Posts Tagged 'The Cousins’ War'

The Ming Voyages: cards

Some of the cards from Surprised Stare Games’ coming-soon Pocket Campaigns game The Ming Voyages. Near-final artwork.

Size of the cards will be 105mm x 75mm, same as The Cousins’ War 2nd edition.

Artwork by Klemens Franz.

A couple of Pocket Campaigns

Coming soon…

Following on from our Wars of the Roses game “The Cousins’ War” by David J Mortimer, we are continuing our SSG Pocket Campaigns series of small box games with The March of Progress and The Ming Voyages.

The March of Progress (by yours truly) has an introductory scenario The Thirty Years War that sets out the core rules of the game. It uses a limited hand of 8 Action cards per side, ranging from Move to Attack to Recruit. Each player simultaneously chooses 1 card to play each turn, then reveals and carries out the Action. Cards stay discarded until the Score card is played; then, the player regains all played cards and scores VPs. The aim of The March of Progress is to control countries, in order to generate VPs during scoring. The winner is the player with most VPs at the end of the game, unsurprisingly.

There are a further 4 historical scenarios in the box, The Age of Marlborough, Vive l’Empereur, World War 1 in the West, World War 2 in the West. Each scenario changes the set-up and tweaks the rules to give a flavour of strategy in different time periods. The scenarios create a varied and challenging 2-player game with cards, a small number of armies, VP cubes and dice to indicate VP generation and army strength.

The Ming Voyages (by David J Mortimer and myself) is set in the era of the oceanic treasure fleet voyages led by the Chinese Admiral Zheng He. One player is the Ming Emperor trying to complete all 7 Treasure Voyages as well as protecting the Chinese Borderlands from invading barbarians. The other player controls the 3 disparate barbarian factions trying to settle on the Borderlands with China.

The Ming Voyages has a similar approach to The Cousins’ War with multi-function cards for actions or command points. However, it’s asymmetric – only the Ming Emperor draws cards, and the 2 players swap hands at the end of each turn. This means the Emperor knows what’s in the Barbarian player’s hand. The Emperor wins automatically if he completes all 7 voyages. The Barbarian wins automatically if he occupies all the Chinese Borderlands. As in The Cousins’ War, players can exploit out-of-turn actions. Battles can occur in the Borderlands. Here, players use their 3 dice to roll for triples, doubles and singles that are better than their opponent’s rolls. Reserved cards can be used for re-rolls – but if you reserve a card, you don’t get the Action.

We’re currently working on the final artwork for both games. Here’s a sneak peak at The Ming Voyages board (work-in-progress).

The Cousins’ War: bigger and better roses

The Cousins’ War is Surprised Stare Games’ 2-player game of the Wars of the Roses. It was designed by David J Mortimer, who showed it to me in 2016. I was immediately struck by the elegance and depth of the game – such a lot of game in what was almost a micro-game format: 18 cards, 3 dice, a small board and 27 cubes. I really liked the theme too, as I’ve studied a lot of military history, and I’m a wargamer. So, I persuaded Tony (relatively easily I would say) that we at Surprised Stare Games should publish it.

The original edition was launched at UK Games Expo in June 2017. It came in a small box with beautiful artwork by Klemens Franz and was printed by NSF in the Netherlands. We weren’t sure how well it would sell, as it was a bit different from, not only other SSG products, but also from conventional micro-games or wargames. The Cousins’ War combines both the depth of multi-use action card play with secondary actions usable by your opponent, as in Twilight Struggle, and also a bluffing dice game – like Liar’s Dice – for the battle at the end of each round. The whole fits together very neatly, providing interesting and challenging decisions and a little dose of luck, with the additional advantage that it takes only about 30 minutes or so to play. The cards are highly thematic and the battles too feel very appropriate to the period with bluff and counter-bluff playing the parts of feint and treachery.

The Cousins’ War proved to be very popular. Not only did we sell large numbers at UK Games Expo, but lots of shops in the UK sold large numbers too. We had multiple re-orders very rapidly from multiple shops. By October we’d almost sold out, and we sold the last copies at Essen Spiel ’17.

Rather than immediately re-printing the original game, we decided to produce a new second edition with our international partners: Flying Lemur Game Studio in the USA, Frosted Games in Germany and 2Tomatoes in Spain. Producing more copies reduced the unit costs and made the game more viable commercially. These savings also enabled us to meet the new market demands: the small size of the original game was not good for the additional markets – a larger-sized box is easier to sell, and it enables us to show off the artwork to much better effect.

cw_gameboard_back_piconly

So, over the next few months, The Cousin’s War second edition was born. We retained all the strengths of the first edition: the artwork is basically the same, the rules in essence unchanged, so it is largely the same game. It’s also larger.

We turned the box art round, so that it is portrait orientation for a cleaner style. The larger box meant we could produce a larger board – much easier to handle the cubes on it; and on the reverse we have space for the full panorama of Klemens’ original artwork. The cards are about 50% larger, so that the text is easier to read, and the play aid card was completely re-designed to make it clearer. While the rules remain the same in principle, we took the opportunity to ask Gaming Rules! expert Paul Grogan to go through them with a fine-toothed comb. Klemens re-worked the layout on the larger pages, so now we have an excellent set of rules with many more examples of how to play. Finally, we could afford to produce better quality dice, so the new game sports 3 white-with-red-spots for the Yorkists and 3 red-with-white-spots for the Lancastrians.

Shortly after the launch of the first edition, we produced the Events expansion – a small number of additional thematic cards to change the game in a minor way each round. For the new edition, we have integrated this expansion into the main game as the Times of Change expansion. The Times of Change adds an extra level of replayability.

The Cousins’ War 2nd edition was launched at Essen Spiel ’18 and has been very well received. We aim to follow up The Cousins’ War’s success with more small games in the future; we have several more little gems in the pipeline.


In addition to Surprised Stare Games for the UK, The Cousins’ War 2nd edition is available from: