Home from BottosCon 2016!

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Playing the short scenario with Lyman Leong. Photo: David Rice.

Like most cons, I spent most of my time talking to old friends I often see only once a year, catching up and discussing new projects and thoughts on game design generally. Though this time I met someone who I hadn’t seen in 35 years – we used to play matches of Richthofen’s War during lunch hour in high school! He’s a bit taller now…. And I met some interesting new people too.

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Multiple games of A Distant Plain were played. Photo:Boaz Joseph, from the story that appeared in the Surrey Leader

I did get a bit of gaming in too, just one play-through of the short scenario of Colonial Twilight. And I did introduce Guerrilla Checkers to a fellow who brought his 12 year old daughter to the con… and she promptly kicked the stuffing out of him, twice!

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Another great photo by David Rice… though as usual I am frozen in indecision and fatal distraction… I never said I was any good at actually playing these things.

 

Back, bruised, from Tempe.

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Playtesting Colonial Twilight with Joseph Vanden Borre (who came all the way from Belgium) and Ian Weir. Photo: Harold Buchanan

Okay, I am back and things went well, considering.

The day after we arrived I was starting down the stairs with Lianne on the way to lunch, and I stepped on something that wasn’t there (bright sunlight into dark staircase). I fell and got a bruise+hematoma on my but-tocks (say it Forrest Gump style) that made and makes it hard to sit, sleep, or walk normally. It’s not the ugliest thing ever to happen to my body but the bruise was so large and spectacular I gave it a name.

Apart from that, I got in some really good playtesting of Colonial Twilight, met with Mark Simonitch about the final art, cemented an idea about the ‘bot (which is the last major detail to be completed in the game), and buy-in to the forces adjustment (a slight reduction in the number of Government pieces). Also, Lance McMillan and I took Red Horde 1920 for a spin and he gave me a lump of good ideas to use in it – much improved I think.

Met lots of people I never see except at this convention – though LCOL Barsness from the Army War College was there for the first time too.

Highlight was Daniel Thorpe and the other five or six Canadian attendees organizing a Canada Day Eve event – he laid in 60 bottles of Labatt’s Blue and boxes of poutine from a US Fries place around the corner from the hotel, and group entertainment was provided with a Canadian military history trivia quiz. Team “Dieppe” won the donated prize copies of War Plan Crimson and Scheldt Campaign !

 

 

 

Off to CSW Expo 2016… meanwhile, Ramadi.

Leaving soon for Tempe, Arizona for the Consimworld Expo!

Going to be extremely hot – 43 to 46 degrees!

Will do my best to engage as little as possible on any topic other than play, publishing, design etc. of wargames!

Meanwhile, let me point you toward a simple but very clever solitaire wargame on the Battle for Ramadi (December 2015), by Jay Ward and made available for free on his website “Numbers, Wargames and Arsing About”.

http://flagsofvictory.blogspot.ca/p/the-battle-for-ramadi-complete-game.html

If nothing else, download and read the rules – he spends the first 11 pages setting out the situation and giving information on the forces involved, and how they are reflected in the game. I like it when designers give this kind of account of their research and thoughts.

If I had the time, I’d nick all this and make a Fallujah version of the game myself!

But meanwhile, the desert beckons….

 

Busy week ahead

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I take off Saturday for a busy week of gaming and talking, and more gaming!

On Monday I will be at the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA to cover another event in their Strategic Wargame Program. See https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/us-army-war-college-strategic-wargame-program/ for a full description by its director, COL Jerry Hall. So far they have done events using Fire in the Lake and Game of Thrones.

We’ll start with a screening of the Pontecorvo film The Battle of Algiers, maybe a bit of discussion about it, then onto guided play of Colonial Twilight. Should be great fun!

After that I am heading to Montreal for Stack Academie, the gaming convention organized by Marc Guenette.

Marc is also a student in the “DESS en Design de jeux”, a one-year post-degree program in game design run by the University of Montreal. (https://admission.umontreal.ca/programmes/dess-en-design-de-jeux/). Marc has asked me to conduct a “master class” in the design of games on modern irregular warfare, with particular attention to the COIN system. So, I will largely be amplifying my remarks from the PCA conference, with more emphasis on the potential of these games to enlarge and modify wargame design as a whole. Luckily, Volko Ruhnke will be in the audience to correct any egregious errors I commit. I will post my script and slide deck later, as usual.

That’s on Thursday; from then until early Sunday it’s going to be more playtesting of Colonial Twilight and some other games I am bringing – the revised versions of Algeria and War Plan Crimson coming soon from Tiny Battle Publishing, Chile ’73 (new mini-game on the coup against Allende, multiplayer), The Little War (new mini-game on the March 1939 border war between Slovakia and Hungary), and for the very brave, District Commander: Binh Dinh. And the usual Guerrilla Checkers giveaways, of course, unless the officers at the Army War College grab them all first…

“It’s going to be fun, Dryden.”

“It is recognized that you have a funny sense of fun.”

Bottoscon 2015

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That bald spot of mine appears to be growing year by year.

2015 is nearly over, and another Bottoscon has come and gone (really, where has the time gone?). This was a good one, the best attended yet!

I went over on Friday with Ian Weir (Red Sash Games) and Michael Junkin. After a bite I got set up at two tables that I kept filled with my games all weekend, either being displayed or played.

There were three test games of Colonial Twilight, all played with the short (3 Propaganda Rounds) Tournament Scenario: Friday with Andrew Laws and Stephen Graham (all 3 rounds, Government Victory on final  round), Saturday with Mike Mahoney and Rick Smith (all 3 rounds, FLN closer to victory point than Government on final round), and Sunday with Hjalmar Gerber and Richard Douziech (game had to be packed up after 2nd Prop round but FLN was doing better). Players had varying degrees of prior experience with the COIN system. All agreed this was a significant departure from other COIN system games in terms of playing speed: same amount of actual action per card – two factions get to one thing  each – but with only one adversary to worry about, not three, the tempo of the game gets cranked way up. The Initiative Track, that makes the leader of the dance pass back and forth between the two players, was thought to be a clever idea.

Other games: I helped Ian Weir and Rob Bottos through most of a game of Ukrainian Crisis with the revised rules (will be uploaded shortly to this blog), and Rick Smith helped me a lot with clarity and mechanics of my latest design, The LIttle War – a mini-game on the Slovak-Hungarian border conflict of March 1939 (you mean, you didn’t know about this one?).

Acquisitions:

  • Won as a door prize, a copy of YAAH! Magazine #3, with a very nice interview of Volko Ruhnke and me by Roger Leroux on the COIN system generally, plus another long article by Roger of his impressions of the games in the system.
  • Machine of Death, a curious sort of morbid party game by David Malki!, who was at the Tableflip conference in San Francisco last October.
  • Winter Fury, a small game on two Winter War battles
  • Some back issues of Canadian Wargamers Journal with variants and things in them.
  • Sold a few copies of Andartes and Tupamaro too.

I generally go to only two conventions a year: the big Consimworld Expo in Tempe, and this local con. It’s always great to meet people, walk around and talk to other designers about their work and projects. Rob works so hard to set this con up, and everyone appreciates it.

Thanks also to GMT, One Small Step Games and Tiny Battles Publishing for being so generous with door prizes too!

Back from Consimworld Expo *kaff* 2015

Me and Ian Weir at table, playing a few cards of Colonial Twilight (photo: Cisco Serret)

Me and Ian Weir at table, playing a few cards of Colonial Twilight (photo: Cisco Serret)

So, it was a good week, marred only by my catching a cold from the hotel air conditioning, which usually happens after I spend 3 or 4 days in a hotel. It was 110 – 115 degrees outside for much of the week, and all the work/game stuff was inside, so I didn’t have much of a choice. Felt nasty yesterday but I’ll be all right in a couple of days.

Anyway, yes, a good week. I showed Denouement to Gene Billingsley, who liked what he saw and lo, the game is going up for P500 orders Very Soon Now.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/180199/colonial-twilight

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX/.1ddb6d85/

However, the working title did not survive and the game is now called Colonial Twilight, which is OK with me – still an evocative title and nicked from the title of an excellent article on the French-Algerian War written by John Prados back in Campaign/Panzerfaust magazine (does anyone remember that?), issue #73, May-June 1976.

Talked to many many other people over the course of the week, it’s great to be able to see these folks, even if it is only once a year, and talk about technique or common histories/anecdotes. I even got in a game of Quartermaster General, which had some interesting choices in it but isn’t much more than filler (but it’s fun filler).

I brought a lot of new stuff with me but did not get to show much of it besides the two COIN games, which caught a lot of attention. GMT staff seemed interested in Thunder Out Of China which was also on display, but there are at least 8 or 9 teams working on COIN system games now so it would be years before this one saw production.

Contemplated setup for 1937 scenario (photo: Cisco Serret)

Contemplated setup for 1937 scenario (photo: Cisco Serret) (Santa did not fall off the map, he was like that when I got there)

So, back to work… until next year. But meanwhile there is BottosCon, November 6-8!

Off to Consimworld Expo 2015!

Very, very early tomorrow morning we are taking off for the 2015 CSW Expo in Tempe, Arizona. I go to this most years; this year there are over 300 attendees and while it draws a lot of monster gamers (people who play monster-sized games, not people who play games about monsters or who look like monsters, though there are a few who look like Igor from Hilarious House of Frightenstein) it also draws a lot of hardcore, long-term gamers, many of whom are designers themselves. It’s fun to get together with them and swap tales and techniques.

There will be a lot of publishers there, including GMT, so I will present the work done so far on Denouement (2-player COIN system, French Algerian War) and see if they are interested in Thunder Out Of China (4-player COIN system, China 1937-41, trying to make it a fun game for four passive-aggressives) too. Also bringing eight or nine other things to show and test:

Algeria Redux, revision of original 2000 Algeria game with cleaned-up rules, scenarios and 140 counters
Winter Thunder, revision of 2005 Bulge game, with fewer counters and simpler rules
Palace Coup, multiplayer game on coup d’etat
Caudillo, multiplayer game on power politics in thinly disguised post-Chavez Venezuela
Binh Dinh 69, simpler game on Binh Dinh province in Vietnam 1969
– Binh Dinh and Kandahar modules of District Commander system
– and Victory Point Games will be there for playtesting of their developed version of Ukrainian Crisis
Will be there all week, may be able to post small things and pictures – bringing new tablet with tiny keyboard, and Aki gave me his old Android phone I can use as a camera.