I didn’t need to do this. I mean, rights for the game came back to Portal Games. The base game was out of stock for some time. It was obvious we will do a reprint. Stronghold was always one of the designs I was most proud of. I wanted it to be back in stock.
But man, did I really need to do the whole new edition?
In 2014 I looked at the game to see what we need to change in a reprint. Yes, of course, rulebook could use some rewriting. Yes, square boxes are better than rectangular so we will change it in new print. Yes, artwork on cards looked like artwork from 2009. There was plenty of things we could improve.
Clearly at some point there was this moment where I could stop. When I listed all production problems with the previous edition, asked my team to fix them and we would be done. I could have new edition in couple of weeks ready.
If only I was not Ignacy Trzewiczek. I don’t go for easy solutions.
Glory board is super thematic, but it confuses players, makes winning conditions more complicated and leads some times to very unthematic moves that help defender win the game. I decided to trash it.
Battery ram was too weak in Portal printing and too strong in Valley printing and actually I never liked it anyway. I decided to trash it.
Variant for 3 and 4 players worked well, but no one on this whole planet ever tried it. Trash.
Over and over, trashing and trashing…
Being serious. I read a lot of opinions about the game on BGG. I read and listened to many reviews of the game. I read comments on webstores about the game. And what is most important, I began to play the game again. And even though I was very proud of this design, I found some things that I could do better now.
So I did.
No Glory board
The Invader will win the game if he manages to break into the castle in 7 rounds. Defender wins the game if he manages to defend castle for 7 rounds.
As simple as that.
What I like about this solution is a great approach of play-testers who played as an Invader. They were planning in which round they will hit hard, in which round they will make a false attack, when they will do two dispatches… They sit to the game and they knew that there is 7 rounds. And they planned. They built precise plan and then they began the attack. It is both thematic and strategic, it works on both levels, on the level of story and on the level of mechanism and strategic challenge.
And man, this is simplest winning condition ever.
I wanted the game to be engaging from the very beginning, I wanted it to let players engage in combat as soon as possible. That is why in 2nd edition Invader begins the game with his forces already on the board, already marching towards the castle. It is the first round of the game when cannons will shoot, it is the first round when dead bodies of orcs and goblins will cover the ramparts.
I made the game shorter. It is only 7 rounds, you start with forces on board, you are put into the action from the very beginning. No time to waste. No time for fooling around. You have your invading forces on the foregrounds. Run towards the wall! Run!
Objective cards and Defense plans
I added Objectives for Invader and I added hidden Defense Plans for defender. There is 10 cards in each of the deck. Each of these cards changes the game, each Objective will encourage Invader to consider particular move, each Defense plan will show Defender different options to surprise opponent.
Objective cards have some small task to achieve like ‘Have Orcs on two adjacent wall sections” or “Destroy two wall sections” and if the Invader manages to achieve this task, he is awarded with small bonus like “Gain 2 additional orcs on each foreground” or “Destroy one cannon”.
Defense plans are opposite. They give a bonus to the defender, but there are bad consequences. Use each of your cannons twice this round, but then remove them from the game. Get additional action points, but then loose two units. Your soldiers are doing their best, but there is a price for that.
With 10 Objectives and 10 defense plans I was able to add new layer of replaybility into the game.
I changed many things in the game. Instead of few weeks of easy peasy work on a new print run, I spent with my testers long months of playtesting new edition. It was huge task, it was revisiting the castle for hundred of hours and balancing this game over and over again but the final result is amazing. When we finished testing with my team, they were tired, they were sick of the game, they were so happy that we are finally done and that finally I will stop calling them and ask for another test game.
But what is most important, we were proud. We did so much more than just reprint. I have no doubts you’ll send us few Thumbs up, when you’ll play new edition. I know we earned them. Can’t wait for your feedback.