A few months ago, I came across some interesting looking images on Facebook of a new upcoming solitaire wargame set in the aftermath of D-Day. Scream, Aim, Fire! is a solo tactical game of squad-level combat as the player takes the part of American infantry and armor pushing inland to take objectives, using a dice-roll action system that gives you a guaranteed number of actions each round, but not always of the exact type you need. I was very intrigued and reached out to the designer Jay Kirkpatrick who was more than willing to talk with us about his design.
Grant: First off Jay please tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies? What’s your day job?
Jay: Ok I work in an e-bike store as we sell electric mountain bikes, etc. Its a family run business. My hobbies are wargaming, I have a passion for wargaming as it takes me away from the stress of everyday life.
Grant: What motivated you to break into game design? What have you enjoyed most about the experience thus far?
Jay: I was motivated by all the fantastic games that I have in my collection, its a challenge to come up with a design that works and will provide a great gaming experience for the player. That really motivated me to break into game design.
Grant: What designers have influenced your style?
Jay: Great question, Gregory M. Smith has had an influence on my style as I really enjoy his solitaire game designs, they always seem to have a fun but challenging design. David Thompson is a fantastic game designer and after playing Castle Itter and Undaunted: Normandy I was hooked on his style of game design. Hermann Lutman has been a massive influence, he always seems to be able to produce game designs that just have me thinking I wish I had designed that. Hermann has helped me with tweaking the design of Scream, Aim, Fire!, which was fantastic to have his help.
Grant: What do you find most challenging about the design process? What do you feel you do really well?
Jay: I find the most challenging thing when designing a wargame is trying to get a balance between fun and serious gameplay. I feel a game should be fun otherwise what’s the point in playing it, but you need to have some serious elements that reflect the chaos and terror of war. I feel my designs are unique I think that’s what I do well bringing my own spin into a certain genre.
Grant: What designs have you completed to date? What do you feel those designs have taught you that help in your current efforts?
Jay: So I have 4 games completed to date and 2 of them are being published with Scream, Aim, Fire! being first with Sniper Kill Confirmed from Compass Games being up next. Those designs have taught me not to rush and to playtest over and over again.
Grant: What is your game Scream, Aim, Fire! about?
Jay: Scream, Aim, Fire! is a WWII solitaire wargame. It focuses on the days after the D-Day landings and the air landings.
Four years ago, I designed Scream, Aim, Fire! as a miniatures WWII game and then I decided to
improve the core rules and changed the game into a solitaire WWII game. I have tried to create a
game that provides tension, fun and decision making for the player.
Grant: What was your inspiration for the name and what do you want it to convey?
Jay: My inspiration for the name was a song title I had heard and I thought that would make an amazing game title. I want the title to convey the chaos and terror of WWII.
Grant: What motivated you to design a solitaire game around the D-Day Invasions during World War II?
Jay: It will come as no surprise that the film Saving Private Ryan motivated me. I first saw the film when I was younger and was shocked at how scary it must have been to storm the beaches. From then on I was fascinated with WWII, reading books, watching documentaries and the fantastic HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. As I got into game design, I knew I wanted to design a system on the subject, solitaire was a no brainier as I could never find an opponent to play WWII games against.
Grant: What sources did you consult to get the details of the history correct?
Jay: I used some of my many history book on WWII and also google to find certain information. There is a lot of history out there that is very descriptive about the time and what it was like fighting in the days after the landings.
Grant: What from the history of the conflict did you need to model in the design?
Jay: Morale and the need to fight on no matter the odds or the situation. I have modelled a morale system in the game that reflects the feelings that soldiers must have had on the field. If enemy forces are being forced back, morale increases and forces will regroup and push on but if enemy forces are causing damage morale suffers and the urge to fight can dwindle.
Grant: The game is a solitaire game. What are the parameters and motivations of the AI system?
Jay: The AI system is card activated and draws cards to determine the actions of the enemy units against the player. The AI motivations are to stop you the player reaching victory. The player will roll 1d6 on the Enemy Spotted Table to see how many German infantry units will arrive via the reinforcement hexes. The player will ONLY roll on this table if there are less than 5 German units in play.
Grant: How does the AI prioritize its attacks and movements?
Jay: The AI select a target at the start of a game, they will move and fire upon this target unless they come into contact with another unit. AI may move 2 hexes and fire, they may become panicked I have tried to design the AI to adapt to the ever changing flow of the battle.
Grant: What type of experience does the solo game create?
Jay: First and foremost, the game is definitely a challenge, the player will find that they can’t always move or order units in a way that they would like. The game has tension that builds as the battle continues, to win the player will have to make the right decision at the right time.
Grant: What different types of units appear in the game? How did you make them feel unique and how did you assign their game functions?
Jay: There are a few different units in the game including standard troops, veteran troops, MG42 TEAMS, snipers, and tanks. Each unit has its own stats and an MG42 attacking is totally different to a normal unit of troops attacking. Some units such as the sniper can spot and provide covering fire for units. This provides a unique feeling to the unit.
Grant: What is the scale of the game and the force structure of units?
Jay: Units in the game represent a group of around 5-10 men plus an NCO. Tanks represent a single armoured vehicle. Machine gun teams represent 2-3 men.
Grant: I see where the game focuses on infantry and tank combat. Why was this a decision? Are there other outside interactions with air power or artillery?
Jay: I decided that I wanted the game to focus on ground combat troops and armoured vehicles, I didn’t want to include air power as I felt it would take too much focus away from the game mechanics. However, there are AT guns in the game that act in a unique and fun way.
Grant: I see that the games uses an order dice system. What is this system and how does it function?
Jay: The order dice system is the heart of the game and it allows the player to issue certain orders to their units. Each number represents an order so if the player rolled a 3 on one of the order dice this would allow him to conduct a fire order with any unit he sees fit. An order dice result of 5 allows the player to activate a tank to move or fire. The player only has 5 order dice so you aren’t always going to roll want you want. The player will have to adapt to suit the situation. Restricting the player in this way can seem cruel but it provides a challenge and really makes the player think about how they can best use the resources they have.
Grant: What are its strengths and relative weaknesses?
Jay: The strengths of the order dice is luck, which equates to how things happen on the battlefield. You may get lucky and mange to issue orders that will apply in that moment. Its weakness is also luck as you may roll a terrible hand and be forced to accept defeat.
Grant: How many different types of cards are used in Scream, Aim, Fire!? Can we see some examples of the types?
Jay: There are a few different cards that are used including cover, action, damage, etc. Each round, the player will draw an action card for the Germans and carry out the required action cross referencing the action card drawn with the unit’s current state. Complete the unit’s actions before drawing the next action card for the next unit.
Grant: What is the morale score system and how important is it to the game?
Jay: The morale score system is very important as its how you determine victory or defeat. The player will gain morale points from killing enemy units and destroying tanks, 5 or 10 points can be gained. The player will move the morale track up by the required amount. The morale score will decrease if the player suffers losses and can drop -5 or -10, so the morale score is always changing. Each scenario will tell the player what morale score is needed to secure victory. It really does provide so much tension when playing.
Grant: How is morale effected and what happens as it drops?
Jay: Morale is effected from enemy units being destroyed and the player units being destroyed. When morale drops the player is further away from victory the player must try not to lose any units and destroy as many enemy units as they can to gain more morale.
Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play and how does the game flow?
Jay: The game sequence is as follows: order phase player turn, AI turn, spotting phase (the player rolls to see if any more enemy units have been spotted). The game flows very well and games can be played in around 1-2 hours.
Grant: What key decision points does the game provide for the player?
Jay: The key decision points are what units to issue orders to, the player can issue an order to any of his units but having only 5 order dice means the decision is critical. Also should the unit fire or move and get to cover. Sometimes the best way to win is to not have your units destroyed.
Grant: How does combat work? What is the role of Cover Cards in combat?
Jay: So combat is rolling a d6 against an enemy unit. Each unit has a base to hit number printed on them, this number is what is needed to hit the unit however the player draws a cover card before conducting a fire action. The cover card tells the player how much cover the enemy unit has( the unit may be in a clear hex but they could have hit the ground and gone prone or maybe they are using a building to the best of their ability. The cover card applies a modifier +1 or +2 the score needed to hit is now increased by +1 or +2. This brings a vision of troops hugging cover or being caught out in the open. If an enemy unit is hit the player then draws a damage counter from a cup. The counter will tell the player how many morale points are scored if any. That is the very basics of combat. It is slightly different when the players units are hit but you will have to play the game to find out.
Grant: What do the maps look like? How many are there?
Jay: The maps look great! We have tried to capture the look of Normandy. There are 2 maps in total. Each map has some important information printed on it. At the top of the map is the American morale score track the player will keep track of morale points during the game moving the token along or back depending on the situation. On the right-hand side is the German reserve track, the player will keep track of German reserves by moving the reserve counter up by one box for every American unit destroyed. The turn track allows the player to keep track of the turns during a game. Any hex containing the color brown is defined as a hill hex. Any hex containing a white path is a gravel road or path. Some hexes contain an image of a tank, mortar team or MG42 team these hexes are used for setup when playing any of the scenarios. If the scenario setup states that the unit should setup in their marked hex it is referring to the white image of the selected unit. And finally hexes containing numbers or marked with a blue or red outline are reinforcement hexes.
Grant: What difference scenarios are included?
Jay: There are 5 scenarios included each offering a new challenge.
Grant: How is victory determined?
Jay: Victory is determined by morale score so a score of 40 morale must be reached in the first scenario to achieve victory. However, some scenarios will state that the morale score plus objective must be met to achieve victory.
Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?
Jay: I am most please about the way the game plays, it really is a fun and tense experience while providing plenty of WWII flavour.
Grant: What has been the experience of your playtesters?
Jay: Very positive things have been changed from play testing, also Hermann Lutman and Greg porter have tested the game and provided feedback which was amazing.
Grant: What other battles are you considering for inclusion in this series?
Jay: Well a certain Mr. Mark Holt Walker has asked me to design a Pacific version and maybe even a modern combat version.
Here is a link to a prototype copy of the game that Jay shot a how to play video for a scenario. Keep in mind that things might have slightly changed in the design since this video was shot. You can watch that at the following link:
Thanks to Jay for his time in answering our qu3estions and for the great looking solitaire wargame. We all know that for those of us who can’t find opponents that solitaire games keep our itch to play scratched.
If you are interested in Scream, Aim, Fire! you can pre-order a copy of the game for $32.00 from the Tiny Battle Publishing website at the following link: https://tinybattlepublishing.com/products/scream-aim-fire