Hermann Luttmann is a very prolific designer and he has been doing what he does for a while now. Many of his games are very good historical games but they also have a very playable element to them that attempts to replicate the various elements associated with combat including fog-of-war, fortunes-of-war and friction-of-war and does a great job of making these elements matter. Plus, Hermann is a good guy. I have met with him at Origins a few times, played a few games with him and have had multiple interactions through the blog. Herm is really a great guy and a great designer! I have enjoyed many of his games and it is hard to pick just 3 but here goes with Best 3 Games with…Designer Hermann Luttmann!

3. Dawn of the Zeds from Victory Point Games

I am starting this list off with a non-wargame, so I apologize but Dawn of the Zeds is just so damn good it was impossible to keep it off this list. Personally, I love the zombie horror genre and have enjoyed movies from the classic George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, to Day of the Dead and even on the small screen with shows like The Walking Dead. All tell a fantastic story about the gruesome future where people die and come back as slobbering, flesh eating zombies. There is something in the terror. Something in the fight for life and how character’s have to hack out a living in a bleak future. It just hooks me every time.

Dawn of the Zeds is a very versatile game from the States of Siege Series, in that it can be played fully co-operative, competitive, or even solo. There’s also 6 or 7 game modes (difficulties) within that, so you can tailor the game to what you want it to be. Would you like an easier, relaxed, and trashy B-Movie zombie slaughter? Or would you like a soul-crushingly difficult, dread filled horror film, where your favorite characters are the first ones to fall?

The players will have to pick their characters and some NPCs to play with, after selecting a difficulty level, then construct the event deck that will run you through the course of the game. You can also adjust the length of the game (which in turn adds to the difficulty again) by including more cards in the event deck. Depending on the game level selected you’ll then play through the deck one card at a time, going through a series of game phases, triggering zombie placement and movement, attacks, and other random (usually awful) events. The game turns have a great structure to them, and are simple and cleanly laid out. Once you’ve played two turns you’ll know exactly how to play the game without picking up the rulebook. Each player gets one, and only one action, then the players have a collective number of event actions ranging from 1-4, but mostly 1 or 2, as dictated by the event card. With these meager actions the players have to cobble together some kind of defense against the waves of oncoming zombie hoards attacking Farmingdale from all sides.

As the zombies start flooding onto the board and tracks advancing on Farmingdale in droves they’ll quickly overrun the outlying villages and attack the civilians. The game gives incentives (end game scoring) for protecting them, because they’re pretty much fodder when fighting alone. As you can see above, most times you’ll end up with at least a few in the cemetery, but as the game scales the body count will escalate very quickly. If you can outlast the event deck you’ll win the game, and then you count up your score of surviving units and supplies and ammo and then cross reference the epilogues book for a blurb describing how well you won.

For us, the main appeal of this game is how replayable it is. You can either treat is seriously, or tongue-in-cheek, you can play it super easy or super hard, you can roleplay a ton, or not at all, you can play co-operative, or competitive. The decks have cards removed so no game will look the same, and whilst the board is static the deck that moves everything on the board is wildly variable. There are many things in this game that might take you time to acquire and understand how best to use such as conducting research in order to build superweapons, there’s also rogue groups and anti heroes that will try to sabotage your efforts. Each of these things making the game harder, and harder – but ultimately more deep, rich, and tension filled.

Alexander and I both love this game. It’s a great implementation of an overdone theme. One of the best things is that the game contains nearly every trope you can think of from every Zombie B-movie ever made, so gear up, get ready to fight, and die and enjoy the ride.

2. At Any Cost: Metz 1870 from GMT Games

At Any Cost: Metz 1870 is from GMT Games and simulates the situation west of the Metz fortress during those few days of August 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. The game is designed to be a playable, two-player brigade-scale game that allows players to experience the unique tactical warfare matchups that characterized fighting during this period. If you haven’t done so, I would recommend you give Alexander’s review of the game a read before going any further so you can get an idea of what a grand experience this game truly is.

The action in At Any Cost is controlled by the Chit-Pull System that it uses, which is called the Blind Swords System. The Blind Swords System was originally designed by Hermann Luttmann for Duel of Eagles published by Compass Games in 2013. The system emphasizes the three “FOW’s” of military conflict: fog-of-war, friction-of-war and fortunes-of-war. The system mixes events with activation chits and does not guarantee that each unit on the board will be able to activate each turn or that each unit will only activate once. The system is designed to force players to make tough decisions with each chit pull and really is a neat system that causes some angst but keeps the game play experience fun.

There are three type of Random Events including those that you will play immediately, those that give you an option of playing immediately or holding onto or those that you will hold and play only when you are allowed to play it. There are too many to go through here but I will give you a sampling of some of the events. This can lead to some very normal, or realistic outcomes, like units that freeze up and do nothing, as no orders are relayed to them from Brigade HQ, or units that creep along at half distance and make much weaker fire attacks. Conversely, however, there are a few chits that represent unit commanders taking the initiative when an Advance! counter is drawn for an Out of Command unit, they roll a dice and do just that. In what ends up possibly being similar to the charge of the light brigade the cavalry unit can charge down the nearest possible enemy units, a stack of artillery and another cavalry unit, capable of counter charging. You can imagine the results. Whilst it can be somewhat disheartening to see your heavy cavalry engage in what is essentially a suicide mission of their own volition it highlights the importance of keeping all units in command, and also the albeit slight chances they might act on their own and do something catastrophic in the bigger picture.

Overall, the Combat in At Any Cost is absolutely fantastic. My only concern with the whole system is that it is pretty deep and fairly complex and therefore can be time consuming to make sure you get it right. There are just a lot of things to remember in order to have a full grasp on how to best take out your enemies. The player aids are fantastic and provide all the required terrain effects, column shifts and a general outline of how each type of combat is carried out. We got comfortable with it after about 2 different attacks and from there, began to be more effective with our attacks, as we understood better how and what we needed to do. For all these reasons, this one really shines and Hermann has done a fantastic job of making the game realistic but also highly playable.

1. A Most Fearful Sacrifice: The Three Days of Gettysburg from Flying Pig Games

Over the past few years, Hermann Luttmann has released a new series of games using a new system similar to his famous Blind Swords System to model combat in the American Civil War called the Black Swan System. The first game with this new focus was The Devil’s to Pay!: The First Day at Gettysburg from Tiny Battle Publishing. Then came along a big game, with lots of big maps, and counters called A Most Fearful Sacrifice: The Three Days of Gettysburg and it is simply glorious. The game has sold out and Flying Pig Games just completed a 2nd Edition Kickstarter campaign so it should be available again shortly.

One of the reasons for the development of the new system was to allow for larger scale games with lots of units to be more playable and to cut down on the time it takes to play. I know that some of you are groaning at this but to me this is a good innovation that will get larger games back to the table for additional plays. How is this shortening of the game done with out taking out units and formations? The elimination of chit pull, which is a mechanic that I really and truly love but it has been replaced by cards in this one. Also, players will trigger activations by Corps instead of by lower-level formations so it really condenses the game but still provides the tactical decision-making choices by simply requiring the player to determine which of their Divisions will be activated. The necessary Corps Activation, Event and Fog of War cards will be seeded into a common pile and shuffled. Players will draw them just like they pulled chits before. The two keys to this change are that cards take less time to draw off of a pile than it takes to draw chits from a cup and I can put important game information right on the cards. This saves a lot of time not having to look up information in the rules or on the tables. 

The other thing that I liked, and have liked about all of Herm’s wargames, is the inclusion of the three “FOW’s” of war. The best of these is the activation portion and really keeps the game tense while providing some real simulation of the difficulty of command. The Black Swan events are also a really nice addition to the game as they create a great narrative element proper use of them can make or break your efforts. Players can normally choose two events to seed into the deck – the rest of the Event Cards are random. The cool thing about this game is that the Event rules are written right on the card – no looking them up on a separate table. The Fortunes of War are brought about through the variable results that can be achieved on the CRT and Cohesion Test Tables, with players not being guaranteed of any result. It is also built into the “Fortunes of War” marker, which can be used to re-roll any dice roll. Finally, the Friction of War is simulated with the difficulty in units being able to rebuild their strength in the middle of battle and with the “Friction of War” card, which is introduced as the battle wears on (literally). This card will cancel the next card drawn and thus shows the overall fatigue and chaos that results from extended combat.

We have really enjoyed playing the game. We found it to be totally engaging, very interesting with how the chit pull activation has been removed but is replaced by the cards but also beautiful to look at. The map is phenomenal and is probably the late Rick Barber’s finest work. The entire experience was glorious. Now we just need a bigger table to be able to play the entire campaign game of the three days of the battle. Some day. Some day soon. This one is going to be in my Top Games of 2022 for sure and might even vie for the top spot! More to come on this soon!

I hope you have enjoyed my list of the Best 3 Games…with Designer Hermann Luttmann! He has given us so many great games that have changed my attitude and perception of historical events and were very fun to play. I love to play wargames but I also love to learn history. And his designs are great for anyone that wants to learn. I have played many of Herm’s games and really enjoyed lots of them. Some that I really have enjoyed were Attack of the 50′ Colossi from Tiny Battle Publishing, In Magnificent Style Pickett’s Charge Deluxe Edition from Worthington Publishing, Crowbar! The Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc from Flying Pig Games and Escape from Hades from Hollandspiele.

Please let me know your thoughts on these games as well as those that I left off the list.