Intvw w/ NEH, @ ACDC, 1400 16 JAN 2021

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The Regiment of Armchair Dragoons, an organization of strategy gamers only partly corralled by Brant Guillory, is having a virtual convention in mid-January!

As part of this event, on Saturday, January 16, from 1400 to 1500 Eastern Standard Time, I will be on Zoom for a 60-minute interview with podcaster Dan Pancaldi (of No Enemies Here). We’ll talk, we’ll scratch each other’s backs, we’ll take some questions….

Tickets required, and there is a limit of 100 (like all seminars on this event, I gather this is some kind of license-imposed limit; nothing personal).

It’s only 3 bucks to participate all weekend, and there is a LOT going on besides this meeting -board and miniatures games played via ASCBI, Discord, Roll20, Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, Vassal and Zoom; and online seminars including two presentations from the Georgetown University Wargaming Society.

Event details are here: https://www.armchairdragoons.com/acdc-jan-21/

Registration is via Tabletop Events: https://tabletop.events/conventions/acdc-january-2021

And here is the whole events schedule, though it will continue to change until January 4: https://www.armchairdragoons.com/acdc-jan-21-events/

More about Dan’s weekly podcast here: https://www.facebook.com/NoEnemiesHere/

I hope you’ll attend!

District Commander Maracas: VASSAL module available!

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Trevor Lieberman has braved the demons of Vassal and created a module for District Commander Maracas!

Download it here: http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:District_Commander_Maracas:_Virtualia_2019

It needs a few people to work it and check it over for errors or bugs, so this may not be the final version, but there is the page to find it when it is.

Thanks so much for your work Trevor!

(Honestly, I have tried off and on for the past few weeks to finally get it together to understand Vassal and Tabletop Simulator, and both have thoroughly defeated me except for the simplest things. I did make a functioning version of Guerrilla Checkers on TTS, but have no idea how to distribute it now.)

[ETA: Trevor also made an Excel spreadsheet to automate scoring for Population and LOC Control victory points for the module: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/213982/automated-scoring ]

Civil Power: making your own scenarios

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Copies of Civil Power are starting to thud and rattle into mailboxes across the land.

https://www.consimsltd.com/products/civil-power in case you haven’t had a chance to order your copy yet!

I’ve mentioned this before, but from the beginning I purposely designed this to be a “sandbox” type of game, for people to experiment with new and revised scenarios, optional rules and so forth – there is also a points purchase system and force-package system so you can easily assemble opposing forces.
The game comes with two geomorphic squared maps of an imaginary urban area. Keeping in mind that each square is 20 metres across (~25 yards) or about the width of a street, you could take an image from Google Maps or something and make a squared map to suit your favourite location, with terrain interpretations informed by your knowledge of the area.
As an example, I made one such for the Legislative Assembly buildings in my capital city… took me a couple of minutes to do. (Yeah, it shows.) Though I hasten to add that while the front lawn has seen many demonstrations, they have all been fairly well mannered except one time in 1993 where protesters forced their way into the building, and broke a window (and a staff member was shoved to the ground and hurt their hip). A collection was taken up by the organizers to have the window fixed.
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Obligatory end-of-year review, 2020

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Well, another year has zipped by. And what a year it was; this time last year, I was arranging to spend a week in Hawaii to combine (game) business with pleasure in April, and plotting out trips to conferences and conventions including a longer trip to Europe in the fall. Obviously none of that happened and I am completing my ninth month working from home (for the first time in my career), at a job that got even crazier as colleges and universities made the swift pivot to all-online instruction. I quite resented the intrusion of day-job space into home-job space at first but what are you going to do… and I save ~2 hours of commuting and dressing each day.

I’m not sorry to see 2020 go, and I know 2021 will not see the complete end of COVID-19, still less the beginnings of the necessary and obvious changes we’re going to have to make in order to flourish in the future. But like many people, I will adjust and carry on as best I can.

Game publishing and publicity

  • January: Hollandspiele brought out District Commander: Binh Dinh, the second volume in the series. District Commander: Binh Dinh out now!
  • February: long interview with The Players Aid about Brief Border WarsBrief Border Wars quad: interview at The Players Aid
  • April: a nice interview with Harold Buchanan, talking mostly about China’s War and StrongmanInterview with Howard Buchanan  I also belatedly posted notice of an interview with The Players Aid that was posted at the very end of 2019, on China’s WarChina’s War: interview with The Players Aid
  • June: After about a year of pre-orders, the Brief Border Wars quad sailed out the door. Sales were quite brisk, apparently! Brief Border Wars: shipping at last! I also had a very nice long session with John Kranz of Compass Games talking about this and other designs and thoughts. Interview with Compass Games, 5 June 2020
  • August: Posted link to a long and interesting interview with Neil Bunker of Diagonal Move. Interview: Diagonal Move
  • September: District Commander: Kandahar was published by Hollandspiele! District Commander: on sale, sale, sale! This leaves one module of the original four, District Commander: ZNO (Zone Nord Oranais).  This will be out some time in 2021 but meanwhile it is still available here for free PnP New free game: ZNO (District Commander module) Also, a longish interview at The Players Aid about the thoughts and mechanics in Civil PowerCivil Power: interview with The Players Aid
  • November: After eight months of working from home, I had run out of enough components for the infrequent sales of my DTP quality BTR Games designs that I suspended sales of the physical product. It was getting difficult to get to the post office on time too. So I made up PDF copies of six designs (1848, Andartes, Balkan Gamble, EOKA, Land of the Free, Red Guard) and made them available for PnP through Wargame Vault: https://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/18373/BTR-Games  I also took the opportunity to clean up and add to the rules for several designs, and was especially happy to make Red Guard available again even if it is not a big crowd-pleaser. When the world straightens out a bit I will resume sales of the physical product but will likely keep these six up there. Current price: $8.00 US a pop.
  • December: Civil Power finally went on sale! My proof copy is very nice, the counters look great. Civil Power: preview video!  I gave a talk to the Georgetown University Wargaming Society about self-publishing games, which seems to have been well-received… the biggest thing I learned in putting material together for this was that I have lots more to learn, beyond my simple, crude and low-tech methods (which, I hasten to add, work perfectly well for me). Links to slide deck and Youtube recording are here. PostGUWS

Game design work and future publication

Work and or testing continued throughout the year on some of the following:

  • Brief Border Wars Quad: Compass Games realized they had a good seller on their hands, and they are quite interested in Volume II – so I spent a lot of time on these in the summer and fall. The four battles are all pre-1945 titles: Second Balkan War 1913; Teschen 1919; Nomonhan 1939; and Italo-Greek War 1940. If people (including me) aren’t completely sick of these after this, I have thoughts on what to pick for a Volume III, which would all be post-1945 topics once again.
  • China’s War 1937-41: testing testing, until late summer when renos forced me to turn my gaming space into my work-from home space. I had been hoping to get into development in 2020, but lags with other projects prevented the developer from getting to it. No problem, it will come when it does as GMT is facing some large problems with production and shipping with current and near-future product. Almost 1,300 pre-orders now.
  • Civil Power: This was one of the first games I ever designed (1991-92) and revising it after 25 years is proving almost as much work as doing a new one. But it’s done, with some good revised rules and extra options and a lot of new scenarios based on contemporary headlines: Hong Kong 2019, duelling mobs in Caracas, Violent Demo USA, etc.. Timely, yes, but perhaps it always was.
  • District Commander series: Made changes to the core rules after Maracas came out: nerfing Ambush and Intimidate missions, a new use for Intelligence Advantage chits, and disrupting Militia units no longer deducts Task Points. Pleased with the way things are with it now. If I get time and opportunity next year I might do a Kashmir module that has scenarios from various flare-ups over the years; we’ll see.
  • Semi-abstract urban counterinsurgency games: no time to finish these two off. Will likely put them up for free PnP as few people seem interested in this kind of thing.
  • Strongman: I got in some plays and an important revision of this done before the March lockdown. I haven’t had a chance to work on it since then but I’m pleased – maybe not reached the final step on this but the last few steps have been forward ones.
  • Tabletop Simulator: I have a few days off the end of this year (was not able to take much vacation due to having to substitute for my boss while he sought elected office) so would like to learn how to use this and make TTS versions of some of my games. I think it might be useful for future playtesting and I don’t think I will ever be able to grok making a Vassal module for myself.

Conventions

  • Of course, nothing happened, at least nothing physical.

Conferences and professional wargaming stuff

  • No physical conferences – Connections-US this year was virtual, and I did manage to attend a couple of online sessions though it was difficult to do during working hours. Connections-UK was cancelled outright.

Writing

  • Not a productive year, as far as writing about war and games. Nothing formally published, just the usual torrent of wise-guy stuff on blogs, sites and social media. I did write a lot for some quite pleasant interviews and Q&A I had with The Player’s Aid. One interview with Diagonal Move made me think a bit. Interview: Diagonal Move

Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

  • Overall traffic seems to be continuing a decline since 2018. I seem to be cruising still at just below 1,600 views per month, for a total of about 19,000 views. About 7,000 visitors. The five most curious countries were: US (by a very wide margin), UK, Canada, France and Italy. One guy clicked in from Oman.
  • Besides the then-current post, popular pages included the perennial favourites BTR Games, Free Games and Scenarios and Variants pages. No surprises there. The most popular post was the one for the Colonial Twilight-inspired method of playing 4-faction COIN system games with 2 people: Spielenexperiment: Turning 4 into 2
  • The most downloaded documents were the card/counter files for District Commander: ZNO,  Third Lebanon War and Canadian Civil War, the play mat for Kashmir Crisis, and the presentation I made at Connections North (“Soft Power Maps”). Since download figures for the other parts of the associated games are nowhere near these numbers, it’s obvious they are being scooped up by some kind of bot or script.

Brief Border Wars: Vassal module available!

The illustrious Tom Swider has created a Vassal module for Brief Border Wars!

Get it here: http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Brief_Border_Wars

Many thanks Tom, people will appreciate your work!

PostGUWS

This is the link to the slide deck used for this presentation. Hope you enjoyed it!

PDF version, about 2 MB.

Also, here is the link to the Youtube recording of the presentation… people seemed to like it, though I hate the way I look and sound on media.

Here is the link to the excellent series of posts on game development written by Neal Durando in his blog, that I referenced in the Q&A: http://defling.com/blog/?cat=8

Thanks to everyone who attended, and thanks to Sebastian Bae of GUWS for giving me the chance to talk!

Reminder: talk on self-publishing, December 8

Comrades and friends:

Just a reminder that on Tuesday, December 8, from 6pm Eastern (that’s 2200 Zulu Time) for two whole hours (maybe), I will be talking and taking questions on the whys, hows and wherefores of self-publishing and distributing your own wargames. Everything begins with something homemade, and sometimes it just stays that way.

The event is free but you have to register through Eventbrite:

District Commander Kandahar: quick look by Maurice Fitzpatrick

Moe’s Game Table has a look at District Commander: Kandahar, the Afghanistan 2009/10 module of the series. He likes what he sees.

Thank you Moe!

Civil Power: preview video!

Ray Weiss has gotten a proof copy of Civil Power! Here he spends a few minutes talking about the game, its mechanics, options and scenarios, and shows off the very nice components.

Sales should start Real Soon Now.

BTR Games available through Wargame Vault

I am making my whole line of “BTR Games” products available for PnP on Wargame Vault.

To produce these games, I would go to the copy shop to have small batches of counter sticker sheets, maps etc. made up. But I’ve been working from home since March 2020 and can’t get near any copy shops, and it is not worth trying to print all this at home, so I have run out of components for most titles. I can’t print 11×17″ maps at home anyway. This also saves any delay in my having to organize a trip to the post office (which was also proving occasionally difficult).

The real value, though, from the customer’s point of view is that they can order Brian Train products drunk at 3 am, as most online purchases are made, and get them right away.

https://www.wargamevault.com/browse/pub/18373/BTR-Games

When things begin to stabilize and I return to my office, I do plan to have physical versions of the games available again for people who do not want to go the PnP route.