My avatar is a portrait of my late Polish father-in-law, Sylwester Janik. He won the Polish Cross of Valour (Krzyż Walecznych) for his "individual act of selfless bravery and heroism on the field of battle" in Italy along the Adriatic coast between the towns of Fano and Pesaro in late August 1944. Those actions took place against the German 278th Infantry Div (part of LXXVI Panzer Corps) on the heavily defended Gothic Line, during the British offensive known as Operation Olive.
He proudly served with the 8th British Army, II Polish Corps, 5th Kresowa Infantry Division, 5th Wilno Infantry Brigade, 13th Wilenski Rifle Battalion "Rysiow" (aka the famous "fighting lynxes"), 2 Rifle Company.
The youngest of nine boys born into a southwestern Polish farm family, he was one of six brothers press-ganged to fight for the Germans at the start of the war in 1939. Four of his brothers died while serving in the German Army (France, Stalingrad, the Balkans, and Vienna), but both he and his brother William managed to survive their forced German combat service and subsequent capture. Both surviving brothers then served with the 8th British Army (II Polish Corps) in Italy, as many captured Poles did. Even more remarkable, they dramatically reunited in northern Italy in 1945 during a unit parade ... my father-in-law jumping over barricades and MPs to leap into his brother's arms. Each had believed the other dead.
My father-in-law survived many close calls ... a Soviet mortar strike while serving as a German infantryman in the Ukraine that left his back horribly marred with shrapnel scars; deliberately being infected with malaria during his recovery by German doctors as a medical experiment; a missed transfer back to the East Front due to his illness; and an intense firefight involving Tito's partisans that resulted in his capture on an Adriatic island. Then his ferocious tenacity and acts of individual courage and stamina battling up the Italian peninsula with the 8th British Army (II Polish Corps) in 1944-45. I am thrilled to have inherited his medals, pay-books, commendations, resettlement papers, dog tags and all his wartime records, to have been allowed the thrill of my life to marry his daughter, and to allow me to add his surname to mine.
He was a mischievous, sometimes cantankerous, highly opinionated man deeply shaped by the world and events he witnessed. Yet in the end, I think he was a kind man.
---------------Hi there, thanks very much for taking the time to visit. I hope you have a great day!
I'm a 52 year old dad and husband. I'm an award-winning designer of nearly 25 years, book lover, learner for life, part-time board game designer, typographer, etc. I'm the owner and publisher of the iPad magazine ArtSpin
, and the owner of the small board game publishing company The Raven King
. Along the way I've gathered up more than a few degrees, and have worked in air traffic services, been a goldsmith, and am a published poet. I coach minor league baseball in the summers. I also live with three cats. Everyone should have a cat (or two).
I'm blessed with a fantastic (non-gaming) wife who is my muse, and two utterly brilliant boys who have inherited my love of games ... the oldest has beaten me in chess since he was six and is in the International Baccalaureate program in high school (about to enter University of Toronto this fall in the Linguistics program), while the youngest is a nationally-ranked math whiz and wicked Up Front player. Both my sons now have profiles on BGG!
What else? I've taught my kids how
to think, not what
to think; I know what proof
mean; and it bugs me silly when people mispronounce the word kilometre like a measuring instrument instead of correctly (kilometre is pronounced like the word centimetre, not like barometer). I read a lot of books. I am an athiest. I tell my kids every day that they are magnificent, and that to find joy in life is actually really easy: just find the special things that you love to do and do them. Joy in life is worth so much more than any amount of money.
I normally like games that can be wrapped up in two hours or less ... that said, brilliant games I love like Power Grid
and Twilight Struggle
that are longer are fine with me. I love wargames (especially WW2 tactical), but with limited wargaming opponents I frequently wind up playing great Euro games that have that something special about them (art, gameplay, mechanics, story, tension, fun) with my kids, family friends, monthly gaming group, co-workers, and very rarely, my wife. I frequent Vassal. I am one of the rare gamers who despises
Despite my (faked) ambivalence for many Euros (okay, really just Agricola), I think that Power Grid, Samurai, London, Troyes, Keyflower and Snowdonia are utterly brilliant. Troyes was the game that made me reevaluate all
my BGG ratings.
Over more than four decades I've owned 1,000+ games. In early 2012 I removed about 300 previously-owned games from my collection lists to better get a handle on my current likes and games. I remove games I trade or sell -- if it's not on my shelf, it's not shown in my collection. Lastly, I usually
list expansions for games I own in the comments section of the parent game. I keep my Top 10 and Hot 10 lists (at right) updated. The Hot 10 shows the latest games I've just purchased or started playing with the most recent at the top of the list.
Eclectic and elegant are words I use when I'm asked what type of games I like. As long as they're fun, I'll take them for a spin. Winning or losing doesn't matter ... I love the social aspect of playing games. I play games for joy and childlike fun and puzzles they present and replay-ability. I don't like playing with gamers who are intensely competitive.
What types of games do I dislike? Games that use absolute
"choice denial" mechanics, for example -- Agricola. I find that game mechanics that permit one player to absolutely
block an action, because only one choice of that specific action is allowed per phase/turn, mean and especially punative in games where there are mathematically obvious clear choices
that have to be made at the beginning of the game to prevent runaway leaders.
Light-hearted player interaction that you can get around, compensate for, are made to pay more for, or need to balance your play in some way are okay -- for example, Viticulture, Le Havre, London, Power Grid, Glen More -- but if there's absolute
choice denial in a game I most likely won't play. I don't find that fun. If I wanted nasty player interaction I'd go all in and start playing Diplomacy again.
My favourite game of all time? Up Front
. Arguably the most innovative, fun, narratively brilliant tactical WW2 game ever made. I (re)acquired a near-mint copy to replace my second very well-worn copy in my collection and the game remains a stellar example of brilliance. It is the first game I awarded a rating of "10" in my collection and I have recorded nearly 2,500 plays over the past 32 years of playing. I don't usually record my Up Front plays but still manage to play 2-3 games every week. The best tactical wargame ever made and a must play for every wargamer.
The other wargame that I enjoy almost as much as Up Front is the brilliantly narrative Combat Commander Series
, which has become my go-to WWII tactical-scale wargame. Chad Jensen's masterpiece of tactical WW2 combat offers a rich narrative story and brilliantly dynamic gameplay each time I play. The deep narrative each scenario creates, the wide range of theatres and forces, Commonwealth forces, random scenario generator, varied theatres, and extremely well-written rules make this series absolutely shine. I fully accept the idea that the nationality-based cards model and implement fog of war in, arguably, the best way possible at this scale. I own all of the official GMT bits of goodness and preorder every expansion as they are announced. It is a modern classic in the genre and is my first choice for a tactical WW2 wargame.
Finally, a masterpiece, brilliant, pinnacle, perfect game design is Rachel Simmons' Napoleon's Triumph
. I was thrilled to have acquired an in-shrink copy for an excellent price in Jan 2015.
Other great wargames? Jim Krohn's Band of Brothers
family of tactical WW2 games are superbly innovative, and handle proper tactics and suppression best in a WW2 tactical game. John Butterfield is a master of wargame design. Mark Mokszycki's designs for Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939
and the upcoming Operation Dauntless: The Battles for Fontenay and Rauray, France, June 1944
are nothing short of brilliant. Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews get a huge shout-out for their excellent Twilight Struggle
. And if it's WW2 miniatures you're into, there is no finer set of rules than Arty Conliffe's masterpiece CrossFire: Rules & Organizations for Company Level WW2 Gaming
Finally, the core idea
of Ben Hull's company-level wargame that focuses on command and control, Fields of Fire
, is a fundamentally innovative and brilliant game, maybe even on par with Up Front
. High praise. But ... It is a frustrating and fiddly masterpiece to understand and play. The rules could use a complete
top-to-bottom v3 rewrite (unfortunately, only partly
coming in the next P500 reprint), and it is a tedious and laborious chore to actually play because of it's terrible fiddliness, unintuitive and poorly arranged rules and information design, and chart-heavy gameplay.
So what about Euros? There is no question for me that Power Grid
and Martin's Wallace's London
are at the very top of the pile for favourite heavier Euros, though I find middle-weight Euro games like Keyflower
and The Castles of Burgundy
often much more fun to play than the heavier games. I have to add that I also wildly enjoy playing 1960: The Making of the President
When I'm not tinkering on my own wargame and boardgame designs, I contribute to other designer and publisher efforts, and frequently volunteer to help play-test games.
I have designed two games that were released in late 2014, and have started on a third project that will be Kickstarted in May 2015 and released in fall of 2015, a murder mystery game called A Very English Murder: Murder at Woodperry Hall
. My games are published by my own Waterloo, Ontario-based indie board game publishing company, The Raven King
The first board game that's been released is The Illusionist
, a 30-45 minute set-collection card game for 2–4 players who play the roles of rival Victorian-era magicians. You are trying to become the City's most prominent performer by having the highest number of Prestige Points at the end of the game via a simple suit collection mechanic. Points are earned by creating/assembling astounding illusions and “performing” them at various types of theatres in the city. Strategy, timing and elements of luck all play a role in your rise to prominence, as do the political machinations and jealousy of your peers.
The second one was released in January 2015 is Move It, Soldier!
, a narrative-driven card wargame set in WW2 that is a radically modified version of my original iOS app. It has been extensively play tested over a number of years and uses the Engle-Matrix story-telling engine as its main mechanic.
Anyway, thanks for reading.
P.S. I play Euro and war games with these two cool guys who live in my neighbourhood.
When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
P.P.P.S. Only started recording my plays around November 2009, despite being a member for over two and a half years prior to that. Sorry. Lots and lots of unrecorded plays of owned games.