Post by: Grant Rodiek
A resolution I’ve set for myself is to write about my personal games less in great specificity, at least until I have something worthwhile to talk about. Though I love writing about my projects frequently, I’d rather the posts be more substantial and meaningful for readers. I think one of my current small projects has hit a nice moment. Let’s talk about Fool’s Brigade.
This project came about as a convergence of three things. The first: While traveling in Southeast Asia I read two great books on the American Civil War. One, about the Iron Brigade of Wisconsin, and the second about Stonewall Jackson’s famous Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
The second: Dice Hate Me Games sponsored a 54 Card game design competition. 54 cards only, due in just a few weeks (so not much time to develop and go crazy). I love competitions, deadlines, and small creative boxes.
The third: After weeks of travel, my mind was shot, wobbly, and not really ready to jump back into Mars Rising. I wanted to make something new, silly, and simple to warm up.
I went to my dining room table with a pencil, a pile of index cards, some sand timers, and a handful of six-sided dice. Over the course of an hour I found myself pushing around cards horizontally arranged, much like you see blocks moving in a classic war game.
The idea that began to emerge was this: What if a large group of friends were split into two teams and tried to control a Brigade (divided into Regiments) against each other? And, what if there was a General on each side trying to corral this madness? Yes, I really enjoy Dice Duel, which was firmly in the back of my mind while coming up with this.
I was thinking about how officers would guide their men in a battle around the 19th century. Much of it had to do with discipline, gathering around the flag, and very simple orders, like March, Wheel Right, and Fix Bayonets. Before long I found myself shouting these things to myself and marching around my kitchen table. Beth, in our bedroom, would shout out “What the hell are you doing?” To which I would reply “Nothing….MARCH!”
The gist of the mechanic is that every player controls a Regiment. They have a horizontal, face up card on the table that acts as their Unit and reference card. The card details their possible orders, like March, Fix Bayonets, Fire, etc. There are no turns. You pick an order, count aloud to the number indicated, then shout the order and execute it. Then, do it again.
There are some extra twists that I think make this all funny:
- Instead of the classic “1 Mississippi” or “1 one thousand” methods, you use your last name. Which means someone with the last name Smith will be faster than someone with the last name Holmberg-Weidler (a co-worker).
- When you move, you move the distance between your thumb and pointer fingers. That’s also your firing range. Yes, your hand size can be an advantage.
- Bayonet charges are resolved with a best of three Rock/Paper/Scissors. I had to get creative with only 54 cards and I love this solution.
- If Bayonets are fixed, you hold one of your arms up. Thematic and functional.
- If a Unit suffers too many hits, they must flee, uncontrollably, until someone else rallies them. Teamwork is key!
- There are advanced Units with modified timing and abilities. Skirmishers, Cavalry, Elite Guards, Artillery. Oh yeah.
There are some other layers to make this more than just shouting. For one, the General is responsible for supplying players with Combat cards, needed to fire (but not charge with bayonets), as well as Goals. Goals are played to slowly corral your team into some semblance of cohesion, but also a way to earn points. These are things like Charge this enemy Unit, or Hold this Hill.
All told, I intend the game to be a 5-10 minute experience. I see about 4 layers of progression to the experience.
- Players use basic Regiments and no terrain. Are confused but laughing.
- Players use basic Regiments, terrain, and get better. Are laughing with a devil’s grin.
- Players use advanced Units and terrain. Think to themselves, “oh yeah. It’s on.”
- Players are just as good as the real Iron Brigade. A disciplined fighting force of idiots.
Give it a whirl!
You can read the rules here (comments allowed in the document). A handful of folks have really put them to the test and, considering they are limited to 2 pages, I’m happy with them. If you want to try it out the game, email me at grant at hyperbolegames dot com. It’s a 54 card Print out, black and white ink, super simple. I’d love to know what you think.
What are you making for the 54 card competition, if anything? How is it going? What do you think of Fool’s Brigade? Does it sound like something your group would enjoy at a Con or office party? Have a good one!