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Here I Stand» Forums » General

Subject: Beginning of the HIS Designer's Notes - by Ed Beach rss

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Michael @mgouker
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This was posted in the discussion forum of Here I Stand on Consimworld. Just in case it doesn't make it into the game notes, I wanted everyone here to be able to read it. It's a cool story.

---- beginning of Ed's Post ---- (used by permission)

Our Friday night gaming group in college mostly played role-playing games. SPI’s Dragonquest, which I had helped playtest, was our mainstay. But occasionally one of us would propose a traditional wargame, especially if it was multiplayer. And so it was with reluctance that I approached my roommate Mike’s suggestion to play SPI’s A Mighty Fortress. I knew nothing about the Reformation, and Mike himself admitted that the pacing of the game was so poor that his high school gaming group referred to it as “A Mighty Tortoise”. Worse still, they had decided I needed to play the Hapsburg empire, a power splintered into a series of isolated holdings that were each threatened by several enemies.

Well we tried it anyway … and I was immediately hooked. The juggling act of playing Hapsburg was the supreme challenge. I loved being powerful enough to crush any one opponent, but only being able to face a solitary enemy if I had prearranged it with skillful diplomacy. The dual layers of military and religious conflict presented a puzzle unlike any other game I had seen. And best of all, it worked beautifully with our group of role players; there was a part for each of us. Mike, our Italian Catholic, was the perfect Pope. Tom, our connoisseur of Renaissance culture, played the part of Francis I. Tito, our relentless aggressor from a distant land, emerged naturally as the Ottoman. Rich played the part of Henry VIII; David was Luther; and I had to fend them all off as Charles.

And yet one problem remained, and it was a big one – the game just didn’t really work. Game length was a huge issue. We never came close to finishing a session (and I still haven’t played a single game of AMF from start to finish). Plus, a hex-based, zone-of-control system could not properly represent the period’s campaigning by isolated armies led by charismatic leaders. Furthermore, the religious and military struggles were almost entirely disjoint and didn’t include any of the colorful characters of the period. Here was perhaps my favorite game, one that I would suggest repeatedly to our gaming group, clearly falling far short of its ultimate potential. The others soured on it and we moved on.

Nonetheless, the thought of one day correcting these flaws become my idee fixe. But it had to be done right; I didn’t want to start on the project until I knew these issues could all be overcome. So I bode my time and just started to collect books on the period, attend our local Renaissance festival religiously, and watch the blossoming of card-driven games with great interest. A point-to-point system using cards to introduce the flavor of the period was clearly going to be a step in the right direction. Finally, I played Mark McLaughlin’s The Napoleonic Wars, a design that showed that a card-driven design could accommodate an assymetric multiplayer configuration. Twenty years after I had first played AMF, the time for posting my theses had arrived.
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