Last year, we posted an interview with Matt White, who is a very talented graphic artist and budding game designer, that focused on his artistic talents and love of tanks. He has since designed several very interesting small scale wargamers, with his most recent design being a World War II tactical wargame series for 1-2 players pitting the British Airborne versus the German Wehrmacht called Until the Bitter End. He now is embarking on the next entry in this series called US Airborne and the Kickstarter campaign starts on July 18th. We reached out to Matt and he was more than willing to share about his new design.
Grant: What is this new project you are Kickstarting? Is it an expansion for your previous successful Until the Bitter End? Do we need to own Until the Bitter End to play this game?
Matt: My new game is the second game in the series of Until the Bitter End simply titled US Airborne. It is an expansion of the first game but also standalone so you don’t have to own or have played the first game.
Grant: Why did you decide to focus on the US Airborne in this expansion?
Matt: In the first game I focused on the British Airborne, and then through stretch goals I did further expansions for British Infantry and Fallschirmjäger (German Paratroopers) so the next logical step was the inclusion of the US Airborne. Plus I really enjoy drawing their uniforms – they have a lot of character!
Grant: Why do you feel the Print ‘n Play model is best suited for your design?
Matt: One reason is to keep the cost down for players – you just need to print out a few sheets of paper for the counters and a few sheets for the maps, stick them to card and cut out the counters. The whole game including components and maps can be printed out in around 10 sheets of paper. Another is that as a small self publisher it means I can focus on the art and design unrestricted by printing/manufacturing constraints.
Grant: What is Until the Bitter End about? What led you to design this game?
Matt: The game focuses on a small squad of troops, with every counter representing one single soldier. Most games I play a counter represents a squad or even more soldiers and I really wanted to make (and play!) a game where the focus was on the soldier.
Grant: What other games did you draw inspiration from for the design?
Matt: I don’t think there are any specific games but I guess there’s a bit of all the games I’ve played and enjoyed – I can remember playing the original Squad Leader at school so that will always be a reference.
Grant: What does the US Airborne expansion add to the game?
Matt: So aside from new counters for the US Airborne and all new counters for the German infantry the biggest addition is in the form of new maps and scenarios. Rather than introduce new rules and game mechanics for the soldiers I wanted to focus on more content in the shape of the maps and scenarios. I also wanted to create more narrative led scenarios where there is a story within the mission. This is my main focus.
Grant: What type of different units will be included?
Matt: The game includes 10 soldier counters for both the German Infantry and US Airborne. In the game the player randomly creates a skill for each soldier and that will help the player determine what that soldier is most proficient at.
Grant: As you mentioned, each individual unit has skills randomly assigned. How many different skills are there and what benefits do they offer?
Matt: There are 10 special skills in the game ranging from being a better shot, through to having improved medical knowledge. Each skill has a distinct advantage in the game.
Grant: How are the skills tracked across the various units? Is there a bookkeeping element to the game?
Matt: At the beginning of the game the player’s create their squad for the mission and jot down their roster. This would including naming their squad members and giving each one a special skill. The US Airborne already have a special skill and so get an extra skill! Bookkeeping is not required as it is really pretty straight forward.
Grant: Please give us a few examples of your great art. What is your inspiration for your unique art style?
Matt: I draw a lot of inspiration from a huge amount of areas, but mostly just observing light – I’m always drawn to super contrast and using colours for light.
Grant: How do you create your art? What is the process and what graphics tools do you use?
Matt: Because I have young children I cant really leave canvas and oils around so I create all my artwork digitally – I have a small mac laptop, which I can just close the lid when I am finished! I use a very inexpensive Wacom tablet and use Sketchbook which is a very, very simple drawing software. Working digitally means I can just save my work and pick up my laptop on an evening or Saturday morning and carry on where I left off. Also oils and canvas is very expensive!
Grant: How do players activate their individual units? Will each unit be activated each round or are the activations limited?
Matt: The game uses a chit pull system. For every infantry counter you place a chit for that side into a cup. For example if you are playing a game between four US Airborne Infantry counters and six German Infantry counters you place four Allied Chit Counters and six German Chit Counters into a cup. A player then blindly pulls a chit from the cup and that will tell you which side can activate an Infantry Counter. Once all Infantry Counters have been activated and given an action, which they have fulfilled then the turn is over.
Grant: What type of strategy does the chit-pull system offer for a tactical game? Why was it the best choice for your design vision?
Matt: I like chit-pull systems as I feel it helps recreate the confusion and unpredictable nature of combat plus I like the uncertainty in the gameplay. A best laid plan might not work due to this mechanic so you have to think more on your feet and as a gamer and designer I like that.
Grant: What are the basic actions each unit can take once activated?
Matt: An infantry counter can Run, Fire, Advance (which is a move and fire from the hip though less effectively), Charge (to get into Close Combat), Snap Fire (which enables the infantry counter to fire on a moving enemy infantry counter later in the game), Heads Down (diving for cover!), Clear Jam (which sometimes can be a result of combat) and Medical Aid (to help heal a Wounded counter).
Grant: How does the combat system work?
Matt: To carry out this Action follow these steps. First the player must declare their Infantry Counter that is firing and the enemy target. Next check the range and make sure the target is within range of the weapon being used. Then, if within range, check Line of Sight. Then determine any modifiers to the “To Hit” dice (these would include the target being in cover, etc. – normally if there are no modifiers the dice roll required is a 3). Then roll the dice determined by the firing weapon and check to see if the weapon jammed as a result. If a hit the next phase is to see if the enemy target is Wounded. Roll again with a six sided dice, normally requiring a 4. If the dice roll is achieved the enemy target is removed from play, if not it receives a Wounded counter which will effect it later in the game unless it can receive medical aid.
Grant: What are the various modifiers for fire attacks?
Matt: There are modifiers of a -1 to the firing dice such as the target being in cover, or having a Heads Down counter. Also there are potential penalties for the firing counter such as if it is Wounded, is Advancing and firing and if it is doing Snap Fire. So for example, if the target is in cover the firing Infantry Counter would require a 4 or more (normally needs a 3 to hit but with the minus 1 penalty the counter now needs a 3 to hit). In the game the penalties stack so if a target is in woods and the firing Infantry Counter has an Advance Counter then the penalty would be a -2 (-1 for the cover plus the -1 for the Advance Counter).
Grant: How do the Snap Shot and Heads Down Actions work?
Matt: Snap Fire allows any Infantry Counter to fire on any enemy Infantry Counter as it spends any Movement Points. This represents soldiers taking quick shots at fleeting movement of the enemy, though with a -1 penalty. Heads Down represents the soldier diving for cover and making the best they can in the natural cover they have giving them more cover.
Grant: How does the Bravery Point system work and why was this important to include?
Matt: Bravery Points are used by the player to force the opposing player to re-roll a dice against their activated Infantry Counter. This could be used against the opposing player if they have fired at your counter and hit, as using a Bravery Point will require them to re-roll that dice. If as a result of using the Bravery Point the re-roll is successful to the counter performing the Action then the Bravery Point is returned to the Bravery Point pool (and so therefore can be used again in subsequent Actions). If however the Bravery Point use was unsuccessful then the Bravery Point is lost for the remainder of the game. They add a really interesting dynamic to the two-player game making your opponent re-roll their dice!
Grant: As you mentioned, different types of weapons roll more than one die. Why is this the case and what does this represent?
Matt: For rifle weapons this is normally 1 dice, for submachine guns this is normally 2 and support weapons 3 or even more. This mechanic demonstrates the different fire rates and effectiveness at closer ranges.
Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters? What different types of information are printed on them? Can you show a few closeup shots of the counters so we can see the amazing art?
Matt: I’ve deliberately kept the counters as simple as possible to have as little amount of stats and other information as possible.
Here is a look at the counter layout:
And here is a look at a full counter sheet:
Grant: How does the solitaire option work mechanically? How do players make the choices for the AI? Why does this work well?
Matt: For this game I designed it as a Solitaire game first and then adapted those rules for the two player game. So the two-player game shares some of the mechanics around shooting, combat, movement, etc. as the solitaire. Where the solitaire is very different is around the German AI. The AI system takes the player through a set of priorities of actions for the German side – so for example if there is a US Airborne Infantry Counter in the open that will take priority over those in cover when it comes to looking for a target. What makes this different is that the AI for the Germans is very aggressive – dont expect them to play a defensive AI – they will take the fight to the player.
Grant: How many maps come with the game? How many different scenarios are included?
Matt: Currently I have completed two maps – all hand drawn. There are different scenarios for the Solitaire and two-player game with an introduction scenario for each and then 5 additional scenarios for each game mode.
Grant: What is the price of the print and play? When does the Kickstarter campaign launch?
Matt: The game is £5 and the campaign is looking to launch on 18th of July.
Grant: This is your 5th Kickstarter. What have you learned from your other three campaigns?
Matt: I’ve learnt a lot from each one! Biggest thing I have learned is that it takes longer to complete all the artwork than you think! Some pieces have taken weeks to do and in my games I try and include a lot of original artwork.
Grant: What are the stretch goals you plan to offer?
Matt: I want to focus on stretch goals that give new scenarios and maps, plus I have some ideas for some vehicles for the game – jeeps and halftracks and some scenarios that include those with some new rules.
Grant: When do you think it will be ready for fulfillment?
Matt: As you can see from the photos of the game the core game is done including counters, rules, maps, etc. so this means I can focus on those extra stretch goals. I have given myself the deadline of shipping the game in October this year!
Grant: What other games or expansions are you working on for the Until the Bitter End system?
Matt: Next up will be a game using the core rules but just for tanks! As you know I LOVE tanks, and always wanted to do a hex and counter WW2 tank game. I am also working on a couple of other new games that are a departure from WW2 for me, but will focus on other historic periods so spending some time learning how to draw cavalry (no more hints!!!) and of course I continue to collaborate with the guys at Academy Games for some of their games that are currently in development.
Thanks Matt for the look inside the game. I for one am very excited about this new iteration of the Until the Bitter End series as I love the US Airborne and also really enjoy tactical level games.
Here is a preview link to the Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1564988876/1522101482?ref=4wp100&token=d8539c23
Also here is a link to Matt’s Facebook page where he shows off his great art: https://www.facebook.com/worldwarIIart/