The Game

In Earthenwar, each player controls a single golem.
The golems actions are determined by the contents of a 3x3 grid.
Dice are added, removed, and moved around the grid, and the faces and arrangements correspond to available actions.
The aim is simply to destroy your opponent.

News

Earthenwar News Update 1.09.2021

WE HAVE LAUNCHED! CLICK HERE TO VIEW ORDERING DETAILS VIA KICKSTARTER

Earthenwar News Update 12.01.2021

So what is … ahem … the state of play?
This morning, I logged onto the Earthenwar website and I noticed that we didn’t yet have any news blog posts. So, to make up for it, here is a brief history (more or less) of Earthenwar.

>Autumn 2016.
I am at Peter’s house and we have our first game testing session. We are sat on the carpet by the window. We look down at a mighty game of tanks, or if memory serves more accurately, one penny coins on a hexagonal grid. The tank bullets bounce off edges … or maybe they don’t … it’s an inconclusive session. The game is nothing like Earthenwar, but it is a 2 player game. It is strategy based. It is fun to be working on something new.

>Spring 2017.
I am at home watching Blue Planet, doodling in grids. We have our first ideas for a game that feels a little like voodoo. It feels a little like magic. A little like programming. Different. What if arrangements of dice dictated how your piece moved? We don’t know what the pieces are yet, but they’re not pennies. Maybe a tank, spaceship, flying castles – giant snails ridden by knights, lancing each other like medieval marginalia.

>Summer 2017.
I’m sat in bed brainstorming over a cuppa soup. I’ve got a secondment with work, in programming. I think a bit about how the programming feel of the game mechanics could direct the theme. The game has dice, in a grid, that control a piece. Symbols controlling a pawn. What's controlled by symbols? Robots? It’s a robot. It’s definitely robots. The theme will be robots.

>Summer 2017 (but a bit later).
I’m sat in bed brainstorming over a cup of coffee. It turns out that someone else has made a game that is about robots. And someone else. And some other guys. And then other people seem to have got the same idea. It’s definitely not robots. I decide cuppa soup is overrated.

>December 2017.
I’m chatting with Peter (who lives 100 miles North West of me).
-“So what’s not like robots, but like robots? Something else, more fundamental that's controlled by symbols?"
-“Something more timeless? Yeah. Something else controlled by symbols? Uh-huh. Well what about golems? No. No, not Gollums. That's a terrible impression. None of that ‘my precious’, crawling on all fours in a loincloth. Golems. Pronounce it ‘Go-‘ like the word - or better - the game –‘lems’. That way no one gets confused. Ok. Yeah some people will get confused. Americans might pronounce it "gollum" yes. But they're wrong. But we tell them it’s not Tolkein stuff. It’s creatures made of clay. To defend people in a time of need. Clay men are the substance of creation myths from around the world. They’re universal but not. And they’re controlled by symbols in their heads.”
-“Or in our case, dice. Nice.”

>December 2017 (but a bit later).
I’m chatting with Peter again
-“But we need a twist. Fantasy Golems are everywhere. What historical period?” -“What about golems in world war one? Or the Great War. Seeing as they were spared knowing it was world war one at the time. Aren’t golems basically a metaphor for war? They’re mindless manifestations of destruction.”
-“Ooo. Yeah, there's loads of medieval magic and contemporary chaos magic - but I haven’t seen any Great War era magic. Yet.”

>Spring 2018.
Drawing golems. Golems take over my notebooks. I have a lot of notebooks. Golems creep into the margins of work notes like the knights riding snails. Invading. Marching. Walking. Incessantly. I try different proportions, different colours. Different symbols. Different art styles. Golems have dice in their head. I have golems in my head. I have golems in my head with dice in their heads. I am controlled by golems. But I still control the dice though - withing reason. At least I control the roll. I do still control me - right? I vouch to get more sleep.

>Summer 2018.
I go to a life drawing class for drawing the male body. It turns out to be a very ... specialist class. I get some good drawings but don’t go to that particular class again.

>Autumn 2018.
I get two buses to a small town in Kent. A charming lady invites me for a cuppa tea in her garage and we make some creatures out of clay. It’s fun! Some of the golems turn out awful. Their heads stretched too far forward, their heads weak and wormlike. But two turn out ok. Two is all we need to begin with.

>Autumn 2018.
I’m on the 4th floor of the South Bank centre. A low winter sun is sending long shadows across the board. I am looking at two patient and affable members of Playtest UK having a go at programming their golems. One player takes a very long time to take their turn and I’m suddenly unsure. Maybe this game is too complicated. The amount of time awkwardly looking at phones is greater than the amount of time bantering about the game. People on anther table are definitely having more fun.

>Autumn 2018 (but later).
The game is tweaked. A different board. Different dice. The games are long. One guy says he loves it. He even says he would buy it. This one person is someone I think about a lot. I think that they might have just been nice, but that almost feels like small print.

>December 2018.
I’m at home for Christmas. I’m in the pub watching two old friends play each other. “There’s definitely a game ... in there." They say, encouragingly. "Believe it or not, the dice arranging is fun."

>January 2019.
It’s 11pm on a Monday night. We tweak the game. We lift and shift. It all seems to come down to a menu of dice powers. Where 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 each do different magical things. We try myriad combinations. What if 6 let you heal? What if 4 let you teleport?

>Spring 2019.
We move on to try combinations of combinations. What would a chain of 1's mean, a chain of 2’s?

>Summer 2019.
I’m on the tube trying to ignore the tourists swinging shopping bags in my face when suddenly I remember an art teacher saying: “The piece isn’t finished when there’s nothing left to add, it’s finished when there’s nothing left to take away". It feels like that critical beat in a move where the detective goes "but what if ..." and has a faraway look in their eyes and won’t tell the other characters what they’ve realised. I message Peter when we have signal with a suggestion and we try simplifying. It’s sad to see a lot of powers and ideas go. But we keep notes of them, for a rainy day. Rainy days came later.

>Autumn 2019.
I’m back on the 4th floor of the South Bank centre. The shadows of the pieces are shorter and so are the games. The player who had taken a long time to play their turn is faster. They smile. The amount of time for banter is greater than the amount of time awkwardly looking at phones.

>December 2019.
Peter does a uses digital magick to create a website, designing graphics for grids, boards, logos and more. We set up a form for feedback responses. We give people a chance to play a print n' play version of the game.

>Spring 2020.
The pandemic hits. The rain starts. I stop going to Playtest UK. We haven’t had much interest in the print and play. There must be a way to get people to play it.

>Summer 2020.
We create mocked up versions of Earthenwar from old game boxes, cardboard and even some wooden dice. We create a video enthusing about the game and people respond. Earthenwar is hitting the road!

>Autumn 2020.
Volunteers test the game from different countries. I get a rush of dopamine every time I check the feedback responses and see new ideas and perspectives from players.

>December 2020.
People suggest that it would be good to have slightly more variety. Peter and I are ready and rustle up some scenarios for alternative playing styles.

>January 2021.
It’s a cold winter. One of the loneliest on record. It's still raining. The vaccine is on the way, but the numbers in the news are bleak. Peter and I set up copies of Earthenwar in each of our houses and set up a Zoom call where we can see each others boards. It works remarkably well. We test the new scenarios, using those ideas we're glad we set aside - but in a new way.
I think about our plans.
Our plans to mass produce ceramic pieces.
Plans to hopefully kickstart the project.
Plans to meet with friends, in the same place and have some fun arranging dice.

19/12/19 - We have just released a FREE complete print-at-home version of Earthenwar. You can find it here

Below is some light piano music.

Story

Battlefield myths spread like wildfire during the First World War. Arguably the first example of 'fake news' for political gain, the British army in particular was adept at utilising supernatural myths for their own ends. Phenomena like the 'Angels at Mons', the crucified Canadian soldier, the German mistreatment of Belgians, and so-called 'corpse factories' were all allowed to spread to increase morale and encourage involvement in the war.

Perhaps less well-known are the myths that were never disproved. Myths of giants emerging from the mud of the Somme, and of apparently indestructable forms smashing barbed wire.

The surviving documents are few, but what does remain points to the British government going beyond merely encouraging myths to spread. It seems like during the war, before the advent of tanks, they sought out certain indviduals who claimed to have the power to create genuine golems.

And they put them to work.

About Us

We are John Power (Accountant, tall, male) and Peter Kissick (not accountant, not tall, male).

While not working on board games, we also create Alderney Man a superhero comic set in the Channel Islands. Critics have described it as: “sold for £2.50 at www.alderneyman.com

Neither enjoys writing in third-person.

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