A few years ago, 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 series 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 then designed the next entry in this series called Until the Bitter End – US Airborne and now has designed the newest game, which is a stand alone series called Until the Bitter End – Tanks. The Kickstarter campaign started last week and 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?
Matt: My new game is the third game in the series, and is completely standalone. This new game focus is on tanks and armoured fighting vehicles and the first in that series. With this focus in mind, I decided to release it as a standalone game, as it has several mechanics specific to that focus on tanks.
Grant: Do we need to own or be familiar with Until the Bitter End to play this game?
Matt: No, not at all. The game is completely stand alone, and you don’t need to have owned or played the other games in the series. The game does share many mechanics with the first games but also introduces some new ones.
Grant: I know the design is a Print ‘n Play Why do you feel this model is best suited for your design?
Matt: I like Print ’n’ Play for lots of reasons – its not expensive for gamers to get the game to the table as the game can be played by just printing out a few sheets of paper. I also enjoy the physical making of a game – printing it out, cutting out the counters etc., it has that light crafting element which I believe helps connect people to the game.
Grant: I know you are not only the designer but you do the art as well. Please show us a few examples of your great art. What is your inspiration for your unique art style?
Matt: I take a lot of inspiration from the world around me – mostly really, really looking how light and shadow work. How metal and other materials look in certain lighting conditions or how cloth and material fold, etc. Personally my artwork, for me, is as much a study of light as it is the subject matter.
Grant: How do you create your art? What is the process and what graphics tools do you use?
Matt: The artwork for the tanks and armour is a really long process as each piece of art takes dozens and dozens of hours of work. Firstly its a very long research process. We are lucky living here in the UK that there are many fine military and history museums, including the Tank Museum down in Bovington. This research includes studying historic photos looking for all the details. I often obsess over tank tread patterns! Then its a case of a composition in pencils, then layering in colours and detail using palettes I create. The creation of the palette is crucial and often is a major component. So, really its a process of massive amounts of historic research, working out the lighting, then creating a palette based on that lighting.
Grant: What different types of Axis and Allied armor is included in the design?
Matt: The Armour that the game includes is really based around a 1944/45 setting in Europe so for the Axis its Panzer IVs, Panthers, Tiger and the Tiger II plus a bunch of self propelled guns such as the StuG, Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger. For the Allies there are several Shermans, Stuart through to the Pershing. They also have a share of Tank Destroyers with both the M10 and the Achilles plus the M36 Jackson.
Grant: How did you go about the process of assigning different armor, movement and combat values to the different types of tanks?
Matt: This is part of the research process – reading first hand accounts plus historic research. I basically created categories of armour and gun strengths and used that methodology.
Grant: How does the armor value effect a Fire Attack on a tank?
Matt: Basically the armour value of a counter is the unmodified dice roll needed for a firing armour counter to penetrate that armour. For example if a tank has an armour value of a 5 then when that tank is hit the opponent needs to roll a 5 to penetrate (and potentially knock out) that tank.
Grant: How does penetration bonus effect a tanks Fire Attack on another armored unit?
Matt: Each tank or armoured fighting vehicle has a penetration bonus which modifies that armour value of the target, and potentially makes it easier for the tank to penetrate its targets armour.
Grant: What are the various results from Fire Attacks?
Matt: If a target is hit, and then its armour penetrated you roll on a table to see the effect of the hit. This can result in the target becoming immobilised, having its turret or main weapon jam, catching fire or being knocked out of the game (and replaced with a Burning Wreck counter).
Grant: What is the Roll of 6 and Roll of 1 rule and why did you feel this needed to be included?
Matt: Basically when firing at the enemy a 6 is always a hit and a 1 is always a miss, regardless of modifiers. This represents the incredible good luck and human element of armoured combat. I have a few mechanics in the game that is more about feel – tanks are not robots – they are crewed and manned by real people.
Grant: What is the Bravery Point Pool and how is this used in gameplay?
Matt: Bravery Points are a resource you can use to re-roll any one of your dice rolls and make your enemy re-roll one of their dice rolls. Again, it represents the incredible bravery, good fortune or one-in-a-hundred chances of real combat in the game. As a gameplay mechanic its also incredibly satisfying making your opponent re-roll that incredibly hard to hit dice roll, which they have just made!
Grant: How important is facing to the design?
Matt: Facing and the orientation of a tank within the hex is vital as the game has mechanics for not only line of sight but also different values for the armour of the tanks within the hex. In this historic period the armour was generally thicker or more effective on the front than to the side and especially to the rear.
Grant: How is the Chit Pull mechanic used for activation? Why did you feel this was the best choice for the design?
Matt: For every one of your tanks in the scenario you place a chit in a cup for both you and your opponent (including the solitaire AI) and randomly take one out – the chit pulled that belongs to the player can now activate one of their tanks. I love this mechanic in other games, as it gives more unpredictable gameplay plus the time between your turn and the other player is generally less (but it all depends on the chit that is taken from the cup!) I feel it best suits the chaotic nature of this type of combat.
Grant: How is armor movement effected by differing terrain?
Matt: Different terrain types cost different movement points within the game – such as moving uphill or driving the tank through denser vegetation, etc. This addition keeps players from simply driving straight ahead and makes the terrain play a major role in the game.
Grant: How does the armor deal with mud?
Matt: If a tank tries to leave a Mud Terrain Hex a die roll needs to be made and if you roll a 1, then its stuck in the mud! The tank cannot be extricated from the mud and will spend the remainder of the game having to fire from that position. Entering mud is a risk, albeit a small risk!
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: The counters contain 4 pieces of key information: the movement points, the armour value, the normal range of its primary weapon and the penetration bonus of that weapon.
Grant: How many maps come with the game? How many different scenarios are included?
Matt: The game will come with 4 geomorphic maps that can be laid out in different combinations for the different scenarios. In addition, there are extra maps and scenarios unlocked as stretch goals. There will be 8 scenarios for 2-player and 8 for solitaire with again, more unlocked.
Grant: How does the Solitaire Mode work?
Matt: The Solitaire and 2-player game share many mechanics such as movement, firing, line of sight, etc. What makes the Solitaire very different is that there are specific scenarios for Solitaire where you will take specific tanks on specific missions. The other major component is that the Solitaire has its own AI system that will activate and perform actions as you play. This is a refinement of my AI from the previous Until the Bitter End Series games revised for this tank and armour combat.
Grant: What is the price of the print and play? When does the Kickstarter campaign launch?
Matt: The game is £10 (about $13 US dollars) and includes all the rules, and is out now at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1564988876/until-the-bitter-end-tanks
Grant: What are the stretch goals you plan to offer?
Matt: Stretch goals will include more maps, more scenarios and more counters – plus I have a few more planned!
Grant: When do you think it will be ready for fulfillment?
Matt: The game will “ship” in January 2021!
Grant: What are your future plans for the Until the Bitter End Series?
Matt: I have got plans underway for more games set in the Eastern Front and The North Africa campaign.
Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?
Matt: I’ve always wanted to do a game with a focus on tanks and armour as I really enjoy both the design and art elements. I really want to get across the combination of the machinery but also the human element to this conflict, which I hope comes across in both the game mechanics and artwork.
Thanks Matt for your insight into the design and for your great art. I just could look at your tanks for days!
If you are interested in Until the Bitter End – Tanks, you can back the Kickstarter at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1564988876/until-the-bitter-end-tanks
Here also is a link to a great overview video on the game: