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Subject: Staff Briefing #9 -- Optional Cards, use with caution rss

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Tim Taylor
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Thanks to Christophe, the Optional Cards mentioned in rule 17.17 are available, or soon will be. I have uploaded the Optional Cards and when the admins have given the file their OK will post the link below.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/45750

Now, having said that, I would like to convince you to use these cards sparingly, if at all. The deck has been refined over the years and adding in all of the optional cards will alter the balance between Offensive cards and the rest of the deck. These cards are meant to be used in small numbers to provide a different flavor to play after you have grown comfortable with the game system.

I almost did not include these cards in the TTLM! free web release, but did so for completeness' sake.

Allow me to explain the idea behind these cards. At one point, the previous unpublisher was planning to put out At All Costs! -- the Great War in the East the year after releasing TTLM! in order to get a series going (like ASL or Arkham Horror). The German Military Crisis! card would have to be removed if AAC! were in play since what happens in that eastern front game would determine whether the German player needed to send forces to the east. A card dictating the German player's action would not be appropriate in this case.

So, knowing that a replacement card would be needed, I devised both the New Biplane Design and another card called Superlative General to fill the gap. After some playtesting, it was clear that the General card was too powerful, so I went with Biplanes. This card would have been included in AAC! as a replacement for the German Military Crisis! card in TTLM!. Since only TTLM! exists, there is no need for this substitution. You still with me?

Christophe himself had this to say about the other cards, "I don't think I would use these cards myself. First, it's more a kind of 'deus ex machina' event. But it also dilutes the probability to get Offensive cards, the ones that fuel the game engine... Just my perception..."

And you know what? He's right.

All the other cards are indeed 'deus ex machina' type cards. They were to have been included in AAC!, to be added to either west or east deck as the players desired. The Fortunes of War! card is in essence a method of producing "Tannenbergs," if you see what I mean, and was to have been a German east front card. There were several occasions in the west in 1914 when this card could have been operative and so I decided to include it in TTLM!. The British advance between two German armies at the Marne comes readily to mind. However, after 1914 it's sort of a "dummy" card unless the front lines once again become fluid. As such, it's an awfully special-purpose card that will only get used in a small percentage of games as anything other than an Ersatz 1.

The three Political Crisis cards are the west front component to a larger mechanism in AAC!. There would also have been Russian Political Crisis, Romanian Political Crisis, Austro-Hungarian Political Crisis, and so on. These 'deus ex machina' cards are all methods to speed the end of the game without actually just stopping it with an artificial time limit.

Interesting Note: Originally, the game ended in 1918 when a player drew The Spanish Lady card. This refers to the 1918 influenza pandemic that many authorities claim was the real reason WW1 ended so abruptly in Autumn 1918. Anyway, I just never liked the "gamey" qualities such an artificial ending provided. Thus I opted for a bunch of Political Crisis cards to "kick the players when they're down" and thus end the game indirectly rather than directly.

And, of course, Christophe is right about these five extra cards altering the Offensive to non-Offensive card ratio. I would recommend never using more than three of these cards in any one game. Actually, the fewer the better.

I stuck these optional cards into TTLM! rather than place them with the AAC! deck as originally intended simply because, well, I would be surprised if AAC! is ever published. I mean, it's difficult to justify working hard on a "hobby" while struggling with food and shelter issues. In other words, we would have to be a lot more financially secure for me to be able to devote the time needed to get AAC! ready for free download. So I think the possibility that AAC! will be web-published any time soon is quite slim. Sorry.

So now you know why I did not include these cards in the original TTLM! deck release, as well as why they are mentioned in the rules. They are truly optional cards that are part of a larger whole and, as Christophe says, serve merely to dilute the Offensive punch of the deck.

Use with caution.

TT

7 August 2009


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Tim Taylor
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In answering another gentleman's questions about using these optional cards I wrote the following. You might be interested in my reasons for not using these optional cards:

Over the last 20 years that I've been working on TTLM! not only has the game changed, but I have changed as well. I think I'm a better designer than just a few years ago.

The optional cards are a legacy aspect of the earlier aborted Compass attempt. At the time, I thought it was a pretty cool idea to include political crises into the card deck. I now think this is a really bad idea. Here's why:

Each card represents a fraction of the total industrial and manpower output of a nation over a three month period. Each card = 1 Build Point.

The foundation of TTLM! and indeed it's very heart is this concept: 1 card = 1 unit = 1 hit = 1 BP.

So, when you would play that German Political Crisis card, what does that 1 BP spent by playing the card actually represent?

Fudge. Sheer fudge.

Those three political crisis cards don't make sense as cards or card play. How could an Entente expenditure of military force affect trade union leaders organizing worker's councils in Kiel? Simple answer: it can't.

So please do not use any of the three political crisis cards -- they represent the work of a hack designer!

Currently, I do not think political crises need to be modelled in the late-war game. Both sides have troubles aplenty as it is!

If, however, I ever did decide to include political calamities in TTLM! I would use the same methods as I'll use in At All Costs! -- rolling dice on political tables, modified by on-board conditions. No BPs involved.

The Fortunes of War! card, on the other hand, was my ham-fisted attempt to force a Tannenberg in AAC! I'm actually somewhat embarassed about even mentioning this card because it so obviously is pounding a square peg into a round hole. Super fudge. Please don't use it!

Finaly, the New Biplane Design card, although an acceptable add-on, is severely underpowered compared to other enhancers like Poison Gas. Generally speaking, you'll only get the benefit shooting down enemy Biplanes and any extra hits inflicted will not apply to the rest of the enemy army (Dogfighters only target other Biplanes). It's just a weak card.
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