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  Mark McLaughlin writes about himself and his games and books  How I Got Into Wargaming – and How It Changed My Life by Mark G. McLaughlin ...

Mark McLaughlin writes about himself and his games and books Mark McLaughlin writes about himself and his games and books

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

interview





 Mark McLaughlin writes about himself and his games and books








 How I Got Into Wargaming – and How It Changed My Life


by Mark G. McLaughlin



One Saturday morning in Brother Aloysius' optional/mandatory extra-credit class at Christian Brothers Academy (a military school run by Irish Christian Brothers), my fellow seventh-grade classmate, Dan Bunton, stood up to read his essay on “what I got for Christmas.” He wrote about a game called “Waterloo” that his father had given him. Guess whose house I showed up at that afternoon?


That was well over half a century ago, and I have been playing war games ever since. Yes, I did -and still do- play Battle Cry, Broadsides, Dogfight, Hit the Beach, and Risk, but Waterloo by Avalon Hill was my first true wargame – the first of a collection that at one point topped 800 titles (almost all of which I have sold, but I still have about 50 games, not counting my own designs).


That same year my father decided that since I was 13, I should give away all of my toy soldiers, as those were things of childhood, and I was no longer a child. I was crushed but did as he asked. Four years later, however, I picked up an issue of Time with  West German Chancellor Willi Brandt on the cover. On page 68 there was a picture of Brigadier General (Ret) Peter Young pushing painted miniature soldiers across a table in a pub in England. I showed it to my dad and said “this guy is not only a man, but he also is older than you, was in the same war as you, is a much-decorated general, and if he can play with toy soldiers then why can't I?”


My dad conceded. That day I went to the Palace Hobby Shop in downtown Albany, New York, and bought a bunch of Airfix HO boxed sets (Napoleonic, to begin with). I painted them up, and mybestfriendNino (all one word, always) and I started playing a very rudimentary set of miniatures rules we had written.


When it came time to decide which college to go to, it was between Boston College and Georgetown (heh, from Franciscan Nuns to Christian Brothers, why not go Jesuit and make a clean sweep?). I picked the latter. Why? Because I wrote to Time, to the journalist, and then to Brigadier General Peter Young, and asked the general if he knew of anyone in the states who made figures like he played with. He gave me the address of Duke Seifried in California (a legend in the miniatures community, with whom I developed a strong friendship over the next 50 years). Duke told me about Jack Scruby, and I wrote to Jack to ask if he knew of anyone in Boston or DC who bought and played with his line of miniatures. Nobody in Boston, he replied, but I know a couple of guys in DC.


..and THAT was the deciding factor. The day my parents dropped me off at my dorm before I unpacked, I got on my bike, pedaled three miles uphill to the home of Curt Johnson – and we played miniatures. Through him, I met more miniatures gamers and some board gamers. And I met more of both when I set up games (miniatures and board) in the common space in my dorm. One of those was Chris Vorderbruege, another was John Tuohy, both students at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service (from which I, too, graduated)..


These names are important. After graduating, I stayed in DC. I was at Curt's house one day, gamed late, spent the night on his sofa, and was there the next morning when his publisher came for a breakfast meeting. Curt was supposed to do a book on the Civil War for him. The publisher wanted it in six, not twelve months. Curt, a history teacher in a local (Catholic, of course) high school, said he couldn't get it done without a co-author. The publisher said, “you have anyone in mind?” Curt pointed at me and said, “how about him?”



These books are excellent

 The Amazon links to Mark's books:

Amazon.com: Mark G. McLaughlin: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle


….and that is how I came to co-author my first book: Civil War Battles.

...and how I came to write my second book: The Wild Geese (as the publisher liked my writing and had introduced me to Osprey, who published this book on the Irish Brigades of France and Spain.


As for John Tuohy, well, John has an older brother named Larry. A Vietnam veteran. He began to game with us. A couple of years later, when I got promoted from copy boy at the Associated Press (yes, even after being a lieutenant in the army I took that entry-level job just to get my foot in the door) I introduced Larry as my potential replacement. He and my former boss hit it off, and Larry soon moved up the tech path at AP while I went along the journalist path. One day when his car was in the shop I drove him home. It was midnight, and we were both supposed to be back at work in the morning. He suggested I stay the night on his couch (yeah, couches are karma for me). The next morning one of his roommates comes out, sees me, and says “who the hell are you and what are you doing on my couch?”


Her name was Cheryl. We have been married 534 months as of this September (44 and a half years).  We have two children. The elder of which is our daughter, Ryan, for whom a boxed set of miniatures rules, an Avalon Hill boardgame, and my sci-fi novel, Princess Ryans' Star Marines, are named.


And Chris? He is godfather to our son, Campbell. Chris has also been a playtester, editor, credited consultant, and/or co-designer on every one of the 27 games of mine that have been published, including the very first:



War and Peace.




PS: When Cheryl and I came back from our honeymoon in London in 1978, we both found ourselves suddenly unemployed. Having some free time, I wrote to Avalon Hill and asked if I could come up some morning to see how they did what they do (I lived an hour south of Baltimore). I was there, talking with Don Greenwood, when the senior VP, Tom Shaw, walked in. He and Don were going to lunch, and Tom said “bring your friend along, on me.”


We went to a great Baltimore old-school restaurant, and as I was raising a spoonful of a lovely crab bisque to my lips, Tom asked “so, what's this game you want to pitch us?”


War and Peace example


I froze for a second. I had not come to pitch a game. I had not thought of designing a game (I was then and still am a journalist and author, but at the time only played games). But I know when opportunity knocks. Over the course of lunch, I came up with, pitched, and sold them on the idea for a game. We went back to their office and signed a contract, for me to design that game....


War and Peace.


War and Peace Counters


War and Peace: From Avalon Hill to Avalon Digital


by Mark G. McLaughlin


Wargaming changed my life, and War and Peace was not only one of the “game-changers” (pun intended) but has continued to be so for more than 40 years – and will be so for a few years more!


War and Peace was published by the storied Avalon Hill Game Company of Baltimore, Maryland. I got an advance copy in December 1979. I brought it with me on a visit to my inlaws in Connecticut, and had set it up, punched it out, and was going to play a quick solo game when I got a phone call from my editor. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan the night before. As I was on the “slow, quiet” and very lightly staffed South Asian beat, I had to pack up and head back to DC that night (without so much as rolling a die or moving a stack!)


The game did so well in 1980 that it sold out and they decided on a second edition – which was really just a second printing but with extra scenarios and optional rules (which I wrote in articles for The General, AH's all-AH all-the-time magazine). It sold so well that even with my measly 2% royalties it paid for most of the downpayment on our first house. (Yes, royalties were a third of what they are now, and games sold for about a fifth of what they sell now....or in the case of the newest edition of War and Peace, one-ninth; but houses were a lot cheaper too – under $85K).


Another great game from Mark



I digress.


Right up through 1985 War and Peace was THE game I took to and ran tournaments for at conventions. By then, however, I had designed and published No Trumpets, No Drums (a Vietnam game), Holy Roman Empire (Thirty Years War), and East Wind Rain (WW2 in the Pacific), and was working on Viceroys! (age of exploration). And I was a dad (my daughter, Ryan, arrived in 1983). So I set aside War and Peace and, basically, it just sat on my shelf like a trophy.


Twenty-five years passed – seriously – until a friend who played games on something called Vassal (which I only started playing on during Covid, seriously) showed me that my game was there – and that there were several websites with scores of articles – and two unofficial new “editions” (3rd and 4th) of which I had no prior knowledge of and nothing to do with. Soon after, I was contacted by one of these web fans, John Gant, who had reworked my original game and called it The War Between France and England. He showed it to me, and I introduced him to GMT. They liked it, assigned my regular editor, Fred Schachter, to the project and forward they went – until they didn't. Creative differences between John and Fred, and between John and GMT, ended the return of War and Peace much like Napoleon's return from Elba collapsed on the field of Waterloo.


BUT


John and I kept in touch. In the meantime, Jon Compton of One Small Step Games asked if he could update and upgrade my No Trumpets No Drums and Holy Roman Empire (both of which had appeared in The Wargamer, of which I was managing editor for three years). After they came out, we sat in his study in Virginia and, a nice single malt in hand, and he said what he really wanted to redo was War and Peace. “Too bad Hasbro (which had bought AH) has the rights.”


I smiled. “No, I have the rights. Hasbro kindly gave them back to me.” (Hasbro had also tried to give me a nice royalty check for AH sales of War and Peace in stock, but I sent it back, as my agreement with AH had been 2% for five years, and vice 1% for life. They were touched by my honesty and offered me the rights back. Which they had done long before I met John Gant even).


He was excited. He was even more excited when I told him “I know a guy.” That guy is John Gant. Using the design he was originally going to do for GMT as a starting point, he and I (mostly he) went to work.


Out came the 5th edition of War and Peace. (As I mentioned, the first two editions were AH products, while 3rd and 4th were rules redos by assorted fans).


And we did it bigger, Bolder, BROADER and BRIGHTER! than the original!


The original map is there, but was broadened to include the British Isles, Scandanavia, Italy, and more – including a naval strategic game mini-map and an insert map for the Egyptian Campaign. John Gant added three scenarios (Italian, Marengo, Egyptian campaign) plus the naval mini-game AND a brand new Campaign game based on HIS designs.


This last bit was really critical, as when I originally did the game it was only supposed to be for scenarios. Six months before it went to the printer Frank Davis at AH (my developer) said they wanted a campaign game. Frankly, we had to rush – and it showed. It was “ok” but not great, which is what most of the 3rd, 4th and Gant's works addressed. John's campaign game is not only what I would have done if I had had more time in 1978 – but also is better than what I could of done, as he built upon 40 years of tradition and industry advancement. And John is also one very smart, savvy CEO (he has made of a career of running businesses).


The map had many changes, most notably rivers along hexsides (not through them – a definite improvement in terms of shortening rules and ease of play), and bridges, plus well-defined ports for the naval parts of the game.


Then there was the pure beauty of the new art work – and not just in the gorgeous map but also in the brilliant work on the counters - no more mere silhouettes - full color, CORRECTLY uniformed figures, faces, and flags....Antonio Pinar and I went over every single one of them; he is a stickler for detail and me, well, I paint miniatures. That should tell you everything you need to know.


Perhaps the best thing about it, was that if you played either first or second edition, you could pick up this game, lay out the pieces and without having to read the rule book play any and all of the scenarios. The basic rules from the original are almost exactly the same as those in the new editions.


One Small Step did this as a Kickstarter, and when it sold out (within a couple of weeks) decided to do another edition. Kickstarter does not like mere reprints, however, so we had to do something different to make it a 'new' edition. That meant backprinting two counters (French transports) adding a sticker to put on the map for a production center that had been overlooked, and fixing some minor typos.

The sixth edition sold out even faster than the fifth.


And then the French arrived.


A delightful Frenchman named Philippe contacted me. He said War and Peace was one of his favorite games and wondered if I had any interest in seeing it made into a computer version.


I said I would love it, but did not know any computer company that was interested in it.


Then Philippe told me there was one: his. Philippe has a very well-respected computer game design studio and company.


It's name?


Avalon. Avalon Digital.


How is that for Karma? Add to it that this is a French company doing a game on Napoleon and, well, vive l'empereur!


Screen of Avalon Digital's War and Peace (Beta)

PS:


We are currently alpha-testing and it is going extremely well. Most of the scenarios are up and being played by us both hot-seat solo and multiplayer, and the mechanics of the game are almost all done, but we keep fine-tuning. After we agree that everything is working properly, we have to move on to beta-testing, creating and testing an AI, and then, of course, there will be the campaign game to put to the test. The advertisement for the game for players to watch and follow just went up on Steam, and our goal is to have the game out by August 2023.


Latest Rules for War and Peace:

War&Peace_RULES.zip - Google Drive

Windows 64 Demo:

Setup_WarAndPeace_Demo_Lite_1.0.exe - Google Drive

Mac Demo:

WAR AND PEACE DEMO OSX LITE 0.1.dmg.zip - Google Drive

 Kickstarter Link:

WAR AND PEACE - THE DIGITAL VERSION by Avalon Digital — Kickstarter

 A list of Mark McLaughlin's games form BGG:

The Games of Mark McLaughlin | BoardGameGeek


Sean Druelinger designer of Lock 'n Load's Point Blank: V is for Victory  I had asked Mr. Druelinger to do a short bio about himself...

Sean Druelinger designer of Lock 'n Load's Point Blank: V is for Victory Sean Druelinger designer of Lock 'n Load's Point Blank: V is for Victory

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

interview




Sean Druelinger designer of Lock 'n Load's


Point Blank: V is for Victory







 I had asked Mr. Druelinger to do a short bio about himself and some information about his game. I would describe it as not a Card Wargame, but a wargame played with cards. It comes with a good-sized rulebook and does not abstract many parts like a card game usually does. 


Game Map


 This is a write up about the game from Lock 'n Load:

"Point Blank" is Lock 'n Load Publishing tactical World War 2 squad card wargame, for 2 players pitted against each other in situational combat scenarios.

There is also a solo option as well as partnerships in teams of 2.

Each scenario presents the players with a unique situation involving squads of men, support weapons, leaders, and individual armored fighting vehicles.

This game pits the forces of the USA against Germany just after the landings in Normandy (June 1944) through October 1944. Each player has victory conditions determined by the scenario in which to defend or take objectives, seek and destroy their opponent’s units, or one of many other different scenario objectives.

The game is played on an abstract map board made up of terrain cards in the game and managed through a distance system that accounts for the range to targets, line of sight, and defensive attributes. The player has units that start out on the map and gradually work their way towards their objectives by advancing through the battlefield all the while conducting combat actions against their opponent or defending their troops from return fire or whatever hell that awaits them. Players draw cards from a common action deck where they will play actions on their units on the map board. The game is an IGOUGO impulse system and turns are managed when the action deck is exhausted. (Some scenarios may require multiple deck exhaustion to finish the game). Actions in the game consist of Fire, Move, Assault, Rally, etc. The action cards contain dice icons on them to determine random results.

One of the unique features of the game is that it contains a deck of terrain cards that are not part of the action deck. As players change terrain they will draw a terrain card in which their moving units will occupy. Some action cards such as Recon helps players manage what terrain they occupy but your opponent may have other plans for your moving troops during their turn.

Combat in the game is similar to how combat is conducted in Lock n Load Tactical. 2 players can play a game in about an hour (depending on the scenario size) and if you cannot find an opponent then try the game solo system. In general, the gameplay is fast and excited and compares to such legendary game systems as Up Front."



Some Cards


 I am not a big fan of interviews. It seems that the same questions always get asked. I would much rather have the designer etc. give us the information without my input. To each their own. 


 

This is a big game with a lot of cards

 Without further ado, here is Mr. Druelinger's write up. It gives us a good look at his game design:


I was introduced to Squad Leader when I was about 12 years old. I was playing D&D every other week with this gaming group of 20 something’s at the time. I accidentally showed up on a non-D&D day and was asked if I want to play SL. I was hooked from that point on. 

I was lucky to see a lot of AH games in their infancy and was able to participate in many of the playtest sessions. Titles like longest Day, up front, enemy in sight, etc.

In and around 2012 I wrote some scenarios for Nations at War and Tank on Tank for Line of Fire magazine. I then developed an east front prototype for Nations at War and got a green light from the owner of L'nL at the time to proceed. L'nL was then bought by David Heath around 2015. He wanted to redo the original Nations at War titles and asked me to develop them. At the same time, he asked that I include my east front module “Stalin’s Triumph” into the mix. We developed all 3 systems at once. In addition to that, Dave asked me to develop/design the Lock 'n Load tactical solo system to be compatible with every scenario for every L'nL tactical game to date.

In 2016 I began designing PB. I introduced the game to David in 2017 at Origins and after some strong hesitation he gave me the green light.

Point Blank was inspired by games like Up Front and L'nL tactical. The thing that makes this game different is that it introduces what I feel are new concepts in tactical gaming. For instance: 

Movement: Moving is an action that you can issue to the game, but the ordered units do not complete their move until the next owning player's upkeep phase. This models that troops have to gather their equipment, form up and then move out. From a game perspective the opposing player has a chance to react to move action before it is completed. Melee is handled in much the same way. An order is issued and then resolved in the player's next upkeep phase. I do not see a lot of games that handle actions this way. 

Terrain and Line of Sight are other areas that sets the game apart. Terrain is very dynamic in PB. A unit in a sector within terrain can conduct an action to change its terrain while remaining in the same sector. Terrain can also be acquired and held by the player through play of recon actions. Terrain that is collected through Recon actions can place terrain into empty sectors to secure good terrain for units that are in the process of moving or into sectors adjacent to opposing units or friendly units. This mechanic makes of interesting Line of Sight situations and expands the maneuverability options for units in the game.

Spend and Discard actions; Another key factor that sets this game apart from other card driven games is the ability to discard cards to perform some type of action. In every card driven game there are situations where a hand of cards may not contain a card that you need to perform a preferred action. In PB you may, in lieu of playing an action card, discard a card (spend action) to activate an action printed on a unit's card. Once that action is performed however, the unit is "spent" (rotated 90 degrees) to indicate that it can no longer perform an action until it is readied through the play of a "Ready" action. Other actions in the game are available through discard type actions. This whole concept expands the game play and helps to prevent situations where a player is locked down by a hand of cards that may not be of any use.

Leaders in the game are represented by individual cards and they have benefits to units by contributing their modifiers. Additionally, they have actions printed on their card that they can execute through a spend action in action to the play of an action card during a player impulse.









 Visually it is a stunning game. The cards are regular playing card sized. So, you can see that the information on them is incredibly easy to see. I believe I could play the game with my glasses off. I will be doing a review of the full game on our site. Thank you Lock 'n Load for allowing me to take this out for a spin. Point Blank: V is for Victory is still available for late pledges on Kickstarter.

Robert

Lock 'n Load:

Point Blank: V is for Victory:

Interview with Ray Weiss from Conflict Simulations LLC  Ray, please give us a bit of background on you, and how...

Interview with Ray Weiss from Conflict Simulations LLC Interview with Ray Weiss from Conflict Simulations LLC

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

interview





Interview with Ray Weiss from Conflict Simulations LLC







 Ray, please give us a bit of background on you, and how you got into designing games?

 32-year-old from NYC, previously a touring musician that managed to screw up every other job I had other than this one. I started off designing RPGs 10 years ago, and wargames for the past 3-5 years. I majored in History and Political Science in college and was already into strategy games, the first time I laid eyes on a proper hex and counter wargame (John Tiller’s East Prussia 14) I was entranced. Experiencing that kind of control and attention to detail enraptured me to no end, and soon after I moved onto board games as I stare at screens enough all day. After getting sick of waiting for others to check out and publish my games, I decided to just jump off the deep end and publish them myself. I’ve now been running CSL for 2 years. 

 So what wargames have you developed, or working on?

Wargames I’ve Designed which are currently shipping:
1916 – Operational combat @ Verdun
1950 – Strategic Korean War
1812 – Strategic Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia
1987 – Operational What if Kaliningrad
1864 – Grand Tactics 2nd Schleswig War
AGN – Operational Barbarossa
AGC – Operational Barbarossa
AGS – Operational Barbarossa
1995 – Strategic What if Yugoslavia
1870 – Operational Franco Prussian War
1968 – Strategic Tet Offensive
1914 The World Undone: East Prussia – Operational Tannenberg

 If you had the chance and all the time in the world, what game would you design?

 Maybe a tangent, but my dream would be to design a computer or video game at some point, something like a CRPG, roguelike, or something as equally niche as wargaming, if not a computer wargame itself. One of the main reasons I got into analog design though was because I am so bad at programming so there’s that. One of the benefits to running your own publishing company is that you get to publish whatever you want, so I'm very fulfilled in terms of the stuff I’m working on, from the Eastern Front in 1914, an American WW1 What-if, Diadochi and more.

 Diadochi, that really hits the time period I enjoy gaming the most. Please hurry up with that design.

 What plans do you have for you and your company in the future?

  I am hoping to release an upgraded/deluxe version of our Destroy All Monsters series of games (AGN, AGC, AGS) which combine for a larger mini-monster type game. We’ve made the print larger, rewritten some chapters for clarity, and tweaked the exclusive rules for each module for historical accuracy and balance. I think it’s probably wishful thinking but I was hoping to get Imperial Bayonets: Sedan 1870 done or close to done this month, but I’ve been compulsively refining and perfecting the rules for this series making sure everything makes sense. The world undone is probably our simplest game at 6 pages of rules, whereas Imperial Bayonets is maybe our most complex system with both series and exclusive rules, similar to OSG’s Library of Napoleonic Battles (the system is similar as well). Basically, I hope to get most of if not all of everything that’s been up for pre-order the past 2 years out this year, which is a sh*t ton of work, but such is my (lovely) lot in life. 

 From what games and designers do you get your inspiration?

 One thing I’d hope sets my games apart from other contemporary publishers is that I really attempt to put many of the same design principles as practiced by SPI into practice. I prefer older games as I find them more immersive and less distracting, along with often times being more historical. My favorite designer is John Young of SPI who tragically died pretty young, but designed my favorite wargame The Marne, after him would be Kevin Zucker, who was gracious enough to encourage and help my initial efforts at design, and finally David Isby who designed SPI’s Soldiers and East Front Quad. I believe these designers represent a holistic approach to design in which every aspect of a game works to support another, there is little to no “chrome” in most of their games, and the games are historically accurate above all else.

 Full disclosure; I invested in a preorder of Ray's 'Imperial Bayonets: Solferino 1859: For Liberty & Lombardy. I couldn't help it, another of my favorite historical times.

 Thank you Sir, and good luck with your designing and company.

Here is the link to Conflict Simulations LLC:

Robert 

 Interview with Scott H. Moore Designer of 'This War Without an Enemy' Released by Nuts! Publishing  Ple...

Interview with Scott H. Moore designer of This War Without an Enemy released by Nuts Publishing Interview with Scott H. Moore designer of This War Without an Enemy released by Nuts Publishing

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

interview




 Interview with Scott H. Moore

Designer of 'This War Without an Enemy'

Released by Nuts! Publishing






 Please give us some biographical information about yourself.

I was born in Sheffield but mainly grew up in the suburbs of Birmingham. My brother and I played games like Monopoly, Risk and Campaign when we were really young kids, but it was Christmas 1982 that really converted me into a gaming geek: we got our first computer – a ZX Spectrum complete with The Hobbit adventure game – plus the Warlock of Firetop Mountain gamebook. By the age of 11 or 12, I was wargaming the English Civil War with 25mm miniatures, and playing Games Workshop games such as Talisman and Warrior Knights. A few years later I started roleplaying with AD&D, MERP and Warhammer RPG. When we were 16, a few friends and I joined the English Civil War re-enactment society as pikemen in Colonel John Fox’s Regiment of Foote.
Not long after I had gone to university to study Physics I more or less gave up on gaming, except for the occasional roleplaying session back home in the holidays. After graduating, I spent a year in Spain, then I did a degree in Optical Electronics in Glasgow and Hamburg. When I finally entered the world of work, it was as a market analyst. I lived in London for a while, briefly in Prague, and then over a decade in Budapest. It was there, about 20 years ago, that I got back into gaming when I discovered both euro games (Catan, Carcassonne) and modern wargames (Hammer of the Scots). The boardgaming scene was just taking off in Budapest at that time, so I had plenty of opportunities to experience the renaissance of the 2000s led by designers such as Reiner Knizia and Wolfgang Kramer. In contrast, Hungarian wargamers were few and far between (they still are). I was lucky enough to find a few willing victims who I could explore light and midweight contemporary wargames with – we played a lot of block games, Command & Colors and CDGs such as Hannibal and Paths of Glory. I also got to know the only ‘serious’ wargamer living in Budapest at that time – St├ęphane Acquaviva (designer of Hungarian Rhapsody). We played through the entirety of Great Battles of History, he introduced me to some classic Napoleonic Games and I could sometimes persuade him to try a CDG or a game from the Musket & Pike series. But the main focus of our hundreds of hours spent during Sunday gaming sessions were the campaign scenarios from the various volumes of MMP’s OCS series.
Several years ago, I returned to Birmingham having changed career to work as a translator. The gaming scene is very strong here – one of the world’s largest tabletop gaming conventions, the UK Games Expo, is held here once a year and has really helped to create a vibrant gaming ecosystem in the city. I attend a few different boardgames clubs every week, so I get to play a wide variety of games: euros, cooperative games, wargames, and even traditional RPGs. As part of the Birmingham Game Designers group, I organise an event every two months where boardgame, wargame and RPG designers can playtest their games with the gaming public. We also have more focused designer meetings four times a month. 




What was your first game design?

When I was about 12 years old, I created an Asterix board game based on Talisman, though I never finished the artwork and it I probably tested it no more than once or twice. When I became a serious hobby gamer 20 years ago, I also began designing games again. Although I’m usually inspired by history, my first completed prototype was a 2-player block wargame called The Long Winter based on a section in the Appendices of the Lord of the Rings (Appendix A, II, The House of Eorl). I was never going to be able to get a game on that topic published, but a couple of ideas I developed for The Long Winter did eventually find their way into This War Without an Enemy.

Why the English Civil War?

As I’ve alluded to already, I’ve been intensely interested in this period of history since I was a kid. The first English Civil War, in particular, is a fascinating narrative, full of colourful characters, closely-fought battles, important sieges and more than one reversal of fortune. I began designing a strategic game on the war many years ago, but the publication of Charles Vasey’s Unhappy King Charles in 2008 put paid to that, as it fulfilled most of what I wanted my design to do. However, a few years later Columbia Games listed the ECW as a topic they were considering publishing a game on. By offering to design it for them, I could combine my love of both block games and the historical period.
  
In what way is your design for This War Without an Enemy  different than others?

As my game was originally designed for Columbia, it very much followed in the mould of games like Crusader Rex and Richard III. However, when I moved to a different publisher – Nuts! Publishing – I wanted to differentiate it from those earlier block games, while at the same time I realised that I had the freedom to increase the complexity level slightly and add in more historical atmosphere. I think there are three main areas where This War Without an Enemy differs from most other block games:
The card decks: I decided early on in the design process to have a separate deck for each player. As a civil war, both sides in the ECW were very similar to each other in many ways, so I wanted to tease out the differences – and introduce more asymmetry to the game – with specific event cards. There are too few cards in total for the player decks to be further split into early, mid and late war decks, and so I introduced a mechanism for adding and retiring cards from each deck. The cards in most card-driven block games provide either points to spend or, more rarely, an event. In TWWE, most cards have both. This allowed me to balance the cards and avoid the possibility of a player having an inherently good or bad hand of cards. Each card either provides a lot of points (4) to spend on movement and/or recruiting; fewer points (2) but a strong event; or something in between (3 points and a weaker event).
Assaults and sieges: although the battles during the ECW are far better known than the sieges, it was the latter that were more important for the outcome of the war. Victory in TWWE is mainly determined by capturing cities, and so the rules around this needed to be well thought out. You can take a city through storming (assault), which is risky but can be quick, or through a siege (blockade), which is slow but sure. The mechanism for storming is similar to that for a battle, but artillery plays a more important role – if you breach the walls using artillery (or Mining via an event) then the city provides a much less significant defensive bonus. Sieges are resolved by rolling a die and consulting a table – this determines any attrition for the defender and eventual surrender. Ports can hold out longer than inland cities and can be reinforced by sea.
The Battle Mat and battle resolution: this has probably been the most popular part of the game. Although I retained the basic mechanism from other block games, I added more historical chrome and more player decision-making (in most block games, the only significant decision during battles is if and when to retreat blocks). The Battle Mat is essentially a player aid that makes battles easy to resolve despite the increased complexity. There are specific rules for artillery and cavalry blocks that replicate their role on the mid-17th century battlefield (yes, Prince Rupert’s cavalry can end up pursuing their opponents off the battle field!). When it comes to infantry blocks, a player must decide every round whether to fire at a distance with the muskets (which is less effective but happens early on in the round) or engage at close quarters with the pikes (more effective but take place at the end of the round). I believe this extra set of decision points makes battles them much more interesting for players.




Is there anything in the game that you would haved liked to be different because you had to compromise, or perhaps some part of the design that gave you fits?

As I have mentioned already, my move to Nuts! Publishing game me the freedom to change my game beyond the confines of the Columbia system. So, in the end, I had full control over the design of the game and did not have to make any compromises. My aim with TWWE was to create a game that is easy to learn, plays in no more than 3 or 4 hours, and yet contains a lot of history. I hope I have achieved this. 
I did not have difficulties with any particularly part of the design process. Basing my game on an existing system meant that it was fairly easy to develop an initial prototype. When I later chose to change the game, it was more of an evolution of an existing game that was working well. The trick was to add more chrome and historical atmosphere without compromising playability. Perhaps the most challenging part of the game to get right – and this is something that really gives it the flavour of the English Civil War – was the regional aspect. While the main field armies of the King and Parliament generally campaigned across the centre of the country, there were virtually autonomous regional theatres of war in the north and southwest of England. Unhappy King Charles simulates this in various ways, but I wanted a simpler approach for TWWE. Essentially, most blocks belong to one of five regions of England and Wales. Each block can only recruit (add strength) in its home region and may not leave, or remain outside of, its home region unless ‘chaperoned’ by a Leader block. 

Anything else you would want to emphasize or add to?

Something that I haven’t mentioned yet is the artwork and graphic design of This War Without an Enemy. This was a long process for both the publisher and I, but eventually we were very fortunate to find Nicolas Roblin and persuade him to do his very first board game commission. Working with Nicolas was a very collaborative experience, but the success of the final design was mainly due to his extensive research, passion and dedication – and, of course, his natural talent. He spent days in a library just to find the period illustrations for the cards. But it is the box cover illustration and the gorgeous map art that have attracted the most praise from people – they elevate the look of the game beyond anything I could have hoped for when I first started designing it all those years ago.

Thank you

Robert

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking over the phone with Russell Smith , an award winning artist who focuses on images of ...

An Interview with Russell Smith An Interview with Russell Smith

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

interview



Last week I had the pleasure of speaking over the phone with Russell Smith, an award winning artist who focuses on images of the Old West and early aviation, particularly World War I aircraft. A rough transcript of our conversation follows.

JB: To start off, tell us a bit about your background, what started your interest in art, and how did you get to where you are now?

Russell: Art was the one thing I've always been good at. Even in elementary school, in third grade, I was drawing noticeably better than a lot of the kids around me. You know when you're good at something, you tend to keep doing it, because you get recognition for it, and I enjoyed doing it.

Then when I got into college, I majored in art, and about that time I saw the work of Robert Taylor, and I just, I loved airplanes as a kid and I thought, "Wow!" if someone can make a living painting airplanes, that's what I want to do. So I started doing it on the side, and worked day jobs for about ten years, and then finally back in 2001, I went full time with it.



JB: So, you did something else in there before you went full time with it. What was the moment when you thought, I can do this full time and make it work?

Russell: Well, I was working in the printing industry for about ten years. I was single at the time, and so I was kinda pushing myself on a pretty hard schedule. What I would do was, I would get up at 6:30 in the morning, go to work, work until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Come home, maybe run a couple miles and eat some dinner, and then I would go in the studio, and work until maybe one in the morning. Drinking a lot of coffee obviously. I was pushing myself pretty hard, and not getting a lot of sleep, especially towards the last couple of years. In the last couple of years, I was doing to the point that my performance at my job was starting to go down, because I was sleep deprived. 

At one point I just finally thought, this is ridiculous, I can't keep up this schedule. I either have to give up the art or give up my day job, and there was just no way I could give up my art. Because that was my dream, to be a full time artist. I had just enough work, that I figured it would keep me going for just a little while. I decided I would give it a year, and then if it wasn't working out after a year I could look for another job. Then one year turned into two, then two turned into three, then after three or four years business really picked up, and I haven't looked back since. I joke with my wife, you know, if this ever did tank and I had to go back and get a job I don't what I would do. Twenty years on I'm not really qualified to do anything other than be a full time artist.


Russell Smith - Biography


JB: So the two subjects that you focus on mainly are the old west, and early aviation, a lot of World War I aircraft. Tell us, why those two topics?

Russell: Well, of course, I've loved airplanes since I was a kid. That started when I was seven years old and my dad bought me a model of a B-25. I've just loved airplanes ever since. I built a whole bunch of different models when I was a kid. Then when I got a little older that started translating into art. That interest has always been with me and I've always been a history buff. I like looking up the history of these people, the pilots, the planes, and translating those stories onto canvas.

As far as the old west, I love that too, it's a bit more recent subject that I've been painting in, just because for a long time the airplanes kept me so busy that I didn't have time to delve into these other interests of mine. With the old west stuff, it's really more the mythology. The idea of the old west. I guess it's the stories and ideas you get from the books and movies and legends and all that. I love that stuff. I'm not as much into the historical details with the old west as I am with the aviation subjects. Part of that is just because I've been doing the aviation subjects so long, I know the historians, I've studied it, I know what I'm doing with that. Whereas, I can loosen up the belt a little bit with the western stuff. It's almost like that lack of knowledge gives me a bit more freedom to have fun with it. I can explore that mythology and those legends and get that onto canvas.



JB: Can you tell us about the process of how you go from an idea to the finished product, step-by-step, what does that look like?

Russell: Each painting is a little different. I do commission work, so sometimes it's the client telling me what they want, so I go from that and build a composition around it. Other times, it's just an idea that pops into my head. One painting in particular, that I did several years ago of Eddie Rickenbacker's SPAD was actually inspired by a piece of western art that I had seen. It was a picture of a guy on a horse, with a bunch of dust behind, and I thought, if I took that rider and horse out, and put an airplane in there, that would be a really cool scene. So that's kinda what I did. 

Once I get that idea, I'll do some small thumbnail sketches, kinda flesh out of the idea, and give it a little more to breath and get it out of my head. I'll work through a number of sketches until I find what I want. Then it's a matter of doing more detailed drawings, some figure drawings, doing perspective drawings of aircraft. I'm working on a western train robbery scene where I had to do a perspective drawing of the train. Basically getting the finer points down, making sure everything is right, making sure the drawing is right, before ever going to canvas.

Then once I get the image transferred to canvas, it can take a couple of weeks for a small painting, to a couple of months for a large painting. It can be time intense. I'm not the kind of artist that can work straight through on one painting and get it done. I just get burned out after a certain point. I usually have two or three paintings at different stages of completion just sitting around the studio. When I get to a stopping point on one painting, maybe I get bored with it or just reach a point where there isn't any more I can do with it at the moment, I'll take it off the easel and I'll put another painting up and I'll work on it. So there's always work in front of me.

I did an interview with a local newspaper a couple years back where the interviewer asked what I do when I get artist's block and I said I don't really have that problem, because I've got a lot of ideas backlogged that I want to get to, and I've always got a painting waiting to go up on the easel. So, I never really have a problem with artist's block or anything like that.

JB: I asked Russell about whether he ever likes to experiment with new styles or techniques, or explore new subjects.


Russell: It's interesting, the western art market and the aviation art market are typically different from each other in that the folks who are interested in aviation are usually historians, pilots, and technical minded folks who are very detail oriented. Typically in that market they want nuts and bolts, they want rivets. Whereas, in the western art market, the subject is more organic. You're not dealing with aircraft, you're dealing with horses and people and landscapes. You can loosen up and be a little more creative with that. With your brush strokes, with your compositions, your whole method of painting. 

But, I don't want to have two different styles of painting. So what I'm trying to do is, I'm trying to introduce some of that looseness, some of that stuff I deal with in the western art, back into the aviation art, to give it something a little different, to help it stand out from other work in that aviation market. Which is typically really detailed and tight. I think it's really working, people tend to like it.




JB: Next, I asked Russell about the day to day life of a full time artist, and what his normal schedule looks like.

Russell: Well, I've got two small kids, and so a little bit of my day is killed by playing Mr. Mom at home, and running kids to and from school, and playing referee when they get into arguments. I try to keep my day scheduled. If I don't do that, if I don't stick to a routine, I won't get anything done. My attention span is really short and a lot of artists tend to be ADD in that way. A lot of times during the week I'll even eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, just to kind of keep a routine. I'm going to eat at this time, I'm going to run at this time. I just have to keep my day really structured. 

I get up before the kids are up, just to give myself time to wake up. Once I've got them up and out the door, I'll come in here and I'll work for about three hours, maybe go running. Then I've got to go pick one up from pre-school and I'll bring her back and I'll put her in the house and let her do her thing, and I'll come back in the studio and I'll work another four hours. So that's a typical day, I try to stay focused and not get on Facebook, or get sucked into social media, or things like that. That's always a trap you fall into, and suddenly realize you've killed thirty minutes you could have been painting.

JB: I asked Russell about whether he had any favorite pieces that he has painted, and whether any had a deeper story he wanted to share.

Russell: Oh wow, you know, I heard Billy Joel once say, when someone asked him a similar question about writing songs. He said that they're all like your children, but some of them grow up to be doctors, and some of them grow up to be slobs.

Yeah, there are a few that I'm really proud of, and some that I look back now and think "I could have done a better job with that." There's some aviation pieces, like a couple of my Richthofen pieces, one in particular called God of the North Wind which is of a black tri-plane. Then on the other hand there is this western train robbery scene I'm working on that I think will be really cool when it's done.



[Here I lost a bit of the recording, as somehow both of the devices I was using to record with stopped working for different reasons. First time doing a phone interview, lessons learned.]

JB: I next asked Russell if he had any advice for aspiring artists, especially those looking to make it a full time career.

Russell: (First he discussed how it's important for a full-time artist to understand art as a business, and how to stay in business, and how that is a skill many artists are lacking)

The other thing I would say, is don't do it unless you are absolutely committed to it. It's a hard business, a very competitive business. There are times when you are rolling in business and things are great, and other times when suddenly you hear crickets chirping and wonder what's going on. You gotta be able to ride out those highs and lows, and have a tough skin here. But if you're devoted to it, and it's what you love doing, then by all means do it. Just understand that it's not going to be a walk in the park at times, it's gonna be hard. You'll have to ride out the low points and wait for the high points.


JB: So what do you do for fun? Many people might have art as their hobby, but you do that full time. Do you have other things you enjoy doing?

Russell: It's funny, a lot of artists, I'm finding out now, their idea of fun is going back in the studio and working more. But you know I try to get out, I try not to live in my cage all the time. I try to get outdoors and go hiking. I've got a buddy who is a pilot that I'm going flying with tomorrow. Yeah, I mean, this is like a seven day a week job that is all consuming if you let it be. Sometimes I let it be a little too much, so I try to get outside. I try to go running to get some blood pumping, get some activity to refresh my brain and just reboot every now and then. 

JB: Since you're a fan of the old west, I've gotta ask what is your favorite western movie?

Russell: Oh that's a hard one. I love Tombstone, and 3:10 to Yuma is a good one. Actually there was a scene in 3:10 to Yuma that inspired a painting I did a couple of years ago. A lot of times I'll watch these movies and I'll see a frame, not necessarily that I want to copy, but it's an effect. Or like, this one in particular, there was a stagecoach coming around a curve with some dust behind it, and I thought that would be a cool painting if I put some guys on horseback chasing it. The thing about western movies is they kind of come and go. They'll have a couple good ones come out and then nothing for a while, then a couple more good ones will come out.



JB: You mentioned you like history a lot, do you have any books that you're reading or that you really like?

Russell: Oh boy, that's a hard one to say. I've got a whole bunch of books in my studio. I've got bookshelves full of history books, and they're stacked up in the corners. Most of them are aviation books, but I've got a pretty respectable collection of western books going now. The irony is that most of them I don't end up reading. I only read them if I have to, if I need to research a subject. Most of them remain unread for a long time.



JB: Next, since we are primarly a gaming website after all, I asked Russell if he plays any games or has an interest in war and strategy games.

Russell: You know, I try not to, because I know if I did, I would get addicted and it would steal a lot of my studio time. We don't own a Nintendo or anything like that, for that very reason. I know if we did, I would get nothing done.



JB: A lot of the games we cover are on historical topics, and usually have really detailed art on the cover, have you ever done a box art or anything like that?

Russell: I haven't done any box art, but I have done a lot of book covers, for World War I titles. I've got several publishers I work with. It's fun to do those, because you've gotta kind of think outside the box. Instead of just painting a painting, you have to think about where the title is going to go, what kind of image is going to sell the book, and how big it's going to be. It's fun to work on them, but they're a little constraining at the same time.



JB: If anyone wanted to contact you about doing a commission or anything else, what is the best way to reach you?

Russell: Through my website, Russell Smith Art.

JB: Thank you for your time, it's great speaking with you.

Russell: Thank you 


- Joe Beard



Interview with Games Designer,  David Thompson Today, I’m going to be putting some questions to David Thompson , the games designer ...

Interview with Games Designer, David Thompson Interview with Games Designer, David Thompson

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

interview


Interview with Games Designer, 
David Thompson

Today, I’m going to be putting some questions to David Thompson, the games designer currently best known for the superb solitaire game, Pavlov’s House.to learn something of his background, gaming thoughts and future designs.

The obvious and easy factual starter is what was your path into the gaming world? 


I began my gaming life when I was about 10 or 11. I started with AD&D. At the time, AD&D was making the transition from 1st to 2nd edition. My brother and I had picked up the core rule books for 2nd edition, but the campaign setting info for the 1st edition of Forgotten Realms. We had no clue they were different editions - and we didn’t care! The game kept us busy for countless hours. We also dabbled with things like HeroQuest, but we always came back to D&D. RPGs were my primary gaming interest through my late 20s and into my 30s. I knew about some other tabletop gaming stuff - mostly things like miniatures (Warhammer and the Clix games specifically come to mind), but it wasn’t until I was married and had kids that I discovered “hobby board gaming”. 
Once I discovered everything that board gaming had to offer, I jumped into the deep end and never looked back.

Do you consider yourself more of a wargamer or more of a Eurogamer and why?


Wow. Great question. My favorite game type is the Waro/Weuro (Wargame-Euro hybrid). But I would take that a bit farther and say that any political or historical game (including those with a war theme) and Euro mechanisms are my favorites (think games like Freedom: the Underground Railroad, 13 Days, etc). 
I spend more time working on wargame designs than Euros, but more time playing Euros (they are much easier to get to the table with my family).

Which games stand out for you on the way to deciding to design your own game?

A Few Acres of Snow (AFAoS) is probably my single biggest design inspiration, Halifax Hammer*be damned! [*a move credited with being an unstoppable game winner]  I love deck-building and deck-manipulation as a core mechanism; it allows for the ability to model all sorts of interesting things in an elegant way. AFAoS was one of the first to take deck-building and tie it to a spatial element. This influence can be seen in many of my designs (some that are still in development with publishers), but even my abstract strategy game War Chest owes some of its lineage to AFAoS.

What were some of the other influences and reasons that led you to design and produce your first game? 

My first game design has never been published, but gives a good idea about my path to board games in general and design specifically. About the time I got married and had my first child, I was looking to create a game that borrowed from some of my favorite game inspirations. I wanted to make a game that combined tactical elements from tabletop RPGs like D&D, gameplay from tactical RPG video games like Final Fantasy Tactics, and miniature tabletop games like Mage Knight (the original Clix game from Wizkids, not the board game). At the time I really didn’t know about board games, and there weren’t very many examples of board game / miniature game hybrids (now 1,376 of them are released every week on Kickstarter!). So, the result of this was a game I created called Skirmish Tactics Apocalypse. Over the years this design has been signed by a couple publishers but never actually made it to publication. The core design concept (a streamlined board game / minis hybrid) is no longer unique, which makes it a tough pitch these days, but it helped me discover the world of hobby board gaming and will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Your first professionally published game, I believe, was Armageddon, which was co-designed with Chris Marling and published by Queen games.  Can you give us some idea of that experience and your choice of topic? 

In 2014 I moved from the US to the UK. I landed in a village just outside of Cambridge, where there is an amazing designer and playtest community. One of the designers there is Chris Marling, and we instantly became friends. Chris had been working on a core mechanism for a game he called From the Ground Up. The conceit was a city-building game set in a post-apocalyptic setting with a unique sort of auction/area influence mechanic. We worked together on the game for a year or so. At Spiel 2015, we pitched the game to Queen. It was one of our first meetings of the con, and Queen signed it on the spot. It’s extremely rare to have a game signed on the spot by a publisher, so we were super happy. The next year, the game was released at Spiel. Queen pushed it big time at the con, with a huge roll out, including something like 40+ demo tables. To say the experience with my first published game was a positive one would be an understatement.

Your most recent game Pavlov’s House was a Kickstarter project published by Dan Verssen Games.  First of all, what was the experience of being part of a Kickstarter project like and secondly of working with DVG? 

I’m going to flip my response around, because I think it’s a more natural flow. 
Working with DVG has been both unique and great. It’s unique in the sense that I essentially did all the design, development, and art for the game. Dan and crew at DVG were responsible for working with the printer, fulfilling the game, and customer service. So, from a creative control perspective, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. Everything in the final game, for better or worse, is my fault! And Dan, Kevin, and Sarah at DVG had to work on all the stuff that I have zero interest in.
I was a collaborator on the Kickstarter, which meant I could modify the page, respond to questions, etc. Pretty much everything except change stuff like pledge levels. If you had to define the Kickstarter experience in a single word, the word would be “stress.” I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to the launch. I assumed a handful of people would be interested in Pavlov’s House due to it having been a fairly popular print-and-play project on BGG. But I had no idea it would get the support it did.


[Got to say that doesn’t surprise me, i.e. the huge support the game got - as I was one of those hooked from the very start by topic, mechanics and the company that was going to publish the game and, of course, inspired me to both review the game and then ask you to do this in-depth interview.]

But moving on. Is there a particular group of gamers or games club that has helped you with playtesting? 

There are a few different groups that I use for testing. Like I mentioned earlier, I lived near Cambridge for the last four years. Playtest UK is the world’s largest design and playtest group, and there is an extremely talented and active chapter in Cambridge. The designers in the group (folks like Brett Gilbert, Matthew Dunstan, Chris Marling, Trevor Benjamin, and more) are always gracious with their time, and provide amazing feedback. And there’s a core of great playtesters who will provide honest, critical feedback.
I also use my personal game groups, once a game is beyond the initial design phases. With these tests, I’m usually more interested in observing the group and gauging the play experience rather than looking for critical feedback.
And then there are remote testers who either create a print-and-play copy of the game or test the game online. I use Tabletop Simulator to both design and test games, and I usually make a playtest version available to those who want to test it for me. In the past I have also used Tabletopia and Vassal for this purpose. 
In the end, I get a good combination of critical feedback from designers and dedicated playtesters, in-person gaming groups, and blind playtesting using both physical and digital implementations.

What was it like to experience being at UK Expo 2018 demoing some of your games?  Any particular stories to tell there? 

I attended UKGE every year I lived in the UK (from 2015-2018). It has been amazing to see the convention change over time. It has grown so quickly, and is run so well. In prior years, I was primarily there to play games and pitch to publishers. In 2018, I was able to demo one of my new releases (Orc-lympics, published by Brain games), show off the pre-production copy of Pavlov’s House, and show off a prototype of a game I have that’s coming out within the next year or two from Phalanx (a post-Cold War political strategy game called Europe Divided). 
The single best experience from the convention was meeting up with Andrew Powell. I had met Andrew in person for the first time the previous year at UKGE. Prior to that, we had chatted online due to his interest in Pavlov’s House. Andrew became one of the most impactful testers for Pavlov’s House - so much of his input changed the game for the better. He also introduced me to a Facebook Group (Solitaire Wargamers) that has become an amazing support community for my designs, and ultimately led me to working with DVG on the game.

Your other game, War Chest, published this year is a very different, more abstract design.  What took you down this different road? 


The road to War Chest was a long, winding one. I mentioned earlier that its lineage can be traced back to influences like A Few Acres of Snow. Just around the time I was moving to the UK, I had started working on a World War 2 platoon-level deck
building game. After the initial design was complete, I began to develop it with a close friend and design partner (Trevor Benjamin). As we were finishing the development of that game, Trevor suggested the idea of boiling the game down to a MUCH more streamlined design and replacing deck-building with bag-building. The initial sketches of that concept still look very much like the final, published version of War Chest, though we iterated on it for a year, running countless playtests to ensure balance across all the different unit combinations. Despite its elegance as an abstract strategy game, it is extremely asymmetric and provides for a TON of possible unit combinations because you draft your group of unique units. I’ve never been happier with the final result of one of my games. AEG spared no expense with the production, using extremely high quality chips for the units, and the graphic design (by the super talented Brigette Indelicato) is elegant and beautiful.

Another recent design Castle Itter is currently in development too, I believe. Can you tell us something of the game and any details of its possible release? 

Castle Itter is based on an amazing WW2 story. If you’re not familiar with it, stop reading this now and go Google it. [I did – and I really recommend that those of you reading this do so too!] Prepare yourself for a story so amazing that people wouldn’t believe you if there wasn’t historical proof. In short, Hitler is dead and the war in Europe almost over, but remnants of the SS fight on. In the game, US tankers and infantrymen join with Wehrmacht infantry, an SS officer, French VIP prisoners, and an Austrian resistance fighter to defend a medieval Austrian castle against an SS assault. See - I told you it was unbelievable! Castle Itter was the design where I first created the tactical game elements that were also featured in Pavlov’s House. The game is being published by DVG and is set to launch on Kickstarter in early-to-mid November 2018.

Personally that’s fantastic news for me.  However, the game I really would love to see taken up by one of the major companies is the embryo design you mentioned earlier, Skirmish Tactics Apocalypse.   What are the possibilities of seeing that happening? 


Well, as I mentioned before, Skirmish Tactics Apocalypse was my first game design and my first love. I spent years (literally, about five or six years) working on the design. Over time it has been signed by a couple publishers but never made it to publication. I’ve made the entire game (three settings, six factions) available as free print-and-play files, and the game can be played for free on Tabletop Simulator. I’ve considered pitching it to publishers, but the market for hybrid minis/board games is so crowded these days that I’m not sure how much demand there would be for it. But I’ll never say never.


I don’t think I’d be a lone voice in saying I would love to see it snapped up.  I know what you mean about the crowded market, but everything I’ve seen of your designs makes me believe there’s still room for at least one more sci-fi tactical hybrid! 

Finally, I’d really like to thank you for taking the time to reply to all my questions and wish you every success with all your future projects.  



hpssims.com