Topic: Design Diary
I have not posted in a bit and I wanted to catch everyone up on where I have been over the last couple of months and where I am going.
Since my last post the Empire of the Sun reprint has been on the front burner. One of the perennial WBC champions, Antero Kuusi, stepped up to re-write the rules to make them more accessible. I want to say he has done a fabulous job in reorganizing and rewriting many of the trickier sections. While EotS is still a very intricate design I believe that he has lowered the barrier to entry for those who want to get involved. Backing him up is a crack team of editors drawn from the elite staff players on Consimworld who have been playing the game continuously since its publication almost a decade ago. Besides the rules rewrite I have incorporated a few of the more important c3i variants into the core rules, so there is a lot to like about the reprint rules.
On the card front, about 60 of the 160 cards have had a rewrite to incorporate FAQ questions and I took the opportunity to insert a bit more history into the game with new bonuses on many cards that were not in the original. A good example is the small naval force that was under MacArthur’s command is now incorporated without any extra rules. MacArthur’s navy allows an Army activation of one non-carrier naval unit while under ISR. The rest of the new bonuses I will leave as a surprise.
The counters are almost unchanged except we added many of the c3i mnemonic counters that the team have found useful plus I renamed a few counters to give each counter a unique name so instead of BB Kongo 1 and BB Kongo 2, we now have BB Hiei and BB Kongo.
Probably the most interesting dimension of the reprint is the incorporation of the Card Driven Solo System that is based on my experience designing the US ‘Bot for Fire in the Lake. Essentially I am writing a Japanese and Allied ‘Bot for EotS. When I told Mark Simonitch what I was doing he wrote, “you’re crazy”. While that may be true it works. I learned a long time ago that if you tackle the hardest problem last, you end up solving lots of small issues that do not add up. To avoid this pitfall I started by building the logic for a non-player Japanese opening. My current version captured Malaya, the Philippines and the DEI plus set up a defense perimeter in 9 cards. Not to bad… The way I see this working out is you will have the option to play the Japanese, play the Allies, or what I like best is start as the Japanese with a non-player Allied side. When the Japanese have reached their apogee switch sides and become the Allied player against the Japanese ‘Bot. This way you are always on the attack. So, far I have finished the version 1.0 Japanese opening logic, with much more to do before this is fully up an running.
Now what you will get in the reprint is the version 1.0. It will not perfect but I am looking at this as a work in progress. I will do the first cut, put it up on line with a template and the EotS tribe can continue to improve and develop it. That’s about all I have on the EotS reprint other than a few minor map improvements to handle the revised India surrender procedure and a couple of nits. All that is left is to proof the revised rules layout, which I should see shortly.
The other big activity has been Churchill. The game is now in blindtest and I would encourage you to go to the BGG Churchill page to see some interesting videos, one that features my beautiful wife who teaches you how to play. The playtesters have been very engaged and I am getting very positive feedback on the game experience. The early playtests showed a VP bias against Stalin that has since been rectified and the most recent games have all been very close whereby one change in a countries status or winning one more conference would have changed the winner. I have just rolled out the final conference cards that bring in the remainder of the history and some chaos. The chaos comes in the form of government in exiles having an imbroglio. Just picture a petulant DeGaulle causing all sorts of problems.
Once again under the category that you can teach an old dog new tricks, based on my recent Fire in the Lake experience with the ‘Bots, Churchill now has a Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin ‘Bot. I have been playing the game in zero player mode just watching the ‘Bots beat each other up. It was a close game. I have also been regularly testing with my wife most recently using the Stalin ‘Bot who managed to win the opening conference, very embarrassing. With the solo ‘Bot mechanic pioneered by the COIN series, you now get to play against me when no one else is around.
I would say that this one is just about done and I should be sending it into the production team in September.
On the I get to have fun front, I have been having a good time play testing Mark Simonitch’s Civil War game. Its DNA is Eric Lee Smith’s Civil War game after a one night stand with For the People, as interpreted through Mark’s lens on the war writ large. Great fun and good history that I predict will be an instant classic.
In the midst of all of this I received one of the first finished samples of Volko’s and my Fire in the Lake COIN series game. It looks amazing, so I have played one campaign game (ARVN victory) and I have another going as I write this. I am looking forward to getting in a couple of games at WBC with the published components in a couple of weeks.
On the ‘what’ comes next category, is the redesign of War is Hell. This is a four map monster game on, wait for it, American Civil War. I finished this design over 5 years ago with some additional work done by Richard Berg, but now its time to bring it all to closure. The basic system is a chit pulling system that represents logistics being built up at various locations. When your general has enough supplies he can be activated to perform a variety of operations. In addition you can apply some political capital to add a push if your general has the slows. The combat system is based on detailed casualty and performance data on all of the battles, leaders, and campaigns and seems to do a really good job at replicating the tempo and losses of the war.
Copying from my Pacific War experience, while the game has a master campaign game its main focus is a multitude of scenarios covering all the important campaigns and battles of the war. So, while it looks like a monster game its really a ACW operational series all in one box. For the research I have an intern working on something that just does not seem to exist, a comprehensive timeline of when every regiment mustered in and out for the entire war. Once this is accomplished I will start the campaign scenario, but right now I continue system work using the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863.
Speaking of Pacific War, it is moving along nicely for its reprint. The most noticeable change will be the beautiful graphics being done by Olivier Revenu. A major order of battle change inspired by EotS is we have dispensed with unnamed air units and now have a comprehensive air order of battle, same system, but now instead of a 1E-L2 Land based air unit it’s a 1E-L2 Tainan air group. It may be cosmetic, but it really improves the game narrative. The reprint will also feature a totally redone submarine mechanic (think patrol areas) and has incorporated the best thinking of its devotees from over these last 35 years. Really! this game was published 35 years ago… best not to think about it.
Also, Sun Tzu continues to continue through its design phase with a new map from James Pei who is now focusing on the event cards. All of the research in this game comes from Chinese sources, so the pace is being set by translation throughput. All is going well as we try to bring to your gaming table details on the Warring States period that is poorly represented in English sources.
To close this out I am just starting to ramp up my reading on the Peloponnesian War. The next game using the Churchill system will by Pnyx: Political conflict during the Peloponnesian War. The game will be playable with 1-8 players, so I am really excited by the possibilities.
Well that’s it for now; I am going back to writing the next version of the Churchill rules.