Just a few months ago, or at least it seems like only that much time has passed, GMT Games announced a new game in their Monthly Update email called Baltic Empires: The Northern Wars of 1558-1721 from a new designer Brian Asklev. The game was described in that announcement as:

an approachable 2-5 player strategy game about conflicts between the states of the Baltic region during the early modern era, a transformative period of religious conflict, large scale warfare, and constant struggles for power. Players will have to develop their economy, strengthen their administration, secure trade hubs, and finally build armies to become the dominant power of the Baltics. Denmark-Norway, Sweden, Russia, Poland-Lithuania, and Prussia will fight for hegemony, using variable victory conditions that reflect their respective historical objectives.

I don’t know about you guys and gals but when I read that a wargame includes all of those elements in one box I sit up and take notice. Any war must be supported by a robust economy as well as by great commanders leading well trained and disciplined troops on the battlefield. They go hand in hand but are so often overlooked or not included in a good wargame. Not to mention that my father’s maternal line comes through Lithuania as my grandmother’s family name was Orlak and I have roughly 33% Baltic DNA in my makeup. All of this combined to get me interested in this one and I reached out to Brian Asklev, through his Developer Joe Dewhurst, and Brian was more than willing to provide information on the game.

*Please keep in mind that the materials used in this interview including components, board and cards are not yet finalized and are only for playtest purposes at this point. Also, as the game is still in development, details about the game may still change prior to publication.

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

Brian: My main hobbies are wargaming and reading military history, which generate a nice synergy effect that make both of them even more interesting. I, and the rest of my family also all really like animals and the joy they spread, and we have a dog, a cat and a rabbit that also take up a lot of my spare time. My family shares my hobby of board gaming, and my son is even into wargames but so far only the animals seem to appreciate my long-winded talks on military history 😊 My day job is actually my night job as I work as a laboratory technician on the nightshift at the analytical laboratory of a company that produces sustainable food additives.

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

Brian: Ben Hull, the designer of GMTs “Musket and Pike Battle Series” is the person directly responsible for pushing me over the edge and down the abyss of designing. I was a passionate Musket and Pike player and kept suggesting on BGG and Consimworld that Ben Hull should take a look at the fascinating history of Scandinavia for this series and do a game on the Scanian War of 1675-1679. He eventually politely told me that as it seemed like I was pretty hooked on the idea, seemed to have a good grasp of the history and would have a far easier time researching the game, I should just design it myself! This eventually became Nothing Gained but Glory.

I really enjoy how you take a step deeper in understanding an historical events and the various factors at work as you design a game on the topic and ponder endlessly about the mechanics, special rules and card effects. I couldn’t have done any of this without the support from my wife though as game design takes a LOT of time and mental focus so an unexpected side-effect of this journey has been to demonstrate to me just how much that woman must love me in order to put up with me and even encourage me to keep doing it 😊

Grant: What designers have influenced your style?

Brian: Most of my designs so far have been in established series and as a new designer it is great to only be required to think “inside the box” and get the most out of a series’ ruleset. This enables you to focus on how to represent specific factors relevant for your topic and not worry about if the whole system even works as a historical model and game. Now that I have more experience, I am branching out a bit and doing my own systems, but I am always interested in other systems and how they do things, as many concepts can easily work in other settings in a modified form.

I am greatly inspired by Robert Zac who created the Fog of War Series for Academy Games. When I first played Strike of the Eagle (the first, and so far only, game in that series) I was rocked to the core – it completely changed how I looked at wargames, as it was a very simple set of rules that did almost everything better that the far more complex hex and counter games I had mostly focused on before. His way of representing soft factors as Initiative and his hidden order system creates a level of tension unlike any other game I have ever played.

Francisco Ronco, the designer of the amazing and totally overlooked Campaign Commander Series, has also influenced me greatly by his ability to create a logistic-oriented operational system that is fun and fast to play, as most other systems that focus on this critical aspect of war tend to be very large long and complex.

For Baltic Empires specifically I was very inspired by Academy Games’ Mare Nostrum: Empires, and players of that game will recognize some of the key mechanics from in Baltic Empires, although in a modified form to fit both the different setting but also my vision of a more historically-based game with a lot more chrome.

For Baltic Empires specifically I was very inspired by Academy Games’ Mare Nostrum: Empires, and players of that game will recognize some of the key mechanics from in Baltic Empires, although in a modified form to fit both the different setting but also my vision of a more historically-based game with a lot more chrome.

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

Brian: I am great at thinking “inside the box” and getting more historical detail squeezed into a game in an established series. The most challenging aspect for me is designing something from scratch without an established series or game as a starting point, as there are just so many variables that it can be exhausting to analyse what factor that should be tweaked, added, or removed to gain the desired result after the first test game that invariably demonstrates more problems than promise. 😊

Grant: What historical event does Baltic Empires cover?

Brian: The tumultuous period in the Baltic region from the collapse of the Teutonic Order in 1558 to the end of the Great Northern War in 1721.

Grant: What does the subtitle The Northern Wars of 1558-1721 refer to?

Brian: The fact that this period was one of near constant warfare and great shifts in the balance of power in the region.

Grant: What was important to model from the time period 1558-1721?

Brian: I wanted to represent both the mercantilist economic thinking of the time, the very limited resources at hand on the state/ruler level (as represented by the players), and the destructive nature of warfare and its effects on the local economy.

Grant: Why was the Baltic Region crucial to the history of Europe? How did you prove that in your design?

Brian: The Baltic Region supplied the raw materials necessary to build the vast navies used by the British, Dutch and French to secure their colonial empires, as well as the grain to feed their sailors and growing urban populations. The key event of this period of European history, The Thirty Years War, was shaped by events in the Baltic as first Denmark and, more dramatically, Sweden intervened in that war and changed both the balance of power in Europe and the religious and political future of Germany. The events covered by Baltic Empires also saw the rise from relative obscurity of Moscowy/Russia and Prussia-Brandenburg, and as any student of history knows it’s very hard to overestimate the effect of Russia and Prussia on later European history.

As my game is unashamedly Baltic-centric, I do not as such try to prove that importance of these factors for the rest of Europe. But during a game of Baltic Empires players will definitely find themselves trading a lot of timber, hemp, flax and grain to the powers of Western Europe and in return receive lots of goods from these countries’ colonies. They might also see themselves launching military campaigns in Germany, and they might find that events in the game in turn become influenced by rulers, statesmen and diplomats from the Holy Roman Empire, France, Britain, and the Dutch Republic, as well as the Ottoman Empire.  

Grant: What sources did you consult on these wars? What must read sources would you recommend?

Brian: Robert Frost’s The Northern Wars – War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe 1558-1721 was the major source. It a great book that really ties together a lot of history that is otherwise often only covered as part of each country´s national history. This book also has the huge advantage of being in English, which many of the other great books on the period are not 😊

Grant: How did you capture the ongoing religious conflicts in the design? Why was this important to model from the period?

Its hard to say 17th century Europe without also saying religious conflict, so it was an element I really wanted to include. Eastern Europe, and particularly Poland-Lithuania and Prussia-Brandenburg, tended to be more tolerant of minorities than in Western Europe so it was less of a factor in the Baltic region, and thus is handled with a few simple rules as I didn’t want it to overshadow the rest of the game.

Each power/ruler in the game is marked as being either Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, as is each province on the map. If a power is trying to build units or increase their economic infrastructure in a province where the religion differs from that of the ruler, the cost is increased. This neatly shows how there would be more local reluctance to the ruler´s projects and/or distrust of the local nobility, both of which would result in a greater part of the cost being paid by the ruler.

In addition to this some of the Dramatis Personae cards in the game have specific religious pre-conditions for their effect to take place. Examples of these are the Wallenstein card that places a number of independent units in Germany and prevents Protestant powers from allying with independent units for a number of turns, to represent the impact of the Thirty Years War; and the Bohdan Khmelnytsky card that can only be played in a province controlled by a power whose religion differs from the province’s, to represent a major uprising.

Grant: How many different factions are represented? What are their different objectives?

Brian: The game has 5 factions (powers): Denmark-Norway, Sweden, Poland-Lithuania, Prussia-Brandenburg and Russia. Each power has 2 common victory conditions and 1 or 2 that are specific to that power. The shared victory conditions are either control of 2 custom houses or being the hegemon on all 3 tracks at the same time:

  • As custom houses can only be built in the 3 trade center provinces of Riga, Danzig and Hamburg/Lübeck, this victory condition represents gaining almost complete control over the rich trade of the Baltic and the massive revenues this would entail. This is akin to the classic “economic victory” of many civilization games. 
  • Being ahead on all 3 hegemon tracks represents a power that has successfully established itself as an economic and military powerhouse in the region and has become a cultural center and an inspiration and object of envy to other rulers. This is akin to the classic “cultural victory” of many civilization games.

As mentioned above each power then has a specific national ambition victory condition and these represent their historical goals of the period:

  • Russia´s goal was the unification of the cultural, economic, and spiritual centers of the orthodox world as well as securing access to the sea and its vital trade routes. This is represented in the game by holding on to Moscow, Smolensk and Ingria as well as conquering Kiev and Riga.
  • Denmark’s goal was to overcome the upstart Swedes and re-establish the Danish-dominated Scandinavian Kalmar Union. This would also give Denmark undisputed control over the Baltic Sea and its rich trade. This is represented in the game by holding on to Copenhagen and Scania while conquering the Swedish capital Stockholm.
  • Poland´s strong nobility was wary of costly foreign entanglements which often only served to strengthen the power of the monarchy at their expense. They remained dedicated however, to the defense of the traditional borders of the Commonwealth, which included Smolensk. This is represented in the game by holding on to Cracow, Kiev, Danzig and Vilna and (re)conquering Smolensk.
  • Recently independent, Sweden sought to secure its independence and increase its power by following a highly expansionistic policy backed by all elements within the society. This is represented in the game by hold on to Stockholm while conquering Scania, Pomerania, and Riga.
  • Prussia´s goal was to rise its above its status as a mere vassal and lay the foundations for becoming a great power. This is represented in the game by holding on to Königsberg while conquering Pomerania as well as having a full court of 5 Dramatis Personae cards and have cancelled their vassal status. In addition to this, Prussia also win at the end of the last turn if no other power has won at this point, so long as they still hold both of their starting provinces (Königsberg and Brandenburg) and have cancelled their vassal status with Poland.

Grant: How did you differentiate these factions to create an asymmetric game?

Brian: As might be gleaned from the above, Prussia especially is quite different from the other powers in terms of victory conditions. Apart from victory conditions, each power has different costs to build the various unit types, recruit Dramatis Personae cards, impose royal control over provinces, and also differ in how easy it is for them to build in provinces whose religion differ from theirs. Likewise, each power has their own specific conditions that must be fulfilled for them to unlock all their available Dramatis Personae slots (their “court”), and each pay wildly different cost to upkeep their military. These all represent the unique social, political, military and geographical factors of that power during the period.

On top of this each power has one or two special rules that reflect stuff like the superiority of the legendary Polish winged hussars in open battles or the Danish Sound Dues that all merchants going into or out of the Baltic Sea had to pay. Prussia´s special rules really set them apart from the others so I will expand a bit on them: Prussia starts the game as vassals of Poland, which effectively makes the 2 powers into forced allies. However, the Prussian (and only the Prussian) player can at the end of any turn declare this vassal status permanently cancelled, which also makes them a knife-in-waiting in Poland’s back.

During the Production phase, Prussia also gets to place an independent unit of their choice in any independent-controlled area, and during the War phase Prussia may ally with 1 independent unit for free and move and fight with that unit. This normally cost 1 thaler per unit for other powers. These two abilities combined allow Prussia, otherwise small and diplomatically insignificant, to be able to interfere almost anywhere on the board. This makes them both more fun to play but also more interesting to cut deals with, and they are the perfect power for the meddling manipulative player type.

These rules are meant to represent that Prussia, the underdog power in the game, shared the same goals as the various small powers on the map and the major powers at the edges of it (all collectively called “independents” in the game): to maintain a balance of power and prevent any of the powers in the region from becoming too strong. This is also the reasoning behind Prussia’s extra victory condition that allows them to win at the end of the last turn if no other power has yet won, representing that they have managed to maintain the balance of power in the Baltic region.

Grant: How is the deck of historical Dramatis Personae Cards used in the game? How did you ensure these cards were thematic?

Brian: Each turn, 5 Dramatis Personae Cards are randomly drawn from the deck and become available for purchase by the players in the Production phase. These cards have a wide variety of effects, but can be broadly divided into 4 types: those that have permanent effects, those that have one-time effects, those that affect victory conditions, and those that provide a special leader unit.

Grant: Can you show us a few examples and tell us what impact and role they play?

Brian: The mechanics of recruiting a Dramatis Personae to your Court are an abstraction of many things such as reforms of the military, legal reforms, introduction of new tactics, introduction of new technology, more efficient use of existing technology, internal strife, dynastic politics, foreign alliances, exploration, and colonization beyond the map. Some of these were short-lived advantages tied to a single person, such as an outstanding military commander, and others were fundamental reforms of the state with long lasting effects.

They are all named after the specific historical character who was the inspiration for that card´s effects, but do not necessarily mean that this specific historical character has been recruited. Thus, it is possible, for example, for Denmark to get Peter the Great. This should not be seen as the historical Peter from the Romanov dynasty somehow rising to the throne in Denmark instead of in Russia, but instead as a talented and forceful Danish monarch implementing reforms somewhat similar in effect to those carried out by Peter the Great.

The above picture shows some examples of the 51 different cards included in the game and the wide range of effects they have. Some, like Sigismund III Vasa, open up whole new strategies by giving the player a new victory condition or a new ability, while others simply boost your existing income, production, or military capacities (like Markus Fugger and Joachim von Blumenthal). Others again offer you a one-time opportunity alliance with foreign powers and can help you strike at powers that would otherwise be out of your reach (like the False Dimitrys). As there are more Dramatis Personae Cards included in the deck that what is typically seen in a game, and since these are randomly drawn each turn, Baltic Empires has a high level of re-playability.

Grant: What is the economic system used in the game and how does it work?

Brian: The economic system is pretty simple, but manages to capture a lot of key elements of this mercantilist period. Each province has between 0 and 3 resource icons and between 0 and 2 city icons. If a workshop marker is present on a resource icon the province produces 1 of that type of resource and if a city marker is present on a city icon the province produces 1 thaler (the currency of the game). There is one twist though, as provinces under noble control will contribute a maximum of 1 of the resources and 1 of the thalers produced in it to the central administration (you the player) while the rest is discarded (it goes into the coffers of the local nobility). Only provinces where royal control has been imposed will contribute their full income to the player. In addition to this there are 3 trade center provinces on the map, and these generate extra income for their controlling player as they are able to tax the trade there.

The period covered by the game was characterized by a devastating style of warfare where soldiers roamed the lands of enemies and allies alike and looted at will. This is represented in the game by two rules: No income at all is earned from provinces containing units from other powers, and 1 workshop or city is removed from every province containing units of more than one power at the end of each turn. This creates a dynamic where rich provinces are often extensively fought over, but also frequently burned to the ground in the process, rendering them almost worthless.

After collecting their income, players can then trade some of their goods with the maritime powers (the Dutch and the English) to exchange them for thalers or more rare resources from the colonies. The number of resources a player can trade depends on their standing on the Mercantile Track, which mainly depend on the number of city markers under a player’s control.

When players spend resources in the production phase, anything they build must be paid for in sets of different resources, and thus it is far better to have a diversified economy with many different types of resources in your lands (especially if your ability to trade is limited). This will make some provinces more interesting for your power than others, and in addition to this some Dramatis Personae cards have special abilities tied to specific resource types which will make these resources even more attractive for you. As being paid in cash instead of in kind is always more attractive, thalers can be used as any resource when making sets, and this makes thalers particularly valuable (they can also be saved between turns, unlike other resources).

Grant: What are the tough decisions forced on players regarding their finances and how they wage war for key resources?

Brian: The economies of the states of the early modern period were pretty small and in the game players won’t be able to buy much each turn, so they are forced to make a lot of tough choices. As described above, thalers are extra useful during production, but they are also critical for other purposes as they are necessary for paying military upkeep, for bribing independent units to join you for a turn, and are the only resource that can be transferred to the other players as part of clever diplomatic deal making. Thalers are thus by far the most important resource for the players, and if players find themselves in short supply they can borrow thalers from the banking houses. But loans have to be repaid with interest in 2 turns time, so players who are strapped for cash might find themselves in a downward spiral where they are constantly borrowing money to repay old loans. 

Grant: How do players build and strengthen their administration? How does this effect the game play?

Brian: As described above, players can improve the local economic infrastructure by building workshops and cities in their provinces. If a unit is present, they can also spend resources to impose royal control over a province and thus ensure their full share of local production. Many Dramatis Personae Cards also represent various administrative or economic reformers, and you will gain the use of their special abilities by recruiting them to your court.

Grant: How do players go about raising and building their armies?

Brian: By building them in the production phase using the same rules as described above, and as with everything else in the game the cost varies from power to power and will cost more if built in a province with a different religion. One twist to this, and something I find lacking in many wargames/civ games, is that you have to pay upkeep for your military each turn, and this can only be paid in thalers. Any units that don’t get paid disbanded. As the states are generally strapped for thalers it can be ruinous to keep a large standing army at all times – but on the other hand it can also be ruinous not to keep a standing army, due to the harsh consequences of having enemy units in your provinces. Powers such as Sweden, that historically proved able to shoulder the burden of military expenditures across the society, have far lower upkeep cost than powers such as Poland-Lithuania, whose nobility was highly suspicious of the idea of a standing army and unwilling to contribute funds to it.

Grant: What different units are included? 

Brian: There are 4 kind of basic unit types: Infantry, Cavalry, Fortresses and Ships of the Line. In addition to this there are special leader units that have additional rules and are received via Dramatis Personae Cards.

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters?

Brian: As simple and clean as it gets! They have a color matching their controlling power and an icon showing what kind of unit it is. That’s it 😊

Grant: How does the Battle system work?

Brian: Whenever units of different powers (or independent units) are present in the same area they will fight each other, unless their controlling powers elects not to fight each other. Each player then simultaneously rolls a specific custom die per unit they have in the area.

Grant: How are the custom dice used? What different faces are on the dice?

Brian: Each unit type have their own custom dice with their own distribution of faces. This proved to be an easy way of representing the different abilities and characteristics of the historical unit types without the need for unit values, charts, or tables. The possible faces are:

HIT, eliminating 1 enemy unit

HIT?, eliminating 1 enemy unit unless either you or your opponent has a special rule that changes it to a MISS (for example, the poorly trained Russian units)

MISS, no effect

MISS?, no effect unless you have a special rule that changes it into a HIT (for example, the elite Swedish infantry units)

HIT vs. Non-Fort, which is treated as a HIT if no enemy Fortress is involved in the battle and a MISS otherwise (used to represent the strengths and weaknesses of Cavalry)

1 LOSS or -2 LOSS, which reduces the losses suffered by your side by 1 or 2 respectively (used to represent the defensive capacity of Fortresses)

Grant: What information is contained on the Player Mats?

Brian: The player mats are where the asymmetry of the powers is displayed:

  • An icon showing the religion of that power and its ruler. As mentioned above this matters for production in provinces showing a different icon,
  • Your power’s special rules.
  • Your power’s modifiers to the various Hegemon tracks. As mentioned elsewhere these affects who decided turn order as well as being a victory condition.
  • Your power’s production costs.
  • A Court where players place any Dramatis Personae cards they have recruited.
  • Your power´s loan limit. Each power is limited as to how many active loans they can have at any one time and can increase this by attaching Dramatis Personae to their court.
  • The player mat is used to hold a power´s unbuilt units on a track, and this track then shows how much that player must pay in upkeep for their military at its current size. This approach offered an easy way of showing a lot of historical economic, social and political detail for each power with zero increase in complexity or playability.
  • Lastly, each player mat also contains an identical summary of the sequence of play as well as the various victory conditions, so this crucial information is never out of sight. Nothing is more annoying in a multiplayer game than when a player suddenly declares victory via a specific condition the other players had all forgotten about.

Grant: What area of the Baltics Region is shown on the map?

Brian: Roughly from the North Sea in the west to Moscow in the east and from Finland in the north to Kiev in the south. Thus the southern part of Poland-Lithuania and Russia is slightly cut off but this, and these powers many conflicts with the Tartars and the Ottomans, are represented by a special area called “Ottoman and Tartar Lands” in the south-eastern corner, where independent units can appear and move out from. Northern Germany is present on the map and its very rich provinces offer a tempting target for Danish, Swedish, and Prussian expansion, although these are well defended and close to the “Habsburg lands” special area which functions like the Ottoman and Tartar Lands area mentioned above. In the North Sea the ever-meddling Dutch and British are also represented by a special area, although the independent units that enter here will most likely be Ships of the Line.

Grant: How does each side achieve victory. Who has the harder time of meeting their goals?

Brian: I covered this earlier so wont repeat myself here 😊My clear goal as a designer is always to give each faction a more or less even chance of victory, and the special National Ambition victory conditions were tweaked a bit to give each power a more or less equally hard time of meeting their goals with the resources they have at hand. So far testing has shown a pretty even distribution of wins, and I expect this to become more even as players become more experienced with the game and especially more adept at the diplomacy element, as this is always the great balance equalizer in any multiplayer game.

Grant: The game is designed for Variable player counts of from 2 to 5 players. How does the game change at differing player counts? 

Brian: When playing with 4 players, players use the normal rules but Prussia, the historical underdog of this period, is not controlled by a specific player. Instead, each player at the start of each turn secretly bid for control of Prussia for the upcoming turn. This mechanic was suggested to me by my first group of play testers and it works surprisingly well, as it both creates an extra level of tension and makes Prussia act very historical as an opportunistic power with shifting loyalties.

With 3 players, two of the players control 2 powers each while the third player receives a small initial bonus as a compensation for only controlling one power. The players with 2 powers are prohibited from transferring money and entering territory controlled by the other. In addition, they cannot win with one of their powers if their other power doesn’t have control of its own capital, in effect a penalty for sacrificing one of their powers in an attempt to sneak to victory with the other. We are currently testing 2 different power combinations for this variant, and we are also testing another 3 player scenario which only uses 3 powers: Sweden, Russia and Poland-Lithuania, on just the eastern part of the map.

For 2-player games we have a scenario which pits Denmark & Russia against Sweden & Poland with the same restrictions as in the 3 player game, while handling Prussia in the same manner as in the 4 player game. In addition to this the game will include a small Denmark vs Sweden scenario that only used a limited part of the map, and will work well either as a teaching game or a fast head-to-head match.

Grant: What role do alliances and betrayal play in the game? What is the level of player interaction?

Brian: A HUGE role. Inter-player diplomacy, backstabbing and deal-making is a central part of the game, as it is in most multiplayer games where there are no fixed alliances. In Baltic Empires this is further enhanced by the game’s variable turn order within each phase. Powers track their standing in Trade, Production and War and the player who is currently the leading power (Hegemon) on one of these tracks decides the order in which players take their turns in that phase. This adds a lot of possibilities for affecting powers beyond invading them, and has players constantly haggling, pleading, and begging each other to do specific things or favour them in the turn sequence, as you sometimes need to go before others and at other times need to see what the others are doing before you act.

Grant: What scenarios are included? What is the play time of these scenarios?

Brian: Besides scenarios for different player counts there are also scenarios that only cover part of the map and thus leave out some powers completely. In addition to this, all scenarios can be played in either a standard version that last either 8 or 12 turns, or an extended version that lasts 12 or 16 turns and has more demanding victory conditions for all powers.

Grant: What do you feel the game models well?

Brian: First of all, I want to state that the game is first and foremost a game and not a simulation or a detailed historical model. But with that said, I do feel that it works very well as a model of many historical factors. The economic system encourages players to diversify their economy and establish more centralized/absolutist control over their realms, which nicely models what happened to most powers in this era. The power-specific victory objectives also nicely models the historical objectives and relations of the powers and tends to push them in historical directions, without being a straightjacket as players always have the 3 common victory conditions to go after and can even acquire new objectives during play (by purchasing certain Dramatis Personae cards).

Grant: What has been the experience of your playtesters?

Brian: So far, the response has been more positive than I had dared hope for. Everyone who has tried the game comments on how easy it was to learn compared to what they had expected and how much fun it is.

Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?

Brian: How easy it is for new players to get into, and how much historical detail I managed to put into the game without getting in the way of playability and fun. It is my experience that even moderately complex or time-consuming multiplayer games won’t get played unless you have a dedicated group. My goal with Baltic Empires was to make a game that you can finish in an evening and quickly teach to a group of new players and have them feel confident about the rules after playing the first full turn. This allows players to focus on having fun with seeing their empires grow and/or fighting, hurting and backstabbing each other instead of feeling like the main opponent is the rulebook.

Grant: What other designs are you contemplating or already working on?

Brian: I am working on a ton of projects and most of them are more or less ready for publication! In the Fog of War Series from Academy Games I have designed games on the first year of the Korean War 1950-51, the Burma Campaign of 1944, and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. In the Birth of America Series, also by Academy Games, I have designed a game on the US involvement in Vietnam from 1965-1973, and in the sister series Birth of Europe, I have designed games on the Thirty Years War of 1618-48, as well as co-designed a game on the 2nd Punic War 218-201 BC. Many of these are scheduled for release this year and the next. For Academy Games I have also designed a game using roughly the same rules as their hit game Mare Nostrum: Empires but set in Asia in the medieval period as well as being the developer on an amazing and highly innovative Euro-Wargame called High Command – Europe that will hopefully be released very soon.

In the Conquerors Series from Shakos, I am co-designing with the highly respected game designer and massive YouTube star Fred Serval a game on the critical opening weeks of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. In the Campaign Commander Series from Bellica 3rd Generation I have designed a game on the Korean War and have lots of ideas and aspirations for covering further topics. For VUCA Simulations, I am working on a game on Napoleon´s Russian campaign of 1812. This will be the first game in a simple yet deep series that focuses on logistics and limitations of command. If this is well received, I plan on also doing a game on the 1812 Campaign in Spain (in fact I have already started this work so I really hope it will be well-received 😉).

If you are interested in Baltic Empires: The Northern Wars of 1558-1721, you can pre-order a copy on the game page from the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-954-baltic-empires-the-northern-wars-of-1558-1721.aspx