Home Board Game Design Diary: Undaunted: Stalingrad, or A Non-destructive Game of Epic Conflict | BoardGameGeek News

Design Diary: Undaunted: Stalingrad, or A Non-destructive Game of Epic Conflict | BoardGameGeek News

Design Diary: Undaunted: Stalingrad, or A Non-destructive Game of Epic Conflict | BoardGameGeek News


Undaunted: Stalingrad is a deep and expansive standalone recreation that strikes the Undaunted collection in an entire new path — an immersive marketing campaign system that performs out like a legacy recreation however might be replayed for very totally different experiences.

In Undaunted: Stalingrad, you lead a German or Soviet platoon and battle over a war-torn metropolis in one of the crucial consequential battles in historical past. During the course of the marketing campaign, your troopers might be awarded for his or her acts of valor or they’ll die preventing valiantly, town round you modifications primarily based in your actions, and your victories and defeats form the situations to return.

Board Game: Undaunted: Stalingrad

At the start of Undaunted: Stalingrad, your platoon consists of a platoon sergeant, squad leaders, scouts, riflemen, and machine gunners. Over the course of the marketing campaign, it is possible for you to so as to add many new troops to your platoon, and it is possible for you to to outfit your troopers with new weapons and tools — and your infantry will not be alone. To win within the streets of Stalingrad, you’ll need all of the assist you’ll be able to muster from tanks and extra. As you command your troops in skirmishes, they’ve the chance to be rewarded for his or her feats of bravery, with promotions bringing new roles and tasks in addition to outfitting them with new weapons and tools. But though the Battle of Stalingrad gives your troopers an opportunity to show their braveness, this can be very harmful and lots of the troops that you simply start the marketing campaign with won’t dwell to see the destiny of town.

Your actions and people of your opponent will reshape town of Stalingrad as you make your manner by way of the marketing campaign. Buildings will probably be diminished to rubble by the damaging would possibly of the German and Soviet air forces and artillery hearth. You should use the atmosphere to your benefit to achieve success in your battles, hiding within the rubble left behind by a destroyed house constructing, navigating secret tunnels, and forcing your opponent’s tanks into your ambushes.

During the course of the marketing campaign, you’ll play by way of as much as fifteen branching situations, with every path pushed by your successes and failures. With over 35 totally different situations within the recreation, each marketing campaign expertise will probably be totally different than the one earlier than. Each participant in Undaunted: Stalingrad has their very own mission briefings, offering gamers with a narrative tailor-made to their perspective of the battle. The recreation consists of over 150 evocative mission briefings for both sides written by acclaimed creator Robbie MacNiven, offering gamers with a narrative tailor-made to their perspective of the battle that may assist immerse them within the marketing campaign’s story. And after all the sport’s wealthy narrative will probably be illustrated by Roland MacDonald, with over 300 distinctive items of artwork.

This is the story of how Undaunted: Stalingrad got here to be…


Board Game: Undaunted: Normandy
Board Game: Undaunted: North Africa

The origin for Undaunted: Stalingrad might be traced all the way in which again to February 2018, a year-and-a-half earlier than Undaunted: Normandy (the primary recreation within the Undaunted collection) was launched. At the time, Trevor Benjamin (my designer associate for the Undaunted collection) and I had accomplished the design for Undaunted: Normandy and had been simply getting began with Undaunted: North Africa.

Publisher Osprey Games believed that Undaunted can be nicely obtained and needed us to consider what the following recreation within the collection may very well be about. In an e mail change I had with Trevor, that is what he mentioned:


Thematically, the sport may observe the members of a single Soviet platoon, transferring all through town. Mechanically, we may add…a form of persistent state / pseudo-legacy factor. (The participant)…saves their deck throughout video games. Maybe?

So even within the earliest discussions about what Stalingrad may be, we envisioned legacy or marketing campaign fashion mechanisms.

Throughout the remainder of 2018 and into 2019, Trevor and I had been targeted on Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa, however in March 2019 as a part of an e mail proposal to Osprey for our concept on Stalingrad, I mentioned:


Trevor and I’ve mentioned what Undaunted 3 would possibly appear like. We each actually like the concept of Undaunted: Eastern Front or Undaunted: Stalingrad. It would introduce the Soviets, and focus on city and shut quarters fight. It would additionally introduce extra automobiles, and so forth.

The recreation was formally greenlit by Osprey in August 2019 (on the identical time Undaunted: Normandy was releasing) when Filip Hartelius and Anthony Howgego — the lead builders at Osprey — commissioned the sport. Their path was that Undaunted: Stalingrad must be a “damaging legacy” recreation, alongside the strains of Risk Legacy or Pandemic Legacy.

Discussion with Osprey

Board Game Publisher: Osprey Games

Just a few months later in October 2019, Filip, Anthony, Trevor, and I met in Essen, Germany throughout SPIEL to debate concepts for Stalingrad. Below is a listing of preliminary concepts we mentioned for the sport. For these aware of the Undaunted collection, it is price noting that on the time of this assembly, Undaunted: Normandy had solely been launched for just a few months, the design for North Africa was being finalized, and design work for Reinforcements was nonetheless underway.


Essen 2019 dialogue: What ought to an Undaunted legacy recreation have?

Same core gameplay as different Undaunted titles
Unlock new capabilities
Soldiers get higher (upgrades)
Perma-board state modifications
Normandy (relatively than North Africa) scale
Can’t change fight rolls (must be the identical primary cube rolling system)
Can’t change deck-building (although we mentioned that very same situations may use constructed decks)
Core idea is provide manipulation over time
Secret aims
Secret provide
Obfuscate finish of marketing campaign scoring

Spoiler (click on to disclose)


UKGE 2020: preliminary design idea full
March/April 2021: design work full

While a few of these preliminary ideas did not precisely make it into the ultimate recreation, it offered us with a place to begin.


Board Game: Undaunted: Reinforcements

Between our assembly with Osprey in October 2019 and early 2020, Trevor and I had been targeted on finishing the design work for Undaunted: Reinforcements. It was in April 2020 once we had our first substantive design dialogue for Stalingrad, which revolved across the composition of the German and Soviet items, the place they might be related and the place they might be totally different. We knew from participant suggestions for Undaunted: Normandy that asymmetry was an vital — maybe an important — factor of the sport. The two sides wanted to really feel distinctive. And along with the overall variations between the 2 sides, we additionally wanted to develop a system of upgrades.

Here are the preliminary notes Trevor and I made concerning soldier overviews:


• Soldier playing cards are double-sided. The entrance reveals the soldier as a “recruit” — primary skills and stats — and the reverse reveals them as a “veteran” — additional skills, improved stats, and so forth. The additional skills range each throughout items (Scouts have totally different choices than Rifleman) and inside items (one Rifleman inside Squad A might have a sub-machine gun, whereas the opposite will get anti-tank gun).
• Between situations, you get to “promote” a number of the troopers in your deck, flipping them from their recruit to their veteran aspect.
• This will probably be performed at a hard and fast fee (e.g., three playing cards per participant per state of affairs), however it may very well be tweaked primarily based on what occurred within the state of affairs (e.g. hidden aims, who gained, and so forth.).
• For now a minimum of, we expect that is performed randomly from the playing cards in your deck when the sport ends (i.e., these which have taken half on this struggle) (cf. Casualties, which can be random)
• Command playing cards are double-sided and might be flipped, too, however this solely occurs by way of state of affairs/narrative.

With the exception of flipping playing cards for upgrades (which might have required sleeves), most of this preliminary sketch of an concept lived by way of to the ultimate model of Stalingrad.

By July 2020, Trevor and I had been nicely underway with conceptualizing the “harm” system (which might later flip into Reserve troopers), upgrades, state of affairs designs, and so forth. Here is a screenshot of our notes and tasks doc from 28 July 2020:

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

By August 2020, we had labored by way of the primary few situations and drafted an preliminary ruleset. While not one of the guidelines modifications in Stalingrad are drastic, we did take the chance to make what we felt had been enhancements to the core Undaunted system.

We modified the way in which items spawned. Instead of requiring additional tokens on the board throughout set-up to designate spawn areas, we simplified issues by ruling that items spawned at Riflemen areas, which additionally had the additional advantage of including some attention-grabbing in-game tactical selections. In addition, we added a brand new finish situation for routed Riflemen. This meant that we may take away the “Beyond All Hope” rule within the recreation, which was undoubtedly essentially the most complicated and least satisfying rule in Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa.

We additionally had sense of how the overarching marketing campaign would work. It can be set round 9 January Square within the southern a part of Stalingrad, an space that was comparatively minimize off from the remainder of the battle. That made for an ideal location to set a protracted battle between the 2 sides. Because the tiles in Undaunted: Stalingrad map to precise areas (relatively than the modular nature of the tiles in Normandy and North Africa), we had been in a position to make use of a full-sized map of the tiles for our testing. This display seize from July 2020 reveals the earliest model of the marketing campaign board. At the time we had been utilizing playing cards from Undaunted: Normandy to proxy the items.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

Between August and December 2020, Trevor and I targeted all of our consideration on Undaunted: Stalingrad. Usually we juggle a number of initiatives — different collaborations we’re engaged on, and initiatives with different designers — however throughout this time, nearly all of our design time was spent on Stalingrad. We met a minimum of thrice every week, normally for 3 or 4 hours per session. And between these design periods we every had our personal tasks: Trevor specializing in the principles and unit upgrades, and me specializing in the state of affairs designs and total marketing campaign construction.

In the early phases, we had a number of, generally competing, design targets: creating and testing new situations, creating and testing new items (with upgrades), deciding on which new items we would want so as to add to the marketing campaign (and after they can be added), figuring out what impression every state of affairs would have on the general marketing campaign, and so forth. By September we had locked down the core guidelines modifications, however had been nonetheless working by way of precisely how accidents would work. This is one thing that was difficult for us. The accidents (which might later turn out to be the Reserve unit replacements) wanted to concurrently really feel impactful, whereas additionally not feeling “un-fun”. In the tip, we’re glad the place we landed, however it was one of the crucial troublesome components of the design expertise for us.

By December we had been closing in on finishing the design work for the sport. We had settled on all the principles, finalized which items can be within the recreation, settled on a system for Reserve and Upgraded items, designed the system for damaging buildings, and so forth. It was additionally at this level that we had accomplished the construction for the overarching marketing campaign. In the tip we needed to create over 35 totally different situations to assist all of the totally different permutations for the marketing campaign, and there have been many, many alternative endings, relying on the results of every state of affairs.

Here is a visible of the state of affairs pathing throughout the whole lot of the marketing campaign:

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

In January 2021, Trevor and I met with Osprey to transient them on our progress. We had been near finishing the preliminary design work and able to flip every thing over to Osprey for playtesting and the start of improvement.

Development and Playtesting

Within the following few months, improvement was nicely underway at Osprey, with Anthony and Filip placing the sport by way of its paces. At the identical time, Osprey was operating a big organized playtest effort. We wanted numerous info from the testers: had been there degenerate methods we hadn’t foreseen throughout the design section, what was the general response to the persistent results, and so forth.

By mid-2021, the playtest was largely full, and Trevor and I had been assembly ceaselessly with Anthony and Filip to make minor changes to items, state of affairs design, and the way in which particular actions labored.

I can not stress sufficient how essential this era of playtesting and improvement was for the sport. It’s what actually gave it that deep look, making certain that we — as a whole crew — did every thing attainable to verify the gameplay was the perfect it may probably be.

The Change from Legacy to Resettable Campaign

From the very starting of discussions about Undaunted: Stalingrad, Trevor and I had been in lock-step with Osprey (that’s, Filip and Anthony) about every thing besides one VERY vital problem: the subject of damaging legacy versus a marketing campaign system. Trevor and I most popular a marketing campaign system, whereas Osprey was in favor of a damaging legacy recreation.

As early as May 2020, even earlier than Trevor and I had accomplished the preliminary draft of the principles, we had developed a proposal for a resettable marketing campaign system and despatched it to Filip and Anthony for evaluate. Trevor wrote:


A core (if not the core) change is that results can persist all through the marketing campaign. If troopers are killed, they’re completely eliminated out of your provide. If troopers are promoted/upgraded, they completely acquire new skills. If a constructing is destroyed, it completely drops in protection worth and blocks automobile motion. That form of factor.

In Essen we mentioned utilizing customized stickers and/or pens to deal with this persistence. So Stalingrad can be a correct one-shot Legacy recreation. We surprise, although, if that is mandatory. We’ve give you a mannequin which, we imagine, permits us to keep up the persistence however keep away from the permanence, making the sport completely re-playable. See hooked up. We really feel this can be a way more engaging proposition for gamers. They can have their cake and eat it too — or relatively, eat it repeatedly!

Filip and Anthony pushed again in opposition to this proposal, feeling that damaging legacy was the fitting strategy to go for quite a lot of causes. So that is the way in which Trevor and I moved ahead. And finally I really feel the design was a lot better for it. Trevor and I designed the sport to be a damaging legacy recreation, which meant that we may actually lean closely right into a high-stakes affair.

In the tip, it was not till after Trevor and I had delivered the design for Undaunted: Stalingrad that the choice was made to transition from damaging legacy to a resettable marketing campaign. There had been two main causes that Osprey made the choice to make this transformation. First, the sport would have really value extra to supply as a damaging legacy product relatively than a resettable recreation. We could not ask gamers to pay extra for a damaging recreation than a resettable recreation. Second, playtesters strongly most popular a replayable recreation. This was particularly vital for Undaunted, wherein you typically need to expertise taking part in on each side of an uneven state of affairs.

Filip was the strongest proponent for the damaging legacy method. This is what he needed to say about making the transition to a resettable marketing campaign:


I argued essentially the most vehemently for legacy, and I believe it was largely primarily based on ensuring that every thing felt weighty and filled with consequence. We actually needed shedding troopers to have an emotional dimension.

However, the explanations we modified had been (a) sufficient folks, together with playtesters, had been asking for a replayable possibility, and we got here up with the choice of swapping out tiles and playing cards, and that was actually cheaper to supply than legacy, additionally (b) the richest legacy points of Stalingrad aren’t the massive, dramatic modifications of, say, Pandemic Legacy, the place there’s one massive rule change or dramatic betrayal, however numerous small, incremental modifications. Stickering a card is enjoyable — stickering half a deck is a chore; ripping up a card is dramatic — ripping up tens of playing cards feels wasteful.

In the tip, this transition from damaging legacy to a resettable marketing campaign after the design was full was an enormous profit to the general design, for my part. It meant that Trevor and I had been designing the sport with these high-stakes situations, crafting a posh internet of state of affairs development by way of the marketing campaign — after which on the finish, we had been capable of take that design method and switch it right into a recreation that may very well be performed repeatedly, with very, very totally different outcomes.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

An instance of the evolution of 1 tile: a completely intact constructing, broken, and destroyed

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

An instance of an upgraded soldier (my favourite within the recreation, as an apart!)

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

An instance of a Reserve soldier

The Setting

Undaunted: Stalingrad is about in what was referred to as the northern portion of town heart of Stalingrad. This part of the battle of Stalingrad, centered round 9 January Square, was comparatively minimize off from the bigger portion of the battle, which was located farther to the north. The motion within the recreation begins in late September 1942, simply after the Germans had captured a lot of the world round 9 January Square. The recreation represents the actions of platoon-sized items (bolstered by supporting parts) over the course of two months (culminating across the time of Operation Uranus, when the Soviets launched a serious encirclement of the German forces round Stalingrad). This location and time interval is the right setting for Undaunted: Stalingrad because it represents a comparatively remoted portion of the battle the place the 2 forces fought for months over only a small neighborhood-sized space of town.

I had researched this identical space of Stalingrad for a special recreation I designed (Pavlov’s House), so I used to be intimately aware of the exercise within the space throughout this time. I additionally simply so occurred to have fairly just a few books to attract on for extra analysis.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics


A dialogue of the artwork for Undaunted: Stalingrad ought to actually come from Roland MacDonald, the artist of the Undaunted collection, however I’m glad to debate it briefly from my perspective. First off, a lot of Undaunted‘s success is owed to Roland, who developed a improbable search for the collection that by some means manages to attraction to a broad viewers, whereas additionally evoking the sport’s conflict theme. (Earlier in 2022, he did a improbable interview with Neil Bunker of Diagonal Move discussing his inventive course of.)

Trevor and I offered an summary of the battlefield space the place Undaunted: Stalingrad takes place to Roland, who remodeled our poor high quality idea into the gorgeous tiles within the last model of the sport.

Here’s a comparability of what we gave to Roland, and the ultimate model of the same space:

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics
From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

When Trevor and I had been designing the sport, we used placeholder playing cards from Undaunted: Normandy for the primary couple of periods, however then used artless playing cards generated utilizing a script that drew from a spreadsheet for the overwhelming majority of the design work.

When it was time for Roland to begin engaged on the playing cards, we did not present detailed artwork descriptions for the items. We simply offered a really transient idea and Roland drew from his expertise with prior Undaunted titles and his personal historic analysis to develop the artwork.

Here’s a comparability of what Trevor and I used whereas designing the sport, a row of textual content for the cardboard (to incorporate what Roland used as the idea for the artwork) and last card from Roland. In this case, we’re speaking that this can be a rifleman from squad A that has been promoted to the next rank and “evokes” different troopers from his squad.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

And this is a have a look at the assorted variations of the Soviet riflemen from Squad A:

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics


For the primary time for an Undaunted title, Osprey employed an acclaimed creator, Robbie MacNiven, to supply a story for the sport. Rather than simply present a fast background passage for every state of affairs, as had been performed in prior titles, Undaunted: Stalingrad follows the motion with a story tailor-made for both sides within the battle, focusing the story on the commanders: the platoon sergeants and squad leaders. Over the course of the marketing campaign, successes and failures are mirrored within the narrative, and the personalities of the leaders for both sides will emerge.

The resolution to incorporate the evocative story is among the many causes that I like collaborating with Osprey. They selected to go the additional step in hiring an acclaimed creator to breathe life into the sport that – when mixed with Roland’s artwork – actually helps set the sport over others within the style, for my part. Here’s a sampling of the German state of affairs ebook.

From gallery of Skirmish_Tactics

A peek contained in the Soviet marketing campaign ebook


When Undaunted: Stalingrad is launched on 24 November 2022 within the UK and elsewhere exterior the U.S. (and in December 2022 within the U.S.), it would mark the tip of an nearly five-year course of to make the sport a actuality. From the very first e mail the place Trevor and I mentioned the concept of persistence to the printed model of the sport that mixes Robbie’s wealthy narratives and Roland’s evocative artwork, the artistic course of for Undaunted: Stalingrad has been essentially the most engrossing and rewarding recreation design expertise for me. I believe I can safely communicate for Trevor, Anthony, Filip, Roland, Robbie, Filip, Anthony, and everybody else at Osprey once I say that we actually hope that folk take pleasure in taking part in Undaunted: Stalingrad as a lot as we loved making it.

David Thompson



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