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Subject: BGG Wargame Designer of the Month: Alan Emrich rss

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Hunga Dunga
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This month's BGG Wargame Designer Of The Month is Alan Emrich, who has been involved in almost every aspect of gaming: from founding gaming conventions to writing computer game strategy guides, to reviewing board and computer games, designing board and computer games, teaching game design, and even publishing games.

Mr. Emrich won the 1981 Charles S. Roberts Best Pre-Twentieth Century Game Award for A House Divided. In 1999, Decision Games published Mr. Emrich's Totaler Krieg, arguably the iconic game of WWII multi-front military and political conflict. All told, he has designed about a couple of dozen wargames.

In 2007, Mr. Emrich founded Victory Point Games, a desktop publishing concern that encourages new designers to publish and distribute their games.


Mr. Emrich has graciously agreed to meet us at Ruby's for some sliders, a malted shake, and maybe a Coors or two.

Please join me in giving Mr. Emrich a warm, BGG-Wargame-Subdomain welcome!
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Bill Lawson
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Another great choice! Keep up the good work Hunga!
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Alan, I blame you for everything!

If you hadn't started Strategicon, I wouldn't be going to three conventions a year.

If you hadn't launched Victory Point Games, my microgame collection wouldn't be growing again (adding to my stack of Steve Jackson Games' pocketboxes).

YOU!

Thanks for making hobby much more enjoyable for me!

EDIT: Miss you and Nick Cascone at the game auctions.

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suPUR DUEper
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Hey Alan,

Loved TK and eagerly awaiting the publication of TK2 and Dai Senso.

TK does a great job of using some "design for effect" principles to streamline the naval and air subsystems. The game delivers a general feel for the the effects of those weapons without all the overhead you get in other large ETO games. I wonder if you could say a few words on how you design and develop such elements. I am most curious as to how you personally strike the right balance between simulation and design for effect.

I would also love to know how the political engine in TK evolved.
Most WWII ETO games have the Axis player setting the precise pace and tone of the early war. In TK the Axis player sets the general pace and flow but the system also often pulls the players in directions they otherwise would not go. Never enough to be wild fantasy but usually different enough to keep the players hopping.

Regards,

Ted
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Bob
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Another great selection! thumbsup

I'm a recent fan of VPG games and plan to order a few more games tomorrow during the 4th of July discount.

So Alan, which VPG game is your favorite and why?

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Eric Lai
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Ooooo! There is a 4th of July discount! And I am not even American! Viva le revolution!

Alan! Thanks for the great games! My favorite is Totaler Krieg and I will be picking up both the new version and Dai Senso too. Also thanks for all them VPG games too.

Fanboy from Hong Kong
Eric
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Alan Emrich
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I wonder if you could say a few words on how you design and develop such elements. I am most curious as to how you personally strike the right balance between simulation and design for effect.

I would also love to know how the political engine in TK evolved.


First, you listen to the designer, Steve Kosakowski. The man's a genius and I would be very happy to work with him again if he ever wants to have another one of his designs published.

To me, these are GAMES first, using Simulation Technique. Sorry, some people may like broccoli-flavored ice cream, but we're in the ice cream business here, not the vegetable business. But because we share a great reverence for history, we want to get those factors as right as possible, so we look for fidelity to history that is easy to grasp and manage for the players.

There's two broad was to get an EFFECT out of an outcome in a game -- design all of the detailed causes and make the player faithfully work them all to reach that effect (i.e., "design for cause"), or simplify those causes into the abstract (e.g., simply rolling on a table to resolve a complex, multi-day naval engagement) and get the player "straight to the boom" without all that tedious mucking about (i.e., "design for effect").

Some games required detail cause to be simulated (e.g., a role-playing game's combat system -- everyone loves every weapon strike, spell and wound accounted for), but the rule of thumb is this: The Smaller the Scale, the more design for cause you tend to use; The Larger the Scale, the more design for effect you tend to use. Imagine a huge starfleet battle with hundreds of ships fighting over a world where a planetary invasion is taking place -- you really don't want that on a detailed each-ship-raising-its-shields-and-firing-its-weapons-and-counting-crew-casualties-every-turn system, do you? It would take you a lifetime to simulation 5 minutes of that battle! Better to say, "My fleet's smaller than yours, so that a -1 DRM, but I have way better tech for a +2; okay, let's roll off!"

Alan Emrich
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Which do you enjoy more, teaching or game design?
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Fine choice, HD!

Alan,

I know you mostly as publisher and developer of a bunch of my favorite games. It is partly due to VPG that I am able to play war games! Thanks for that.

What I admire most in the business model of Victory Point Games is the way you integrate a (war) game publishing company with a place for your students to explore game design in all its aspects "in real life"!

I have no questions for you for the moment, but beg you to be welcome and enjoy your month!
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thumbsup to Alan Emrich and mb

The letters VP might stand for Vigorously Preserving our beloved wargame hobby.
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Alan Emrich
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I would also love to know how the political engine in TK evolved.

That came from the design philosophy that WW2 was "the war that nobody predicted correctly." People were shocked to see the Nazi-Soviet Pact, France falling, England continuing the fight, etc. We took the point of view of the war's contemporaries and tried to capture that "what the hell?" element with the game's events engine.

The pre-war "random campaign game generator," however, that was pure Emrich in design and something that I had always wanted to do.

Alan Emrich
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Alan Emrich
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So Alan, which VPG game is your favorite and why?

The one I played the most while working on it was THE BARBAROSSA CAMPAIGN. Very compelling solitaire gameplay for this old wargamer.

The one I play the most now is STAR BORDERS: HUMANITY. That game really hits my sweet spot, and I love teaching it to new players.

Oh, and I have to admit, I fell so in love with our upcoming ASSAULT ON GALACTUS PRIME deck building game that I actually took over the development from another developer! It's THAT fun!!

Alan Emrich
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Alan Emrich
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Which do you enjoy more, teaching or game design?

Well, obviously, they're both very satisfying in completely different ways, but the world is a little better place if I do well at both jobs.

I'm more of a game developer than a game designer of necessity; I have no time to really design with so many other people's games to develop. VPG really needs about two more wargame developers to really help me out! That could free up some "design" time for me to actually cook up some of the games that I would like to design. Although there is more than a little design work to do on the developer's side of things, so it's not like I never get to make any design decisions; I just don't get to start with a blank canvass. All of the designers I work with seem to feel I've added something neat to their game ideas, though, and that is appreciated and keeps me going.

Teaching is a miracle. You can see why Socrates, Jesus, Buddah, and Sun-Tzu were all teachers -- there's just SO MUCH riding on that job! The kids are amazing and I'm twice blessed that they want to learn what I know about history, philosophy and game making. I have little love for administration, but all the love in the world for those great students of mine.

Alan Emrich
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Alan Emrich
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The letters VP might stand for Vigorously Preserving our beloved wargame hobby.

I'm a True Believer in our gaming hobby and super-patriotic about how important games are to people and humanity. Something that is fun, social, makes you think, has creativity ascribed to it from inception through the last turn of play... that's among the best of what civilized people can do!

Why we haven't passed on gaming knowledge as we have history or science for human history is a wonder to me. Once Jim Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen began discussing game design in their forum at SPI back in the 1970s, I couldn't learn enough about it. At last, our view of game design is so much better now because we can stand on the shoulders of giants!

Alan Emrich
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Sam H
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Great choice Hunga!

Alan,

I'm a big fan of Victory Point Games and the Battleson series. Simple, yet far from simplistic, games that I can explain in 5 minutes to non-wargamers, and play over lunch break at work! What's not to love.

Alan Emrich wrote:
That could free up some "design" time for me to actually cook up some of the games that I would like to design.


what would those be? Any favorite eras or scales?

And thanks for the great work with VPG!
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what would those be? Any favorite eras or scales?

The games I would like to design are:

STRIKE FORCE TWO: PANZERS OVER POLAND (essentially, I have this BattlessonTM game all but done, design wise)

NIXON REX: This States of SiegeTM game on the fall of the Nixon Whitehouse was designed by Joe Miranda, but like ZULUS ON THE RAMPARTS!, Joe's left me a lot to do so that I will, in effect, be "co-designing" this one too. Joe has absolutely the most amazing mind for game design and history. I'm such a geek! I'm like a total Joe Miranda fanboy whenever we get together to discuss games! :)

CROWN OF STARS: My own contribution to the States of SiegeTM series where you play the Galactic Emperor dealing with problems from the vastness of space to the Imperial court and intrigue. Lots of what I learned designing MASTER OF ORION III will be boiled down into this one.

Alan Emrich
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Steve Carey
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Alan, have you ever heard of a game called Hero of Weehawken?

Seriously, the past 3.5 years in this hobby have been just amazing for me, mostly thanks to Alan and VPG who has become the lifeblood of the hobby for me (I currently own about 50 VPG games - expansions included - and have played and very much enjoyed the vast majority of them).

I have gone from customer, to proofreader, to playtester, to developer, to designer, and finally to what I am most proud of: friend.

Alan, this is for you:

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Bill Gates
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I particularly enjoyed your stint with Computer Gaming World (RIP), and there was a tremendous void after you left. What the heck happened with Master of Orion III, anyway? Didn't you leave the project before its release?
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Alan gave me the chance to design and publish my first (of many) game, in 2008. Without him, and VPG ,I would have never started this endeavour. He is one of the best Game Developers in the business. I learned so much from him.

Kudos to you, sir!

BTW, how do you find the time to do it all???
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I particularly enjoyed your stint with Computer Gaming World (RIP), and there was a tremendous void after you left. What the heck happened with Master of Orion III, anyway? Didn't you leave the project before its release?

Those were grand times at COMPUTER GAMING WORLD MAGAZINE, where VPG Operations Director Terry Coleman also put in a stint by the way. Back when I started there, we literally took "screen shots" with a slow-shutter camera and got the developed at the 1-hour photo place! :)

As for MASTER OF ORION III, allow me to leave that in the "unresolved mysteries" pile.

Best,

Alan Emrich
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Do you ever see VPG going to a boxed game format for something extra special (like The World Will Hold its Breath)?

Also, there are a lot of non-US participants here on BGG - could you briefly discuss how foreign markets relate to VPG?
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congrats Alan!!!!!
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Thanks Alan (and to Stan Kos).
TK! is the best design on my shelf, mainly because of the amazing streamlining of complex matters. Exactly the same that now makes the VPG games so attractive, such as Carls NR! designs.
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Carl Paradis
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RLarsen wrote:
Thanks Alan (and to Stan Kos).
TK! is the best design on my shelf, mainly because of the amazing streamlining of complex matters. Exactly the same that now makes the VPG games so attractive, such as Carls NR! designs.


Totaler Krieg is sooooo damn good. Buy this game!
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Yes, I can wait to try Totaler Krieg: Axis Empire...Soon!
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