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Today I have a special treat, an interview with Johan Nagel, founder of Every Single Soldier, a studio which has brought us several ...

Interview with Johan Nagel from Every Single Soldier Interview with Johan Nagel from Every Single Soldier

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Carrier Deck

Today I have a special treat, an interview with Johan Nagel, founder of Every Single Soldier, a studio which has brought us several high quality games in the last few years. Vietnam '65, Afghanistan '11, and Carrier Deck. He discussed with me the past, present, and future of his company. Enjoy!

AWNT: Tell us a bit about yourself, what was the path that led you into playing wargames and eventually into producing your own games?

I come from a military family, my father was a submariner, my brother an officer in the Army Special Forces and I was a Lieutenant in the South African Marines. I have been playing wargames and generally all sorts of board games since my early teens. I started with Squad Leader and progressed from there. I decided to leave the military as we were always going to win the battle war but lose the political war.

I am a lawyer by degree and went into banking, all the while keeping my interest in military history and especially strategy. Vietnam '65 was actually designed and played on a Commodore 64 (GWBasic) and then later on PC (using the Operation Flashpoint editor) as finding an opponent was always a challenge, especially with such a small community in South Africa.

A few years ago I decided to actually publish V65 and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process from design to actual development and decided to make banking part time and making military games full time.

AWNT: Could you tell us about the founding of Every Single Soldier? Did you and your team have a clear vision of what kind of games you wanted to make from Day 1?

ESS is actually just myself, I design, finance and produce the titles, all outsourced to studios both locally and internationally. ESS was actually created in the early 90's and was another military hobby of mine, casting and painting military chess sets and Anglo-Boer war artillery sets. Literally, every single soldier was handcrafted and painted by me, hence Every Single Soldier. I just kept the brand.

I always wanted to make games post WW2, I have played every battle in WW2 so many times I gravitated to modern conflicts , especially counter insurgency wars, having served in the SADF in the Angola border wars in the mid 80's. I was always very interested in the Vietnam war, partly because of the counter insurgency nature and the fascination with the development of airmobile warfare.

AWNT: Is there a dream game you would like to make one day, that you simply don’t have the resources for right now?

Fortunately after a successful 20 year career in banking, I have the resources to make the games I really want to without the fear of not being able to pay the bills :) I have so many games I would like to make, it's a matter of priority and finding the resources to make them that's the challenge.

Making games about the South African conflicts both in the 19th and 20th century doesn't make immediate economic sense but are what I really want to create, but [I] will save them for later, leaving the best for last, as I learn the trade of making and publishing games.

AWNT: What was the inspiration for Vietnam ‘65, specifically in terms of making a game that wasn’t just about combat, but required the player to focus on the Hearts and Minds aspect of the conflict?

The traditional, conventional wargame methodology of building up your army, crossing a border and then destroying your opponent was becoming a bit stale for me as well as being a model that could never realistically model modern conflicts. Not only did I experience counter insurgency war first hand, but have studied it, and the hearts and minds of the local population had to be a factor in the new model. Also a war without borders, Intel taking center stage and political objectives needed a new model. V65 was really a baby step in this direction, A11 expanded on it adding many new levels of complexity, it [is] still a part of the journey, there is a lot that can be added to the future.

AWNT: After developing Vietnam ‘65, how close was the original design to the final result?

Pretty close, but the original V65 (1990) had a lot more elements and was also played on a strategic map but then the player could assume the actual FPS character of any action at any time, thanks to the great Operation Flashpoint Editor, I still view this as the best version of the game :) The hard part was deciding what to leave out and how to keep as much simplicity in the model whilst capturing the essence of the conflict.

AWNT: After Vietnam ‘65, what led you to choose Afghanistan as the next conflict to explore with this system?

Afghanistan was a natural choice following Vietnam, the parallels are very apparent, albeit the terrain very different. This also gave me the opportunity to include elements left out of V65, for example the whole nation building (Vietnamization policy), political variables (elections and global events) etc.

AWNT: Was there any feedback that Afghanistan was too recent of a conflict to turn into a game?

Surprisingly no negative feedback on any scale was received, we had no more than a few posts in a few threads , so was very happy about that. I took great care to ensure the credibility and authenticity of the conflict was properly represented, being ex military myself I understand this, and had constant input from a number of serving US Army officers and NCO's throughout the process. The feedback for vets and serving has been overwhelmingly positive and this has really been the most gratifying part of the whole process.

AWNT: Afghanistan ‘11 expanded upon most of the mechanics in Vietnam ‘65. Were there any features or mechanics that you wanted to add but didn’t make the cut for whatever reason?

So A11 was an opportunity to evolve the model but certain elements were left out, mostly to keep the evolution of the model at a steady pace, as the model has a relatively steep learning curve and we need to keep this in mind when trying to get a larger audience. The civilian population and the subsequent interactions with them needs expanding, Intel needs to become more 'nuanced', unit experience needs to play a larger role.  The tactical part of the game, etc.

AWNT: Are you familiar with the COIN series of board games from GMT Games? The games Fire in the Lake and A Distant Plain are similar in some respects to Vietnam ‘65 and Afghanistan ‘11, respectively.

Very familiar with the series, in fact, I contacted them a while back offering to take the series to the computer realm, time will tell. Enjoy the series as it too is abstracted, just like my games are.

AWNT: After visiting Afghanistan and Vietnam, what is the next stop in this series?

Right now we are porting A11 to the iPad, then we will be publishing the British Army DLC for A11, new vehicles, campaign, uniform etc. Thereafter we are planning a USMC DLC and finally an ISAF DLC which would include a few vehicles from most of the top contributors to the conflict.

The potential for future stops could include an ISIS adaption and our very own Angola Bush war :)

AWNT: What was the spark that led to Carrier Deck? While still war-themed, it is a very different sort of game from your other titles.

As mentioned earlier, my interest in game development is not linear to counter insurgency wars, I have a number of game designs that have been 'percolating' in my head for many years, I was always interested in the battle of Midway and especially the finding and destroying opposing carriers. This coupled with my preferred style of making abstracted games as opposed to purely historically accurate games and that I prefer developing systems rather that recreating events in my game designs, CD was born. It's perfect for a game, it is process driven, involves awesome tech and is relevant.

AWNT: Do you have plans for more light, fast paced games in the vein of Carrier Deck?

Indeed I do, currently in development is His Majesty's Ship (HMS), completely different to all my previous games. Being raised as a Navy child, Captaining a ship was always going to be a boyhood dream. Once again, looking for a game that catch the's essence of commanding a vessel has proved hard to find, most 18th century games currently focus on 'sailing around your opponent trying to discharge cannons', similar to the traditional WW2 games where you stack your infantry ( Stregth 5 ) + armor (strength 8) and attack the enemy infantry (strength 4) apply modifiers etc, this is so not my type of game! I have played them to death and rather prefer to try capture the essence of the theater, including logistics, morale, etc. in an abstracted form. I create systems as opposed to outcomes, and when I get that unintended/unexpected result, I still smile (sometimes not) when I unexpectedly experience a crossover of a few of the systems in A11 and the result is both credible, plausible and entertaining.

As development of HMS has already commenced, I am currently working on a new fast paced game abstracting the present/future conflict for the dominance of the Arctic Circle. The game is currently in prototype and coming along nicely.

I have not totally forsaken the TBS genre and have completed a design doc on a game that captures the essence (abstracted of course :) of the period of 1860-1900 in South Africa (Anglo-Zulu + Anglo-Boer) and hope to get this into production before the end of this year.

I am really enjoying my new 'career' in game development and am aiming to publish around 3 titles a year, after so many long years in Financial Services, I have ton of games stored since my youth and now have the time and resources to actually realize them.

AWNT: Well, you sound like a very busy man, so I'll let you go. Thank you for your time!

ESS Official Website:

All of the games discussed can be found on Steam, the Apple App Store, and on

- Joe Beard

I did a review of Carrier Deck last month when it released, but the game has had a solid patch applied since then, which fixed pretty ...

Carrier Deck 1.1.2 Gameplay Carrier Deck 1.1.2 Gameplay

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Carrier Deck

I did a review of Carrier Deck last month when it released, but the game has had a solid patch applied since then, which fixed pretty much all of the issues I had with it. I wanted to do a video of the game in action, so you can see how it plays after being smoothed out a bit.


- Joe Beard

Hello everyone, today I'm introducing my new podcast "Skirmish Line" This podcast will bring you more the great content y...

Introducing the Skirmish Line Podcast Introducing the Skirmish Line Podcast

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Carrier Deck

Hello everyone, today I'm introducing my new podcast "Skirmish Line" This podcast will bring you more the great content you expect from A Wargamer's Needful Things, delivered in a new way. I listen to a ton of podcasts, and have wanted to try doing it for myself for a long time. This first episode is rather short and I'm sure my delivery could use some work, but I hope you enjoy it! 

More episodes to come in the weeks and months ahead!

Update: Some of the issues I brought up here, with regard to launching missions in a certain order, being forced to launch supply craft f...

Carrier Deck Review Carrier Deck Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Carrier Deck

Update: Some of the issues I brought up here, with regard to launching missions in a certain order, being forced to launch supply craft first, etc. were fixed via a patch about a month after release. You can see a video featuring the game and those changes using this link.

Carrier Deck tasks the player not with directly fighting the battles of a modern naval warfare scenario, but with managing the logistics of a very busy flight deck. Developed by Every Single Soldier and published by Slitherine/Matrix Games, Carrier Deck falls more on the lighter end of the gaming spectrum than what you might normally expect from those names. Unlike the turn-based Afghanistan '11, Every Single Soldier's other recent release, which focused on long term planning and carefully considered logistics, Carrier Deck requires the player to constantly shift their focus from moment to moment as each new threat pops up. 

Carrier Deck gives you a bird's eye view of the titular carrier deck, from which you click on the various aircraft to select them, then either click to send them to a different parking spot, or select what sort of mission you want the aircraft to be prepped for. You will be doing a lot of clicking, so make sure to warm up that clicker finger ahead of time. It's not quite Starcraft 2, but once a mission starts, don't expect to take a break until it ends. Each of the scenarios only lasts 10-15 minutes, but will demand your complete attention from beginning to end.

 The gameplay revolves around two areas of the screen. The actual flight deck and aircraft, rendered in modest but clear 3D graphics where you will be dealing with the units directly, and the bottom half of the screen where you will see everything that is happening out in the field. Threats will approach in four differently colored channels, representing air, surface, undersea, and land-based enemies. The enemy units approach from the right, and if they reach the left side, they will deal damage to your carrier. Your first problem is that the carrier group has a very short detection range into all the channels other than the land units. To extend your vision, thereby giving you more time to counter a threat, you will need to send aircraft out on reconnaissance missions. Dedicated recon units like the S-3 Viking offer better vision and longer loiter times, but are usually in short supply. In a pinch you can send out the workhorse F-18 Hornets as scouts, but will want to send something better as soon as it becomes available. Helicopters also occupy parts of your deck, specifically Seahawks and Chinooks.

Once a threat appears in one of the channels, you will need to ready an appropriate aircraft to deal with it, queue up the mission, then launch the unit. The actual combat is not your concern, and will always be successful. That all sounds simple enough, if you only needed to deal with one thing at a time. In reality, you will be dealing with many things at once, all the time. Carrier Deck is a bit like learning to juggle, and just as you get a handle on juggling three balls, someone throws in a fourth, then a fifth, a sixth, and so on. As you are sending units out on missions, others are coming back in to land. These returning craft need to be moved out of the way, then re-armed for another go. To complicate matters, units can sometimes return with damage, necessitating a trip below deck on one of the elevators, then back up. In addition to that, new units and supply transports often arrive mid-mission and must be worked into your current rotation. Tougher enemies must be hit by multiple aircraft, and occasionally a really tough enemy will require two different mission types to be flown in sequence.  Needless to say, there are a lot of plates spinning all the time. 

One thing I'm not crazy about is how the missions which are queued up must be launch in the order you created them, even if you have aircraft ready to launch for the second or third mission in line. This often seems pointless, since you can just cancel a less pressing mission then recreate it an instant later. To add to this frustration, the supply craft, which arrive periodically, take absolute precedence over all other missions by default. Even if an enemy destroyer is about to strike in a matter of seconds, and you have fighters primed and waiting on the catapults, you have to wait for that cargo plane to refuel, waltz over to the runway, and then take off before you can launch any other aircraft. I don't really understand the logic of this, other than making things more difficult.

To assist you with sorting through this multi-tasking challenge is the well thought out UI. The bottom half of the screen, with the various channels and sections showing queued missions and returning aircraft, tells you everything you need to know about the situation at a glance. To make mission tasking clear, everything is color coded. Air missions are red, surface is blue, submarine is yellow, etc. The aircraft themselves are highlighted in bright colors to indicate what mission they have been equipped for, matching the icons on the information screen below. Clicking on an aircraft shows all of the locations on the deck it can be moved to, holding down the mouse displays a radial menu with all of the missions it can be equipped for, again with clear color coding.

The game comes with a linear campaign consisting of a few dozen missions of increasing difficulty and complexity. Each outing throws a different combination of enemy and friendly forces at you, though the core gameplay loop remains mostly the same. You are scored based on how much damage the carrier takes and how many aircraft are lost (usually due to collisions on the deck). Simply surviving the mission will unlock the next one, but you can get some replayability out of returning to try for a perfect score when you fall short. Playing through the entire campaign will only take a few hours, as each mission can be completed in a matter of minutes. Perfectionists will need more time though, as getting five stars on every mission will inevitably require multiple attempts at the more difficult scenarios.

Additionally, there is a quick play mode which is basically more of the same at your chosen difficulty level, and a survival mode where the game will keep getting more and more difficult until you are overwhelmed. Whether you play these modes will depend on just how much more of the game you want after finishing the campaign. 

As mentioned, the graphics in Carrier Deck are not that spectacular, but it looks decent enough considering the price point. The various aircraft are nicely modeled and easy to distinguish from one another. The camera can be moved around to get a closer look at everything, but you will rarely have time to be ogling those Super Hornets. The radio chatter was done particularly well, with the aircraft reporting in using all sorts of squadron names. Between aircraft launching, requesting clearance to land, and enemy units being spotted, the radio keeps you informed and adds a bit to the immersion factor.

I didn't experience any major bugs while playing Carrier Deck, though I did have a couple of minor happenings such as an aircraft not changing to the correct color a few times, linked to changing its mission assignment multiple types in rapid succession. More annoyingly, I had to unplug my joystick and throttle from the computer, because the game was apparently pulling input data from one of them, which caused the camera to slide to one side and stick there. The game has already received a couple of patches, so I'm sure any other minor issues will be buffed out in short order.

I enjoyed my time with Carrier Deck, and appreciate it for being something completely different. This is not a detailed simulation of carrier operations, or really a wargame. It is a fast-paced management game with a war theme. Priced at only $10, you will easily get your money's worth of entertainment with one trip through the campaign.

- Joe Beard

Carrier Deck is available directly from Matrix/Slitherine and is also on Steam.