Overhauling Craghold

Having decided what my priorities are in the lead-up to UK Games Expo, I have, of course, got immediately distracted by another project. In this case it is my intended entry for the wargame design contest on BGG, currently going under the working title of The Battle for Craghold.

To bring you up to speed, this is inspired by the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Lord of the Rings, where the forces of Sauron are assaulting the stronghold of Minas Tirith. This was the starting point, but it is gradually moving away from its inspiration, though it will probably always be recognisable as such. The set up is that one player is defending a fortified city, along with a port city a short distance away. The second player has a powerful army, with much more easily available reinforcements than the defender, and they are trying to overwhelm the defenders and capture the city.

Actually the specifics of the victory conditions are still in flux, but part of the objectives for the defender has always been to move wagons of supplies from the port to the main city, so the attacker wants to disrupt this.

So far the two sides have simply been marked as yellow and black, mostly because I have a stock of black and yellow plastic stands that I can use as bases for stand-up unit markers.  I wanted to move on from this, partly so information is not solely encoded as colours, but mostly because I wanted to start giving some degree of character to the thus-far faceless factions.  A chat with an acquaintance on Twitter reminded me that I should take a look at the vector graphics program, Inkscape, so that's what I did.
An experienced graphic designer will see nothing exciting here, but I was really pleased that I figured out how to make the banner shape (draw a square, add some extra nodes to the shape, and pull them up to make the zig-zag -- thanks to my daughter, Miss B, who is becoming quite something of a vector artist, for advice), and then slap an image from game-icons.net onto it. Little advances like this with a new-to-me tool are a great way to build confidence.

So, I fed my new graphics into my nanDECK script (with a few other changes from the last iteration) to make a new set of unit pieces for my next playtest.
One of each of the units, designed to be folded in half to make a 2-sided token.
I think, in retrospect, I should have made the banners take up a little more space, but I'll bear that in mind for next time.  This always happens, thinking of a change to make right after completing something, but if I worried about that all the time I would either never have a complete prototype or I would run out of card and toner.  Thinking of which, designing components is only any good if those components become a physical thing that can be used, so I fired up the printer and got to chopping and folding until I had a pair of armies, ready to go.

Two armies, both alike in dignity...
I have also been working on a printable game board, which looks scrappy but is slowly getting less so, and will get on with an overhaul of the action cards too shortly. The plan is to share this iteration online, so I can hopefully get a little feedback.

The aim is to make a fantasy wargame, but at the moment there isn't much of a fantasy element here. However, this set should help me check that the core mechanisms are working OK, and then I have some ideas for the next iteration.  My current thought is to make the attackers into an undead army, and add in a necromancer, who acts as a mobile mustering/spawning point for attacking forces, which should be fun and make the pressure on the defenders really ramp up through play. Once I've tried that, then I expect to start working on tightening up the objectives and balance.

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