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Peter Hawes
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In response to personal requests for information on this game, I will post some Designer's Notes.I guess it is a bit tough seeing a new game and not being able to get any info. on it and as we missed the print deadline for release at the upcoming BGG Con, it may not be published before the end of the year.These notes should shed some light on the background to its development,the style of the game and the game mechanics.

WARS OF THE ROSES: Lancaster vs York - Designer’s Notes

Background to the Game’s Development

About 2-3 years ago at the end of a gaming session, in which four of us had ripped through El Grande and Tigris Euphrates, we happened to spot Kingmaker, the classic Avalon Hill game from the 1970’s. All four of us had grown up with fond memories of this game, which at the time seemed so fantastic, but now with the discovery of so many great Euro-games, just collected dust on our game-shelves. After 30 minutes of self indulgent reminiscing, we had an idea. Could we come up with a game that captured the feel and chrome of Kingmaker and package it into a modern game system that would be playable in 2 hours?

We wanted to see nobles such as Mowbray, Plantagenet, Percy and Beaufort out on the field of battle again, marching through York, Bristol or London, on their way to immortality. Castles like Bamburgh, Kenilworth, Pontefract and Harlech were to rise up from the ground to attain their former glory, whilst ships such as Le Swan and Le Michael again took to the seas. We were keen to relive the intrigue and treachery of the times and witness “the Kingmaker” in action, helping to decide the outcome between the great Houses of Lancaster and York. The quest for a “new Kingmaker” was on and many long play-testing sessions were to follow.

Style of the Game

Rather than try to change a bunch of outdated mechanics, a decision was made to start afresh. The design brief we set required: the historically important Nobles from the time, the major Towns and Ports, the wealthy and politically influential Bishoprics, the strong Royal Castles, an economic engine for raising and maintaining armies, Mercenaries, bribery/ treachery and Parliament. Dice rolling and long drawn out battles and sieges were to be replaced by quick combat resolution, but with an emphasis on the “cat and mouse” nature and uncertainty of military campaigning at the time. Emphasis was put on bringing as many Noble families, Bishops and economically important areas as possible across to your Royal House and then keeping them there. The final product was to be a hybrid with simplistic Euro mechanics requiring intense decision making, combined with the economics and tactical considerations of a war-game. Mechanics would be area movement, area control, secret planning and simultaneous deployment. After 2 years of testing, the prototype was shown at the 2008 BGG con and was immediately picked up by Z-Man games (Zev Shlasinger coming from behind to win the first game in style!).

Game Overview

The game puts 2 Lancastrians up against 2 Yorkists, but each player as head of a noble family, is looking to gain as much wealth and prestige as possible and is therefore playing for himself. Only one player can win, so inevitably, treachery typical of the era will occur, even between members of the same House.

England and Wales have been divided into 6 regions that are amalgamations of the historical counties of the time. Generic names have been given to these: Northern (Scottish) Marches, Northern England, the Midlands, South East England, the West Country and Wales. Each area contains a Major Town, Town, Royal Castle, Bishopric, Port and Ship of that Port. Each area is also the starting area for 2 nobles- thus the game has 12 of the great noble families.

The game has 5 turns each lasting 10 years and starts in 1450. Each turn has 8 Phases (each player completes each phase before starting the next phase). Players draft 2-3 cards each turn which brings Towns, Ports, Nobles, Bishops, Castles, Ships or Mercenaries, over to their side. Several of these have income attached, which is then collected. A secret Planning Phase follows where each player plots his actions for the upcoming turn on his planning chart (behind his player screen). Money is allocated for a number of purposes: to raise armies to attack or defend specified locations; to contribute to the king’s coffers in an effort to ingratiate yourself to him and hopefully win the office of Captain of Calais; to bribe nobles to either stay loyal or to swap allegiance; and to bribe Ship Captains or Bishops to do the same. Mercenaries are also allocated to specific locations. Nobles and ships are moved to new locations.

The screens are removed simultaneously. Then in order, the moves plotted on the planning charts are enacted on the map (This must be the Diplomacy player in me, coming out- I designed Colonial Diplomacy for Avalon Hill in 1994). The Captain of Calais award is given to the player donating the most money to the King. Nobles and ships are relocated on the map. The Bribery phase then determines which nobles will stay loyal and which will change allegiance. Battles are resolved and possessions change hands accordingly. Each turn ends with a Parliament Phase: the 1st and 2nd most powerful players in each area (as determined by the Control points they get for their “possessions”/ nobles etc) will earn the area’s victory points (VPs). Then the 2 Lancastrians and the 2 Yorkists will add their control points together to determine which Royal House has the most strength in that area and they receive the area’s votes. The votes in Parliament are tallied (which represents how many of the towns and noble families are supporting each side) and the King is proclaimed from the winning Royal House. The two players loyal to that House each receive VPs from their grateful King. Finally each turn, VPs are awarded to players who have won various offices: Lord High Admiral of England, Warden of the Cinque Ports, Archbishop of Canterbury, Constable of the Tower of London and Captain of Calais. This sequence of play continues for 5 turns and the player with the most VPs at the end wins.

As in all economic and military games, as players get stronger and more financial, there can be a snowballing effect with the powerful getting more powerful, so two mechanics were introduced to limit this effect. In subsequent turns, the play order is the reverse of the order on the score track (last on score track will play first etc). This gives the last player first crack at the best cards available each turn. Historically, defeated nobles and royal heirs/ kings went into exile and looked to raise funds abroad (vis. Warwick, Edward IV and Henry VII). Once per game, losing players can raise money from the King of France or the Duke of Burgundy and hopefully fight their way back into the game. This got around the problem of 2 players being badly defeated in an early battle and sitting there for 2 hours getting further behind and regretting the experience, as so often happens in games with economic and/or military engines.

The final product is a game full of lots of tactical decisions over: which nobles, bishops and locations to draft over to your side; who to bribe and counter-bribe; where to attack and defend and with how many armies; French Aid and the need for Mercenaries. The historical flavour of Kingmaker has been maintained, games are tight and very competitive and most importantly each game is different due to the way the 54 card deck of locations and personalities unfolds (no starting setup, nor set order of play that can make some historical games very predictable). Game length varies from 90 mins for players that know the game to 120-140min for first plays.

Publishing Schedule
The play testing finished about 5 months ago and the artwork has just been finalized. An interesting dilemma over the name of the game arose when Jerry Taylor’s work on a Wars of the Roses game as well, was announced. Kingmaker was 1974 and now 2 games in one year on the same subject is rather uncanny! Jerry posted a BGG site for his game a long way before it was finished and named, so we decided to wait before we named our game. Thus, the name has gone from Wars of the Roses, to Lancaster Vs York and back to Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs York. The game is now ready to go and Z-Man Games will likely print it early in 2010.
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Asa Swain
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Thanks for the notes. I don't mean to nitpick, but if you added some line breaks inbetween your sections it would make your notes a lot easier to read.
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Brett Christensen
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Pat OwlOrbs on the head.
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Awesome! Thanks for sharing.
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Ron K
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'80' maxlength='250'> </td> </tr> <tr> <td width="15%" align="right"><b>Avatar OverText</b></td> <td width="85%"> <input type="text" name="overtext[avatar]" value="Train Game anyone?
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Having played the prototype a few times with a varying assortment of gamers, it did capture many of the flavors of Kingmaker while also much of the elegance of El Grande. I found the French Aid rule to be the most innovative and the serious bouts of treachery in the late game reminded me of Heads of State. All good fun.

There's a lot of bits in this game so I'm pleasantly surprised to find the price tag less than expected.

-Ron
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Thomas Homer
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Sounds awesome! Thanks for posting this, and making the game(!), Kingmaker was an old favourite of mine. This looks very promising!
 
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Mike Owens
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This looks terrific. I am flooded with Kingmaker nostalgia.

Honestly, though, how well will it play with 2 or 3?
 
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Peter Hawes
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We tested many games with 2,3 and 4 players. The only difference in the 4 player game is the contest for the 5 VPs for the house that gains the King each turn, which of course brings in the essential question of how loyal is your fellow Lancastrian or Yorkist and for how long do you trust him. The mechanics and strategical play is otherwise the same in all 3 games.

The 3 player game works well with 2 players constantly bringing the leader back to the field. The lead frequently changes and good tactical decisions usually win the day on turns 4 and 5. Treachery still abounds from the bribey rules, so nothing is lost by not having to worry about your ally stabbing you. You still have to worry about 2 opponents bribing, Percy Stanley or Warwick etc away from you!

The 2 player game is also the same mechanics and keeps the purists happy, because each player's fate is entirely in his own hands, without the interference from 3 other opponents.
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Mike Owens
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Thanks a lot for the reply! From reading the rulebook, it sure looks like the game is set up to help prevent the "runaway leader" problem. I have added this to my preorder list and am very excited to get a copy.
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Dave de Vil
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Nice to see you've been wise enough to use my heraldry data!

Haven't seen all the artwork, but men didn't wear beards in the 15th century.

I've been tinkering about with ideas for "Advanced Kingmaker" for years now, but this would be a longer game, so perhaps not very commercial. In fact in theory the game is infinite, with new dynasties rising and falling forever...

At the moment it's about 1/3rd Kingmaker, 1/3rd Warrior Knights, and 1/3rd my own dynastic rules, which drives the whole system.

 
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Peter Hawes
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Of course Dave, who else's opinion would we use if not an expert from England! Thanks again for your work with the heraldry, it was important to have it right.

So as not to infringe anyone's copyright, the graphic designer, Ben Nelson, "hand drew" all the heraldry himself. We were knocked back by the British Museum of Art when asking to use the portraits of the 4 kings used on the Royal House Tokens (they wanted 9,000 pounds I believe), so here again, our illustrator (Mike Jackson) painted up our own copies of these portraits.

As for the beards, that guy you saw was just a layabout from Calais. Glad our bishop is clean shaven,
 
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Mark Indiveri
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Ah I finally got around to reading your notes, Peter!

Sorry the long-winded letter! This pretty much answers our game group's questions!

Great game sire! Your vassals will be playing it might oft o'er many a fortnight!!
 
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