See that? That’s a screenshot of one of the most amazing things I ever saw in wargaming: snow in 1941. As I pointed out a while back, that’s more of an observation about what computers could do for wargames back in 1981 than doubt about the weather in Russia. So I was glad the third bullet point in Shenandoah’s press release for their newly announced game, Drive on Moscow, proclaimed “a changing map based on weather conditions.”
After the jump, I predict famous designers.
That’s not meant facetiously. Shenandoah Studio has earned attention and respect with their tour-de-force Battle of the Bulge iOS wargame. They’ve certainly earned my respect for their creative process, because their Bulge Kickstarter actually included two games, the second of which is El Alamein. In an email introducing the press release, Shenandoah marketing director Brad Cummings explained that “El Alamein, our previously announced sequel to Battle of the Bulge is still in development. We are hard at work play-testing the game to ensure it is fun on both sides.” For full disclosure, I’m involved in that playtest. And while I can’t say anything about it right now, I will say that Shenandoah has earned my respect for their attention to detail and their devotion to design principles, whether it’s how to best represent historical conundrums or how to best place buttons on a screen.
So it’s understandable that a company with one game well out the door and two others (El Alamein and Gettysburg: The Tide Turns) still in the design pipeline would assign its development team to a new project rather under-utilize that pipeline. No reader of this website should be surprised I’m ecstatic it’s titled Drive on Moscow. I’m hoping the game itself is not just a stopgap measure to fill the time between releases, and that it gets the attention it needs to be as good as Battle of the Bulge. Drive on Moscow will also have an initial German attack followed by an Allied counterattack, a mechanism Bulge went for but just barely missed.
The reassuring part of the press release is the seventh bullet point, which says that the designer is one Ted S. Raicer. Raicer is a six-time winner of the Charles S. Roberts Award, wargaming’s equivalent of the Tony, so he doesn’t need lessons from old or new game designers, no matter how many decades ago they invented changing weather graphics. He designed the seminal Paths of Glory, a 1999 boardgame that proved the First World War could be a tense game experience. Paths of Glory triggered the “point-to-point movement with card-driven gameplay” avalanche, even if he didn’t invent the mechanic itself. Since area movement is really just point-to-point movement without lines connecting the boxes, Raicer seems suited to translating the Bulge system to the east. He has also designed two previous games about the invasion of Russia (WW2: Barbarossa to Berlin and Stalin’s War).
Drive on Moscow has a bunch more bullet points, which you can read on the game’s website, where the weather stuff gets top billing. There are four types! I’m sure Chris Crawford would agree that is one more than he had.
An interesting sidenote is that Ted Raicer is designing another game about the invasion of Russia, called The Dark Valley, for GMT Games. I feel like I’ve had it on pre-order for exactly forever. So I wonder if I’m going to have to wait a little longer for my paper Barbarossa in order to get my digital one*. Given that I have at least ten Barbarossa games on cardboard but none on iOS means that I’m tentatively willing to make that trade.