Helsinki 1918: designer’s comments

Here are some comments from the game designer’s view.

Few years ago we decided to make a game about Battle of Helsinki 1918 and publish that game before the 100th anniversary. I spent quite long time thinking what kind of game it could be. THe first idea was to make H1918 using the mechanics of our previous game W1815. For some reason the game expanded to a full hex game and thus we also end up to change the name, because not much were left from W1815 mechanics.

The second problem was three sides, Whites, Reds and Germans where Whites and Germans have same interests. Actually the game is probably for 2,7 players rather than a 3 player game.

The players get turns in a random order and one player can get more than one turn in a row. Also the number of command points for each turn is random. The game length is fixed to the number of German command points (each time the German player spends a command point the time marker moved forward). So in each game the German player has equal number of command points to try to conquer Helsinki.

The random turn order is balanced by giving to “passive players” some bonus during opponent turns. For example Reds gets a support card in a German turn while Germans get one HQ point in each Reds’ turn.

In each turn player has random number of command points to execute orders for example move or battle. Germans can also regroup their units back to the reserves, which simulates units in a march formations. Then a battalion HQ can advance alone (with less number of command points) and later deploy units back to the battlefield. With this I have tried to simulate Germans as a professional army compared to Reds and Whites paramilitary forces. The Reds can give orders to increase their fighting spirit or recruit new troops among citizen. Also the Reds have order which they can use to try to arrest White underground troops.

The Whites are fully off-map (underground) at the beginning of the battle. First they just draw a card in each Reds turn (or discard one card and draw two new). Each card simulates some of Whites activity or hidden weapons. The Whites have orders to deploy squads (their HQs) to the battlefield and when there are enough squads close each other they can try to form units. Timing is important. If Germans are too far from the centre the White squads might be arrested by the Reds, but if the Whites are too slow, then the Germans will take the victory without Whites.

Battle mechanics I wanted to keep quite simple, because the whole battle was more skirmish fighting rather than wide fronts. Basically the attacker roll as many dice as there are attacking units and chooses the highest results. The defender rolls only one die, but gets some bonus from the terrain. The higher results wins and the loser effects depends about the difference of the results. The Germans can make some adjustments for the result as a professional army. The Reds can use their morale to reduce the effects if they lost a battle action. The Whites can’t affect at all for the result.

I hope you will enjoy the game. At least in the test games the feedback has been good, but most of them have been played with local players from Helsinki. I still hope this game offers something for players outside of Helsinki and Finland. At least Kim has made a great job with the map so if you do not enjoy the game, maybe you can use the map for a sightseeing tour in Helsinki