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Subject: BGG Wargame Designer of the Month: Harry Rowland rss

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Hunga Dunga
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This month's BGG Wargame Designer Of The Month is Harry Rowland. He is best known for designing World in Flames, the gold standard for complete WWII monster games, which won the 1985 Charles S. Roberts Best Twentieth Century Game Award.

Mr. Rowland designed his first wargame in 1971, when he was only 13 years old. That game, Empires in Arms, was published in 1983 by ADG. Since then he has designed World in Flames, Days of Decision, Patton in Flames, America in Flames, 7 Ages, and approximately 40+ WiF kits. He has also edited several WiF magazines.

Mr. Rowland has also developed a couple of non-wargames: Rub Out and World Cup Football.

He is currently working on World in Flames: The Collector’s Edition, Khaki in Flames, three 7 Ages expansions (Classical, modern and religious) and 7 Ages: The Computer Game. Mr. Rowland is also helping edit Jack Greene’s latest book, Norway: Hitler Strikes North.



Mr. Rowland agreed to chat with us over some Margaret River Chardonnay spritzers and egg and lettuce sandwiches.

Please join me in giving Mr. Rowland a warm, BGG-Wargame-Subdomain welcome!
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Benny
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Nice choice!

I don't own World in Flames but I am very interested in it. It seems about once a week or so, somebody asks about all the different iterations of the game. With that in mind...

Mr. Rowland, what do you think of all the different versions and evolutions of World in Flames? Do you think the game will ever be finished, or is the system such that it just begs for little tweaks here and there to suit the user? Finally, if you were to suggest a version to buy right now, what would it be?

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us and answer our questions.
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Hi Mr. Rowland,

I have (easily) spent more time playing WiF than any other game in my collection. Some of my best gaming moments and stories are wrapped up in that game. Thank you very much for that gift.

I wonder if you could give us some insight as to how Wif came to be. What inspired you? What were some of the challenges in desgining the game? What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome? What was most gratifying about the project?

Thanks in advance!

Warm regards-

Ted
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Harry who?
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Wendell
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Hungadunga wrote:

Mr. Rowland agreed to chat with us over some Margaret River Chardonnay spritzers and egg and lettuce sandwiches.


Wrong end of Australia, mate, I reckon Harry'll prefer a XXXX beer and a meat pie!
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I've got two WIF games, I think the 4th and the Final Editions. To be honest, it's been so long since it's hit the table I can't recall all the differences between the 4th, 5th and Final Editions. I do know that back when time was plentiful and commitments fewer, the game was an out and out blast to play.

I never really bought into all the "X In Flames" expansions, as I thought the base game had enough to offer as is.

While I know it's all against tradition, and I know that editions and related games that will undoubtedly offer more of everything for the hardcore WIF fans to enjoy are in the works, I'm wondering if Mr. Rowland has ever considered a game that went the other way...a simpler global WWII game, designed to "hook" those who might be too intimidated by the whole enchilada to give it a try?

Great choice for WDOTM!
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Harry Rowland
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Hello chaps and chappesses,

this is a great honour. Good to see there are still some wiffers around.

regards
harry
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Hungadunga wrote:
Mr. Rowland agreed to chat with us over some Margaret River Chardonnay spritzers and egg and lettuce sandwiches.


By the time I get my game published, and Hunga gets to me, I'm fearing dinner with him will be reduced to chili dogs and a bottle of Night Train.

Looking forward to reading this month's thread.
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TedW wrote:
Hi Mr. Rowland,

I have (easily) spent more time playing WiF than any other game in my collection. Some of my best gaming moments and stories are wrapped up in that game. Thank you very much for that gift.

I wonder if you could give us some insight as to how Wif came to be. What inspired you? What were some of the challenges in desgining the game? What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome? What was most gratifying about the project?

Thanks in advance!

Warm regards-

Ted


Gidday Ted,

I initially designed Empires in Arms when I was 13 without any expectation it would ever be published. Then when I moved to Canberra I took down the prototype and left it to moulder in my games cupboard. Our gaming group were looking for something to play, and the guys (being Napoleonic nuts) wanted to give it a go. I said it was rubbish and it was rubbish, but with the group's help (particularly Greg's in the design department and Michael's in the maps department) a couple of years later we pooled our limited resources and released it in 1983.

It sold really well (don't worry I am very vaguely getting to the point of your question) and we licenced it to Avalon Hill so decided we wanted to bring out another game. My favourite period is WWII and my favourite scale is strategic games, so we decided the second game should be a strategic WWII game. I had always enjoyed Third Reich and Drang Nach Osten but wanted something global in scale, something not available at the time (apart from some pretty small efforts like Global war).

It took us two years to design and develop the first edition (which was released in 1985). Most of the design work wasn't too hard except for the naval combat system which was one of those eureka moments when I was up at Noosa on holidays. The idea was to try to integrate naval, air and land into one coherent system and it seemed to work pretty well (given 25 years of continuous tweaking).

We offered it to Avalon Hill in 1985 but luckily for us they said no (as they were about to bring out their version of EIA and thought it was too much to put on their plate). Tom Shaw later told me he thought it the biggest mistake of his career, but it was probably for the best all round as they would have no doubt brought out the first edition and then moved on in which case it would be more a curiosity now and certainly unlikely to be played by too many people 25 years later.

We too would have stopped development ourselves except for the phenomenal success of Planes in Flames which sold 23,000 copies (and counting) and proved to us that the game had a future.

Which hopefully, with the Collector's edition, it still does.

regards
harry
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usrlocal wrote:
Mr. Rowland - As someone who's genuinely interested in jumping into the WiF/DoD universe, can you please elaborate on the upcoming Collector's Edition of the game? Should I wait for that? (I guess this kinda echoes Benjro's question)

Also, are there any plans for a Days of Decision 4?




There are changes to the maps, counters and rules. The maps are trying to incorporate FA III borders but we are having some issues with not making it too clashing or confusing between the two wars (and the changes between the wars already included).We also have to integrate the factories from both periods which may mean in some cases a third colour for some factories, those that were there in WWII but not WWI. This may not be necessary though as it may be posible to incorporate that change by just changing the PMs in FA III.

Next, in regards to the counters the major change is the global switch to CW units to Khaki so we can read the little buggers at last. I'm also putting things in like a little coloured dot on the back of every ship that starts 1939 on the map, another colour if it starts in the construction pool, a third colour if it starts in the repair pool and a fourth if it is on the spiral. No more hunting through a thousand US and CW ships to set up your forces. it only applies to 1939 but that will cover most games.

Other changes to the counters are small changes like changing some dates on units so that they can turn up in 1939 and stop all those nefarious invasions of Portugal and Bulgaria (I'm looking at you CW and Russia!). I am also making some changes to lower the movement factor of some HQs and possibly the surface combat factors of some subs.

I'm also removing the units that you only use in DoD (e.g. Spanish Republicans, Czechs, Austrians etc, you'll get extra countersheets in DoD so that you can incorporate them when you buy DOD) thus giving us more units we can add to the Classic game, such as the extra corps and HQs currently contained on PoliF and MiF (e.g. late war French and Italian, Guderian, Hodges, Chemaychev, Russian mil, SS Cav etc).

So many changes, but if you already have all the deluxe units and are happy to check out the small point type on the back of the counters (that's the other thing I'm doing, wherever possible increasing the text size on the counters for my eyes if no one else's) you certainly don't need to rebuy the whole game.

The biggest change is the rules which are going to full colour, lots of pretty graphics and pictures and lots of clarifications, simplification and reorganisation (e.g. saving oil is in final reorg before the production rules, wtf is that all about?). All the changes from the FAQ have been included, some optional rules eliminated and some made standard and some new ones included. The total is now only 60 optional rules (rather than the current 76) and this includes many of those incorporated from the millenium annual. The Index has also been dramatically revised and updated to include all the new changes and much more cross referencing and definitions to make things as easy to find and clear as possible.

We are currently doing extensive testing and its looking more like mid next year before we see it released as for this edition we are going to get it RIGHT (or as right as possible) rather than quick and we will take as long as it takes to do that. (My nirvana, no more rule questions)

This may well be the final version forever and we want to make it as good as we possibly can so at last we will truly have the collector's edition of World in Flames. The rules and charts themselves will be available for free download and as they are fully compatible with both the collector's edition and wif final edition, all our customers who have so generously supported us over the years won't need to throw anything out or pay another penny to play the collector's edition.

Beforehand, Khaki in Flames is coming out with all the CW units from all (current) WiF kits in Khaki. It will be fully compatible with both WiF Final and WiF Collector's edition (e.g. it too will have the little coloured dots) and all the other kits. It consists of 6 countersheets which means you can toss out all your old CW counters and fully appreciate their fabulous factors again. It should be out late this year or early next (the only thing holding it up is the playtesting for WiF gold so that any changes to it are also applied to Khaki in Flames).

We are unlikely to bring out a DoD IV but may well bring out an updated rulebook if the changes in WiF require comparable changes in DOD.

regards
harry
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Bloodybucket wrote:
I've got two WIF games, I think the 4th and the Final Editions. To be honest, it's been so long since it's hit the table I can't recall all the differences between the 4th, 5th and Final Editions. I do know that back when time was plentiful and commitments fewer, the game was an out and out blast to play.

I never really bought into all the "X In Flames" expansions, as I thought the base game had enough to offer as is.

While I know it's all against tradition, and I know that editions and related games that will undoubtedly offer more of everything for the hardcore WIF fans to enjoy are in the works, I'm wondering if Mr. Rowland has ever considered a game that went the other way...a simpler global WWII game, designed to "hook" those who might be too intimidated by the whole enchilada to give it a try?

Great choice for WDOTM!


Funny you should mention that Dan, Dave Lelacheur has designed WiF Blitz. 1 map and only a few hundred counters it is WIF playable within a lifetime. For further info check out our website (www.a-d-g.com.au).

regards
harry
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Benjro wrote:
Nice choice!

I don't own World in Flames but I am very interested in it. It seems about once a week or so, somebody asks about all the different iterations of the game. With that in mind...

Mr. Rowland, what do you think of all the different versions and evolutions of World in Flames? Do you think the game will ever be finished, or is the system such that it just begs for little tweaks here and there to suit the user? Finally, if you were to suggest a version to buy right now, what would it be?

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us and answer our questions.


No worries Benjro. No doubt WiF will finish sometime and perhaps in a hundred years or so the last copy will be mouldering in a games museum somewhere (wargame, circa 2000). But it still has a bit of a ways to go yet (Khaki in Flames, WiF Blitz, WiF master, WiF computer and WiF the collector's edition).

Like many of you I prefer simple these days so the collector's edition we are trying to streamline, simplify and make the rules more consistent with less exceptions. My current favourite edition is the final edition as it has incorporated much of the entire wif canon in one rulebook, but if you have seen Patrice's humungous OAQ (occasionally asked questions) containing over 600 queries, the rules for the final edition leave a lot to be desired. My aim with the collector's edition is to make it completely errata free. Although this would be nirvana and almost unachievable, in testing so far it has reduced questions by about 98-99%. Its that last 2% that is the killer.

The basic problem of course is that when you have n rules, you don't have n rules problems, you have n squared rules problem, and with 60+ pages of rules n squared runs into the millions of potential rule conflicts.

There is also a fundamental difference between how eurogames are designed as opposed to wargames. In a eurogame, if its two ideas its two games. Furthermore in a eurogame, the systems are designed first then the designer thinks "what sort of genre deos this game suit. a racing game, stock market game, adventure game or wargame (or whatever)?". Wargame design on the other hand starts with the question "What period and scale is this game about?" then designs the systems around the period. This dichotomy makes eurogames purer and more consistent in terms of system but does tend to sacrifice replayability. A good wargame on the other hand tends to have a lot of replayability but suffers in terms of consistency, coherent systems and purity. Its not saying one is good and one is bad, it just leads to a different gaming experience.

regards
harry
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I own both the 5th Edition and the latest Complete Edition. Somehow I like the 5th Edition (w/o the expansions) better. I feel that the later versions introduced too much complexity without enhancing the gaming experience. The 5th Edition for me was the right balance between complexity and play-ability. Doubling the size of the map didn't help either. Introducing a version with division level counters and bigger maps seem too excessive IMHO.

What is your motivation for moving towards more complexity and detail? Do you consider the newest iteration of WiF a refinement of the overall design and play-ability?
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Thank you HD, Welcome Mr. Rowland,

I must say that apart some old Napoleonics and OCS, WiF is the only wargame who created me some real nightmares when I played it the first time but one of the few that really challenged my mind at the top level.

Thanks again for the HUGE amount of hours of tense playing Mr. Rowland!!

Sincerly

Filippo.


Edit: P.s.: May I tempt You with a Brunello di Montalcino??
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JonasK wrote:
I own both the 5th Edition and the latest Complete Edition. Somehow I like the 5th Edition (w/o the expansions) better. I feel that the later versions introduced too much complexity without enhancing the gaming experience. The 5th Edition for me was the right balance between complexity and play-ability. Doubling the size of the map didn't help either. Introducing a version with division level counters and bigger maps seem too excessive IMHO.

What is your motivation for moving towards more complexity and detail? Do you consider the newest iteration of WiF a refinement of the overall design and play-ability?


Well the final edition outsold the 5th edition by 2:1 (20,000+ vs 10,000) although admittedly over a longer time period (15 years to 5). The more immediate problem for 5th edition was that Planes in Flames, Ships in Flames, Asia Aflame and Africa Aflame were all introduced after 5th edition and therefore weren't incorporated within the rules. This meant anyone playing with these kits you needed to consult 5 rule books rather than 1. WiF final integrated all these rulebooks into one, hopefully reducing contradictions and uncertainties at the same time.

WiF Final classic rules are actually shorter than WiF5, its only if you add all the bells and whistles that you get the greater complexity. The point of wif final is that you pick and choose which options you want to play (if any) so you decide the ultimate complexity of the suite of rules you play with. But admittedly if you were to pick up the WiF Final rulebook you can easily glaze over with everything therein. But we recommend you start easy and only add options to taste.

The collector's edition though tries to clarify, simplify and streamline all the rules to make them easier to comprehend and assimilate. The overall rule length is longer but this is due to the incorporation of the more recent kits and having far more examples, The actual basic game rules themselves are shorter and hopefully easier to play.

regards
harry
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Steve Trauth
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wifwendell wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:

Mr. Rowland agreed to chat with us over some Margaret River Chardonnay spritzers and egg and lettuce sandwiches.


Wrong end of Australia, mate, I reckon Harry'll prefer a XXXX beer and a meat pie!



Agreed on the FourEx (can't blame the man) and a Banana Pie (bent of course)...



Which leads me to the question, how did you fare during the Toowoomba flood?

For those that might not be familiar with Toowoomba- the place literally sits on an escarpment -and frankly it shocked me (we'd been to this coffee club a few years before that had gotten hit pretty badly ...)
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southern_cross_116 wrote:
Which leads me to the question, how did you fare during the Toowoomba flood?

For those that might not be familiar with Toowoomba- the place literally sits on an escarpment -and frankly it shocked me (we'd been to this coffee club a few years before that had gotten hit pretty badly ...)


Well being at the top of a mountain, getting a 9 metre flood in less than an hour was a bit of a shock I can tell you. My mother's house was OK but my uncle's got flooded and he's not even in the bowl of Toowoomba (its an extinct volcano), he lives on the crest and yet still got 20 cm throughout the ground floor.

regards
harry
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OK that's very weird. I finally sign up to BGG and almost immediately the designer of my favourite game of all time is honoured. How's that work?

Anyway, just to say thanks Harry for the game that has given me and my long suffering gaming chums more entertainment than any other. Next year is our 20th anniversary playing WiF and I'm hoping we'll be able to play with the Khaki in Flames counters. Particularly as I think it will be my turn to mess up the defence of the empire again - at the end of a long days drinking, those ships are a bugger to read. The new and improved rules set would also be a boon although I doubt it will stop us getting them wrong.

Cheers chief!
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nailsworthnobby wrote:
... I finally sign up to BGG ...


Welcome Simon on the Biggest Game Galaxy!

F.
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I've always liked WIF and even played the campaign once, though we didn't finish. I'm hankering to play again, my buddy still has it set up on the wall with a cork board and pins for the counters.

The collector's edition sounds like a good idea. Will it come with the khaki Commonwealth counters?

I'm also looking forward to checking out WIF Blitz.

Harry, question for you. Do you think the Axis really had any chance to win the war militarily?
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Okay, let me be unique and toss out a non-WiF question!

How is the progress going towards releasing Battle for Britain? It's always been one of my favorite campaigns of the war, and I'd be interested in seeing a new treatment on the subject.
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Mr. Rowland: About 7 Ages. 3 expansions for 7 ages? My questions all relate to this game. I really really want to like it, I bought my copy soon after playing it for the first time, and I have played it 4 or 5 times since then.
Have you come up with a way to speed up play? The big slow down is often the picking of you units, followed closely by which Empire do I choose and then the rereading of the rules. Has any improvement been done to combat ( my group feels it should be less confusing and quicker).
It is a game we try to play once or twice a year as everyone who has played it liked the feel of the game, The only complaint is the slowness with which play proceeds.
Great Game, keep up the good work.

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Fantastic choice for designer of the month. I'd also echo that I have probably spent my most gaming time with EiA and WiF/Days of Dis vs. any other wargame; and had some of my fondest gaming experiences. EiA set me off on being a small library of books about the Napoleonic wars. I still think EiA is the best multiplayer wargame ever.

Any plans to give us a nip & tuck'd EiA v2.0, Mr.Rowland?
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Herr Dr wrote:
Fantastic choice for designer of the month. I'd also echo that I have probably spent my most gaming time with EiA and WiF/Days of Dis vs. any other wargame. I still think EiA is the best multiplayer wargame ever.

Any plans to give us a nip & tuck'd EiA v2.0, Mr.Rowland?


oh yes, I would be very interested in a v.2 as I've never got a chance to play the original - is that possible or did you sign away the rights?
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wifwendell wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:

Mr. Rowland agreed to chat with us over some Margaret River Chardonnay spritzers and egg and lettuce sandwiches.


Wrong end of Australia, mate, I reckon Harry'll prefer a XXXX beer and a meat pie!

Hey, don't make this stuff up, y'know.
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