Obligatory end-of-year-review, 2018

FranklinHowe_o

Can you mansplain convincingly while wearing breeches, stockings and buckle shoes?

Well, another year has zipped by. Maybe a bit early for year-end post-mortems, but I have been busy:

Game publishing

  • February: the Kickstarter launch for Nights of Fire. We made the first, most important target in 12 or 13 hours, and ended up with $87,821 pledged over 30 days. Nights of Fire: Kickstarter day at last!
  • February also saw Tupamaro come out, in folio format from One Small Step. Tupamaro is out!
  • March saw the release of Chile ’73 from Tiny Battle Publishing. I was pleased that this came out, but there were a number of unfortunate changes/additions of art, physical components and rules that lessened the “bang” for me. Chile ’73: errata file
  • May, and out came Strike for Berlin in #11 of Yaah! magazine. Very nice art and production, a really great overhaul of Freikorps. I was quite pleased with it, but it doesn’t seem to have garnered a lot of attention on BGG and other places. Strike for Berlin has struck
  • July: I posted District Commander: Maracas, for free print-and-play. This is presented as an example of how the District Commander system works (this and three other modules will be published by Hollandspiele over the next couple of years) and as an introductory essay of mine into operational level urban combat against irregular forces in a large city. New free game: Maracas
  • September: a second edition of Summer Lightning came out, from Lock n Load Games. This is a physically enlarged (one might say engorged) edition, the rules are the same – just all of the components are bigger. Pretty spiffy looking though! Summer Lightning: Second Edition!

Game design work and future publication

Work and or testing continued throughout the year on some of the following, while others have likely publishing dates in 2019 or later:

  • Thunder out of China (now renamed China’s War, at least until an even better title comes along): testing testing, and hoping to have this ready for GMT P500 by Consimworld Expo time.
  • Strongman, an extensive rework of Caudillo that may be a while coming, and publisher not completely confirmed.
  • Brief Border Wars Quad, from Compass Games – I handed this over to the guys at Consimworld Expo and understand that it will be up for pre-order in the next couple of months. Will be published all four in one box.
  • District Commander series, from Hollandspiele – I handed over four modules (Algeria 1959, Vietnam 1969, Afghanistan 2009, and Maracas 2019) to Hollandspiele at Consimworld Expo and they will be publishing these as separate single titles over the next two years.
  • We Are Coming Nineveh: This very clever game on contemporary urban combat (Mosul 2017) was designed by two of Rex Brynen’s students in a trial course he ran in getting students to design games. Rex and I have done a considerable amount of development on it, without changing its basic concepts, and I’m quite pleased at how this came out. Will likely be published in 2019 or early 2020.
  • Nights of Fire: Pretty sure this will be out in March 2019 or so. I think people will be pleased.

Conferences and conventions

Another busy year on this front, a week or more away at each of these events:

Writing

  • Only one formally published piece, the foreword to a book of wargames rules on irregular war situations published by History of Wargaming Project, John Curry’s imprint. New book out – Small Wars

Near-meaningless digest of site statistics:

  • I seem to be cruising still at just below 2,000 views per month, a bit higher than the preceding two years. The five most curious countries were: US (by a very wide margin), UK, Canada, Spain and Italy. One guy clicked in from Venezuela!
  • Besides the then-current post, popular pages or posts included the BTR Games and Free Games pages, and the post containing the corrected Tutorial and errata for Colonial Twilight. Also popular was a new page of Scenarios and Variants I added in July, incorporating material lugged over from my old website as well as some new pieces (e.g. the 4-player variant for Colonial Twilight and the historical scenario for Operation Whirlwind).
  • 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 Desert Leader.
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Back from Connections-UK 2018

Well, that was a great time! Connections was great, went better than I expected.

Rex Brynen did a very good report, and the Connections-UK website has audio and some slide decks.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/connections-uk-2018-conference-report/

http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/2018.html

The first day was the megagame – “Green and Pleasant Land” by Jim Wallman. It concentrated on UK government internal operations as they dealt with different natural and artificial crises and emergencies – floods, a death in the Royal Family, and some nefarious doin’s as well. I had fun as the the “Adversary” (Russian) Minister of Defense (Phil Pournelle played Putin). Before the game began, Anja v.d. Hulst and I “bugged” seven tables in the UK Government room with sticky notes – they had no game function but when the Cabinet found one of them they panicked and withdrew to a secure bunker. Their nuclear submarine fleet had just put out to sea so we didn’t know what they were up to! Uh oh…

P1110580a

Photo: Tom Mouat

Second day was my “Game design as Journalism” presentation and later, the dialogue between me and Volko Ruhnke. It went far better than I ever thought it would, I had been spinning so many brain-cycles over it I thought it was no good. But I never want to talk or write about Creativity itself ever again, it’s easier just to make things.

There was also a game fair: I had brought giveaway copies of Guerrilla Checkers, which attracted quite a few people, and got two fellows into a game of Second Lebanon War.  “We are Coming Nineveh”, which we had playtested a couple of days before, was also on display. (two right photos: Tom Mouat)

LCols and me

With LCol Neil Stevens and LCol Ranald Shepherd, all looking very pleased with ourselves.

On the third day, I chaired a plenary session on “validation” that featured two presentations by people who had used my work. The first was by two LCols in the British Army who had used A Distant Plain as a training aid for their staff officers to give them some appreciation of the complexity of the Afghan situation, and in the second John Curry talked about recent games that examined the Ukraine Crisis… I am quoted as saying I got it “half right and half wrong.” (Yes, just don’t ask me which half is which.) Even if the games are not a perfect mirror of historical reality I felt validated myself and was very grateful, as always, to hear about my stuff being used in contexts outside sheer entertainment.

Before and after the conference, I had a day or two to enjoy London… I went museum hopping. At the Imperial War Museum I saw this:

dummy

“Douglas” the ventriloquist’s dummy.

“Douglas” and his handler have quite a story. Arthur Harden joined the Artillery and served in the 59th Division’s Divisional Ammunition Column. He was a hobby ventriloquist and entertained the troops with Douglas (possibly named after Douglas Haig) when out of the line. His commanding officer recognized the morale-maintaining function of the dummy and took him on his orderly room staff and promoted him to Sergeant (Harden, not the dummy). Harden said later, “The Colonel enjoyed Douglas so much that he prevented my posting elsewhere and mildly discouraged my taking a commission.” It certainly saved his life, though Douglas’ case has a hole in it from a piece of shrapnel (hidden in this shot).

https://www.forces.net/news/creepy-dummy-entertained-soldiers-during-ww1

ram1

The kids didn’t quite get the point.

I also went to the National Army Museum, which was quite fun. There was an interactive display where a CGI drill sergeant from the Guards would come out and berate you (in clean language) over your sloppy drill when you stood on the footprints.

ram2

Wellington’s cloak and barometer. Also, the skeleton of Marengo, one of Napoleon’s horses.

 

ram3

T.E. Lawrence’s robes and dagger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also went to the Victoria & Albert and British Museums, but did not have a lot of time to spend in either. I liked the 20th century design rooms at the former and just went to the Roman Britain room in the latter to take some pictures for my dad.

I also went to Richmond, to see a puppet show in a barge moored in the Thames river. The barge is brought up into London during the winter for shows. Very talented puppeteers.

puppets

Puppets from earlier shows hung on the walls.

On my last day I went out to suburban Dagenham to visit David Turczi, where we talked about our newest projects and played Root, a very interesting asymmetric game by Cole Wehrle. I didn’t really know what I was doing but still won as the Cats, on a Domination card.

Now, back to work!

 

“Paper Computers” at UVic

mentorhead

Think I’ll make this the standard image for posts concerning games and game studies. Until I find a better one.

This fall Jentery Sayers, a professor at the University of Victoria (my alma mater and still favoured hangout, when I have the time and opportunity) will be running a fifth-year English seminar/special topic course on prototyping of tabletop games. His very detailed and ambitious syllabus is at the link below.

https://jentery.github.io/508v4/

The “paper computers” term is a reference to a very good piece by Matt Kirschenbaum from 2009, “War Stories: Board Wargames and (Vast) Procedural Narratives” but the course is not about wargames specifically.

No one reading this is likely to be in a position to take advantage of this interesting offering, least of all me, but it’s nice to see the topic being treated in this way.

 

The Other 9/11, +45

c73 tbp cover

This September 11 marks the 45th anniversary of the coup d’etat which unseated (and killed) Salvador Allende and installed a 17-year military dictatorship under Pinochet.

Chile Documentation Project at the National Security Archive

Democracy Now!’s coverage of the coup

Tiny Battle has this one on sale right now: $20.00 for physical form, only $10.00 for the PnP version!

Buy Here

Chile ’73: necessary errata file and expanded sequence of play

Podcast: Harold on Games meets Brian Train

buchanan intvw

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

Sorry, I would have posted this a bit earlier but my last few days in Britain did not have reliable Internet.

While I was at the Consimworld Expo in June, Harold Buchanan interviewed me for his podcast “Harold on Games”. He let me ramble on for nearly two hours; I didn’t envy him the task of editing it down.

Go and have a listen!

https://soundcloud.com/harold-buchanan/harold-on-games-podcast-12-with-brian-train

(Normally I can’t take a good digital photo either: it’s as if some kind of Photoshop macro automatically engages, a macro with a name like “Moronify” or “30% Drunk”. However, Harold seems to have found a filter that prevented that this time.)

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.

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.