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Subject: BGG Wargame Designer of the Month: Ian Weir rss

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Hunga Dunga
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This month's BGG Wargame Designer of the Month is Mr. Ian Weir. Mr. Weir served for 10 years as a Sargent in the Canadian Scottish Regiment after completing a college degree in military and political history. He started his own publishing company, Red Sash Games, in 2001.

Mr, Weir started playing wargames in 1976. He played WWII games, but soon drifted away from them toward Age of Reason, Napoleonic and Ancients subjects. Or as Mr. Weir puts it, "Anything that gets away from the Battle of the Bulge and Normandy!"

Mr. Weir first thought of designing Charlie's Year in 1998, which finally was published in 2001. Since then, he has designed and published over a dozen games.



Mr. Weir agreed to to join us over a pint of Guinness to chat.

Let's give Mr. Wier a warm, BGG Sub-domain welcome!
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Roger Hobden
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Congratulations Mr Weir !

My father fought with the Canadian Scottish Regiment during WW II, so he saw action a few days after D-Day at Caen in France and other countries (Belgium, Hollande, Germany).

He is still alive and in pretty good shape, considering that he is 96 years old.
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Eric Walters
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Ian, as a huge fan of your games, it would be interesting for all of us to know your responses to the following questions:

1) You've focused on far lesser known campaigns and given them quite loving (and expensive!) treatment with gorgeous artwork and detailed but playable systems. What got you into these periods and campaigns?

2) What is your design focus in the Lace Wars series and what sort of decisions do you think it succeeds in bringing to life for the players?

3) Tell us about the newer SEA LORDS system and how it complements the land games. What is it that you hoped to accomplish in simulating naval warfare of the era that you felt hadn't been covered in other designs?
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Ian Weir
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Normandy was a nasty fight. If you don't have it, you should check out MMP's Canadian Crucible.
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Brian Train
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Hurrah, what an excellent choice!
Ian and I were in the Canadian Scottish together, in the 80s.

Brian
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Ian Weir
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Hi Eric.

1) Research on one game led to another. I forget the specific reason why I chose the Jacobites for the first game, except that I wanted to game it and there was nothing published. Could be I'd just read Scott's Waverley novels.

2) The answer to this one is long, maybe because it's a simple one. The games focus on the operational art rather than tactics or overall strategy. There was no operational 'manual' in those days, only tactics (drill manuals, etc.) and strategy (various treatises by learned individuals) but plenty of practical wisdom. Part of the design challenge is working out things like march rates and learning that you don't campaign before the horses have gotten use to being grass fed after the winter oats. That information was known to every field grade officer, but not codified.

The game ought to give you a feel of what it is like to be at the intermediate level of things. In a tactical game, you're in charge of everything except the dice, trying to make the best use of your fixed OOB within fairly tight parameters - I like tactical games, but the best ones play best when you just run the drills, keeping an eye open for enemy mistakes. In a strategy game there is less emphasis on drill and more on general principles (strong reserves, exploitation, gaming the ZOCs).

I wanted a system that would put players halfway up the chain. So you arrange for the battles, but have little say on how they turn out (like a strategy game); on the other hand, like a tactical game, you have to play with what you've been given and are subject to the whip of an off map 'boss'. You are mainly concerned with maneouvre, operating over a fairly wide section of ground where terrain still has significance, and organisation - reserves, when to concentrate and where, and so on.

One unusual feature of the games is that you don't win by helping your country win as in a strategy game. Instead, you win by accumulating Prestige. Some games drift toward having you in the role of a king or cabinet, and others toward being a field marshal, but theoretically your country could go down the tubes and you could still win by having high prestige (this is also useful when designing for situations that are inherently unbalanced).

3) The Sea Lords system was not intended to cover new ground, although I expect it will. The game Queens' Gambit was on the Italian campaigns of 1741-48 (Spain & France versus Austria) and was the first subject that had a significant naval focus. I wanted to add a companion game to address that. Research (see point #1) led to the understanding that the naval war as a whole was quite complex and should be represented. This year's release (well, early in 2014) will be the second installment, in the Caribbean. Having created an operational level Age of Sail system (one that is still maturing) it's obvious that many other situations can be covered as well. For instance, last year's release of a pair of games on the Russo-Swedish war of 1741-43. Historically, that war was half naval and half land, hence the two games. BTW the Prestige mechanism makes that otherwise unbalanced situation playable.

Hope that's what you wanted!
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michael connor
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The Red Sash games are what I always hoped wargaming was going to be. In-depth detailed coverage of specific areas in history. They deliver! And the historical documentation is extrordinary and always shocks me by how much detail it goes into. Thanks!
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Lawrence Hung
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Congratulations! Although I am curious with most of the Red Sash games, they are OOP mostly and require big space to play the campaign. The counters are very nice and truly a thing of research beauty. Any suggestion for a gamer like me that can only accomodate one map scenario at most?
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Roger Hobden
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I was only vaguely aware of the existence of Red Sash Games, and never got down to looking into them.

I have corrected this very grave mistake today.

Would you by any chance have any boxed copies of Türkenkrieg (1737-1739) or Heirs of the Golden Horde lying around somewhere ? whistle
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
Congratulations! Although I am curious with most of the Red Sash games, they are OOP mostly...


My understanding is that they are all available - either PnP or
from the designer more or less on demand (within his print schedule).

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Ian Weir
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Enrico is right, I don't keep stock. There are a few online stores that carry them (Noble Knight, Ye Olde Toy Soldiers, Troll&Toad). Someone told me they saw an RSG game at Sentry Box (I experimented with a Canadian distributor). There are also the digital versions - no shipping but some assembly required. Anyone who wants proper boxed copies with die cut counters and all should write me at rsgmail@shaw.ca. Printings take place each time a new game is released (about 1 per year on average) or if 50 orders come in. Any titles can be pre-ordered this way. You also get the 30% discount even if it's an older game.

The next scheduled printing is for the spring of 2014, probably taking orders right after New Years.

Lawrence.
If you lack space, Remember Limerick! (Jimmy & Billy at the Boyne) is only 2 sheets (i.e. 1/2 a standard sheet, or 24"x18"), as is Cockpit of Europe (Flanders 1744-48). Queens' Gambit (Italy same period) is largish but has some very small scenarios. There is also the possibility of having the maps and counters printed at smaller than usual scale (depends on how old your eyes are!). The digital copies are PDFs, so can be adjusted.
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Brian Train
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Good answer and characterization of the "operational art", Ian.
I find working "halfway up the chain" a very challenging place to be, so I keep working out designs at this level.

Brian
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Lawrence Hung
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icweir wrote:
Enrico is right, I don't keep stock. There are a few online stores that carry them (Noble Knight, Ye Olde Toy Soldiers, Troll&Toad). Someone told me they saw an RSG game at Sentry Box (I experimented with a Canadian distributor). There are also the digital versions - no shipping but some assembly required. Anyone who wants proper boxed copies with die cut counters and all should write me at rsgmail@shaw.ca. Printings take place each time a new game is released (about 1 per year on average) or if 50 orders come in. Any titles can be pre-ordered this way. You also get the 30% discount even if it's an older game.

The next scheduled printing is for the spring of 2014, probably taking orders right after New Years.

Lawrence.
If you lack space, Remember Limerick! (Jimmy & Billy at the Boyne) is only 2 sheets (i.e. 1/2 a standard sheet, or 24"x18"), as is Cockpit of Europe (Flanders 1744-48). Queens' Gambit (Italy same period) is largish but has some very small scenarios. There is also the possibility of having the maps and counters printed at smaller than usual scale (depends on how old your eyes are!). The digital copies are PDFs, so can be adjusted.


Thank you so much for the information. I generally like pre-assembled and finished products - I don't have the time to play already, not even to mention assemble them on my own. Please drop us a note here when it is the time for the next batch of printing.
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Enrico Viglino
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Are there any plans for games on the Great Northern War?
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Ian Weir
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Will do, Lawrence.

Enrico.
GNW is possible. So is the SYW. They're some distance down the pipeline. At least with the SYW I can use the same base maps, but the GNW covers a huge area - probably have to change the scale. The Golden Horde map is 54" high and that only covers 1/3 of the Russian Front. I always beg off those topics 'because the trolls will come out and criticize the OOBs' but it's really because they will be even larger games than the ones in print.
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Hunga Dunga
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Hi Mr. Weir!

Can you explain why you don't like chit-pull systems?
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Eric Walters
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Since people are pitching in with their wish list for future games, I thought I'd add to the list and Ian can tell us how "far down the list" these titles might actually be! surprise

Titles on the Seven Years War in Europe. Well, he did the Wars of Austrian Succession, so this shouldn't be THAT much a stretch! Might a super-mega SEA LORDS game on the English naval war during that time be a possibility?

A game on the War of the Spanish Succession--John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough and all that. A man can dream, can't he?

I'll stop there. One should know when to stop indulging in one's fantasies! What do you think, Ian?

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I picked up a printed version of Cockpit of Europe recently because I'm really intrigued by the Lace Wars system despite its complexity (a ways beyond what I'm used to), and it has the smallest footprint, so it'll fit on my table. Hard to say when I'll actually be able to play it, but I wanted to grab a copy while I could!

Thank you for making these games on rarely-covered topics, and at a particularly interesting scale!
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I just checked a few minutes ago and there are still many Lace Wars games available on the Noble Knight website ... minus two turkish ones which will be heading my way shortly ...

PS : I believe the Ottoman Turkish Empire is incredibly under-represented in the wargaming field, in contrast to it's very large impact on History.
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Ian Weir
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Well, all those subjects are possibles. Grand Sea Lords is a bit of a stretch unless you can rent a school gym and use the floor. There will be a game on the Home Fleet and probably modules on Louisburg and India - the action there was limited, so only modules.

I have a desire to game Nadr Shah's wars, and there are some hidden corners in the Jacobite theme yet to be explored. Those will probably be the next subjects.

On Lawrence's chit pull query, I find it often creates illogical activations. It would be quite likely the right flank stepped off before the left, but why does my second line activate before my first line? It works well in some games - Reds! for instance, where the front is huge, and confused. Even in La Moscowa, which is also a furball (although I think Simtac's handling of LaBat command issues is better). I also like Ben Hull's Musket & Pike activation system, where you can at least attempt to arrange how your units behave, and the TCS and CWB orders system.
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Ian Weir
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Order of battle information for the Ottoman Army has to be the most vague of any 'western' army. Part of the problem is the feudal structure (actually Byzantine timariot) of half the army. The sultans held huge musters so they could claim million-man armies, but only selected the best equipped and most loyal from each contingent. But even the rejects got consolation prizes and a mark in the record book. Then there are all the 'honorary janissary' tradesmen lining up for food stamps.
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Roger Hobden
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icweir wrote:
Order of battle information for the Ottoman Army has to be the most vague of any 'western' army.


My understanding is that the hard data for Ancient armies is very scarce and subject to many interpretations, which are discussed endlessly, for instance in Slingshot, the magazine of the Society of Ancients.

Yet there is no lack of tactical, operational and strategical games on the Roman era, the Ancient Greece era, etc.
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Ian Weir
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Cultural bias on our side? We have mini-series on Rome and the Borgias, but the Turks have a period drama on Suleiman the Magnificent. But I think the topic is becoming more popular. There have been some useful books written recently - Aksan, Murphy, Davies. Brian Davies just published his second volume on Russia's Turkish wars, which covers the 1736-39 war in detail.
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Roger Hobden
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I recommend highly this excellent book written in french under the direction of Robert Mantran on the Ottoman Empire, for all of us bilingual canadians ...

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Let me just chime and give a hearty thanks to Mr. Weir for producing some excellent products. My magnetic version of Mistral is almost complete and hanging on my wall.
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