Downfall of Empires: Designer’s notes

When Jesus (the graphic designer) suggested in 2015, to design a wargame, for several players, with simple rules and that could be played in one sitting, I immediately thought that the First World War was an ideal conflict for this type of game.

The game had to be a good historical simulation, exciting and not become stale after a few games. That same year, earlier than I thought, I had Downfall of Empires (DoE) finished, although a small edition of the game was not made until the beginning of 2020.

DoE is a game for 2, 3 or 4 players.The rules are short and simple and the games, when you know the game well, last less than 3 hours.

For a game to be exciting, players must have several alternatives, making it difficult to decide between them. In DoE this is achieved with the Actions system: A player has only 2 or 3 Actions per turn, for 6 types of Actions, most of them, in turn, with multiple alternatives.

The Research Action is one of the particularities of the game. Obtaining the maximum of technologies is a key factor to obtain victory. As it is almost impossible to obtain them all, you have to think which are the most appropriate, and in what order depending on what you expect the enemy to do.

Be careful not to do too many Activate Actions, especially in the early years, as this prevents you from doing other Actions that are key for the long term.

One of the objectives of the game is to be a good historical simulation of the First World War. Therefore, there are some special rules to make it easier for the game to tend to run along historical lines or for unique events of the
conflict to take place. These are the cases, for example, of the British being able to move to Gallipoli only in 1915, and the mandatory German and Russian attacks in 1914 and 1916, respectively.

A special rule that may surprise is  hat the trenches in Riga and Kiev add a +2 factor as do those in Germany and France-Belgium (where trench warfare preponderated). In the case of  Riga, this is for historical reasons, as it was taken after two years of siege with the massive use of Sturmtruppen. For Kiev this represents the difficulty of taking it due to its size and remoteness.

Talking about trenches, it is worth clarifying that the combat factor they add to the defenders (+1 or +2), depends on the place where they are and not on their
level, as we have seen in the previous paragraph.

Level 2 trenches do not add more combat factor to the defenders than level 1 trenches, but they have other advantageous effects; namely: they absorb an additional casualty, their defensive factor is not cancelled by Tanks-1
and in France-Belgium or Germany they allow to cancel the retreat in case of defeat (see last paragraph of section 8. Activate). This last effect makes the Western Front quite stable as was the case historically. But beware, a
proper attack strategy can end up breaking the front.

I encourage players to read the examples carefully. They clarify how movements and combats are carried out, including support and casualties, since this aspect of the game, together with the already mentioned trenches, can be the one that causes more confusion at the beginning. With a little attention and practice, the mechanism is quite clear and simple.

The many possibilities available to players make each game different and the game stays interesting. I hope you enjoy it a lot!

  Víctor Català

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