Hi Scott, congratulations on your first Kickstarter success. Can you tell us about the journey to this point?
Although, This War Without an Enemy is my first game it was my second Kickstarter campaign. I previously had minor involvement with Nuts! Publishing’s first Kickstarter ‘Saigon ’75’ helping with the English and I had also demoed the game at conventions.
I first started designing This War Without an Enemy in 2012. It began life as part of the Columbia Games Block Wargame series. I had some contact with Columbia while I was living in Hungary. When they expressed interest in releasing a game set during the English Civil War, I submitted a design. It was accepted and development began but, in the end, it was not released.
Around three years ago, I took the game to Nuts! Publishing. Florent Coupeau, the co-owner of Nuts!, was very keen to publish my game as he also has an interest in the historical period. However, he warned me that the English Civil War is not a popular wargame theme. Pre-orders opened via Nuts! website in 2018. Some 18 months later we had around 100 orders – well short of the 300 needed for publication.
The Kickstarter launched in late January with aim of generating enough backers to reach the publication goal. By the time the campaign ended in early February we had around 400 orders in total, which was a fantastic result.
Please tell us more about This War Without an Enemy.
This War Without an Enemy is a block wargame set during the English Civil War of 1642 – 1646.
It has many of the features of the genre. It’s card driven, meaning that players have a hand of cards from which they simultaneously choose one to play each turn. The cards contain details of the number of actions that can be taken and any in-game events that occur. Each player’s armies – made up of infantry, cavalry and artillery - are represented by wooden blocks. The combat factors and other unit details are hidden from the opposing player to create a ‘fog of war’ effect. The map is area based and some areas contain cities - capturing these cities gains the player points. The victor is the player who reaches 3 points at any time, or who has the most points at the end of the final turn.
Much of this will be familiar to anyone who has played block wargames, however, I wanted to add more. To do this I created a system of siege warfare and introduced a second map where the focus is on battles.
Can you describe the process of translating a historical period into a game? Do you start with the mechanics or the history?
For me, it’s the history. During secondary school I was introduced to the English Civil War by a friend. We began playing miniatures games set during the period. I read a lot on the topic throughout my teens. I was also involved with the English Civil War Society, which is a re-enactment group.
Around 15 years ago, I began tinkering with a design for an ‘old school’ strategic game on the topic. But then GMT Games published ‘Unhappy King Charles’ by Charles Vasey, which was everything I could have wanted in a strategic game on the English Civil war. So, I stopped designing my own.
Block games, however, are very different. They are shorter with typically 2-3 hours playtime. When Columbia announced that they were considering a block game on the period, I thought that there was sufficient difference for there to be room for two strategic games on the Civil War.
There are many ways to apply a historical theme to a game. It does depend on what type of game is being made. For example, 1066 Tears to Many Mothers by Tristan Hall is very rich in historical theme, yet it is a card game using a hand management mechanic. The process for that kind of game would be quite different to a wargame.
Wargames are typically - not always – for two players. There are a lot of existing mechanics, existing systems. There are variations between them to reflect different historical periods, but they do share many similarities.
While at Columbia Games I was designing using the criteria for their system – a certain number of blocks and cards, for example. It was a case of working within the system, picking the elements that best reflected the period I was interested in. Then I researched the armies - who was where in history – and created the map. Following that we began the playtesting process, which took around three years on and off.
When I moved to Nuts! there was less restriction on what I could include in the game and I began to explore other mechanics.
Wargames tend to focus on a single scale – operational, strategic or tactical. TWWE allows players to focus on both a large and small scale within the same game using two maps. How did this concept come about?
Initially the Battle Mat, as we call the smaller one, was not there.
Most block wargames deal with combat by initiating the battle on a large strategic map. The blocks are then removed from the board and lined up to the side. There is an order of battle, determining which units fire first, before resolving combat using dice. It’s quite an abstract concept.
I had the idea of setting the blocks on the battle map and playing the battle through but to do that there really needs to be many blocks. In my game there are perhaps six blocks per side. In the end the Battle Mat became a type of player aid to help with the abstracted combat process. It is not a board to move blocks around on.
Having said that players have very much enjoyed the using the Battle Mat and consider it a great addition to the game.
There is a system for siege warfare. What does this bring to This War Without an Enemy in addition to artillery, infantry and cavalry combat?
The English Civil War has many famous battles. However, these were often fought as a result of an army coming to the aid of a besieged city. For all the field battles that occurred the war was really about control of the cities. I felt it very import for this to be reflected in the game.
There are two ways to take control of a City in This War Without an Enemy: assault and siege.
Assault works like a field battle with the addition of rules that deal with the defenders having an advantage due to city walls. Siege, on the other hand, is about blockading the city until the defenders surrender.
The English Civil War was portrayed at the time as a ‘gentleman’s war’. It was in some ways less brutal than, say, the 30 Years War, which was happening around the same time. Enemies treated each other with a certain amount of respect.
An example of this is that a garrison surrendering a besieged city, due to a lack of food and supplies, would be allowed to leave. They surrendered their weapons and went to the nearest friendly town where they could rejoin their own forces. I put this in my game as it opens a range of tactical decisions for the players and adds a lot of tension as controlling cities is the key to victory.
The art in This War Without an Enemy is stunning. How important was the art to the Kickstarter campaign?
In the last ten years or so there has been a huge leap forward in both boardgame component quality and graphic design, particularly for Euro-style and Ameritrash games. Wargames have largely remained behind. Partly this a result of the cost implications in a niche market and there is also an element of customer expectation of a certain style.
But I feel, and it’s also Nuts! philosophy, that there is absolutely no reason why wargames cannot have great graphic design and good components. GMT’s COIN series are a great example of historical wargames with component quality that you would normally find in a Eurogame.
For This War Without an Enemy, Nuts! and I wanted great art. We had a couple of graphic designers who were experienced in the industry but who weren’t quite delivering what we had hoped for. Then we found Nicolas Roblin, who had been a graphic designer for many years but had never worked on a board game.
He surprised us with the amount of effort he put into the project, spending days researching illustrations from the 17th century. I would put a lot of the success of the Kickstarter down to his work, particularly on the box cover, which is very different to most wargames. The red cross, the figures coming out of the smoke…
What next? Will This War Without an Enemy see a retail release? Do you have other games in the pipeline?
Wargames tend to have a long shelf life. Our Kickstarter was a success, but we expect copies will be still be sold via retail routes for a few years. After we ship to our Kickstarter backers – around September 2020 – the game will be available via Nuts! website and we are working towards a full retail release shortly after that.
I have several other projects at various stages of development. The game I am currently focusing on is inspired by a book called ‘She-Wolves’ about three early female rulers of England. One of them was the Empress Matilda, who waged a civil war with King Stephen in the 12th Century. It was a war that did not have many battles, so the game concentrates on political elements and uses both a map and deckbuilding elements. It will be a historically themed game but not really a war game.
I’m also working on some other games in a co-development capacity for both Nuts! and Phalanx Games.
Finally, what advice can you offer to someone looking to enter the board game industry?
Be passionate. Play as many games as you can. Read about them, watch the videos. Then think about what you can offer the industry. Maybe your talent is in designing, maybe it’s marketing, maybe it’s admin.
Very few people make a full-time living out of board game design alone. However, it’s certainly possible to make a living in the industry through a mix of areas which can include design. You may need to ‘dip your toe in’ at first, perhaps volunteer in some capacity.
It’s a small industry but very friendly and there are many ways into it from the hobby.