Fog of War in Games

This guy brings up several, fantastic points. It reminds me of Pub Battles. Some Grognards will complain about the lack of detail: “Where are the different combat factors and morale ratings, accounting for each individual unit? This game doesn’t look very ‘realistic’.”

Actually, it’s the opposite. As Dr. Pulsipher points out here, in real life, you don’t know all that information. You often don’t even know where your units are or what their current strength / status is!

Pub Battles pushes in this direction. Kriegsspiel goes even further! While gaming with the guys at the Command and General Staff College, I noticed a behavior I see often in Kriegsspeil: No Reports!

Each turn, the Commander sends out orders to his subordinate units. Fine, but they never report back. No SitReps. Where are they? What is their status? What is the enemy doing in their area? What do they expect to happen next? What do they need or want for support? Nothing. Silence. Turn after turn.

After 3-4 turns of silence, the Commander actually had to send out an Order to all his subordinates, instructing them to: REPORT! So simple. So crucial. So often overlooked.

The Best Parts of Board Gaming

When it comes to being a pirate, less is more.  Don’t ask me why. 

This game has been long in the making.  We started on it 2 years before Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Men Tell No Tales, came out.  It was supposed to be ready for release with that movie!  Ha, ha ha. 

We made about 10 different pirate games that all really sucked.  We wanted a game on this subject but we won’t publish it if we don’t like it.  There are already too many crappy games that just get cranked out there because they know people will buy them.  We want to do games we are really proud of.  Games that WE like playing. We almost gave up.   After many attempts, we finally stumbled onto the right combination of secret ingredients. 

Mike asked about the lack of detail in the game.  Is it too generic?  Usually you see rules for loading different types of shot.  Different qualities of guns and crew.  Some of them have special abilities and such.  The ships could have more detail too.  What about a ship’s log where you can track the status of various kinds of damage and the little differences between each ship?

Yeah, we started with all that stuff.  Just like all the other games have.  We experimented with 10 different ways of doing all that.  In the end, we cut it all out.  Why?  Because it ruined the game.  I know! 

Don’t ask me to explain it.  I’m not sure I completely understand it myself.  I always say that the best test of a game or any particular rule is to just throw it on the table and play it.  Often rules sound great.  I get some brilliant new idea.  The theory behind it sounds fantastic.  True, true, true…   but it just doesn’t work.  I don’t know why.

All those chrome rules sound fun.  On the table, they were just boring.  What did they add to the game?  Lots more time required to play it.  Lots of work for the players to do.  Lots of pages added to the rulebook, that you have to read, learn, teach and remember.  Work, work, work. Not fun. What we discovered was that the more of that we cut, the better the game got! 

Who cares what kind of shot that was?  What’s our damage?  Can we fix it?  How long before it’s operational again?  How bad did we hit the enemy?  What are they going to pull next?  How about we just drift here for a turn and make it look like we are in serious trouble.  When they circle back around, we’ll take off and blast em!!!  Yes!

That’s the fun part.  Who cares about all the details?  That’s what we have crew for, right?  Let them sort it all that out. For crying out loud, we’re the Captain!  OUR job is to outsmart that other wily seadog. Oh, they’re going down.

Of all the pirate games we made, this was the best.  It is actually fun.  It’s intense.  It feels real.  It puts you in the Captain’s chair.  A fantastic story narrative.  To me, those are the best parts of board gaming.

It’s more than good enough for us to publish.  It is truly epic. 


We’ve had a lot of interest in this. Thanks for letting us know! It helps us to know better what to focus on. This project is shifting up into high priority.

What has the hold up been? Well first, we’re not happy with what we have. :/ There is a lot of demand for a title like this. We want to see it too. All too often, I think companies rush out a game because they know it will sell based on the subject. The game is total trash but who cares? They made their money, now on to the next one.

We hate that. We feel very strongly about not releasing a game until ‘we like it’. Games are never really done. They are also never perfect. It has to be a good game though. We have to feel that we’ve got something really good that we would want in our game collection. More importantly, that we like playing!

We’ve been really struggling with this design. We have 3-4 different versions of it that we aren’t happy with. It seems like one of the hardest things about game design is FIRST deciding what exactly you are making. What scale? What complexity? What type of game? What will it cover or not? We keep going round and round about many of these questions.

It occurred to me last week, that I’ve never seen a Bulge game out there that I like. Why not? Well, they all just seem like races to me. What is the Victory system? That can be a critical part to many games. Most Bulge games just boil down to: can you go faster than your sides historical result?

Oh! I got a few extra cities than the Germans did in the real battle. I win!


Oh! I pushed the Germans back 2 turns earlier than they did historically. I win!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That just sounds incredibly boring to me. Why are we even fighting here? Because those are your orders. True but that’s not very engaging.

Pondering this conundrum, we finally found a way to make this interesting: Variable forces with a reverse CRT Victory system. Just like we did in Little Bighorn. The solution has been staring us in the face the whole time. I don’t know why we didn’t see this earlier.

We’ll need to step this up to account for time, support strikes, munitions and oil spent by both sides in their efforts. This is what we need to really make this a fun and interesting game. Sure, if you’re a purist, you can play with the fixed historical forces. Fine but opening up the strategic options will make this infinitely fascinating and replayable.

Now that we know what we are making and why, it should be a fairly short process to pull all this together. No promises but we are hoping to have this ready by the end of this year. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

Pirates? When?

We’ve had lots of interest in the new Pirate game. Reviewers are looking at it now. The Kickstarter is just about ready. We have to update and rearrange our financial accounts for Kickstarter. Once that is done, we are ready to launch!

Hopefully in a week or two. By the end of the month at worst!