ARTICLE: Outsmart Your Opponent

New edition of Stronghold hit retail in the U.S. just this week. As you probably heard it has amazing components, polished rules, and is much quicker – no glory board, Invader troops already on the map, all those small changes that speed up the game.


Among many changes in the new edition there is one very important change that is not mentioned in most press releases. It is not discussed by fans. It is not as fancy as removing glory board or gate and ram rules. It’s rituals.


I will discuss them today.




Stronghold is all about outsmarting your opponent. It is about building an attack (or defense) plan and executing it. To execute it right you need to bluff. You need to deceive your opponent. You do jab, jab, jab on the left wall sections just to finish with right hook in the sixth round on the other side of the castle. It’s all about hiding your plan, it’s all about fog of war as they call it in military books.


How we managed to achieve that?


In the first edition there was not that many ways for players to bluff. There were Invader orders and they were an amazing tool for bad guys to deceive the Defender and hit him hard where he was not expecting. It was a great moment and great tension. For years I saw players having great time with playing Invader Orders.


I headed this route designing new edition.


First step was simple – I let Defender player put on the board face down traps for enemy soldiers. This was easy, that was not a mind blowing decision, but man, even this small change added so much to the tension and meta game between players. This look into the eyes, secret smile… this little bluffing, added a lot to the experience.


I knew I was on a right track. So I touched a big thing. Rituals. When I did this, testers said: “Woah, what are you doing mate! This changes the balance a lot! This is huge!”


“Is it cool?” I asked.


“It’s freaking awesome, but it makes Rituals so much more powerful now!”


“I know. Sit and play. We need to rebalance the whole thing again.”


In old edition, Invader was able to cast a spell and put a token on a affected space. In new edition when he casts a spell, he takes three tokens, and puts them on three different spaces. Only one of these tokens is actual spell. Others are just fake.


This added so much meta game between players. That added bluff. That added outsmarting opponent. Now Defender knows that magic was cast, knows that some spaces in castle have problems, but he is not sure where actually he has problems until the very last moment… the moment when these problems hit him in the guts.




As I said, you won’t read about it in press releases. You won’t read players discussing this new rituals thing. But I tell you, and trust me, I know what I am talking about, this Traps and Rituals change, this bluff layer added to the game is a huge change.


Outsmart your opponent. That’s all Stronghold is about.


We are bookworms. Movie maniacs. Story addicts. We grew up reading Tolkien, Howard, Herbert, Dick, Lem… We were watching Willow, Blade Runner, Never Ending Story, Robin Hood…

And yet, we don’t write books… we don’t make movies. We don’t make those things, because we make games. We make games that tell stories.