Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jim Krohn Interview Part 2

Yesterday we spoke with Jim Krohn the designer of the upcoming Space Empires 4X. Today we speak to Jim about his other game nearing release Band of Brothers.

OBGB: Lets move on to your other game yet to be release Band of Brothers. I've been interested in the 101st since I read the Stephen Ambrose book long before the HBO mini series made it popular. What was you inspiration to do a game focusing on the 101st?

Actually it didn't start out with the 101st.  I was a big fan of Squad Leader and I started out to design a simpler squad game.  When I had a working system, I submitted the game to Worthington Games with 4 sample (generic) scenarios (back in 2007).  I told them that my vision was to complete the design by having it follow a unit through WW2 and tell its story.  The Wylies (from Worthington) really wanted me to do the 101st.  In so many ways that was the perfect decision and I am so thankful for it.  Not only did I thorough enjoy my research on the unit, but it has provided a nice mix of scenarios.  As an added bonus, it starts with some infantry only engagements at Normandy and allows the players to ease into the system.

OBGB: Lets get right to it, what's the status of the game? Is it just us (well me) being impatient or does it seem like this game has been coming for a long time?

No, it is not just you.  We had some problems with art along the way that have since been fixed - thank you Brandon and Dan!  On top of that, Band of Brothers is a huge project.  It has 18 scenarios, 10 maps, etc.  A normal wargame comes with one or two scenarios.  With 18 scenarios, this game requires a lot of work on the part of the Wylies.

OBGB: Preliminary rules were posted in September of 2009, are these rules still current? Has the game seen any changes? (i.e. blocks to counters)

No, but they are close enough to get a general idea.  New rules should be posted soon.  They are in final proof stage.  The Wylies tell me that the game will hit the streets by the end of July and the rules will be posted before them.

OBGB: Can you briefly describe how combat works in this game? The reason I ask is the game seems to use suppression and morale heavily and I saw some interesting mechanics in the rules.

Combat is simple and chartless.  A unit rolls against its firepower, modified by the terrain occupied by the target.  If you get equal to or less than your firepower, the target gains a level of suppression.  Each unit also has a casualty rating and if you roll even lower than that, you will cause casualties.  This normally doesn't happen against first line, dug in troops.  The way you kill units is to put them under suppression and close assault them.  If a unit is fully suppressed, they are very vulnerable to close assault.

Suppression on a target lowers the targets morale.  A unit under suppression does not roll against their morale until they try to do something.  This way you will not know how your troops will respond until you ask them to do something. 

Suppression on a unit accumulates easily so you naturally spread out your forces.  You will NOT see kill stacks of men occupying hexes at a WW1 density with large sections of unoccupied terrain between them.  The system is realistic and encourages realistic tactics.

Of course, suppression wears off easily.  If you stop shooting at a unit, they quickly begin to fire back. 

Proficiency is another big element to talk about, but this answer is long enough.

OBGB: Having not played the game I can't say for certain but the game looks to play fast from a combat perspective. By that I mean it seems pretty apparent what a unit needs to do to succeed, is that a fair guess?

Yes, especially since you only ever use a few units at a time.  The game is designed to play on the fly and make quick decisions about a handful of troops.

OBGB: The biggest selling point for me is the ability to follow the 101st throughout the war with the various scenarios. Do you know how many will make the final game?

Should be 18.

OBGB: What do you think sets Band of Brothers apart from other squad level games?

Simple realism.  If it is not the simplest WW2 tactical wargame (5-6 pages of infantry rules and a few more for tanks, guns and artillery), it has to be close.  Simple usually means abstract, but I think this game is the most realistic.  I won't go into all the detail here, but I have extensive designer notes in the rules.  If you are interested, please read them.  They are almost as long as the rules themselves and they explain the reason behind a lot of my design decisions.

OBGB: Do you have anything your currently working on you want to share with us?

The two projects most occupying my time now are the expansions to Space Empires and Band of Brothers.  I'm not ready to divulge all that is in the SE expansion, but the next module for Band of Brothers will focus on the 11th Panzer division in Russia.

In addition to that I have a number of games that are in various stages of completion -

  • Rommel's Obsession - the battle of Crusader
  • Medieval Empires - multiplayer medieval wargame
  • Time Changer - a family euro
  • Starships - a clever, family, space game
  • No name yet - A starship fleet combat game
Plus a couple of more.

OBGB: Finally what games are you playing now?

Of late my wargame playing time has been eaten up by design time.  When it comes to available time, I usually have to make a choice between playing a wargame or working on a wargame design.  With both designs going to print and with expansions in the works, I haven't played many wargames in the last couple of months.  That means most of my game playing of late has involved euros with the whole family.  I also work with kids outside my family and have spent some of my time teaching games to teens.  Some of the most recent - Galaxy Trucker, Space Alert, Endeavor, Glen More, 7 Wonders.

What wargames do I want to get on the table soon?  Besides my own designs - Hammer of the Scots (one of my all time favorites), Twilight Struggle, Hannibal and a few others are on deck.

Again we would like to thank Jim for his time and we eagerly await the release of both games. Check back in the future forimpressions on both of these games and more designer interviews.


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