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Subject: Design Notes Part 1: Introduction rss

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Scott Moore
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'This War Without an Enemy'
The English Civil War has been close to my heart for over three decades. As a teenager, I avidly read everything I could on the war, I wargamed the period with figures - painting up some Rupert's Bluecoats - and I even joined the English Civil War Society of reenacters as a pikeman (quite a dangerous pursuit for a very slightly-built 16 year old). Inevitably, after having reacqainted myself with the boardgaming hobby some 12 or 13 years ago, my thoughts turned to designing an English Civil War boardgame. There was little available on the market at the time and so I began to create a strategic hex-and-counter wargame for myself. It had not got beyond the early design stage when Charles Vasey's Unhappy King Charles was published. That game brought to life the English Civil War at a strategic level through the use of a card-driven and political control system based on Mark Herman's We the People and its various successors. My own attempts at a design seemed old-fashioned in comparison and, besides, UKC satisfied my gaming itch.

However, when I heard a few years ago that Columbia Games was considering the English Civil War as a topic for a potential future game, I began to think seriously again about designing a game. I was a fan of Columbia's block game system and, in particular, the card-driven block games that Jerry Taylor pioneered with Hammer of the Scots. I had also previously been in contact with Columbia and so I proposed to design a game on the ECW for them. Within a very short period of time, I had finished a first draft. The map was based on that of Jerry Taylor's Richard III and the principal game mechanics were very similar to those of that game and of Crusader Rex. And yet from the very beginning, I was keen to reflect the regional nature of the ECW in my game. Unhappy King Charles included a regional aspect to recruitment and also featured "local notables" but otherwise focused more on making it difficult for players to keep large armies in the field. As a keen student of the war, I knew that many of the soldiers were very attached to their "home region" and would only leave it with great reluctance - it often took a very well-regarded leader to convince them to do so. This led me to introduce the related concepts of leader blocks and regional blocks, which I'll discuss in more detail in another part of this series of design notes.

Early feedback from Columbia resulted in some changes to my initial design. I made an effort to make the battle mechanics more characteristic of the 17th century and I also designed some new rules for the besieging and storming of cities. As the years went by, and lacking further input from the would-be publisher, I slowly evolved This War Without an Enemy into the game it is today. I believe that it retains the strengths of the block war game system - including easy set up, relatively quick playing time, fog of war, and battles that are more interesting and more involving for players than simply rolling a die and looking up a table. But I also hope that it will provide a more distinctive experience than other, perhaps too simplified, block games - an experience that recreates the feel of mid-17th warfare and the key characteristics of the English Civil War.
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