Saturday, March 31, 2007

My Great Stumbling Block - Maps!!

I have been gaming for just over 30 years. In that time (pretty much as long as Perry has been designing - he must have been a pup when he started!), I have had ideas that I thought would be great games. Unlike the illustrious duo at Firefight Games, or any other company for that matter, I  never acted on my ideas.

Over the years I tinkered with other people's designs, coming up with house rules, modifications, and possible scenarios for already published games. There were other topics, however, that would never appeal to a main stream company because they were too esoteric - not enough interest in the subject matter to justify the cost of production. This changed with the advent of the computer, and especially the type of software available today to neophyte designers.

Topics that had never been covered before were now seeing the light of day. I suppose I thought I could never do it, but over the course of a number of years I toiled away at a disign for a piece of Canadian history that is littl known in the States, but is fascinating and holds the potential to be an interesting, challenging game. But, how do you translate your ideas - rules, charts, maps, counters, etc. - into a game?

With a personal computer, the rules, charts, and to a lesser extent the counters can now be produced at a fairly high level of quality - in fact the components look as good as some of the materials coming out of the main stream companies. For me, the biggest bug bear is how to produce a decent map on the computer!!

I use a Macintosh, and I have  Illustrator CS. It's a great programme, but I'm an impatient cuss! The learning curve is steep, and my attempts so far have been somewhat ham handed and journeyman like. Making a field or a river or a road is not too difficult, but how do you make your terrain look like the terrain the battle was fought over? One method I've used is by taking a copy of an actual battle map, dropping it into the Illustrator file, then drawing over top of it - making the terrain as I go. It seems to be working for a couple of projects I have on the go now.

Truly, the biggest problem I face is how to make a properly scaled hex grid. One of the functions in Illustrator allows you to make a hex, which you can play with - resize, change the orientation on the map etc. How do you make a hex grid for an 11 x 17 map? or 22 x 34 map?

Yes, you can cut and paste until you have a grid, but there are often gaps between some of the hexes, or they don't quite fit properly! Then there is the problem of putting the hex numbers on so they look legitimate. I know that once you have things the way you like as far as the hexgrid goes, you can just make it a template and use it everytime you need a grid that size, but how do you make it look PROFESSIONAL?

If I can conquer this little problem, I think I would be able to crank out some of my ideas more quickly. I have a group that I game with which provides me with a ready group of playtesters (with almost 200 years combined gaming experience!). One of our group does the graphics for my games - Brian Moore. He was instrumental in providing the map and counter graphics for my games "For Bloody Honor" published by Firefight Games, and "Prairie Aflame" which is to be published by Khyber Pass Games. He's been great, and does a wonderful job. But I hate to continue imposing on him - or providing him with such a shoddy draft map (my own efforts) - he does have a day job and I don't want to "overuse" him.

If you have any ideas - short of taking a course on Illustrator, please let me know. I could knock off a few more games in a more expeditious fashion which I think people would like. It would also give me for of a feeling of accomplishment.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest - hey, this is a great form of therapy!! (Whoa - that might be my next game! I think I've got a picture of a couch around here somewhere . . .)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wargaming in the Phillipines

Wargaming in the Phillipines has always been done by a small group hobbyists though all of us know each other well and play together.
Wargaming has never been big in the Phillipines being eclipsed first by RPGs then CCGs.
The wargames were procured exclusively abroad with the wargamers going abroad on holiday and buying them from hobby shops in the USA, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong(Avalon Hill wargames were sold in the Japanese Sogo department store in Hong Kong in the mid 80s).
Very few wargames were actually designed in the late 70s but early 80s starting with:
 Threat in the late 70s which was actually two games where in the game, players played Power Blocs such as NATO, Warsaw Pact, China, India etc. And the start of the game was a build up to the war with the players gaining alliances, weapons, money and if war happens in the first game, the second game shifts to a strategic map board of the world and a strategic wargame similiar to risk/Superiority occurs and the last one standing wins. I remember having fun playing this game many a time but now it is quite rare...This game was actually designed by a regular board game company and was marketed to be a regular family boardgame and anti communist propoganda.
There was also a game called Military Strategy which was quite simliar to Avalon Hill's Blitzkrieg. Cheap production values but again designed as a family game.
I also did see a game on Macarthur's invasion of the Phillipines 1944 but again I think that this is a very simple wargame/family game.
The designers of these games were unknown and the companies who published them quickly folded afterwards.
Interestingly, a slight wargaming renaissance occured in the mid 80s spurred by a hobby shop chain aquiring huge numbers of Dungeons and Dragons books also acquired large numbers of Strategy and Tactics magazines and wargames as well as the line of TSR/SPI wargames.
This is where my interest comes in. I have already been introduced to wargames in the early 80s playing Titan Strike(SPI) and Red Star White Star(SPI) actually been started with Strategy and Tactics games. My first wargames were S&T games such as Manchu, Kanev, Nicaragua, Tigers Are Burning really introduced me to the hobby.
This is true among many of the current wargamers in the Phillipines.
Wargaming in Phillipnes is currently undergoing a period of growth similiar to the mid 80s with it being spurred on by GMT games as well as Fantasy Flight games and German games.
Hope it gets better and inspires more gamers from the Phillipines in designing their own games.
Terence Co(aka. Joserizal).

Monday, March 19, 2007

ONE BULLET, ONE GERMAN Warsaw 1944 Nears Release

Firefight Games long awaited two map game on the battles for Warsaw (the Uprising and tanks battles east of the city) is nearly done.  Gamer vets like Dennis Bishop and Paul Rohrbaugh have been hammering away at the game since early December.
The game is unique. One map covers the Warsaw city uprising in detail (sewers included!), while the other maps depicts the area east of the city where the last Panzer victories occurred, however fleeting it was. Over 300 counters. You have your hands full as the German player with the Polish uprising and the tank battles east of the city, which would spell success or failure to the Uprising! The title is a shortened version of the Polish call to arms, " One Bullet for every German" during the uprising.
More later.......

Friday, March 16, 2007

Storm Over Taierzhuang: Samuari Stalingrad!

My name is Terence Co and I am the designer of Storm Over Taierzhuang, the Samurai Stalingrad which is going to be published by Firefight games.


I was born and raised in the Phillipines and started my wargaming there. I have been wargaming for more than 20 years.


This is my first wargame design and hopefully not my last as I intend to bring esoteric topics to the wargaming field. By 1938, the Second Sino-Japanese war was not going well for the Chinese. Since July 7, 1937, the Japanese conquered huge swathes of Northern and Eastern China and were steadily pushing deeper into China.


With the conquest of Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing in 1937. Jiang Jie Shi(Chang Kai Shek) had moved his headquarters to Wu Han. The Japanese seeing an opportunity would strike to capture the important rail junction of Xuzhou thus endangering Wu Han and forcing a Chinese capitulation.


The KMT generals also seeing an opportunity would lure Japanese forces to a cul de sac and then encircle them with numerically superior Chinese forces.


The town of Taierzhuang was chosen as the site for this trap as it was an important rail terminus on the way to Xuzhou.


Li Tsung Jen, the KMT general of the 5th war area(with around 100,000 men in 9 divisions) which was given the task of defending Xuzhou was familar  with the area and terrain would channel the attacking Japanese into attacking Taierzhuang. The terrain and populace would then cut tenous Japanese supply and communications lines then when the time is right, the Japanese would be encircled and destroyed.


On January 26, 1938. The Japanese launched their offensive towards Xuzhou and by the evening of March 24, 1938, the Japanese 10th division(with around 25,000 men and around 100 tanks and armored cars) had reached Taierzhuang.


The Japanese opened their attack on Taierzhuang on the evening of March 24, 1938 with a massive artillery bombardment on Chinese positions. The Chinese defenders weeks before had heavily fortified the town and the villages in the Taierzhuang district. In addition to the fortifications, the heavy rock which was used in the construction of the building in Taerizhuang made them virtual castles. Confronted by this grim defense, the Japanese were forced to slog through these heavy defenses and incurred horrendous casualties in the process while being constantly harried by Chinese forces in their flanks. The Chinese casualties were probably worse as the huge Japanese advantage in artillery, air and tanks caused large number of losses.


By April 3, 1938. The Japanese were in possession of four-fifths of the main town of Taierzhuang. The  Chinese defenders had by this time been reduced to one fourth its strength and had clung on the important west gate of the town which was only means for communication between his force in Taierzhuang and the outside. The Japanese themselves were in no better shape, General Sun Lien Chung(the commander of the 2nd army group) defending Taierzhuang had launched the majority of his forces in attacking the Japanese flanks and rear to divert and lessen the Japanese frontal attacks on the town of Taierzhuang. This was compounded by the arrival of General Tang En Po's 20th army which proceeded to close the noose, completing the encirclement of the Japanese 10th division. Japanese supplies were also rapidly dwindling and air drops mostly failed to make it through to their recipients. Most important of all was the general collapse of Japanese command, the Japanese units were stabbing in the dark since they were cut off from accurate intelligence but they still fought on since they had nowhere to go.


On April 6, 1938. The Chinese forces launched a major night assault and crushed the Japanese defenders in the town of Taierzhuang in several hours of desperate and furious combat.   At the same time, units of the 20th army starting crossing the grand canal, drawing the noose tighter on the Japanese. The Japanese seeing their predicament chose to flee the town and its environs. It was all over by April 7, 1938. Taierzhuang looked like a scene of utter carnage as tanks, armored cars, trucks, and thousands of dead Japanese were strewn around the landscape like so many toys.  The Japanese had lost 16,000 men(including all of their armor) at Taierzhuang and the Chinese lost around 30,000 men. General Li Tsung Jen did not pursue the Japanese since not only was his army severely depleted but ten Japanese divisions were pouring into the area. This action of non pursuit saved a good portion of his army so that it would fight again another day.


The battle of Taierzhuang is considered the first major Chinese victory in the Second Sino Japanese war. Xuzhou was eventually taken by the Japanese on May 20, 1938. The Battle of Taierzhuang was significant since not only did it seriously delay the Japanese but it broke the Japanese air of invincibility(their first major defeat in 300 years). and proved to the Chinese that they can win the war against the Japanese invaders.


The battle of Taierzhuang nagged me for a long time. It nagged me that in the thousands of wargames published, nobody has done a wargame on a battle in the Second Sino Japanese war(apart from a few ASL scenarios). This war is one of the most important wars in the 20th century. Inspiration for the system came to me after reading and playing Tetsuya Nakamura's Storm Over Stalingrad. After this, I became immediately convinced that this is the system that I wanted to use for the game. I wanted a game on the battle to be easy, to learn, simple to play but effectively showing the flow of the battle.


Now some players might ask why the subtitle: "Samurai Stalingrad"? I answer that the Battle of Taierzhuang eerily resembles that ofStalingrad, . It is interesting to note that Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Stalingrad defenders was sent to China to be a military advisor to Jiang Jie Shi in 1940. Its not substantiated, but its rumored that Chuikov got the inspiration for his strategy at Stalingrad from viewing records on the Battle of Taierzhuang.


Some players may be mystified on how a lone Japanese reinforced division could hold off, led alone do an offensive vs. hordes of Chinese divisions. Japanese divisions in this era were large square formations of 20 to 25,000 men. A Chinese KMT division on paper has 10,000 men but  usually had 5,000 men(or less). The Japanese also had huge advantages in tanks, aircraft and artillery. For the KMT, it only had a few of these and these were reserved for the best divisions. In Taierzhuang, the Chinese defenders had no tanks and air support and had little artillery.Anti tank capabilities were only limited to a few German Pak 36s(which were really effective vs. the Japanese tanks) and fanatical "Dare to Die" units of men equipped with bundles of dynamite and grenades charging at oncoming tanks. The  Chinese main advantage was in manpower. The Chinese heavily outnumbered their Japanese opponents. Also China has a huge landmass and the Chinese forces had room to retreat and maneuver. There are two views on the battle, the Japanese sources portray this battle to be a minor one with the Japanese forces having only 10,000 men and few tanks. The Chinese and U.S. sources are the official historical sources. I based this game on the official sources which are backed by eyewitness accounts by American and German officers but I also wanted to give the Japanese account their due as an optional rule( as you will see when you buy the game).


Hopefully this game opens up the floodgates for more designers to do more wargames on battles of the Second Sino Japanese war, so as Paul Rohrbaugh would say, let the dice roll!!!!!



Perry Moore's detailed account of Operation Goodwood is now available in the USA from Casemate Publishing (use link). The pricey book ($70) provides some of the best maps of this key battle to breakout of the Normandy area. Filled with great photos and pages of detailed Orders of Battle. The Helion edition of the book is a VAST improvement of the paperback version printed by Infinion over 18 mos. ago. The maps and photos are clear, bigger. The quality is superb and Helion has edited the book. The format is much bigger 9x12".

I still have some copies of the book available for sale at $35.00 US\Canadian only payable via Paypal through the website. A great deal, 50% off the retail, shipping is included!

Perry Moore, Author

Thursday, March 15, 2007

For Bloody Honor - Its Genesis in the Classroom

I am a high school teacher with 25 years teaching experience and 35 years gaming experience. There are a number of commercial educational games that teachers can use to enhance the learning opportunities in their classes, and of course there are a wide variety of war games on a host of interesting topics that are also available - some are even appropriate for a school setting. The problem is trying to match the curriculum one must teach, with the type of students one has in the classroom, with a game that is: easy enough to learn, doesn't take up
too much time, and has some educational outcome consistent with the
learning outcomes set by ministries of education.

As part of the History 12 curriculum here in British Columbia, we are responsible for teaching students about the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War. I know that using games in a classroom setting is a powerful learning tool, one that students remember long after they have forgotten the "facts" we try to teach. When you can marry the facts to a game, well - you really have something that will stick in their brains!

At the time of its inception over 10 years ago, there was only one game on the Russian Civil war that existed, SPI's old Russian Civil War game. Given the constraints of the classroom, I could not take the time to teach the students about this game - it was too complex and required a level of interest that could not be sustained by 32 diverse individuals. I decided to fuse my two passions - gaming and education by designing a game of my own to be used in the classroom.

The first versions of the game were called "Civil War: Russkaya" (which doesn't mean anything, but I thought sounded cool). I found map of Russian in one of our textbooks, enlarged it on a photo-copier, divided it up into regions with a Political value based on population and resources, grabbed some old, square, plastic pieces from a Risk game, came up with a set of rules and voila - I had a game. The mechanics were pretty simple and the sequence of play was very rigid. The map was black and white, the rules and charts were word processed and the pieces and dice were readily available from old games (and the local dollar store).

I wanted a game that up to six students could play at one time - in other words instead of having one game that the whole class participated in, I would run 4 or 5 games simultaneously. The rules were simple enough that sharper students figured things out pretty quickly - others just went along for the ride. It took one 60 minute period to play the game to completion, then another part of a period to debrief the experience and make the links between the game and history. Ultimately, I wanted to show the students why the Reds won the Civil War, when most of the cards seemsed stacked against them.

In the original game, each White faction rolled a die to determine if they could move. If they succeeded, they moved then engaged in combat if they ended the turn in a space occupied by Red forces. Once all the White factions had moved, there would be combat. Then the Red player would move and have combat. Political points were scored by occupying territories which then allowed players to return any eliminated pieces back into play. This kept the Whites in it, provided they held onto their territories. The rolling a die to move was problematic, because the Whites had a 50/50 chance that they would not move at all. In many games, over the years, certain students spent most of their time waiting around after failing a movement die roll. In some cases, certain factions did not move at all during the game!

Despite this drawback, the students overwhelmingly loved the game. The tense die rolling to see whether the last Red unit would be eliminated from the Moscow Zone, or the anticipation of a successful White drive to the capital has kept student interest for a decade.

What lessons did I want them to learn? Well, the Whites did not cooperate in history, and they could not cooperate in the game. The Reds had better mobility and motivation, and this was reflected in their central position, greater chance to move, and the cohesive nature of their forces. What came out of those discussions and my own thinking is the game we have today - "For Bloody Honor: The Russian Civil War". I also happened to notice on Consim that Firefight Games was taking outside designs. I contacted Perry, made my proposal to him, sent him what I had (a very rudimentary version of the map and counters, the rules, and charts). He said he liked what he saw, but would have to do some work on the graphics.

Our gaming group happens to have a talented graphics guy, Brian Moore, who agreed to give my map a going over. He also spruced up the counters and we chatted about how to organize the various charts and format the rules. Much of the current product (with the exception of the counters)
is a direct result of Brian's work. We playtested the hell out of it, made some tweaks, and submitted the revised game to Perry. He liked it, made a few additions to the counters (which I didn't notice at the time, so some units were not explained in the first edition of the rules - that problem has been rectified and any games purchased now will include the updated rules and charts. If anyone has the old rules and charts - which did not explain how armoured cars worked or what the Denekin
Volunteers were and how they worked - contact me through this blog and
I'll get you the proper rules etc.)

The game presents a tense situation for both sides. Both sides also have a chance to win. The chit pull system works really well, and adds to the replayability of the game. If you haven't tried it yet, visit the Firefight web site and give it a gander - I think you'll be pleased - hey, hundreds of students can't be wrong!

Mark Woloshen, Game Designer

Wargaming in Brasil

Mediterranean Campaign - Monster Game created here in Brasil

I´d like to thanks a lot to Perry, for the privilege to write here in Designer Blog. I´m a fan of Perry´s games, since the classic Landships, my first WWI wargame, and in my personal oppinion one of the best.

Here in Brasil, we play wargames. The history begins in 1979, when a small group of players created the first Brasilian company : Jog Publishing. The company published some introductory games about World War II, but the the company had a short life, two years after your first release, the company broken, but the idea about wargames borned in Brasil.

In 80´s some people here played the old classics of Avalon and other comapnies like GMT, SPI/TSR, 3W, Yaquinto and the hobby growed. But, in 90´s two kind of games banned the wargames from Brasil : RPG and card games. These games created a great group of players, with a lot of fans, and players . But a tiny group of brave and solitaire wargamers remains. Many wargamers called these years "The Black Years", because many great wargame companies vanished, and a new menace appeared : computer games and Internet. But the "menace" turned into a great thing.

Internet brings to people the contact with the gamers around the world, computers brings the DTP games and the wargaming hobby rebirth with a great force. In Brasil the hobby is growing up again. People here likes a lot wargames about World War II, Napoleonics, and miniature wargames (Warhammer 40k, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, TSR Battle System, LOTR). We have an annual convention called WargameCon, here in Rio de Janeiro, and some litlle events happens monthly.

Last Wargame Day in march, a monthly event here in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

Well, I talk a lot ! I´ll tell more about games here and the people ! Thanks again to Perry, and guys sorry for my poor English ! Best Regards to All !!

Antonio Marcelo

Designing Wargames on Ancient Battles

One of the upcoming games from FFG is WICKED NARROWS 9 A.D. Also known as the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, which occurred in September, in Germany.

After researching the battle I came to the conclusion that, at least with this battle, little is really known about it. The Roman historians usually cited wrote about the battle some 50 years later! No writer had actually been in the battle. In fact, it was not until the 1980's, that the battle location had been determined at Kalkreise, Germany. Specific details about the battle are not known, even the time is not known. We know that 20,000 Roman soldiers were destroyed by an equal amount of German Tribal soldiers who laid in ambush. We know how the ambush occurred.

There are two schools of thought about this battle:

1. The destruction occurred over a period of three days.
2. The battle last no longer than three hours, with the bulk of the killing occurring within 30 minutes.

Item 1 is supported by several Roman accounts, all very general, and most agree that some men escaped by the 3rd or 4th day. This seems logical, as 20,000 men is a lot of bodies to lose in a half hour.

Item 2 is mostly conjecture but based on what is known about ancient warfare. Most battles lasted no longer than 30 min. before the opposing sides withdrew and recovered for the next round. But losing 20,000 men in that time seems illogical with the weapons available at the time. If one states this amount was lost over three hours time, it seems far more plausible.

With item 1, how does anyone really know that the Roman historians simply did not rely on what was previously written, maybe the battle did not last three days--there were few survivors and none of the Roman historians were there.

Then there is the weather. Roman accounts chat about torrential rains hammering the legions and the forests. Many recent accounts write that the references to rain is incorrect and was used to "enhance" the dramatic battle--again, does anyone have a weather report for 9 A.D ??? As to the Forests, well, the Kalkreise area does have a forest, but the route of the Romans did not take them through them per se, so the battle did NOT happen in the forests, but on open terrain with a marsh on one side and a forested hill on the other. The Romans hated forests! It spooked them.

As a designer, I had to decide how to contend with these differences. I tend to think it lasted one day with the bulk of the killing occurring in the daylight hours on the 2nd day (when the Romans approached the "Narrows"). Over a period of 10 hours, it would not be hard to believe that 20,000 men could be killed. Many probably died slowly from wounds. Some probably did escape as Roman accounts declare, making it to safety on the third day. In game terms, the design focuses on the 2nd day.

In any case, that is why I usually stick with more recent events to design a wargame on--the informational is more reliable.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Woman is the Nigger of the World

Hey, don't get angry with me! In 1972, John Lennon released his single by the same title. He used the controversial word to dramatize how women in general have been oppressed prior to the 1960's and how it continued into the 70's etc.

When released, it received little play on the radio because of the "word" and it really was just another protest song. But, why are so many people today so sensitive about a name, whether it is gringo, wop, queer, homo, spic, honky, ho, or whatever. This sensitivity is really a product of today's society spurred on by the threat of a lawsuit. If the legal establishment would toss out some of the suits, this over sensitivity about anything that anyone calls you would end. What is really funny is the fact that some illegals in the US are upset when called an "illegal" and not an "immigrant" (which is a person here legally). All this over sensitivity about a name simply forces everyone to not say anything because of the fear of a lawsuit. The same over sensitivity pertains to the use of the "finger". Some go ballistic if you flip the finger at them to the point they are crazy. Maybe I am a bit too aloof about what one may call me as it is only one person's opinion and it certainly not worth my time. The finger is less, a mere gesture. Please, there are way more important things in life than a word or a gesture.

Woman is the Nigger of the World

Sex in Elementary School!

I am speechless about the recent news regarding two 11 yr olds (a boy and girl). This happened on the East Coast. While the teacher was teaching the class, a boy and a girl were having sex underneath their desk. Sex in this case = oral sex. While most of the class watched the act, the teacher was totally oblivious to this going on! How could this be? How could the teacher not have noticed this act or the obvious signs something was weird???? The school tried to keep it hush, but kids are kids, and it was not long before the "word" got out. Nothing happened to the teacher, the two kids were expelled for a few days.

The ONLY news organization reporting this horrible event remains Bill O' Reilly on Fox news. I have not seen it anywhere else nor mentioned on TV. Does the mainstream media condone this behavior by omission? Seems to be. Unbelievable!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The War in Iraq

Iraq has seen warfare numerous times before now. British troops entered in WW1, in WW2, they occupied Baghdad and trained many of their troops. Some of these were pro-German and a key battle was fought at Fallujah in 1941 against Iraqi troops. It is the same place where American troops fought one of the bloodiest battles in 2003. Of course, there was the eight year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Winning in Iraq is now pointless.

We are at the same critical junction that we were at in the Vietnam War in 1970. Despite winning the battles, we cannot seem to win the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqis nor subdue the violence between groups and terrorists. This brings me to the Russian Civil War from 1918-20, when the Allied nations (UK, US, France) thought they could kill the birth of Communism. After a year, the US and France went home, only the British remained until 1920, supporting the White cause in a situation that was corrupt and winless.

History repeats itself over and over.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Goodwood Book

Here is the cover of my latest book. A very detailed and accurate account of this 700 tank battle in Normandy, July 1944. The British lost over 300 AFVs and gained only a few miles. Filled with maps, orders of battles, photos and artwork.