A few weeks ago, I came across this draft Kickstarter project on the 1st English Civil War called This War Without an Enemy and it immediately piqued my interest. A new designer on a subject that isn’t often the focus of a wargame and a block wargame to boot! I was so interested that I immediately reached out to Scott Moore to do an interview so that I could post it coinciding with the Kickstarter launch.
Grant: First off Scott please tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies? What’s your day job?
Scott: I was born in Yorkshire, England but I’ve lived in various places including short periods in Spain, Scotland and Germany and over a decade in Hungary. My home is now Birmingham, England. I studied astrophysics and optical electronics at university but ended up working first as a market analyst and business consultant and then, for the past several years, as a translator.
Grant: How did you get motivated to break into game design? What have you enjoyed most about the experience thus far?
Scott: I started creating board games when I was about 11 or 12 years old. My first effort was an Asterix-themed game heavily based on Games Workshop’s Talisman. When I returned to the board gaming hobby about 20 years ago, I also started designing games again. I just enjoy the creative process.
Grant: What do you find most challenging about the design process? What do you feel you do really well?
Scott: Nothing is particularly challenging, but playtesting is the most time intensive aspect of the whole process. I’m not sure what I do best, but my background in analysis really helps both with the initial stages of design and with tweaking the game based on the results of testing.
Grant: What historical period does your upcoming game This War Without an Enemy cover?
Scott: The First English Civil War which began in 1642 and was essentially over in 1646, though some ‘mopping up’ continued through to 1647. The two sides were the Royalists who supported and were led by King Charles I, and the Parliamentarians who opposed Charles’ attempts to both rule without recourse to the centuries-old democratic institution and to impose his own religious views on his subjects.
Grant: Why did you feel This War Without an Enemy was to be the subject for your first game?
Scott: I was introduced to the English Civil War by my best friend at school when I was 11 years old. He’s now a university lecturer specializing in the period and has written, among other books, the only modern biography of Sir Thomas Fairfax, the first commander of the New Model Army. I began designing a board game on the subject many years ago, but when Charles Vasey’s excellent Unhappy King Charles was published I thought there was no point continuing. However, when Columbia Games mentioned that they’d like to publish a game on the topic, I offered to design it and they accepted.
Grant: What was the genesis for the title?
Scott: The game’s first was title was ‘England’s Fire’ but Columbia thought it sounded like a game on the Great Fire of London. In fact, there is a game on that topic by fellow Birmingham-based designer Richard Denning! The name became Cromwell to fit in with Columbia’s line of card-driven block games. When I moved the design to Nuts! Publishing, I needed a different title – This War Without an Enemy is a famous quote from a letter by Parliamentarian general Sir William Waller to his friend and opponent, the Royalist general Sir Ralph Hopton.
That great God who is the searcher of my heart knows with what a sad sense I go upon this service, and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy; but I look upon it as sent from God . . . God in his good time send us the blessing of peace and in the meantime assist us to receive it! We are both upon the stage and must act such parts as are assigned us in this tragedy, let us do it in a way of honour and without personal animosities.
Grant: Why did you choose to use the block wargame format? What advantages did this provide?
Scott: Columbia equals block games, so it was a given. Furthermore, the first modern wargame I played was Jerry Taylor’s Hammer of the Scots. I love block games and had already designed a game on the Long War, an obscure military campaign referenced in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings (obviously unpublishable for licencing reasons). Card-driven block games like Crusade Rex or Richard III provide a very compact, efficient and yet flexible system that can model a wide range of conflicts at the strategic level and yet accept enough design nuances to provide the feel of a particular historical setting.
Grant: What challenges did the design present you with?
Scott: It wasn’t too difficult to design a game based on this existing system. However, when I parted ways with Columbia I felt that I needed to move my game away from their model too. This gave me a great opportunity to add more historical details to This War Without an Enemy, as it became called, but the challenge was how to avoid adding too much additional complexity.
Grant: What was important to model from the period?
Scott: Firstly, the nature of the pike and shot period is most obvious at a tactical level, where it differs substantially from medieval warfare, and this had to be sufficiently reflected in the game to provide the period feel. Secondly, the English Civil War was distinct in that it was a regionalized conflict. The main field armies of each side tended to operate in the central areas of the country, while in the north and the south-west there were separate regional armies fighting quasi-independently from the central military command.
Grant: What sources did you consult for the design and which would you recommend as a one source must read?
Scott: I read extensively on the period as a teenager but then, as part of the research for the game, I read almost every book published on the war in the past two or three decades. For a one-volume overview of the military aspects of the war, I would recommend A Military History of the English Civil War by Malcolm Wanklyn and Frank Jones.
Grant: What games inspired your thoughts on the design?
Scott: As I’ve already mentioned, Jerry Taylor’s block games – particularly Crusader Rex and Richard III – formed the basis for my initial design approach. However, Unhappy King Charles also provided inspiration for some important thematic elements of my game.
Grant: I understand that the usual block game mechanics for field battles have been modified with special rules for artillery, cavalry and infantry. What were these modifications?
Scott: The pike and shot period is characterized by battles in which artillery plays a relatively minor role, with infantry composed of both musketeers (range weapon) and pikemen (hand-to-hand weapon), and the cavalry often fighting what was, in effect, a separate battle on the wings. I wanted to reflect this within the typical block-game combat system, and so rather than just having the usual A, B, C priority order, I introduced specific micro-rules for each of the three main types of arms. For example, artillery are restricted to firing in the first round of battle, each infantry block can choose whether to fire at range or engage in hand-to-hand combat, and the cavalry may well end up pursuing their opponents off the field before the fight has finished!
Grant: I also understand you use a new system for storming and sieges. What new system is this referring to?
Scott: Siege warfare hasn’t been much explored in block games, but it was particularly important in the English Civil War as control of the major cities was perhaps the most important military goal for both sides. My game needed to reflect events such as the successful storming of Bristol in 1643 or the several month-long siege of Newcastle in 1644. The system for storming – i.e. assaults – is based on that for field battles but the defensive value of the city walls and the ability of artillery to degrade that defense are modeled with specific rules. As in many hex and counter games, long-term sieges – i.e. blockades – have their own mechanism for resolving based on the duration of the siege, the composition of the defending forces and the access of the besieged city to supplies.
Grant: The game uses cards to drive the action. What advantages does the CDG format give the design?
Scott: CDG games force the players to prioritize their actions. This has two main advantages: it keeps the games from taking too long to play and it makes every decision important. Taken together, these two aspects can make game play very tense. In This War Without an Enemy, each card provides both a number of Action Points (AP’s) that can be spent on movement and/or recruiting and an event that can be resolved during the turn. Cards with fewer AP’s have more powerful events while those with the most AP’s have no event at all. This helps to balance cards – you will never have a fundamentally ‘bad’ or ‘good’ hand in the game. Unlike in many CDG’s, players don’t face an either/or decision on what aspect of the card to use. However, they do have to decide when to use each card in their hand of 6. This decision can be crucial in the game as the AP value of the card is used in determining initiative – which player spends their AP’s first. Sometimes it can be advantageous to be first, for a quick strike, but sometimes second is better as your opponent cannot react to what you do.
Grant: Each side has their own deck. Why was this decided rather than a communal deck?
Scott: In the English Civil War, like in many such conflicts, the opposing sides were very similar to each other. But games are better when the two sides feel different to play. This is provided, to some extent, by the composition of the blocks and the initial set up. However, having separate decks for each player – and altering those decks over the course of the game by introducing and retiring cards – allowed me to introduce events that are specific to each side and to provide an element of time-based narrative the goes beyond the introduction of reinforcements at predetermined points in the game.
Grant: How do you create the right feel to account for the regional nature of the conflict?
Scott: This was a challenging part of designing the game and it took some time before I had a solution that I was happy with. The first element of regionalization is the division of the map into five regions, each consisting of several areas. At the end of each year in the game, when the historical armies would have settled into their winter quarters, there is a phase of recruitment. This is based on control of cities and areas, but is calculated on a region-by-region basis. One the one hand, control of every area in a region offers no more benefit than controlling the majority – there are only so many resources you can force out of the population. On the other hand, control on no area at all in a region is far worse than controlling one or two, because you have no basis at all for recruiting there. The second element of regionalization is that most of the blocks are region-specific – the so-called regional blocks. A regional block may not leave its home region unless it is escorted by a suitable leader block, and there are few of them. These two elements in combination oblige players to fight across the length and breadth of the country rather than concentrating all of their forces in, for example, the strategically important band to runs from Bristol, via Oxford, to London.
Grant: What is the goal of each player and how is victory achieved?
Scott: Historically, the Royalists aimed to retake London and secure other vital cities such as the port of Bristol, and York, the capital of the north. The Parliamentarians, conversely, wanted to defend London, but also force the king to the negotiating table by exhausting his ability to continue the conflict and, in the end, by capturing him. In This War Without an Enemy, there is a relative track for victory points (VP’s). At 0 VP’s, in the centre of the track, the sides are at a stalemate. If you reach 3 VP’s towards your end of the track then you have won the game. The counter moves one VP towards you if you capture a city from your opponent or 2 VP’s in the case of London. The Parliamentarians can also gain 2 VP’s if they capture the king by reducing his block to zero strength.
Grant: What has been the experience of your playtesters?
Scott: You’d have to ask them for a full account, but I’ve seen lots of tension and some stunning reversals of fortune, but no friendships have ended, despite the simulated conflict. Some games have been short, with an early capture of the king, while others have gone the full distance with victory only determined at the end of 1646.
Grant: What do you think the game does well?
Scott: It provides a high degree of historical feel with only moderate complexity and a playing time of 1-4 hours.
Thanks for your time in answering my questions Scott. This came together really quickly and I wish that we had more time to look deeper into the design and your choices but this will definitely do as a teaser into the game.
For a bit more information on the game you can visit the game page on the Nuts! Publishing website at the following link: https://www.nutspublishing.com/eshop/this-war-without-an-enemy-en
If you are interested in This War Without an Enemy, the game launches on Kickstarter as of Tuesday, January 21st at 11:00am and you can access that at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/483438961/this-war-without-an-enemy?ref=g6nup5&token=daaa0008