Aug 022017

This years trip to Dice Tower Con (DTC) in Orlando was fantastic. This is a gaming convention that has progressively improved over the period of its short lifespan and while I am sure it was a challenge to almost double its size in one year, the managing company pulled it off with flying colors. I throughly enjoyed myself gaming with friends and meeting new people.

The big game of the con for me was an Epic BattleLore. I wanted to get some of my home-brew rules to the table and see what inevitable tweaks needed to be made to them.

I am an unabashed fan of BattleLore 1st edition and Richard Borg’s design. I think the world of its flexibility, the fun approach to medieval warfare, and the application of fantasy magic into the ruleset. After 1st edition was retired I followed along with Battles of Westeros and then BattleLore 2nd edition. BattleLore owes its core structure to the Command and Colors system, which is also a favorite of mine.

Being the tinkerer I am, it seemed to me that some interesting rules from the other editions could bring some extra fun to my games. I launched into a project to extend the base rules of BattleLore 1st edition to add leaders, develop a unit cost/point system, add support for 2nd edition units, a morale system, and bring some elements in from the 2nd edition. I was in for some real work.

Luckily some starting points made this job easier. Rules for these variations exist in the Command and Colors universe. For example: Leaders from C&C Ancients and Morale from Battles of Westeros.

I will explain in detail each of the home-brew rule sets I put together for the Dice Tower Con game in future installments. For now I will lay out the specifics of the scenario I ran at the con and what existing BattleLore 1st edition rules I modified.

My goals for the game were simple:

  • It had to be an epic game, which in BattleLore terms means BIG! Multiple players and lots of units and figures. At DTC 2016 I watched Richard Borg run an Epic game of BattleCry. He had six players, three to a side, with one of them being the “army commander” and the other two players, generals. I wanted to do something similar.
  • It had to be set in the Wars of the Roses. For one I love the history surrounding the conflict and the battle which were fought during it. BattleLore 1st edition is loosely set timeline-wise during the 100 years war, not too far off from where I wanted to be.
  • It had to utilize my home-brew rule set.

Getting coverage on the first goal was easy: I could utilize the BattleLore 1st edition Epic rules. Including the epic tactic card rack and the larger sized board. After some rough calculations on my target army size, the normal epic board wasn’t cutting it. Just too small. After doing a little digging I came across the “conquest” board configuration (from the now defunct This 13×33 hex board was the right size for what I had envisioned.

Goal two was a bit more difficult. There are many interesting battles that could be modeled with the BattleLore rules and many were given official scenarios after the base sets release. I had to look for a battle I could balance, could be modeled with my target unit count, and that could fit with my ruleset. I decided on the battle of Towton, 1461. The largest battle fought on English soil and a bloody conflict between houses Lancaster and York.

Goal three was of course the most challenging. Luckily for me, there have been other BattleLore fans that have developed their own home-brew designs for point-build systems, campaigns, and all types of variants. Just look through the board game geek files section for BattleLore 1st edition and it will be obvious, this system was built to be flexible and for the player community to add in interesting variations. After a lot of work, collaboration, testing and fine tuning, I had enough of my additional rules ready for the Dice Tower Con game. Next post Ill summarize the rules variants.

Dec 282014

Siege warfare. When you speak those words a myriad of images comes to mind: walls, towers, tunnels, projectiles, and waves of men; climbing, fighting, dying. Those are our first impressions and popular movies support those images.

But Siege warfare is complex and varied well beyond the basic elements we commonly think of. Many commanders and armies of the past would do their utmost to avoid it due to the inherent complexities in successfully executing a siege, particularly when it involved advanced and established defenses, difficult terrain, or poor supply. A broken siege often meant disaster for the besieger potentially costing them not just the city but reversing all of the gains of the campaign.

The subject of siege warfare has fascinated me personally for many years both as a student of history and a wargamer. My first real exposure to siege games was the classic SPI title The Art of Siege, which I have borrowed for this posts title. It is imminently appropriate to describe how an army commander would approach a siege. As an art.

In electrical engineering, there is an old adage that digital design rests on a solid foundation of principals and procedures, while analog design is an art form. The roots of this tongue-in-cheek maxim is the level of uncertainty dealing and accounting for all of the unexpected elements in the analog world: a Radio Frequency wave reflecting in an atmosphere is messy, an electron on a conductor, much less so.

And that is what the term, art, really represents when applied to siege warfare: It’s messy, the unexpected can and will happen, the unaccounted for events that will plague you as a military commander will be more frequent than in an open field battle. There is more time for the engagement and therefore more opportunity for those unknowns to arise. By comparison, a battle on an open and flat plain is simpler, men will only be able to fight for so long in an open pitched battle, but behind those walls it could be weeks, or even months, before the capitulation.

It may be high time to readdress siege warfare in terms of a wargame format. The genre has never spawned the volume of works like Napoleonics or World War 2 strategy, and I think following this reasoning, the opportunities to explore the possibilities have been limited. Not by lack of talent of the designers, but more a rarity of opportunity to evolve.

Siege warfare will be the genre I will be focusing on in 2015. As I mentioned in my last post I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in this area and I think it’s time I take it a step further. Let’s see what comes of it.

Aug 092014

The vaporous tendrils of design run deep in all we do. Every gamer at one point or another smells it, breathes it in. Sometimes it’s the quick sniff while other times it is a deep inhalation.

When you momentarily see a way to improve upon a game mechanism, that’s when it comes to you. When you play a game and have an overpowering desire to throw out the entire rules set and write your own, there it is again. Different measures of intensity, but from the same source: the innate desire to make things better.

By large and small, from decades of gaming experience, I find that hobby gamers are creators. They want to tinker, construct, test, watch it fall apart and watch it work. I think, it’s an element of why we play games to being with, to be a part of it all unfolding and get that satisfaction of a conclusive end to a series of decisions and events. Game play in itself is an act of creation.

And from those basic shared elements, there is a bit of a designer in all of us. From the earliest days it peeks out. My first wargame, Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, a block game, inspired my young self to use red and blue legos to represent British and French infantry lines. The more pips on the block the more troops in the unit. I came up with my own rules to fight the battles. Those rules, as primitive and unpublishable as they were, were the earliest manifestation of an innate design gene.

Over the many intervening years I have designed for myself and my friends, a few times I put in the extra work to create something others could play. One example being my Print-and-Play (PnP) title Doubloon Lagoon. The amount of additional work to move from a personal design to a quality product other gamers can enjoy is not trivial. This is fact: to publish a quality product is a lot of work in comparison to a homebrew design. This includes PnP as well. Knowing the nature of the work involved in moving a design from its initial stages to final product, I held off any further attempts after Lagoon. I am now ready to dive back in.

About ten months ago I began researching material for a game in a genre I have long loved. Wargaming is at the core of my being, from those early days onwards, regardless of all of the other types and forms of games I have played and come to love, wargaming is where my heart lies. I wanted to wait a while before I said anything publicly about this project for a couple reasons. I wanted to make sure I could keep up the effort on it; and secondly, due to the very large scope and size of the project, I wanted to get a certain way through the initial stages to grow confidence it could be accomplished.

I feel I am at that point now. My plans, as optimistic as they are, will be to publish this game under my own label for reasons I will expound upon in the coming months. I am excited and growing more so as I see design, art, and graphics come together for this game. As I go through the process I want to share my experiences, thoughts, trials and challenges. I want to establish a rationale for what I will attempt. I hope it will be interesting and enlightening to others who will follow.