Several months ago, we were contacted by doit games from Barcelona, Spain about a new series of introductory level wargames that they were designing and would be releasing on Kickstarter on February 28, 2022. One of the games was covering World War I (Downfall of Empires) while the other would cover World War II (Downfall of the Third Reich). The series is called the Downfall Series and is designed by Victor Catalá. We reached out to Victor and he was more than willing to share information about the series and specifically in this interview about Downfall of Empires.

If you are interested in Downfall of Empires you can get more information by visiting the Kickstarter preview page at the following link:

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

Victor: I am an economist and work as a freelance consultant in corporate finance. I like sports (currently I practice golf, skiing, cycling and swimming), reading, the cinema, and I am very fond of strategy games, mainly wargames.

Grant: What motivated you to break into game design? What have you enjoyed most about the experience thus far?

Victor: I couldn’t find games on the market that were exactly what I was looking for in some cases. Mainly it motivated me to design historical simulation games that were both historically accurate and also exciting to play, but simpler than those ones I found in the market.

I do like the creative phase of game design and finding solutions to design problem. Conversely, I do not enjoy writing the rules so much.

Grant: What designers have influenced your style?

Victor: Without a doubt I have been influenced by many games and therefore many designers, but I would not highlight any one in particular above others. Rather than designers, I find ideas in playing games and seeing how those designers created mechanics to simulate various historical parts of a conflict.

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

Victor: The hardest is to simulate what really happened in history with simple rules and only a few special ones. Of course, the game must be exciting to play and players should be motivated to play again and again. So, offering a player several good alternatives to choose from in every turn and allowing them to finally decide on one, will make the game tense and probably a good game in the end.

Grant: What historical event does Downfall of Empires cover?

Victor: Downfall of Empires covers the First World War in the European Theater, from the “Guns of August” in Summer 1914 till the end of the War in the Fall of 1918.

Grant: What guiding mechanics does this Downfall Series include?

Victor: We are releasing two games at the same time that both are included in the Downfall Series. First is Downfall of Empires followed by Downfall of the Third Reich and both will use the following core mechanics:

  • The map is divided into areas that represent a vast zone of terrain, there can be 3 armies on each side in every area.
  • The number of actions per turn per side are limited. Players spend actions to do everything: Move, attack, reinforce, etc.
  • Use of technologies: Spending one action, players can “do an investment” like Aviation, Maneuver, etc. to use it later in the game.

Downfall of Empires is a game with only 4 pages of rules that is purposely designed to make the play accessible. This works perfectly as an introductory wargame, lasts 18 turns, can be played from 2 to 4 players (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Allies and Russia) and can be completed in less than 3 hours.

Grant: What was important from the history to model in the game?

Victor: The game attempts to include all major events of World War I in the European Theater except for naval battles. But, one of the important things to model is the type of warfare of the time, including new and emerging technologies.

Grant: In what year does the game start and when does it end?

Victor: The game starts in the Summer of 1914 and ends in the Fall of 1918. So, every turn represents 3 months.

Grant: What is the general flow of play and the Sequence of Play?

Victor: In turn order: German, Franco-British, Russian and Austro-Hungarian, players will play their turn.

During each turn, players can do 3 actions (German and Franco-British) or 2 actions (Russian and Austro-Hungarian).

Actions are quite “atomized”, in other words, the game tries to minimize the waiting time between turns. So in every turn players have the dilemma to decide “what to do”, you will see that there are lots of things to do but with few actions. Players often think “I wish I had more actions” and this is by design as there are always more things to get accomplished than time.

Grant: What is the general anatomy of the counters?

Victor: Counters represent armies. In Downfall of Empires there is only Infantry type. Each army has two sides: Full and reduced.

Once an army receives a hit, simply flip the counter to its reduced side or, if it was already reduced, then eliminate it from the game.

Counters are defined by nationality, combat factor (CF) and support factor. CF differs depending on nationality, so German has CF=5, French and British CF=4 and Russia and AH CF=3. Other minor countries also have a CF=3.

Initially, counters had the NATO standard symbology, but we have finally decided to change it with a face. We are trying to recruit Eurogamers to the wargame arena and making it more user friendly and new player friendly was a major focus of the design.

Grant: How many actions are available for each faction each turn? What does the difference in the number of actions represent?

Victor: As explained earlier, Germans and Franco-British have 3 actions per turn and Russia and AH only 2. This represents the asymmetry of the Industry every country had behind them. This was a fairly easy decision to make as the history shows this pretty well.

Grant: I understand there is a priority and limitations on use of the actions. How does this work?

Victor: Yes, that’s correct, there are very few limitations regarding actions use, but for the following 2 things:

  1. Actions cannot be repeated on every player’s turn, except Activation (move and attack).
  2. Reinforcements must be the first action taken (in case the player wants to do it). This is to avoid players to first attack and after, at the end of the turn, reinforce the reduced army that was attacking.

Grant: What different actions are available to each faction?

Victor: The game keeps symmetry in the type of actions each side can perform. Players can choose between 6 different actions:

  1. Recruitment.
  2. Activate armies to move and to attack.
  3. Build a trench in an area with a friendly army
  4. Diplomacy: Increase (2 spaces) or decrease (1 space) one country diplomacy track. If the marker reaches the end of the track that country joins the war.
  5. Develop one step of one technology; each technology needs 2 steps to be operative.
  6. Build missions: To be used later, they can be “Air Missions” or “Tank Missions”.

Grant: How are trenches built and what advantage do they provide?

Victor: To build or raise a trench you have to spend an action.

The advantages that they provide are:

  • Increase the defender Combat Factor by 2 in France, Belgium, Germany, Riga and Kiev, and by just 1 in the rest of the areas.
  • Can absorb casualties.
  • A defeated army in France-Belgium or Germany does not retreat if a casualty is taken from a level 2 trench.

If a player decides to reinforce his position in one area, building a trench is a good thing to do. Anyway, building a trench for AH and Russia means a bigger effort as they only have 2 actions per turn.

Grant: How does combat work?

Victor: I tried to keep combat as simple as possible, avoiding using tables or performing complex mathematical operations.

Combat is between armies, not zones. In each combat there is an attacker army and a defender army. If the attacker has more armies than the defender in that area, the ones left over can support the attack. The final combat force for each side is:

Attacker: Combat Factor + 2 for every supporting army (+1 if it is reduced) + die roll.

Defender: Combat factor + Trench or Mountain + die roll (the defender cannot support the attack with another army)

Attacker can also use an aviation mission (if they have already built and want to spend it) that gives an additional +2 in the final force.

The side with higher final combat force is the winner.

The defeated army loses 2 steps (the entire army) and the winner loses 1 step of his army. Remember, that attacking will always cost a step.

Grant: How does diplomacy with non-aligned countries work? Why is this important to the design?

Victor: Diplomacy is the way that sides dispose to make neutral countries join the War, doing so, the armies of those countries are available with the side they belong to.

In other games (like Paths of Glory) neutral countries join the war using card events or at a specific point in time or when certain circumstances occur. I decided to keep it simple with the diplomatic track.

Players can spend one available action to increase the alignment of one minor country, if the marker arrives at the end of the track, that country joins the war.

The game is designed to keep as close as I can to what really happened in the First World War, in other words, every country can only be aligned to one single side according to history, for example Turkey can only join the war with the Central Powers.

Anyway, different players can move forward or backward the diplomatic track, when moving forward it moves 2 steps meanwhile only 1 step when moving backward, this way makes easier to reach the end of the track and to make that neutral to join the war.

I also use the diplomatic track for Russian Surrender due to the internal Russian Revolution. So if Russia has lost 2 or more key areas you can increase the Russian Surrender track, once you reach the end it represents that Russia left the war.

Grant: How do players develop technologies? What different technologies are available and how do they benefit the players?

Victor: Technologies are an essential part of the game. As the war goes on, countries prepare to be more powerful and to beat the enemy more easily; to do that, players should renounce to do other things (like move or attack)  in order to improve their armies , this is like an investment.

Developing a technology doesn’t give any immediate benefit and for this reason, players (especially newbies) can easily forget to develop them, but this will have bad consequences in the future.

Attack and Defense – Five technology levels that improve the attack and defense of armies. In combat you compare the attack technology of the attacker with the defense technology of the defender. The side with the higher technology level (the amount does not matter) has a +1 in combat. If they have the same technology
level, they have cancel each other out.

Manoeuvre – Allows the activation of 4 armies instead of 3 for every Activate action.

Air Support – Adds +2 to the attacker by spending a mission. It can only be used in one attack per turn per Power. If the defender has air support he can cancel the attacker’s by spending a mission in which
case the attacker can spend more missions to attack followed by the defender to cancel them.

Tanks – Cancels the effect of trenches of the same or lesser level by spending a mission per attack. The attacker decides whether to use it before the attack takes place.

Poison Gas – Once a year from 1915 to 1917 it inflicts a loss to a full army in
a zone with a trench that is not mountain or desert (an own army must be in the same zone or an adjacent one).

Grant: What does the map look like? What key areas are identified and what strategic considerations dies the terrain force on players?

Victor: The map is divided into areas and is an area movement design. This adds an operational level behind the strategic level of the game.

When one side moves to an area occupied only by enemies, at least one of the moving armies have to attack one enemy army.

The main key areas of the game are the cities. The game uses cities with 3 purposes:

  •  Each city is a supply source, so you need to trace a line of supply to one of your supply sources if you want to move or to attack.
  • Cities are used to recruit replacements; those must be recruited in an own controlled city or in a controlled adjacent area.
  • Cities are also used to calculate Victory Points.

In addition to cities, there are areas with a port and/or terrain (mountain, forest and desert).

Grant: How are victory points scored?

Victor: Victory points are calculated at the end of the game. There are 2 ways to score Victory Points (VP).

  1. Taking Cities: Each side scores 1 VP for every enemy city conquered and lose 1 VP for every own city conquered by the enemy. VP conquered by AH are also scored by Germany and VP conquered by Russia are also scored by Franco-British but not vice versa.
  2. Using Diplomacy: When one neutral country joins the war or when Russia Surrender occur, the corresponding side scores 1 VP.

Grant: How is the game won? Which side has the more difficult time of winning?

Victor: At the end of the game, the player controlling the side with more VP is the winner.

In order for all sides to have an equal chance of winning the game, each side starts with a different number of victory points, as follows:

German starts with -3 VP

AH starts with 0 VP

Allied with 4 VP and

Russian with 5 VP

Germany has to be aggressive, because they has to score more than any other. If they want to win the game, they have to take advantage of their more powerful armies.

On the other hand, Russia is the side with more VP at the start of the game, but has AH and German sides trying to reduce their advantage.

AH initially has the Russians as the main enemy (Armies with the same CF) but if Italy joins the war, AH will have another big problem and will have to protect the frontier with Italy. On the other side, Germany can lend Armies to AH, this can help a lot as the CF of Germany is much better.

The Allied (Franco-British) will probably be attacked at the beginning of the game and perhaps will lose some VP, but their Armies are not bad. Also, they had 3 actions per turn (instead the 2 actions of AH and Russia).         

Grant: What do you believe the game does really well in modeling The Great War?

Victor: I think that the best of the game is that it simulates pretty nice the First World war with easy rules and short duration.

There are 3 mechanics that I personally think reflects the First World War: Trenches, Central Power Coordination and Diplomacy.

Grant: What has been the experience of your playtesters?

Victor: The game has been developed in Alfa Ares, a wargamers club in Barcelona with more than 150 members. I am proud to have been working with several experienced players who have been playing wargames during most of their lives. Their contributions have been really valuable and this is one of the reasons the final product fulfilled all my initial expectations.

Grant: What stretch goals are available during the campaign? 

Victor: The mechanics of the game are 100% closed, so any stretch goal will not be related to how the game plays. doit games is thinking of adding some kind of tray to keep counters, neoprene map (I am not sure if this will be an add-on) and probably a quick reference sheet. I spoke with doit games asking not to incorporate as stretch goals anything related with the game mechanics. 

Grant: When can we expect it to be fulfilled?

Victor: I think KS will launch on the 28th of February. We are currently looking for promotion in the US, basically because the game is already well known in Spain.

Thank you for your time in answering our questions Victor and for your effort on designing the game. I think that your approach, being focused on making sure the game is easy to learn and fast playing, will be a great bridge for Eurogamers to come more into wargaming. I look forward to a future opportunity to play the game.

If you are interested in Downfall of Empires you can get more information by visiting the Kickstarter preview page at the following link: