There is a need for introductory wargames in our hobby that can be used to teach the concepts of wargames to new players. Very few designers focus on this area but Bill Molyneaux is one of those as he has designed several very good introductory wargames over the years including Bloody Mohawk and Savage Wilderness. Recently, he has struck up a new partnership to design games for Fast Play Wargames and one of their new games called Battle of Brandywine is currently on Kickstarter. We reached out to Bill and he was more than willing to share with us.

If you are interested in Battle of Brandywine you can order a copy on the Kickstarter game page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gold-tpcd/the-battle-of-the-brandywine-table-top-and-pocket-edition?ref=user_menu

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

Bill: I am a field sales rep for General Mills, yes the largest cereal producer in the United States. Basically, I drive to grocery stores and make sure cheerios are on the shelf for people to buy. I also play wargames, both hex and counter and miniatures. One of my passions though is French & Indian War reenacting at many of the major sites throughout the year.

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

Bill: I have been a play tester for over 30 years and have done work for many game companies and designers including White Dog Games, High Flying Dice Games, Schutze Games, and designers like Richard Berg and Dennis Bishop. I like to design games for historic sites that will be sold to non-war gamers in order to expand the hobby. 

Grant: What designers would you say have influenced your style?

Bill: I am old and grew up on Avalon Hill and SPI. Those were the types of games that drew me into history and gaming. A few months ago, I watched one of your awesome videos covering the Steve Jackson mini games and laughed how neither of you really had any idea about the games and even though they were small back in 1980 they were a huge deal at that time. Every kid wanted the game Awful Green Things from Outer Space.

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

Bill: Play balance is always hard to determine as most historic battles are not necessarily fair. I always have to ask myself if I am making a game or a true simulation game. The difference here is balance for a game and for a simulation staying true to the historical situation. Using optional rules helps me to walk the fine line between making a game or a simulation. 

Grant: You have filled a design niche in the wargame design world for approachable, easy to learn introductory wargames. Why do you feel this is an important endeavor for the growth of the hobby?

Bill: To be honest, I develop games so that someone who has never played a wargame before can play it and focus on 14 years old and up. If we don’t have some introductory games to get new people into the hobby it will fade in the face of competition from the likes of X-Box and PS5.  

Grant: What historical event does Battle of Brandywine cover?

Bill: The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American Continental Army lead by General George Washington and the British Army of General Sir William Howe on September 11, 1777. The forces met near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. More troops fought at Brandywine than any other battle of the American Revolution. It was also the second single-day battle of the war, after the Battle of Monmouth, with continuous fighting for 11 hours. The major concern for the Continentals was the defense of the road to Philadelphia. The game is designed as a low complexity affair that can be set up in ten minutes and played in under an hour. Simple base rules with some optional and advanced rules to include most of the history of the battle in the game.

Grant: Why did you choose this specific battle to focus on first with this new series? What about the battle is unique and interesting?

Bill: I create and sell my games at historic sites and I had developed a zip lock bagged game on the Battle of Brandywine for the Brandywine Battlefield park 12 years ago. After meeting with Mrs. Nancy, the gift shop manager at the park, we decided the game needed a total re-work of the maps, rules and counters. So this seemed a good place to start.

Grant: What sources did you consult for the design and what must read source would you recommend?

Bill: This past summer I took several tours of the Brandywine Battlefield park and walked the grounds of the battle to better understand the terrain and positions. As to books on the subject there is a great list on the Brandywine Battlefield website (http://brandywinebattlefield.org/suggested-reading/) and YouTube is also a wonderful source of information as I can work at my desk and listen to lectures on history and quite often when I am working I will have The Players Aid playing on the tv as back ground sound and listen to you both talk about the games you both have played or reviewed.

Grant: What is important to model in a game about the American Revolutionary War?

Bill: One of the most important elements to model is the difference between the Patriot Army and the professional army. Early in the war, untrained and poorly equipped rebels were no match for the veteran British troops on the battlefield. But as they grew and won victories over time, the Patriots relied more on their regular troops to win the day. The war was not won with militia and minute men alone but due to their trained army. 

Grant: What is the scale of the game and the force structure and makeup of units?

Bill: This game is low complexity so the turns are roughly 20 mins a turn.  How do we account for different types of troops in a  low complexity game? Simple. Militia hit on a D6 by rolling a 6 while Line troops hit by rolling 5-6, Grenadiers hit by rolling 4-6 . This simply represents the difference between unit types and makes the game easy to pick up and learn. There is no reliance on a Combat Results Table. That’s right no dreaded CRT. The deadly old Avalon Hill CRT with a roll of a five or a six was instant death for the attacker at 1 to 1 odds. Nothing like that here.

Grant: Who is the artist for the map? What strategic consideration does the terrain of the historic battlefield create?  

Bill: Peter Schutz does most of our art and and counter work and Jeff also we are a team. The big thing you must consider with this battle is how and where to cross the Brandywine Creek.

Grant: What different terrain is included on the map and how does this effect movement and combat?

Bill: The river is the big issue for the game as players will need to cross it at the fords. We have woods and the basic terrain as in any war game but we also have the Meeting House…which is just as famous historically as the Dunkard Church at Antietam.

Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play?

Bill: Pretty standard as the game is an I-Go-You-Go design. Player A moves, Player B rolls attacks for defensive fire if in range, Player A rolls attacks then it flips. 

Player B moves, Player A rolls attacks for defensive fire, player B rolls attacks then that completes a turn yes there are two phases of combat in each turn. The game is fast and furious and keeps players engaged with their attacks and plans.

Grant: How are reinforcements determined and how are they dependent upon the players initial setup? What does this represent from the history of the battle?

Bill: We have the historical set up and then we have several optional set up rules that includes no pickets by the Americans, or Washington learns of the flank attack and sets us as he wants. I like this one each side sets up in any manner opposite of each other from the Brandywine Creek. This gives players the option of choosing how they attack and defend and where and really makes them feel as if they are in command and can change history.

Grant: Fords played a big part in the battle in both Chadds Ford and Jefferys Ford. How do these effect units as they move?  

Bill: Yes you can’t cross Brandywine Creek but at fords. And if a ford is defended it is more of a pain to cross. Artillery needs to roll anything except a 6 to cross.

Cavalry need to roll anything except a 6 if crossing the river as their second move. If cavalry are crossing a river to enter a Woods as their first move, they also need to make this roll.

This makes it a bit easier for cavalry to cross Jeffries Ford from the British side, where the name is, to the Colonial side.

Grant: What role do Leaders play in the game and how do they effect units they are stacked with? What leaders are included for both sides?

Bill: Leaders have always been an important part of the battlefield and without them troops tended to break easier and were less effective. There are leaders in the game. Even with a low complexity game you have to have leaders and our leaders give units an extra movement point to prod the troops faster along and we also give them as an optional rule that adds a +1 to hit. 

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters in the game?

Bill: There are around 60 total counters but we are still tweaking that a bit. The counters are pretty basic, as you might expect in an introductory wargame. The counters are either red or blue, and have a silhouette of the unit drawn on the face of the counter. Under the picture is the numbers needed for those units to hit in combat. That is it. Cavalry have 2 movements points while other units have one. Artillery cannot enter swamps. Each unit has a full strength side and a reduced side.

Grant: How does combat work?

Bill: Roll a D6 and if you roll the number shown on the counter the defending counter is hit and is either flipped over to it’s reduced side or is removed.  

Grant: Did you consider ratcheting up the complexity by using a CRT? How do new players react to your chosen combat system?

Bill: No consideration was given to using a CRT as the game is meant as an introductory wargame that teaches the history of the battle. CRT’s typically intimidate new players. We do not use a CRT as this system works very well as is and I use it for my more complex games going to a D10 style die like for my Lock ‘n Load games Bloody Mohawk and Savage Wilderness

Grant: How does defensive fire work? Why was this important to include in the game?

Bill: As mentioned earlier, unit swill first move and then the defending player gets to fire their units on the advancing forces. This represents prepared units as they are awaiting the advancing enemy and taking aim to inflict losses prior to them getting to fire. This is a simple but important part of any game covering this style of fighting.

Grant: You have included some advanced rules and optional rules. What are these rules and why did you not include them in the base game?

Bill: We want to make sure veteran war gamers will have some more complex rules so as not to think it is too simple and our hope is the new war gamer after a few games will use all of the advanced and optional rules. There are advanced rules for Artillery, Retreats as well as the special role of the Meeting House as it will serve as a leader later in the game after other Leaders have been eliminated.

Grant: How is victory achieved?

Bill: Destroy the opposing army by reducing it by 20-30 percent. The first side to eliminate 10 enemy infantry units wins. Killing other units such as cavalry or artillery does not count towards winning. It is important to remember at this time of military history most armies would break off combat when they reached 20 percent causalities. Testing has found that the Americans normally lose around 8-10 units while the British normally lose around 9-12 units when using the 10 casualty victory.

Grant: What variable victory conditions are included and how do they better simulate history and your vision for the game?

Bill: We allow you to try a lot of different set ups. For example, the Colonials have discovered Howe’s force on their wide flank march and are ready for the attack. The British set up their units as listed in teh rulebook then the American player sets up their units anywhere on the map but on the north (high numbered) side of Brandywine Creek.

Grant: What do you feel the game models well?

Bill: We find both armies suffer loses and run out of steam at about the same time the real armies did which is very pleasing. The decisive blow will come with some lucky dice rolls or the proper use of Leaders to give bonuses when needed. 

Grant: What has been the experience of your playtesters?

Bill: They wanted more turns as an option to start the game as an optional rule early in the morning rather than early afternoon. Other than that they like the simple rules and fast playing nature of the game. This means that players can play a game in 50 minutes, changes sides and play another game in less than 2 hours.

Grant: What stretch goals are available for the campaign?

Bill: Water proof map, more detailed counters and a box of cheerios! Hahahaha. Life is too short. 

If you are interested in Battle of Brandywine you can order a copy on the Kickstarter game page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gold-tpcd/the-battle-of-the-brandywine-table-top-and-pocket-edition?ref=user_menu

-Grant