Solitaire Play

Work has begun on a system for solitaire play using tables and charts to act as the AI. I’m designing it around the 1917-18 scenario with the player controlling the Allies in a effort to push the Hun out of France.

It’s too early to say how well it will work. I’m not much of a solo player myself so I plan to get as much feedback as I can at Strategicon this weekend. Stay tuned.

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GMT West October 2014 part 1

I’m going to work backwards here and share some pictures from Saturday’s game between Volko Ruhnke and Charles Lewis. I’ll do Friday in a future post. Volko and Charles took the 1915-1916 Great Stalemate scenario out for a test drive. Below the photos I’ve added a cut/paste of Charles’ AAR he wrote for BoardGameGeek. Enjoy.

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End of Game

The Central Powers won the scenario but had some serious problems vs the British if the scenario had continued.
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Kurt Keckley has a gem on his hands. It’s that simple.

Volko Ruhnke and I sat down Saturday afternoon at the GMT Fall Weekend to try Scenario 2: 1915-1916, to see how a block game which does just fine for the mobile warfare of 1914 handles the transition to trench warfare. The answer? It handles it just fine, thank you. Once the game transitions to trench warfare (noted on the turn track), then all hexes are assumed to have trenches. Trenches allow the defender to fire first and those losses take effect before the attacker gets to shoot. The defender also gets bonus dice based on the size of the attacking force, up to five extra dice.

So attacking the trenches is bloody, as it ought to be. He was also experimenting with the implementation of a Strategic Will rule that could lead to a side surrendering the war if it fell to 0. Not launching an attack of at least 10 strength points per turn (thus proving we’re still trying to win) causes the loss of a SW point, so you have to do at least one big push every six months.

Now with the blocks, you might think you have to just pick a spot and start bashing, but not quite. Each side has air assets for reconnaissance. Each air asset that gets past enemy interceptors can reveal a number of enemy blocks equal to its rating. So you can go looking for a possible weak spot before launching your big offensive. Each side also has artillery assets, which can be used either to soften a place up prior to assault, or to try and break up a pending assault. At the end of each phase (two phases per turn), each player has the ability to freely redeploy strength points but cannot vacate any currently occupied hexes. Given that each hex can have up to three units for each side (when contested) and each unit can have up to 20 strength points, and each side also has 0 Strength decoy units to deploy, trench warfare in Fields of Despair is a high-stakes poker game.

In our play, Volko entered the last turn up 2 VP because of a successful push northeast of Paris. To win I needed to regain three hexes; two for a draw. I attacked in strength in six areas; two were left with 1 German SP each, and two more with 2 SP. So close, yet so far!

The irony is that I suspect people sitting down to play FoD are likely to overlook this scenario dismissing three turns of trench warfare as “not fun.” They’ll be missing out on a really good scenario, but it’s all good, because they’ll still be playing Fields of Despair!

Falling Behind on the Blog

A quick thank you to all of my recent blog subscribers. I am very humbled by the growth here. It has been many weeks since my last update and this is just an update to say updates are coming. Successful GMT West demos, a new Vassal Mod by Joel Toppen and crossing the 400 order mark on the P500 are headliners for posts to come.

Hopefully the holidays provide some catch up time. In the interim, here is a peak behind the scenes at a spreadsheet I use to help ensure play balance throughout the development process.

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Strategicon Report with Photos

Just back from a successful Strategicon with some photos to share.

Friday Aaron was at the table and ready to play before I was even set up. We set up quickly and began play with Aaron taking the Central Powers. Not long into the game, one of the guys I drove down from Bakersfield with comes over exclaims,”Hey, it’s Aaron!” Turns out AAron and I live in the same town. Score! You can never have too many local playtesters.

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Not long into our game the German army went headlong into the BEF. Aaron’s rolls were ridiculous. So good that he took a picture. So good that someone else came across the room to look and also took a picture. Yikes.

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After turn one, Steve Carey and Mark Kaczmarek came over to take over the Allies. If you attend Strategicon, you’ll recognize Mark as the man behind the GMT booth. A quick overview and Steve and Mark shared duties with Steve moving blocks while Mark manged the air and artillery assets.

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Embolden by his early success against the BEF, Aaron played a defensive strategy in the Alsace/Lorraine stopping his blocks near Strasbourg. This gave the French Mulhouse and Colmar while allowing him a stronger wheeling move towards Paris. Steven and Mark took the easy Plan XVII objectives while moving much of their force in front of the German steamroller.

I wish I’d taken more notes/photos of their game. All 3 had other events (or the booth) to tend to so the game wasn’t quite completed. Feedback was very positive with emphasis on the “accessibility” of the game and “elegance” of the economic system. Steve said he was concerned from afar that all the charts on the economic board and map might lead to convoluted sub systems but was surprised by how well they worked together.

Sunday Nick and Fred played a pick up game. I wasn’t at the table for most of it so I can’t offer commentary. Nick posted his thoughts here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1228498/just-playtested-few-quick-thoughts-game

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Pimping the Prototype

Artscow just ran a great special on drawstring bags which are used to hide resources allocated to naval warfare and the Eastern Front. I made these tonight. I hope they get here before Strategicon.

Eastern Front

Draw Bag EF

Naval Warfare

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The special is good for a few more days. Use the code “3LITTLEBAGS” at checkout. It was a $40 savings for me!

100th Anniversary of the Attack on Liege

Here is the blog post I wrote for GMT’s blog. A link is included below for the full post including Gene Billingsley’s introduction.

http://www.insidegmt.com/?p=161

I haven’t haven’t had any time of late to dedicate to blogging but I’m hopeful that is about to change. For now I give you the attack on Liege…
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Today, August 5th, marks the 100th anniversary of the German attack into Belgium. What better day to give you a little peak at where we are with development as it relates to the opening moves of the war?
When playing the 1914 Mobile War or Grand Campaign of Fields of Despair, your first order of business is to plan the attack into Belgium. In your way is the fortress city of Liege just as it was 100 years ago. Below is a photo of the scenario set-up and my awesome hand-drawn arrows to illustrate the German war plans.

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One guiding design goal is present you the player with the historical start and let you take over within a system that makes historical out comes probable but by no means a guarantee should you opt for extreme strategies. The 1914 scenarios afford the German army an opening move to which the French and British cannot reach. It’s critical to make the most of it if you hope to get within sight of Paris.
So just for fun, here are a few of the invasion of Belgium strategies I have observed over the past 3 years of play. The first is illustrated above. Players familiar with the First World War opt for it in some variation striking first at Liege before swinging down into the next fortress city of Namur and on to Antwerp.
Then there’s the aggressive player that gets a little greedy and goes for broke right out of the gate (Is this you? I’ve been guilty). Liege and Namur are attacked at the same time while other units rush around towards Antwerp. It’s great when it works, disaster when it doesn’t.

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Finally, there’s the player who prefers overkill as seen below. The importance of taking Liege is obviously not lost on you but at what cost? Will the German army advance far enough? You’ll certainly have some ground to make up in the coming turns.

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Regardless of what strategy you use, once arriving at Liege, you’ll be able to unleash the might of the “Big Bertha” howitzer the same way the Germans did in 1914. It doesn’t come cheap. Bertha was so massive, that in August of 1914 it was delivered to Liege in parts an assembled by a 1,000 man crew. If you want to fire Big Bertha you have to spend one of your precious “Logistic Points.” Logistic Points allow you take unique actions throughout the game not otherwise allowed by the rules. More about them in a future post, but let’s just say you want to be careful and deliberate when using them.

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I have watched players agonize over this decision. The learning curve is, admittedly, much steeper with the German army. If you follow history and bring in Big Bertha, you most likely capture Liege in the opening move of the war sacrificing some flexibility and options in later turns.

The siege of Liege is so important that the development team has played out every possible attack, made adjustments, and attacked again. It has been the catalyst for many of the rules related to fortress hexes and for the design of an Introductory Scenario that begins after the capture of both Liege and Namur. I think first time players will enjoy cutting their teeth on a scenario that gets right to the meat of the mobile war. Experienced players, they will start this day in history August 5, 1914.

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