Several months ago, as I was reading through the email update that comes from Compass Games, I came across this great looking game that was similar in mechanics to my favorite game of all time Twilight Struggle. I looked at it but it got lost in a jumble of other games and of course, life got in the way. Then a few months later, I got an email from Bill Morgal, who I know from various interactions over the past few years with designers and interviews, as he has done some of the art for those games and design, including Revolution Road from Compass Games and Plains Indian Wars from GMT Games. He wanted to let me know that he had been working with a relatively new designer Kris Van Beurden on a great looking game called Europe in Turmoil: Prelude to The Great War that he just knew I would like and asked me to reach out to the designer for an interview. I did and Kris was more than willing to oblige me and here we are today.
Grant: Kris, first off, tell us a little about yourself. What games do you play when not designing? What are your hobbies? What do you do for a living?
Kris: I am a bit of an omni-gamer. I started gaming in ‘95, beginning with the gateway game of my generation, Magic The Gathering. I am still a big fan of CCGs and LCGs, at the moment I’m playing both the L5R and Netrunner LCGs from Fantasy Flight Games.
I am also an avid roleplayer, mostly of the Legend of the Five Rings and 7th Sea RPGs, and I used to LARP a little as well.
I like some Eurogames, such as Container, Die Macher or El Grande and Ameritrash such as Battlestar Galactica and Arkham Horror, among others.
But I am mainly a wargamer. I entered the wargaming hobby via Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage and The Napoleonic Wars 2nd Edition (as a teenager I also played Republic of Rome and SPQR, but neither of those really resonated with me at that time). Other wargames I really love are Napoleon’sTriumph, No Peace without Spain and Squad Leader and massive multiplayer games such as Civilization, Diplomacy, Dune and Virgin Queen.
Next to gaming and game design, I think my main hobby would be reading, mainly political and military history (with a few psychology books in between).
Grant: How did you get into wargame design? What do you love most about it? What is something you struggle with?
Kris: I have always been designing games. I probably started designing “games” as a ten year old, emulating old Nintendo side-scroller games I saw at friends’ places on paper.
Later, that turned into making my own CCGs and then my own wargames. However, it was only when Sean Chick (gittes on BoardGameGeek) approached me to work together on an expansion for No Peace Without Spain (a game we both admire) that I became involved in professional game design (as in: designing to publish rather than designing to play with my friends only).
One of the things I love in wargame design is “filling in the gaps”, to create games about subjects that didn’t really exist in games to date (or are so out of print that it is impossible to find the existing ones).
I love seeing a game develop from the early ideas, I love to brainstorm about it. I like to see mechanics transform based on playtester input. I even love transforming ideas into structured game rules, with all the attention to detail that entails.
I struggle with making prototypes. I never advanced beyond Microsoft Word, so my process of making map and card prototypes is a very clumsy one (as can be seen with the Europe in Turmoil prototype images on BoardGameGeek. In the picture to the right, is a prototype of the early map.) I have leveled a bit in the last few years, but I’m still happy to have Bill Morgal, a real artist, assisting me with the final product of Europe in Turmoil.
Grant: What attributes does it take to be a good designer?
Kris: Grit, I think. Going over the rules that one last time, checking all the rules references one more time…I am not a very gritty man, so that’s an effort for me.
Deciding when something doesn’t work. Killing those rules that really failed to enhance the gameplay.
Grant: What designers have influenced your designs?
Kris: Well, as CDGs were my entry point into wargaming, I think my main influences have been Mark Herman, Mark Simonitch, Mark McLaughlin, Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta. I stand on the shoulders of some really great giants.
Grant: What is Europe in Turmoil: Prelude to The Great War about? What story is the game trying to frame up?
Kris:Europe in Turmoil is about Europe during the decade (or two, the exact start time and duration of turns was purposefully unspecified) before the opening shots of The Great War were fired. Its main theme is that of crisis, my point being that war was not predetermined to begin in August 1914 but that it could have occurred earlier (or not at all). That the Alliance system that was built as an insurance against war only ensured that when war came, it swiftly became World-encompassing.
Grant: What other games on the subject did you use as inspiration?
Kris: I don’t really know any other games on this subject. This is one of the reasons I designed this game! I have quite a few games that take place during The Great War, but none on the approach to it.
Grant: What was the pitch you made to Compass Games that led to their decision to publish the game?
Kris: I approached them with this design shortly after we finished our excellent collaboration on Nine Years: The War of the Grand Alliance, 1688-1697.
In my pitch, I described to them the main theme (as mentioned above in my answer to question 5) and talked briefly about the main mechanics (Naval Arms Race, Alliance System, Great War and Tension).
Grant: What does the phrase “touch and go dynamic between the Authoritarian and Liberal streaks in European politics” mean and how did it contribute to the onset of World War I?
Kris: First I’d like to explain a little thing. While the game is structured as a two player game involving Authoritarian and a Liberal player, that does not mean I insist on these two monoliths truly existing. It is simply a way of framing the game. In each country, there were more Authoritarian and more Liberal minded people. Even France, albeit a Republic, had a very conservative church and very reactionary military, and there was a clear divide there between the Dreyfusards and the anti-Dreyfusards.
The players (while not representing any contemporary monolithic entities) will perform actions that lead to their side gaining points. These actions, which exist in a push-your-luck dynamic, will eventually (unless players voluntarily forfeit opportunities to gain victory points in order to stabilize Europe) lead to The Great War erupting (or at least a Great War, not necessarily the historical one). So, while I do not believe WWI erupted due to too much Liberalism or Authoritarianism, I believe these ideologies at least contributed, but more especially that all forces which caused the onset of WWI can be grouped along this axis.
Grant: How did you capture the essence of this view in your design? What elements from this statement did you feel critical to include and model in the game?
Kris: I tried to make sure to put all the internal struggles (in France, in Austria-Hungary, in Russia, etc.) into cards and into how the board is structured (which spaces are battleground spaces, how spaces are connected). In this way, to play well, players will execute actions which allow for a valid simulation of the period, without railroading you too much. Design for effect, as it were.
Grant: How central a role does the Naval Arms Race play in the game and how have you emphasized this aspect in the design?
Kris: To me, the Naval Arms Race is to this historical period like the Nuclear Arms Race was to the Cold War. An immense expenditure of resources done by countries (with the support and blessing of its citizens), with the point to close (or widen) the “dreadnought” gap. It weighted on the diplomacy of the time and eventually forced Britain to choose sides (where it would have preferred to remain Isolated/Uncommitted).
As such, it takes the same spot as the Space Race does in Twilight Struggle (as a safety valve to eject unwanted or dangerous cards) but its effects on the game are a lot more important. More cards focus on this mechanic and it is advised to players to, like their counterparts in the early 1900s, to “close” the gap.
Grant: What is the anatomy of each space on the board and what do the various numbers, icons, colors and boxes represent?
Kris: These spaces will be especially recognizable to veterans of 1989: Dawn of Freedom, albeit with a few differences.
For starters, there is already a distinction between Independent spaces and spaces within a Scoring Region. Scoring Regions are either an important nation (Russia, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary) or group of nations (the Balkans). Independent spaces are the “minor” nations of the time, e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Algeria.
Spaces exist also in two “flavours”, some are truly geographical ones (e.g. Bordeaux, Paris), others are more political/social entities (e.g. the French Colonials, geographically located in Marseilles).
Spaces are connected to other spaces, connections which again indicate either a geographical “closeness” or a “closeness” of minds (e.g. the proximity of the French Catholic Church to the French Writers represents the impact of the Church on the writers in France).
Spaces have a Stability Number, two Support Point boxes (one for Authoritarian support, one for Liberal support), a Regional color (or the independent color for independent spaces), indication of Battleground Space/ non-Battleground space and finally the socio-economic icon.
The Support point boxes are where players put their support, flipping their support marker once they gain control over a space.
The Stability number is a number indicating the ease of changing the predominant opinion in a space (between Authoritarian and Liberal). Once a player has a number of additional Support in a space equal to its Stability number compared to his opponent, he controls the space (e.g. Paris, with a Stability of 2, is controlled by the Liberal player if he would have 5 Support there and the Authoritarian player had 3 Support). Some spaces (Wilhelm II, Imperial Army, French Catholic Church) have very high Stability and are very difficult to take away once controlled by a player. Other spaces (Tunisia, Viennese Secession) have very low Stability and represent regions or groups with either no central direction or a very weak one.
Grant: What are Battleground Spaces and why are they more important than regular spaces?
Kris: The name of Battleground Spaces is a legacy from Twilight Struggle and 1989; the spaces themselves are those areas or classes that were the most historically impactful, the most dominant in their respective Scoring Regions. In Germany, for example, there are five battlegrounds: The Imperial Army, Kiel (the main base of the Hochseeflotte), Prussia (the center of Wilhelmine Germany), Alsace-Lorraine (literal battleground and contention between France and Germany since 1870) and most importantly the person of Wilhelm II himself. It is these spaces you need to control to have your hands on the reins in Germany. Battlegrounds and non Battlegrounds also allows for example to make a distinction between the Church in Germany (a non-battleground, in a country where the might of the church was if not broken then at least reduced by Bismarck’s Kulturkampf) and the Church in France, whose might still had to be broken by the Anti-clerical left, or the Orthodox Church in Russia (as an aside, the Orthodox Church begins with no support of either side as at the beginning of the century there was a split in the Orthodox Church with many poorer and lower-rank clerics set on reformation within the church and the state, who were opposed by the higher church leadership. Historically, this reform movement was squashed by the leadership. In Europe in Turmoil, it might just succeed).
While this question only refers to Battleground spaces, I would also like to point out the importance of Independent spaces. While Battleground spaces will give 1 VP each time their scoring card is played AND influence the scoring amount, Independent Spaces also give 1 VP each time a Region to which they are adjacent is scored, and many Independent Spaces are adjacent to two Scoring Regions (Italy and Switzerland are even adjacent to three!) and this VP will be scored more often.
Grant: What are the different socioeconomic icons and what do they represent in the design?
Kris: Socioeconomic icons serve two purposes. For one, they allow for a much more granular card design – cards can refer to a subset of spaces rather than affect all game spaces. Secondly, it allows the split between geographical and political spaces mentioned above.
The following socio-economic spaces exist (some spaces have two types):
- Monarch (this either refers to the Monarch and his court itself, as in Wilhelm II or Tsar Nicholas, or to an entire monarchy such as Sweden or Italy).
- Army (this refers to either the Army itself, as in the Imperial Army, or to an especially militaristic, aggressive society such as East-Prussia or Serbia).
- Government (this can refer to the democratic governments of scoring regions or to parliamentary democracies themselves. Note how Paris is a Battleground Space and thus important whereas Berlin isn’t – the Kaiser’s government had very little real clout)
- Workers (it is a time of Socialist and Marxist revolutionaries. These spaces are heavily industrialized and ripe for socialist demagogues to raise the populace)
- Farmers (there is still many people, especially in France and Russia, working in the farming sector. East-Prussia also identifies as a Farming Space due to the influence of the landed Junkers)
- Intellectuals (writers, artists, etc.)
- Church (higher clerus and lower clerus). In France and Austria these represent Catholic churches, in Germany Protestant churches, in Russia (and through its connections also certain Balkan spaces) the Orthodox church and finally in Macedonia Islam.
- Annex (these are annexed locations, current colonies, etc. Places with repressed independence feelings. Three main groups can be distinguished: the North-African colonies of Italy and France, the Balkan territories of the Ottoman Empire who become independent either just before or during this period and old or recent conquests of the German, Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires).
Mechanic-wise, these icons have two effects:
- One, it opens them up to certain Strategy Card effects (e.g. Popular Revolt only targets Annex spaces, Military Parade targets Army spaces, etc.)
- Two, which Stability Cards you can play during Scoring depends on which S-E icons you have in the Scoring Region. If you want to use your Bishops to pontificate against communists, better control that church space come Scoring time!
Grant: How are these boxes manipulated by the players and how does the space’s influence change?
Kris: The most basic move in the game is to play a card for its Operation Points and place that amount of Support in spaces either already containing your Support or adjacent to a space containing your Support (placing support in spaces controlled by the opponent is possible, at double the cost).
Alternatively, the event on many Strategy cards will also place Support, usually more than its Operation Points, but more limited in where and how it can be placed.
Grant: What are the Strategy Cards and how many are there? How did you determine that number? Mathematical formula with standard deviation or just trial and error?
Kris: An uncut sheet contains 55 cards. As such, the game contains 110 Strategy cards (and 55 cards of different types, as mentioned below). The Strategy cards are the heart of the game, as they are in any CDG. Divided in three different eras (named after the British monarch ruling at that particular moment in time), they drive all the moves during the turn, whether played for Operation Points or its event. While the number of cards in the first two eras changed some during development (as card numbers had an impact on reshuffles, etc.), the total number of cards always remained unchanged, with the last Era (the Georgian Era) picking up those cards delayed from an earlier Era.
Grant: Why did you choose the CDG mechanic for the game and how did it make the most sense?
Kris: This game’s very inception occurred when my wife inquired after more games like 1989: Dawn of Freedom (she is a wonderful gaming partner, but she likes variety). I decided to make one myself, and then started looking for a valid theme. In a bottom-up approach I’m afraid I first took some proven mechanics and then decided to find a fitting theme to simulate it. Needing two clear “blocks” confronting each other, I first thought of the Napoleonic Era (but its shifting alliances and more especially “deactivating” powers scared me off) and the Peloponnesian war, but eventually settled on this decade, the end of the “Belle Epoque” (the working title of what would eventually become Europe in Turmoil).
Grant: What happens when an Event Card is played that has an opposition ideology? What stress does this create for players?
Kris: It is one of the main features and mechanics of the Twilight Struggle type games that a Strategy card belonging to the opposing ideology can only be used for Operation Points, but will then trigger its event text (usually benefitting the ideology whose card it is). This forces players to plan ahead and look for opportunities to minimize the negative effects of the cards in their hand (or in some cases even use them to their advantage. The Ferdinand Esterhazy card comes to mind, and it is fitting that this spy could smuggle falsified information to his masters).
Grant: What are Stability Cards and how do they differ from Strategy Cards in their form and function?
Kris: Scoring as defined in this series of games can go from very deterministic (as Twilight Struggle does it – play the scoring card, gain your points) to quite exciting and wild (1989 uses the Hannibal: RvsC combat system to bring some variability into the scoring).
I liked the 1989 approach but decided to trim down on the back-and-forth cardplay and focus on the (for me) exciting part: make sure you control the right spaces (i.e. having the right socio-economic spaces enlarges your options during a Stability check).
Stability cards are a set of ten cards per player, and each player begins the game with all ten cards “available” (as opposed to Strategy cards which are drawn from a randomized deck). Each scoring, players select one Stability card and then play it in turn to get a final opportunity to affect the Scoring Region before scoring is performed. The cards available to both players are open knowledge at all times.
Most Stability cards have prerequisites (often control over spaces with certain socio-economic icons in the region) and usually only affect a limited amount of spaces in the region.
Grant: Finally what are Mobilization Cards and when are they included in the game?
Kris: The game was initially envisioned as lasting until War is declared. At that point, the game is ended, a final War Resolution occurs and winners are declared. This is still the basic rule, but as an optional (advanced) rule I added Mobilization cards.
From these cards, which are sets of cards per Nation that can be involved in the Great War as a major Actor, the controlling player selects ONE per nation as the “main” effort of the initial weeks/months of the War, the idea being that the end of the war can be determined from these initial efforts.
You only use these cards once, at the very end of the game, if the game ended with an eruption of The Great War.
Grant: Can you share a few examples of each card and show us a good quality image and explain its use?
Kris: This Strategy card shows off the Tension and Crisis mechanic. First thing you can see is that it is an Authoritarian event (thanks to the Crown in the upper left corner and the yellow background). It belongs to the Georgian Era deck (indicated by both the band at the top and the image of King George V of England) and will only be added to the deck starting turn 8. The card itself, beyond cancelling the ongoing effects of the Franz Ferdinand Strategy card, will increase Tension by 2 and then forces a Crisis roll. As mentioned below, these two interact very much, with the current Tension a modifier on Crisis Rolls. Rest assured, adding this +2 to the Tension will definitely affect the Crisis roll and unless both players have put a lot of effort into keeping Tension low, this card could very well serve the roll of War opener (as it of course historically did).
This is a Scoring card. Like all Scoring cards, it mentions at the bottom that it will cause a Crisis roll and that it may not be held (it must be played the turn it was drawn). The France scoring, just like the Russia scoring and the Germany scoring, will give players 3 points for Presence in France, 6 for Domination and 9 for Control. Additionally, players will gain VP for control over French Battlegrounds and Independent Spaces adjacent to France.
One final Strategy card from the deck is Admiral von Tirpitz (as you can see, this was the very first card that was designed for the game). Another Authoritarian event, this one belongs to the Victorian Era and is another card that forces Tension to rise and Crisis rolls to be made. When played for its event, it will allow the German Navy marker (which is the Authoritarian player’s marker on the Naval Arms Race track) to advance up to two spaces. This is a massive effect, fitting for the man who single-handedly started the German Navy buildup in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Next up is the Stability deck. First Stability card shown is Intelligentsia. This is a Liberal Stability card which, when used during a Stability Check (after a Scoring card has been played), will reduce Tension by 1 and allow the Liberal player to take a card from the discard back into his hand. As a prerequisite, the Liberal player must control an Intellectual space in the Scoring Region. Most Scoring Regions only have one Intellectual space, which means the Liberal player has to prepare before he can play this card. Some of the more interesting cards to get back from the discard pile with Intelligentsia is Franco-Russian Alliance, Dreyfus Affair or Eight Nations Alliance.
While the previous Stability card had a very useful effect, it didn’t really impact the Scoring during which it is played. The next Stability Card, the Authoritarian Ecclesial Influence, will do so! At the cost of controlling the Church space in the Scoring Region (and in three of the five Scoring Regions this is even a Battleground space, incentive enough to control!), the authoritarian player gets 2 Support Points in spaces in the Scoring Region (albeit only Farmer, Worker and Army spaces). This can completely change Dominance in the Region being scored and a Liberal player would be wise to play around this card.
The final deck is composed of Mobilization cards. There are Mobilization cards for all the major powers (or groups thereof) involved in the Great War (i.e. France, Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Italy, Ottoman Empire and The Balkans). The example card shown here is the Russian “Day 15 attack”. While the Russian Army could not be fully mobilized before six weeks after the start of mobilization, Nicolas II had promised his French allies to attack Germany in case of war after 15 days. Using this card as the main Russian deployment will cost 1 VP to the Liberal player, and the reward will depend on whether the Authoritarian player decided to focus on France (in which case his gains of doing so will be reduced) or whether he decided to focus on Russia instead (in which case his gains of doing so will be increased).
On the other hand, waiting to attack until Six Weeks have passed will give the Liberal player control over East-Prussia (at the cost of handing his Authoritarian opponent the victory if the additional points for playing Guns of August mattered).
Grant: Tell us the key points of the setup and how it works. Why is it important to the design vision to limit how discretionary Support Points can be used at setup?
Kris: Setup is fairly easy. Certain spaces begin already occupied by Support from either side (e.g. Wilhelm II begins with five Authoritarian support). Once both players have drawn their opening hand (from a shuffled deck containing only cards from the VICTORIAN era), they get to place an amount of discretionary Support Points. This set of “additional” Support Points allows players to shape their initial setup based on their opening hand, allowing a player who drew e.g. the France Scoring card to already increase his ideology’s support in France.
The amount and order of discretionary Support Points was determined the optimal amount and order to provide the most interesting options to both players. It remains an exercise for the players to find out why I arrived at the current total! Looking at the amount of available “open” battlegrounds is already a good starting point to see how to use these discretionary Support Points.
Grant: What is the Sequence of Play?
Kris: Once the game is ongoing, players draw cards (up to hand size, including heldover card(s) from the previous turn) and then alternate playing cards (for Operation Points or Events) until both players have played 7 cards (8 starting on turn 4).
If either player causes The Great War to erupt during these action rounds, the regular game ends and The Great War epilogue is played, after which final scoring occurs.
Otherwise, if it is not yet the tenth turn, the turn marker is advanced and players draw cards again. If it is the tenth turn, final scoring occurs.
Grant: The game boils down to a tug of war style back and forth use of cards to influence spaces. What other ways can spaces be influenced other than direct placement of SPs?
Kris: There are two main methods beyond direct placement (which can be done through the Placing Support action or Strategy card Events).
While certain events simply place Support Points as if by expending OPs, some events will place or remove a variable number of Support Points. Examples include Belgian Rule in Congo (which will give the Authoritarian player enough Support Points in Belgium for control, regardless of the current Liberal Support Points), Declaration of Independence (similar, for a single space in the Balkans) or State Secularism in France (which removes the French Catholic Church space in its entirety from the game).
The Second option is through Support Checks, further explained in the next question.
Grant: How do Support Checks work and what does this represent historically?
Kris: Where Placing Support simulated a slow, gradual shifting of ideology in the affected space, Support Checks simulate any abrupt, sudden change of support. This can represent military coups, separatist movements, intellectual “change of the guard”, strikes of industrial workers, church reform or a change in government.
Support Checks are made through the use of Operation Points or thanks to game events (e.g. Strategy cards or Stability cards). To make a support check, target a space and roll a D6, modifying the result by the OPs value of the Support Check and the net number of adjacent controlled spaces (i.e. if you control one adjacent space and opponent controls two spaces adjacent to the target space, reduce the support check result by 1). If this final number is higher than twice the target space’s stability, opponent’s support in this space is reduced by the margin of success (increasing your support once opponent’s support is depleted).
While the Support Check has a resemblance to similar mechanics in 1989 and TS, the final result is limited to at most giving a player support equal to the space’s stability number. This change was done from a balancing game design factor – my experience being that allowing Support Checks to go higher than that is to create extreme islands of stability on spaces especially designed to be unstable (i.e. low stability number).
Grant: How do players influence the Naval Arms Race Track?
Kris: One of the ways to use Operation Points is to spend these points on a Naval Arms Race attempt. This can be done only once per turn (although certain Strategy and Stability cards allow this rule to be circumvented) and has as an added bonus that the card’s Event will not trigger even if the card belongs to the opposing ideology! As such, the Naval Arms Race counts as a safety valve for dangerous enemy events.
To execute the attempt, the player will roll a die and increase the roll by the Operation Points of the card played (other modifiers based on game state may apply). Each box on the Naval Arms Race track corresponds to a value to be attained on a Naval Arms Race attempt to advance to this box from the previous one, and each box also offers a temporary or permanent reward for reaching the box.
Being ahead or behind on the Naval Arms Race track is also a prerequisite for certain Strategy, Stability and Mobilization cards and provides a modifier to The Great War.
Grant: How does the Tension Track and The Great War Track work? What do these tracks capture from history and why are they central to the game?
Kris: This entire period was a time when Europe’s Great Powers went from Crisis to Crisis, and where even as each crisis was weathered, the Tension in Europe increased. It eventually became almost inevitable that war *would* break out, the question was just on which pretenses. Eventually it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that provide the “casus belli”, but the situation in the Balkans, the revanchist movement in France aiming at recovering Alsace-Lorraine or the separate Moroccan crises were equally likely to cause War. This is captured in the Crisis mechanic. Tension is kept on a track going from 0 to 6 and current Tension is used as a modifier to Crisis rolls.
As the Nations in Europe felt war approaching, they constructed a network of Alliances designed to a) prevent war to break out but also b) ensure their Alliance would come out ahead once war would break out. These Alliances are initiated through the play of Strategy cards and are denoted by markers on the Great War track. This track consists of boxes marked with negative modifiers to the Crisis roll, with the modifier on the leftmost open space used. As such, since new Alliance markers are added left to right, once more Alliances come in play, this negative modifier becomes smaller and smaller.
Grant: How does a Crisis check play into these tracks? What happens if a player rolls higher than a 6?
Kris: Certain cards (including all Scoring cards) require a Crisis roll to be made. If this roll exceeds 6, the game ends and The Great War breaks out. Remember, both Tension and the current amount of alliances modify this roll – the higher the Tension in Europe and the more the two blocks (Entente and Central Powers) are solidified, the higher the chance war will break out.
Grant: How do Alliances work and how are they determined? What happens to these Alliances if The Great War breaks out?
Kris: Alliances come in play as markers on The Great War track when the prerequisite Strategy Card is played. Obviously, good hand management from both players can and will impact the timing of these Alliances’ arrival.
Once The Great War breaks out, Alliances are set in stone and are modifiers to War Resolution.
Alternatively, when using the Optional War Mobilization rules, the Alliances determine which mobilization cards are available to which player.
Grant: How is War Resolution handled? How are War Losses incurred? Why is this element key to your design?
Kris:Europe in Turmoil is about the politics before the outbreak of war. As such, the war resolution was kept very simple. Both players roll a die and apply some modifiers (based on the game thus far, mostly based on certain Strategy Card events such as Schlieffen Plan Adopted, or the current Naval Arms Race status). Highest roller, after modifiers, wins The Great War and receives 4 VPs.
While resolution is swift, the game still treats the War as lasting multiple years, and both ideologies suffer losses from it (both in prestige and as their champions bleed to death on the battlefield). As such, after The Great War resolution, the presence of both winner and loser of The Great War in all scoring regions that participated in The Great War will be affected, after which Final Scoring occurs (in all participant Scoring Regions).
Once again, just like The Great War roll, the Crisis rolls and the Stability Checks, the War Losses are a way to do away with predetermination. Usually the player who is ahead in a Scoring Region will win the Scoring. Usually the player with the most modifiers will win The Great War. Usually the player ahead in Alliances and Great War modifiers will win the war and incur more War losses on his opponent. But I wanted a little bit of risk to remain in the game. Even when driving to War, I would like players to still have some trepidation – what if we were wrong and they win the war?
Grant: What is the purpose of a Stability Check and what does it represent? How is this step handled?
Kris: To counteract scoring from being too deterministic (and the score being known at the instance the Scoring Card is played), I added a small additional phase called the Stability Check. It represents the always-present uncertainties in (political and socio-economic) life; the strikes, political maneuverings and assassinations that added uncertainty to politics in early 20th century Europe (and by extension the entire world).
In game mechanics, the moment a Scoring card is played, both players choose a single (or more, certain game events permitting) Stability card from their available Stability cards. Once selected, they reveal all selected cards at the same time. The player who did not play the Scoring card resolves one of his selected Stability cards, and then both players alternate resolving Stability cards until all Stability cards selected are resolved. All Stability cards played are put in an unavailable pile until a game event allows them to be used again.
Grant: Scoring is fairly straightforward and comes from Scoring cards. How are the number of points determined from the play of regional cards?
Kris: There are five Scoring cards, each associated with a Scoring region.
Three different levels of ideological dominance over a region can be determined; presence (control of one space needed), domination (control of more battlegrounds spaces and more regional spaces needed) and control (control of ALL battleground spaces in the region needed).
For game balancing reasons, the scoring regions are divided in the three most important powers (players gain 3/6/9 VPs depending on which level of dominance is the highest achieved) and two lesser powers (players gain 2/4/6 VPs). The Balkans are a lesser power; Austria-Hungary is an additional lesser power due to it having only two battlegrounds, Vienna and Budapest, which means domination and control are much easier to achieve..
Grant: What Automatic Victory conditions exist and how likely are they?
Kris: There are four possible Automatic Victory conditions defined, but these are mostly defined as a framework rather than goals to achieve.
A player can win if his opponent is still holding a Scoring card at the end of a turn (Scoring cards are mandatory to play, so this victory condition exists to penalize players not prioritizing play of Scoring cards).
The Great War, as already discussed above, is defined as an Automatic Victory as it immediately ends the game.
Thirdly, players win when they reach 20 VPs, but these kind of overrun games are few and far between.
The fourth Automatic Victory condition is controlling Germany as the Liberal player during Germany Scoring. This final victory condition is the only Automatic Victory one can really strive for (although pushing the Tension upwards to cause an early Great War when in the lead can be a winning strategy), but still a pretty unlikely way to win Europe in Turmoil. Usually the winner will be designated/discovered at the end of Final Scoring (after The Great War or after turn 10).
Grant: What are you most pleased with the design? What are some of the parts that were most difficult to get right?
Kris: Well, I am pleased that the game, to me, feels like the era it is trying to simulate. I am especially pleased with the Crisis and Great War dynamic. I have seen it all: players who are ahead in VPs (and thus prestige) who try to start the war in the hopes of solidifying their victory; players who are behind in VP and hope for an equalizing Great War and players who are ahead in VP but behind in board position and alliances and desperately try to stave off war, as the Fortunes of War might cause their lead to disappear.
I am happy with the Naval Arms Race, how often it feels there are better things to do with your time and resources than invest in ships, but the opponent is doing so, so you have to match their expenditure.
What was hard was the balance between cards between Liberal and Authoritarian. While initially both sides had an almost equal amount of cards, this balance was after playtesting results changed to the current mix, with the Liberal receiving a certain boost during the Edwardian Age, to be countered by an Authoritarian thrust during the Georgian Age (if the game does not end in The Great War beforehand).
Grant: What has been the response of your playtesters?
Kris: Most of my playtesters were veterans from the system and were very positive, both with the small mechanical changes to the system and the entire new scenario and game using these mechanics.
Those for whom the game system was entirely new were enthusiast about the simulative aspect.
Most of the playtesters were at least somewhat aware of the period.
The more they were aware of the historical situation the game tries to simulate, the more positive they were with the dynamic of the game.
Grant: What do you want to be the lasting legacy for your game? Do you think it is too similar to another such CDG Twilight Struggle?
Kris: This is a fair question. I will not disguise that the main mechanic of this game is inspired by Twilight Struggle. On the other hand, the real “game” in Europe in Turmoil (just as in TS) comes from the spaces on the map and the interaction of the cards. The time I spent on those, the time I spent making this game a simulation of the pre-WWI period rather than the Cold War gives it its own space in the library of games of all time. There is nothing in the mechanics of TS that really simulates the Cold War, all of that resides in the cards and the map. I owe a debt to the designers for the mechanics, but the idea for Europe in Turmoil is truly my own I believe.
Grant: What was the timeline for the game’s production from start to now the finish?
Kris: In April 2017, I contacted Compass Games with the submission of the game. At that time the game had been in design and playtesting for a little over two years. In July 2017 I was joined by Bill Morgal, who was to become the artist of the game. It took the two of us (assisted by Ken Dingley from Compass Games) about 7-8 months to finish playtesting, iron out the entire graphic design and sign off on the game for printing. Current planning is for the game to come out in September 2018, so about 1.5 years after the game’s submission.
Grant: What other designs are you working on?
Kris: I have three designs I am currently working on, each in its own phase.
First, there is Rome Versus the Barbarians, a two player CDG pitting the Western Roman Empire (and its barbarian allies) versus the Barbarian Invasions (and occasional usurping Roman generals), spanning the period of 364-476 AD. This game is prototyped and in playtesting.
Secondly, there is Enfants de la Patrie, a multiplayer diplomatic game I am trying to create to fill the gap left by the unavailability of La Révolution Française: La Patrie en Danger. This game is still in design/initial prototyping.
Finally, I have a multiplayer game currently called Empire in which players take the role of various Empires between 1815 and 1914. This game is still in the early design stages.
Thanks for your time Kris and for the fantastic depth in your answers. I can tell that you are very passionate about this game and subject, as well as your craft, and would guess that will translate to a fantastic end product and gaming experience for which I am eagerly anticipating.
If you are interested in a copy of Europe in Turmoil: Prelude to The Great War, you can pre-order a copy for the price of $55.00 from the Compass Games website at the following link: https://www.compassgames.com/preorders/europe-in-turmoil-prelude-to-the-great-war.html