In case you have been living under a rock, or just don’t pay attention to solitaire wargames, David Thompson has done a fantastic job with his amazingly detailed and engaging games, of which many are solitaire affairs. His Valiant Defense Series is top notch, with titles such as Pavlov’s House, Castle Itter, Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms and most recently Lanzerath Ridge. I have really enjoyed his takes on these historical events and he is always on the lookout for a new opportunity. Recently, he contacted us about his newest upcoming game called Resist! and we were immediately taken by it, with the fantastic history, very engaging game play (yes we were provided a prototype copy of the game and have a preview coming out shortly) and the amazing art. We reached out to David and he was more than willing to answer our questions about the design.
Grant: Who are your design partners on this new project? How have you come to associate with them?
David: Resist! was co-designed with Trevor Benjamin and Roger Tankersley. Trevor and I originally met as part of a design group in Cambridge, and we have worked together in the past on the Undaunted Series, War Chest Series, and other games. Roger and I are friends and co-workers. Roger originally helped me as a playtester, but we have recently started working on co-designs. Resist! is our second collaboration, after Sniper Elite.
Grant: What do each of them bring to the table?
David: There was a TON of overlap in the venn diagram! But in general, I was responsible for the original game concept and core gameplay ideas, Roger fleshed out the theme and helped ensure it was well integrated into the game, and Trevor led a lot of the refinement. But we all collaborated extensively throughout the process and contributed to each element of the game’s design.
Grant: Who is the publisher and how did you get introduced to them?
David: Salt & Pepper Games is the publisher. They are primarily known for their Spanish language localizations and translations of games. However, they are also big fans of historical games, and reached out to me because of my wargame designs. They asked if I would design a game for them, though they allowed me the freedom to choose the topic.
Grant: What historical period does Resist! cover? Why did you feel compelled to design a game on this topic?
David: Resist! is about the Spanish Maquis. Although they got their start during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, the game is primarily about their exploits after the end of WW2, when the Spanish Maquis returned to Spain and attempted to liberate the country from Franco. I wanted to design this game as a way of paying homage to an underappreciated part of history and I thought doing so in collaboration with Salt & Pepper made a ton of sense.
Grant: Why was the decision made to make it a solitaire only game?
David: One of the first questions I ask myself when conceptualizing a game is “what role does the player take in this game?” In this case, the player leads a cell of the Spanish Maquis. Designing the game as a solitaire-only experience was important in stressing this role.
Grant: What specifics from the history made it suitable to tell in a solitaire game?
David: Really it was just about the general perspective we wanted the player to have while playing the game. We weren’t interested in a player taking on the role of Franco or Franco’s forces, trying to retain their hold on Spain. The story we wanted to tell was the impossible task of small bands of Maquis fighting valiantly against overwhelming odds.
Grant: What from the history did you want to make sure to include in the design?
David: We wanted the game to generally reflect the historical arc of the Maquis’ fight against Franco, which we generally did by divided the game into three eras, titled “The Re-Invasion of Spain” (1944), “Splintering of the Maquis” (1945-1948), and “Hunting the Maquis” (1949-1952). Over the course of a game, you can advance through these eras, which become increasingly difficult (just as they were historically).
Grant: What sources did you consult to get the background correct? What one source would you recommend as a must read?
David: Unfortunately there’s not a ton of in-depth English language literature to readily draw from on this topic. However, two sources that were really valuable in researching the game were this article (https://libcom.org/article/armed-resistance-franco-1939-1965…) that covers the time period represented in the game; and this article about the series of forts built in the Pyrenees (https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1093/envhis/em…) which is also fascinating. And if you want to know a little about the Spanish Maquis in France, you can find an intro here (https://libcom.org/article/1939-1945-spanish-resistance-fran…).
Grant: The game uses cards as its only components. What are the different type of cards?
David: You are correct that the game only uses cards. This was intentional to keep the footprint small and make it simpler to play. The game uses five different types of cards: Civilian, Enemy, Maquis, Mission, and Spy.
Grant: What is the anatomy of the Mission Cards?
David: Mission Cards consist of a garrison value (the number of enemies at the mission), a defense value (how difficult the mission is to overcome), the era the mission is part of which will give players a hint as to how difficult the mission is to defeat, the effect of the mission, and a victory point value. These Mission Cards art is simply fantastic and really gives you a feel for the objective you are attempting to defeat. The team worked really hard to make sure the effect of the mission made sense with the location and they all make a lot of sense from the history.
Grant: How did you go about balancing the Mission Cards across the 3 Eras?
David: Each era is increasingly difficult. When combined with the game’s arc of slowly whittling away at your most precious resource (your Maquis), this is what drives the overall challenge of the game. Missions get harder to defeat while you have less Maquis available depending on how you have played the game. More on this later.
The missions for each era are balanced through their different attributes (garrison value, defense value, effect, and victory point total).
Grant: How do players defeat the Missions? Can you win a Mission without defeating all enemies at the location?
David: Players total the attack value on all the Maquis they use during a round. They then distribute that attack value (in combination with using the special traits from their Maquis) to overcome both missions and enemies. In general, you don’t have to defeat enemies before overcoming a mission – they can be handled independently (with the exception of certain enemies’ special effects). However, leaving undefeated enemies will usually have severe repercussions and should be avoided whenever possible.
Grant: What are the key decision points players must make when choosing which Missions to attack?
David: More than anything the player needs to make an assessment about whether they think they can defeat the Mission. If the player fails to complete two Missions during a game, they instantly lose. So they must carefully decide which Missions to undertake. They can choose an easier Mission, but of course they will score fewer victory points for it.
Grant: What is the makeup of the Maquis Cards?
David: Each Maquis card is divided into two sides: the Maquis when they are hidden and the Maquis when they have been revealed. The card includes the Maquisard’s name, hidden and revealed attack values, the type of actions they can take (“Plan” or “Attack”), and the effects of the actions.
Grant: What is the difference between each card’s hidden and revealed abilities?
David: The critical difference isn’t the abilities themselves (though usually a revealed ability is stronger than a hidden ability), but rather what happens afterwards. When a Maquisard is used for their hidden action, you discard them back into your hidden deck and can continue using them during the game. However, if you use them for their revealed action, they are discarded to the revealed deck and you almost certainly won’t be able to use them again. This is one of the key aspects of the game, properly managing your limited deck and using the most powerful abilities at the appropriate times.
Grant: What is the key to the proper use of your Maquis Cards?
David: It’s really all about timing and knowing when it’s the right moment to reveal the Maquisard. It can be tempting to reveal them early, perhaps to defend a civilian or defeat a more powerful mission to get more victory points. However, once you’ve revealed them, you will very likely be weakening your deck of hidden Maquis moving forward. It’s a tough, tense balancing act. And there is often no right or wrong answer.
Grant: How do players recruit new Maquis Cards? How important is recruiting new cards?
David: Resist! isn’t a deck-building game, and to be successful in the game, players will need to understand that it’s really more about deck management or fighting against “deck destruction” than anything else. You won’t always be able to recruit new Maquis to the cause. However, there are a few ways in the game you might be able to add new Maquis. Defeating jailor enemies and some missions allow you to add Maquis from the recruit deck (or possibly even the revealed deck). Also, some Maquis have revealed actions that allow you to recruit new Maquis. It is absolutely possible to play the game effectively without recruiting – it will just take a different strategy such as focusing on powerful attacks or managing your hidden deck well.
Grant: What are the Enemy Cards?
David: Enemies populate each mission and represent obstacles you have to overcome, cause serious issues if you don’t defeat, or provide a nice bonus. They represent Franco’s forces in the game.
Grant: How did you decide on each Enemy Card’s defense value as well as their abilities?
David: This was a very careful balancing act. The game has some uncertainty in the sequencing of how the enemies are revealed, and enemies have different levels of strength. But over the course of a full game, you will almost certainly see all the enemies at least once and many of them twice. Because they range in strength, you can’t pre-plan for a mission (unless you’ve used your Maquis wisely to reveal which enemies are at a mission). But over the course of a full game, things should balance out. Each enemy has a range of defense values and effects that allow each of them to feel unique.
Grant: What are the most challenging Enemy Cards?
David: It really depends on the situation. Although counter-guerrillas can be very strong and brutal (eliminating a Civilian Card which could lose you the game), if no civilians have been lost yet they don’t represent that great a threat. Some enemies, like grunts and guards, are more of an annoyance – but you oftentimes MUST defeat them before either attacking the mission or a different enemy. Although jailors don’t represent a threat, they do give you access to more Maquis. In other words, the challenge is situational and often a matter of player perception.
Grant: What role do the Civilian Cards play?
David: Civilian Cards represent the civilians who can get caught up in the crossfire between Franco’s forces and the Maquis. If you lose too many civilians, then the populace will turn against the Maquis and you will lose the game.
Grant: What is the ability of the one special Civilian Card?
David: One Civilian Card represents 0 lost civilians. After you draw it, you shuffle it back into the deck. What this means from a gameplay perspective is that even if you know you might lose a civilian card due to an enemy or mission, you still might be able to avoid the effect by drawing the 0 card. Like many other elements of the game, this allows for a push-your-luck element in the game.
Grant: What are the different Phases of each round?
David: Each round in the game consists of four phases: 1. Plan, 2. Attack, 3. Aftermath, and 4. Recover.
In the Plan Phase, the player uses their Maquis Cards to take actions that help them prepare for the upcoming mission. In the Attack Phase, the player uses Maquis Cards to overcome the Mission and enemies directly. In the Aftermath Phase, the player checks to see the outcome of the Mission and decide whether they want to continue the game. Finally, in the Recover Phase, the player draws a new hand of cards.
Grant: How do players win the game?
David: They win the game by completing Missions in the standard game. The more Missions they complete, the more victory points they earn. If they earn 15 or more victory points they win the game (and there are different levels of victory that the player can earn). It’s also worth noting that the game comes with a scenario book with eight stand-alone scenarios and a campaign of three linked scenarios. Each of these scenarios has specific win objectives that provide for a much different play experience.
Grant: What are the different levels of victory for the resistance?
David: 15 victory points is the threshold for a minor victory. If players reach 19 points they earn a standard victory. 22 points is a major victory, and if a player defeats all 10 Missions in play they can earn an epic victory.
Grant: What automatic loss conditions exist? What do these represent from history?
David: The game has three loss conditions: failing two Missions, losing five civilians, and drawing a hand of spies. These three elements represent the three historical challenges the Maquis had to overcome. Of course at the heart of their efforts were their attempts to defeat or disrupt Franco’s forces, which is represented by completing the Missions. But they must be careful not to lose the support of the populace. And they must do both of those things while ensuring that their ranks are not infiltrated by spies.
Grant: Who is the artist? How has the art affected the game?
David: The artist is Albert Monteys. He is a Spanish comic book writer and artist, who has been responsible for many critically acclaimed works. He has also been nominated for the Eisner award – the most prestigious award in the comic industry. His art for Resist! has given it a unique feel and aesthetic in the wargame space, where games can often look a little too similar to one another. He has wonderfully breathed life into the Maquis – giving them a sense of character that is central to the game experience.
Grant: What have been some changes that have come about through the playtest process?
David: TONS! We ran a massive playtest for this game. For a three month period we organized over 70 participants drawn from a wide-range of sources to help us hone the game. The playtest feedback didn’t fundamentally change the game, but it allowed us to make countless improvements to balance, tightening the language, providing a better experience with the scenarios, and more. This was the most extensive and rewarding playtest I’ve run for a game I’ve designed.
Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?
David: I think it’s the close, personal feeling of the game, which is supported by the gameplay and artistic focus on the Maquis. They ARE the game, and that really comes across. You’ll get to know the Maquis, appreciate them for their strengths, and care about their fates.
Grant: When does the game come to Gamefound? What stretch goals might be included?
David: The game will launch on Gamefound on 12 May. This won’t be a game with a ton of stretch goals. We felt passionately about providing the best possible experience from the start, without relying on a ton of stretch goals to add content. I think there might be some minor component upgrade stretch goals. And it’s possible that we’ll be able to unlock a nice playmat as an add-on.
Grant: Any other topics from history might lend themselves to this same system?
David: That’s a great question – it’s not something we’ve really considered because the system and the theme were developed together and closely intertwined. Certainly we could probably expand it to other topics, but I would want to keep the focus on the personal scale of the game.
Grant: What other games are you currently working on?
David: In addition to Resist!, other games in the works include:
- Sniper Elite (co-designed with Roger Tankersley and published by Rebellion Unplugged), which will be available with the next couple months;
- Undaunted: Stalingrad, which is a MASSIVE stand-alone game in the Undaunted Series that provides a legacy-style campaign experience, though it is fully replayable. It is co-designed with Trevor Benjamin and published by Osprey. It should be released in the fall;
Lanzerath Ridge, the next game in the Valiant Defense Series, is at the printer now. Hopefully it will be available within the next few months. I created it with Nils Johannson and it is being published by DVG.
As always David, thank you for your time in answering our many questions. This game is very good. I know as I have played it and really enjoy the theme, the mechanics and the fact that I have learned something new from history.
If you are interested in Resist! you can pre-order a copy on the Gamefound page at the following link once the campaign has gone live on May 12th: https://gamefound.com/projects/draft/ag5h4ufc1uav373e9he50afa8um?ref=search