Over the past couple of years, I have seen a few of these Historic Epic Battle System Card Games focused on historical events designed by Tristan Hall and published by Hall of Nothing Productions, including 1066, Tears to Many Mothers: The Battle of Hastings Card Game (2018) and 1565, St. Elmo’s Pay: The Great Siege of Malta Card Game (2020). The hallmark of the games is the fantastic art used and the overall fantastic production value of the game itself. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to play any of the games but I am going to remedy that soon. Once I caught wind of the newest entry in the system called 1815, Scum of the Earth – The Battle of Waterloo Card Game, I immediately reached out to Tristan to see if we could get an interview done before the end of the Kickstarter. He was very accommodating and has provided some really great insight into the design. Tristan Hall is an award-winning game designer and publisher and has been making thematic games since childhood. His fan-made scenarios for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and the Dungeons & Dragons games launched his design career and he is now the designer of the critically acclaimed Fantasy Quest Games Gloom of Kilforth and Shadows of Kilforth, which have already sold over 15,000 copies worldwide, as well as the other award-winning Historic Epic Battle System games, and the upcoming Veilwraith. Tristan also co-hosts the gaming podcast #BoardChitless.

The 1815, Scum of the Earth campaign is currently ongoing and will conclude on Friday, April 16th at 6:59PM EDT. As of the posting of this interview, the campaign is 312% funded with $91,559 toward its goal of $22,227.

If you are interested in 1815, Scum of the Earth – The Battle of Waterloo Card Game, you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tristanhall/1815-scum-of-the-earth-the-battle-of-waterloo-card-game

Grant: First off Tristan please tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies? What’s your day job?

Tristan: My day job is now finally my dream job and my full time job: I’m a game designer and publisher, and co-director of Hall or Nothing Productions with my wife and business partner Francesca.

Grant: What motivated you to start a publishing company? What has been your experience to date?

Tristan: My first contracted game – Gloom of Kilforth – was languishing on a publisher’s shelf and quite a number of play-testers and gamers who liked my fan made designs for other games wanted to see it brought to market via this newish crowdfunding platform (at the time) called Kickstarter. It became clear that the publisher was in no hurry to move forward, so I asked them for the rights back to see if I could launch it myself and they kindly agreed. The experience changed my life, led to follow up games, and was the first time I finally started working for myself. The experience has been extremely challenging, but also absolutely brilliant.

Grant: What do you find most challenging about the design process? What do you feel you do really well?

Tristan: As a two-person team we handle all of the admin, marketing, accounts, emails, logistics, social media, etc. ourselves. Whilst I love dealing with customers directly, all the other administrative side of things creates barriers to be overcome when I’d really love to dedicate more time to just full on game design. I feel that we create and deliver thematic and beautiful games that are unique in the market.

Grant: What is your game 1815, Scum of the Earth – The Battle of Waterloo Card Game about?

Tristan: It’s about the events leading up to Napoleon’s fateful final conflict, the Battle of Waterloo, and it culminates in the legendary battle itself. In the game, both players will have to race against each other to overcome a series of asymmetrical historical objectives that the British Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley and the Emperor of the French, Napoleon Bonaparte had to overcome in order to come to battle each other at Waterloo. Returning from exile after his defeat at Leipzig, Napoleon is set to take on Europe yet again, and the fate of the world is in your hands!

Grant: What is the Historic Epic Battle System (HEBS) card game series? How have you changed that system to fit the Napoleonic Wars?

Tristan: A HEBS game is an asymmetric, competitive tactical card game in the style of Magic the Gathering but non-collectable: the complete game is in the box. Each game covers a different conflict in history, and all the cards are based on real events or people or combat units from the period. It’s my attempt to bridge the gap between heavily thematic wargaming and more easily accessible card games. Every game has 100% new content, so the challenge is always to come up with new abilities and card effects based on the history, but that remain compatible with the previous games. This allows players to pit armies from one era against other eras too.

Grant: I see that there has been some scuttlebutt about the name of the game. What does the name mean and what message are you trying to send?

Tristan: All of our HEBS games’ names have been divisive, which is ironic because they are all significant quotes drawn from the relevant history. The most important message is to get people interested in and talking about the conflicts, whether that’s by supporting and playing our games, or just triggering their own interest in reading and learning more about the period. 

The Scum of the Earth title comes from Wellington himself talking about the British troops. It is an evocative quote but also a complex expression, which the Duke used on more than one occasion to describe his own men (before and after Waterloo), but it veils his admiration for the soldiers, and his understanding of how pivotal a role they played in his many victories, particularly at Waterloo. The direct quote is:

“The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth—the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.”

Grant: What about the history of the Battle of Waterloo did you need to make sure to include in the game?

Tristan: The easy answer is as much as possible! Ligny, Quatre Bras, and all the prior events leading up to the final battle are in there, but the issue with boiling such vast and heavily textured events down into a modest card game like 1815, Scum of the Earth is that you cannot possibly include every single character. So I tried to pare down all of the essential ingredients, people, units and events into the game – it rests with the gamers to judge how much I succeeded in that regard.

Grant: This game is designed as a 1-4 player game. How is this accomplished?

Tristan: The standard game is for 1-2 players, but with the new rules and two copies of the game that player count can now be pushed up to accommodate 1-4 players by having teams of 1v2 or 2v2.

Grant: How are the cards used to tell the story of the Battle of Waterloo?

Tristan: Every card in the game represents a unit, character, or other element based on the real figures, weapons, and occurrences that resulted in Napoleon’s downfall, and each card has flavour text and gorgeous art work evoking the narrative of the conflict. The cards are central to the design. The Battle of Waterloo is initially fought over three Frontiers of troops (just as the real battle was), represented by three Frontier cards: Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, and Papelotte. Players compete for these cards by inflicting damage on them. Careful hand, resource, and tableau management is required for victory, and the first player to claim two Frontiers wins the game!

Grant: What different types of cards are included in each player’s decks?

Tristan: The card decks are made up of each player’s armies, their leaders, combat units, notable characters, as well as historical events, attachments which can be played on other cards, global tactics, narrative objectives which must be overcome in the first half of the game, and finally the Frontiers of the final battle (Waterloo) which must be fought for and claimed to win the game.

Grant: I see that players have to overcome a series of asymmetrical historical objectives in order to battle their opponent. What are these objectives?

Tristan: Each player has several differing objectives to defeat. For example, the Napoleon player must kickstart the events of 1815 by escaping from exile on the island of Elba, before reclaiming his throne as emperor, and then mobilising the Grande Armée in preparation for war. Meanwhile, the Duke of Wellington player must attend the Congress of Vienna, take command of the Anglo-Allied army, and even rally his commanders at the Duchess of Richmond’s dazzling ball before battle commences.

Grant: How do they differ from each other?

Tristan: Some objectives are physical, logistical tasks and conflicts, such as the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras, which preceded Waterloo. These are represented by challenges that must be overcome by the Might attribute of a player’s army. Other objectives may constitute mental or political hurdles to be defeated, such as Napoleon’s bloodless overthrow of King Louis XVIII in Paris. These objectives must be destroyed by the player using their army’s Zeal attribute, in order to progress to the next stage.

Grant: How do the cards help the player overcome these objectives?

Tristan: Players take turns to build their tableau of army cards, which gradually increase their total Might and Zeal, as well as providing myriad special abilities, such as generating more resources, inflicting damage and/or conditions on enemy cards.

Grant: What is the anatomy of the cards?

Tristan: Here’s a breakdown of an example card:

Grant: How are cards played to defeat your opponent?

Tristan: In the second half of the game, after deploying their armies and defeating all of their objectives, players battle over the three Frontiers at Waterloo by comparing their Might and Zeal in each Frontier. Generally, the player with the highest attributes inflicts damage on the Frontier, and if that damage equals the Frontier’s health, they claim the Frontier. The first player to claim two Frontiers wins, though you can also lose the game if your leader is killed, or if you run out of cards in your army deck.

Grant: Who is the artist for the project? What type of feel does this art help to create?

Tristan: We have a team of international artists including Arkadiusz Banas, Piero Mng, The Creation Studio, and Jose Del Nido. The art is designed to feel visceral, beautiful, and emotional in order to bring the drama of the conflict to life, and to also draw the attention of people who might not otherwise be interested in drier or heavier hex and chit style war games with gigantic rulebooks.

Grant: What is the basis for the AI solo system? How does it work?

Tristan: The solo Foe system was originally designed by Paul Ibbs of the 1 Player Guild. Basically you take your turn, then you flip a card for the AI Foe. The Foe has a list of simple rules that it follows to determine whether it will play that card and how it will play the card. Some cards have solo only abilities too, which help streamline this process, and you can also alter the difficulty of the Foe to suit your ability. The idea is to give it the feel of a real opponent without giving the player the burden of having to handle its hand and resources, etc.

Grant: What are your future plans for the HEBS system? What conflicts are you hoping to cover?

Tristan: We would love to continue this series of history games and deliver all new theatres of conflict such as the American Civil War, Agincourt, The Spanish Armada, etc. And with your help we can and will make this happen!

Thanks for your time in answering our questions Tristan and also thanks for developing and designing such a beautiful product on a historical event. I think that this type of game will bring the events of history to a wider audience and hopefully convert some players to the world of wargames.

If you are interested in 1815, Scum of the Earth – The Battle of Waterloo Card Game, you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tristanhall/1815-scum-of-the-earth-the-battle-of-waterloo-card-game

You can also download a copy of the playtest rules at the following link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1mf2Fy1LV12aTWnMJ-iDaCkhaavIwGQXZ