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richard sivel
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Design notes

Everything has two sides; but only if you conceive of something as having three sides can you really capture the subject. (Heimito von Doderer)

After the release of Friedrich, an obvious idea for a second game was the War of the Austrian Succession. Nothing could be easier, was my thinking back in 2004, since I could use the same core systems of movement, supply, and combat. The only changes needed would be for the different strategic situation.

While the basic character of the Seven Years War could be reduced to two facets -- one being Prussia's desperate struggle for survival and the other the wondrous death of the Tsarina -- the War of the Austrian Succession was a much more multi-faceted and convoluted affair. There was a lot of diplomacy, shifts of alliances, rapid movement of armies between distant theatres of operations, rapid changes in the overall strategic situation, and -- most importantly -- at different times different powers were on the strategic defensive. For instance, in 1743 the Austrians drove the French from Prague, back across Germany, and then beyond the Rhine in less than 12 months, only to be driven back to Prague in 1744 after a few weeks of force marching. A game not being able to portray these rapid changes of fortune, these dramatic ups and downs, would not capture its theme. I also wanted a shorter game than Friedrich -- despite the fact that the conflict lasted a year longer and that much more happened on the political and strategic front! I think what I wanted may have been the squaring of the circle. And, indeed, within a few weeks I realized that the "Nothing could be easier" was pure blindness. Before I could find the missing third side in the design, years had gone by.

The first problem was the map: How could I unite all these theatres of the war (Flanders, Italy, Bohemia, Silesia) on one map? Quickly I decided to cut Italy out of the game -- and with such a razor I got rid of the powers fighting there (Spain, Sardinia-Piedmont, Naples) and of all the design-problems they brought with them as well. The war in Italy didn't really start to roll until 1743 anyway, and so I thought this decision was acceptable.

The next problem came immediately afterwards: The first prototype map was a contiguous map of Europe. Due to the awkward spread of the countries, 60% of the map consisted of territories that were seldom entered by anybody. To make things even worse, these territories were in the centre of the map, and this was really horrible! You maneuvered with your pieces along the edges and wondered all the time: Why the heck is there such a vacuum in the centre? -- Thus I split the map in two parts, scaled them both differently and rotated them against each other (that's the reason why you can switch the maps only in the South), and voila! That played much better. --- Two additional comments: 1.) At the back of the board you will find a normal map of Europe with the two maps depicted in their normal position. 2.) Many Prussian exclaves, especially on the Flanders map, are not shown in order to simplify the game and avoid the exceptions that their inclusion would have entailed.

Initially I was aiming at 3 to 4 hours as maximum duration for the game. (Now it is 5 hours.) The question was: How to make the fast pace of strategic changes possible in this time frame? First, I shortened the time frame to 5 years (that is, the game should end with Prussia dropping out in 1745), and later, with a heavy heart, I cut it by one more year. Most importantly, however, it was necessary to speed up the rhythm of the game. For that, force marches and battle victories were introduced (the latter are catalysists for winning the game), and -- for the same reason -- everything belonging to the category of delaying tactics was thrown out of the system (for instance, in Maria a general does not have to stop moving when eliminating a supply train). Dealing initial hands of TCs is based on the same motivation. (By the way: These initial TCs simulate Prussia's great preparedness for the war.) In addition, the supply rules were toughened: Supply is checked now before you move your pieces, and you cannot conquer fortresses with a face-down general. These are real thumbscrews! Due to the introduction of force marches campaigns like the one in 1743/1744 are now possible in the game. But, you cannot abuse a force march to attack with lightning speed and you cannot eliminate supply trains by coming from out of nowhere. All in all, a force march corresponds to interior line movement, and -- as a side-effect -- fortresses now have an important blocking function. (By the way: Do not underestimate the 4 elector fortresses on the Flanders map, since they are an important flank protection for Bavaria!) --- With all these changes, Maria plays very differently than Friedrich. Play has a nervous quality, the situation can turn on even small events, and rarely are any mistakes forgiven.

I also wanted to integrate:
a) Hussars (which could have been named Pandurs, Grenzer, or Bohemian peasants as well). Hussars existed since the first prototype, but for a very long time they rarely appeared physically on the board. Many playtesters found fault with that, and they were right. With the current rules, hussars are now just perfect: Annoying plagues, which make a campaign in Austria very expensive. I am sure that players will soon love or hate the hussars -- depending on whether or not they are playing Austria!
b) Imperial election: A game about the War of the Austrian Succession, where Bavaria cannot steal the imperial crown from the Hapsburgs? Unthinkable!
c) Political shifts in the form of disloyal allies, the annexation of Silesia, negotiations, Saxony's defection, and Prussia's exit and re-entry into the war, etc. These all were big parts of the conflict, and needed to be possible in the game.

Initially intended as a 4 player game, maria quickly became a 3-player game, in which one player controlled Austria and the Pragmatic Army. However, there were some severe problems with that: a) The two powers played too much like a single power; they did not have the tension between them that they did historically. b) The Prussian player was not at all interested in the action on the Flanders map. c) Prussia would never make peace. Doing so meant that the player was reduced to watching the game for one hour. Even if it led to victory Prussia would not do it. -- If I remember correctly, it was Sven Grünwitzky who came up with the idea of the schizophrenic player after the first playtest. And this idea works perfect! It solves all the aforementioned problems at one sweep, and from a historical point of view it is even justifiable, since Prussia and Great Britain -- although nominally enemies -- were not at war, except in 1745, when they were pro-forma at war for a few months. And regarding Austria, both powers tried to push Maria Theresa to the same decision: Let Prussia walk away with Silesia, and fight France and only France.

Up to this point, 4 months of design had passed by, and the game was shaping up quite well. However, there was one basic question which I had not answered, and to find the answer to this basic question I needed 4 more years, and I found it only by a circuitous route. This basic question was: How does a power win the game?

As mentioned before, it should be possible that every power goes on the strategic defensive. Of course, a power should still be able to win the game while on defense. I had developed ten to fifteen different sets of victory conditions. I tested them all, and I had to reject them all. There were rules for war-fatigue, for aborting an offensive, for collapse, There were separate victory marker pools for both maps, victory points for provinces, linked requirements, and on and on. Either a set of victory conditions did not work at all, or it worked technically but resulted in a synthetic and soulless construct of rules, or it worked wonderfully in that it produced the desired actions, but also a game that was boring to death, or it had some other fatal defect. --- This process of testing and rejecting took many years, and was interrupted by times when I just stuffed Maria in a broom closet, as well as by other projects that just needed my time.

Sometimes it is amazing what happens to problems if you do not think about them. For Maria, it was the fermenting of a dim feeling that -- although the game rules were already quite complex -- it was simply lacking the third side. That is, it needed the political system in order to integrate Italy and the important role of Russia. For many months I shied away from doing this since I did not want to load the boat with even more rules. But, once I introduced the political system (into which I was able to integrate Saxony's defection, which previously had its own clumsy special case rules), I was stunned! Suddenly all problems with the victory conditions were gone! But why? Due to the simple reason that Prussia now has to play very differently than in the game without the political system. Of course, Prussia still can try to play without ever making peace with Austria. But, if Saxony defects, and Silesia is not Prussian home country, and the 2nd supply train is missing, and even the Old Dessauer is not available, then: Goodnight, my dear Brandenburg house of cards. Only now did Maria make the invasion of Silesia what it was for Prussia: A high-risk tightrope walk, which could have ended very differently. Another aspect of the political system is that negotiations are now very common, and even subsidy contracts are common in the game (before, they were almost never made), and the game now became much more exciting and unpredictable.

Although it was never planned, the rules for Maria are now very different from the rules for Friedrich. Unfortunately they are also more complex. Both facts are due to the very different character of the War of the Austrian Succession. What worked for Friedrich, did not work for Maria (and vice-versa). To help beginners learn the game, the introductory game was developed, which is a sort-of Friedrich-light with clear roles of attacker/defender. But it is the advanced game where maria really shines, with all its entanglements of politics, negotiations and strategic campaigns. I hope that players will agree with me, and that Maria will give them many hours of tense gaming full of Macchiavellian flavour.


Richard Sivél, Juli 2009

tranlated by Bowen Simmons
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Mark Christopher
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In the wonderful game, Bonaparte at Marengo, this is how to get nasty Frenchies out of a village.
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Thanks, Richard! I'm looking forward to playing Maria.
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Greg Low
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Richard,

It's very interesting to hear about some of the design challenges, and the thought that went into addressing each issue. I'm looking forward to the new challenge it will present.

Thanks for sharing and engaging with the community.

-Greg
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Ph’nglui mglw’nfah Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!
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Thank you Richard. Friedrich is one of my favorite designs, very much looking forward to trying out to the new baby.

(And thanks to Bowen too!
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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Herr Simmons kann ja Deutsch?! Keine Ahnung gehabt, klasse ...
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Rachel Simmons
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David Ells wrote:
Herr Simmons kann ja Deutsch?! Keine Ahnung gehabt, klasse ...


Not really. Richard is being generous in giving me the translator credit; he actually got it into English; my role was just to polish his translation.
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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Really looking forward to this one. A great three-player historical game is always welcome.
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Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
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Mr Sivel,

This is an immaculate insight into the workings of the game and I shall buy it as soon as it is available.

Now, next up, you must look at Malborough and the War of the Spanish Succession.
whistle

Jim
Est. 1949

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Patrick Jamet
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I do like Friedrich a lot, except that it's too long for my gaming group. Is Maria (the game) shorter or longer ? Thanks.
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richard sivel
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The introductory game can be played in about 90 minutes.

The advanced game is about the same time as friedrich. However, all 3 players are equally involved.
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richard sivel
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Quote:
This addition of forts and sieges to Maria is a good thing and something I will incorporate over to Friedrich once it comes out.


Be aware: What is working for Maria (and necessary for the game) is not working for Friedrich (in my opinion), and vice versa.
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Christian Moura
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I'm buying this as soon as it is available.

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