Are you surprised to see a new newsletter so soon after the last one? Well, there is a perfectly good reason for that! October has almost always been a special time of year in our PHALANX calendar. And it’s all because of the Internationale Spieltage SPIEL in Essen (Germany), the world’s largest and most impressive board game fair. The 2020 edition was canceled following the outbreak of the pandemic, but this year the COVID-19 virus isn’t going to stop us – protected by vaccines and facemasks – from going to Essen and showing you our games.
And while this newsletter will cover more details about our presence at SPIEL’21, and we do hope to see some of you there, not everything in October revolves around it. You’ll get to read about the games we’re going to publish, but even more about those we’ve already published, such as Nanty Narking or the underrated yet brilliant Europe Divided. This newsletter features an interview with David Thompson, the co-designer of Europe Divided. He’ll share with you some of his pro tips about how to play the game, and much more. And as always, you’ll see the updated Status of Our Games, news about our games, and a link to the newest quiz.
Your newsletter host,
PHALANX at Essen SPIEL’21
We’ll be at Internationale Spieltage SPIEL throughout the whole event, from Thursday, October 14th, 10 a.m. to Sunday, October 17th, 6 p.m. You’ll find us almost in the middle of Hall 2, at booth C126. Here’s a neat little map that’ll help you find us:
This year we’ll be demoing three games: Nanty Narking, Rocketmen, and… well, I can’t tell you just yet 😉 But expect a highly thematic and immersive game dealing with one of the most important wars in modern history. Can you guess which one? At any rate, you can come up to the booth and see the game for yourselves – I’ll be there, too, to demo that game all through the four days of Essen SPIEL‘21.
One important bit – if you plan to buy a game or two at our booth, don’t forget to take some cash with you. Our booth at Essen SPIEL’21 will be “cash only”.
Essen SPIEL’21 – help needed!
We are looking for someone based in Germany to help us demo our games (Nanty Narking and/or Rocketmen) at Essen, 14-17th October. Ideally, that person should be able to speak both German and English, but any one of those will do just fine. You will be paid in cash and/or games, and we may be able to help with some of your expenses. If you’re interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll get all the details.
German edition of Tinners’ Trail available for pre-order
You can now visit our pre-order page to secure a copy of the German edition of Tinners’ Trail, Martin Wallace’s completely refurbished and upgraded classic for 1-5 players.
Set in 19th century Cornwall, the game puts you at the head of a mining conglomerate. You must buy land, build mines, and wisely invest your money all the time trying to outwit your competitors. The German (and Polish) edition of the game will be released in November 2021.
Explore Raison d’Etat and Realpolitik
The Late Pledge for Coalitions is still open and two of the best things that came out of the Kickstarter campaign (aside from the game itself, of course!) are now available for pre-order: Raison d’Etat and Realpolitik, standalone expansions dealing with entirely different historical eras. If you’re just interested in one of them – or both – but you’re not too much into the age of Napoleon, then the Late Pledge is a great opportunity to pre-order them since you don’t need the core game to play them.
Both standalone expansions come with all the components necessary to play: game boards, rules, scenarios, tokens, meeples, and cards. Thanks to its double-sided board, Raison d’Etat (for 1-7 players) is able to cover numerous different conflicts from the 17th and early 18th century. There are scenarios that deal with the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the Polish-Swedish Wars (1600-1629, 1655-1661), the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), and the Great Northern War (1700-1721).
The Realpolitik expansion is designed for 1-4 players and set in an era defined by Otto von Bismarck’s policies and Austro-Prussian (1866) and Franco-Prussian (1871) wars. While Realpolitik doesn’t have a double-sided board, it offers a different experience to that of the other Coalitions expansions due to its reliance on a new mechanic connected with the use of railroads.
You can access the BackerKit Preorder Store with Coalitions’ Late Pledge right here.
Halloween and… Nanty Narking?
Have you already thought about what you’re going to do this Halloween? A couple of years ago, I had the unique pleasure of witnessing a group of my friends playing a game dressed up as characters from the game and even going so far as to roleplay what they were doing. It was a blast and everyone had a lot of fun! And there’s no better game than Nanty Narking for such a thematic game night – and no better time than the Halloween period to do it!
And if you happen to live in the United States or Canada, you’re in luck! The limited edition of Nanty Narking, with an entire set of beautiful miniatures, is still available there, and in most places, you can pick it up at a considerable discount.
The first video, made by Chris Yates, is a combat example of play for Fire in the Sky, and the second one, made by The Boardgames Chronicle, is a three-player gameplay example for Successors. You did a great job, guys, I salute you!
The infographic below represents the current and projected status of our games as of October 2021.
It shows the overall production and development status of our officially announced in-house projects. White and black dots are explained in the image, and empty spaces indicate that a game hasn’t reached or it’s not expected to reach the status described in the column this month. Also, some projects are strictly Kickstarter-backed, and others are a part of the Make Games Happen program; these two can never be in the same column.
You can click the image to enlarge it.
Europe Divided has been co-designed by David Thompson, an American working for the United States Department of Defense, and a fellow wargamer who designed a number of popular and well-received games such as Undaunted: Normandy and Pavlov’s House.
What other conflicts do you think the system you have developed could be used for – China vs USA for example?
For me there are two that stand out as potential candidates. One, as you mentioned, is the idea of a China vs. USA (and their allies) game. It would start with China’s rise to power, but would also include a much broader global impact for the two powers. The US would need to juggle its position with regard to China alongside its other concerns, such as the War on Terror. It would end in the early-to-mid 2020s with a potential conflict looming. The interesting dynamic here is the interconnectedness of the two, as well as the uncertainty of their alliances with other nations. The other candidate would be the interwar period (1918 – 1939). This would adjust the core concept of a 1 vs 1 struggle, increasing the player count. Again, the goal would be to posture in preparation for an inevitable WW2 – or perhaps there could be a way to avoid war? There are so many interesting events that could be captured as part of a game on the interwar period, to include the Spanish Civil War, the Great Depression, imperialism, etc.
If you were to revisit the game – what would you add to it given recent events in the region?
At one point we had considered including a sort of “what if” expansion to the game that would have included what I felt were either likely or at least very interesting events. Here’s an example of some of these Headlines Cards:
– NATO Aspirants, wherein Georgia and Ukraine join NATO.
– Renewed Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict (this, of course, came to pass last year).
– The Creation of Novorossia, in which Russia is able to claim a land bridge to Transnistria in Moldova.
– Nuclear Weapons in Poland, in which NATO bases nuclear weapons in Poland.
– Russia Takes the Baltics, in which Russia uses military action to retake the Baltic Countries.
These are just a few of the potential events we envisioned. I’ll keep the others secret for now, just in case we decide to add that expansion in the future!
What tips do you have for newbie players for each side?
Europe Divided is a very asymmetric game, with each of the two players having distinct strengths and weaknesses. First off, I would recommend that if one player is experienced with the game and another player is a novice, that the novice play Russia. Russia provides a more straightforward approach to the game, due to not having to balance the internal tension of NATO and EU actions.
A couple of notes for players of either side: when you have a headline cards with lofty demands — influence in three countries, for example — build up for that headline before ever revealing it to your opponent. Perhaps most important, there are essentially three over-arching strategic approaches to Europe Divided: trying to accomplish your headline cards (often in combination with gaining points for dominance), trying to deny your opponent their headline cards (which is often easier than accomplishing your own, but less often combines with attaining dominance), or a mixture of the two. Oftentimes the actions of your opponent will drive you to adopt a different approach during the course of the game, but it can be useful to have a general planned approach at the start.
For Russia players, take advantage of the lean deck. Don’t hold your more powerful cards — use them as frequently as possible (except, as noted below, when you want to respond to your opponent). Also note that the more powerful a card is, the higher its initiative. Usually, especially in the mid-to-late game, you’re in a better position if you take your actions after your opponent. Because Russia has lower initiatives on average, use those lower initiative to force your opponent to go first when necessary. Also keep in mind that any contested country cards you take into your deck will weaken the deck disproportionately relative to the Europe player because of the small size of the Russia deck.
For Europe players, the biggest challenge is managing EU and NATO actions, especially in the mid-to-late game. Poor planning can result in the deck being filled with contested country cards that can only be used for EU or NATO actions. By the way, the rule that a contested country card can only be used for the NATO or EU actions where Europe has a 5 influence is one of the most frequently forgotten rules in the game by new players — do not forget this critical rule! It’s the most fundamental balancing element for the two players.
Do you have any recommended general background reading for people interested in the topics covered in your game?
The headline cards in Europe Divided were lifted straight from the news headlines — so the best resource is staying current with the news. Consider Belarus’ actions in June, forcing an airliner to Minsk; Russia’s recent Zapad exercise, which is so concerning to NATO; rising tensions (again) in the Black Sea; etc. All of these topics can be modeled by Europe Divided. Once you have a general understanding of the core tenets of the game, you only need to go back and look over the key military, political, and economic events of the last 30 years to see how they are represented in the game.
This time around I’d like to focus your attention on three specific games in the Make Games Happen program (you can learn about the program and how it works right here). Iron, Blood, Snow & Mud, El Rey Planeta and Freedom! Why these three? It’s simple: you can already play them! Like, this very moment. Freedom! is out of print (you can buy a used copy here and there, but a new one would be hard to find), but I’m talking about the online play.
While not one hundred percent finished or developed, both Iron, Blood, Snow & Mud and El Rey Planeta are fully playable and their graphic design is at a stage where they’re already beautiful and functional.
See for yourselves (you can click on any image to enlarge it):
That’s Iron, Blood, Snow & Mud, a quick WW2 Eastern Theater wargame. You can play it on Tabletop Simulator, the rules are all there.
That’s El Rey Planeta, a game about the wars, politics and economics of the Spanish Empire under the rule of Philip IV, the titular Planet King. You can play it on Tabletop Simulator, the rules are also available there.