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Subject: My Thanks to Everyone! + Bonus Design Notes! rss

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Steven Cunliffe
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It has been a very exciting summer. It is hard to believe that The Hell of Stalingrad was just released at the end of June considering the reviews and the comments received it seems like some have been playing it for years!

I am very grateful for all the attention the game has garnered. I am thankful for the time people have taken out of their day to give consideration to a new style of game!

It is nice to read a balanced review like Matt Thrower's recent article. It is especially amazing since HoS is being given very favorable ratings compared to games which were made by companies with fifty times the financial, design, and marketing resources that were available to us!

My one regret in creating the hell of Stalingrad was that I did not put in a
page for Designers Notes. Many of the misconceptions people have about the game could be more easily cleared up if they better understood where I was coming from.

I love history and strategic studies but when it came to the design of the game my one main concern was making it fun. The game had to be simple to learn, dramatic, and constantly in doubt until the very last die roll! History had to inform the game design but not determine all of the design.

The Break Tests have been open to many misconceptions so here are my comments:

-----

The breaktest system is brutal and at times gut-wrenching but the key design element of it was to replicate the real life situations which happened in Stalingrad. If you were to look just at the numbers there is no logical way that 50 Soviet Guard could hold out against 20,000 German troops for two full weeks, but that is exactly what happened in the well documented battle for the Grain Silo. There is no explanation for the defiance of so very few against such overwhelming odds.

The Break Test takes into account many of the unseen elements of warfare which we often times take for granted. The truth of the matter is that at the end of the day you don't know what is going to happen. Set-piece battles on flat terrain are a known quantity which most wargames are very good at replicating. Yet fighting in a three dimensional battlefields containing snipers, murder-holes and booby traps, requires mechanics to account for combat situations where conventional warfare has devloved into a contest of hellish savagery.

The best a commander can do in Stalingrad is try to control as many of the factors of the battle as possible and hope for the best. Unfortunately, even the best was not always enough to win and the Break Tests are confirmed by the real life results.

-------

Thanks to everyone who has shelled out the few extra dollars to buy the game. If Clash of Arms were a major company we would send it oversees for printing which would have shaved a few dollars off the price. As it was we did everything in our power to keep costs down and quality high. Your patronage makes it possible for us to make more exciting games.

Clash of Arms has no real marketing platform and relies primarily on word of mouth to spread the knowledge of the game. The easiest way to help out would be to give the game a BGG rating. Every little bit helps and I encourage you to give us the rating you feel is fair.

I will be at the BGG Con in November and I can't wait to meet everyone there! I will be running demos of the game and giving sneak peaks of our next game the upcoming "Fires of Midway". If you have any comments or questions please email me and I will be happy to talk to you.

See everyone soon. We could not have done it without you!

- Steve

Steven@thehellofstalingrad.com








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Jeff Collins
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The Scene: Origins, 2009

We spent two days at Origins this year, demoing new games and buying the ones we liked. All throughout the first day and a 3/4 we kept passing by a booth with a nifty looking card game with evocative art, and a long-haired gentleman teaching the game to con-goers who all seemed to be having a blast.

Each time we passed, the demo table was full, and I was beginning to worry we wouldn't get a chance to try it out before our time was up for the con.

Finally, we passed by and the chairs were empty!

We sat down, me on one side, my girlfriend, Kelly, on the other, and the long-haired gentleman, Steve, said, "Welcome to Hell."

Right on, brother, right on.

We played through a few turns, with Steve running around the table and showing us what cards to play, and why, and my card draws were fantastic. So good, in fact, that Steve and Ed? (the publisher) even commented on how the mess I was making of my girlfriend's Soviet forces had never been seen before in play testing. It was just a slaughter. I must've had 15 units on the board to her one or two. Infernos everywhere.

We even got a bit of a history lesson, with Ed and Steve talking about how brutal the Battle of Stalingrad was, for both sides. Even how in the Grain Silo, a few men held off thousands of enemy soldiers for weeks.

Way too soon, the round ended and I was rolling 4 dice, to her 1. There was no way I was going to lose this. I had crushed her, she still liked the game, so it was a win-win all the way around.

We both roll...

Her: 6

Me: I don't recall, but no freakin' sixes, I can tell you that.

I looked over to Ed and said, "Yeah, so, ummm, what'ya getting for this game?"

We walked out of the con with our own copy and have played it over 20 times now. Game of the year for us, hands down. It has been the source of many an evil eye, and utters of, "Welcome to Hell" after a devastating play or die roll, and muttered curses across our game table since.

In reviews I've read, the break test system seems to get a bit of flak, for being too random, etc. We personally like it a lot. You are never out of the game, and even when you get great draws, or overrun a building completely, you just never know if it was enough. One game in particular, a couple of weeks ago, she had me down so far I thought there was no way I was going to come back to win. I did, tho. Last turn, last die roll and the comeback was complete. The look on her face was worth 10x what the game cost. So many times in our games, it comes down to the final roll, on the final turn, to determine the winner. For some folks, playing for 2.5 to 3 hours and having it all come down to a die roll is a bad thing. Not for us tho, we enjoy the ride and with so many games, well over half, coming down to one last building, one last die roll, shows a balance that I'm sure took a lot of effort to achieve.

Both sides play so differently, in spite of the same mechanics, that we have only switched sides once and we both were lost as to how to play the side we usually don't play.

Kudos to Steve and crew for this great game. We can't wait for the Midway game.

I can already see little airplane chits flying around from carrier to carrier and her giving me the stink eye when another one of her planes gets blown to bits.









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David Hughes
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:


I love history and strategic studies but when it came to the design of the game my one main concern was making it fun. The game had to be simple to learn, dramatic, and constantly in doubt until the very last die roll! History had to inform the game design but not determine all of the design.

The breaktest system is brutal and at times gut-wrenching but the key design element of it was to replicate the real life situations which happened in Stalingrad. If you were to look just at the numbers there is no logical way that 50 Soviet Guard could hold out against 20,000 German troops for two full weeks, but that is exactly what happened in the well documented battle for the Grain Silo. There is no explanation for the defiance of so very few against such overwhelming odds.


I really don't get this. It looks to me that you want to have your cake and eat it too.

On the one hand, you deflect criticism of THoS's (unarguable) lack of history by saying, "it's only a game," and that your main object was to make the game fun. On the other hand, when players say they feel the randomness of the breaktest mechanism spoils the game, you say, well suck it up, that's the way it was in reality.

Lastly, you seem to think that people who criticise the game do so because they don't understand where you were coming from. I'm sure that's comforting, but it does not seem to me to be the case. Most of the criticism seems to be saying that the game is neither flesh nor fowl - insufficiently informed by history, too random (and too long) to be a great game.

Not everyone thinks that, and those who do may be missing the point. But they have a valid point of view, and I'd like to see you respond to what they say, rather than continually repeat the "50 vs 20,000" mantra.

By the way, there IS an explanation for the defiance of so very few. However, you need to go beyond the myth to find it. Read Michael Jones' book as a start. Sadly, very few of THoS's historic assumptions survive contact with the reality, at least as described by Jones.
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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My Dear David,

People will be critical and have opinions for any one of a hundred of reasons. I have just found that some people just like to pick fights over minutia just for the fun of it, eh David

So don't take it personally if I don't get into it with you this time ok.

Steve
 
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
I will be at the BGG Con in November

Hey, all right! If you have a space in the vendor area, I will definitely stop by and say hi.

Four of us are planning to play this Friday morning; I'm really looking forward to trying this out. Wargamers may be in the minority at BGG.CON, but we're easy to spot--just look for the people having the most fun, ha ha ha.
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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Having fun is what the Hell of Stalingrad is all about! I would much rather players get through a game for the first time having fun than spending time looking up every little rule they don't understand.

While wargamers may be a minority we have the advantage of Strategic Vision, if we play our cards right there is no reason fun wargames can't outnumber boardgames within a couple of years!

A world in which wargamers outfun and outplay all other gamers is a world worth fighting for!

- Steve

At the con I will be running demos at the "Thought Hammer" booth at the BGG con!
 
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Jens Kaufmann
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When will "The Fires of Midway" be available? Before Christmas??? meeple
 
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Rob Bottos
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Steve, played the game for the first time the other night and quite liked it. I'm just curious how this system will translate to Midway? I would have thought Berlin or Arnhem might have been the next logical place to take this system? I think Berlin would be a great setting for this game and your system with the break tests would totally offset any numerical superiority that the Soviets have. Instead of getting to the Volga, in the cse of Berlin the Soviet player would have to capture certain key buildings/districts: Reichstag, Tiergarten, Brandenburg Gate, Tempelhof, etc.
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Andrzej Fiett
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BobRoberts wrote:
I'm just curious how this system will translate to Midway?

Maybe formations will become carriers, units become squadrons and buildings become water areas?
 
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Rob Bottos
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So, endless cards of ocean blue. How very entertaining

Andy44 wrote:
BobRoberts wrote:
I'm just curious how this system will translate to Midway?

Maybe formations will become carriers, units become squadrons and buildings become water areas?
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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Trust me when I say that as much fun as it is to light buildings on fire, seeing carriers burn and blow apart from internal explosions is infinitely more rewarding!!!

The very fact that many people think the system can only be applied to urban and set pieve battles is the very reason an asymetric battle like Midway should be next. I would hate to be pigeon-holed and restricted in game development to only one style of warfare when the system itself has limitless applications.

Midway is an entierly new format of game one that makes carrier warfare upclose and personal.

And you just go right along thinking Midway is going to involve oceans of Blue cards and boring turns. Fierce and bloody dogfights followed by burning carriers is closer to the mark...

I was raised on Midway movies and this battle is my absolute favorite.

Steve


 
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Rob Bottos
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Steve, I never thought Midway was going to be boring. It's just that I like my boardgames like I like my women, visually appealing. As it turns out, Blue is my favourite colour.
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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I think Blue is a very nice color, my favorite as well, however, as it turns out I the only thing better than a blue playing card is a blue card with a burning carrier in the middle of it!

All 16 Carriers of 1942 Carrier battles will be represented for the campaign scenarios on large building sized cards. There will also be a special appearance by the USS Nimitz. The Nimitz will has been included for the Solitaire Scenario to answer the one question on everyone mind: What if a single nuclear powered carrier armed with F-14 Tomcats and Phalanx AA Guns took on the entire Japanese Midway invasion?

Well, now you will experience the joy of dogfighting in jets and dropping laser guided bombs onto the deck of the Akagi and watching it get blown to splinters. I swear I have never had so much fun playing a solitaire scenario before!

Steve
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Andrzej Fiett
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
Well, now you will experience the joy of dogfighting in jets and dropping laser guided bombs onto the deck of the Akagi and watching it get blown to splinters. I swear I have never had so much fun playing a solitaire scenario before!

I remember this feeling while playing the what-if Pearl Harbor scenario ("Final Countdown") of Carriers at War computer game.
 
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Rob Bottos
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Does the Midway game assume the Americans suprise the Japanese Navy? Does the game factor in each fleet searching for the other?
Rob

Stalingrad Steve wrote:
I think Blue is a very nice color, my favorite as well, however, as it turns out I the only thing better than a blue playing card is a blue card with a burning carrier in the middle of it!

All 16 Carriers of 1942 Carrier battles will be represented for the campaign scenarios on large building sized cards. There will also be a special appearance by the USS Nimitz. The Nimitz will has been included for the Solitaire Scenario to answer the one question on everyone mind: What if a single nuclear powered carrier armed with F-14 Tomcats and Phalanx AA Guns took on the entire Japanese Midway invasion?

Well, now you will experience the joy of dogfighting in jets and dropping laser guided bombs onto the deck of the Akagi and watching it get blown to splinters. I swear I have never had so much fun playing a solitaire scenario before!

Steve
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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Do you want me to give away all the secrets of the game?

Well lets just say that every game starts with a Search phase in which being the first player to locate your enemies fleet will give you the Edge going into the battle phase. But the search aspect is a critical component of carrier warfare and is included for every '42 Carrier Battle not just Midway. The battles of Coral Sea, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz are also represented.

For planes we all of the Usual Suspects of Wildcats, Devastators, the Dauntless, Zeroes, Vals and Kates. We also include the unusual assortment of planes of the Midway Garrison, Vindicators, Marauders, Buffaloes and Avengers and just for good measure we also have in the game the first Japanese monoplane, The Claude which was carried aboard the Escort Light Carriers Zuiho and Shoho.

Steve
 
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Andrzej Fiett
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
Do you want me to give away all the secrets of the game?

Of course!

Quote:
The Claude which was carried aboard the Escort Light Carriers Zuiho and Shoho.

Two remarks:
1. Zuiho and Shoho were light carriers, but not escort.
2. I think only Shoho had A5M on the board after Pearl Harbor (two of them still fought during the Battle of the Coral Sea). Zuiho had 16 A6M Zeros already during the Battle of Midway.

But maybe this is the better place for discussion about The Fires of Midway: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/57073
 
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David Hughes
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Andy44 wrote:

Two remarks:
1. Zuiho and Shoho were light carriers, but not escort.
2. I think only Shoho had A5M on the board after Pearl Harbor (two of them still fought during the Battle of the Coral Sea). Zuiho had 16 A6M Zeros already during the Battle of Midway.


Careful Andy, you know what Steve thinks about historical accuracy...

Stalingrad Steve wrote:
I have just found that some people just like to pick fights over minutia just for the fun of it

Steve
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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Technically in 1942 any carrier not capable of maintaining at least 60 aircraft was deemed a light carrier by the Japanese Imperial Naval Registry. The Japanese did not come up with a actual official designation for an Escort Carrier until 1943 when carriers with compliments of planes under 30 were reclassified as Escort Carriers.

And thank you David as you are correct about my feelings about historical accuracy. History should inform the game but not dictate its mechanics. The first five versions of Midway were very accurate historical simulations, unfortunately they made terrible games. One player would find the opponents fleet destroy all his carriers and leave his opponent with nothing for the rest of the game. I had to change many parts of Fires of Midway to make it more fun for both players.

Now is also a good time to point out that The Fires of Midway is a Eurogame NOT a simulation. Many of the numbers including airplanes have been generalized and rounded to create a more balanced game. I kept the ratios of planes honest to the actual carrier compliment if not the exact numbers.

I know, I am crappy simulation designer because I want all the games to be fun! Hopefully some people will find the games crafted by me to be entertaining and a good way to spend a few hours and that is all I can ask for!

Steve
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Andrzej Fiett
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Steven, can we expect solitaire variants in The Fires of Midway?
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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Of course there will be solitaire games.

The boxed game will come with a Solitaire Scenario pitting the USS Nimitz against the entire Japanese Carrier Fleet but in addition I will also be posting a Marianas Turkey Shoot Solitaire Game to BGG as well as several expansion solitaire games to the site once it is published.

Steve
 
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Andrzej Fiett
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
Of course there will be solitaire games.

Good news!
Quote:
I will also be posting a Marianas Turkey Shoot Solitaire Game to BGG

Well, this is 1944. From where we'll get new carriers and new types of aircraft?
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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The Marianas Turkey Shoot Solitaire Game will use different mechanics than the regular game and will focus just on the waves of Japanese planes attempting to reach the American Carriers and the Veteran American Pilots who are trying to stop them.

Steve
 
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Barry Kendall
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Steve, congratulations on the success (and beautiful production quality) of THoS!

I was one of the walk-bys last year at "Fall In" flagged down by Ed to give it a try (the "most horrific depiction of urban combat I've ever seen in a game" guy).

Thanks to the economy and the hawklike gaze of the Mistress of the Exchequer I don't own it (whispers: "yet") but am hoarding dollars and change with an eye to Midway.

Any chance you'll be at "Fall In" to run Midway demos?

And . . . am I remembering correctly that Ed said something about a "Battle for Berlin" volume in the future?

I'm also wondering if the situation would translate adequately to the U.S. defense of Wake Island, a very under-represented action in the wargaming world.

Enjoy your success; you deserve it.
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marcus jones
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Steve

My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed THoS. The brutality of the mechanics captures the feel of the battle superbly as do the excellent photos of soldiers and buildings, right down to the card icons. The break die mechanic is really innovative. The game is incredibly finely balanced and we have found that the the two sides win about equally. Sometimes when I read the more critical posts, I wonder if others have been playing the same game as me. THoS was well worth the price and I am looking forward to Midway. Very many thanks for some really fun weekends.Keep up the good work.
 
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