Back from CSWExpo 2018

me and masahiro

At CSWExpo with Masahiro Yamazaki, a profound and prolific game designer.

Well, I went, and now I’m back… it was a great week!

As You Know, Bob, I went down to Tempe with ten designs and I think I have found homes for twelve of them.

  • The Brief Border Wars quad will be published by Compass Games, all four in one box;
  • the District Commander series (the first four anyway) will come out singly from Hollandspiele;
  • Thunder Out of China gathered a lot of interest and some very good initial player test input (lychee-nut clusters to John Burtt and Ian Weir, among others), time permitting in between it should be ready to deliver to GMT for P500 next Expo time;
  • We Are Coming, Nineveh attracted some nice attention and partial or full tests from passersby, notably Paul Van Etten and Steve Lieske who gave me a page or two of notes and suggestions. Needs some work but an established publisher is definitely interested!
  • I showed Caudillo to GMT and they were interested too but it needs some R&D for added light-heartedness without it becoming like Junta… I know the man who  is up for this kind of job, and hopefully can report more soon.
  • Finally, Steve Jones of Blue Panther games proposed sales of a spiffed-up version of Guerrilla Checkers (board printed on canvas with poly back, little wooden punch-out pieces) to SoCal pubs… a market I had never considered, though the linen-napkin and glass stones versions I had been selling are just as beer-proof.

Whoof, it was hot though… 42 degrees and more every day. No excursions as we had planned, but we had fun in the hotel and general area, and it was great to meet both the people I meet once a year here (John Teixeira, Kerry Anderson, John Kranz the expo organizer, Joel Dahlenberg etc.) and new friends (Masahiro Yamazaki from Japan (he was there last year but I was too shy to speak to him, this year I essayed my broken Japanese), Florent Coupeau from Nuts! Publishing in France, Zach Larue, Sam Losthisname (but he’s a cool guy), Tom Switajewski, Randy Strader, etc.).

Besides the revision and refining work to be done on some of these designs, I also came home with several ideas for new games that I hope to work out over the rest of the year. So stay tuned….

buchanan intvw

Being interviewed at CSWExpo for Harold Buchanan’s podcast “Harold on Games”. Photo: Harold Buchanan.

While I was there, Harold Buchanan (designer of Liberty of Death and more besides) interviewed me for his podcast “Harold on Games”. He let me ramble on for almost two hours, I don’t envy him the job of editing it down to fit. Anyway, when he does I’ll let you know here and you can listen to me, too.

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Podcast: I’m on the Grogcast!

http://grogheads.com/podcast/grogcast-season-6-episode-6-interview-with-brian-train

Brant Guillory et al. have been running the “Grogcast” series of podcasts for a long time now. Last week – Season 6 Episode 6 – it was my turn to be on the show! We ended up talking for nearly an hour and a half about various designs, and indulged in some plain old nostalgia.

I really hate my recorded voice, but if you can get past that pinched pedantic halting delivery and umm, uhh, ahh of mine, maybe you can enjoy it too.

Newest COIN system P500: People Power

Just announced for P500, is a new COIN system game from GMT: People Power: Insurgency in the Philippines, 1983-86. Designed by Ken Tee, a gamer I know from CSW  – this appears to be his first design.

I’ve just had a glance over the description but here are some of the interesting points I noticed:

  • 3 factions:
    • Government, symbolized by the personal rule of Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda, and his political cronies and military forces. Seeks Support and Patronage.
    • Insurgents, split into two blocs – the communist New People’s Army (or NPA) and the Moro National Liberation Front (or MNLF but more commonly referred to as Moros). The NPA sought a national uprising from both the urban and rural populace, while the Moros wanted a separate nation founded on Islamic autonomy. Seeks Control of spaces and some form of “Resistance” index.
    • Reformers, think Corazon Aquino. A non-violent faction that was historically the winner of the conflict as the Philippine political landscape changed. Seeks to build Bases and Opposition.
  • Seems to be an effort to create a high-speed, low-drag entry into the COIN system: small map (17 x 22″) with only two terrain types (city and country) and likely a small number of spaces; low number of pieces (79 wooden bits), and a small deck of event cards (likely around 40 or 50).
  • Some new features:
    • A hand of Key Personality cards kept by each player, that represents the effectiveness of various generals and power brokers.
    • Propaganda Rounds replaced by a two-turn Election Cycle procedure (each Election Cycle is made up of 10 cards and represents 6 to 9 months of activity).
    • A faction can combine any Operation with any Special Activity.
    • card-driven solitaire play system; no more flowcharts.

Here’s the link to the description page and pre-order link:

https://www.gmtgames.com/p-689-people-power-insurgency-in-the-philippines-1983-1986.aspx

220 orders already – I’m jumping on this one too!

Nights of Fire: quite long interview at The Players Aid

NOF cover art mid

Over at the Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz has posted a very long interview I did with him on Nights of Fire.

https://theplayersaid.com/2018/02/19/interview-with-brian-train-co-designer-of-nights-of-fire-battle-for-budapest-from-mighty-boards-coming-to-kickstarter-soon/

Lots of details on how the game came to be, history of the situation, changes during design, detailed look at the structure of the game’s sequence of play and components.

Coming to Kickstarter Real Soon Now!

Thanks Grant!

Burden of Command

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Nope, not quite…

I never made a practice of playing computer wargames much, and I don’t think I am about to start now.

But it seems to me that there are a few digital designers and developers out there who are thinking about what a game about war should be, and what it should mean to its players, quite deeply. This is an interesting article.

https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/j5v3kp/meet-the-developers-behind-a-wargame-about-people-not-weapons?utm_campaign=sharebutton

Obligatory end-of-year review

kidchicken

So, that was 2017.

This year I published these games, or got them down the slipway:

strangelove

It was also a busy time for conferences, events and conventions.

  • April: we went to San Diego for the Popular Cultural Association conference where I made a presentation on “News Paper Games”, about journalism in analog game form. Next year’s conference is in Indianapolis so no way am I going there, but I think I am about done presenting my ideas in this kind of academic venue… not much left to say.
  • May: I went back to the Army War College to screen The Battle of Algiers for them, and do some guided play of Colonial Twilight with the guys of the Strategic Simulations Division. Also sat in on a very good panel with Peter Perla and Jim Lacey. Then I went up to Ottawa for the Cangames convention, where I played some more Colonial Twilight and met up with Rex Brynen, who was running a zombie game. I also learned The Grizzled from Michel Boucher, and had dinner at his place… I did not know of course that this would be the last time I would see him.
  • June: Consimworld Expo at Tempe AZ. Hm, I seem not to have written anything about that. Well, it was the usual good time among the hardest-core gamers, and nice as always to meet with publishers and discuss future projects. Lianne and I went to the local art museum and saw a neat exhibition on Frida Kahlo. Unfortunately Tom Russell hurt his back so Hollandspiele could not make the 800 mile drive to get there, but I’ll see them next year.
  • September: Back to Kings College London for the 2017 Connections-UK conference, boy that was fun! Also had a couple of extra days to look about in London, so that was great too.
  • November: BottosCon, like always, and it was a great weekend, like always, though I see I have not written anything about it either. I think I like the new hotel.

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Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

  • I seem to be cruising at between 1.4 to 2.1 thousand views per month, definitely higher than the preceding two years. Not surprisingly, the five most curious countries were: US, Canada, the UK, France and Australia. One guy clicked in from Jersey (the Channel Island, not the toxic waste dump).
  • Besides the then-current post, popular pages or posts included the BTR Games and Free Games pages, and the post about how to use the “horseshoe” in Colonial Twilight to play any four-player COIN system game with two players (this was also published in issue #31 of C3i magazine).
  • Even less surprisingly, the most clicked-on documents were the rules, corrected tutorial and playbook for Colonial Twilight, followed by the free PnP files for Ukrainian Crisis, Third Lebanon War and Caudillo. The page for all my presentations and other material got a lot of visits, but very few people downloaded the files. Oh well.

Now on to 2018, and further dumpster fires. Things I am pretty sure will get done in the coming year include:

  • Nights of Fire on Kickstarter in February, might be produced in time for Essen but we’ll see
  • Tupamaro will come out in 1Q as well, in folio format from One Small Step
  • Strike for Berlin will be in the next issue of Yaah! magazine (#11, March (?) 2018)
  • Chile ’73, folio game on the coup that put Pinochet in power (Tiny Battle Publishing)
  • A quad of mini-games on border wars, using a development of the Little War system (most likely Compass Games)
  • Finish off design work on Thunder Out of China (China 1937-41, COIN system, 4 players, different emphases)
  • And there will likely be other stuff besides…
  • …so get to work, ya bastich!

Coming soon: Strike For Berlin!

s4Bctrsnip

Chunk of the playtest countersheet. Proper counters will be done by John Cooper, who also did Winter Thunder and Red Horde 1920.

s4Bmapsnip

Elongated blurry slice of the playtest map. Proper map will also be done by John Cooper.

Yaah! magazine #11, which I am told will probably ship in March 2018, will have my game Strike For Berlin in it. Opening blurb to the rules:

STRIKE FOR BERLIN is a simulation game of a hypothetical invasion of Germany by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’s (RSFSR) armed forces in 1920.  The game is for two players, one representing the irresistible forces of proletarian revolution (called the Red Player), and the other the (hopefully) impervious alliance of anti-Bolshevist forces that would have been arrayed to oppose such an invasion (called the White Player).

The game begins just after the Red Player’s forces have won the Battle for Warsaw in mid-August 1920.  Sensing that “over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration” (Tukhachevsky, leader of the Red forces, in a communique), the leadership of the RSFSR has decided to go for broke and seize Berlin, capital of a Germany in political and economic disarray.  However, it is already late summer and they cannot sustain a military effort of this size past the onset of bad weather at the end of October. The Red Player has just ten weeks to change the course of world history.

This is a complete makeover of 1998’s Freikorps, just as Red Horde 1920 was a complete makeover of Konarmiya. 176 counters, 17×22″ hex map. Same updated and revised system, and like Red Horde this one has lots of optional rules to vary the game, including: armoured trains; the Trotsky Train (making a reappearance); the Red Baltic Fleet; Entente units and the Royal Navy;  different deployments and structures for the Reichswehr; Danzig – what of Danzig?; and Red conscription on the march.

And of course, just as with their predecessors the two games can link, so you can play one long game from May to October of 1920, on a combined map that stretches from Kiev to Berlin.

I just handed in the files for this game, so no better samples or even kooky cover art to show… but when it’s time, you can pre-order your copy here. Price will likely be $40 but there’s usually a 10% pre-order discount, and the PnP version is generally less than $20.

https://flyingpiggames.com/t/yaah-magazine