Next War in Lebanon, redux rejoinder


I read your post about your dissatisfaction with the development of The Next War in Lebanon.

I am rather surprised about some of your complaints after our talk at the CSW Expo when I showed you the game.

I am more surprised about your comments about those issues that you already knew about (if you simply forgot – like the discussion I had with you during development about the need for the playing card game pieces, since your game requires a deck of cards – it sounded like feigned surprise when I read your complaints).

Furthermore, some of the complaints seem peculiar to me; e.g., the change from the squiggly map territories to the large-hex territories didn’t change the layout of the terrain as you had designed it, and furthermore you saw all of that when I showed the game to you at CSW Expo a few months ago. So, to hear of the complaint now strikes me odd.

All in all, I can only suggest that we agree to disagree, and I’m sorry that your game as originally submitted was not exactly suitable for the magazine-game customer that wants games with less complexity, by and large (as I explained to you when I showed you the printed version of the game at the convention).

I wish you had voiced these complaints to me at CSW Expo when I showed you the game, but that ship has sailed. Moreover, as I already told you, we have no objections to you putting up your own [original] set of rules to present the game per your true vision, but Doc would appreciate it if you’d not denounce the game publicly. Of course, going forward from here, this will no longer be an issue, but regarding your designs that have been published already, that’s not exactly cricket, as the saying goes.

Assuming my post isn’t deleted, thank you for listening, and I wish you all the good luck as a designer in the future.


That is Eric Harvey, chief developer for Decision Games, writing in a comment on the post preceding this one, received today.

Far from deleting Eric’s comment, I am going to give it a post of its own – it, and my response, should not be buried in a commment thread.

Fact: Eric did show me the counter sheet and map at the Consimworld Expo in Tempe AZ in late May 2014, for a few minutes. I did not have a copy of my original game with me for comparison. But Eric had told me about the card chits and the large-hex map before, so yes, I did expect to see that and no great surprises there. If what I’ve written gives the impression that I am feigning surprise about these points, I will say here that that was not the intention – what I wrote was to highlight the differences between the original version I first submitted, the revised edition I made for DG, and what was actually published. Meanwhile, the bits about the “1” and the Ace, and the “Disrupted” boxes not being explained in the rules, are just errata – slips happen. And the map is quite serviceable, as I noted in the preceding post.

But the most important part, and the basis of my concerns, was the changes in the rules. Eric did not have the most critical component, the rules, to show me at the Expo.  And frankly, that late in the game, the rules were the only component that could have been changed (DG gang-prints its maps and counters four to six issues in advance of publication, but the rules are last to be printed –  which is why, when you get your subscriber copy, some map or counter errata or corrections are already in the rules for you to make the changes).

I was not aware of the critical changes that had been made in the rules in the time since I had submitted the revised, simpler version of the game. Eric and I have discussed many times, in person and online, what DG feels to be an appropriate level of complexity for the games in its magazines. I thought that the changes I made to my original submission, which I had worked out with Eric, had addressed this issue. I did the revision work, then heard nothing for two years.

As for “denouncing the game publicly”: there is a line between pointing out what has been done to my original design and denouncing the final product, and if I have crossed that line, I will make amends. In my preceding post, I have deleted the word “mess”, the word “apologize” is now “explain”, and “restore” is now “change”. I was angry when I wrote the post, and I should have moderated my language.

Also, I have been at pains to point out, both here and  in threads at Boardgamegeek, that the game-as-finally-published is playable. I have never said otherwise. And in the end the game-as-published is the version that most people will play, now and in future, since very few people seem to have noticed (or are even in a position to know) that it is neither the game that I originally submitted, nor the one I revised.

It is a workable game, but it’s one that does not make the points and arguments I designed it to make, and my name is still on it. Also, this is the second time this has happened to me in five months. Pointing these things out is not a denunciation of the product; at most it’s a criticism of the process, which I felt (and feel) misrepresents my work and ideas.

Eric closes by saying that “going forward from here, this will no longer be an issue”, and in fairness I will say that with respect to another game I have in the hopper with DG, we have had extensive and very satisfactory back-and-forth over the game’s development.

Edited to Add: I would also like to add, in fairness, that they made minimal editing and retouches to the main article in the magazine, written by me, on the topic of the next hypothetical war in Lebanon. I was rather pleased with how that one came out, even though the game-as-published now contradicts the article-as-written.

Also Edited to Add: the game mentioned in the final paragraph was Korean War Battles, published in issue #296 of Strategy and Tactics. At the time I wrote the original post, Eric and I were having a satisfactory discussion over the game, but that stopped and somewhere in between that time and publication, the game got extensively changed (Eric told me later another person had stepped in to develop it, so I don’t know who was responsible for what changes in the end). Not pleased. Details at


Next War in Lebanon, redux

Well, it happened AGAIN (refer to Greek Civil War, redux).

Constant Readers will recall that I sent “Third Lebanon War”, my original game design on a near-future Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon to defeat Hezbollah, in to Decision Games at the end of 2011. DG asked me several months later, in early 2012, to redesign the combat system, which also required some changes to other systems in the game. So I did, and that was the last I heard of it.

Rules: AGAIN, they made a number of major rules changes between 2012 and now, without my knowledge. Besides discarding the new combat system I had to work out for them in the original revision, there are a number of fundamental changes made, that make nonsense of my original points and emphases in designing the game, especially the victory conditions. There are also substantial errata and contradictions in the game-as-published, where they did an incomplete/inconsistent job in making these new changes.

Counters: besides going from a total of 228 to 176 counters, they have changed the unit ratings on some but not all Israeli units, and added some units. Counter layout is completely different. Insurgent unit counter mix completely different (cut it from 43 to 26 units, and changed all the ratings). And there are 18 new counters representing a deck of playing cards: 4 suits, 1-10, Jack, Queen, King, and an Ace for good measure, though it could also be another “1” – they don’t specify).

Map: my original map of 23 irregular areas is now 23 giant hexagons, with most (but not all) of the adjacencies preserved. Each hex now has a “Disrupted” square in it, which I guess is like a time-out box – it’s not made clear in the rules.

I do not agree with these changes, and my name is still attached to this.

Part of the publishing agreement a designer signs with Decision Games reads: “Decision is responsible for the development, graphics and publication of the Game. Decision is free to edit, develop, and make other changes it deems necessary for publication of the Game. Decision has final approval for all materials utilized in publishing the Game. Designer incurs no obligation for any of these, other than those specified above. Decision agrees to credit Designer in the published game rules.”

So, AGAIN, they have done their part in the above. The first time this happened, I felt uncomfortable publicly disagreeing with the publisher, and held my tongue for a bit. But I am also uncomfortable standing behind this game in its published form with my name on it; the final sentence in the above quote now has a new complexion for me.

Now, at this point I have two options. I think I will exercise both of them.


I thought that they might have left the counters and map alone, as happened with Greek Civil War, so you could just drop in the replacement rules. That’s not going to work this time. So, as I did before with Greek Civil War, I am making the REVISED rules and charts I submitted in early 2012 available here for download, so that players can play the REVISED game in the manner I originally revised it. You will also need to print out the set of counters (2 sheets, front and back), mount them and cut them out, and play with the rules etc. provided here. The map is still useful if you ignore the Disrupted penalty box.


NextLebwar charts v2

NextLebwarCRT v2

NextLeb OOB mats v2

NextLebwar rules v2 19 Mar 12

Edited to Add: The inestimable Ken from Japan has made a very nice and professional-looking Japanese-language translation of the v2 rules to Next War in Lebanon (the original revised version, with step reduction and 1d6 CRT). And here they are! Arigato gozaimasu Ken, o-tsukaresama deshita!

 NextLebwar rules v2 JPN


I plan to publish and sell in DTP format the “original original” version of the game, as I designed it in 2011 and first submitted to Decision Games, under the BTR Games mark and title “Third Lebanon War”. It will take a little time to get some snazzy cover art and a colourful but smaller map done, so that will come later in the year.

But in the meantime, I am making the files for this very first version available here, FREE. This is what I wanted to have run in the magazine; I’ve made a few edits relating to differences in the game’s physical components. You can still use the map from the magazine (ignore the Disrupted boxes), or use a smaller one I have made.

3Leb counters2

3Lebwar Cascading Effects Event Chart

3Lebwar rules 3 Nov 11

3Leb OOB mats

3Lebwar charts

 3Leb war map2

I realize that few of the total number of people who receive or buy copies of this game will read this; I wish I could explain to them but this is none of my doing. All I can do is offer them two free print-and-play game kits to change the game they paid for to something like what I intended.

Connections 2014 AAR


Over on, I wrote an account of Connections 2014.
Short, boring, copiously but fuzzily illustrated.
But it was a good conference, even if I ended up staying awake for 40 hours to get there!

Connections 2014 presentation: script and slides

Placeholder for the script and slides for the presentation I made at Connections 2014.

Rockin’ video advertising the GlobalECCO game portal not included, sorry.

ECCO script

ECCO slides

Also found on Game Links and Resources page (see above link).