Monday, February 19, 2018

Wargame Design: New Wargames W.I.P. for 2018

One of my goals for 2018 was to create two new WIP games for the blog.  I also shared some of the ideas that I have been mining and working on for 2018.  One of the games I talked about was Conquest! Rome in Italy.  I am pleased to announce that a Work-in-Progress version is now available on the blog.  It will be available for a short period of time, and I am eager to get feedback on how it currently works.

This game was a challenge to build.  There were two main reasons for the challenge. 

1.       The game covers the Roman conquest of Italy from Rome’s founding to the end of the Pyrrhic Wars.  That is a range from something like 753 B.C.E. to 275 B.C.E.  We are talking 500 or so years!  During that time, the Roman military went through (at least) 3 major structural changes and all of them need to be represented in the rules even though they work very differently. 

2.       The next issue was that early Roman military history is a bit sparse for the Roman military itself, but especially for her opponents.  Much of the “history” at this time was almost mythical, especially when dealing with the Kingdom of Rome prior to becoming a Republic.  This is due to the sacking of Rome by the Gauls in 390 B.C.E. that destroyed many of the Roman records. 

In addition, ancient authors did not spend too much time discussing formations, tactics, etc.  Instead they were focused more on telling a narrative at a higher level and assumed their readers knew what they were talking about.  Since many Romans had military experience, such discussions were not relevant.  For modern readers and scholars, the lack of this detail is problematic.  We don’t know what they are talking about!

As a designer, I had to decide how to deal with this ambiguity.  Thankfully, I had the bare bones to work off of from my two related works Men of Bronze and Heirs toEmpire to help guide my efforts.  Ancient warfare has a similar vibe to it.  It is about the push of shield on shield, spear vs. sword, etc.  Morale and holding together is the key factor in success and failure.  The critical decision is how to abstract a units’ ability and the mechanics of resolution to get a somewhat historical result.

The game was intended to meet the following criteria:
1.       Focus on quick, simple game play with easy rules for combat
2.       Use resource management to represent C-and-C
3.       Streamlined unit types
4.       Close enough “historical” outcomes

For Conquest: Rome in Italy I am still unsure how to organize armies together.  In this draft, I am using units of ten bases with a leader.  The situation of being in or out of formation is critical for combat bonus and ability to absorb damage differently.  It is still focused on a closer battlefield level.  This works well for the early periods of Roman history such as the Kingdom period, Etruscan battles, and battles with local city-states.  However, once we get to the Republic and the Triplex Aceis this scale seems too small.  That means looking at unit interactions and abstracting some of the factors makes sense.  Therefore, I have not fully decided on the “scope” of the game when it comes to Unit interactions.  Hopefully, you guys can look at these rules and help me decide. 

Feel free to discuss the rules on the Messageboard here.        

The next game is an interesting set of rules for me.  Unlike most of my rules, these came to me in a dream!  Yes, I dreamed these rules and then went and wrote them down.  Why would I dream about rules?  Clearly I have problems!

Fog of War is not as polished as many of my games are.  It is functional, but was not built in PowerPoint from the ground up like most of my games.  This one was pounded out in a Word document in the heat of the moment after awaking.  In addition, it departs from my normal rules in another key way.  This game was built and designed for groups to play as opposed to 1-on-1 games.  It was designed for two teams of 3+ people per side to play and uses an Umpire.    

I have been banging my head on Horse-and-Musket style games for a long time.  I do not normally play them and have little experience with them.  However, I have been thinking about how I integrate a Muskets and Magic style game.  Therefore Horse-and-Musket have been circling in my psyche for several years.   In addition, I have been thinking about novel ways to foster team building and working together at my corporate job.  That is the elements at work in my psyche to generate Fog of War.

The game was intended to do the following:
1.       Creating a Fog of War between players on the same team
2.       Restricted communications to force clarity
3.       Simplified mechanics and resolutions for newbie players
4.       Focus on working together as a team to meet objectives
5.       Lots of friction!
6.       No specialized stuff to play- Minis not required

I expect the players of this game (My direct reports) will have no exposure to wargames; hence the need for an Umpire.  Their experience with wargames also made me want to avoid using special gear beyond dice.  Therefore all measurements are with playing cards, wounds are tracked via candy, and combat resolution is via dice.

Friction and Fog of War is integral to this game.  The entire idea is to force the team to work together on team goals with limited communication, time limits, interpretation of orders, and independent decision making where mistakes will be made.  The idea with this game is for it to be clunky and awkward as a commander to follow orders, but easy to resolve actions once committed. 

I plan on using this game with about 10 people in the dry run plus an Umpire.  If you get a chance to try it out feel free to post about it on the Messageboard.

You can find both of these games on the right hand side of the blog under the Work-in-Progress section of the blog.  I can now cross one resolution off my 2018 Goals list.    

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