I have been absolutely busy these past weeks, far more than anticipated. I have been teaching one class, during the summer, at the local university. However, this summer I am teaching four classes, including one where I had to design the curriculum on my own, two days before the class started.
So, while. I am actually earning some dosh, finally, I have been focused on work and sleep up to this point, with a game during the week, here and there.
As one class is now finished and a second ends this Thursday, I hope to catch up on a backlog of posts.
Meanwhile, I have been purchasing terrain materials, especially trees and foliage, and expect to purchase some teddy bear fur and pink insulation foam this week. In addition, I bought a few rules and miniatures and will post on those soon.
Friday, May 30, 2014
The latest in the series of interviews is with Ed Teixeira of Two Hour Wargames. If you have not yet played one of his fine products, then you are truly missing out. THW happens to offer an excellent series of games which also cater to the solo wargamer, allowing hobbyists in remote locales to still "push lead." However, the same game mechanisms also cover the more traditional two-player, and even multi-player combats, making the games well-rounded in approach. If you have not yet had a chance to communicate with Ed, I can assure you that he has gained a clear following of friends, supporters, and customers who think very highly of him, myself included.
Click image to go to the download page for this free game.
JP: How did you get your start as a wargame hobbyist? We all have some point in our lives or a certain age that our imaginations take off, so what did it for you and when?
ET: It happened in ’74 when I walked into a shop called the Soldier Factory while on vacation. It was owned by Jack Scruby and it opened up a whole new world for me.
JP: Why did you take the great leap from being a wargamer to becoming an author of wargame rules? How would you describe this journey?
ET: All gamers tend to tweak or make house rules for the rules they play so it was natural. I wrote a couple sets for fun and they were well received by fellow gamers so started THW as a sideline. Just for the heck of it.
JP: THW has a wide range of genres covered in the published rules, how much of this body of product is solely your personal efforts and how much (or little) do you rely on others to contribute to the products you release?
ET: We have about 50+ published sets with 18 or so from 14 different authors. We encourage people to write what they know and are passionate about. Then we make sure that they stay true to the basic mechanics.
JP: All of your rules have the same basic "engine" which drives play, especially for solo gaming, but which appears to handle the different genres with great ease. Can you please explain how you came up with the core rules, as found in Chain Reaction, and have them work so well in multiple genres?
ET: Back in 2001 I wrote a set of gang warfare rules and sent it to a large miniatures company for their specific figure range. They said thanks but it wouldn’t work. I kept getting play test reports from my four play testers for everything except gang warfare. They convinced me that it would work for more than one period. So “Guns and Girls” was published but there was so much whining about the cover that I did a second cover called “Chain Reaction”.
Over the years I’ve received lots of feedback from gamers on what they liked and didn’t so the rules slowly evolved into the current, Final Version mechanics. One of the best things about the mechanics is that you can play multiple periods and not have to learn a whole new set of mechanics. Mechanics are tweaked to give flavor to the period but the basics remain the same.
JP: What motivates you to write? Do you have a list of products you want to get done, in your head or does each product kind of write itself as you are struck or otherwise influence by something else in the industry?
ET: I enjoy writing and gaming and that’s the motivation. I’m blessed that I can actually do it as an occupation.
The products drive themselves. It’s kind of odd but something triggers inside my head when it’s time to write a certain set. For example, I had an idea for years on a pirate game but never put it to paper until last year when the right mechanics were developed.
JP: How would you describe yourself as a hobbyist? Collector, gamer, painter, or just a guy who likes to write and write often?
ET: Before it was hobby; a distraction from my normal job. Now it’s become my real job so I don’t get to game as often as I’d like. Not really a collector and I gave up painting early on as I really wasn’t any good at it.
JP: Do you play games from other publishers? If so, would you share which one(s) and how recently did you play it (them)? If not, which of your products do you play (not playtest) most often?
ET: I stopped playing games from competitors about ten years ago. Just want to concentrate on THW. As for playing most often, that would be 5150: Urban Renewal (Sci Fi RPG), By Savvy & Steel (Swashbuckling), and All Things Zombie. They allow me to create characters that can be used in a campaign setting.
JP: Machinas is a departure from your usual method of product development and release. Can you explain what caused you to go the crowd-funding route? You already have another product in the same track, so is this something we're going to see a lot more of or is this due to product specific considerations?
ET: Crowd-funding is a great way to see if there’s interest in a game. Being a small company I don’t want to put effort and money into a game that there’s no interest in. But it’s also a good way to get smaller, odd games, into the hands of the people that want them, in limited numbers.
JP: Although many of us who have read your postings in the THW forums, the Yahoo group, or private communication have a decent grasp of the answer, can you please share your design philosophy and why you feel it is important enough to take the financial risks that owning a gaming company generates?
ET: I want to design entertaining games playable in two hours or less. People tend to have less time to devote to their hobby, that’s why we shoot for the two hours. I want them to use their own figures if they want and to be able to tie their games into an easy to use campaign system if they like.
The last two things I shoot for are; be designed for exceptional solo play where the game mechanics control the enemy in a way that is realistic and can provide surprises during play. The last thing is using similar, not identical, game mechanics so you can play multiple periods without having to learn a whole new set of rules.
JP: You've mentioned, by various means, that THW has other products currently in the works. Would you mind sharing what those are and could you give us some bits and bobs of details that you haven't shared elsewhere? (Egads, I went for the exclusive!)
ET: The next one is NUTS – Final Version. Almost all the rules are now using the last evolution of the Reaction System – the Final Version. Then an update for Larger Than Life (Pulps) and Montjoie, our medieval set. Once they are finished all of the rules will use the Final Version mechanics.
JP: Thank you, again, Ed for joining in the celebration of the milestone for my own small contribution to the wargaming hobby. I have gained a greater appreciation of the hobby, as a whole, over the past few years, as have my sons, in no small part due to you and Two Hour Wargames. May you and your efforts achieve ever greater success.
ET: Thank you for the opportunity Justin.
Posted by Justin Penwith at 12:21 PM
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
The order of draw, from Random.org, was:
- Jonathan Freitag
- Chris Stoesen
- Benjamin of Wight
- Texas Jack
- Mervyn Douglas
- Francis Lee
- Andrew Saunders
The answer being:
I Ain't Been Shot, Mum.
I appreciate the comments thus far and I still have a couple of interviews to post to finish of the celebration. Again, my thanks!
Posted by Justin Penwith at 6:53 PM
Monday, May 26, 2014
The conditions of the award are that a nominee must also nominate 11 other blogs, of under 200 followers, and link back to the nominating blog. Clicking on the image above will take you Legatus' main blog, and if you have never been, you're missing out. I rarely fail to read a new post of his on the day of his posting.
My own nominations were difficult, as many already have over 200 followers and thus cannot be nominated, whilst others were nominated before I could do so. Note: I meant to post this up a couple of days ago, but real life and a LOT of yard work in preparation for trash pick up day meant I was far too exhausted or unavailable.
I hereby present my 11 nominees, in no particular order. (If I didn't nominate you, my apologies, I tried to get to those who haven't already been nominated and whom have posted within the last month).
1) A Figure Painting Therapy Project - I only wish I could paint as well as this fellow...or that I could afford to buy the armies he occasionally sells.
2) BigRedBatCave - I don't know how he is able to paint so many figures in so little time.
3) Trailape's Wargame - Longstreet campaign! But wait, there's more! His wargaming tastes appear to be similar to my own and thus enjoy reading his blog.
4) Scotty's Wargaming - Another fine blog, with lots of Napoleonic units and action. And I want his terrain.
5) BlackHawkHet - With an interesting Vietnam campaign, played solo, as his latest series of posts, I am more inspired to do solo gaming.
8) Sean's Wargame Corner - Yet another blogger who has similar gaming tastes to my own. His RRtK armies and games are awesome.
9) Another Slight Diversion - Imagi-nation. Yes, more please!
Gah! Can you believe it, several blogs I nominated were already nominated, weeks ago. Sigh... Forgive me, but I am left with 9 after deleting over 5 and searching for more that qualify. Needless to say, I really like all the blogs I follow.
My answers to this particular award's list of questions are:
Why did you start blogging?
I have been a wargamer for 35 years and have always enjoyed what others do in the hobby, as well as share my own passion for it. Starting a blog made sense, but it has had to be it fits and starts, mainly due to computer hardware issues. One thing I noticed is that I pay far too much attention to not having comments left on my posts, so I don't know if people like what I write or if they just visit quick and leave just as quickly. I should care less and just keep posting what I want to post...letting things fall as they may.
If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?
Make all the gaming conventions relocate to within 2 hours of my home. There's so much fun that I get to read about others' experiences, but as I am stuck on the West Coast, there's little offered that I would enjoy attending. Living in Northern Virginia and Maryland, for a few years, spoiled me.
What is best in life?
Playing games with my five sons. We just played a game today, in fact, although we had to finish it early due to a family gathering. We don't often get to play, but on those days that we do, it is great.
Fame or fortune?
Neither, to be honest. I am a poor man, of very little renown, but what seek is quiet and to be left alone by seekers of quick riches and the narcissists who expect me to worship them for who they happen to be. If I didn't have to live paycheck to paycheck, then I would be okay with that.
What miniatures are you most proud of having painted?
The early metal Games Workshop terminators painted up as Deathwing. I was paid $10 each to paint a squad of five, and that really lit the painting bug for me.
How do you deal with burn out?
By not burning out. Wargaming and painting miniatures are a stress relief for me and if I tire of painting something, I then go to reading rules or writing rules. I use my imagination, a lot.
Why is a raven like a writing desk?
What does it matter? I have little patience for nonsensical questions, tbh.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
A very good and difficult question for me to answer. When Star Wars came out in the theatres, I saw it nine times, each time being a great adventure. I remember the Star Trek television show (in reruns), but when Star Trek The Motion Picture came out, I saw it and was severely and sadly disappointed.
Of the two, Star Wars has a slight edge in that I would love to be a Jedi Knight. I mean, using the Force to help make things better, as a teacher, guide, counselor. Star Trek is very...um...idealized. I do admire Gene Roddenberry for coming up with the universe of Star Trek, but I find many ideas and ideals within his world that are contrary to my own world view and thus strike a nerve. On the other hand, being a Vulcan is a very narrow second to being a Jedi, so...
If you could only buy from one miniature company from now on, which one would it be?
Pendraken. If I had to choose only one, Pendraken covers everything I play or want to play, apart from air combat, at a price per model that I can afford. I would love to have large armies in 28mm, but I just cannot afford them.
What is your favourite takeaway?
I am not a huge fan of take out (what we yanks call it) as I prefer to sit in the restaurant and enjoy the experience of eating there. However, one place I go has ZERO space to eat inside and so, I choose their 8" cheese steak sarnie, with extra cheese.
Posted by Justin Penwith at 9:28 PM
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Over a decade ago, I worked for Games Workshop in both their US trade and retail divisions. Love them or hate them, you may be surprised at just how much I loved working for the company at the time. The feeling of nostalgia comes over me, from time to time, as I remember back to where everyday felt like Christmas, but a very stressful one. A large part of my positive memories stems from the gentlemen I worked for and with. While it was not always a sheer pleasure, there was a certain feeling of brotherhood and family and I do miss that as a teacher, today. One of the best bosses I have ever had the privilege to work for was (and remains) John Stallard, now owner of Warlord Games. So, it is with great honor and not a little warmth, I present to you my interview with John Stallard.
JP: John, thank you again for participating in the celebrating this blogging milestone. Hopefully, we will be able to do this again in a few years, when I am hitting a million pageviews and a few thousand followers!
It has been ten years since we last spoke, what has changed for you in that time?
JS: Hi there!! Thanks ever so much for writing to me..Yes happy days on the whole in the US business! it was a band of brothers for a time wasn't it just! Hard work , but great fun, just as it is in warlord Games at present....
Since leaving GW I have largely been setting up Warlord Games really...which has been a real learning experience for me..I am back in Nottingham now, also called the Lead belt , on account of the numerous Wargames companies to be found there, courtesy of GW of course.I live near Nottingham castle (Its not a real one anymore no matter what the Robin Hood films show you 'cos the evil Oliver Cromwell knocked it down in the English civil war.). I have made my double garage into a tidy wargames room where we can playtest our games and or drink beer and roll some dice, trash talking being half the fun of wargaming in my experience..
JP: I remember assembling some 15mm Russian tanks for you, when playtesting another WWII game. However, you're now manufacturing those same tanks, but in a larger scale; why 28mm? Is there a long term plan to produce miniatures at a smaller scale or are you solely focused to producing excellent miniatures in that scale alone?
JS: Yes I remember those 15mm tanks what ever happened to them I wonder? Hmm , I think we will stick to 28mm, its seems to me to be somehow just the right size, a model soldier that fits nicely in the palm of your hand, about an inch tall.It just feels right..GW have done alright with it for 35 years!
JP: Warlord has made a number of acquisitions or partnerships in the recent past. Are there other areas where you are looking to make similar agreements or have you settled in a bit and are simply working to produce and improve on what you've got now?
JS: Hmmmm...companies can grow by organic means (ie just by selling more of what they have) or by acquisition, buying other suitable complimentary ranges. We have bought a number of smaller companies and partnered up with others to grow our ranges and business. We will acquire more going forward if the deal is right for both parties. There are some fabulous ranges out there which really need some love and attention, and proper presentation. Bolt action was our biggest purchase I would suggest and we have done very well with it the last five years, it was a great little company
JP: Is there a range or period of miniatures that you would like to do, but are not yet ready to do so? I mean, between the Very British Civil War and Victorian Science Fiction genres, you're close with a number of current products, are you liable to take the leap into alternative history, beyond Judge Dredd that is?
JS: New periods/whacky stuff? Hmmm cannot give much away today, but yes indeed, stay tuned for one or more "odd" period out that should appeal to a broader range of people. That's the fun part of running a wargames company, taking new directions.
JP: What are you thoughts as to the reception for Bolt Action? With the large number of releases to go with it, you've got to be feeling a bit chuffed, right? Are there some near future releases that you are looking forward to, either rules or miniatures-wise?
JS: Bolt action is a belter! We love it and it is the jewel in the crown at present. This is largely down to two things, a fabulously characterful range of models and a terrific and novel games system. Well done Alessio and Rick, two great games writers and well done Paul sawyer who runs our studio. Pairing up with Osprey did us no harm either, they have done a great job of distributing the games world wide.
There is loads to go at with BA...We have 5 campaign books to come out in the next 12 months which are packed full of cool scenarios and new rules/lists/weapons...fab stuff!
As importantly we have the armoured combat book out in September, which will transform the game too.Its all jolly exciting!
JP: The English Civil War. We've talked about playing a game of this together, but our schedules prevented our doing so, unfortunately. Do you have plans to expand this line much more, and also the related Thirty Years War range? I cannot imagine there is a dire need for another plastic set, but perhaps you've some metal models that you're wanting to see released at some point.
JS: Ah the ECW...my great love. The good news there is we have just signed off a fabby dabby new ECW supplement for black powder. It reads really well and has been written by a really passionate fan(shame he is a Crophead by persuasion).there are 19 (sic) army lists in it and some cool new rules...
Hard on its heels will be a Thirty years war supplement, again nearly finished ...The Thirty years war is incredibly complex, so a book that guides you through it is most welcome..I studied it at school and merely remember that everyone seems to be called Maximilian!
Will do some new metal models and possibly some new plastics too...Huge units of Cuirassiers were the order for the day in those times...
JP: Okay, I think I already know the answer to this, but what is your favorite period to game and collect armies for, and why? Are you painting your own troops, or are you having to rely on others to take care of that for you? Time is precious, and I am certain Warlord demands much of yours.
JS: Hmm, favourite period to game...Probably Anglo Zulu war..I am deeply obsessed with the A/Z war. Its the only period that I think I could call myself an expert in, having read deeply.I have visited all the main battlefields too, what great fun that is as its a cross between battlefield tours and safari!!The Lodges/hotels in Natal are awesome too...
Next favourite would be ww2.
I am also worryingly obsessed with PT boats and S boats of WW2....so am messing with some rules for model boats.
I do paint a lot of soldiers, partly to relax and partly to see how painting warlord models feels for the end user.You really learn a lot doing it for real don't you...(what a pain it can be when things don't fit correctly).
I do paint a lot of soldiers, partly to relax and partly to see how painting warlord models feels for the end user.You really learn a lot doing it for real don't you...(what a pain it can be when things don't fit correctly).
So saying, I do buy whole collections,,I bought the fabulous Dave Andrews' Crimean army last month and its beautiful, as is his WW1 armies which I have acquired.. You can NEXER have enough model soldiers, and if you paint them all, you die.. Its a FACT!
JS: Hmm , its funny calling it the wargames industry..Its such a small world really..But yes its an industrial process that needs careful management to get best results.I stumbled into it really...I screwed up at College really and grabbed a low grade job at Citadel miniatures as was.I worked in mail order for a few years, and a jolly good grounding that is as its all about accuracy and customer service. My first boss was none other than Rick Priestley, wonder what ever happened to him......Bryan Ansell was the general manager of Citadel which later bought out Games Workshop. Bryan was simply a model soldier genius, and I certainly learned about customer service from Bryan and his wife Diane.I then went on to work in trade telesales and then on the road as a rep, glory days indeed......
Then GW floated and I made the dizzying heights of sales director and we opened an awful lots of shops , worldwide. I then had four fascinating years in the USA then back to the UK to help run the GW training academy. After about 26 years I was asked to move on, and that is how I was free to set up Warlord Games with my ex GW colleague Paul sawyer(fatbloke from white Dwarf). I had a great time at GW and still know a great many of the fine fellows there. So all in all, its all I have done in my life, but no, I would not have changed pretty much anything. So far!
JP: I have a pure selfish self-interest in asking this next question: What are the chances of Warlord releasing a model of a British Engineer officer in forage cap and undress frock fit for the Abyssinian Expedition? Would it be too much to include him having a waxed mustache and a well groomed imperial beard? Does "pretty please", help my cause?
JS: No, no and no...
[Denied!...sob :'( ]
JP: While my last question was semi-serious (I DO need a commander figure as described), are you planning on doing more miniature lines for the colonial period, along with rules to go with them? Black Powder official ends at 1900, with Bolt Action picking up in 1939. I mean, you've British, and their major opponents, for the Sudan and South Africa, but are German, Belgian, Boer, and French troops in the future, ones also useful for early 20th century colonial warfare?
JS: ah, another great question sir....lets just say that mr stallard is also interested in what was called the "Last Gentleman's War.
JP: Is there anything that you are particularly keen on, at the moment, that you would like to talk about, but which I have not asked a related question?
JS: Terribly excited by the Antares game that Rick is writing.. the story line is cool, but the models are just lovey,,slightly old fashioned, a bit like me really...Most of the models feel like 28mm "Traveller "models if you remember that... and less like , well, other people's models...The new plastic tanks that we have out now are also fascinating... we will have a plastic Panther, a mk4 , bren carriers and a puma all out within 3 months, what is NOT to like there!!
Thank you, John, for the interview.
I've met Rick Priestley twice, both times at GW functions, it was a great pleasure to get to chat with him. I am now honored to have him answer a few questions for my blog.
JP: Hello Rick, thank you for jumping in on this interview with John. We were dinner companions, once, at a Games Workshop function where you were discussing the upcoming release of Warmaster. I was the rabidly interested party at that table. :)
RP: Must have been a good while ago Justin – hope everything is good with you!
JP: Speaking of Warmaster. The basic mechanics of that game have been utilized, in various ways, in a number of other game systems in the twelve or so years since release. What are your thoughts about how useful your design has proven to be across genres, scales, and interests?
RP: At the time the idea of freeing the turn sequence from a literal time scale seemed quite revolutionary – as you say that notion has been taken up by any number of games since. That was the key feature to the design really. It’s interesting to see the basic mechanic developed or picked-up upon and expanded by other rule writers – I suppose it’s nice to see things move on too.
JP: Beyond the Gates of Antares. This is a bit of a change, for you, I think in terms of game development. Can you take us through a brief timeline of how things occurred and changed, thus far in the process?
RP: Blimey I’m not sure – let me think! Well the game uses the basic Bolt Action Order Dice mechanic but introduces a D10 based skirmish wargame system – so it’s like BA but not BA – if you see what I mean. The actual game, background and general feel of the game are rooted in the sort of SF I’ve always enjoyed reading and watching – but it’s basically a small action game with a strong narrative element. So far we’ve been playing games and I’ve been working on the core mechanic to get the framework right – then we’ll start to add more and we’ll build it up that way. It’s taken a long time to get the ball rolling with miniature design though, and that slows you up – mostly because no-one wants to play test a game system in abstract – it’s the models that draws you in! The big developmental difference from BA is the introduction of formalised reactions that allow units to react to enemy actions – which allows for simultaneous firefights, dashes to cover underfire, and stuff like that.
JP: You've been involved in developing wargames for a long time. What do you view as being your "legacy" to the wargame hobby (not Hobby™)
RP: Probably an awful lot of folks who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have discovered wargaming!
JP: I've asked others this, but what are you currently playing, if anything, that you have not designed? What is your favorite period and army to collect?
RP: I haven’t played a game I haven’t designed in years – I mean aside from Go and the odd card game that comes along – my wife’s just bought a copy of Gamewright Forbidden Island that she’s determined to get me to play! Favourite period – oh like everyone else I like variety – I’m enjoying SF again at the moment because of Antares (and because I always used to enjoy SF pre-GW – and during my time at GW it was very much a job!). But long term my first and inevitable ‘go back to’ army is first century AD Romans.
JP: Life is full of change and learning experiences, what have you learned since you began writing wargame rules?
RP: Well I’ve been writing rules for more than forty years so I’m not sure what to pick there! I guess in terms of what I’ve learned about writing wargames rules it’s that it’s all about making compromises really – compromises between clarity, brevity and accessibility – and the style of game you write is really an expression of how you make those compromises. Try to make things 100% clear and you end up with text that’s long-winded and impenetrable, try to keep things 100% tight and you end up with text that’s incomplete and confusing, try to make things 100% accessible and the result can be that text fails to explain things thoroughly and becomes patronising. So it’s about trying to find a balance. Oh – also – I’ve learned that every time you give a diagram to a graphic artist he will get it wrong. Every time.
JP: If you had to pick, what is your favorite game? Why?
RP: What of mine? The next one… always the next oneJ Of any kind – any body – I do like Kill Doctor Lucky – that’s genius that is.
JP: This last question is what I also asked John. Is there something you have a great interest in, but no one thinks, or dares, to ask about it?
RP: Errr… dunno really… I mean I’m not sure there’s anything really. Years ago I used to be into old cars a bit – though I’m a useless mechanic – but with modern roads, endless speed cameras and so on it’s kinda taken the joy out of that. I haven’t owned an old car for a good few years now. I still occasionally log on to a classic car collectors web site and leave it on the computer screen just to frighten the wife. The Classic Hearse page is the best for that. Classic Plant and Machinery magazine is good too – just leave the ‘for sale’ page open with a 1970’s dumper truck ringed in red. So no. Nothing really. Nothing out of the ordinary. I mean nothing like astrophysics, or taxidermy, or hang-gliding or anything interesting like that.
Thank you, Rick. I do appreciate your time, and your responses.
John, Rick, again, many thanks to you both. I wish you great success in your endeavors
Posted by Justin Penwith at 7:16 AM
Monday, May 19, 2014
So, I am having a prize draw, like I have seen so many other more popular, and more successful, blogs do. Hey, I am small and I know it, but I am cool with being a small corner of the hobby.
However, due to the generosity of Richard of Too Fat Lardies, we have a really cool prize. Richard has kindly offered one copy of a pdf version of any TFL rules or rule supplements which is currently released and available through their webstore located at the link above.
There are of course a few caveats. In order to qualify for the prize draw one must complete the following:
1) Be a follower of this blog. So, get cracking and click the proper link up there on the left, yeah that one...just click it...go ahead.
2) Leave a comment on this blog, containing a proper greeting (because we like greetings) AND also the name of the very first product published by Too Fat Lardies. This last part might seem daunting, but you can research it at various sites, including the TFL forum. HINT: It is an earlier version of one of the items shown below.
3) Name the rules or rule supplement (in pdf or tablet form only) that you would like to receive as your prize, should you win.
Contest ends at 11:59pm PST on Monday 26 May 2014. Winner will be randomly determined. Only one entry per participant and to avoid any accusations of favoritism, no members of the Little Generals Club of Fresno, California, may win the prize.
So, you've gone through the list? Now, find out which was the first published product by Too Fat Lardies and comment below. Which of the TFL products do YOU want should you be the lucky winner? Are you already a Lardy and play their games, which ones?
Good luck to all those who enter.
DON'T FORGET TO MENTION THE FIRST PUBLICATION BY TOO FAT LARDIES in your comment.....like several of you have failed to do. Update your comments, please, so you don't lose out due to the letter of the law.
Posted by Justin Penwith at 11:32 AM
Friday, May 16, 2014
TooFatLardies. Aloud, this name can be a source of confusion, especially for us Americans (aside from those of us who have worked closely with those from the UK). However, for those who are into easy to understand and fairly quick playing games, and rules which don't care what company's figures are used, then TFL is a name and identity that you are familiar with. In today's post, I share a recent interview with Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies. While I have not had the pleasure of meeting Richard in person, virtually everyone, everywhere, has only the best of things to say or write about him.
So, it is with great pleasure, and no small amount of personal excitement, I present the interview.
Thank you, Richard, for agreeing to the interview. While my readers and blog followers are from all over the world, not every one has had a chance to play a TFL game, and I find that sad. Hopefully, some (maybe a lot of) folks will wander over to your site www.toofatlardies.co.uk and give it a good perusal, after they finish reading this interview, of course.
JP: Okay, to get it out of the way, for Americans, please explain why "TooFatLardies" is the name you chose for the company. A couple of my local club members just-don't-get-it.
RC: Well, to describe someone as a “lardy” in the UK is to rather impolitely suggest that they are rather more rotund than they should be. Nick and I are both in that bracket (both then and, sadly, now), so we both qualify as “too fat” and “lardies”. There was a TV cookery show on at the time called Two Fat Ladies so the name was play on that. At the time writing rules was a hobby rather than a business so we weren’t really bothered about doing all that marketing stuff about projecting super-slick images to our clients, we just went with a name that described us - it’s one of those names that does what it says on the tin.
Over the years the name has been both a curse and a benefit. At the outset some people simply refused to play our rules as we had a “silly” name. However, over the years the whole Lard thing has become a very recognisable philosophy which many people relate to, an ethos of combining fun gaming with historically plausible results, and that’s something Nick and I are very pleased to be associated with.
Of course it does make losing weight problematic!
JP: How did you get involved in wargaming in the first place? How did your gaming then transition into creating a company and publishing rules?
RC: I started wargaming at school when I found one of Don Featherstone’s books in the school library. I was 11 years old at the time, so went straight from rolling marbles at my toy soldiers to rolling dice at them. Toy soldiers have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The earliest toys I recall playing with were soldiers, and I’ve never stopped.
The transition to becoming a rules author and publisher was a longer transition and not really intentional. I began writing for wargames magazines in the early 1990’s I think, maybe the end of the 1980’s. In those days Wargames Illustrated was a great magazine, really at the cutting edge of the hobby, and then editor Duncan Macfarlane was happy to publish my scribblings. In the early 2000’s I wrote a series of articles and mentioned a set of home-grown rules that Nick and I had developed and included my email address. A few chaps contacted me, I sent them the rules and they began to tell me I should publish. I said I couldn’t be bothered, but in the end they nagged me so much I went ahead and took the leap.
That was in about 2002 and we basically ran it as a not-for-profit hobby. By 2007 we had got so busy that I was faced with the prospect of having to give it all up as it was interfering with my “real” job. However, I had a long discussion with my wife and she told me to follow the dream, and I took on TooFatLardies full time. Since then the business has just grown and grown beyond all our expectations. We’ve just been nominated for an Origins Award for Chain of Command, so we certainly feel like we are in the mainstream of the hobby now and have broken away from the “cottage industry” image we had in the early days.
JP: Which period(s) appeals to you the most, why?
RC: Blimey. That’s a tough one. None and all. My real interest is in military tactics and how they have evolved over time. In that respect the period from the introduction of the Minie rifle in the late 1840s through to the real birth of modern infantry tactics in 1918 must be near the top of the list. The incredible divergence of technology which came along from that point onwards - breach loading rifles and artillery, magazine rifles, machine guns, the development of indirect-fire artillery tactics – all of these left the armies of the world struggling to develop tactics which maximised the effectiveness of their weaponry but minimised their own casualties. The development of new tactics was an arms race in its own right, and this is something which I think is important to understand if we are going to produce rules which really reflect the conflicts we are gaming.
Having said that, in the past couple of years I have spent a lot of time in the Age of Arthur developing our Dux Britanniarum rules, and that has been a huge amount of fun. It has introduced me to having to look at research outside of the normal range of book-based sources that one uses normally. Developing an understanding of the period through studying archaeological sources, legends and even the hagiography of Saints has been really interesting.
I suppose that really means that I love whatever period I am working ion at that moment in time. The process of research is so intense and all-consuming that you must love the period in order to go through that rigorous procedure. Our reputation for historical plausibility is based on that research, if we were to try to short-cut that process it would be spotted immediately.
JP: Just how big is the "lead mountain" at home, and do you paint your own armies or do you rely on others to paint them up to an expert standard?
RC: Not as large as it used to be! We had a brand new office built about 18 months ago and part of that process involved throwing out my lead mountain. I had stuff from twenty-five years ago that I hadn’t painted and, frankly, never was going to paint. I sorted everything out into three piles, Keep, Maybe Keep and Throw. Then, half an hour before the rubbish collection, I chucked everything away apart from the Keep pile. Before I could change my mind the rubbish collectors had whisked it all away. It was very liberating. I now have just what I want for the near future.
I have traditionally done all my own painting as I am not a bad painter, but I am at the point now where my eye-sight is starting to go. I need to make some decisions on this pretty much immediately. I can always turn to my chum Matt at Glenbrook Games to paint stuff for me as I like his style of painting. It’s good to know there is an alternative. That said, I will miss painting as I find it quite relaxing.
JP: Your games have long relied upon a card activation mechanism, but with Chain of Command, you've gone to a new(er) version of a dice-based unit activation. Was this long planned or did it come as a surprise during development? Will we see this again in near future releases?
RC: Well, you say a card activation mechanism, but actually we have a number of different card activation systems in our rules. We have never said we only do card activated games; we have always looked at the best way to reflect and represent warfare, and this means that different engines do different things for different conflicts. Chain of Command is a fun WWII set of rules with a command and control system all about presenting the gamer with a number of choices in each phase of play. The idea is that he can do a number of things in each phase and the challenge is to find the best coordinated sequence in each phase. The concept is actually an extension of the Fate Deck system in Dux Britanniarum. You roll your dice and that then becomes your “hand” for this phase. How you play them, in what order and with which units, is up to you. It’s a system which allows you a degree of tactical flexibility, but not complete control. People seem to love it.
Was it long planned? In a way. I actually dreamed it up while we had the builders working on the new office and for six months it was stuck on paper and in my head. As soon as I got back into the new office I painted two platoons in two days and put it on the table. It worked. We took it on the road in January last year, running demos around the shows in the UK, and the response was great. Interestingly, lots of gamers have tried Lard for the first time with Chain of Command and are now trying and enjoying the card based games as well.
JP: Your company is quite prolific, how many people are there behind the scenes? Do you rely on external writers to produce much of what you publish or do you personally do most of the writing/editing?
RC: We produce most of what we publish, but we do have a number of chaps who write for us, especially on the scenario front. Nick and I tend to work through the first phases of design concepts. We then have a great team of gamers on Lard Island who work through the rules with us from the earliest stage of development. This usually starts with us putting toys on the table and just saying “What happens now?”. That is a fantastic and really exciting phase with any rules where you absolutely build the basic component parts from scratch. We then have clubs and gamers all round the world who work on the second stage playtesting. After that we have a further team of proof-readers who put the whole thing through the mangle.
In the office we have Emma who does the post and we have Monty who works from home in Scotland who keeps an eye on the web for me and generally helps by pointing to questions I need to answer. We are very keen to provide maximum help via our TooFatLardies Yahoo Group and Forum, and his presence there means I can pick up the most pressing issues. I’m the company donkey who does all the horrible office jobs like dealing with the tax man, doing the accounts, ordering the stationary. All of which gets in the way of playing games, but has to be done!
JP: Some time ago, you went with a tablet version of pdf for your releases, I have personally purchased three such versions. Have you found tablet versions to be in increasing demand or about the same overall? How about simply the demand for electronic versions, whether or not it is for tablet or PC? I know that due to
international shipping increases, my preference for a hard copy has been superseded by the plaintive cries of my wallet, so a big THANK YOU for taking care of a need!
RC: We were really at the front end of providing PDF rule sets and at the time there was a huge outcry on the web about how terrible this was. At the same time we immediately saw a huge jump in sales, especially in North America and Australasia. So, as you say, it is clear that postal charges are a big influence on purchases made. The tablet edition of the rules have been a huge hit. When we first produced a tablet edition for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum in 2011 less than 10% of electronic purchasers went for that option. Now it is well over 50%. In fact when we did the advance order deal for Chain of Command which included a free electronic set with each hard copy purchased over 80% went for the tablet version. It looks like more of us are getting tablets and increasingly they are being used for gaming.
JP: You're active on various fora, not just the Lardy one. Are you feeling a bit pulled in all directions at once, or do you find have more time in the day than the rest of us? If you do, I need in on the secret, because I'm constantly lacking time.
RC: My big problem is finding enough hours in the day. That’s why Monty came on board as I just don’t have enough hours to do everything I want to do. It may sound a bit strange, but wargaming is my business but it’s also my hobby. When I go to places like Lead Adventure Forum I am generally there as a wargamer rather than on business. It’s great to just hang out with fellow gamers and discuss what we’re painting or building terrain.
JP: Apart from a Lardy published game, what have you played recently? Now, what do you enjoy playing the most?
RC: I played Black Powder the other day for the second time and had fun with that. I have dabbled a bit with Command & Colours as that is a fun diversion and easy to set up and play. Of course the nature of my job means that I tend to be playing a set of our rules and that is usually a game in the development stage. I’ve been playing a fair amount of Boer War recently, but this in truth I have been skiving off and playing a LOT of Chain of Command. I am totally in love with the system and have been painting like a lunatic to assemble all sorts of different forces. I ordered my first Spanish Civil War forces yesterday as well as some modern stuff for an Afghanistan version we have a project team in Australia working on.
JP: Okay, I really MUST ask as I have been waiting for a while now. Where is Algy? One cannot purchase Algy 1 from the webstore, even in pdf form, but Algy 2 is no where on the horizon. Bag the Hun seems terrific, but it is for the wrong war. Can you share with us where in the development process that Algy 2 current stands or even a tentative year that you are shooting for release? Honestly, I am having to make do with a card maneuver game by a different company and I am very unhappy about it. (Sorry, but that is my one and only selfish question, honest!)
RC: Not forgotten, that’s for sure. Again, this is an issue of not enough hours in the day. I am a great believer in letting things happen when they happen. I am sure most wargamers will understand how we go mad for one period for a while and then switch to something else at the drop of a hat. I’m just the same. If I try to force myself to produce a set of rules when I am not really fired up and into that it just won’t work. So I let things happen at their own speed and follow wherever my own interest leads me. Hopefully you get a better product in that way.
Again, my thanks, Richard, for sharing your time with me and my readers. I wish you and TooFatLardies good health, great wealth, and lucky dice!
A note to my thorough readers. In the VERY near future, as in early next week, we will be offering a prize draw. More info to come at that time. Stay tuned!
Posted by Justin Penwith at 2:55 PM
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
About a decade ago, a friend, who happens to own a very well known webstore, gifted me a copy of Grand Armee. Hesitant at first, I read the rules, promising my friend I would give them a shot. He was right and my reluctance proved wrong. The rules were good, gave a reasonable result, and played far more quickly than the rules I had previously used. The author of those rules, Sam Mustafa, made playing the Napoleonic period enjoyable again, and much less the chore it had become. Fortuitously, Sam has written a number of other rules, each equally enjoyable to play.
This post contains my interview with Sam Mustafa, owner of Honour aka Sam Mustafa Publishing.
JP: What caused you to jump into the realm of writing wargames rules? Was this done with eyes open or were you shocked at the beginning?
SM: I've been creating games of one sort or another since I was quite young. I started selling them in my early 20s, back in the days of dot-matrix printers and stapled booklets printed at the local print shop.
Grande Armée in 2002 was the first game I did that began to attract interest around the world and sold a few thousand copies. At that point I began to take it more seriously and what had been a hobby effectively became a second job.
I've become a small business. There are several people who help me with this bit or that, but essentially I'm a one-man show. I do everything, from the writing to the page layout and art, to dealing with printers, distribution to retailers, running the online store, and so on.
JP: How did you get starting wargaming in the first place?
I started as a kid in the 1970s with Avalon Hill and SPI boardgames. I was quite young at the time. By junior high I'd discovered roleplaying, which I enjoyed until my early 20s, at which point I discovered miniatures.
JP: Apart from your own rules, what game have you played most recently and what miniature armies do you collect? Do you paint them yourself or do you shop that job out?
Unfortunately most of my gaming time is devoted now to playtesting. I rarely play anything else. In fact, I don't even "play" my own games; I usually stand there running the playtest, taking notes and analyzing. I didn't play Maurice until after it was published, and I think I've only played it about five times. I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of times I've played Longstreet, as a player, I mean.
About 90% of my collection is painted by me. From time to time I have bought some painted figures, though, including a few last year.
I'm fairly disciplined when it comes to collecting; only about 10% of my figures are unpainted at any time. I try to avoid buying things unless I'm really jazzed on the idea and know I'll have the time for them.
I also "purge" from time to time and usually give away whole collections to friends. In fact, I've given away or sold more figures than I own, by a large margin.
JP: Your rules are all firmly placed within the early modern period, likely due to your profession and education. What do you see down the road, through your "crystal ball" as it were, as being the natural end result of your efforts and interests? Any chance of going back a bit to the Thirty Years War or forward to the Franco-Prussian War or even the British colonial wars?
SM: The horse-n-musket era is what I know best, so it's my comfort zone.
What most people don't know about me, though, is that I've designed all sorts of games for other periods and topics, but for one reason or another they've never been published. In many cases they weren't commercially feasible, or I didn't want to take the risk of investment and time to turn them into a polished commercial product.
I've done modern-era games, WW1 and WW2 at various scales, a Zulu War game, several fantasy and sci-fi games, several naval games, all sorts of oddball little skirmish games, role-playing, and even boardgames. Not all of them are "war" games, either. For example, I once created a boardgame of the political and ideological struggle for control of the Soviet Union in the mid-1920s after the death of Lenin. My old club in Richmond played it many times.
Pretty much everything except Ancients, which is just so far out of my ken that I've never tried.
I'm fairly conservative when it comes to my business, and I don't publish something unless I think it's a sure thing.
JP: You are highly active on perhaps the most utilized wargaming website in the world. As a result, you have gained both adherents and detractors. Why are you so vocal, whereas many, if not most, other authors barely respond to emails? The question is not meant as criticism, but more of an observation of your really putting yourself out there and taking risks, in the public realm, where few others rarely tread to the same degree, if ever.
SM: Are you referring to TMP? I used to try to be available there on a daily basis to answer questions, but in the past year I've just decided that it was taking up too much time. These days I'm there only about once a week.
I always try to answer emails ASAP, and of course I monitor the HONOUR Forum every day.
JP: There are obvious and significant changes between your earlier work and Longstreet. What have you learned about rules writing, since Grande Armee?
SM: The business side of the hobby has changed a great deal in the past 15 years or so. Color printing has become relatively inexpensive, and the internet has matured to the point that electronic documents even of fairly large size and sophistication can be delivered easily anywhere in the world. The days of distributors are gone; I can sell directly to retailers, or directly to the customer. That has changed the way I think about what a "book" is, and how to create and sell game components. For example, fifteen years ago I would not have been able to afford to create a card-based game like Longstreet.
The wargaming economy is divided between very small operations that just sell a PDF very cheaply, and larger operations with several employees who produce entire ranges of figures and boxed games, and so on.
The challenge, for a middling operation like mine, is to stay relevant and competitive. I like to think that my "brand," so to speak, has a sort of consistency that my customers appreciate.
JP: Is there a work of yours that you wish you had written differently? If so, why?
SM: No, not really. Each design is evolutionary, in that it borrows some things from previous games that I wanted to tweak or change, plus new ideas.
JP: I know there is very little you can say about it now, apart from what is already available, but why Blücher? I mean, what drives you to write the game, even after the trouble you've had with its development from a couple of years ago? I can tell you that I am certainly going to be pre-ordering the game. Just from what you've included in the flyer, I WANT it!.
SM: Blücher has been the most difficult project I've ever tried to complete. There are a million reasons for that, from the oddities of that particular scale, to the fact that I was determined not to make "just another big Napoleonic battle game."
All of the HONOUR games have a specific "angle," as it were. Lasalle was the first Napoleonic game to be based around fictional and even ahistorical battles with army building. Maurice and Longstreet featured new concepts for campaign systems that were more like role-playing a character rather than a traditional wargame campaign. Blücher's unique angle is very satisfying to me, but getting there has taken an incredible amount of work.
At this point, I've lost count of the distinct number of playtest versions we've done, in three major periods of work since 2010, but it's probably over 100 different versions.
JP: History, especially military history, is filled with interesting and colorful figures, both heroes and villains. Which figure from the past do you most identify with, or at least the one who has proven to be the most interesting to you?
SM: I tend to identify with rebels and misfits. Not because I want to be them, but simply because I root for the underdog and I'm an inveterate skeptic.
JP: If someone were to get into the industry by writing rules, what do you suggest they pay the most attention to and/or what to avoid?
SM: This is actually a really good time for novice game designers because they can begin by creating games as PDFs and selling them cheaply to attract some attention and interest. You no longer need to take a risk and spend tens of thousands of dollars to print books, store them, ship them, and so on.
My advice would be to limit yourself to electronic publishing until you have a following that allows you to consider bigger and costlier projects.
Thank you, Sam, for the interview. All the best in your efforts.
Posted by Justin Penwith at 9:19 PM