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Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777» Forums » General

Subject: Wargame? Euro? rss

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Tom Russell
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Dearborn
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So, part of this whole "putting a page up for the game before I find a publisher" thing is to let people find out more about the game, and I'm doing an extraordinarily bad job of that. So I thought I'd better step it up a notch. I'm going to digress a little, though, by telling you a little bit about filmmaking first. It'll make sense, trust me.

I used to make films. (I still do and will in the future.) They were good films, I think, but the things that made them worth watching-- an idiosyncratic sense of humor, pacing, non-traditional structures, prickily characters, stylized dialogue-- also turned most people off. In terms of, I made the films I wanted to make for an affordable budget, they were successful. In terms of, the films didn't exactly light the world on fire or make me any kind of income, not so much. And that was discouraging. Whenever I tried to do something that had more appeal, it just didn't work-- I don't have the knack for it. This was something of a dilemmia, and every creative thing I've done-- writing, music, politics-- has had much the same dynamic.

A series of circumstances, including my near-demise, lead me to board games, and I discovered, much to my surprise, that I do have a knack for designing board games, and that I don't have the same problem where the things that make it good are the things that push people away (Heck, I've sold three of them already, and after ten years of a thousand No's, every Yes is astonishing). Whether I'm doing a euro-type game, where I strive for mathematical balance, or a wargame, where I try to find mechanics that serve the historical event, my games don't seem to alienate large groups of their target demographic. That's a heady feeling, too-- I'm communicating with and connecting to people (and a much friendlier bunch than the indie film world, that's for certain).

But then there's this game...

When I started work on this game, I knew it was weird. It's a long game, and a deliberately paced one. It's much too abstract-- stacks of checkers/discs for units-- to appeal to most wargamers, I thought, and a two-player asymmetrical three hour conflict game seems like it doesn't precisely fit in the eurogamer's wheelhouse. The game, like the war itself, starts off very slow-- the first forty-five minutes or so are really a warmup for the rest of the game, yet are crucial to setting up your mid- and late-game positions. Many players struggled early on in their first game, but as the game ramps up, some of them glom onto it very enthusiastically; when they play their second game, they discover how vital the 1775 turns are. It's also a "fragile" game-- the slightest mistake (if capitalized on by a canny opponent) could put someone into a irreversible, unwinnable position, and about half the games I've seen-- and all the games I've seen with newbies-- have ended prematurely in one side's concession. Like many strategic-level games, it's very "flexible"-- players can play historically or ahistorically, brilliantly or stupidly, and while the dice combat provides a random element, the game really comes down to skill and strategy.

And, here's that crazy thing again: these things that I think make the game a tough sell (the long play time, the slowness, the hemmed-in early game that gives way to great freedom, the fragility, the flexibility, the abstractness) are I think the things that make the game worth playing. I'm terrified that it's my films all over again: that I've made something that pleases myself, and the 2% of the population that exactly shares my tastes (optimistic guesstimate there).

I've sent the game to a publisher, and I'm crossing my fingers that when they play it, it's to their taste. (Obviously I can't divulge any further details about that process, and I might not be able to really get into depth about the game's mechanics and rules while it's under consideration.) If it isn't-- and of course I'm very much hoping that it is-- so it goes. I've other games that have a wider and more traditional mass appeal for both wargamers (like my Alma game, coming out in July) and eurogamers. But just as I hope that my weird little movies connect with people, I'm hoping this weird little big game does the same.
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