VIII Corps at the Somme : 1st July – Creating the game cycle

Having looked at the function of the game board, and the best one for this game I want to look at how the game works around the board.

Remember this is trying to replicate in some way the issues VIII Corps had at the Somme in 1916.

First off – the opening bombardment.There were 5 days (+2, because of the weather) days of bombardment before VIII Corps assaulted the German trenches

I have decided to use cards to represent the battle. I think cards allow a certain amount of control over the environment of the game within which the players play. For example, if you have a deck of 8 cards, and each turn you play (and pick up) 8 cards by putting 4 artillery bombardment cards in the deck you effectively have a continuous bombardment created. In other words you have built the card cycle so the player is always playing bombardment cards, you have replicated the continuous bombardment.

It can be made further sophisticated by having a cycle of 10 cards – with 4 artillery bombardment cards, and the player picking up 8 each turn. This allows the player to have a variable number of bombardment cards each turn (but always some).

So we have replicated the bombardment. How do we replicate its growing intensity through the 7 days? Although the additional 2 days created an ammo problem, and shells fired reduced in that period, there was still a rise in intensity with the mortars and higher calibres becoming involved.

I decided that each side will have their own deck – this allows the decks to be personalised to the historical counterparts. I also decided that the decks should be split between Strategic and Tactical, each with differing functions.

The Strategic cards are the Bombardment cards, the reinforcement, trench raiding, mine blowing sort of activity, whilst the Tactical cards reflected the actual assaults – Machine guns, Bombers, Wire, etc. However, they are mixed together in the one deck for each side.

The game rhythm is for the first 7 turns the British build there Strategic attack, whilst pulling and playing 8 cards each turn. As they pull Tactical cards, they put thee to one side to build an attacking force. by doing this the prevalence of Strategic cards each turn increases, until by turn 7 it is only Strategic cards being picked up  (the British deck has become only about 8 cards) and recycled. The British place the Strategic bombardment card on the German position being targeted, this will negate its defences for any Tactical attack.


A early mock up of a Strategic card.The effect chart did not make the final cut.

The German player is picking 5 cards each turn, with some Strategic cards which disrupt the British players Strategic bombardment, or with Tactical cards the German can hold and use in defence when the British player attacks.

When the 7 turns of bombardment are over, the British player must attack. He must always be successful to carry on attacking, otherwise he has one turn to win again of the offensive is called off and he fails. The Germans just need to defend, but can counterattack. It is a simple highest number counted from the laid cards and any modifiers wins. Cards are then discarded.


An early mock up of a Tactical card

This discard after an attack then increases the picking deck again for the British, which thins out its strategic cards (i.e they become fewer in the higher number of cards), which potentially reduces the Tactical fighting power of the British.

In the actual attack, the VIII Corps assaults were simply stopped by the Wire not being cut, and troops were effectively launched into uncut wire to be shot down by the German machine Guns (that were still there because of the inadequate bombardment). In this game I represent the wire as Tactical cards the German player can keep, which automatically stop the British attack and make the player lose the card he put towards it. They are very powerful cards, however the British have 2 cards that of Strategic Bombardment that cut the wire, i.e the German player has to remove 1 wire card from his hand. Getting the balance between the powerful wire and the ability of the British to remove it is important in the game representing the actual assault, but in also making possible for the British to win.


Early mock up of the Tactical German Wire card

Its an interesting point – as it’s a game the option must always be available for the British to win. Playing solo you could make it a ‘how far can you get’ game, but as a two player game there has to be some competition in it.


A later mock up of the Terrain cards. The wording is still wrong for the effects!!!


So its nearly all there. More later, and maybe a trial game.

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