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TCancer Interview - Ground Pounders

TCancer Interview - Ground Pounders

Interview - posted by Whisky on Tue 10 September 2013, 13:35:25

Tags: Ground Pounders; Kerberos Productions; Kickstarter


Martin Cirulis, CEO and developer for Kerberos Productions has been kind enough to answer a few questions about their Kickstarter for the game, Ground Pounders. Along with that, producer Chris Stewart sent us a batch of new screenshots.

Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Martin. Could you tell us a little about Ground Pounders?

Thank you for the interest. Always happy to talk about our games! SotS: Ground Pounders is basically a wargame-lite about surface warfare in the Sword of the Stars universe. After all these years of slugging it out in the depths of space with giant starships we knew are fans were getting more than just a little curious about what was going on when you sent down assault shuttles or forced a planetary surrender. Ground Pounders is all about the people men and women, who slog through the mud, take the hits and plant the flag on alien worlds while the glory hounds zip around the high frontier!

At its core, Ground Pounders is meant to be a serious, but relatively light SF wargame that incorporates some old-school mechanics like odds tables and supply lines and combines them with more modern components like combat cards and dice allocation. The result is a fast-paced easy to learn wargame that doesn't forget that strategy and tactics are the finer points of warfare.


What would you say are your main inspirations for the game?

Hmmm... I would have to say in terms of computer games, Ground Pounders owes a lot to the original Panzer General (and of course, Star General) and the campaign values of games like Steel Panthers. In terms of board games it goes way back to stuff like Fulda Gap, Afrika Korp, and the Third World War Series by GDW.

For combat, do you intend to include both planet based combat with space based combat?

As Sword of the Stars is a space warfare game that abstracts surface combat, GP is a surface combat game that abstracts space warfare. Trying to do them together would rob both of too much detail in our opinion. Instead, in Ground Pounders your space assets are represented first by a card draw that represents who has space superiority in a battle if it is not set by the scenario. Once superiority is determined, the winning player will get a series of combat cards representing the abilities that come with having control of local space, such as regular recon scans of areas of the map and support strikes from orbital weapons.

Other combat cards can be used to represent a sudden arrival of reinforcements that allow for space superiority to be contested again, or the arrival of assault shuttles from an unexpected cruiser squadron or even a solar flare that renders all space operations null and void until it passes.


The Kickstarter mentioned different environments, such as airless moons. How will these effect the gameplay?

Map-wide conditions, like environments, have a highly intuitive place in Ground Pounders combat. Fighting on an airless moon? You can guess that's a bit more dangerous than duking it out on a summer afternoon on the beach. In game terms it results in any combat adding another step of damage to both sides. On the other hand, let’s say an underwater battle with Humans vs. the Liir would be just as dangerous as space to the humans, but not so much to the Liir, so in that case the damage modifier only applies to one side. Our scenario allows us to do such things with ease and that really frees a designer’s imagination.

Other environments might slow moments for some units or render other non-functional. As you can imagine with the airless moon example, hover units will be a bit of a drag (terrible pun intended)


What differentiates the Human, Tarka, and Hivers from each other? Will they have different focuses and specialties?

In very broad terms, the Humans in Ground Pounders are about the sustained breakthrough of enemy lines through combined arms. The Tarka are the fast break specialists looking to cause as much damage in as short a period of time as possible while the Hivers are committed to broad front advancement and containment of any breakthroughs.

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of units and attributes, each side has units, and the values for those units skewed towards those priorities. Tarka units tend to be a bit faster and hit a bit harder and can sustain longer supply lines. On the other hand they are less resilient than their Hiver counterparts and often carry less dice than their Human analogs. When it comes to defence, the Hivers are as tough as one might expect with units specialized towards mutual support instead of speed. Specialty units like tunnelers compliment their unique play style.

And of course the combat cards add to all of this by including race-specific abilities that you would use when building a deck to work with a specific species. So between the units themselves, their stats and unique cards, Ground Pounders maintains the SotS tradition of making each race play like a different game.

What kind of victory conditions do you want to implement in the game?

We’ve tried to put a large number of victory conditions into the game partly for the sake of variety and partly to help tell the “story” of each battle. I mean, we have all played wargames that have lots of battles, but sooner or later you get a little bored with "Kill enemy" and then "Kill enemy by turn X". In Ground Pounders we of course have those, but we also tried to stretch the idea of what constitutes victory to fit what the idea was for any particular scenario. So we have things like capturing or defending territory, defending or killing certain units, getting units "off board" or preventing the enemy from doing so. We are able to stack those into a single battle or modify them with time or losses limitations that put players into positions where they have to think outside the box sometimes in order to find victory.

We also have the ability to set primary and secondary victory conditions that allow especially skilled players to earn more reputation for their command and more experience for their units over the course of a battle.


What do you feel are the main strengths of the Sword of the Stars universe? What does the setting bring to the table?
Easily it’s the depth of the SotS-verse that is its main strength and what allows a nearly infinite number of games from different genres to be set in it. Our lead writer, Arinn Dembo, has created such a rich, detailed universe that a designer can have a field day looking for the right setting and choosing the right races for almost any mechanic you can think of. The running gag in the office is that we will officially be out of ideas when we announce SotS: Space Delicatessen... but the really funny part is every time we mention it, someone in the office gets that faraway look in their eyes that says they are working out in their head how that would be an awesome game!

As this is a spin-off, would you say this is intended toward a different kind of gamer? What would you say is your target audience?

Hmmm... Our core audience has always been people with a wargamer’s heart but since this is turn-based and on the ground vs. real-time space combat, I supposed this time we are aiming at a slightly more traditional audience that is being poorly served on the tablet side of things. I am a diehard PC gamer, but I have to say in my laying around on the couch or traveling moments I am on my tablet and without hesitation I can say good turn based wargames that are not bobbleheaded or strange interpretations of WW2 are few and far between.

So in that sense we are looking to expand our audience in new territories, but also give our old audience meaty, satisfying gaming on new platforms.


Do you have any ideas for future spin-offs in the Sword of the Stars universe? If so, could you tell us a little about one?

Well as you may have noticed from the deli idea, we spend a lot time here in the Dawghouse kicking around what is going on in the SotS-verse and what would make an interesting game. Right now we have about 6 games sitting on the table, 3 of which take place in the SotS-verse and 3 that don't (and before any of our older fans have a heart attack, yes one of the non-SotS ones is NorthStar, a space trading RPG) and of course we can't really go into a lot of details buuuuuuuut.... if you have played our very successful roguelike game set in the SotS-verse, The Pit, you might see how we have proven how well a military SF style game works in third person... stretch that a l’il further and you might see how well we could do a squad-based kind of game based on a certain division of SolForce that investigates new alien menaces and gathers intel on old ones. Train up your troopers, research new armor and weapons, set up forward bases... well, I am sure you get the idea and I should say no more. <exit with evil grin>


Lastly, tell us about your Kickstarter experience. How has it been so far?

Kickstarter took a bit to set up properly, but has been a breeze to use once things got moving. While the all-or-nothing nature of it makes it a little more stressful than I might prefer, the ease of accessibility and of reaching out to fans makes it very exciting. We are posting updates every day now and have a very cool set of Ground Pounders related perks. I am a sucker for the dog-tags and campaign coin, myself! Come on by sometime and thanks again for your interest in the project!

Thanks again to Martin and Chris for responding to our questions!

The Ground Pounders Kickstarter is active for 18 more days and requires $30,000 to reach their goal. Head over there and check it out.

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