Gloom of Kilforth: 2014 catch up, creativity and "1066, Tears To Many Mothers" gamers wanted!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 catch up, creativity and "1066, Tears To Many Mothers" gamers wanted!

EDIT - 1066 has now been added to the BGG database here:

For numerous horrible reasons 2013 was a difficult year for us.  I’m not going to dwell on it, and I’m determined to minimise its impact on 2014.  The end result is that after an unusually long drought, I’ve recently undergone a period of renewed creativity, the first in a long time.  The kind where ideas keep me awake at night so I have to pen them down and get them worked out as quickly as possible.

Truthfully I’d been banging my head against the wall on a follow up to Fantasy Quest, basically a similar game with similar mechanics, in a horror setting with more of a focus on story and interactive decision making than combat, magic and levelling up.  The players are characters lost in a dark village where ‘very bad things’ are happening.  As they discover secrets about themselves their characters use emotions as resources to play actions which help them investigate their personal stories.  When their fears grow and their contentedness recedes their actions become more extreme and the game becomes more dangerous.  What combat there is happens quickly and is often deadly for the players.  Depending on the players’ ability to stay on top of the situation the board can actually be flipped over as the village literally goes to hell.  I was tiptoeing around the HPL mythos but wanting to develop more of a Hellraiser/Silent Hill type feel in an unspecified era of time.  As the number of choices each player has in each encounter grew the game’s complexity started to widen, and I didn’t want to lose that sense of exploring and mystery.  But I hit a certain mechanical blockage and will have to return to the game another time.  I still think there’s plenty of mileage in the ideas and will revisit it someday, but basically it was becoming too elaborate for me to focus on at this time so it has been shelved for the time being.

Luckily, I’ve had many other ideas percolating over the years…

As a child I always loved the history behind the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and particularly the Battle of Hastings as a key event in that conquest, and I ended up studying medieval history at college.  That such an instrumental event in English history was decided over the course of one battle in one day, and the heroism of and myths about both sides in the conflict always captured my imagination.  When Edward the Confessor died in January of 1066 he was succeeded by King Harold II, but numerous other claimants decided the English throne was theirs instead.  King Harold was quickly betrayed by his scheming brother Earl Tostig, who convinced Harald Hardrada, leader of the Vikings to try to take the throne.  Hardrada soon invaded from Norway, landing in the north-east of England and successfully defeating the English forces in the north.

In response King Harold set a still-unbroken world record by marching his soldiers 200 miles north in just 4 days to meet the Vikings at Stamford Bridge.  The trek was so unprecedented that Harold took the Vikings by surprise and defeated them so decisively that he ended the Viking threat to Britain for good.  But meanwhile Duke William of Normandy had been making his own plans to invade from the south and had already set sail for the shores of our fair country.  Once Harold received news of William’s invasion he had to march his soldiers the 200 miles back down south to meet and battle the Normans too.

And this is where my latest game ‘1066, Tears to Many Mothers’ comes in!

For a long time the game’s incarnation had been as a miniatures/cubes battle game on a map, and progress on it had been pretty slow.  So much of the game had been card-based that as soon as I made the decision to abandon the board fully and make it solely a card game, everything clicked and the game finally came together.  Fundamentally inspired by game mechanics from the likes of Magic the Gathering and The Lord of the Rings LCG but without the collectible nature, 1066 is a two player, non-collectible, asymmetric, competitive card game in the style of Magic, The Call of Cthulhu LCG, Mark Chaplin’s Aliens and even the Uncharted Board Game, which puts players in charge of the Normans or the Saxons and recreates the historic Battle of Hastings.

With a focus on quick, tactical play and a thematic abstraction of the events of the time, there is no deck building required, each player simply grabs his deck and shuffles and play begins.  And whilst there is a focus on some of the legends and mythology of the time you are to be warned, this game may also contain historical information.  :P

After putting the final touches together, I sat down with Sam to road test it, and I was really delighted with the results.  The first few play-tests of Fantasy Quest had been abortive at best and the development process continued for a long time after.  It had been a little soul-destroying (if ultimately very constructive) to have my close friends and family rip Fantasy Quest apart inch by inch forcing me to rebuild it into a much sturdier shape.  But the mechanics of 1066 are so much simpler and directly interactive that we were able to make a couple of minor adjustments on the fly here and there, with a lot of lessons learnt from my other games.  So when we reached the knuckle biting finish of our first game I was buzzing, even if Sam did strike the final blow and win the game.  And then quickly follow it up with another victory by slaying my King Harold with some truly devious card play culminating with an Arrow to the Eye…

Although greatly abstracted, like the real battle the game is fought over three Wedges with players comparing the Might of their cards in each Wedge.  The winner each round inflicts damage on that Wedge equal to the difference, and each Wedge has 10 Health.  The first player to defeat two Wedges wins the game.  Sounds simple, but of course, the game is all in the card play and the varying card abilities.  Each Wedge has three Rows, so players can play up to 9 Units or Characters at a time, with up to 3 Tactics cards in a 4th ‘Reserves’ Row.

But before players can duke it out at Hastings each side has a series of Objectives they must first overcome, such as crossing the channel to invade England, or marching back down south from Stamford Bridge to meet the invading Normans.  These act as miniature battles in themselves with players inflicting damage on the Objectives to defeat them, whilst also bringing their forces into play for the final showdown where one player will determine the fate of Britain!

And now the beta version is ready for the wider world!  I’ve tried to pare the rules down into a single reference card, which might make sense to seasoned gamers with the decks in their hands, but will no doubt provoke many questions too.  Here it is for reference:

So if your interest is piqued and you’d like to play the game just let me know below or by PM and I’ll make the PDFs available to you.  Please note that as with my other designs, the graphics are all mine but the art is only placeholder stuff and not final of course.

Here are some teasers of the cards:

The Wax seal shows their cost to play in Resources.  You can discard cards for Resources on a 1 to 1 basis, and other cards in play can grant you extra resources.
The cross shows the Character's (or Unit's) Zeal.  Whoever has the most Zeal in a Wedge each round scores 1 extra bonus damage on that Wedge.  The swords represent Might, and the heart represents Health.

This is an ‘Alt Wars’ card game and if there is enough interest I will eventually follow it up with other famous battles, such as Agincourt.

There will be more info forthcoming about the game on this very blog here, so keep your eyes peeled.

FYI, the title quote comes from Eilmer of Malmesbury, writing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1066.  He had seen Halley’s Comet in its perihelian passage and by all accounts it blazed in the sky for days, causing much concern to the medieval inhabitants of Britain.  So much so that Eilmer claimed it foretold the end of his country as he knew it, and he was right:

"You've come, have you? You've come, you source of tears to many mothers, you evil. I hate you! It is long since I saw you; but as I see you now you are much more terrible, for I see you brandishing the downfall of my country. I hate you!"
- Eilmer of Malmesbury, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1066.

And finally, for those of you who have scrolled all the way down here, my next game is a coop and has you take a ‘present day to near future’ squad of elite soldiers up against a series of enemy bases and targets over the course of a military campaign.  You’ll be levelling up your squad, purchasing new gear, upgrades and skills, infiltrating lairs, hacking security, and taking out terrorists, rebels and their henchmen through the scope of a sniper rifle, down the barrel of a machine gun or with the blade of your knife as you choose your own specialist approach to tackling each objective.  Sort of Phantom Leader with commandos instead of aeroplanes…

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