A few months ago, I became aware of a new designer who was working on several interesting projects. His name is Amos Burke and his first project that caught my eye was the 3 games included in the Heroic Stand Series from Dan Verssen Games including The Alamo: Final Assault, Rorke’s Drift: Men of Harlech and Thermopylae: The Hot Gates. These were successful on Kickstarter in December and then I became aware of his next project called Cockleshell Heroes: Operation Frankton, December 11, 1942 from High Flying Dice Games. The game is a solitaire game that covers a commando raid of the Royal Marines on ships in the German held port of Bordeaux. I reached out to Amos and he was more than willing to talk about the design.
Grant: First off Amos please tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies? What’s your day job.
Amos: Been wargaming and board gaming since the 80’s and go to a local club and games shop called Asgard Games when I can. I drive a bus for a job.
Grant: What motivated you to break into game design? What have you enjoyed most about the experience thus far?
Amos: I have always wrote my own rules for games so I get a game to play the way I enjoy playing games. I enjoy writing rules and feel that I have a talent for doing so. I have been getting into solo play more recently and wanted to create some more good playable games.
Grant: What historical period does Cockleshell Heroes cover?
Amos: The game takes place in World War II. Operation Frankton was a commando raid on ships based in the German occupied French port of Bordeaux. The raid was carried out by a small unit of the Royal Marines know as the “Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment”, who were part of a combined operation transported by the submarine HMS Tuna.
Grant: What was your inspiration for this game? Why did you feel drawn to the subject?
Amos: I read an article in a Wargaming magazine based on the subject but with miniatures and scenery and thought this would make a good solo board game as I don’t have the time or space to put miniature games on now.
Grant: What was your design goal with the game?
Amos: A wanted to design a game playable in a hour or less with out lots of charts and modification tables. Solo at first but squeezed in a 2 player game. I wanted it to be Card driven and have the mission adopt a time critical element to play.
Grant: What type of research did you do to get the details correct? What one must read source would you recommend?
Amos: There is a movie of the same name that I have seen many times and took it as an accurate depiction of the events but then I searched out and read a few books on the operation and found out it was very different.
Here is a list of the books that I have read on the mission:
Ashdown, Paddy. A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War II. London: Aurum, 2012.
C. E. Lucas Phillips. Cockleshell Heroes. William Heinemann, 1956. Pan reprint, 2000.
Robert Lyman. Operation Suicide: The Remarkable Story of the Cockleshell Raid.
Oldfield, Paul. Cockleshell Raid. South Yorkshire, England: Pen and Sword, 2013.
Grant: As a solitaire game, what kind of play experience does it create?
Amos: It’s not a fighting game but is more focused on the commandos survival which was dependent on stealth and the limited amount of time to complete the missions. So the time ticking away was a big part in my design.
Grant: What is the object of the game? How does the player maneuver their canoes through the shipyard?
Amos: The crews need to maneuver silently at night to get close to the ships to then attach limpet mines while avoiding guards and a patrol boat spotting them.
Grant: How are the actions of the German guards determined? How does the View Templates work?
Amos: The player can influence where the guards may be by the time unit they choose to play for the turn. They will draw a random time unit as well and when added together this will give a number that the guards will be looking from and the view template is placed and any canoes underneath it will be be penalized with use time while being still trying to avoid detection.
Grant: What different outcomes does this provide?
Amos: The player can anticipate when it is safer to move or approach a ship. Being spotted be the guards will waste your precious time as you stay still till the guards moves away.
Grant: Ho does the Patrol Boat move? What happens if it moves into a canoe?
Amos: In a turn the player will draw a time unit. This number will be one of six locations the Patrol Boat will move to and if it moves on to any canoes they are captured and the docks will go on alert. Now if a canoe is underneath a view template it will be shot at and killed or captured.
Grant: How does time effect the game and what strategies are there to combat it?
Amos: You will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to enter the harbor, lay mines and then exit the docks. This is not as much time as it sounds and players will have to weigh up what route to take to get to most efficiently get to the ships while also avoiding the patrol boat and guards. Running out of time will lead to a canoe being captured. How far to go before head back is the gamble.
Grant: How does the player place the limpet mines on the target ships? How is success or failure determined?
Amos: When a canoe is next to a ship they spend time attaching mines, which is determined by the roll of a dice which can add 1-6 minutes to the mission time. It might attach easy or could take a while finding the right spot.
At the end of the mission if any canoe crews survive or not the mines will go off the next day. Each mine will cause variable amounts of damage or even can fall off so the player must decide how many mines to attempt to lay on each ship. Remember, they only had 8 mines each.
Grant: What does the game board look like?
Amos: The board is square based with ships being shown as anchored. There are a total of 8 small ships and one big ship and the ships are identified by numbers which represents where the guards will be.
Grant: What purpose do the six colored boxes serve on the right side of the board?
Amos: This is where the six canoe crews that went on the mission are housed. Each of the boxes has a place to place their 8 limpet mines and a space to indicate the crew’s stamina level.
Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play?
Amos: The game is pretty straightforward and has a very simple Sequence of Play as follows:
Play and draw time unit
Adjust time track
Move patrol boat
Check for being spotted
Draw new time counter
Grant: How are victory points scored?
Amos: Victory Points are scored by sinking or damaging the ships to which mines were attached. Players will gain more victory points for damaging or sinking larger ships.
Grant: How does the player win the game?
Amos: Trying to get historical result or better is the measure of victory. Do better, and you will score more. Such as getting more canoes home and doing more damage will give a better result. Also, the cost of lives and damage will let you know how the mission was received.
Grant: Ultimately what was the historic outcome of Operation Frankton?
Amos: Only two of the six canoes crews returned home and 4 small and a large ship was damaged. One small ship was sunk.
Grant: What type of an experience does the game create?
Amos: Hopefully a feeling of a cold quiet night hiding in the shadows and wondering will you have the time to complete your mission as you watch time ever ticking away. The game also creates some press your luck style feelings as you will ask “How far can I go?, Have I done enough? Did I not run hard enough?”.
Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?
Amos: I think that the game really creates a sense of doom as players will never have enough time to plant all the mines they had planned to. There is a real sense of panic as the time just keeps ticking away.
Grant: What has been the response of playtesters?
Amos: They say that at the start of the game they thought they had lots of time. As the game progresses, and things don’t go as planned, then it hits them and they feel they are never going to succeed and get the canoes back. They found it very intense.
Grant: What other designs are you working on?
Amos: I have a game series with DVG called “Heroic Stand” which recently funded on Kickstarter. The game has two modes, solo or cooperative, and is a sort of card driven game.
I also am working on a game called Black Market set in 1940 England where players are dealing goods for profit that I made for friends. Not sure this one will go to the hobby but was made for us.
I am also just starting to work on a solitaire 1940 desert raiders game based on the SAS hitting targets. Still pretty early and still play testing.
Thanks for your time in answering our questions Amos. I appreciate the focus you have on this game and hope that it makes to the wargaming tables of our readers soon.
If you are interested in Cockleshell Heroes: Operation Frankton, December 11, 1942, you can keep up to date by visiting the High Flying Dice Games website at the following link: http://www.hfdgames.com/