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Subject: Another look at Revolt and Revolution.... rss

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John Welch
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Every game in the States of Siege series has taken the basic core mechanics and added new ones or created variants to those already in print. While this wasn't planned per se, it seems to be in the nature of designers to want to push the boundaries of existing game systems to see how much 'design weight' they can carry - so far, the States of Siege structure as been able to support all the experiments in scale, theme and mechanics. Please note that the images included with this are entirely my own playtest graphics (creating them helps me with my design work) and while I know showing playtest art can create negative impressions, I wanted to risk it to better illustrate this article. Those of you familiar with the work of GMT and VPG will know that the finished product will look amazing!

The new game in the Revolt and Revolution pack is Cruel Necessity. The title of the game comes from the purported response to the beheading of King Charles I by Oliver Cromwell who said that the execution of the King was a "Cruel Necessity". When I approached my design for a game on the English Civil War, there were existing elements I wanted to use. Series creator Darin Leviloff introduced a political track in his game on the Russian Revolution, Soviet Dawn (one of the three games included in Revolt and Revolution) and I borrowed that concept using three tracks to model the struggles between Republicanism, Monarchy and Despotism in Levee en Masse (the second game in the Revolt and Revolution pack). The English Civil War (or more accurately English Civil Wars) was a complex set of struggles that included not just Civil War in England but Ireland and Scotland as well. In order to capture some of this historical complexity, I expanded the political tracks to include religion and the diplomatic leanings of Ireland and Scotland - more on that element of the game in my next installment. While doing my research on the English Civil War, it hit me that any design on them must include some grand tactical element - my game just had to have the 'push-of-pikes' and charging cavalry.
 

The question was how to integrate a tactical game into one on grand strategy. My original design was completed in December of 2009 and the blending of game play on two scales was something I had explored in Keep Up the Fire! - a design I completed in October of 2009. At that point, I knew I wanted to include a tactical game-within-a-game as part of Cruel Necessity. As great games like Unhappy King Charles highlight, English Civil War battles were often indecisive and relied on levied troops of marginal quality. Once armies were assembled, keeping them in supply was a nightmare. The Royalists began with an early advantage as they had troops that were better trained and equipped - and in some cases, like Royalist cavalry commander Prince Rupert of the Rhine, even had battlefield experience. As the Civil Wars dragged on, Parliamentary leaders like Oliver Cromwell expended the time, resources and energy to train a more professional army - the New Model Army. Soon both Cavaliers and Roundheads could field elite units; however, this was never a guarantee of success. Although battles were often indecisive, there were the occasional 'deadly outcomes' when entire formations were decimated. With these considerations, it was time to create mechanics that would simulate them.
 

Only when a historical battle event card is drawn, can the player elect to fight a Grand Tactical Battle.
This models the difficulties keeping large armies in the field and adds to the decisions that will have to be made in the game - to risk the fight or not. When the choice is made to fight, the player then randomly draws Royalist cavalry units, then Parliamentary cavalry units and then draws Musket and Pike units to fill out the Royalist and Parliamentary lines in numerical sequence. This mechanic allows the game AI to assemble its army in a way that is a unpredictable and means no battle is ever the same as the previous one. The original Musket and Pike draw pile will include a number of Elite Royalist units - in game terms the Elite units are named and have a higher combat value than the average levy draw. As the game progresses however, the player will begin to receive through the event card draw deck Parliamentary Elite units beginning with the London Trained Bands.
Soon the player will have the Ironsides formations, the New Model Army and ultimately Cromwell himself to deploy on the Grand Tactical map. Beyond the higher combat values and the ability to deploy them as desired, Cromwell brings the special ability (if victorious in the initial cavalry clash) to use his cavalry strength and add it to the Musket and Pike units on his flank of the battle line. This nicely models Cromwell's historical ability to so discipline his troopers that they could be used in the 'push-of-pikes' and not just to charge into the enemy's baggage train. Grand Tactical Battles may also include tactic cards that can both help or hurt a player's plan for battle. Combat is resolved in sequence (the cavalry wings battle first and then the musket and pike squares) and Parliamentary units are moved into the 'Victory', 'Draw' or 'Defeat' boxes as appropriate. Whichever box contains the most units at the end of the battle determines the outcome. Named units that are defeated also risk 'deadly outcomes' and can be wounded (they will not be available for the next battle) or killed (they are removed from play). This means that although the game can play out historically, it is possible to lose units that historically survived the wars - in playtesting, I've seen a player that was winning the game lose both Cromwell and one of the Ironsides units as a result of 'deadly outcomes' - he was much less eager to engage in Grand Tactical Battles after that :-)

As you struggle to impose Puritan theology, legislate Parliamentarianism, support Scottish Covenanters, suppress the uprisings in Ireland, drive back the forces of Catholicism and destroy those allied with King Charles I - you can also lead your armies into battle and win the victories that will secure the future.

In the next installment, I will talk about the use of tracks to model religion, politics and diplomacy. Be sure to let me know if you have questions and thanks for reading.
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Todd Warnken
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Really looking forward to this. Do tactical battles add a lot of play time to the game?
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John Welch
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Thanks Todd - in answer to your question, no - the tactical battles don't add much time at all. One of the playtesters may chime in on this but once you get the feel for the draw sequence, it goes quite quickly - just long enough for a cheer with victory and a heavy sigh with defeat...especially with those 'deadly outcomes'
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Steve Carey
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The battles are indeed relatively quick. It's fun to see the named units get drawn, match-up, and fight (and sometimes KIA).

I've always advocated that battle resolution is one of the design's strengths, and still feel that way today.
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Chris Tham
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Very promising! I am eagerly looking forward to this.
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David Wickes
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I remember hiding in my university library on day behind a book of ECW Royalist banners, great big scholarly tome. I'll remember one of them to my dying day: giant skull and crossed bones, Latin motto: Unam Restat Bene Mori (one thing remains: a good death).

Strange days.
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John Welch
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I could see where that would be disturbing David. The more I study the ECW the more amazing it becomes - as the wars dragged on, the level of desperation and fanaticism grew. I could see why the banners you remember would have become common place in the shrinking Royalist strongholds. Those were strange days indeed....
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