I first became acquainted with Morgane Gouyon-Rety as a result of her entry in the COIN Series called Pendragon and our interviews that we conducted for the blog in 2016 (Part I, Part II and Part III). I consider her a friend, although we haven’t ever met, but just felt a nice connection as we talked about things as that game progressed through the design process. She has also been working on a new game during that same time that I have known her, not in the COIN Series, but a historical setting dealing with the successors of Alexander the Great called Hubris and it was announced on the P500 in October 2020. I reached out to her almost immediately after that announcement and we have finally been able to get this interview to this point at this time for you to read.
If you are interested, you can read Part I of our interview covering Hubris at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2021/06/29/interview-with-morgane-gouyon-rety-designer-of-hubris-twilight-of-the-hellenistic-world-from-gmt-games-part-i/
*Please keep in mind that the artwork and layout of the components including cards and counters is not yet finalized and is only for playtest purposes at this point. Also, as this game is still in development, rule details may still change prior to publication.
Grant: Rather than a hand of cards, each player kingdom has a Court. What is the makeup of this Court and how does it drive the decisions of the player?
Morgane: The Court is the essential tool in the hands of the player, and does definitely drive what a player can do, or hope to achieve, during their turn. You might say that understanding the strengths and weaknesses of one’s Court, and making the most of it, is possibly the most important skill of a Hubris player…
A player Kingdom’s Court is all the Leaders (currently in play) that are aligned with this Kingdom at a given time, though one must make the distinction between Leaders being “At Court” and those being on the map, leading military operations.
Every player Kingdom’s Court include at all times a minimum of three members (Leaders). Court members enter play on given turns, and may be removed from play either as a result of age or unlikely early death, including through Court Intrigues. They may also, under some circumstances, rebel, setting themselves up as an independent dynast, or defect to another Court. In order to guarantee a minimum number of three, quasi-generic replacement leaders can be brought in play when needed, but needless to say, they are not particularly good…
Usually, a Court includes a King, who must be a member of the Royal Family. When a King dies, the next Royal in the line of succession becomes King, assuming he is in play; if there is none at that moment, the office remains empty, and the Kingdom is under a regency until an eligible Royal comes in play, representing the coming of age of a child king.
Next to the King, every Court must include a Chief Minister (who acts as regent if there is no King). Like the King, it is a permanent office but, unlike the King, the player chooses the new Chief Minister when the existing one is removed from play (or rebels, or defects), and this is a key decision as the Chief Minister is key for several mechanisms, especially involving court stability.
All other Court members, whether members of the Royal Family, regular courtiers or allied minor leaders, are simply “Friends of the King”, a term which had taken an official veneer at the time, and are available to be entrusted with military, diplomatic or administrative missions as needed (and as capable).
While it is usually a good thing to have a large Court with many capable courtiers, it must be noted that the larger the Court, and (typically) the more skilled the courtiers in it, the more intense and deadly court intrigues will be, which may result, especially if the King and the Chief Minister are weak, in significant attrition through (literal) backstabbing or disgrace. If things get really out of hand, the Chief Minister and even the King might find themselves at risk!
Grant: What function do Leader cards play in the game?
Morgane: Quite simply, the game’s Leaders, represented by their respective Leader cards, are the only “agents” for players: in other words, any and every action undertaken must be allocated to a capable and (usually) available Leader, and their specific abilities will be used to assess whether the action succeeds or not, and to what extent. If you have no Leader left available, you can’t do anything. Worse, even if you have Leaders left available, but they do not have the Capability required by the action you wish to undertake, you cannot undertake the action.
This is the heart of the game: to do something, you pick an available leader with the appropriate Capability, roll a number of d6’s as specified by the action or event, count how many Successes (“Checks” = rolls at or below the activated Leader’s associated rating) you managed, and assess the results.
It should be noted that each Leader may only, at most, be Activated twice per Turn. Some Actions or Events require spending the whole turn’s allocation. It is thus not possible to rely exclusively on one or two excellent leaders, even if they were capable of doing everything you need: you will have to use less capable Leaders also.
Grant: Can you show us some examples of different Leader cards and explain their card anatomy and function, including background, powers and abilities and how they are used?
(Disclaimer: none of the card examples shown here are final art, except for the portraits)
Morgane: Let us first look at the Leader card key (attached), which describes what is found on a typical Leader card. Each Leader card has the full name of the leader, a portrait and a unique ID number, of which the initial letter shows the original affiliation, which is also shown in the background colour of the card. Here we see Perseus, a Macedonian leader.
At the top left of the card, you will find a blue box with the turn of entry of the Leader and a black box with the turn where removal can be mandated. Some leaders also have, next to these two boxes, a box with a diadem (the symbol of royalty in the Hellenistic world) and a rank, meaning that this Leader belongs to the Royal Family with the associated rank of succession. Perseus enters play roughly mid-way through the game on Turn 6, does not have a mandated turn of removal (he was still relatively young by the end of the game in 165 BC, or at least would have been had he not been captured and executed by Rome…), and is second in the succession line for Macedon (the elder son of Philip V).
Then, along the left side of the card, you find the all-important Capability icons, and their associated ratings. From top to mid-bottom, a leader may have between 1 and 3 Capability icons, among the red Campaign, the blue Diplomacy and the yellow Admin icons. Each Capability has an associated Rating (actually two of them, the Battle Rating and the Siege Rating for Campaign). Below that, every Leader has a Loyalty Rating and an Intrigue Rating. A high Capability Rating is usually good, since you must roll at or under it when undertaking an associated Check, but high Intrigue, while useful for survival at court and in these rare instances where an action is based on Intrigue, also makes the Leader a potential troublemaker…
Here, Perseus is a fairly well-rounded Leader with all three Capabilities, being actually one of the best leaders in battle in the game, and above average in Diplomacy and Admin. His Loyalty Rating is OK but not perfect, and his Intrigue Rating is high, which portend some likely difficulties at the end of the reign of his father Philip…
Finally, many Leaders have one or several Special Abilities, which modify their actions in some circumstances, or even may allow them some unique actions. Here Perseus is not much appreciated in Rome and this will impact adversely his diplomatic endeavours with Rome, something that may prove deadly with such a powerful and prickly neighbour…
Now, let’s look at some other leaders:
– the aforementioned Sosibios begins the game in play in the Ptolemaic Court; he is not only an outstanding Diplomat and Administrator, but exhibits some major Special Abilities, and is a terror in the Intrigue game… He has no military capability though. He is however already fairly old at the beginning of the game and is likely to disappear on turn 4
– Andromachos of Aspendos is an unaligned Leader who enters play when an associated (Turn 1) Event is resolved. When this happens, the various Kingdoms can try to outbid each other to attach him and his powerful military abilities to their Court. Note however that he is a pure military Leader, with no diplomatic or administrative ability, and is also not going to last long in play
– Dicearchos joins the Macedonian Court on Turn 4. While he does have some (modest) military capabilities, his real value lies in his unique Special Ability, which can be a tempting side source of revenues for perennially cash-strapped Macedon. However, consorting with pirates is liable to get you on the wrong side of Rome, so the risks and regards of using Dicearchos’ pirating ability should be carefully weighted in regard of the general situation and in particular of Rome’s level of belligerence at the moment…
– finally, Menippos is a Seleucid example of a specialized expert, here in Diplomacy: no frills, no special abilities, just a highly rated Diplomat!
Grant: How did you decide on final number of these cards in the game?
Morgane: There are 69 of them, including three generic Roman Consuls and nine Replacement Leaders (three per Kingdom).
As usual, it’s a compromise between representing the many individuals that people the histories of the time, and finding the right balance mechanically to “bake in” the strengths and limitations of each Kingdom throughout the period represented by the game without explicit rules. For instance, the Seleucids have an abundance of very capable military leaders as well as, one might say, an overabundance of ambitious royals… Conversely, the Ptolemies have precious few good military leaders, and a lot of high intrigue courtiers which usually mean trouble at the Court of Alexandria…
All the key persons of the period are in the game, from the great kings such as the Seleucid Antiochos III or Macedon’s Philip V to colourful characters such as the first Cleopatra (who was actually originally a Seleucid princess), the pirate lord Dicearchos or the ultra-competent but sinister Chief Minister Sosibios. The combination of Capabilities, Ratings and Special Abilities allows to capture their personalities, reinforced by the individual portraits made specifically for the game by Stéphane Guigueno, a very talented French artist.
For more marginal characters, their inclusion – or not – in the game was driven by the target makeup of their respective courts over the course of the game.
Grant: How might their Loyalty be tested and what dangers does this pose?
Morgane: The most common reason why a Leader’s Loyalty is tested is when the Recurrent Event (more on that below) ‘Aitolian Ambition’ comes up: this event includes the Game Mechanics ‘Ambitious Generals’ which mandates that every Friend (i.e. non-King Leader) on the map (i.e leading a military operation) must test his Loyalty. As a Recurrent Event, this has at least a 67% likelihood of occurring every turn, at some point during the turn. Another way this could happen is during a Succession Crisis, an event prompted by the death of a King; in such a case, even eligible Leaders At Court have to undertake a Loyalty Check. But for the most part, it is Leaders at the head of an army who are at risk, as in Hellenistic political tradition, this was strongly tied to royal claims.
When required to do so, every such Leader must roll against his Loyalty rating, with his personal Renown acting as a penalty, and his King’s Renown as a bonus. If he fails the Check, he rebels. In other words, the more renowned a Leader, the more likely he is to rebel, and the more renowned a King, the less likely his subordinates (who often are his own sons or cousins) feel tempted to defy his authority. Bearing in mind that Renown is gained and lost in battle, and can become negative (with a floor at -2), one easily realises how precarious the position of a King humbled in a losing war, or so militarily incompetent (or underage) to have to rely strongly on subordinates to wage war, can quickly become…
When a Leader rebels, the Satrapy he is in, and possibly some adjacent ones, separate from his original Kingdom with him as king, along with any unit currently with him (for the duration of the turn at least). Such a rebel faction now behaves as a new Minor Power, which can try to expand as driven by some recurring events…
Grant: What is Renown and how does it increase over the duration of a game?
Morgane: Renown is a personal variable value attached to a Leader, representing his personal prestige. In such an intensively personal era, it is essential.
Renown can be positive or negative. A Leader’s Renown can never be higher than 4, and never lower than -2.
The primary source of Renown, by far, is military victories, especially against Kings. Some events may also provide Renown. What is important to bear in mind is that whenever a commander gains Renown by winning a battle, his unfortunate opponent loses the same amount of Renown! Battles, especially when Kings are involved, become thus high risk, high reward affairs: one should not venture lightly into such.
Renown is personal and cannot be transferred. It disappears when the Leader is removed from play, though the Renown of a dead King is partly capitalised into Dynastic Victory Points (again, this can be a negative number…).
As discussed above, Renown acts as a modifier to Loyalty Checks. It also modifies, though in a reduced (halved) way, many Intrigue Checks. Last but not least, a King’s personal Renown is added to his VP total. As you can see, it is indeed a key dimension of the game!
Grant: What is the makeup of the Single Event Deck? How many cards does it contain?
Morgane: The Single Event Deck is built (or rebuilt) at the beginning of every Turn. It always includes the Winter Quarters card and six Recurrent Events (one of them is swapped for another one in the course of the game) to which are added every turn one-off events which were already in the deck the previous turn but were not revealed, and new one-off events for the turn. Typically, this means that the Event Deck includes between 10 and 15 events in total, out of a total of 61 events included in the game.
The Recurrent Events capture the activities of various Minor Powers, the tendency of Greek cities and some regions to revolt, and the pressure of outlying barbarian (i.e. non-Greek) powers. They also drive some game mechanisms which, thus, do not occur at a predictable moment in the sequence of play, but randomly during the course of the turn. This includes, as mentioned above, testing the Loyalty of generals, but also the level of intrigue in the various Courts (and resolving any subsequent plots), the potential disappearance of Leaders (either because they have reached their removal date, or on a roll, at any time), the progress of the Second Punic War (which can impact the level of involvement of Rome in the Eastern Mediterranean) as well as the decaying effect of time and weather (’Storms & Worms’) on the various fleets in the game. Last but not least, every Recurrent Event prompts a sequence of Activation where every player Kingdom and Rome will, in varying order, have the opportunity to Activate an Available Leader to undertake an Action or trigger an Event.
The Winter Quarters Event brings the turn to an end as soon as it is revealed, as long as a minimum of 4 Recurrent Events have been resolved. Since there are always 6 Recurrent Events in the deck, you see that every player gets a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 6 Activations every turn…
One-Off Events exist in two flavours: Immediate and Pending Events. Immediate Events are resolved as soon as revealed. They usually represent activities of external forces beyond the power of the players to prevent, though some may offer opportunities such as the availability of a new unaligned Leader on which players may bid. Pending Events however are not resolved unless and until they are Triggered, usually by a player Activating a suitable Leader as mandated by the event text. These represent opportunities to which the players may respond, or not. Some events have both Immediate content (resolved as soon as the card is revealed) and Pending content, typically giving the players time to react to prevent further consequences.
Many events are tagged with special red icons or boxes, showing that they may impact the level of Roman Belligerence and/or provide a Casus Belli to Rome. These may be automatic or conditional on player actions. In all cases, such events must be dealt with utmost care, especially late in the game, as no sane player wants to get into an unprovoked war with the killer Republic from Italy…
While the single Event Deck’s concept comes largely from the COIN Series, there are some significant differences, besides what has been described above. First, there is no look-ahead: at a given time, only the active card is face-up, and the next card remains hidden. Second, all Major Powers are always eligible at all times, at least as long as they have Available Leaders to Activate. This means that, usually, all players will Activate a Leader on every Recurrent Card.
Grant: Can you show us a few examples of events and explain how they affect the game?
Morgane: Let us take a look first at a Recurrent Event.
This is ‘Enemies at the Gates’. First a roll is made to determine whether it is the Parthians, the Galates, Pergamon or the Nubians who are trying to extend their domains at the expenses of the players’ kingdoms. As stated in the event text, some results are conditioned to the presence of troops in the targeted regions, so players do have the option to secure their borders, if they can spare the troops of course… Then, a Game Mechanics is resolved: this is ‘Ferryman of Souls’, which removes from play any Leader which has reached its removal date, then asks for rolling 2d6 for each other Leader, removing them on a roll of 12. Finally, the Major Powers will each get to Activate one Leader in the following sequence: Seleucids, Ptolemies, Macedon and finally Rome.
Next is ’Nemean Games’: this is a Pending Event that is added to the desk at the beginning of Turn 3, as indicated by the boxed number top left. After a short flavour text, there is a text highlighted in dark blue: this is the description of the Trigger for the Event (in this case, a King being Activated to Check Diplomacy). The text under the Trigger states the effects if the Diplomacy Check is successful (green thumb up) or failed (red thumb down). Finally, there is an indication at the bottom to remove the event from play once Triggered.
Let us look now at ‘Acarnanians Lynched in Athens’. This event, which is added at the beginning of Turn 5, is an hybrid Immediate/Pending Event. First, we notice the presence of a red ‘4’ on a white background in a red star shape: this indicates that this event carries a risk of providing a Casus Belli (CB) to Rome. There is also “ RB +1” in a solid red box at the bottom right, which indicates an automatic impact on Roman Belligerence (RB), which captures the aggressiveness of Rome in the region. Let us now look at the event text. After the short historical blurb, there is some text above the highlighted Trigger condition, which is immediately executed. Then, after the description of the Trigger, are described the effects of a successful Trigger. In this case, the immediate effects damage Macedonian positions in Athens and Rhodes, cost them one permanent (Dynastic) VP, and automatically raise Roman Belligerence by one level (Rome being looking for a pretext to renew war). However, if Macedon Campaigns in Central Greece, either to simply Ravage the Satrapy or successfully capturing Athens, they regain their Dynastic VP (restoring their reputation) but lose influence in the Roman Senate and offer a very dangerous Casus Belli to Rome on a roll of ‘4’, roll modified by the current RB, which can go from -2 to +2. Considering that RB had already been increased by the immediate effects, and that it is typically fairly high already at that stage of the game, as usually the 2nd Punic War has been successfully concluded by then, this means a very high likelihood for Macedon of finding itself at war with the Roman Republic…
Finally, ‘Armenia Asserts Itself’ is a fairly straightforward Immediate Event that is added to the desk at the beginning of Turn 7, representing the progressive erosion of Greek-Macedonian authority in the rugged hinterlands of Asia. The event text after the flavor text is immediately executed, which involves rolling a die to determine a Satrapy where the Alignment markers (Garrisons or Alliances) of any Major Power are removed, plus a Ravage marker being placed in the neighboring rich plains of Mesopotamia.
Grant: What units are available to players? What is their scale?
Morgane: There are actually not that many units in the game, as these only represent large bodies of troops, naval squadrons or siege trains that would be able to operate independently on a campaign (not a siege train on its own, obviously!). These represent only a fraction of the total of soldiers active at a given time, as most of them are represented abstractly by the Garrison counters through which players control non-allied cities, or the many tribal strongholds dotting the rough border areas of the main kingdoms, which must be subjugated through campaigns to be controlled.
Every troop unit represents between 10,000 and 20,000 men, depending on type and training, with a lot of aggregation being done for game purposes. The battle of Raphia, which was fought in 217 BC (Turn 1 of the game) between the Seleucid king Antiochos III and the Lagid king Ptolemy IV, was the largest battle of the age, pitting 75,000 Ptolemaic troops and mercenaries against 68,000 Seleucid troops and allies, would be represented with 5 Ptolemaic units facing 4 Seleucid units… Many, if not most campaigns will be undertaken with only 1 or 2 units, in order to make efficient use of always limited resources, both in terms of troops’ availability and logistic costs, as campaign costs are largely proportional to the number of units involved.
At such a scale, there is little room nor meaning in much unit differentiation: do not look for specific phalanx, heavy cavalry or peltast units (though these troop types are part of the aggregation made to build the units and their quality). The only qualitative differentiation is that there are standard and elite units, typically reflecting a higher degree of professionalisation and training, heavy cavalry component, etc… Elite units hit more often, and are more resilient. Roman Legions are all Elite units, which inflict extra damage to represent their then-unheard of lethality on the battlefield which shocked their Greek and Macedonian adversaries!
The main differentiation between units resides in their nature:
– the royal armies of the major kingdoms, along with their siege train, are always available at the beginning of every turn for their kingdom. Royal army units are usually Elite, except for the Ptolemaic Royal Army, which did not enforce such regular training and operations as their rivals;
– military colonists represent settlers established by the early Hellenistic kings throughout the territories conquered by Alexander to provide a local source of phalangites and heavy cavalry. They are attached to a specific Satrapy, and can be mustered by whoever controls that Satrapy. Military colonists are found in Asia Minor, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Media, though new ones may be gained by event;
– mercenaries represent the many men who made a living out of being warriors for hire, representing as well barbarian bands from Illyria, Thrace or Galatia, light troops from Crete or Asia Minor, and whole disciplined phalanx-trained units from Greek cities on both sides of the Aegean. These troops can be recruited by any kingdom with some alliances or garrisons in their areas of recruitment, but are subject to competitive bidding to be hired;
– finally, minor powers have their own units which can be used, within some geographical constraints, by their controlling major ally when applicable. You will find here the armies of the Aitolian League, eternal troublemakers, their rivals of the Achaia League, the much diminished but still annoying Spartans, the Rhodian Navy (the only Elite naval unit in the game), the powerful kingdom of Pergamon (which boast both an army and a navy), and the dangerous Parthians.
All land units are only mustered until the end of the turn, and return home during Winter Quarters.
Naval units (Squadrons) work quite differently: first they are not attached to a Satrapy, and must be built through a specific Action, requiring money, an Activation and a shipyard-equipped coastal location. They do not “go home” during Winter Quarters, but are destroyed if not in a friendly Sea Area (a Sea Area with an Aligned Port, i.e. a naval base) during Winter Quarters. More generally, they can only operate in friendly sea areas, representing the short range of contemporary warships. In effect, one should not think of the naval units as individual groups of ships, but as the ships, crews, supplies, bases and other facilities necessary to exert a meaningful naval presence in a Sea Area. Hence the importance of having Aligned Port Cities.
Naval units can undertake a variety of things, from intercepting enemy squadrons, supporting friendly besieged coastal cities, interdicting straits crossings, raiding enemy (or neutral…) coastlines, or escorting land units on combined campaigns.
Naval Squadrons are expensive to build, easy to sink in battle, and prone to decay over time, which often results in their neglect over the course of the game, especially when kingdoms are beset with other priorities. However, they are also essential to maintaining a far flung empire (particularly relevant to the Ptolemies, who begin the game as the dominant kingdom built on their sea power), protect vulnerable coastal cities from the encroachments of aggressive neighbours, cripple their enemy, or prevent the legions of Doom from crossing the critical straits between Europe and Asia…
Grant: Can you show us the anatomy of the counters? What special units are included?
Morgane: There is really not much information on the unit counters: as with the rest of the game, we have tried to keep the counters as simple as possible.
Unit counters are round, and are bearing a visual representation of the dominant type of troops constituting them and their name on a coloured band: gold if Elite, steel if standard. Units belonging intrinsically to a kingdom (Royal Army, Siege Train or Naval Squadron) or a Minor Power show their symbol and background colour; the background colour of other units is a neutral beige. Mercenary units also display a stack of coins
All the units carry on their reverse side information regarding their “home” and nature:
– kingdom units have their kingdom color plus a generic statement
– military colonists have a beige background and the name of their home Satrapy
– mercenaries have a black background and the names of the Satrapies they can be recruited from.
Every unit is unique and named, except kingdom naval squadrons. Some units can enter play through events, such as the Machimoi, the Egyptian native phalanx, raised as a desperation move by the Ptolemies, which contributed decisively to their victory at Raphia in 217 but formed the nuclei of the endless native revolts that plagued them in subsequent decades, or the Bastarnai, a powerful Celtic tribe that Perseus considered settling on lands of his to beef up his army during the Third Macedonian War against Rome. Others may be permanently or temporarily upgraded to Elite status (and their counters replaced accordingly), such as Media’s Military Colonists unit which can be upgraded to the Elite Kataphractoi if (presumably) the Seleucids manage to reimpose their authority on the Upper Satrapies up to Bactria, or the Achaian and Pergamene Minor Units when, respectively, their Leaders Philopoemen (“The Last of the Greeks”) and King Eumenes II are in play.
Then of course we must mention the dreaded Roman Legions: Elite Units which inflict double damage and, worse, keep coming back (the Senate raising new legions nearly at will) after being routed in defeat, unlike every other unit in the game…
Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play and flow of the game?
Morgane: Every turn follows the following sequence:
- Decks Preparation: rebuild the Events Deck for the new turn, reshuffle the Roman Activation Deck (which drives Roman Diplomacy and, when appropriate, Campaigns), and bring in play new Leaders
- Revenue Phase: every player Kingdom collects tax revenues (see below), then Ravage and Taxes Increased markers are removed from the map
- Roman Politics Phase: a d6 is rolled to assess the impact of internal Roman politics on the Republic’s Belligerence toward the Eastern Mediterranean. On average, it tends to bring RB back toward the middle, though there are modifiers if Rome is busy in the Western Mediterranean (typically with Carthage, though the Gauls and Iberians can also provide breathers) or late in the game (when the appetite of Roman elites for Greek treasures has been whetted)
- Mercenaries Phase: player kingdoms may bid on available Mercenary Units if eligible. Newly hired units are placed in territory aligned with their new employer, possibly along a path of friendly sea areas (with a friendly naval base) or non-enemy-controlled territories. Mercenary units not hired at this stage may be hired later during the Action Phase as part of campaign preparations under certain conditions
- Action Phase: this is the heart of the turn. The Event Deck’s cards are flipped up and resolved (or parked aside for Pending Events) one at a time. When a Recurrent Event is resolved, every player kingdom and Rome gets an Activation. For Rome, it means flipping one Roman Activation card for each ongoing Roman war (one if at peace), which can be a Diplomacy action or a Campaign, with a general (consul), number of legions and squadrons defined by the card. For player kingdoms, it means Activating once one available Leader to undertake one of nine possible Actions, a Special Ability (if relevant) or Trigger a Pending Event. The possible Actions are:
- Military Actions: Land Campaign, Naval Campaign or Overseas (combined) Campaign, defining origin and target satrapies or sea areas, mustering units, determining and paying logistic costs, fighting battles against enemies, attempting to capture by siege or subjugation enemy places, and/or plundering enemy territories
- Diplomatic Actions: Diplomacy (to remove opponents’ alignment markers and/or place new alliances), Lobbying (to increase one’s influence in the Roman Senate or reduce an opponent’s), Incite Rome to War (a very risky action requiring predominant influence in the Senate to try to bring Rome to declare war on another kingdom)
- Administrative Actions: Raise Additional Taxes (a way to increase revenue, which can very easily backfire into revolts or worse), Build Naval Squadron (building new naval units in coastal Satrapies with shipyards), Evergetism (an extremely expensive action which may yield permanent (Dynastic) VPs through grandiose acts such as famous buildings – think Alexandria’s Lighthouse and Grand Library – or installing a dynastic cult). A good way to waste a lot of money, but sometimes the best, or only way, to gain new VPs especially when stuck with long peace treaties…
- Winter Quarters Phase: triggered by the associated Event Card being flipped up when at least 4 Recurrent Event Cards have already been resolved, this end of turn phase goes as follows:
- Resolve Pending Events that are linked to conditions at the end of the Action Phase, then remove all face up Pending Events from play (if you miss on triggering them on their turn, they’re gone)
- All wars between major kingdoms (not with Rome!) end unless one King successfully extends a war, then resolve War Exhaustion for kingdoms still at war
- Check for Automatic Victory or determine victory if last turn
- All Units return home (including from the Dispersed Box) except if in the Punic Wars box (which holds Mercenary Units drawn to the Second Punic War and any units sent by Macedon to support Hannibal under the provisions of an alliance treaty)
- Return all Strengthened Defences markers to their owner’s supply (players can strengthen the defences of cities targeted by enemy campaigns, at a cost of course in money and resources…)
- Inflation: every kingdom loses half of its Treasury…
- Straighten up (to Fresh) all Leader cards and return all Leaders on the map to Court
- Advance turn marker
Grant: What role does the Roman Senate play in the game?
Morgane: The Republic of Rome is the fourth Major Power, and is always a non player Power. It is governed by a set of parameters and guidelines, within which specific Roman actions are undertaken by a designated player (in order of priority: not involved in the conflict, highest influence in the Senate, lowest VP total). This allows both to ensure a reasonably historical behavior from the Republic, and to provide some agency to the players, who can most definitely shape to a degree Roman actions to suit their own interests, the ultimate expression of that being of course to incite Rome to declare war on your chosen enemy…
The parameters under which Rome operates do evolve over the course of the game as the situation evolves, and, overall, Rome’s aggressiveness ramps up. The key parameters are:
- Roman Belligerence (RB): a value that can fluctuate between -2 and +2. The higher RB is, the more aggressive Rome is, that is, the likelier it will seize upon a given pretext (Casus Belli – CB) to go to war. While some actions, such as attacking a Roman garrison, will always automatically result in war, usually, players are rarely certain what Rome’s behaviour will be, as the inner workings of the senate and interplay of rival factions were, for the most part of the period, unfathomable to the Hellenistic monarchs, used to direct agreements with their pairs. The current level of RB is a strong indicator of how the current Senate majority is leaning, though
- Roman Agenda: this captures what areas of the map are of interest to Rome, what Minor allies they are pursuing (through Diplomacy actions), and what could trigger moving to the next Agenda (typically, conflict with some player kingdoms). There are three different Agendas, or steps, starting with Illyricum at the beginning of the game (with Rome limiting its views to Illyria and the Adriatic), moving on to Graecia (with Rome extending its potential reach to all or part of the European section of the map), and culminating with Orbi (where Rome may intervene anywhere on the map). Agendas are like a one-way ratchet, meaning they can only go up, never down… However, each Agenda exists in two versions: Full War and Limited War. Full War is the normal situation, where Rome is unconstrained by other major conflicts in the Western Med; Limited War represents these moments where it is, typically during the Second Punic War. The Limited War versions are less aggressive than the Full War versions (this concept of Full and Limited War is also relevant for Roman Activations, with typically less military resources and a bigger reliance on diplomacy under Limited War)
- Punic Wars status: this tracks the progress of Hannibal’s War against Rome, from his initial daring invasion of Italy in (historically) 218 (turn 1) to his final defeat at Zama in 202 (turn 4). Four different ‘Hannibal’s War’ event cards are introduced during these 4 turns, prompting progress of the war. Of course, these cards may get delayed through the cycling of the event deck and semi-random occurrence of Winter Quarters… With the various stages of the war, Rome is increasingly constrained, then progressively regains some bandwidth. While typically, the historical result will occur more or less on schedule, some die rolls can change the course of war, including Hannibal capturing Rome after Cannae (though that is unlikely unless Macedon sends significant reinforcements!).
Some key events also change the attitude of the Roman Senate, in particular ‘All Greeks to be Free and Governed by their own Laws’ which is enabled by winning a first war against a player kingdom (typically Macedon…). Once this event is triggered, Rome, cynically appropriating the age-old rhetoric ploys of Greek politics, proclaims itself the guarantor of the freedom of Greek cities, which, in practical terms, means that from now on, attacking Greek cities or garrisoning them will be seen as potential Casus Belli by Rome…!
The player kingdoms can, through the Lobbying action, vie for influence in the Roman Senate. Unlike other non-player political entities in the game, a player may never control Rome: the best they can hope for is to achieve predominant influence, which allows them both a hand in shaping the detailed actions of Rome on the map when called for, and some (limited) options to preemptively defuse crises with the dangerous neighbor to the West, or even try to incite them against their enemies.
Overall, Rome tends to act as a balancing force in the game, both by being leveraged by players who may otherwise lack the military means to challenge an hegemonic player, and on their own by tending to target the current VP leader when Roman Belligerence boils over. On the other hand, it can also, as happened historically, bring a player kingdom to its end: the first time a major kingdom must surrender to Rome (typically by losing a major battle against the legions), it will have to withdraw from certain regions; this can be a major annoyance, but is rarely crippling; however, should that kingdom lose a second war to Rome, the Senate will prove much less “lenient” that time and the player will be eliminated from play! This occurred historically at the conclusion of the Third Macedonian War after the defeat of king Perseus of Macedon at the battle of Pydna in 168 (his father, Philip V, having won the First Macedonian War, and lost the Second after his defeat at Cynoscephalai in 197). In the game, we have observed that this outcome is not common, possibly because players are very wary of this possibility, but it can and does occur, sometimes way earlier than turn 11 (the final turn of the game, to which the year 168 belongs), when some players behave recklessly!
Grant: What are the general politics of the game? How much negotiation and side deals are made and broken?
Morgane: The game’s essence is a 3-way struggle for hegemony in the post-Alexander world, as the continuation and culmination of the Wars of the Successors that tore apart Alexander’s empire after his death in 323 BC. At the time the game begins, in 220, the Lagid dynasty of the Ptolemies has been dominant for thirty years, since Ptolemy III took advantage of the incredible events known by the Ancients as the Laodicean War that led the Seleucids dynasty to tear itself apart. In Europe, the original kingdom of all these dynasties, Macedon, has at long last, under the extremely able leadership of Antigonos IV Doson, been able to reestablish its ascendancy over Greece. Still, its manpower and fiscal resources cannot rival with their Egyptian and Syrian rivals, and Greece remains a boiling pot of social and political tensions, with the two federal leagues of the Aitolians and Achaians determined not to relinquish their newfound power. In Asia Minor, the upstart kingdom of Pergamon has managed to break out of its niche domain by taking advantage of the War of the (Seleucid) Brothers.
Of course, what the historical protagonists probably underestimated or missed altogether, is the imminent irruption on the scene of new players from beyond the traditional Greek-Macedonian world, first the barbarian Italian state known as the Republic of Rome, and second the semi-nomad Parthians. While the Parthians are still only a manageable nuisance within the scope of this game, Rome obviously, coming stronger than ever from its titanic struggle with Hannibal’s Carthage, would come to impose itself as the arbiter of the Hellenistic world.
Nonetheless, while Rome may make a player lose by forcing them to relinquish some conquests, or even by stamping them out altogether, the only way a player can win is by triumphing in the traditional way, i.e. by imposing its hegemony on its rivals, claiming the mantle of Alexander’s true successor and hopefully a critical mass strong enough to successfully oppose Rome’s growing power before it is too late.
Within these dynastic rivalries, one extraordinary factor that is going to shape the long-term strategies of the players of Hubris is the strength of the peace treaties, or rather of the peace oaths: as documented by John Grainger, who is one the foremost historians of the period, no Hellenistic king ever broke a peace once sworn! None. Ever. In an age where war was the essence of kingship… When peace was made, the two opposing kings solemnly swore peace to the other, and not a single one of them ever reneged on their oath. Now, the trick is that, like everything at the time, these peaces were personal and bound the two persons that swore them, not their states nor their heirs. This means that as soon as one the swearers died, the peace agreement came to an immediate end, and war would soon resume, especially between the Ptolemies and Seleucids…
In game terms, this is represented in a very stringed War/Peace mechanism: by default, kings are not at war with each other, with no peace oath in place. They may go to war at any time by attacking enemy possessions or units. Once war has begun, the two opposing kings are marked with appropriate ‘War’ markers for the duration of the war. When the war comes to an end, which can happen by mutual agreement (including possibly some transfer of garrisons, money or squadrons) or automatically at the end of the turn (wars at the time very rarely lasted for more than a couple years), the two markers are flipped to their ‘Peace’ sides, and remain as such on the two kings as long as they are in play. Under no circumstances may a player kingdom make war directly on another player kingdom it the associated Peace marker is present on their King. It is allowed to use diplomatic means, or even to attack cities, tribes or minor powers allied to that kingdom, but not its units and garrisons. As you can easily imagine, this is a major feature of the game as, if you mismanage your one chance at going at a given kingdom, you may easily find yourself locked out of being able to directly bring down a major rival streaking for victory for a large number of turns if both kings are young and healthy.
Because of this, players may be tempted to try to extend a war beyond its natural conclusion but, assuming they are successful in extending it, this comes with potential frightful consequences as war exhaustion may prompt revolts in your domains, and your tax revenues will be halved due to the economic disruption caused by the war, both form actual military operations, resulting insecurity and damage on trade routes, and from many key citizens in your kingdoms being mustered in your armies.
The peace tractations discussed above are the only formal avenues where players can make deals and transfer money, garrisons and/or ships, either as part of negotiated peace agreement, or as part of a package offered to counter an attempt by an enemy king to extend a war, and these deals are binding. Aside from these, players may not make any deal involving any transfer of actual game assets. However, they are entirely free to discuss and any agreement within the rules of the game, though these are not binding in game terms.
Clearly, a key dimension is the dynamics between three players: whoever is currently leading will tend to find the other two leaguing themselves against them. However, perceptions of relative strengths may differ from bare VP counts, especially if a kingdom is seen as outperforming its historical performance, natural zones of friction, and existing peace oaths may alter this logic.
Grant: What role does taxation play in the game? What is the process to manage the economy?
Morgane: The economy is not the focus of Hubris, so is modelled with a fairly high level of abstraction. Essentially, every Satrapy as a Tax Value, or rather often two, depending whether one has Simple or Full Control of the said Satrapy, and player kingdoms collect the sum of all the Tax values of the Satrapies they control. These values can be modified as follows:
- Halved if the Satrapy has been Ravaged during the previous turn by enemy operations or raids, by botched attempts to raise tax, or by events
- Halved if control of the Satrapy is achieved through a majority of Alliances rather than Garrisons
These modifiers are cumulative… Then, the grand total can be halved again if the kingdom is at war (i.e. is caught in a war of abnormal duration). Note that, while player kingdoms by default make peace at the end of a turn, the only way to end a war with Rome is either to surrender or force them to make peace by driving Roman Belligerence below -2 (an uncommon occurrence…).
Typically, early in the game, the Ptolemies’ tax base exceeds 40 Talents (Ts), the Seleucids around 20 Ts, and Macedon barely exceeds 10 Ts… If the Seleucids recover control of their rich rebellious satrapies in Asia Minor, and extend either in the Upper Satrapies or against the Ptolemies, they can get to 30 or even 35 Ts. A very successful Macedonian king can get to 15 Ts, maybe sniff at 20… Meanwhile, social issues in Egypt proper (22 Ts!!!) and general enemy pressure will typically progressively push Ptolemaic revenues down to around 20 Ts late in the game. Bearing in mind that building a new naval squadron costs 8 Ts, that a protracted military campaign in a wealthy province with a significant army can easily cost from 10 to 20 Ts, if not more (and much more in difficult terrain where logistic costs explode), you can easily see that wars are not economically sustainable for very long… Raising additional taxes are often tempting, or even necessary, but have a very significant likelihood of making things worse, especially if the targeted satrapy rises in revolt against you while you have no money left to undertake a campaign to restore order! Diplomacy is much cheaper, and often as effective if not more as outright war, but its effects are less solid and allies pay less taxes than subjects…
Grant: How does combat work in the design?
Morgane: Combat is fairly straightforward, and based on the same Check principles (in this case using the Battle ratings of the commanding Leader) as every other action in the game: for every unit involved in the battle, roll one die: if you roll at or below the commander’s Battle Rating, you score a hit. Elite units provide a +1 THM (To Hit Modifier), and any natural roll of ‘1’ scores a double hit. Roman Legions score double hits every time they successfully strike, whether they rolled a ‘1’ or any number less than or equal to their commanding Consul’s Battle Rating +1 (being all Elites…). Then hits are allocated to enemy units as wished: it takes one hit to rout a standard quality unit, two to rout an Elite. Both sides strike and apply hits simultaneously, unless the campaign takes place in Rough terrain, in which case the defending side strikes and applies hits first, then the surviving attacking units strike. Some commanders’ Special Abilities may also modify who strikes first, or some other aspects of this. Once all hits have been applied, if a side has been entirely routed (and not its enemy), it loses the battle; if not, the side from which the most units routed loses; if tied, the side from which the most Elite units routed; if not, it is an indecisive battle. All routed units from a defeated side are Dispersed until Winter Quarters; routed units from the winning side or of both sides in an indecisive battle are returned to their commander Leader’s card.
Let us take an example: King Philip V of Macedon campaigns in Western Greece against the Aitolians, with his Royal Army (an Elite unit) and one Mercenary unit (a standard unit). Facing him is the Aitolian army (one single standard unit). Since Western Greece is Rough terrain, the Aitolians strike first. They do not have a commander so use the default battle rating of 2: they are lucky and roll a natural ‘1’, inflicting two hits! This allows them to rout the Elite Royal Army (note that spreading the hits on the two units would rout the mercenaries but not the Royal Army, being Elite). Now Philip, suddenly worried, gets to strike with his lone remaining unit. Philip is a talented tactician and has a Battle Rating of 4: he needs that because his roll of ‘4’ is just enough to inflict a hit with the non-Elite mercs! The hit routs the Aitolians. Both sides have lost one unit, and the Aitolians have routed an Elite unit, but since their side has entirely routed, this ends up being a victory for Philip, who rallies his very ashamed Royal Army and can now proceed with his campaign, which will probably involve trying to subdue the Aitolian tribal strongholds in their mountain fastnesses…
Naval combat works similarly, except that, with some exceptions, all battles use the default Battle Rating of 2 (no great admirals during the period), and hits directly sink enemy units rather than merely routing them…
Grant: How is victory achieved?
Morgane: In Hubris, victory is assessed through the accumulation of Victory Points (VPs). Just as with Tax values, every Satrapy has a set of VP values, which can vary with the level of control. Unlike Tax values though, many Satrapies do not have the same VP value for every kingdom, reflecting the relative priorities in terms of security, personal ties and local economies. For instance, Thessaly, a Greek Satrapy bordering Macedon has a VP value of 4 (3 if only Simple control) for Macedon, but only 1 for the Seleucids or the Ptolemies. Conversely, Coele-Syria, the eternal apple of discord between Seleucids and Ptolemies, has a VP value of 3 (2 if only Simple control) for both of them, but only 1 for far-away Macedon. Some Satrapies are only of VP interest for one or two kingdoms. Some others however, especially in the central parts of the map, are just as valuable for all three kingdoms, such as Ionia, Lydia-Phrygia or Rhodes…
These are the Territorial VPs, which usually are the main source of VPs for the players. One must also consider Dynastic VPs and Renown: the Renown of the current King is added to the current VP total of his kingdom. Remember that Renown is capped at 4, but an also be negative… Dynastic VPs are quasi-permanent VPs that are accrued either through game actions such as successful Evergetism Actions or resolutions of some events, or, upon the death of a King, half of its Renown is transformed into Dynastic VPs. Another way to gain a Dynastic VP is to be victorious in a war against Rome… Don’t expect too many of these particular VPs to get accrued, though…
During the Victory Phase of every Winter Quarters, if a player kingdom has 30 or more total VPs, it achieves an Automatic Victory. This is possible, but not very common: the game is built to make these last few VPs very hard to capture… Historically, both the Ptolemies and Seleucids got close at some point, but both came short… If it is he last turn, whoever has achieved the highest VP total, including possibly some adjustments defined by the scenario, wins.
A feature that has been drawing quite a bit of interest from players during the various demos of the game around the US, Canada and France is the Historical Victory Performance Table that is included in the game. Essentially, I built this tool originally as part of my design process to calibrate VP values and monitor how my game model was representing historical outcomes throughout the game’s period. What it does is translate the historical positions at the end of each game turn in game VPs among the three categories described above (territorial, dynastic and renown VPs). I then figured it could be interesting to players to refer to this table to assess their own game performance against history, correcting some of the bias introduced by the relative intrinsic strengths of each kingdom at a given time. Furthermore, it can be used, with some caution, as way to assess victory with some of this bias correction should, for any reason, a group of players decide to play more or less turns of a scenario than recommended by the scenario guidelines (and associated adjustments, if any). Now, if you are running out of time, or someone needs to leave early, and you are not able to play the recommended number of turns, you can still get a relatively fair assessment of everyone’s performance by comparing the VP totals achieved on the board to the historical performances. I say “relatively fair” because these historical performances do not necessarily represent an “average” performance, and the adjustments for each scenario, when they exist, do try to correct for what seems to me a more balanced level of performance.
Grant: What are some of the basic overall strategies for the game? What elements must players focus on and prioritize?
Morgane: For starters, it is essential for players to be aware of the specificities of their kingdom: where are the key VP areas, where can you recruit military colonists or mercenaries, where can you build warships, what sort of tax base can you assume… At least as important is the composition, the strengths and weaknesses of your Court: do you have good generals, diplomats or administrators, are they reliable, are you going to face a high level of intrigue at your court, what special abilities (including limitations) are available to you, do you have an available heir for your king, how long can you expect your key leaders to stay on the board?
Second, as with every multiplayer game, victory depends at least as much on achieving your own aims as it is about preventing your opponents from achieving theirs. This means at least a basic understanding of the key areas and drivers and makeup of the court of your opponents. COIN players should be intimately familiar with this sort of thinking… Remember that there is no hidden information whatsoever in the game (except the order of the decks, of course).
In general strategic terms, you should think of your kingdom as of a core area through which you can effortlessly operate and muster resources, and of border areas, zones of contact with enemy player and nonplayer powers where you will wage military or diplomatic campaigns to expand your core. Seas can be very efficient avenues of power if you can put in place a network of naval bases (Aligned Port Cities)… and afford the warships to make use of them! By the way, did you check where you can find the shipyards you will need to build these warships?
Military campaigns, despite the scale of the game (5-year turns), tend to be often slow and modest in their scope, due to the many cities and tribes that will have to be besieged or subjugated. They can quickly bog down with bad rolls, or if your opponent invests massively in countermeasures. Your best commander (usually your king) may be very good, but remember than he can only Activate twice per turn, and that the units he musters in his force will not be available for other generals. Economy of force and actions is thus essential. If your enemy strikes first before you are in a position to resist them successfully, it is often better to withdraw, strengthen the defenses of your cities, and try to counterattack later. Defeated units are Dispersed for the full turn, and lost Renown can spell your doom if you lose control of your ambitious generals and intriguing courtiers…
On the other hand, a successful war remains the most efficient way, usually, to secure a key satrapy or two from a dangerous opponent, effecting a double swing in terms of VPs. Because of the War and Peace mechanisms, you will not get many opportunities to wage war on a given kingdom (usually only one in a short to medium scenario), so try to make the most of it. Or, if you are ahead, try to get this war done with minimal impact so that you can neutralize this enemy…
The risk of rebellions and revolts must always be present in your mind. Be aware of the regions in your kingdom that are prone to outbreaks of seditious behavior, and try to retain a Campaign-capable leader and a unit (and some Ts) to be able to quickly react to any such revolt before it spreads. While you are at it, try to keep these dangerous borders such as Macedonia or Media watched by some troops, if you can spare them until the associated Recurrent Events have gone by… These damn Illyrians, Thracians or Parthians are always all too happy to wreck havoc on unprotected borderlands… You must also be keenly aware of the reliability of any general you send out with an army until the associated Event has been resolved: bear in mind that any personal Renown reduces his Loyalty… Conversely, it can be a good move to send a high Intrigue Leader on campaign, away from the Court, if you feel your grip on court intrigues to be tenuous…
As in real life, it is much easier to spend than to gain money. You must try to do some budgeting at the beginning of the turn, to assess how much Ts you are going to need to implement your strategic priorities for the turn: how many campaigns, if any, are you going to launch, in what terrain, with how many units? Will you need mercenaries to achieve parity or superior numbers over your enemy, or to protect these vulnerable satrapies away from your main effort? Do you want to build some new warships? This will give you some structure, and some limits to how far you can go in a bidding war for mercs. Is an opponent going to try to dry up the mercenary market to deny you the men you need? Or fall back on their coastal fortifications, backed by their fleet, to let your oh so expensive monster army waste itself to no effect? The mere presence of troops does not provide control, capture of cities and tribes by force or by word does…
In a limited way, war can pay for itself through plundering and raiding, and you should be aware of that option. However, such actions take away from the real business of besieging enemy cities and subjugating enemy tribes, so with limited Activations and resources, this can prove self-defeating.
Another dimension of course that becomes more and more important as the game progresses, is a potential Roman intervention: if the likelihood of a conflict with the Sons of the Shewolf is high, you will need to be fully focused on resisting them and you should abstain from sending your best generals and troops away on things that maybe can be addressed later. Or maybe, rather than waste your strength against the Western barbarians, leaving your two real enemies take advantage behind your back, you should settle for a quick surrender to Rome that, for sure, is going to cost you some territories, but will allow you to immediately try to make up for them in other regions? Now, of course, this can only be tried once, as you would essentially have burned your joker…
As you can see, there are many dimensions that should be considered. This is actually one of my main design goals: keep the game mechanisms straightforward so that the players may focus on the depth of the game, not struggle to master the rulebook.
Grant: What is the play length for a typical game? Are there multiple scenarios?
Morgane: As always, play length is highly dependent on the experience and familiarity of the players with the game, and of playing styles. On average, a turn will last between 30 minutes for a “quiet” turn with no major war, to up to 60 or 75 minutes for a “busy” one with one or more major wars going on.
The game comes with 7 scenarios:
- the first two scenarios (an historical one and an alternative one where one major event which took place shortly before did not happen) begin on Turn 1 (220 BC) and can be played for a duration of three, six or eleven (full campaign) turns;
- the third scenario starts on Turn 4 (205 BC) and can be played over three, five or eight (to the end of the game) turns;
- the fourth scenario starts on Turn 9 (180 BC) and can be played on three turns, which is the end of the game;
(all of these first four scenarios can be played with 3 or 2 players (with Macedon as a nonplayer kingdom), or with any kingdom using the solitaire system)
- the fifth scenario is a short 1-turn, 2-players introductory scenario taking place during Turn 1 and pitting the Seleucids versus the Ptolemies in the Third Syrian War, which historically included the Battle of Raphia (217 BC);
- the sixth and seventh scenarios are short 1- or 2-turn solitaire introductory scenarios taking place during Turns 6 and/or 7 (195-186 BC) where the player is Seleucid King Antiochos III Megas (’the Great’) trying to complete his destiny by taking on Rome, or at least avoiding being humbled by them.
The short introductory scenarios can be played very quickly, under an hour. A typical 3-turns scenario with 3 players will last between two and three hours (less than that with less players), a 5- or 6-turns scenario maybe five hours. The full 11-turns campaign will take you either a very long full day, or a weekend to play through.
Grant: What are you most pleased about the design? What has been the experience of your playtesters?
Morgane: If a game has been a labor of love, that is the one for me: the very first prototype of Hubris, which was my very first full-blown game design prototype ever, dates back to the spring of 2013, nearly ten years ago! In the meantime, many things have happened in my life, and the game itself has undergone two major redesigns, partly because I grew up as a designer in that timespan, but also because I struggled to capture the essence of this ultra-rich period of history in a way that satisfied me, and in a playable format, notably regarding play length. More than once, I really thought that the choice of the title had been all too much of a premonition…
Today, the game has mechanically very little to do this very first prototype, but I am very happy with its narrative, with the focus it places on historical personae and their interactions, and on the representation of the alien existential threat that is the Roman Republic. The game has been played by many people around the world, both during the early playtesting sessions, various demos and structured beta tests under the supervision of Kevin, the developer. It appears to be a lot of fun to play, whether you are a grognard or a newcomer to the marvellous world of historical conflict simulations, whether you are very steeped in Hellenistic lore or new to this period. Along the way, it has garnered the beginnings of a strong following, with several of our playtesters having volunteered to contribute to the writing and proofing of the playbook material.
Overall, it has been quite an experience, and I must admit I am looking forward to being able to move on to new designs, but I dare think this has been a valuable effort that will be able, like Pendragon to some extent, to offer both a top-notch gaming experience and an in-depth introduction to this fascinating period of history, and hopefully provide players as much joy as I have had designing it…
Grant: What lessons did the design team learn through the design process?
Morgane: I am not going to presume here to talk in Kevin’s stead, though I suspect he may say he has gained a lot of experience in dealing with crazy, stubborn French women ;-), but for me this design has really been about my coming of age as a full-fledged designer: there is a lot of me of course in Pendragon, but the game is built on the wonderful foundations of the COIN engine, and I had the incredible chance of having the close support of Volko, one of the premier designers of all times in my opinion, for most of the way. Not so with Hubris: while the foundations of the original prototype were strongly derived from the classical CDG model, the game as it exists today, while of course drawing some concepts from various other games, is all mine, with Kevin helping with clarity but not with concepts.
I am very proud of this new Hubris engine which I believe is unlike anything that has been released before, and should be uniquely suited to model these conflicts and periods where individual personalities, qualities and failings, relationships, were the key drivers of history. In other words, most of pre-modern history at least… I am already thinking about using this engine for other games (see below) and other periods, and I am in touch with already one other designer who is working on a game using this engine, set six centuries after the events portrayed in Hubris.
I am a strong believer in the power of generic engines in portraying certain types of conflicts, and in spawning families of games that can reduce the thresholds to entry for gamers. One only has to look at Volko’s COIN Series and new Campaign & Levy Series, or, before that, at the classic CDG’s brought to us by the likes of Mark Hermann, Mark Simonitch and Ted Raicer! If the Hubris engine concept could find even a fraction of the success of these great precursors and bring us a number of new games exploring new fascinating subject matters, I would feel immensely proud.
Grant: What is your best estimate for the completion of the design and playtesting?
Morgane: At the time of writing (February 1st, 2023), development of the 3-players and 2-players rules is finished, and the solitaire rules are being finalized by Kevin and Joe Dewhurst of the GMT One team, with wider playtesting ongoing. Artwork for the event and leader cards, as well as card backs, by French artist Stéphane Guigueno is also complete. A first draft of the Extended Example of Play has been made and is under review. Work on the historical background, cards appendix and other playbook material is starting and should take 4 to 6 months to complete, hopefully less. Kevin and I are actually pushing to get allocation of GMT art department resources from Mark Simonitch, but I understand that GMT is already heavily backlogged and we may have to wait at least six months before we get the resources allocated to Hubris.
Grant: What other games are you mulling over or working on?
Morgane: This is the eternal question, isn’t it? 😉 The past two years have been very complicated time-wise for me with a new senior executive job, a lot of business travels, and a relocation to France. I have been the major reason the release of Hubris is being delayed, no doubt. At this point, I’m doing my best to focus my precious few gaming hours on finishing Hubris and playing some other games. Nonetheless, of course my restless mind has been thinking on a number of new game concepts 🙂
First, I wish to extend the Hubris engine in different ways: first, if the game is well received, I have an extension to the period 250-221 BC already largely developed, since I originally envisaged to cover the whole 250-165 BC period before I decided to focus on the last 55 years. The preceding thirty years include some spectacular developments, such as the aforementioned Laodicean War and War of the Brothers, but also the extraordinary ascension of Aratos of Sicyon, who singlehandedly turned the ancient, sleepy Achaian League into a signifiant power to be reckoned with in Greece, and the dramatic reign of Cleomenes IV of Sparta, certainly the last true great king of Sparta, and the steady but so efficient king Antigonos Doson of Macedon. Lots of fascinating material then, but also plenty of design challenges, in particular a scale issue in the Peloponnese…
Second, I have been dreaming for thirty years of designing my personal vision of what is probably my preferred period of history: the time of the Diadochoi, the Successors of Alexander (223- 179 BC). I did design a play-by-email highly multiplayer game on this period when I was in engineering school, but in my opinion the only descent game on this period today is the famous Successors by Mark Simonitch, which is very good, but still falling short of my dreams. As Hubris evolved though its various versions and eventually managed to offer a rich and solid model for individual leaders and their relationships, I realised that the new engine should be a great basis to implement my version of the Successors’ Wars. I have not done much proper design yet, but I have already mulled over the necessary differences: no Rome obviously, no kingdoms at least in the early years; on the other hand, the modelling of the fractious plethora of potential diadochoi and troublesome royals would be quite natural through the Leaders system; add a few mechanisms for legitimacy, founding new cities and settling veterans and mercenaries to build the future kingdoms, weddings, assassinations and executions… I am really excited and yearning to get started on what could be the second game in the Hubris Series, for which I even have a possible name: Spearwon.
Staying within potential applications of the Hubris engine, I have given some thought to use it for a game following Pendragon time-wise, portraying the coalescence and emergence of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic kingdoms in 6th and 7th century Britain. The period, perhaps to even a greater extent than the original Hubris, saw proto-states nearly exclusively relying on charismatic leaders, whose fortunes could climb as quickly as they could crash. I haven’t gotten much beyond that today, but I would really like to explore the applicability of the engine to another favourite period of mine, that of the great heroic gests of Y Gododdin, Penda of Mercia and Oswald of Northumbria…
Last but not least, there is a new project on which I have started doing research and drafting concepts: I am not today at total liberty of speaking about it today, but I have been approached by a good friend here in France, who is also active and known in the industry, to co-design a COIN game on a very famous period of French history that is also very well known in the wider world… We are currently working on a 3-player COIN concept with what I think is a fairly novel approach to the subject matter, introducing a few new wrinkles to the COIN Series, a bit like I did with Pendragon… I do not have nearly enough time at the moment to work as seriously on it as it would warrant, but having a motivated co-designer is a great nudge, and our target is to be able to present a first playable prototype within the scope of one of the French game conventions this coming summer, and to start communicating about it and, of course, see if GMT Games would be interested… 🙂
Thank you for all these questions, and sorry for how long it took me to answer all of them. There would certainly be much more to be said about Hubris, but I hope these new glimpses will prove of interest to you and your audience, and make them patient until the game finally goes into final production, hopefully later this year…
If you are interested in Hubris: Twilight of the Hellenistic World you can pre-order a copy on the P500 game page for $59.00 on the GMT Games website at the the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-891-hubris-twilight-of-the-hellenistic-world.aspx