Everyone who enjoys playing board games, please raise your hand. Keep your hand up if you enjoy playing strategy board games (yes, like Risk, but moreso). How about wargames (no, not computer games)? Strategy-card driven wargames a.k.a. CDGs? (If you have no idea what that even means, just go ahead and put your hand down.) Ok, now that we're down to the approximately zero humans that make up this niche.....
A strategy card driven wargame, or CDG, is one where the action of the game is driven by one or more decks of special cards that are dealt to the players. Each card gives a player a number of different options, from moving their forces on the board, to solidifying their current position, to gaining reinforcements, to triggering certain historical events. These games are usually at the operational or strategic level, fairly highly abstracted, but the variety of the cards available can instill a lot of historical flavor and "chrome" with a minimum of extra rules. They also add a very nice "fog of war" element to the game, since players can't be certain what cards will be in play at any given time, even if they are very familiar with the contents of the deck. A designer named Mark Herman
was responsible for the original application of this design, and it has become very popular in the hobby.Sword of Rome
is a CDG which I helped design and develop for GMT Games
. It was published last summer, which is a fairly notable accomplishment unto itself, but that's a story for a future posting. This game is about the time when Rome was a relatively small city-state, struggling for supremacy on the Italian peninsula with the Gauls, the Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Samnites, along with several other smaller powers, plus Carthage's mercantile empire just over the horizon. Historically, Rome came out on top in a big way, of course, but it was really a very critical time in history which could have gone any number of different ways.
This summer, the various game design awards select their winners for the previous year, and I'm proud to say that Sword of Rome was recognized by several. We won the Origins Award
for "Best Historical Board Game", the International Gamers Award
for "Outstanding Historical Simulation", and the Charles S. Roberts Award
for "Best Pre-WWII Board Game". I'm told that Sword of Rome is the first game to win all 3 of these awards, which is really amazing to me.
Most of the acclaim falls to my partner, Wray Ferrell, who conceived of and designed the game. He and I were both big fans of CDGs and Roman history, so I started out as his primary sounding-board and a playtester. When GMT's chosen developer had to quit the job, Wray asked me to take over, which I gladly did. We went through five full years of development from initial design to publication. Wray especially poured a huge amount of research and creative thought into the game, and he certainly deserves the praise the game is getting.