Though 2017 still has some life left in it, Mary and I have been spending most of our time and energy in 2018. Since folks have been curious about what's down the road, we thought it'd be a good idea to dedicate a few blogposts to what we have in the pipeline. In this first installment, we'll be looking at some known quantities - that is, series games and sequels. Next time we'll be looking at some solitaire titles we have in development, and we'll round it off with a glimpse at everything else. And so, without further preamble, let's jump right in.
Shields & Swords II Series
The next game in our series of medieval battle games is The Great Heathen Army. This is the largest game in the series, containing eight battles drawn from a period of about 150 years. The design part of it is done, and series artist Ania Ziolkowska is now working on the three 17" x 22" maps. The extra maps especially mean that it's a more expensive game for us to produce, so it's going to have a somewhat higher pricepoint than the previous three games in the series.
In that sense, it's something of an experiment - to see how much demand there is for a "big" S&S II game. Really, every new entry in the series has been an experiment from a business perspective. The market for hex-and-counter medieval battle games isn't exactly the largest and most robust in the world, and we knew that going in. So we're not expecting any of these to sell in the same volume as say Table Battles or An Infamous Traffic. But we'd like to find the format that results in the most sales, and with the series having built up some reputation for quality over the first three games, we figured we'd try going big for the fourth one.
If it looks like bigger games are the way to go, we'll go big for the fifth game in the series as well. If it sells about the same or worse than the smaller ones, then we'll probably stick with small going forward. This will determine what the next game is in the series, and whether it's going to show up in 2018 or be pushed into the following year.
Another factor is that we're (very slowly) developing a "cousin" series with the working title of Shields & Swords Ancients, which will either drop in late 2018 or sometime in 2019. What format that series takes as well will be determined, at least in part, by what the sales look like for The Great Heathen Army.
Shot & Shell Battle Series
The second game in this series is The Heights of Alma, which is in many ways a do-over of my earlier game Blood on the Alma, which is itself the great-grandfather of the Shot & Shell Battle Series. However, this wasn't a straight port or clean-up job; it's really like I'm designing a completely different game on the same topic, albeit one with some clear mechanical similarities. In some ways this is actually more difficult than designing a new entry in the series from scratch, because I've got to stop myself from holding on to mechanisms/concepts that worked for the original game but that won't work in the context of the series. It looks like I've gotten the game to where it needs to be, but it's still in testing.
One reason why I decided to follow up Seven Pines; or, Fair Oaks with The Heights of Alma, besides the erroneous assumption that it would make my job easier, is because we didn't want to pigeon-hole Shot & Shell as an ACW series. Sure, there are going to be several ACW battles represented over the life of the series, because for the period, the ACW is pretty much the main attraction. But we didn't want excursions into other conflicts to feel like outliers or one-offs. Apropos that, we actually have an outside designer working on a post-ACW European battle.
The plan is to publish two entries in 2018 - Alma and one other. That might be the game by the outside designer mentioned above; if that's not ready, then we'll be slotting it another ACW battle instead.
John Theissen's Series
John Theissen has designed two operational level ACW games which we published in 2017, More Aggressive Attitudes and Objective Shreveport!, with similar, though not identical, rulesets and points of emphasis. Mr. Theissen has designed a third game for us, Hood's Last Gamble, which is currently undergoing playtesting but should see release very early in 2018. At this point, we should probably look at coming up with a series title to encompass all three games.
Before we do that, though, Mr. Theissen is focusing his streamlined approach to operational gaming on a certain French emperor, and we expect the fruits of his labors to be hitting your tables at some point in 2018.
Horse & Musket
January will see the release of the first expansion in the Horse & Musket series, Sport of Kings, which takes the series from 1721 to 1748. Like the base game, this one has twenty scenarios covering a variety of battles both famous and obscure, with particular interest afforded to the battles of Nader, Frederick the Great, and Maurice de Saxe. Sean Chick's love for the era and its dramatis personae shines through in every scenario.
While we've been prepping the game for release, Mr. Chick has also been working on Volume III, Crucible of War. This will bring the timeline up to 1769, and be dominated by the Seven Years War. It's likely that this expansion will drop toward the end of 2018.
On a mechanical level, Table Battles is something that's very easy to expand upon, and given its popularity, we have no qualms about doing that. Our plan is to release a new pack of expansion cards/scenarios every quarter, with the first set, The Wars of the Roses, dropping in January.
We're hard at work on other expansions set in a variety of eras, from the days of Alexander the Great to the Second World War, and also apparently there's going to be one with dinosaurs. As to which expansion releases in which quarter, that's still something we're sorting out, and is just going to depend on how quickly work proceeds on each of these.
Testing is underway on Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Southern Strategy, a standalone sequel to our very popular Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777. The thing that's really neat about the original game is that it strikes a balance between being a logistics game and being a game of maneuver and warfare. That same balancing act is present in The Southern Strategy, but the emphasis is shifted somewhat as each player has far fewer men at their disposal. Even though the Southern campaigns were exceptionally important in how the war was decided, neither side saw the South as a major or primary theater, and both players are going to have their hands tied.
I didn't really intend to do anything with the underlying supply cube system beyond these two games, but we have a couple of ideas that we're exploring, one with an outside designer. If anything comes of it, they probably won't see print until the following year however.