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Subject: Designers-Developer Set The Wrong "TONE" rss

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Milo Mori
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As someone who followed the development of Halls of Montezuma on the CSW and BGG forums and looked forward to its release with much anticipation, I had high hopes for the success of one of GMT’s newest CDGs. Despite the maps "muddy and dull" appearance and the confusing color scheme of its spaces, the rest of the components (counters, play-aids and cards) are top notch and typical of what I have come to expect from GMT’s products.

The rules (THE HEART OF ANY GAME), however, are another story. While at first glance the rules are fairly well laid out, organized and easy to read through, when one puts them to practice in actual play holes and omissions become apparent and confusion reigns. Despite numerous play thrus since release my opponents’ and I are still confused by a number of the rules processes, if we are playing correctly, or even what the purpose of some rules are. Designers-Developers who live with a project for years can fall into the trap of seeing how to play their creation very clearly in their mind while the final rules do not convey the same clarity to someone seeing the finished product for the first time. HoM seems to suffer from this effect or perhaps just from a lack of actual playtester or especially non-tester input to the final as released rules contributing to their non-clarity and other problems.

Balance also seems to have suffered from lack of late testing. One example allows the US player to declare War early (turn 2) suffering little to no penalty to its victory requirements due to the maximum allowable level of Political Will (PW) points undermining a primary and vital part of the game. This may not ALWAYS lead to a US win (it sure helps though), but it defiantly takes away from the tension the US player would feel if there was a reason NOT to declare war early. The Designers-Developer repeatedly miss the point of why creating such a "No Brainer" option in a CDG takes some of the "FUN" out of playing….

From the credits the Designers-Developers seem to have relied quite heavily on other Designers and Developers to play test HoM. I can’t help but wonder what the quality and amount of feedback was that they received from these individuals. Maybe they just need to rely more on just plain folks and get more of a common players opinion of their creation?

Another MAJOR failing of the Designers-Developer (and yes GMT too) is the total lack of any method for internet play at release through Vassal or Cyberboard leaving it to "Fans" of the game to make their own. In this day and age and given GMT’s support of internet play this omission is practically unforgiveable! The good news is that with the effort of Gene at GMT and others, the necessary game Vmods and GameBoxes are now in the works. It is hard to understand why today’s Designers-Developer would not use these vital tools for playtesting, not to mention to drive sales, and such out of date paper & pencil testing as must have been used for HoM may be one of the reasons for HoM’s problems.

While Some errata has been supplied and the Designers-Developer frequent the forums, their at times incomplete/off-hand answers to honestly asked and non-hostile questions from confused customers quite often lead to more confusion and more questions. To make matters worse the Designers-Developer seem to take offense to these requests for clarification of their answers and their responses at times have become insulting, included the Deletion of questions/comments and the Threat of banning from the forum those who ask questions they do not like or who do not use the "Proper Tone." This "attitude" on the part of the Designers-Developer has very likely driven many individuals away from the forums and away from HoM! I do know that most of the members of my gaming group (29 weekly regulars) have chosen to pass on HoM.

I had planned to give HoM a 4 BGG rating despite its short comings and because my opponents and I have had some fun playing later games using "House Rules." But given the Designers-Developer post release Attitudes towards GMT’s customers I CANNOT recommend HoM to others and am giving it a 2 rating. Fields of Fire is the only game in my collection that deserves a 1 IMO and HoM is better than FoF. Still I have regulated my copy of HoM to the dust bin of "The Shelf."

UNFORTUNATELY, in the case of HoM the Designers and the Developer have managed to shoot themselves in the foot while at the same time stabbing GMT in the back! yuk
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Dan Dolan
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I don't know about much of what you said. Mike and Bill have done a nice job in following up on anyones questions over on CSW.

I've played the game and it worked out pretty well from what I saw.

I also never understood why people think a company has to put out an electronic version of the game for free. If I was running a company I'd charge for the game in electronic form and those who say they only pbem could go and pay to play or find another game.

But that's probably one of the reasons I don't run a game company.
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Jeff Kinney
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There are few things I dissagree with in this review.

1. It was my opinion from following CSW that if you didn't have the Political Will points available you couldn't declare war as the US player.

2. Mike and Bill have done a very good job of answering questions.

3. It was the David Fox, the forum moderator, that had issues with people becoming insulting and their 'tones'.

4. I'm not sure how you can think it's such a cardinal sin to not have a vassal/cyberbox mod in hand at the time the game is released. Simply play ftf with one of the other 28 regular weekly club members until the modules become available. As it is, both Vassal and Cyberboard mods where suppose to have been submitted for approval by May 29th.

Is the game as good as Twilight Struggle? No

Are the rules perfect? No, there is a learning curve and they could be better.

Does the attitude/support of GMT Gene, Bill and Mike effect my view of the game? Yup, but in a very positive way.

Lastly, I like the map.

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Dan Dolan
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IMO it's a much better game than Twilight Struggle. It seems to be relatively balanced unlike twilight Struggle which is about 70-30 pro-USSR.

But that's a whole different argument for a whole different topic.

HoM is a good game ... and it's got Marines in it.
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Jeff Kinney
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Interesting points, Dan, and I agree HoM is a good game.
 
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Benjamin Kindt
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After receiving my copy I immediately and enthusiastically dove in, hoping to get the game to the table quickly. I quickly discovered the rules were a bit less than fully baked, and a trip to Consimworld confirmed we were essentially still in the midst of a post-release game development phase. After a couple months of trying to follow the meandering Q/A threads there, I've decided to just to put the game on the shelf for six months, then return to see if Living Rules and/or a stable FAQ have been published.

I am a very loyal customer of GMT, but getting snake bit by games like this makes me a bit leery of the whole P500 system...
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Dan Dolan
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I stopped P500 buying a long time ago. I wait until the game comes out and see if I want it. HoM was one I wanted after seeing it. A good topic, attractive components and I don't see a lot of real problems with the game as published.

That being said GMT has not had a very good record with it's initial release quality control. Twilight Struggle's map. SPQR's scenario book and Barbarossa to Berlin's card problems jump right to mind. They do fix these problems but it does cause one to wait and see just how good the initial release is.
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Brian Morris
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Phlegm wrote:
That being said GMT has not had a very good record with it's initial release quality control. Twilight Struggle's map.


They spelled Chile "Chili". Didn't effect my game play much but it did make me hungry.

I do agree though a few times GMT has brought a game out a little before it's ready. I think Halls of Montezuma is a good game and will be a great game once the living rules get settled. Considering how long the game was on the list it has a few more bugs than it should have. However they're not big enough that I think the game has any serious problems.

On the flip side GMT has released a lot of games that have been great games right out of the gate. Unhappy King Charles!, Combat Commander: Europe and The Burning Blue are titles that were excellently developed resulting in few problems when they were released.

Keep in mind that GMT is not the only sinner in this department. Compass Games recent Spartacus is a really good game but will be having more post release rulebook work than it should require.

I think in the end GMT puts out great games and most of their games are well play tested and vetted with few problems upon initial release. They have however sold a few bottles of wine before their time and it only takes a few to get people complaining. The good news is these often can be fixed in living rules but I understand it's annoying when you get that new game you've been waiting a year to get published and then feel you need put it aside and wait for the living rules.

I will give credit though to GMT in that it does not leave a game hanging in the wind. I'm reminded of Hasbro when Betrayal at House on the Hill came out. It had problems and the designer wanted to fix them. Hasbro was afraid people would be discouraged from purchasing the game so they wouldn't let him post errata on the official webpage. This resulted in him having to post on game forums trying to correct things.

GMT doesn't work that way. They and their developers don't just stop when the game hits the printers. They go the extra mile in working on the living rules and other things when extra work after release is required. I agree, there are some problems with Halls of Montezuma. They aren't deal breakers though and will be easily fixed in the living rules.
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Tom Volpe
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As far as availability of on-line play options go I'm just happy that they exist for many games.

However, I do agree with most of Milo's comments.

jakinney wrote:
3. It was the David Fox, the forum moderator, that had issues with people becoming insulting and their 'tones'.


David Fox is one of the designers of Hall of Montezuma. The fact that one of the game's designers has the ability to delete posts from the Halls of Montezuma forum on ConSimWorld is disturbing.

I had two of my posts deleted by David Fox due to insulting and sarcastic comments. The first was a post agreeing with one of the designers comments (he must have taken it as sarcasm).

My other post that Mr. Fox deleted was a comment regarding the attitude of the designers (mainly posts by Mike Welker) implying that the rules for HoM are crystal clear and that some people just were not reading the rules correctly. Telling players that they just need to look at the Quick Start guide and it will clear up all the problems is, in my opinion, a bit insulting. It implies that the rules and set up card are crystal clear and the players with rules issues are just not reading them properly. I just wanted to point this out.

My post was taken as insulting because of my opinion that "the rules for Halls of Montezuma were in need of serious fixing and the designers needed to suck it up and admit it". A bit harsh?...maybe. Grounds for being banned from posting on ConSimWorld?...

David Fox threatened to ban me from posting on the forum for these posts. My comments were not insulting or sarcastic. However, comments by one of the other game designers posting on the HoM forum that accused me of trying to start a flame war were extremely sarcastic and insulting (btw, thanks for eventually deleting your comments Dan) but these were allowed to remain, without deletion or any warning given by Mr. Fox.

The banning issue hasn't made me lose interest in Halls of Montezuma but it has turned me off to ConSimWorld. I do still enjoy the For the People and Empire of the Sun forums. Mark Herman is a class act and responds to critical comments rather than delete them.

I appreciate the quick responses on BGG and CSW by Mike and Bill but they need to understand the player side of the issue. We all have limited gaming funds (especially now with the economy the way it is) and very limited gaming time. When we buy a game we expect it to be a finished product and have a clear rule book. I've spent way too many precious gaming hours trying to figure out how to play HoM. In my opinion the rules and index need considerable fixes to make it playable. Many people on BGG and CSW are just trying to point out what aspects of the game are confusing to them. This should be very helpful for rules revisions and shouldn't be taken as insulting.

I'm a big fan of GMT games but my last two purchases, Fields of Fire and Halls of Montezuma, had many errors in rules, components, player aids, counters and cards. This is unacceptable in my opinion. People need to complain or it will just happen again. These games have turned me off to pre-ordering games. Better to pay a bit more later and be more certain of a quality product. I am pre-ordering Washington's War though. I've been following the development of this game and I'm confident that Mark Herman will produce another high quality game.

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Brian Morris
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Cosmid wrote:
I'm a big fan of GMT games but my last two purchases, Fields of Fire and Halls of Montezuma, had many errors in rules, components, player aids, counters and cards. This is unacceptable in my opinion. People need to complain or it will just happen again. These games have turned me off to pre-ordering games. Better to pay a bit more later and be more certain of a quality product. I am pre-ordering Washington's War though. I've been following the development of this game and I'm confident that Mark Herman will produce another high quality game.


Fields of Fire and Halls of Montezuma both as you say had problems and your points on those problems are valid. On the other hand their recent releases such as Combat Commander: Pacific, Unhappy King Charles! and Pursuit of Glory were really solid games without much need of living rule fixes. I think you had a bit of bad luck in that your two purchases just happened to be two that had problems.

It's sort of like buying a set of golf clubs. You can have a full set but if you got a bad club you'd question your luck. If you got 2 bad clubs you'd question the brand. Doesn't matter if the company replaces them with good clubs, you'll still in your mind question their quality in the future.

I buy GMT games because I like their games. I think their the best wargame publisher in business right now and I will continue to buy from them. At the same time I think they've in the last few years had a few to many games hit the shelves with problems that should have been caught pre-release. Fields of Fire, Halls of Montezuma and Blackbeard all have had to have had to have some fixes made. GMT has been great at making those fixes whether it be providing new counters for Fields of Fire or working hard on coming up with solid living rules for Blackbeard. However even if it's just a couple of games out of a dozen over the course of a year if you are a gamer who purchased those two games you're going to understandably question your next purchase, especially if those are the only two GMT games you own.

So for me when I see threads like this, I like it when people hold GMT's feet to the fire. I like it when people say "Listen, this needed a bit more work" because in the long run it will make GMT a better company because it pushes them to keep their quality control as high as they can. Both GMT and us their customers win in the end that way.
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Randy C
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I am one of those that have decided to leave the game on the shelf for six months or so. I feel some critical rules sections are unclear, and will wait for those smarter than me to work them out.

Hopefully, version 2 of the rules will be out soon, because the topic is very interesting to me and I am a fan of card driven wargames.
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Andy Daglish
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Cosmid wrote:
I'm a big fan of GMT games but my last two purchases, Fields of Fire and Halls of Montezuma, had many errors in rules, components, player aids, counters and cards. This is unacceptable in my opinion. People need to complain or it will just happen again. These games have turned me off to pre-ordering games. Better to pay a bit more later and be more certain of a quality product.


then there's the problem of finding yourself alone, whilst the rest of us have moved onto the next one. GMT publishes games monthly.

Quote:
I am pre-ordering Washington's War though. I've been following the development of this game and I'm confident that Mark Herman will produce another high quality game.


the chance of a bad one here is considerably reduced given that its a revision.

Quote:
Fields of Fire and Halls of Montezuma both as you say had problems and your points on those problems are valid. On the other hand their recent releases such as Combat Commander: Pacific, Unhappy King Charles! and Pursuit of Glory were really solid games without much need of living rule fixes. I think you had a bit of bad luck in that your two purchases just happened to be two that had problems.


the designers of Halls went down farther and more badly with their previous game such that they broke through to previously unexplored depths, but then a GMT CDG on a very interesting topic puts you in public scrutiny of maximum glare. Obviously not all games are going to be wonderful, and novel systems or approaches perhaps deserve a little reticence at pre-order time, but GMT are semi-pro: they will tend to publish what designers send them, that looks good and subsequently makes the P500. I do not think they examine games for design flair because they wouldn't trust themselves not to turn down the next massive seller. This is not entirely their fault.

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It's sort of like buying a set of golf clubs. You can have a full set but if you got a bad club you'd question your luck. If you got 2 bad clubs you'd question the brand. Doesn't matter if the company replaces them with good clubs, you'll still in your mind question their quality in the future.


unless your next three tournament rivals bogied the last hole.

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I buy GMT games because I like their games. I think their the best wargame publisher in business right now


but who else is there? I just took a look down the C-World list.

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and I will continue to buy from them. At the same time I think they've in the last few years had a few to many games hit the shelves with problems that should have been caught pre-release. Fields of Fire, Halls of Montezuma and Blackbeard all have had to have had to have some fixes made. GMT has been great at making those fixes whether it be providing new counters for Fields of Fire or working hard on coming up with solid living rules for Blackbeard.


there were intimations all were going to be non-brilliant. Blackbeard we knew of old: it even got accused of immorality!

Quote:
However even if it's just a couple of games out of a dozen over the course of a year if you are a gamer who purchased those two games you're going to understandably question your next purchase, especially if those are the only two GMT games you own.


I know this guy who goes to surprising lengths to find out everything he can before engaging with a subject, at work or elsewhere, but he's clever enough you wouldn't think he'd have to.

Quote:
So for me when I see threads like this, I like it when people hold GMT's feet to the fire. I like it when people say "Listen, this needed a bit more work" because in the long run it will make GMT a better company because it pushes them to keep their quality control as high as they can. Both GMT and us their customers win in the end that way.


I find the OP's mention of "late testing" interesting. Only good games can be "late tested" well -- and when they are, benefits always seem to accrue.
 
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Rob Doane
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Nemesis30 wrote:
Another MAJOR failing of the Designers-Developer (and yes GMT too) is the total lack of any method for internet play at release through Vassal or Cyberboard leaving it to "Fans" of the game to make their own. In this day and age and given GMT’s support of internet play this omission is practically unforgiveable! The good news is that with the effort of Gene at GMT and others, the necessary game Vmods and GameBoxes are now in the works.


I think this is a common misconception about PBEM aids. Nobody at GMT (or any other company as far as I know) makes VASSAL or Cyberboard sets for their games. Virtually every one of them is produced by fans. In a few rare cases where designers/developers are handy with VASSAL or Cyberboard, they create the modules, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Gene did not have anything to do with the production of the PBEM aids for HoM (which is not to say he isn't tremendously supportive of VASSAL/Cyberboard designers).

I can tell you that I have turned in the VASSAL module to William Cooper so that he can check it over. And I know that Tim Phelps is just about done testing his Cyberboard gamebox. So they will both be out there very soon.
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Ryan Powers
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rfdoane wrote:
Nemesis30 wrote:
Another MAJOR failing of the Designers-Developer (and yes GMT too) is the total lack of any method for internet play at release through Vassal or Cyberboard leaving it to "Fans" of the game to make their own. In this day and age and given GMT’s support of internet play this omission is practically unforgiveable! The good news is that with the effort of Gene at GMT and others, the necessary game Vmods and GameBoxes are now in the works.


I think this is a common misconception about PBEM aids. Nobody at GMT (or any other company as far as I know) makes VASSAL or Cyberboard sets for their games. Virtually every one of them is produced by fans. In a few rare cases where designers/developers are handy with VASSAL or Cyberboard, they create the modules, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Gene did not have anything to do with the production of the PBEM aids for HoM (which is not to say he isn't tremendously supportive of VASSAL/Cyberboard designers).

I can tell you that I have turned in the VASSAL module to William Cooper so that he can check it over. And I know that Tim Phelps is just about done testing his Cyberboard gamebox. So they will both be out there very soon.


As long as the publishers don't actively *oppose* them. I'm happy.
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Joel Toppen
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Both CB and VASSAL are in the works. GMT is the most active game company out there that supports online play of their games. Hang tight. It's coming!
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I really appreciate reviews like this. Have been looking to jump into wargaming and have been looking for the right game. This game had sounded intriguing and was on my "interested" list. But when I see all the rule controversies and now learn the designers are being rude to people asking questions about the rules that makes the game an automatic no buy for me. Customer service is one of the top issues I consider when buying a product - whatever it may be. Bad customer service and I will move on to other companies quickly. That is one of the great things of living in a consumer based country, plenty of freedom of choice.
 
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quinnox wrote:
Customer service is one of the top issues I consider when buying a product - whatever it may be. Bad customer service and I will move on to other companies quickly. That is one of the great things of living in a consumer based country, plenty of freedom of choice.


As far as customer service goes I think GMT is one of the best in that department.

When I bought Battle Line and a few cards were bent they sent me out a new deck (received it a few days after I talked to them).

I just received the new counter sheet for Fields of Fire (they mailed it out the same day I talked to them).

There have been a few problems with recent games but I'm still a huge GMT fan and think they are publishing some of the best games around.



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Cosmid wrote:

As far as customer service goes I think GMT is one of the best in that department.

When I bought Battle Line and a few cards were bent they sent me out a new deck (received it a few days after I talked to them).

I just received the new counter sheet for Fields of Fire (they mailed it out the same day I talked to them).

There have been a few problems with recent games but I'm still a huge GMT fan and think they are publishing some of the best games around.





Oh, I will still look at GMT games in the future. I meant that I would not buy this particular game.
 
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quinnox wrote:
I really appreciate reviews like this. Have been looking to jump into wargaming and have been looking for the right game. This game had sounded intriguing and was on my "interested" list. But when I see all the rule controversies and now learn the designers are being rude to people asking questions about the rules that makes the game an automatic no buy for me. Customer service is one of the top issues I consider when buying a product - whatever it may be. Bad customer service and I will move on to other companies quickly. That is one of the great things of living in a consumer based country, plenty of freedom of choice.


I think that you should be very wary of the sort of criticism in this review. Most of it isn't constructive or relevant to the game itself and there are few concrete examples of the apparent "holes and omissions" and just exactly how "confusion reigns". Most of the review is about the lack of a VASSAL / Cyberboard version and the conduct of the designer(s) and developer(s), which to me is not a review of the game.

I've noticed that some CDGs just seem to get picked on for no readily apparent reason, or at least for no reason(s) that I believe can't be applied to the vast majority of them. As a keen player of CDGs my main criticism would be that I have found very few of them that have rulebooks that are as clear, well-written and well laid out as they could be. However, this doesn't make the games unplayable, just a little more difficult to learn than they should be.

Is The Halls of Montezuma free of rules problems? No. Are the rules problems game breakers? No. Should you buy the game? It's up to you, but take every review with a pinch of salt. We've probably all bought games that sucked, but had great reviews and vice-versa.

Anyway, I hope you find a game that finally tempts you into wargaming.

Cheers,

Matt
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Charles F.
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Nemesis30 wrote:

Balance also seems to have suffered from lack of late testing. One example allows the US player to declare War early (turn 2) suffering little to no penalty to its victory requirements due to the maximum allowable level of Political Will (PW) points undermining a primary and vital part of the game. This may not ALWAYS lead to a US win (it sure helps though), but it defiantly takes away from the tension the US player would feel if there was a reason NOT to declare war early. The Designers-Developer repeatedly miss the point of why creating such a "No Brainer" option in a CDG takes some of the "FUN" out of playing….


This worries me. Do others who've played the game share this opinion?

Quote:

From the credits the Designers-Developers seem to have relied quite heavily on other Designers and Developers to play test HoM. I can’t help but wonder what the quality and amount of feedback was that they received from these individuals. Maybe they just need to rely more on just plain folks and get more of a common players opinion of their creation?


Indeed. You need to cast a wide net. That's one reason why HIS turned out so well. And featured little in the way of errata, iirc.

Quote:

Another MAJOR failing of the Designers-Developer (and yes GMT too) is the total lack of any method for internet play at release through Vassal or Cyberboard leaving it to "Fans" of the game to make their own. In this day and age and given GMT’s support of internet play this omission is practically unforgiveable!


I agree that they'd have done well tapping a bigger playtest group a with Vassal module. But I don't think internet support needs to be in place when the game is released. Give the kind souls who do them some time. It's all voluntary work.
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Rob Doane
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Charles,

Most of his concerns have been addressed. The problem with the US being able to declare war in the early turns with no penalty was fixed in the errata. Concerning Cyberboard and VASSAL, both the gamebox and module have been available since last summer. In fact, if I recall they were both posted within about a month of the game's release. As you point out, it's all volunteer work and I think a month is pretty darn good considering all the games out there that aren't available on either platform, or only on one. I don't think he understood that it's almost always players, not the game companies, that generate the PBEM tools.
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Charles F.
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Rob, thanks for your note. I take it I should definitely print out the living rules rather than relying on the one coming with the game plus errata?

What about the no-downside-to-early-DOWs matter? It's mentioned by several people in the game comments and, if they're right, does indeed appear broken.
 
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Rob Doane
United States
Walpole
MA
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That's one of the things that was fixed in the errata. Now the US cannot declare war if the PW level is too high to pay the full cost.

The most recent errata and clarifications are in the header of the HoM folder on CSW. It looks like the document in the files section here isn't entirely up to date.
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