I know that many of you that come to our blog do so to read our designer interviews about newly announced pre-orders or upcoming new releases. We post a new designer interview typically each Monday and by the end of the week, depending on the game of course, those interviews will be viewed between 400-800 times. We have even had some that have made 1,000+ views in their first few days, which is always amazing to me.
Our designer interviews are fairly lengthy and in-depth, which probably reflects my view of games and the design process as I like to know why certain decisions are made and where inspiration came from. I also believe that we try to give the reader an idea for how the game works, including how it actually plays and the mechanics that are used.
Through the life of the blog, we have posted 371 designer interviews and through November 2022, we have posted 49 interviews. In this post, I simply want to share with you some of the best performing designer interviews from a views perspective and allow you a chance to catch up on some of these that you might have missed or overlooked.
Our best performing designer interview so far in 2022 is from David Thompson. David is a very prolific designer and always has something cooking on his design table. Lanzerath Ridge: Battle of the Bulge is Volume 4 in the very cool Valiant Defense Series from Dan Verssen Games that has included Pavlov’s House, Castle Itter and Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms. This series is a solitaire (or cooperative) solitaire wargame series that has taken a look at several major battles (such as the Battle of Stalingrad) but really specializes in the smaller, sideshow battles that are more obscure but that contain fantastic stories of determination and survival typically with a smaller force with little to no hope of actually holding out.
Lanzerath Ridge deals with a small engagement on the first day of the Battle of the Bulge during World War II where a US Intel & Reconnaissance (I&R) platoon, along with a forward observer team, hold out against 500+ German paratroopers who are the spearhead for a Panzer Division. The game is interesting, using the same basic system used in the previous 3 volumes in the series, but adds some new tricks to challenge the player as they must manage their scarce ammunition, resources and men to the best of their ability to defend against 4 separate attacks against their positions. The biggest change in the game was to how recovery works and this new wrinkle will force players to view things differently from the previous 3 volumes and really creates a new feel to the game. The graphics done by the very talented Nils Johansson are also fantastic and the map is a thing of beauty that really sets the feeling and mood for the game.
The Battles of the American Revolution Series is a very venerated and long standing series from GMT Games that deals with different battles of the American Revolutionary War. Mark Miklos is the architect of the series and has now designed his 10th volume covering the Battle of White Plains. White Plains is among the least written-about battles of the American Revolution and most secondary sources give it only a passing mention in the larger discussion of the New York campaign while among the scant primary sources there is considerable disagreement as to key details. In order to create a game on this lesser known battle, the design team performed exhaustive research in the written sources and on the ground to bring to life the most accurate battlefield map possible. The game includes three different scenarios including the historical fight for Chatterton Hill, an October 31 scenario that explores what might have occurred if Howe had pressed his grand assault that day as planned, and a full four-day campaign game spanning 42 game turns beginning with the arrival of the British army on the field on the morning of October 28th and culminating at 5:00 pm on October 31st.
Mark Miklos is a national treasure and I had the chance to meet him this year while attending WBC in eastern Pennsylvania in late July. We had a nice discussion with him at that time, along with his team, and they have big plans for other upcoming volumes in the series but also a new series called Small BoAR that will focus on lesser known engagements.
If you are interested in further details about this game as well as the future of the series, please check out this interview we conducted with Mark at WBC:
I really enjoy doing these interviews with new and emerging designers as they have such energy and excitement about their games and the process. Such was the case when I interviewed newcomer Sebastian Bae for his upcoming game Littoral Commander: The Indo-Pacific published by the Dietz Foundation. Littoral Commander, which was initially called Fleet Marine Force but had to change for national security reasons is a game about current and future potential military conflict in the Indo-Pacific region of the world where there is always some type of pressure being applied by all sides. The game is somewhat of a hybrid of standard wargames and card-driven games as players spend action points during their turn to activate cards or move units on the game board. In addition to the usual battlefield victory as condition of winning, the game also requires players to pay attention to an Influence Track which monitors public opinion and can lead to extra resources from home or allied nations. Influence fluctuates through the play of cards/outside events, but also from where combat takes place, such as fighting in urban areas where there will be civilian casualties, and your influence will decrease.
You know that I love the COIN Series. I love the system, the mechanics, its focus on history, and sometimes very tough and difficult to simulate history at that, as well as the bridge that it is to attract new wargamers to the field with its use of multicolored wooden pieces and cards. And I love that the series is now being taken in new directions with talented young designers, new formats such as the Irregular Conflicts Series and the Multi-Pack, but also with its first volume not being based in history but with a Science Fiction setting on Mars.
In the April 2021 Monthly Update email from GMT Games, a new COIN Series game was introduced from a rising star in the game design and development world Joe Dewhurst called The Pure Land. I had been following that game for quite a while on Twitter as Joe has shared pictures as it has made progress. Aside from my feelings on the COIN Series, I also have a great interest in any wargames that are set in Feudal Japan. I lived there for a few years and loved the culture and history, especially those of the Samurai and their Daimyo. The Pure Land: Ōnin War in Muromachi Japan, 1465-1477 is Volume XIV of the COIN Series and focuses on the 15th century civil war that began the 100 year long Sengoku Jidai. This entry in the series is not just your run of the mill game that doesn’t take a chance. This design is definitely introducing some new elements and I couldn’t be more excited.
Hermann Luttmann is a very prolific designer and frankly has designed a few of my most favorite games including In Magnificent Style: Pickett’s Charge, Dawn of the Zeds and At Any Cost: Metz 1870 among others. A few years ago, he announced a new game with GMT Games that is a cooperative horror based game where the player fights against zombies (they aren’t actually referred to as that in the design, but we all know what they are!) called The Plum Island Horror. This game is not a wargame, but is a very interesting subject and has some very fun and engaging looking mechanics that are sure to create a good time. I was negligent in getting with him about this game but with Halloween recently I was able to get this up as a thematic touch to the holiday.
According to Hermann, “Zombies have been a cult favorite “baddie” for many years now – in movies, TV shows, novels, video games, etc. So, utilizing their popularity in a game design just makes good marketing sense. They are also scary villains and conjure up all sorts of horrific, visceral feelings for the player. They are unthinking, emotionless and unrelenting killing machines that try to basically eat you and … even scarier … convert you into one of them. The fact that they were once human – and could indeed be someone you know or worse yet, one of your loved ones – brings the terror to another level. Finally, for a game designer, zombies are much easier to control gameplay-wise. Writing up the “A.I.” rules is much simpler than with other antagonists as zombies normally tend to go straight for the players and will try to attack them at every opportunity. Not much “I” in their “A.I.” routine! Yeah – zombies are just plain fun, popular and relatively easy to design into a game.”
There are lots of different games in the Lite Civ Building “Dudes on a Map” Area Control genre. It is very popular and has provided many great games including titles such as Dark Ages: Holy Roman Empire and Dark Ages: Heritage of Charlemagne from Board & Dice, Kemet from Matagot, Clash of Cultures from WizKids, Twilight Imperium and Civilization: A New Dawn from Fantasy Flight Games, and Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea from GMT Games to name just a few. These games all focus around the same principle of building up an economy, developing technology, maintaining a standing army to defend your kingdom and then milling victory points in a variety of ways from building, technology development, meeting hidden objectives, controlling key cities or areas and winning battles. Most of these Lite Civ Building games can be won though without ever fighting a battle or even threatening any other civilization. Players can simply turtle in a corner, do what they do and end up winning the game without ever having interacted with any other civilization. I don’t like that element about these games. In fact, it really turns me off!
But, there is good news as there is a new upcoming game in this genre that has some rather unique elements and attempts to do what Civ Builders do but do it in a novel and different way…and also finds a way to incentivize combat, which was really a breath of fresh air for me. Bretwalda from PHALANX is a game for 1-4 players that plays in around 2 1/2 hours. Each player takes charge of one of the kingdoms of medieval England, including Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex and East Anglea, and each of these kingdoms has unique leaders and abilities. The goal is to be crowned the Bretwalda of England and victory will be achieved through a combination of controlling key areas with victory points, completing Chronicle cards in the form of hidden objectives and also focusing on building various buildings such as Abbeys.
Earlier, this year we were contacted by our good friend Randy Lein from Legion Wargames about this project and asked if we would be interested in doing some coverage through an interview and possibly some other mediums, such as our Event Card Spoilers format that we have used in other games, and we were immediately intrigued by the concept and the fact that the game uses some of the elements of one of our favorite series. I was initially in communication with one of the two designers Clint Warren-Davey and he has shared lots of information with me, including the rules and some of their background work on this one, and I wanted to make sure we gave it some light to give you a chance to understand what the game is so that you can make an informed decision about whether you plan to order this one or not.
Werwolf is an alternate history game, but the story that is presented in the design appears to be entirely plausible. Werwolf (thy use the German spelling, dropping the second “e”) was a real underground guerrilla group, comprised of SS and Hitler Youth members. It was intended to lead an insurgency against the invading Allies and Soviets when it became clear that Germany was losing the war in a conventional sense. They did in fact have a few successes and their own symbol – which you can see on control markers in the game. American intelligence officer Frank Manuel said that the Werwolves were prepared “to strike down the isolated soldier in his jeep, the MP on patrol, the fool who goes a-courting after dark, the Yankee braggart who takes a back road.” While General Patton claimed brashly that reports of these guerrilla fighters were nonsense, a U.S. intelligence report from May 1945 asserted, “The Werewolf organization is not a myth.”
We will end this list with another interview from David Thompson in partnership with his friends Roger Tankersley and Trevor Benjamin that covers 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. David wanted to design this game as a way of paying homage to an underappreciated part of history and thought doing so in collaboration with Salt & Pepper made a ton of sense.
This is a very unique and interesting fast playing solitaire game that relies wholly on cards. The key to many a good solitaire wargames are the choices that are forced on the player and winning the game is very difficult. This game includes both of these aspects and really is an interesting and challenging experience. Plus, the game is beautifully illustrated by Albert Monteys who is a Spanish comic book writer and artist, who has been responsible for many critically acclaimed works. 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.
Those were simply 8 of our best performing designer interviews on the blog through November 2022 but there are more that you could check out to keep up to date on what is happening in the wide world of wargaming. Just go to our blog and check out the Categories section located on the right side of the screen.
Click the Select Category drop down menu and scroll to Designer Interviews and you will be able to easily access our multitude of posts.
If you are a designer and wish to share your game with us, please email me at email@example.com. I would love to speak with you.