Churchill is my most recent design that is now getting into the latter phases of its development cycle and has passed its GMT P500 level, so it will be published in the later half of 2013.
Churchill is a game of Inter-Allied Politics during World War II. The players explicitly represent Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin and their Military Staffs. The game is played as a series of Conferences where the players resolve who determines Theater Command, Type and Deployment of Production, Deception Operations, and Theater Offensives. The goal of the game is for the three players to cooperate to defeat the Axis powers in 5 Conferences or less while competing for a superior post war position. Players score victory points for which powers are present in an Axis country when it surrenders and key areas of Western and Eastern Europe. The player with the most Victory Points wins with Conference performance determing the winner in tie breaker situations.
Churchill at its core is a simulation of inter Allied cooperation and competition. I use the term simulation to denote one dimension of the game, the Allied conflict for who drives Grand Strategy. In all other ways the other simple game mechanics are designed to move the strategic narrative along. In this manner many will view it as an historically themed game but as I have written in my c3i column we often diminish psychological history versus physical history in our hobby. The reason that Sun Tzu is still relevant in todays world is its strong focus on the mental dimension of warfare, which has been augmented by technology while humans still remain humans.
While the strategic narrative is totally unscripted, geography and victory conditions drive the war along recognizable historical paths. This is a game of Grand Strategy where high level Joint Allied decisions drive Command, Production, Deception, and large scale conflict (e.g., Battle for the Atlantic). What it is not is a strategic level game ala Empire of the Sun where you worry about a particular theater. Combat resolution is designed to be simple to implement and generates successes, failures, and attrition, with little insight beyond numbers matter with some assistance from special situations injected through the conference cards (e.g., Market Garden). One important but simple rule that has huge strategic implications is one whereby if an Allied production center (UK or Eastern US for example) has more Axis forces adjacent to the space than exist in the production center, that sides production is halved for the next conference, as you can imagine this is a bad thing. Therefore, while no rule exists to force winning the Battle for the North Atlantic, Roosevelt and Churchill will quickly tire of having their production halved and build naval forces to avoid the situation. Now while at first blush it would appear that Stalin would prefer this situation and might even work to engineer it, the balance is the Axis will not lose the war and the Soviet forces alone will be insufficient to win the game without US and UK forces in the mix.
If Germany falls before Italy (Marshall's preferred strategy), the remaining Axis forces are still considered German as they have fallen back into the Festung Alps.
If Italy falls before Germany (Churchill's preferred strategy), then it follows fairly historical paths.
Japan is the wild card and while historically the US was the sole historical occupant, although Soviet influence (Manchuria) and British (naval) were in the mix. Any outcome that sees other powers fulfilling the surrender of Japan would be viewed as the A-bomb causes Japanese surrender and which side(s) are in the best position to occupy Japan first.
Value is also achieved for who has sole or joint control of Western and Eastern Europe at the time of Axis surrender. It behooves the US-UK to try and consider Churchill's Balkan strategy to try and limit Soviet post war advantage in Eastern Europe.
In all cases what happens in the game is driven by who wins the agenda battle during a particular conference. So while it may feel very strange to have the Soviets moving US forces in the Pacific, what it simulates is the Soviets winning the argument on where the various offensives should occur. A similar situation occurred for most of the British offensives in the CBI which the British reluctantly agreed to execute. It should also be remembered that the US argued for earlier Soviet participation in the Far East and in retrospect that may not have been to US post war advantage.
How much cooperation and how much competition the players need to exhibit is determined by how ahead or behind schedule the Allies are on the historical timeline for ending the war. The self correcting mechanism in the game are the players. If the players do not successfully hinder or support each other at the right times then what happens is your groups strategic narrative for the war.
There is almost no luck in the game. So, player skill alone will determine who wins. The rules will not force obvious player actions, it is for the players to sort through the Grand Strategy puzzle that is confronting them from a Realpolitik perspective. Weird stuff only happens if you let it. So, far I have found no advantage for any particular side as I have now won or observed every side winning with most games coming down to a few critical decisions as the war comes to its conclusion.
I hope these continuing posts are helpful for folks, but I am not aware of any games that have gone down this path in this manner. I suspect that for the hardcore tactical crowd this will not be their cup of tea. For those who are looking for a Grand Strategic vice Strategic game, with a different perspective on the war this may be worth a look.
My thanks to all those who have already P500ed the game as it is now slated for production which I would expect would start in the late Spring to early Summer. As always I am not in a rush, but the game is starting to get set in its final form.