Through the Designer’s Notes: Insight into the cards: Neue Anführer Part 1 – Vlaada Chvatil

Jan Žižka

Jan Žižka, a medieval Czech general who led the Hussite rebellion in the first half of the 15th century, is one of the greatest military geniuses in history. By using innovative and brilliant tactics and his profound knowledge of medieval warfare he was able to defeat again and again the greatest military force in Europe – heavy armored cavalry. Even outnumbered. And with a large part of the army consisting of farmers. That’s right – he trained farmers to stop several crusades sent against him. Among his many moves was the “chariot castle” – several chariots that formed a sort of fort on the battlefield. The Hussites also used firearms in large quantities and armed and trained peasants to fight the way they knew how. Knights may have spent a lot of time training spear and sword, but peasants spent their lives using farm tools. So why not turn them into weapons? It’s not so easy to parry a heavy iron-clad flail wielded by the practiced hand of a peasant on its way to you. And your plate armor doesn’t help you much here either. Žižka had many victorious battles under his belt – and all that with only one eye. Later even without eyes at all. Despite his blindness, he continued to lead his troops from victory to victory for many years. Did I mention that he was a truly stunning leader? In the end, “he whom no human hand could destroy was extinguished by the finger of God.” Undefeated in battle, Jan Žižka died of the plague in 1424.

Žižka main skill refers to how he converted peasants into a military force. Arm them with flails and scythes and you have good infantry. Arm them with firearms and you have artillery from Age A. Incidentally, there is still Hussite heritage in military terminology – the word pistol comes from the Czech “píšťala” (flute) and howitzer comes from the Czech “houfnice” (anti-human mass thing). Originally, the card said “as infantry or artillery of the appropriate level”. This meant that you could form a fully functional Napoleonic army from one knight and two Age I farms. In the end, we decided that was too much randomness for us – you never know when and how quickly you’ll draw a suitable Age II tactics card. So we limited it to Age A and added to Žižka an additional military action instead, allowing him to be even more threatening in Age I – his innovative tactics were the strongest of their time. You can still pull two antiquated mobile artilleries out of a hat for an extra +6 with just two knights, but it’s not as insanely powerful as before. (If you want to know more about using mobile artillery in the 15th century look up “Battle of Kuttenberg”) The cultural gain is based on the fact that Hussite armies were well known and feared in the Middle Ages. In later battles, crusading armies retreated as soon as they saw Hussite forces or heard their chants. (See also Battle of Domazlice or Tachov.) Being a wee bit patriotic, I always knew I wanted Žižka in the game and I’m happy that he’s now a good choice in Age I and adds an interesting game element. Thinking about a third Age A farm is not such a bad idea now.

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith, is still considered one of the most influential figures in human history. His invention of the printing press caused a revolution of information and education to flourish in Europe and describes the most important event in modern history. Printing presses made it possible to print books quickly, accurately, and in large quantities. Before that, all books had to be written by hand, and as you can imagine, the process was lengthy and very expensive. Some books took more than a year to finish! With this new invention, hundreds of pages could be printed in just a few hours, significantly reducing the cost of books and rapidly increasing education and the ability to read among the population. Gutenberg, however, was never able to profit from his revolutionary idea. He was never able to repay the loans to build his business and died in poverty.

Gutenberg doesn’t give you science directly, but it helps you build scientific infrastructure. Your labs and libraries don’t produce more science, it’s just significantly easier to build and improve them. Honestly, the effect would have to be much stronger to represent the true impact of the printing press on education and knowledge. However, we need to ensure the balance of the game, so instead we added a game effect to Gutenberg – for the best use of its effects you should take, develop, build and improve scientific technologies at a steady pace, step by step, turn by turn. You will also be rewarded with fame (culture) – Gutenberg didn’t have much of it during his lifetime, but his great influence was later recognized by history.

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel was a technical genius of the 19th century. A skilled chemist at the age of 16, Nobel devoted his entire life to researching and perfecting his beloved explosives. At the time of his death, he held 355 patents.  When his brother Ludwig died, journalists mistook him for Nobel and published his obituary. After reading it, he reflected on his legacy full of destruction and changed his last will. He decided to use his estate to create a prize that would honor people who contribute to the development of science, medicine, literature and peace – the Nobel Prize. Fun Fact: Nobel was not only a brilliant scientist, engineer and businessman, but also spoke 5 languages fluently and wrote poetry.

I added Alfred Nobel with the Nobel Prize effect in mind – an effect that affects everyone, not just the player who plays Nobel. But we also needed something that would make players take him. Originally, his effect (besides strength, you can’t ignore the military aspects of explosives) was a discount for building and upgrading mines – as I’m sure you know, dynamite helps a lot with that. The problem was, however, that this requires card text, which we already needed to describe the Nobel Prize effect. When James Watt joined the Age II selection it was decided. He took the discounts for mining technologies and Nobel got the easy bonuses for science and military, which don’t need text. It wasn’t so easy to balance this guy, though. During playtesting, he wasn’t overpowered, but it felt that way. He was very popular because he didn’t need any preparation and brings something for everyone by supporting two existential fields. As a result, he was taken very often and too many games had the Nobel Prize. The two last changes were the following: You don’t get your civilian action back when you replace Nobel. This may seem like a minor detail, but it’s not uncommon that you’ll miss just that one action, especially if you want to get your first Nobel Prize in the turn you exchange Nobel. Also: Nobel’s effect only becomes active when you exchange him. If he dies by assassination, iconoclasm, or at the end of Age III, then nothing happens. This gives both the player with Nobel and the other players influence over it, and also results in Nobel not being chosen quite as often. Thematically, you have to imagine that “Nobel has time to think about his legacy, or not.”

Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi was a genius of architecture who changed the face of Barcelona and architecture itself forever. Although he was not known or appreciated in his time, his unconventional creations made him one of the most famous architects of all time. As a child Gaudi was very good at geometry and he loved nature. This inspired his particular style of organic architecture – many of his buildings reflect mountains and some floors of his structures represent clusters of water lilies. His most famous creation is La Sagrada Familia – a stunning temple unlike anything the world has seen before. The project was so gigantic that Gaudi lived on the construction site and was aware at an early stage of construction that he would not be able to finish it. That didn’t worry Gaudi, however. He knew that others would take up the project after his death. La Sagrada Familia has not been completed to this day, but it is scheduled for completion in 2026 – the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Gaudi was added to the game to strengthen the urban buildings and increase their diversity.

He’ll make you build new types of buildings, and if you do, he’ll reward you with a decent boost of culture. You can also use his bonus to improve existing buildings, but then Gaudi’s true strength won’t shine as big. During playtesting, this card changed a lot – there were many versions of the card’s effect, some too strong, others too weak or too situational. My favorite was a very nice, thematic version where you got points (among other bonuses) for how advanced your uncompleted miracle is once Gaudi leaves play. However, that version was too subtle and the text was too long and complicated. Even now, players often have to read the text twice to understand exactly how the discount works, but it’s finally a version that is well balanced and serves its purpose.

Ian Fleming

Bond, James Bond. Charming, charismatic, adventurous and also a fascinating reflection of his creator – the writer Ian Fleming. Fleming began his professional career as a simple journalist in the Reuters news agency. After he finished his internship, he was transferred to Russia. There he reported on a court case in which British engineers were accused of espionage. When he returned to England, he was asked by the Foreign Office to report on the situation in Russia. This seemingly unimportant task brought him to the attention of the Foreign Office and he was recruited to join the British Naval Intelligance at the beginning of World War 2. When the war ended he decided to move to Jamaica and began writing his novels there. His first book, Casino Royale, was published in 1953, after which he spent the first 2 months of each year writing. In total, he published 14 James Bond novels inspired by his travels, missions and life as a spy, copies of which have sold over 60 million copies worldwide.

I always felt that a Modernist writer should be part of the game, which is why one of the first decisions for the expansion was to add it there. Many writers were considered for this slot and some were even tested. Should we include some of the most iconic and respected? Ernest Hemingway? Franz Kafka? John Steinbeck? George Orwell? J.R.R. Tolkien? Or some of the most famous female writers? Virginia Woolf? Agatha Christie? J.K. Rowling? It was just a question of who we would choose, since the effect would have been the same for all of them – a reinforcement of the libraries. But then it was not that simple. Advanced libraries are strong enough even without reinforcement, so we needed a leader who also has another effect. Possibly one that would combine with military, since there is no leader exclusively for military in Age III. When I was looking for such a person, I also looked at some more unfamiliar names. For a time, that spot was claimed by Marguerite Higgins, a war reporter and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for foreign affairs reporting. It was an interesting concept because she produced culture for wars, regardless of who started them. Ultimately, I think Ian Fleming is a good solution to this dilemma. Although his name may not be as well known, several generations still know his works. The combination of spy and writer made interesting effects possible, and the fact that he also influenced the cinema world allowed us to incorporate theater into his effect as well. The spy effect adds interesting information to the game. You can check if a weaker player has defense cards, but you can also check if a stronger player has wars that he can play. And lastly, information about Age III cards can be very useful in general. We just had to be careful, especially for the 2-player game, to limit the effect to the player whose cards may be viewed – spying should never reveal full information.