Christmas 2021 finally marks the release of Undaunted: Reinforcements, the third title in the Undaunted series. We thought it would be a good idea to post a design diary to share some background info, design decisions, art, and more. Join the award-winning designers Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson as they discuss what it took to get Reinforcements to the table.
At SPIEL '17, we met with the folks from Osprey Games to officially sign Undaunted: Normandy. At the same meeting, we were asked to start thinking about a sequel, Undaunted: North Africa. In fact, the design for North Africa needed to be completed before Normandy was released so that North Africa could be ready for mid-2020. With that in mind, when we transitioned from designing Normandy to North Africa, we didn't have the benefit of player feedback to see what the community wanted. We decided we would change the scale and symmetry in North Africa — and we're still very happy with those changes — but we didn't have detailed insight into player response for Normandy.
As the release of Normandy neared in mid-2019, the game started generating buzz and Osprey asked us to start thinking about a third game in the series. Over the first couple months of Normandy's release, we paid close attention to the community. Even though Normandy has an exceptional amount of asymmetry based on starting decks, cards available during a game, and scenario design, players still wanted unique capabilities for the Americans and Germans — something to make each side feel unique. Meanwhile, the solo community eagerly adopted the game. It won the "best multiplayer game played solitaire" award in Board Game Geek's 1 Player Guild in 2019, and fans began designing their own solitaire systems. Lastly, we're huge fans of team-based play, and we wanted to see whether we could add a four-player team based option to the game.
Increasing Asymmetry in Normandy
One of the first goals we had in Reinforcements was to add an extra bit of asymmetry to Normandy to answer the call of fans who wanted their forces to feel special. We identified the riflemen as an opportunity to add some distinction to the forces, and we settled on giving the Germans access to submachine guns and the Americans access to rifle-mounted grenade launchers. These changes reflected historical distinction in each side's actual platoon capabilities, and it allowed for interesting gameplay differences for the players. We took this tweak one step further by ensuring players could go back and replay all twelve of Normandy's scenarios with these modifications to the riflemen.
Tanks, Tanks, and More Tanks!
One of our favorite additions to North Africa was the addition of vehicles. Early on in the design process for Reinforcements, we decided we wanted to add tanks to Normandy — but because of the scale difference between the two games, tanks needed to work differently. Normandy's scale allowed us to elegantly integrate tanks into the core cardplay of the game without the special vehicle system used in North Africa. We felt this was a positive as it allowed us to keep Normandy just a bit more streamlined and less complex for players new to the series. However, we did make sure that the tanks we added to the game offered unique capabilities, continuing to answer players' calls for increased asymmetry.
What About North Africa?
One of the earliest decisions we made for Reinforcements is that it would be an expansion for both games. We didn't need to increase the asymmetry in North Africa as the forces were already very different, so instead we wanted to continue to build on the strengths of the game. North Africa stresses movement to a greater degree than Normandy, and we felt it might be interesting to give players more control over affecting each others' mobility. This led to the creation of mines. They don't block movement — but they absolutely give players a lot more to think about.
Another addition to North Africa was to give the Italians more of a "commando" feel, similar to what the allies (the Long Range Desert Group) have access to in the North Africa base game. Now the Italians also have access to special units, like an expert marksman. Plus we've given them yet another aircraft for even more death from above!
New Units Need New Scenarios
In addition to all the new units we've added to Normandy and North Africa, we've also added eight new scenarios, four for each game. These scenarios tie back into the campaigns for each game. In Normandy, we see infantry and tanks working together, battling over the area around Mortain, France, during one of Hitler's key counterattack attempts. In North Africa, the addition of mines, new Italian commando units, and the new Italian aircraft creates the opportunity for even more scenarios with a "special operations" feel.
Instead of Two Players, What About Two Teams?
As we mentioned earlier, we're both huge fans of team-based games, so when given the chance to add a team option to Undaunted, we jumped at the chance. Team-based play requires little modification to the core gameplay: Players simply alternate use of the Platoon Sergeant (or Lieutenant in the case of the Long Range Desert Group) during the course of the game. The player with the Platoon Sergeant bids for initiative. Otherwise, changes to the game are minimal. All eight of the new scenarios in Reinforcements are suitable for team play.
More Amazing Art
One thing that is a constant across the Undaunted series is the brilliant, evocative art from Roland MacDonald. Undaunted has been able to bridge the divide between wargamers and gamers from the broader hobby, and certainly a huge part of that has been Roland's inviting style, which somehow straddles a place in both worlds. With Reinforcements, Roland is at it again, but in our opinion this is his best work yet, with Reinforcements showcasing even richer depth and detail than Normandy and North Africa.
Saving the Best for Last?
Many fans of Undaunted would argue that the biggest addition Reinforcements brings is an official solo system for the game. When we discussed the idea of adding a solo system of the game with Osprey, we told them that we'd prefer not to design it ourselves. (Trevor hasn't had much experience in designing solitaire systems, and David prefers to design games to be solitaire from the beginning rather than adapting a solo system to a multiplayer game.)
So Osprey turned to one of the top designers in the solitaire boardgame world: Dávid Turczi. Dávid set about designing the core solitaire system, eventually settling on a card-based system that tailors the AI for each unit in every scenario. While this system does a fantastic job of simulating the experience of playing against another human player, it also meant that every single scenario needed to be deconstructed for the creation of the tailored AI. This Herculean task fell to David Digby, who set about implementing the specific AI routines.
Anthony Howgego and Filip Hartelius (Osprey's game development team) were responsible for transforming David Digby's design concepts into an elegant card system. The end result is the "Enemy Unknown" system of playing Undaunted solitaire, a system that when combined with Normandy and North Africa allows you to play either faction in 31 different scenarios for 62 total different solo play experiences!
Undaunted: Reinforcements really brings the design for Normandy and North Africa to conclusion. It allows us to give players what they've been asking for from the first days of Normandy's release. From the both of us, as well as Dávid Turczi, David Digby, and the entire Osprey team, we hope you all are as excited to play Reinforcements as we are!
—David & Trevor