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Subject: Thoughts on VPG - Less is More rss

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David Kennedy
United States
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jholen wrote:
Hi David,

I just had a quick question for you about VPG Games. I've seen you've done a number of session reports and reviews, especially for Soviet Dawn - it's clear you're a big supporter of the game as I believe somewhere I read you've logged 750+ plays (correct me if I'm wrong).

Anyways, I'm just wondering what your opinions are on the games as I'm considering on picking up some more SoS games having played Ottoman Sunset and Toe-to-Toe.

Thanks,
Jonathan


Sorry for the delay. I kept thinking I'd write up some brilliant reply. Alas, been too busy to get around to it. Here goes.

Yeah, I have played Soviet Dawn an awful lot. Since I've picked up WMTtE, I've focused on that game. But, I still love SD. I actually came up with some variant rules which I think elevate the game (with all modesty) to perfection. I wrote up my 'complaints' in a post. I actually sent my rules to the VPG braintrust a while back. However, they are so ridiculously busy with their breakneck publishing schedule, I fear they won't get around to it any time soon. At the time, Alan said he wanted to give my variant rules the "full treatment". If you're interested, I can shoot you a copy.

I have a very high opinion about Victory Point Games. At this stage of my very busy life, their scale and time to play is perfect, particularly the States of Siege series. The ability to take the game with me and play it when I have a spare 30 minutes is awesome. I picked up Israeli Independence when I learned there were only five pieces! From there, I got the SoS games Soviet Dawn and We Must Tell the Emperor. I also picked up The Barbarossa Campaign and No Retreat!. (Oh, yeah, I have Strike Force One.) I still haven't played TBC (or even punched out the counters) because I don't have the time. I liked NR and will pick up the deluxe version when it is published. I'd buy more games, but I really don't have time for them; probably The Lost Cause and Ottoman's Sunset. (Need set aside some money for that.) Not because I will play them. But, because I helped out a teeny bit with some playtesting.

Alan Emrich, the founder of the company, is truly the heart of the place. My favorite game is his opus Totaler Krieg! It is a strategic WWII game and a masterpiece of game design. It is a massive game with over 500 pieces, large rule book and accompanying designer notes booklet. However, despite its obvious girth, the game is truly elegant and a joy to play. Even when the game is at full throttle with Europe filled with action on all fronts, it is very manageable and highly enjoyable. Key to the game is design for effect. So the rules for air, naval, politics and economics are highly abstracted. The focus is on the military action on the ground. However, the presence of these factors is keenly felt. My basic observation is that everything feels 'just right'.

There is also a clear sense of chaos. Like some horror movie, stuff just happens with events suddenly lurching into the historic narrative. While the player has a great deal of control over the strategic and tactical aspects of the game, like history, you can be blindsided by events. The key is you have to adjust.

I also love how the game doesn't turn on a single die roll or event. You will lose the game because a succession of defeats. Indeed, at times, events will see you scrambling on the defensive to simply survive. But, no matter how desparate things are, you must think offensively. It is a delicious mix.

The reason I wax poetic about this game is because it's design ethos informs VPG's. Historically, the drift of wargame design has tended to evolve (or devolve if you will) towards 'kitchen sink' design. The designer seeks to include more subsystems to accomodate more detail. Totaler Krieg! was informed by an ethos of less is more. The designer and developer kept asking what can be removed or abstracted to keep things moving along and keep the player focused on the fun decision-making stuff. VPG is end-result of this intellectual process. Less is more. So you get small footprint games which are a quick blast to play, yet they get you thinking. That is perfect for me and my very busy life.

I'd also point out how love is core to the game company. From Alan on down, the people involved love games, they love gaming and they love gamers. Everything is a labor of love. It really shows. Why do you think I'm writing you this note? Why do you think I share so much here on The Geek. It is corny to say it. But, I'm dead serious -- love is crucial to understanding VPG.

Anyways, I have to get back to work.
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Lawrence Hung
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Wan Chai
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In other words, VPG games have gone through the traditional "playtest" stage during the game design process seriously and meticulously. Scrutinize, scrutinize and scrutinize....
 
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