If you have followed us for long, you know of my affinity for games covering the American Revolutionary War. Each July, I write a summary of all of the games that I have played on the subject and I posted my most recent version in early July and you can check that out at the followling link: https://theplayersaid.com/2022/07/05/gaming-the-american-revolution-ranking-the-games-we-have-played-2022-edition/

In early June, I came across an announcement from Multi-Man Publishing about a new American Revolution game called Crown & Crescent: The Struggle for Independence in South Carolina and I was immediately interested. Furthermore, the cover art is just fantastic although I have been told it is only placeholder art at this point! I reached out to the designer Bryan Collars and he was more than willing to talk with me about his upcoming design.

If you are interested in Crown & Crescent: The Struggle for Independence in South Carolina, you can pre-order a copy for $60.00 from the Multi-Man Publishing website at the following link: https://mmpgamers.com/crown-crescent-p-356

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

Bryan: Hi my name is Bryan Collars, I’m 56 and have been playing wargames since I was in the 7th grade.  I was always interested in military history and I still remember the Saturday morning that I stopped at a yard sale and discovered an orange colored box with a tank silhouette on the cover and knowing I had to have it. Bought it for a dollar and my life changed. Took me a year to understand how to play but persistence pays off and I eventually learned. I still have that Panzerblitz game on my game room shelf.  My hobbies besides gaming include tennis, pickle ball, bowling, reading, and enjoying the company of friends. I’m employed by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History where for the last 28 years I have served as first a paper records archivist then eventually moving up to coordinating the digital preservation program for the state.

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

Bryan: My drive for game design grew out of a series of recurring conversations I would have with a good friend whilst driving to various game conventions, chiefly the World Boardgaming Championships.  Basically the conversations centered around the differences between designing wargames versus Eurogames. I was at the time heavily involved in designing scenarios for GMT’s Combat Commander game. I contended that wargame design required an understanding of the subject matter and an ability to design for effect to convey that subject matter whereas a Eurogame’s design is really just a mechanism with a thin subject/topic laid overtop of it. In fact, I contended that you could make a Eurogame about anything and so long as the mechanic was solid you could craft a game. A challenge was proffered to do so and I did. Hence, the birth of WBC: The Boardgame. Yep I created a game about attending WBC. Game design can be frustrating at times especially after spending months on a design only to discover during your first playtest the design just simply does not work and you have to start over. Ultimately, though the greatest reward is crafting something that brings enjoyment to others when they play one of my designs.

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

Bryan: Without a doubt the designer who has influenced me the most is Chad Jensen with his work on Combat Commander, Dominant Species and others stand at the head of the class in game design in the last 20 years. I spent 5 years designing Combat Commander scenarios first under his tutelage then alongside of him. His concepts and adherence to design for effect, and the mantra we always recited of 10% of the rules weight for 90% of the effect is one that I apply to every rule I write to this day. I cried the day I learned of his passing. I’m positive he had many more games lurking in his head just waiting to get out.

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

Bryan: The most challenging thing for me in game design is to always be on guard to not over complicate things. I have a tendency to craft something that takes steps A>B>C when in reality I only need step A. What do I do really well, I’m not sure how to answer this as I don’t think I do anything very well. I do believe I’m proficient at identifying the pivot points in a given situation and then translate that onto a table top game in a manner that is interesting and equitable to all players.

Grant: What historical event does Crown & Crescent cover?

Bryan: Crown & Crescent covers the battles throughout South Carolina during the American Revolution. South Carolina saw more battles, skirmishes, and small unit actions than any other colony during the war.

Grant: What significance to the history does the title have?

Bryan: The title refers to emblems used by both combatants during the war. Obviously, Crown is a reference to the British Crown, whereas the Crescent is a reference to the device used by the 2nd SC Continental Line to adorn their headgear. Eventually this device would make it onto the state flag of South Carolina.

Grant: What was your inspiration for this design? What challenges did you have to overcome?

Bryan: The game design was inspired by ANGOLA!, a design that despite its age still remains one of my favorite games of all time; myself and several gaming friends play it many times per year. We are so enthusiastic about it we even hold a weekend mini convention devoted to playing ANGOLA! exclusively. The design utilizes a deck of command cards that players program at the start of the turn. There are 2 pairs of 2 players cooperating against the other two players, albeit with limited communication. The catch is that the first player to act is determined randomly. As far as design challenges, several things will occur to fans of ANGOLA! when porting that system to a design based on a conflict several hundred years earlier. There are obviously no airplanes, missiles, or tanks. There are however unit types that can be differentiated with their capabilities and these are present in Crown & Crescent. In addition, I have introduced new concepts such as named leaders, unit command limits, political control and event cards to better illustrate the nature of the conflict in this era.

Grant: What from the history of the American Revolution in South Carolina did you want to make sure to include in the design?

Bryan: It was critical to demonstrate just how chaotic and swirling the conflict in South Carolina was. In essence the fight in SC could be considered a civil war as friends and neighbors, and in some instances brother against brother, fought each other over the course of the war.

Grant: What sources did you consult to get the background correct? What one source would you recommend as a must read?

Bryan: Working at the state archives for 28+ years has provided me long term and ready access to some of SC’s Revolutionary War primary source material which formed a solid basis for the historicity of the game design in Crown & Crescent. Secondary source material will be covered in the Bibliography that will be included in the published game. A source I found invaluable was John W. Gordon’s, South Carolina and the American Revolution: A Battlefield History.

Grant: What is the scale of the game? Force structure of the units?

Bryan: The unit counters in the game represent Regiments, with each regiment typically representing somewhere between 75 to 320 men per regiment. Auxiliary counters represent specialized troops that are much smaller in number of men such as a troop of Cavalry or an Artillery section.

Grant: What area does the map cover?

Bryan: The map depicts the colony of what was then South Carolina. The colony was divided into seven administrative districts, so the game map duplicates this. Players are competing to control the most spaces in each district; the side which controls the most spaces in a district controls that district, control 4 or more districts at the end of the turn gains a victory point versus the other side. Fortified spaces count as two spaces in terms of district control.

Grant: What strategic pinch points are created by the layout of spaces and the terrain? Why did you feel a point to point map was the best fir your vision?

Bryan: The point to point map style was chosen to better show the restrictive nature of the terrain; while an area map can also accomplish this, a point to point map makes it easier to depict. There are several spaces that appear close to one another but with no connecting path; this reflects the presence of rough terrain or in many cases large swampy areas that were impassable to large bodies of troops. Some connections can be crossed at the cost of two movement points. There is also a Local Guides Event Card in the game that allows a column to ignore rough connection costs as well as the battle effects of those connections.

Grant: Who is the artist? How has their style helped you in telling the story here?

Bryan: There is no specific artist selected yet. The current playtest graphics are my own done in Photoshop. I did receive some complimentary feedback from Mark Simonitch. What I hope the eventual graphic artist accomplishes is a clean functional design with an artistic style that conveys the historical period at the same time.

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters? What special unit types are included and how do they add to the forces of their side?

Bryan: There are several counter types. The main one is the Unit. They come in two flavors – Regulars and Militia/Loyalists. Their really is no distinction between Militia and Loyalist, they are just reflective of which combatant controls them, Militia by the Continentals and Whigs and Loyalist by the British and Tories. The Continental faction has Regulars and Militia. The Whigs only have Militia. The British and Tory factions have Regulars and Loyalists. All units have either one or two strength points. These are the backbone of the combat forces. There are also Auxiliary counters for each faction. There are counters for Artillery, Cavalry, Dragoons, Grenadiers, Light Infantry and Rifle infantry. Each of these types has an additional effect – for instance Artillery fires prior to combat resolution and may Disrupt or inflict a step loss. Cavalry aids in Interception. Each Unit can have one Auxiliary attached. There are also 4 Column markers for each faction; similar to ANGOLA! they function as markers to move multiple Units at the same time. Unlike ANGOLA! there is a stacking limit of four units (to reflect the difficulty in coordinating large bodies of troops in this era). Leader counters increase the number of units a Column can hold as well as impart unique abilities for that particular leader.

Grant: How is the Turn Order Track important to the design? How does it work?

Bryan: The Turn Order track is crucial in this design in that the turn order is somewhat random. I say somewhat because there is a 2/6 chance of a particular faction moving first, as well as another 2/6 chance of the faction that moved third the prior turn moving first. So players when programming their cards need to attempt to keep some flexibility in their plans because you never know when you are acting in the turn. This unpredictability is a hallmark of ANGOLA! and one I wanted to preserve for this design.

Grant: What role does the Rally to the Cause Deck play? How are these cards used?

Bryan: The Rally to the Cause Deck is similar to the Covert Foreign Aid Deck in ANGOLA! Players secretly bid for how many cards they wish to draw from the deck; if one faction bids more than any other faction, that factions side forfeits a VP to the other side. However, these cards don’t confer only units as they do in ANGOLA! Some cards have Events such as Spy Ring, or Tarleton’s Quarter. The other key difference is that the cards are NOT played when drawn. Instead, during the following turn, the player may if they choose, insert a Rally to the Cause Card into their Campaign Pack instead of a normal Command Card. So if a player really wants a reinforce a unit, he can put that in his Command Deck to get it right away. RttC cards that are not programmed in a player’s Campaign Pack enter play at the end of the following turn.

Grant: Can you show us a few examples of these cards and explain how they are used?

Bryan: An example of a Reinforcement Card would be one that confers 3 RP (Replacement Points) or one Auxiliary unit to that player. Replacement Points rebuild Regular (2 RP) or Militia/Loyalist (1 RP) per step. Or a player can select one Auxiliary unit and place it in a column that is in a friendly town, fortified, or off-map space.

Grant: How does the Combat Procedure work? What role does the Dice Matrix play into combat?

Bryan: Combat starts off with an initial odds determination. Then any Artillery units on either side can fire, possibly Disrupting or inflicting Step losses. Then each side rolls and consults the Form Line Table to see if that side assembles in formation for battle; this die is modified depending on whether you are attacking/defending or have Militia present. Succeeding on this roll adds one combat die to that side. Then the number of dice to be rolled is determined; terrain, possible leader modifiers, as well as whether Light/Rifle units are present can add dice. Then both sides roll the dice and the single highest die is compared to the other sides highest die. The DIFFERENTIAL between the two then determines the final odds resolution column. Veterans of ANGOLA! will recognize this system. The higher the final odds, the more favorable the result will be for that side.

Grant: What role do Leaders play? Are there specific historical leaders identified?

Bryan: Leaders were very important in this era given how relatively small the forces were compared to more modern armies. They enter play via play of a Rally to the Cause Card. In the game they allow the column they are placed with to command two or three additional units. Considering the base column can only command a maximum of four units this is a substantial improvement. Additionally each leader has a unique ability that is specified on the player aid cards. For instance, the Continental General Greene confers not only a +3 unit command, but also a +2 DRM in Combat Resolution. British General Cornwallis adds one combat die as well as a +1 DRM in combat. However these benefits have a cost. Every time a general is involved in combat, the opposing player rolls 2d6; on a result of 11 or 12, the leader is killed and the opponent gains a VP. The leader counter is flipped over and removed from the map; he may re-enter play at a later turn, but on the reverse side he no longer has the special ability of the original.

Grant: How do players win the game?

Bryan: At the end of each turn, the two sides compare how many Districts they control. If one side controls four Districts, they gain a VP. If neither side controls four districts, BOTH sides gain a VP. This reflects war fatigue setting in. Additionally, when either sides VP marker hits a certain space on the VP track, Sudden Death can occur. It starts at a threshold of 7 Districts, then as the VP markers advance the threshold slowly drops.

Both sides gain a one time VP bonus for capturing a key space (Charlestown for the Americans and Camden for the British). There is an Event Card that awards a VP to a side that controls both these spaces at the same time. The uncertainty of whether this card is in a players hand will encourage a side that lost their respective space to recapture it as fast as possible. 

The other way to gain VP is having the opposing side bid more cards in the Rally to the Cause Phase. This represents a propaganda victory for that side.

Grant: What side has the harder time with achieving their victory conditions?

BrYan: I don’t think either side has an easier time of winning. Each faction has a unique set of Command Cards. While the British and Continentals have the advantage of Regular troops, the other factions can field larger forces in terms of pure strength points.

Grant: What are some strategy considerations you would share for each side?

Bryan: The very nature of the game makes any one strategy hard to consistently apply. The random nature of who goes first makes for an ever changing strategic landscape that requires subtle and nimble changes in strategic thinking from turn to turn that a player must be flexible but also resolute in their overall strategic plan. Yeah, let’s go with that, oh, it is also helpful to get to where you want to go first with the most troops.

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

Bryan: Just how tight the initial game was from the start of the first playtests. The basics of the game coalesced in my mind in just about 4 hours with an initial playtest version ready in just under two weeks. I can’t explain how that happened it was like the game was always in my head just waiting to be drawn out.

Grant: What other designs are you mulling over?

Bryan: In terms of new designs I’m mulling over the suitability of expanding Crown & Crescent to explore the entire American Revolution from 1776-1783. I’ve also got lurking around my head the concept for a game based around the Winter Olympics, of course you can mention Olympics at all so currently its just Winter Games.

Thank you so much for your time Bryan in answering our questions about the game. I am very interested in this one and also want to get Angola! to the table as well as I have that game but have not had an opportunity to play it.

If you are interested in Crown & Crescent: The Struggle for Independence in South Carolina, you can pre-order a copy for $60.00 from the Multi-Man Publishing website at the following link: https://mmpgamers.com/crown-crescent-p-356