Field Marshals Checkup #1

Post by: Grant Rodiek

I keep making good progress towards making Field Marshals solid. I’ve just changed/added a few significant components to the rules, so I wanted to share and discuss them here, as well as cover a few other topics related to my snazzy war game.

Rules Updates

You can read the latest rules in their entirety here. Here is a quick rundown of the changes the game has seen.

  • Now 2-4 players: When I originally designed the game I intended and tested it with 5 players. Since then, I’ve only tested it with 2, 3, or 4 players. For a while I toyed with the notion of taking it to 6, but ultimately felt it would be too chaotic with that many players. I feel the same thing about 5, so I’m reducing it to 4. 4 players makes each round a little more predictable and reduces my component costs. Also, as long as the game is fun with 2, 3, or 4 (which it is), I don’t feel that taking it down from 4 is a deathblow. Plus, I can always add it back.
  • Orders: Since the beginning, the game has lacked a great win condition or end point. I’ve tested it where players need to conquer X number of territories, earn Y number of Coal, and a few other things. Ultimately, it was a bit too scattered. Now, to focus players and have fewer things to remember, each player will receive 3 Orders. Each order will give a task (like Conquer X territories), that, when completed, awards a set number of points.
  • Better Tactics: I’ve upped the tuning on the Tactics so that they are more potent and useful. Encirclement now lets you capture 3, instead of 2. Bombardment kills 3, instead of 2. I want Tactics to be decisive.
  • Attrition: I’ve been trying to think of a clean way to incorporate more long-term attrition into the game, i.e. a way to reduce a player’s potential Unit pool. One of the Orders tasks the player with winning a certain number of battles. I needed a way to track it, so I came up with a neat little way to do so that also solves my attrition problem. The winner of a battle now takes one of the loser’s Units as a Trophy. (Note: Matt Worden also suggested this. If two of us independently came up with it, the idea must be good!)
  • 2 Player Improvement: I continue to touch up and improve the rules for 2 player games. I’m actually surprised how well the game plays with only 2. The puppet state (now Allies in the rules) idea has worked really well.
  • Civil War: A very minor tweak. Instead or representing foreign nations, each player is now a Field Marshal vying for control in a disintegrating empire. I always thought the map, a series of odd shaped territories, was awkward as different countries. Now, it’s regions of one large country.

Further Development

There are a few areas I’m worried about with the current game. There are always so many simple variables to tweak and I want to prove out more things before I say “done” and send out blind test copies.

  • Card Distribution: I’m toying with the idea of adding another General or another Cavalry to the deck. But, I don’t want players retreating too often or surprising attackers with a General too often.
  • Orders: I have no doubt tuning these will be a headache. The points awarded in many different combinations will need to be examined and put through their paces. I’ll also need to verify that it’s possible to complete 2 of the Orders in most combinations. I don’t want 2 of the 4 players to get hosed because they were randomly assigned a crummy combination of orders.
  • 5 Players: For some reason I want to add a fifth player! But, I’ll need to revisit the map (again, what a pain!) and make sure everyone is interacting with each other. I don’t want a 5th player off in the corner just keeping to himself.
  • Map Tweaks: I may need to reduce the size of the map slightly — just by 1 or 2 territories. But, where do I remove and where do I shift?

Expansion Ideas

One thing that really excites me about Field Marshals is just how many cool expansion ideas I have. Expansions come naturally for some games, but not all. For example, it wasn’t obvious where to take Farmageddon, but I have many great ideas for Field Marshals.

I don’t know what the future holds for this game, but I’d love to do some of these expansions.

  • Naval: Seaports are one of the better additions since I began prototyping this game. This naturally begs for actual Naval Units, Naval Cards, Naval Orders, and Naval Tactics.
  • Terrain Types: Definitely a smaller expansion, but I’d love to add forest and mountain terrain tokens to modify Tactics and potentially add new Orders. Also, potentially cities.
  • New Armies: Currently, the game features 4 identical vanilla armies based on the standard tactics of the Prussian, British, or French armies in the 19th century. I’d love to add new decks with new units and tactics, including one focused on Guerrilla warfare, one more focused on spycraft and deception, the massed infantry armies (i.e. Russia), and more. I feel this is a great way to add new content to the game in small chunks. Wizard Kings and Summoner Wars both do this and I love it.
  • Scenarios: This is one I’d deliver to players as a freebie. I’d love to create new stories and scenarios that change the starting positions of players, the premise, the team arrangements, the victory conditions, and more. This one naturally leads into…
  • Campaign: I love the idea of Risk: Legacy and the Memoir ’44 Campaign book. I don’t plan for players to begin drawing on the game board for Field Marshals, but I very much want to design a cohesive 3-5 game campaign setup that’s driven by the results of each game. You could think of each game as a few months or a year in the war. If X, Y, and W are present, go to scenario 5 and play it. It’d be the type of thing only for really hardcore players or people at a Con, but I think it’s really fun content to create and play.

The Awesome Version

I have this wild crazy silly idea. Very early in the Field Marshals‘ prototyping process I felt like the game gave off a classic vibe. It’s about controlling territory with wooden cubes and playing cards with simple silhouettes. It’s based on wars thought to be more “romantic” and “glorious” in their time periods and is meant to be fairly straight forward and elegant in presentation.

I want to create a really gorgeous wooden version of the game. Wooden board with little slots to place the initiative disks and turn order tokens. A hand-crafted box to contain everything. Little tokens with laser etched or carved symbols. Something like this.

This won’t be cheap. I’m currently researching several options to see what is and isn’t feasible. In all cases, there are basically 2 options:

  1. I personally finance about 10 copies and sell them out. My primary goal would be to still find a publisher.
  2. I go “whole-hog” and Kickstart it to try to sell hundreds of copies. This would prevent me (probably) from finding a publisher, but I’d have full creative control on the product.

I haven’t done a full business analysis of the costs and whatnot. I doubt it would be cheap. My question for you is, would you buy Field Marshals for $100 if it came in a gorgeous, one of a kind wooden setup? What about $125? If the answer is no, I’d love to hear that as well.

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