Unfinished Games

A blog by BenthamFish, alias Alan Paull, sometime games designer, sometime games developer, sometime games player.

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Busman’s holiday on the number 1460 to Northampton

Alan Paull
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I decided to take a break from my Kingmaker playtesting on Discord and Tabletopia by playing a solo physical game. My choice, rather bizarrely perhaps, was Northampton 1460, Graham Evans’ excellent storytelling game of the battle of Northampton in the Wars of the Roses.

The game can be played solitaire or 2-player, and there are also 2 modes: you can play it using the historical timeline or freeform. The structure of Northampton 1460 is similar to W1815, in that the armies are not free to deploy where they like, they must occupy their historical deployment grounds and carry out more-or-less the actions that they did during the historical battle. The freeform version allows you to experiment with doing things in a different sequence from the historical one, whereas the historical timeline constrains you into the historical order, with variation only from your own particular dice rolls for your particular enactment of the battle.

Without further ado, I present:

THE BATTLE OF NORTHAMPTON 1460
(9TH NOVEMBER 2020)!


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Northampton 1460 game cover: note that this is a game in a book!

Set-up

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Game set-up


Here we see the full components of the game itself, though I note that I’ve managed to clip III, VI and XI on the Weather and Turn Track. I hope you can imagine Quarte, None and Compline to the right! The game book contains rules and historical background material in addition to pull-out pages to enable you to construct your copy. Of course, you might decide to scan the game pages so as to leave the book intact.

The armies are represented by 3 Battles each – Yorkists at the bottom, Lancastrians in their camp at the top. In addition, we have the small cavalry contingents – Scrope and Greriffin – on the left, and the Papal Legate and Archbishop of Canterbury on the right of the Yorkists by the Eleanor Cross (now re-furbished, go and see it if you have the opportunity!), Henry VI in his tent in the camp, and finally Margaret of Anjou, with her son Edward, Prince of Wales in the Delapre Abbey. The cavalry only have 1 hit each and generally carry out a bit of skirmishing prior to the main engagement. The Battles each have from 4 to eight hits, each hit represented by a square counter illustrated with an appropriate coat of arms. The Lancastrians start on 11 Morale, the Yorkists on 10. There is also a stack of weather cards, because rain was an important factor in neutralising the artillery, particularly the preponderance of the Lancastrians in this arm. Finally, each side has 8 cards that describe the actions that can be taken and their effects. I’m going to carry these out in the historical sequence, which is largely denoted by the circled number in the top right of each card, guided by instructions at the back of the rules.

Turns alternate between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, and the game lasts up to 9 rounds. You draw a weather card at the start of each Yorkist turn, the Yorkists going first, then the Lancastrians.

Cavalry Skirmish

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Bolton 1 Northampton 0


The first weather card today is sunny! Just what the Lancastrians need, because 2 or more suns in a row will dry out their guns and make them more effective.

In Prime (Round 1), the first action of the battle is for Lord Scrope’s cavalry to attack that of Greriffin in a preliminary skirmish. Scrope has a 4 in 6 chance of driving off the Lancastrian cavalry, which he duly does. Turning over Scrope’s card, we see that Scrope plays no further part in the battle, preferring to sack the town. Even before the battle is truly joined, it’s not a good day for the people of Northampton.

There is no effective Lancastrian response to this outrage. Henry VI is content to pray in his tent for victory and peace for all England; this prayer has an outside chance (1 or 6) of affecting the morale of either army, but has no effect for now. This ends the first round.

The Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes to try to stop the bloodshed
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Terce: Thomas Bourchier, the Archbish of Canterbury, attempts to negotiate.


Terce (Round 2) turns wet, so no benefit to the Lancastrian guns.

Warwick (the Kingmaker) leading the Yorkist army sends emissaries led by Thomas Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the King’s advisers to try to negotiate a settlement. Unsurprisingly, the negotiation fails. Henry continues ineffectually to pray for peace. The failure of the negotiation makes the Yorkist army despondent (they lose a point of Morale).

Excommunication!
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Quarte: Anathema!


Quarte (Round 3) is perchance of a damp persuasion.

For a different type of persuasion, there now occurs one of those ‘most weird’ happenstances – truly this happened in 1460! Present at this battle was Bishop Francesco Coppini, the Papal Legate, under some instructions from the Pope to support the Yorkists, though as a Legate he carried the Pope’s full authority. At this point, he excommunicated the entire Lancastrian Army! While it is unclear what effect this had at the time, or indeed whether excommunication was a tactical ranged weapon, in this game at least some Lancastrians are downcast at being cast out of the Church (they lose 1 Morale). In a kind of “how many battalions has the Pope?” response, the Lancastrian guns attempt to fire upon the Yorkists. The result is that God seems not to like artillery much, and the Lancastrians do no damage and lose 1 of their 3 guns.

At the end of this round, both sides have suffered 1 Morale loss, but the main Battles have not yet engaged.

Artillery duel?!
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Sext Guns


Sext (Round 4) is sunny again, but really too little too late for the gunnery.

Both sides try to get their guns to work, but it’s the literal damp squib! To add insult to lack of injury, the Lancastrians lose yet another gun. Maybe that excommunication is having physical aftereffects?!

Forward for Richard!
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Octe: naught to see here


At Octe, the sun is again not sunny; ’tis verily wet for 10th July.

The first Yorkist battle to attack is that led by William Neville – no, not THAT Neville, one of the other ones – Lord Fauconberg. It seems this part of the camp is too strong and coupled wtih Egremont’s counterattack, the Yorkists take considerable casualties and fear spreads among their solders (they lose 2 casualties and 1 Morale in total). Will it be the Lancastrians’ day after all?

A Warwick, A Warwick!
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Warwick 1 Buckingham 2


None sunne. But just 1 sun does no good.

Now Warwick leads his own Battle forward to battle. This kingmaking malarky is proving a tad tricky! Warwick’s troops are also stopped at the barricades and lose heavily, though their opponents also lose men and morale.

After None, Lancastrian morale is at 9, but the Yorkists are becoming increasingly desperate at only 7, as they’ve not made much impression on the Lancastrian position. If their morale drops to 5, they’ll have to take a test and risk their army collapsing.

The Future King!
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Decime: March marches.


Decime’s weather is also sunny, so the Lancastrians at last have 2 suns in a row. Unfortunately, it’s far too late for their artillery to have a significant effect now that battle is being joined all along the line.

Edward of March, the future Edward IV who never lost a battle, now shows his mettle. His determined attack wrecks Shrewsbury’s Battle, aided by the turncoat Grey of Ruthin, who lets Edward’s soldiers into the Lancastrian camp. Edward rolled a 6, unnecessarily high as there were positive modifiers because all the Yorkist Battles are engaged. However, a roll of a 1 or 2 would probably have been disastrous, as it would have repelled this Yorkist attack and hit their morale hard. The fortunes of war have favoured the Yorkists for now.

Grey’s treachery means the Yorkists are in the Lancastrian camp, which flips a lot of cards to their alternative side, and favours now a Yorkist victory. Buckingham’s men try to resist Edward’s assault into the camp, but they’re starting to lose the struggle.

The Lancastrians have to take a morale check, because they only have 5 Morale left. If the roll exceeds their current Morale, they have to ask for Quarter, in other words, try to surrender. They pass the test – for now.

Margaret calls it
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No Quarter at Vespers


Now they’re in the camp, it’s pretty much all over for the Lancastrians. Edward’s soldiers sweep through Buckingham’s ranks and capture the King. Seeing the writing on the wall, Margaret of Anjou, unable to reach her husband, sweeps up her son and flees. She escapes from the Abbey and manages to avoid capture in the Lancastrian rout that follows. The Lancastrians troops, seeing the King captured and with Margaret running, suffer a collapse in their morale (they lose their Morale check), and ask for Quarter. This is denied by the enraged Yorkists, who proceed to butcher anyone they can catch. In the rout that follows, Buckingham is captured and executed, while somewhat surprisingly Egremont survives and is merely imprisoned.

The Outcome of the 9th November 2020 battle

Graham helpfully provides a method for translating your version of the tactical battle result into a comparative scale of strategic victory, dependent on who survives, who was imprisoned and who got away. In this re-fighting of the battle, Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward got away, the Lancastrian army was routed, and were given no Quarter, while Henry was captured as was Egremont. The remaining Lancastrian commanders, Shrewsbury and Buckingham, were slain. No Yorkist commanders were killed. Totting up, this gives the Yorkists +9 points, which equates neatly to the historical outcome: “a major Yorkist victory. York/Warwick faction take control of the Government. No one ever considers using artillery forts again for the rest of the war.”

Many thanks to Graham Evans for designing such an excellent, fun and informative game, and to the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society for publishing it.

If you’d like a copy of the game, it is available either from the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society or from myself at alan@alanpaull.co.uk. All proceeds in both cases go to the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society.

The Society has also published a book by Mike Ingram on the battle, available from their website.

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Mon Nov 9, 2020 4:54 pm
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SSG@Spiel.digital - live stories

Alan Paull
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HUNTINGDON
Cambridgeshire
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22 to 25 October saw the SSG team at Spiel.digital, albeit from the comfort of our own home-offices / lounge / library / other (insert here).

Although Spiel.digital had its disadvantages, in that we couldn't actually meet actual people in actual person, we did achieve an impressive amount of live streaming. Impressive, bearing in mind that the only previous live streams we had run ourselves were a couple of toes-in-the-water at Virtually Expo.

Under the admirable chairmanship of actor, wordsmith, game reviewer and apocalypse-juggler Ben Maddox (see 5G4D), Tony, Charlie and I rummaged through the attic-spaces of SSG's history and back catalogue of games. This perambulation into the past took 4 sessions of live streaming, and it seemed, at the time at least, to provide an entertaining and informative account of SSG's first 20 years. It was also a celebration of Tony's massive contribution to SSG over the years, in the light of our decision to part company. Tony will now plough his own intrepid furrough, while Charlie and I continue to build on SSG's 20 year old foundations. To find out more about all of this, have a listen to the recordings of A History of Surprises.
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Sun Nov 1, 2020 8:02 pm
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SSG@Spiel.digital

Alan Paull
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HUNTINGDON
Cambridgeshire
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Surprised Stare Games will be at Spiel.digital!

To track us down, use the Search facility, or browse for our virtual stand in the "Expert" or "2-player" games themes.

We will have our new games The Ming Voyages and The March of Progress on display, including various how-to-play videos.

We will be running an exciting series of live streams during Spiel.digital:

Creating Differently
with Bez Shahriari and Alan Paull Thursday 1300 - 1400

A History of Surprises part 1
with Tony Boydell and Alan Paull, chaired by Ben Maddox (5G4D) Thursday 1500 - 1600

Remaking Kingmaker!
with Alan Paull, Mike Oliver and Peter Piggott Thursday 1900 - 2000

Ideas into Mechanisms
with Rob Harper and Alan Paull Friday 1100 – 1200

Greater Than The Sum of its Parts?!
with Brett Gilbert, Matthew Dunstan, Tony Boydell and Alan Paull Saturday 1100 - 1200

Ask Us Anything!
with Tony Boydell and Alan Paull Saturday 1230 – 1330

A History of Surprises part 2
with Tony Boydell and Alan Paull Saturday 1500 – 1600

What makes a good wargame?
with Alan Paull and Graeme Tate Sunday 1300 – 1400

A History of Surprises part 4
with Tony Boydell and Alan Paull Sunday 1500 - 1600
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:38 pm
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Bez and Friends Game Day

Alan Paull
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HUNTINGDON
Cambridgeshire
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Today at 10:00, I'll be at Bez and Friends Game Day. It's a kind of pre-Essen (Spiel.digital) get together: "A morning of chatter with designers, then playing games in the afternoon with those who helped make them a reality."

I'll be demoing The Ming Voyages, wot I co-designed with David J Mortimer.

Do drop in. We'll be at: https://www.twitch.tv/stuffbybez

With Emily (or Lewis) Shaw, and Chris Backe, and of course, the indomitable Bez herself!
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Sat Oct 17, 2020 9:34 am
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The real deal! A first look at the virtually actual games - The Ming Voyages and The March of Progress

Alan Paull
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HUNTINGDON
Cambridgeshire
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A few days ago, I received a copy of each of The Ming Voyages and The March of Progress in the post. Here are some pictures of both games - they do look gorgeous, even though I'm biased of course! These pictures are taken with an iPhone.

Box front
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Box bottom
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Board
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Wooden pieces
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Main deck cards
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Barbarian bot (solo) cards
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Rules
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Whole game
Board Game: The Ming Voyages


Box front
Board Game: The March of Progress


Box back
Board Game: The March of Progress


Cards
Board Game: The March of Progress


Board Game: The March of Progress


Rules
Board Game: The March of Progress


Wooden bits (though, the orange has come out a bit bright; it's not that bright!)
Board Game: The March of Progress


Starting set-up
Board Game: The March of Progress
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Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:23 pm
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Kingmaker: The Carisbrooke Anomaly

Alan Paull
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HUNTINGDON
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Many older games have little quirks and foibles that would nowadays be smoothed away in the interests of consistency and playability. Kingmaker has some of these. One of my jobs in the re-development of the game for the new version is to identify them and take my knife (and sandpaper) to them.

The Carisbrooke Anomaly: Carisbrooke is a royal castle in the centre of the Isle of Wight. It wasn’t particularly important in the Wars of the Roses, though its existence did discourage French raids. It was held by the Woodville family for Edward IV for a while. It is more famous for its royal occupant at the end of the English Civil War, when Charles I was imprisoned there.

In the original Kingmaker, Carisbrooke was represented by a Crown card with just its name (left), updated for the Avalon Hill/Gibsons version with some graphics (right):

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Within the Crown deck, the ownership of royal castles is generally indicated on an Office card, such as the Constable of Dover Castle (for Dover), or the Chancellor of England (for Caernarvon). Except for Carisbrooke. This royal castle, and only this one, has its own specific Crown card with no associated Office. In every respect, except for its picture and fortified location type, Carisbrooke is equivalent to a fortified Town, like, say Southampton. This has the unfortunate side-effect that this type of Crown card cannot be accurately called a “Town card”, because one of them is a castle. As an aside, there’s also Bristol with its own card, though it’s a City not a Town; nothing’s perfect.

I’m experimenting with a resolution of the Carisbrooke Anomaly by removing its current card and introducing a new Office: Warden of the Isle of Wight. This Office would have 50 troop strength and control of Carisbrooke Castle. In addition, it would have a ship, Le Maudeleyn of Newport (Isle of Wight) with a capacity of 150 men. The ship and troops represent the considerable efforts that the Crown took to contain piracy in the area, both locally and from across the Channel. Furthermore, to reinforce this anti-piracy role, the Warden of the Isle of Wight is called away by 2 Piracy Events on the South coast.

Here is the new card, not tested as yet:

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I’m hoping that this will make Carisbrooke Castle a little more relevant and interesting in the game.
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Tue May 5, 2020 7:30 pm
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Kingmaker re-developing: playtest version on Tabletopia

Alan Paull
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First cut of re-developing Kingmaker on Tabletopia:

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Sun Apr 12, 2020 2:34 pm
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Time Out at Waterloo: a W1815 session report

Alan Paull
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As a way of relaxing from game design, I decided to play my newly acquired W1815, using Jim McNaughton’s solo rules, 7th Coalition Bot for Solo Games. In this version, the solo player is Napoleon and all the allied turns are handled by the bot.

For the events in the game I’ll use this notation:
Action followed by dice roll with any mods followed by effects.

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The set-up

Napoleon (me!) believes there’s only a few thousand weak Anglo-allied troops in front of us, so we shall sweep them away with no trouble!

I decide on the conventional artillery bombardment to soften up the enemy line. It’s how the master started the battle, so who am I to argue? With no French infantry or cavalry attacking, Wellington’s lads will just have to take it – the allies actions are to put Prussians on the field.

Grand Battery 3 1AM
Blücher 3 1PD
Grand Battery 4 1AM
Blücher 1+1 1NE
Grand Battery 4 1AM
Blücher 3+1 1PD
Grand Battery 5 1AC
Blücher 3+2 1PD

It seems the ground has dried out pretty well, as the Grand Battery does better than average. Over 4 turns allied morale is down from 10 to 7, and Orange’s Corps has taken a loss. I guess Perponcher’s Dutch-Belgians took a bit of a pasting at Quatre Bras and couldn’t take any more. The Prussians have marched 3 divisions onto the battlefield over this time, so there is a threat to Plancenoit, but we should see off this ragtag army before they can interfere. Besides, Grouchy will surely be along shortly.

I figure it is now time to force Hill’s corps into square and then exploit Kellerman’s cuirassier counter-attack (+1 to the roll) when Hill inevitably re-deploys into line…

Kellerman 6 Ney

…but Ney has misinterpreted the order and launched all the cavalry! This is a tad premature even for le brave des braves! C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre.

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I didn’t mean ALL the cavalry!

Blücher 4+3 1FM 1PD

The Prussians are getting pesky, but I cannot react while the French cavalry are doing their stuff.

KL-NEY 4 1AM 1FC
Blücher 6+4 plancenoit captured

That fellow Blücher is a thorn in the side. Plancenoit has fallen, and still the cuirassier ride at the British squares.

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Plancenoit has fallen!

KL-NEY 4-1 1AM 1FM 1FC 1FM (Kellerman’s Corps gone)

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Kellerman’s cavalry corps lost

Blücher 5+4 1FC 1FM

Kellerman’s corps is used up and French morale is down to 6. The only plus is that our casualties are relatively low.

KL-NEY 4-2 1AM rally

Mon Dieu, the cavalry has rallied and there’s still some left! Also, the allied line looks shaken. Hill has to reform his line, but we have none of Kellerman’s cavalry to exploit. Time for d’Erlon to redeem himself from his abject failure to engage at Ligny!

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The cavalry rallies!

Hill forms line
D’Erlon 5 2AC 1FC

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A very rash cavalry charge!

Uxbridge 1 2AC 1FC
Rout test FR 1 BR 1 All OK

C’est bon! 1st Corps has delivered a splendid attack, and together with our artillery we have crushed the impetuous British Guard cavalry. Both armies look fragile, but as we go into the afternoon, the French have more esprit.

START OF AFTERNOON TURN

The major problem is the Prussians in Plancenoit. Should I deal with that threat first? I think not. It is time to risk all and trust my veteran Guards! I shall lead them myself! We’ll hit the Prince of Orange’s Corps, right where the artillery and d’Erlon’s attack fell earlier. It’s about 3 o’clock, and it could all be over by 4.

Napoleon: Guard v Orange 2 or 4; take the 4; 1AC 1AM 1FM

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Les Grognards!

Rout test BR 3+1=4 > allied morale 3 so FR win.

The Old Guard went through the left of Orange’s Corps like a knife through butter. Despite the enemy’s unexpected remaining numbers, their morale collapsed, and we are victorious. On to Brussels!

Pursuit: 41 for the French. 9 for the Allies.

What can we learn from this?

The model portrays the fine balance of the battle. Either side could have collapsed during the British cavalry charge. And the final rout test could have gone either way reflecting the actual and potential performance of the French Guard. I would have preferred a 2AC result there, because that would have portrayed more clearly a collapse of the Anglo-allied I Corps by removing its last division.

The broad plan of this play of the battle follows what I see as Napoleon’s tactics against an army whose size and quality he underestimated. Reille’s Corps was to pin the allied right and attempt to take Hougoumont. Meanwhile, the massed artillery were to demoralise the allied centre and then d’Erlon’s I Corps (best in size and quality except for the Guard) supported with cavalry would attack and rout the remainder, forcing them from the field and enabling a strong pursuit to Brussels and beyond. Lobau and the Guard stay in reserve for the unexpected.

When the Prussians start to appear, the plan cannot fundamentally change, because Napoleon needs a victory. Therefore, I threw in the Guard, but noticeably earlier than the historical battle, which worked for 3 reasons: (i) the French cavalry had caused more loss of allied morale than historically, and (ii) didn’t spend all the cavalry, and (iii) d’Erlon’s attack was much more effective than the real one.

The solo mode makes it easier than a human opponent. Wellington is not so flexible! No reserves were used. These are critical parts of the allied battle management.

I like the “Ney’s cavalry charge” mechanism. It means you cannot calculate everything, and reflects the command and communications problem of the real thing. Knowing the historical outcome, no player would choose to do it, but here you may have to.

The cards show the potential variability of outcome in specific tactical options. I think they can form a good starting point for discussions about the reality of tactical options and their results. For example, Uxbridge’s counter-attack automatically doubles the adverse effects on d’Erlon, but can vary between destruction of the British cavalry or destruction of the whole Grand Battery.

I think the game can help to address the question: did Napoleon underestimate the size of the Anglo-allied army? His deployment and plan give the French a very good chance of a major victory against a significantly smaller army, even with a Prussian threat. The plan, which includes a long wait for the ground to dry out, and quite a long time for the artillery to pound away, is very risky against a large army and a skilled opponent. Especially when it becomes clear early in the battle that Grouchy is in the wrong place.

Back to game design tomorrow!
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Tue Mar 31, 2020 8:46 pm
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The March of Progress: final artwork

Alan Paull
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HUNTINGDON
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Showing off Klemens Franz' artwork and layout!


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Rules and scenarios booklets

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Introductory scenario: hand of cards for Orange player

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Age of Marlborough scenario cards
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Mon Mar 30, 2020 12:11 pm
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Game development components!

Alan Paull
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Thu Mar 19, 2020 1:01 pm
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