down hills, over rivers, through woods, no we’re not going to grandma’s house.  Not a single road to advance along.  Luckily most of the Army is infantry.  They only have 1 armored division and 1 mech division for support. 

 

Also, look to the south of 7th Army.  Clear open sailing!  Instead of trying to slog along west, I really wanted to break out south into Luxembourg.  Guess what?  Can’t.  It’s beyond the objective boundary.  Sigh. 

 

Who in the world drew this boundary line anyways?  Imagine being the 7th Army commander here.  I’d be pretty miffed.  I would have protested this mission up the chain of command right from the get go.  How could 7th Army ever get anywhere with this objective?  Of course, protesting the feasibility of orders up the chain, through the German High Command at this time wasn’t very productive. 

 


 

All of this raises a number of questions:

 

1)      How important is drawing unit boundary lines in orders?  Is this seemingly arbitrary task much more critical to the mission success than we realize? 

2)      Strictly following the historical boundaries at the opening of the Battle of the Bulge seems to have a huge impact.  Did these boundary lines doom the operation right from the get go?  (in addition to all the other problems working against the Wehrmacht.)   Could simply redrawing these lines and adjusting the opening OB create much better German results?

3)      What is your experience in real world, military operations with this?  Have you seen boundary line issues cause a mission to fail?  How much planning, effort and thought is actually put into drawing them?  How could this be better?

4)      From a game design perspective, should wargames enforce proper phase line and unit boundary limits?  Would that make them more accurate and better models?  Would that ruin them as games and make them less fun?  Would they be more fun?

5)      From a military science perspective, what can we learn from wargames?  How could this be used in real world command to improve unit performance?  Are Phase Lines and Unit Boundaries bad?  How could you command and conduct operations without them?  What type of command system would it take to allow real world units to freely shift as needed along the front without time delay and confusion?

 

What are your thoughts?  Comment below:

 

         

Supremacy Alliances

Sure, I’ll be your Ally….    Why not?  What is there to lose?  What is there to gain?  I can still attack you anytime I want.  Players always talk about being Allies but it doesn’t really mean anything.


This is a problem that plagues most multiplayer games.  Players can say anything.  What will they do?  If they can betray you and attack you at anytime, what good is an Alliance?   

What if it did mean something?  What if they really couldn’t attack you?  It was in the rules!  What if you also really got something out of it?  You could combine forces and coordinate together for attacks.  That would make an Alliance truly powerful.  

We have developed some new optional rules that you can add to Supremacy.  They do exactly that.  They put real meat into an Alliance.  They can’t just betray you.  It is against the rules.  Are they still willing declare an Alliance?  This completely changes the game. 

Where can you get these new Optional Rules?  They are now included in our Diplomatic Kit.   


IF

You were a Supremacy Backer

OR

Previously purchased the Diplomatic Kit,

Send us an email and we will send you a copy of these new Optional Alliance Rules for FREE!!

 

 

Tracking Time

What is the Black die for?  Tracking time.

Play testing revealed that counters on turn tracks can get easily dislodged by unruly die rolls.  Counting turns with a big square die was much more stable and reliable. 

 What happens after turn 6?  Easy, just keep rotating.  Turn 7 would be a 1.  Turn 8 would be a 2 and so on. 


 While we are on the topic, how do you track commands for the turn?  You are of course free to do this anyway you want to but this is how we do it.

 We place chits near to turn die after they move.  If you string them out in a line, you have a record of who moved in what order. 

 

 We like to keep the pulled chits that haven’t moved separate, so it is easy to track where you are.  In this example, Greene and Knyphausen have already moved.  Sullivan was pulled to move next but he hasn’t moved yet.

Cornwallis successfully rolls to jump ahead.  So then we place his chit here:

 Sullivan rolls to jump ahead of Cornwallis but fails.  After Cornwallis actually moves, we would slide his command chit over like this:

Command & Control at Antietam

How does Command & Control work at Antietam?  Instead of explaining the rules, here is a good example to show you:


Burnside attacked across the bridge in turn 2.  He was driven back but Jones is now spent.  We are at the beginning of turn 3. 

 

In this case, Longstreet and Burnside both want to move first.  Half of Burnside’s Corps is spent but he still has 2 fresh units to attack with.  If Longstreet can move first, he can rally Jones BEFORE Burnside can strike. 

If Burnside attacks first, Jones can’t rally.  He must either fight against 2 fresh divisions (good chance of dying) OR fall back.  Falling back is sensible but you would also be giving up your good defensible terrain and allowing the Potomac a bridge head across the Antietam.  –A very bad position to be in on turn 3!

Should you roll now to move first?  No.  This will waste your HQ roll.  Better to sit tight and see what happens:

Wouldn’t you know it, Burnside gets picked to move first.  Disaster for the Rebs?  Not yet…..  This is where the HQs come in.  Longstreet can roll to jump ahead of Burnside.  He needs a 1-4.

Wouldn’t you know it, he fails.  It happens.  Now what?  Game over?  Nope.  Keep your shirt on.  That’s why you keep your Army HQ in range of your Corps HQs.  Lee can do this easily at Antietam.  He has relatively short interior lines.  He also only has 2 Corps to deal with. 

Lee now rolls to Jump Longstreet ahead. 

Success!  Now Longstreet will move first, THEN Burnside.  

Ok, disaster averted?  Not so fast.  The Potomac command hasn’t weighed in yet.  Their HQs can roll to alter this too.  It is harder for the Federals in this battle.  They need 1-3. 

Burnside swings a misses.  Good.  Are we in the clear now?  Nope.  McClellan can roll just like Lee did for Longstreet.  Well, not just like Lee.  He needs a 1-3.

He pulls it off! 


Note what makes this roll possible is that McClellan is both Fresh and in range of Burnside.  It is much harder for McClellan to pull this off than Lee.  McClellan has 6 Corps on the board now with a 7th arriving later.  They are also scattered along a much bigger frontage.  McClellan is able to roll for Burnside now because he is nearby.

Also note the opportunity cost of this.  Staying close to Burnside, means that McClellan is out of range to influence the whole right side of the field.   


Ok, so now where are we?  Can’t we just have Lee roll again?  No.  Only Fresh HQs can roll.  Rolling causes your HQ to become Spent.  It will become Fresh again at the beginning of next turn but that won’t help you now. 

So does that mean we are done and the poor Rebs are about to have a bad day?  Not quite.  There is still 1 more trick up our sleeve.  It just so happens that DH Hill is east of Shaprsburg.  He is in range to help Jones.  The key thing here is that DH Hill isn’t in Longstreet’s Corps.  He is in Jackson’s!  Jackson’s HQ is still Fresh, so he can roll and he does:

Success!  This allows Jackson’s II Corps to jump ahead of Burnside.

What will this do for us?  Jones will still move after Burnside but this allows us to move DH Hill forward to block for Jones.

Next Burnside will move.  He will attack with his lead units and rally his reserve. 

Finally Longstreet moves.  Since he’s not in contact, Jones can now rally.  The tables are turned!  Instead of attacking 1 spent defender, Burnside runs into to Fresh Divisions, across a bridge, on top of a hill.  Not good for the poor Federals. 

Alright you say, clever trick.  What about the Potomac?  Can’t they just do the same thing?  Can’t they just roll in another Corps to jump ahead of Jackson?  Theoretically, yes they could.  The problem is in this case, there are no other Federal Corps in range that could get there.  I know, it’s that darned interior lines advantage again! 

One more thing to note here.  What about the opportunity cost for Jackson?  Yes, this was a clever little trick.  The ANV has used their superior C&C to out position the Potomac once again but this does not come without a cost.  Jackson is now spent and this is only the first couple of chit pulls for the turn.  What is going on in his half of the line?

If a critical emergency like this develops for Jackson’s Corps, he and Lee can do nothing about it.  They’ve been tied up putting out Longstreet’s fire.  Jackson’s boys are going to have to deal with whatever the chit pull gods throw down on them.  I hope they are already in a good position to handle it.

Imagine if they weren’t?  Imagine if they were also facing possible disastrous pulls like this on their side of the field?  What does Jackson do then?  Does he let Longstreet get whacked and save his HQ roll for his own troops?  Which emergency is more important?  Time for the Scotch.

Solitaire Suitability


This is why Pub Battles makes such a great solitaire system.  Look at all the head scratching decisions this forces you to deal with.  Struggling with all of these conundrums is very interesting and rewarding as a solitaire game. 

Multi Player


Surprisingly, it makes for a great multiplayer game as well.  Imagine  playing through this same situation with other live players.  Imagine that a separate live player is Longstreet.  You are Jackson.  You can watch and see all these events unfolding with Burnside.  The only problem is:  You can’t communicate with Longstreet! 

You can’t strategize and work out the best course of action here.  He can’t say, “Well, don’t worry about me.  Your problem is much more pressing.  I think I can handle this on my own.”  OR “I don’t care what you have going on, if you don’t help salvage this now, the battle is lost!”  Which one is he thinking?  What is your assessment?  Agonizing fun!

I know it’s hard to get other wargame players.  It is way worth the effort here.  You also have 2 big advantages working in your favor:

  • It’s easy to learn.
  • It plays fast.

 

 

Lessons from Gettysburg

Notes from the Design Table


First of all, this is coming together way faster than I expected.  I didn’t think this would be ready till next summer.  We might be done much sooner.

 

Losses Not So Bad


This battle is giving me a much different view of casualties.  When a unit is destroyed, that doesn’t mean 100% casualties were suffered.  In real world terms, it means that 50% casualties were suffered which renders the unit 100% ineffective.  Some of those casualties are lost stragglers.  Some have minor wounds.  They will return to the ranks overnight. At first, I thought I had suffered catastrophic losses on day 2.  There is no way I can continue this battle.  Maybe this combat is too bloody.  I resolved the whole battle in 1 day!

Wait a second.  Put half of those guys back on the board and flip everybody up to fresh again.  Oh.  Ok.  That’s not so bad.  That looks about historical.  We can fight from here.

Lesson learned:  All those guys in the dead pile?  They aren’t really dead.  Half of them spring back to life for the next day.  You’re probably ok.

 

Nice to Have Options


I love the scope of our new map.  Most maps here cut off at both historical flanks.  Ours is open.  It allows you to explore all possibilities.  Turn their flank on the left or right.  You can try.  Realistically, you probably won’t do it.  I like ‘not doing’ it because I chose to, NOT because some game rule or map MADE me do that.  Big difference.

What is also cool about this, is also the possibility of a Confederate side slip to the right.  We are designing this with the possibility of a Pipe Creek defense later as an expansion.  Don’t want to defend in Gettysburg?  Fine.  Fall back to Pipe Creek.  First day is a total disaster?  You lost Cemetery and Culp’s Hills?  Fine.  Fall back to Pipe Creek.  Confederates were able to side slip to the right and skip out south to Taneytown?  Now you better skedaddle down to Pipe Creek!

 

Interior Lines of Communication


At Antietam, Lee only has 2 Corps.  They are somewhat mixed and Lee can be in range of both of them.  Confederate HQs are rated higher than the Feds.  On top of that, Lee almost always can weigh in with a second opinion when it comes to jumping ahead of a move.  🙂

At Gettysburg, a much different story.  So far we are using all HQs rated the same.  Still, it’s a huge difference.  Mead is on the inside of his fish hook.  He is in range of almost all his Corps.  He also has many Corps to respond with.

Lee only has 3 Corps.  Along the longer stretching lines of communication, which Corps is he able to influence?  Usually the wrong one.

So Pender launched an attack on Cemetery Hill.  They got lucky and forced the Federals back.  In Pub Battles, that doesn’t mean you’ve taken the Hill!  It means you have shoved them back and now have a ‘chance’ to take the hill.

The next turn is a race to see who can get back up on Cemetery Hill first!  The Confederates have 1 roll to jump ahead and get there:  The Corps Commander.  Is Lee in range?  Probably not.

How many Federal Corps can get there?  Almost all of them in one way or another.  So there is about 4-6 rolls.  Can Mead roll also?  Yes.  He is in range of just about everybody.  Easy.  Who is going to get back up there first?  Most often the Potomac.  Why?  Because of interior lines.

 


Keep in mind that these are very rough and crude play test maps.  NOT the final version.

 

The Other Fog of War in Wargames

When we think about Fog of War in board gaming, we usually think of hidden units.  There are many ways to do this.  Traditional Kriegsspiel uses Umpires.  Each ‘player’ is isolated with his own map.  Only the Umpire knows where everybody is at any given time.

True Kriegsspiel is fantastic!  It does require lots of players though…  Most wargamers struggle to find 1 opponent, little lone teams of people.    

Wargames with Fog of War


Modern wargame (board games) have been moving towards incorporating Fog of War in their games.  Usually not with Umpires but with board game ‘technology’.  In many ways Columbia Games started this effort with their hidden blocks.  This conceals the unit type and strength.  This effort has grown with new companies pushing this concept in different ways:

Command Post Games

Columbia Games

Simmons Games

Worthington Games

The Other Fog of War


These companies all make great games that incorporate some Fog of War effects from Kriegsspiel into a regular 2 player board game.  As I think about playing Kriegsspiel and these games, I notice there is something missing.

In Kriegsspiel, you don’t know exactly where the enemy is or what they have.  Heck, half the time you aren’t certain about where your own people are or what they have!  That is true but it is only half the problem.  The other half of the problem is Communication and Control.  This is huge.

Control


When it is my turn to move, I don’t actually move them.  Another player (or an Umpire acting as my subordinate) moves them for me.  I give them orders telling them how to move and what to do but I don’t actually do the move or even see it.  Did they do what I said?  Did they do it exactly like I would have done?  Did they do it quickly or slowly?  I don’t know. 

In Kriegsspiel, I control MY pieces indirectly.  I don’t actually move and attack with them myself.  Imagine all the Fog of War that results from this one simple difference.  It is massive! 

Communication


Ok, so you don’t actually move the pieces, you tell somebody else to do it for you.  Keywords here are:  ‘Tell Somebody’.  That is Communication.  Did they hear what you said?  Did you say what you thought you said?  Do those words mean the same thing to them? 

Here is a bigger problem:  What if there is no communication?  You CAN’T talk to them?  At least not right now.  Maybe there is a turn or two delay.  What happens in the mean time?  Bam!  Fog of War. 

Example


It all starts out sounding so simple.  Your orders are to attack the enemy in Newville.  Throw them out and occupy Newville.  Hold and defend Newville from the enemy thereafter.  Fine.  What could go wrong with that?

You approach Newville.  As you do, you find that the enemy is not there.  Newville has been evacuated.  You see some enemy activity on your right flank and get the sneaking suspicion that they are preparing for a massive counter attack at you from there but you have no hard evidence to support this.

What do you do?  Do you occupy Newville as ordered?  If the enemy does attack from your right, you will easily be cut off.  If you delay and ask for clarification from command, the enemy could occupy Newville in the meantime.  Now you just lost and easily secured objective. 

Maybe your commander already knows about the enemy forming to your right.  Maybe they already have something in place to deal with that threat.  Maybe they are clueless and you are about to get stomped. 

Notice the key ingredient that causes the headache here is:  No Communication, not least not for the moment.  IF your commander was sitting right next to you, holding your hand, there would be no issue.  You both instantly know what is going on and can easily make the best decision. 

 

What can we do?


Hidden units in wargames are great.  They bring in much of the Fog of War.  From my Kriegsspiel experience, that is only a part.  A much bigger part of the Fog of War is limited Control and Communication.  How can we bring more of these elements into Wargaming? 

Our first big push in this direction is Dracula’s Final Stand.  Yes, it is a semi fantasy theme but make no mistake, it IS a wargame.  The movement & combat may be very simple.  I’ll argue that the C&C aspects are very advanced and sophisticated.

In many ways, Dracula is the opposite of traditional Block Games.  Dracula implements Fog of War not by Hidden Units.  All players can clearly see everything on the board at all times.  Guess what?  This makes little difference.  This game has massive amounts of Fog of War, like you’ve never seen.  (Unless of course you are used to Kriegsspiel.)  The Other type of Fog of War.   

Dracula’s Hopes and Fears


Dracula is a strong push in a very new direction:  Fog of War based on C&C.  This is very exciting and we plan to drive harder with this in more ‘serious’ wargame titles.  I can’t wait to see how this develops.  

The only down side I see is that it requires more people.  No way around this.  To get the real C&C Fog of War effects you MUST have teams.  It doesn’t take much.  You can start to see this with even 3-4 players.

To make this easier, we’ve kept the complexity to Dracula very low.  Grandma can play it.  If you are a Grognard, your first thought maybe to skip it.  A simple ‘Dracula’ type game is hardly worth our higher, cerebral, military science faculties. 

I’d ask you to think again.  Yes the movement and combat is really simple.  That’s so you can easily find players.  The military strategy, C&C is very complex. 

Can you lead and turn Grandma, two teenagers and your fishing buddy into an elite fighting force to take down the enemy without being able to talk to them half the time? 

Now you are practicing the true Art of War.  I would say this is a much more realistic and accurate model of Command.  “What if YOU were in command at Gettysburg?”

They were a sad lot.  Soldiers dressed in rags, poorly paid and low in morale.  Under Napoleon, they became heroes, achieving the highest, heights of glory.  

 

   

 

 

 

Dracula, Risk, Kriegsspiel & Zombicide

Dracula, Risk, Kriegsspiel & Zombicide

  What do these all have in common?  The inspiration for our latest release!

This is a recent interview with a Tupelo Game Days.  


  1. What is your game? 

Dracula’s Final Stand:  Forest of the Impaled

It is an Asymmetrical, Cooperative board game, where up to 6 Muslim players try to invade and take down the Christian Dracula player.  It plays in 1-2 hours, is low complexity and well suited to casual gamers. 

Dracula is massively outnumbered.  To survive he can hunker in Castles, slip through secret mountain passes and of course, Impale people!


  1. What was the inspiration?

Risk, Kriegsspiel & Zombicide

I know, a strange combination.  We incorporated our favorite parts of these games.

I’ve always found the historical Dracula far more horrific than the campy vampire from Hollywood.  I don’t even think they can show most of the stuff that went on in a movie.  The real Dracula was very tragic and complex.  Was he a hero or a villain?  In many ways he was a freedom fighter for independence:  defending his Christian European country from oppressive Muslim rule, crushing taxes and invasion.  His tactics were brutal and savage but those were the times. 


  1. What are some unique features/mechanics your game features?

 


Impalement

Dracula can Impale any piece in the dead pile.  He can even Impale his own live troops!  What does it do?  When you march into an area with Impalements each group must roll a die for morale:  4-6, they stay in the ranks and take down 1 Impalement marker.  1-3, they run away!  How many of your troops will actually be there to fight Dracula?  All?  Half?  15% ?   Always a surprise.  Usually hysterical.   

 

No Player Elimination

Is there anything worse than being the first player to get knocked out of Risk?  Then you sit there, a bored loser for 4 hours while everybody else has fun.

There is no elimination in this game.  “Dracula just whacked my army!  What can I do?”  Simply form a new army:

  • Go ask another player to give you some of his troops.
  • Did the selfish bastard turn you down?   Form a new army by rounding up all of his stragglers that just ran from Dracula’s Impalements.
  • No stragglers in the area? Just ride back to Rumelia and recruit a new army.  No big deal.    

 

Team Play   

Another big problem with competitive, multiplayer games is that the only way to win is to make a ‘fake’ alliance and then betray and backstab another player.

This is a team game.  You win by working better as a team.  This is more fun, challenging and rewarding.  You can still be the ‘best’ player that saved the day and won the game but your teammates may find this arguable.       


  1. What is your favorite part of the game?

No Communication!

Players on the same team cannot ‘communicate about the game’, unless their HQs are in the same area.

It is hard to describe how incredibly fun this is.  It is very much like Krieggspiel without an umpire. 

Dracula gets a free ReRoll token as a penalty every time somebody breaks this rule.  ‘Communication’ means all types:  verbal and NON-VERBAL, to include:  smiles, frowns, sighs, staring, eye rolling, groans, banging your head against the wall, etc.  (No I’m not exaggerating.  I’ve seen it in this game.)

We can talk and plan our strategy before the game:  You go up the center.  I go up the right and take down these castles.  Fine, except then your army gets trashed by Dracula.  Now what?  Should I go rescue you and cover the center?  Should I ignore that and follow the plan:  castles on the right?  Should I stop and waste a turn to go talk to you about it and come up with a new plan?

Another great result we see from this is that the ‘smart kids’ can’t bully everybody with:  “Oh no, that’s not what you do.  THIS is the perfect move in THAT situation.”  Not being able to talk makes this absolutely epic.  The mere mortal players have more fun because they are free to try anything and experiment.  If it all blows up,  they have a great excuse:  I didn’t know!  Nobody could tell me!  The ‘smart kids’ have more fun because they are horrified at what everybody is doing ‘wrong’ and they can do nothing to stop it. This game is SNAFU on steroids. 

Guess what?  Sometimes, the ‘wrong move’ works.  Sometimes the ‘perfect move’ fails.  This is a game that serious, competitive, strategic players can play together WITH casual gamers and even non-gamers.  Everybody has fun and learns a lot of interesting things about communication and teamwork.  This game isn’t about being a strategic genius and making ‘perfect’ moves.


  1. Will it be Kickstarted? If so when?

Yes, it’s on Kickstarter right now!  It ends on Halloween.  There is one week left so you’ll need to hurry to get the cool extras like custom Dragon dice.  -in some rewards. 


  1. Where can we keep up with the game?

You can see it on Kickstarter:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1743441977/draculas-final-stand-forest-of-the-impaled


  1. Anything else you want to share?

Short Play Time

Easy to fit in time to play.  It only lasts 4 turns.  It is usually over in 1.5-2 hours. 

 

Short Rules

Quick & easy to learn and teach.  Only 8 mini pages of rules.  Even non-gamers play and like this game. 

 

Good 2 Player

Though we strongly urge more players, this game plays very well as a standard 2 player game.    

 

Great Solitaire

You’re gonna think I’m just saying this to hype the game but it’s really true.  It makes a great solitaire game as well.  This game was designed to be multiplayer.  Surprisingly, our play testers report that it is very strong as a solitaire game.  I can’t explain it.  I’m not sure I understand it.  I’m just tellin you what we hear.