Once again I recently found myself on Facebook and came across a call from Paul Rohrbaugh with High Flying Dice Games for playtesters for a new game in development covering the battles for New Orleans in 1861-62 during the American Civil War. The game looked interesting to me as I have never really played many wargames focused on naval battles (not totally true as I have played Empire of the Sun from GMT Games and Midway 1942 AD from Turning Point Simulations), but more specifically naval battles during the Civil War. I reached out to Paul, even though this game is really in its infancy, and he was more than willing to talk to me about No Time for Prayer: The Battles for New Orleans, 1861-62.
Grant: Paul thanks again for your time and willingness to share some of your new designs with me. What historic event does No Time for Prayer cover?
Paul: The game covers the battles of Head of Passes (October 12, 1861) and Forts Jackson and St. Philip (April 24, 1862) during the Civil War.
Grant: Why did you choose this battle to design a wargame around? What about the battles offered interesting design challenges as well as opportunities?
Paul: I’ve long been interested in the ironclad era of naval warfare, and as a designer, I’m always looking for topics that have seen little to no treatment in game form. These battles combine both of those “agendas” of mine.
Grant: Where does the title come from? I know there is a good story behind a title like that.
Paul: I try to base my titles on some primary source of the period. In this case, it is from a remark Admiral Farragut made on April 24th during the hottest part of the action of the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip passing the two Confederate forts. The Admiral had a wry sense of humor and liked to kid his officers. During the battle, he spotted Flag Officer Osbon kneeling down on the gun deck preparing a shell fuse. Admiral Farragut called out to him, “Come Mr. Osbon, this is not the time for prayer!”
Grant: What games did you use as inspiration and how did they effect your design thoughts?
Paul: This will be the the fourth game in a series of famous ironclad battles set in the 1860s. The first, A Bold Fight: The Battle of Mobile Bay, is one of my best sellers and consistently gets good reviews and customer feedback. The second game is on the battle of Hampton Roads. Two others on the battles of Albemarle Sound and Callao are done with play testing and should be released sometime in 2018.
Grant: I understand that this game is really two games in one. What are the different games?
Paul: One focuses on the October 1861 battle at the Head of Passes in which the Confederate Mosquito Fleet successfully drove off the Union blockading squadron stationed there. The other is on Forts Jackson and St. Philip in April 1862. Here the newly promoted Admiral Farragut successfully destroyed the Mosquito Fleet and bypassed the Confederate forts to put New Orleans under the Union fleet’s guns. This led to the surrender of this crucial Confederate port and a major victory for the Union war effort.
Grant: You again use a deck of cards to determine initiative and a number of activations. Why is this mechanic a good choice for this design? What thematic point of the battles does it help to cover?
Paul: I find the card design works very well in modeling the chaos and confusion of battle without a lot of rules and scripted play. The card draw design is also one that is easy to use when introducing and teaching novices to the wargame genre. Play is very interactive so the “replayability factor” with this design approach is rather high. It also translates well to solo play, so it “hits” on many cylinders with board gamers.
Grant: When Jokers are drawn from the deck during the Activation Phase, how do they effect the turn?
Paul: In many games, this triggers a random event check when the first Joker is drawn, and the immediate end of the turn when the second Joker turns up. In this game, the Confederate player, if he/she draws the first Joker, can instead call for an immediate end of the turn instead of a Random Event. With only a limited number of turns, this can be a significant decision and puts added pressure on the Union player to make haste.
Grant: What random events can a Joker draw trigger?
Paul: It varies from game to game, but in this game such things as lucky shots, Confusing signals, possible casualties in upper command (bridge hits) are some of the “chaos elements” of the Random Events.
Grant: How does Fortunes of War change the Joker draw?
Paul: The player with the Fortunes of War can have a +1 modifier for an attack, allow a naval unit to perform two actions on an activation, re-roll any die, redraw any card, or if the Union player has it, over-ride the Confederate player’s decision to end the turn early if that player drew the first Joker card. Decisions, decisions…
Grant: I like that the game seems to include many of these decisions that can drastically change what happens. I like it. What actions can be taken with activations?
Paul: A winning even card draw allows two activations to a player; an odd gives three. When activated, a unit can do any one of the following actions: 1) move, 2) attack, or 3) attempt to repair damage.
Grant: What is the sequence of play?
Paul: Well, it is very interactive based on the card draws. First in a turn is a Preparation Phase when the card deck is shuffled. The Activations Phase follows with players drawing cards and then moving/fighting their units based on those draws. After the end of the Operations Phase, again based upon when the Joker card(s) are drawn and what the Confederate player decides if he/she drew the first Joker and who has the Fortunes of War, then the End Phase occurs. During the End Phase, ships that are crippled are moved via Drift movement, some with Critical hits may suffer catastrophic loss, and then see what happens to any Confederate Fire Ships that were released during the turn.
Grant: What units are available to both sides and how do these units work?
Paul: Nearly all of the units in both games are present at-start. In the Forts Jackson and
Philip game, some of the Union ships start off-map but most will be in play by the end of turn 1 or very early part of turn 2. In both games, the Confederate player has one small ironclad (CSS Manassas), several small riverboats (cotton-clads for the most part) and some other small warships. The Confederate player also has some Fire Ships that can be devastating if they are properly used, but they are tough to handle, as well as fragile, and tend to blow up at rather inopportune times. It was called the “Mosquito Fleet” for good reason! In the Forts Jackson and St. Philip game, the Confederate player can also have 1 or 2 casemate ironclads (similar to the CSS Arkansas). One was scuttled before the battle to prevent its capture by the Union, and the other was not finished and was used as a floating battery before being scuttled. The Union forces in both games are largely made up of Steam Sloop men-of-war, as well as side-wheel gunboats.
Grant: What is the anatomy of counters? How many counters are there? Can we see a few examples of counters, especially the Union ships of the line?
Paul: The play test version of the game has 143 counters. This will likely be a bit higher (more markers) when published. Combat units are mostly naval units, with each representing one vessel. Bruce Yearian will be doing the graphics, and renders them with a “top down” perspective and he puts a lot of detail into them. Units are rated for hull (defense), fire power, ramming capability and speed. The type of vessel also plays a role (ironclad, large or small wooden vessel, etc.).
Grant: Movement seems interesting with several unique movements for ships such as drift, grounding and movement reduction due to combat damage. How did you decide on these different types and how have they changed through the process?
Paul: The history dictates the capabilities and what is to be modeled/presented. Of course, the scale (distance and time) also play a role. These were very intense, chaotic battles marked by ramming and gunnery attacks, along with the Confederates’ deployment of fire ships.
Grant: What forms of attack are there and what types of DRMs are used?
Paul: That depends upon the type of attack (gunnery, ramming, fire ship), but such things as the aspects (broadside vs. stern or bow), speed and size of the attacking and target vessels,the level of visibility (a lot of fog in battles that were conducted at night or before dawn), Fortunes of War and range (gunnery) can be part of the DRMs that influence combat results.
Grant: How do critical hits work? What effects do they have on units?
Paul: These “unfortunate events, occur whenever the final, adjusted DR for an attack (gunnery or ram) results in a number that is twice the target’s current defense factor. These can be such things as Bridge, Propulsion, Steering hits or fires breaking out. Any can lead to rather interesting effects.
Grant: What is different about Forts Jackson and St. Philip? When will these forts surrender?
Paul: These forts are tough for the Union player to take on. Basically, each hit has a 50/50 chance of actually doing anything, and the forts can take far more hits than any ship. That said, once a fort sustains enough hits that takes its defense value to zero it will run up the white flag.
Grant: How does visibility effect combat?
Paul: Visibility will get reduced, and have an increasingly adverse affect on combat, as the game goes on. The smoke from all of the guns, and fires from burning vessels and bonfires lit by the Confederates along the shores of the Mississippi (Forts Jackson and St. Philip) made this an increasingly confusing environment.
Grant: Also how does lashing ships effect the Confederate ships? Why was this the case historically?
Paul: Historically the Confederate fire ships were towed or pushed into battle (lashed) by tugs or some of their other smaller river gunboats. While these warships are “encumbered” by their fire ship they will be limited in terms of their speed and combat abilities.
Grant: How do players score victory points and how is the game won?
Paul: Both players win the game by sinking, crippling or capturing enemy vessels. In the Head of Passes game, the Confederate player wins more VP by driving off the Union blockade squadron from the map, and in the Forts Jackson and St. Philip game, the Union player wins VP by exiting ships in good shape off of the north map edge (getting them to New Orleans).
Grant: What is the river chain variant? How does the game change when the chain is up across the river?
Paul: Historically the Union was able to breach the massive chain barrier the Confederates deployed across the Mississippi between the two forts on April 23rd in a daring night raid. This variant assumes the raid either did not take place or was not successful. The neat thing about games is the ability to allow players to explore various “what ifs” of history to see what could have happened differently.
Grant: How long do each of the games take to play?
Paul: The Head of Passes game takes about 2 hours to play, and Forts Jackson and St. Philip take about 3 hours.
Grant: What has been the reaction of players? What is their favorite parts? Conversely what have they struggled with?
Paul: I’m still awaiting folks to step up to volunteer for play testing. If this goes as well as the others in the series they should have a great time. Incidentally, anyone who helps play test by submitting at least two reports on completed game matches will get a free copy of the game when it is released.
Grant: Awesome. Hopefully this interview will help get some playtesters. What other games are you planning in this series?
Paul: Thunder Upon the Water: The Battle of Albemarle Sound and The Price of Honor: The Battle of Callao are done and awaiting graphics. We hope to have those out sometime in 2018.
Grant: When can we expect this game will hit retail?
Paul: That all depends on the play testing. No game is released until it is proven and tested. That said, it is from an established design, so I don’t anticipate any major changes. If all goes well, we should have this ready sometime in middle to late 2019.
Thanks for your time in answering my questions Paul. I love these type of wargames as they provide an opportunity to experience some of the lesser known, and lesser gamed, battles that played such a major role in the various conflicts. Thank you for yours and High Flying Dice Games’ commitment to putting these games out.