Next War in Lebanon, redux rejoinder
August 25, 2014 3 Comments
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 https://brtrain.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/st-296-korean-war-battles-is-here/