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Subject: GEEK OF THE WEEK: Jason Matthews (JasonMatthews) rss

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Brian Morris
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GEEK OF THE WEEK: Jason Matthews (JasonMatthews)

Profile: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/JasonMatthews

This week's Geek of the Week is Jason is a longtime BGG member who also most recently became a published game designer with his first game "Twilight Struggle" published by GMT.

1: Congratulations on the publication of your first game. How did it feel when you held a production copy of Twilight Struggle in your hands for the first time?

2: For many wargamers getting published by a major game company is a dream. What were the first steps you took towards presenting your game to GMT for consideration? What words of advise do you have to others out there wanting to design their own wargame and get it published?

3: I see in your profile you are also a historical miniatures player. What is your favorite era and rules set for miniatures gaming?

4: Like myself and so many other wargamers you are also a history buff. What era in history is your favorite and what era do you wish you knew more about?

5: Your BGG registration date is listed as 2002-12-23 meaning you can be considered a BGG veteran. How has the BGG community changed in the 3+ years you've been a member?

6: If you could play any game at all right now what would you choose?

7: What 3 game designers would you most enjoy playtesting a game for?

8: I've noticed a few train games in your list of favorites like Age of Steam, Railroad Tycoon and ever a few 18XX titles in your wants list. Are you a train history buff or do you just like train games?

9: What train game from the past do you think is unfortunately forgotten today?

10: I see you live in Alexandria Virginia. Washington DC is like Disneyland for History buffs with all the museums. What museum is your favorite in Washington DC?

11: What's your favorite fast food joint?

12: Name 5 people from the 20th Century and 5 from the 19th century that you most admire.

13: Tell us the 5 names we would find on your "laminated list".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laminated_list

14: I see you like the Simpsons. Give us one of your favorite Simpsons quotes and your favorite Simpsons episode.

15: Ginger or Mary Ann?

16: What's you favorite pre 80s sitcom?

17: Would you rather read a book on an era in history you enjoy or a new Harry Potter book?

18: Are you a sports fan and if so what teams do you follow?
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I think I'll actually enjoy answering these questions. I am glad your most recent game of TS was a better experience. One thing that Ananda and I were trying to do is to give the different players a different perspective and playing experience. Since objectives and means are the same, the balance of events was the basic mechanism for doing so. So, the US player should feel the relentless pressure of Communism on the march during the early war, watch things stabilize in the first world and go crazy in the Third World during the mid game, and then watch the Soviets under pressure during the Late War.

Of course, it does not always work that way, but that's the story arch we were trying to create. US early war play is therefore very different than Soviet play. The Soviet advantage is IN their events, but if they get rid of all those high value, one shot cards, things WILL get tougher for them. For the Americans, they may have to hold off on important events to concentrate on board position. By the late war, the roles basically reverse.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my grilling.

Jason
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Hilary Hartman
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Congrats, Jason!

My wife picked up Twilight Struggle for me as an early Valentine's Day present, then turned around and beat the heck out of me as the Soviets. Great game! Really! We both had an immensely good time playing, and I'm already working on a strategy as the United States for my next outing.

I'll wait until you answer Brian's questions to pose too many more myself, except this:

Are you working on another project, and if so, can you give any details out?

Thanks!
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Jason,

I would really like to thank you for your amazing game, Twilight Struggle. What I like most about the game is that it was a real eye opener to history of the Cold War, which I really didn't know much about, and it showed another side of war, the political power struggles.

So here is my question, do you know a good book that gives an over view of the history of the Cold War?

Thanks and congrats on Geek of the Week!
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1. When you play a 2 player game with your wife...who wins?

Moo,
Frank
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Jason,

Where do you think Battlestar Galactica is going? I can't get ENOUGH of this show. I blew it off when it came out a few years ago. I shouldn't have- started watching it on my iPod and now I'm hooked (and caught up to the present!). So many shows "Jump the Shark" for me so quickly. BG hasn't at all.

Also, I'd like to second Brian's question about The Simpsons. Such a brilliant show. But, as mentioned, it jumped the shark for me a few years ago.

Oh, I'm playing TS tonight again as the US. Can't wait!


Andy
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mrbeankc wrote:

1: Congratulations on the publication of your first game. How did it feel when you held a production copy of Twilight Struggle in your hands for the first time?


It was quite a bit like finnishing law school finals -- relief, coupled with exhaustion. Although, unlike law school, I did not go bowling afterwords.

mrbeankc wrote:
2: For many wargamers getting published by a major game company is a dream. What were the first steps you took towards presenting your game to GMT for consideration? What words of advise do you have to others out there wanting to design their own wargame and get it published?


The key here was really Ananda. Ananda had been active with GMT for some time. He was writing articles for C3I, playtesting and posting over on CONSIM WORLD. I was typically Ananda's playtest partner. So, the key was that Ananda knew exactly who we should talk to at GMT. Its not that these guys are unapproachable, but its just intimidating not knowing where to turn.

When we decided on our game topic and began working up a playtest copy, we brought it to Andy and Gene at World Boardgaming Championships (where GMT always has a strong presence). The rest is history, and 5 years of it at that.

As I've said before, we designed Twilight Struggle because we love card driven games, but wanted to have some clock in at a playing time that reflected our life circmustances.

As a game designer, my advice to aspiring designers would be:

1) Put together the best looking mock up you can. The better it looks when you are showing it to people, the more interest you will generate. The fact that our initial playtest copies actually had cards with photos seemed to help generate interest.

2) Be thick skinned, and have people outside your own little circle try it. Take their advice to heart.

3) Look for a niche that is open, but also marketable. Half of the interest for TS came simply because there had not been a good Cold War game in a while.

My advice to aspiring game designers as a game player (and I have much more experience there) is:

1) Innovate -- why do we need your game if you are just giving us another iteration of Gettysburg or Stalingrad?

2) Keep the times down -- people want to play games, not live them. Who has 12 hours to devote to one activity? We are not a hobby of college students anymore. Euros are thriving at our expense because wargamers can't seem to take this lesson to heart.

3) Focus on the fun parts -- I think the computer game designer Sid Meirs understands this best. His Civilization games are not anything like a simulation, but he knows how to tease out the fun from the detail. I want game designers to focus on this as well.


mrbeankc wrote:
3: I see in your profile you are also a historical miniatures player. What is your favorite era and rules set for miniatures gaming?


Like all aspects of my historical interests I have kind of eclectic tastes. But the common thread has been Victorian colonialism, and nothing gives me joy like forming square against onrushing Zulus. So, Sword and Flame with quick play and cinematic feel is probably my favorite.

mrbeankc wrote:
4: Like myself and so many other wargamers you are also a history buff. What era in history is your favorite and what era do you wish you knew more about?


Well as above, I've probably read more books on the Victorian era than anything else. I am such a diletante on history, you could almost talk me into wanting to know more about almost anything. Two books I own and havebeen meaning to get to are C.V. Wedgewood's Thirty Year's War, and a new translation of Thucydides Peloponnesian War (with lots of cool extras like maps etc. Its kind of like a student bible).

mrbeankc wrote:
5: Your BGG registration date is listed as 2002-12-23 meaning you can be considered a BGG veteran. How has the BGG community changed in the 3+ years you've been a member?


The biggest change to the Geek since I have been a member is that it has changed from being simply an excellent database, to a real community with recognizable charaters and a real personality.

mrbeankc wrote:
6: If you could play any game at all right now what would you choose?


In all honesty, I'd like to play Twilight Struggle against a good player. Barring that, there are a bunch of things on my play list that I'd like to have accomplished including Dutch Revolution and Indonesia.

mrbeankc wrote:
7: What 3 game designers would you most enjoy playtesting a game for?


Martin Wallace, Mark Herman and Michael Schact.

mrbeankc wrote:
8: I've noticed a few train games in your list of favorites like Age of Steam, Railroad Tycoon and ever a few 18XX titles in your wants list. Are you a train history buff or do you just like train games?


When I moved to S. Illinois to go to law school, I went to the University game club and they were playing 1835. My initial reaction was yeech, a TRAIN game, where's the warfare? The 18xx system really taught me the lesson that I love games, and not just wargames. So, they still have a soft spot in my heart. My wife was a frequent Puffing Billy participant before children.

mrbeankc wrote:
9: What train game from the past do you think is unfortunately forgotten today?


I think I enjoyed 1830 the most, but all of the 18xx's are showing their age. I think Wallace's AoS system is better (hey its a train game and you MOVE GOODS!). Still there is no satisfaction like the satisfaction of winning a hard fought 18xx.

mrbeankc wrote:
10: I see you live in Alexandria Virginia. Washington DC is like Disneyland for History buffs with all the museums. What museum is your favorite in Washington DC?


My favorite, by far, is the National Portrait Gallery. It has been closed for renovations for a couple of years, but reopens this July 4th I believe. Walking around in there, is a little like walking into a 1950's American history textbook. There is virtually no painting you won't recognize.

I am not a fan of the American History museum. As you may know, the Smithsonian Institution has swallowed up virtually every important historical artifact in this country. Then, they warehouse them all and put Archie Bunker's chair on display. I am not being snobby about this, I think there is a place for Archie's chair and Dorothy's Slippers. I think that place is in my hometown of Los Angeles, where people go and want to see these things. Naturally, if pressed, I will admit to my hypocrascy -- as I did go see the Star Wars display at the Air and Space museum twice.

mrbeankc wrote:
11: What's your favorite fast food joint?


Inn N Out -- it is, in fact, what a hamburger is all about.

mrbeankc wrote:
12: Name 5 people from the 20th Century and 5 from the 19th century that you most admire.


20th Century

1) FDR
2) George Marshall
3) Churchill (though he is kind of a transitional figure)
4) Martin Luther King
5) My grandfather

19th Century

1) Gladstone
2) Disraeli
3) Lincoln
4) Tschikovsky
5) Napoleon


mrbeankc wrote:
13: Tell us the 5 names we would find on your "laminated list".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laminated_list


Without appearing too lecherous . . .

1) Jessica Alba (Dark Angel -- as a friend of mine used to say, if only they would replay the commercials again and again without the show).
2) Sophie Marceau (The French princess in Braveheart)
3) Sandra Bullock
4) Angelina Jolie
5) Anna Kournikova (ohh, what a backhand)

As you can see from this list, I generally go in for brunettes. I leave the flaxon haired anglo saxons to other men.

mrbeankc wrote:
14: I see you like the Simpsons. Give us one of your favorite Simpsons quotes and your favorite Simpsons episode.




I love so many episodes, but working in government, the "Much Apu About Nothing" featuring the creation the Bear Patrol must be one of my favorites.

The Mayor Quimby quote there is one of my favorites. Leaving the town hall meeting he asks "Are those morons getting dumber or just louder." I have often thought this would look excellent in Latin above the door to the US House of Representatives.

mrbeankc wrote:
15: Ginger or Mary Ann?


Ohh, I am hard over into the Mary Ann camp. She lives around here somewhere, and I saw her in a restaurant a couple of years ago.

mrbeankc wrote:
16: What's you favorite pre 80s sitcom?


Does Batman count? If not, I'd say All In the Family. Of course, due to my misspent youth, I am intimately familiar with the Bradys as well.

mrbeankc wrote:
17: Would you rather read a book on an era in history you enjoy or a new Harry Potter book?


I'd rather read a book on an era in history I revile than a new Harry Potter book.

mrbeankc wrote:
18: Are you a sports fan and if so what teams do you follow?


I am not much of a sports fan, but I do have residual boyhood affinity for the Dodgers, and am interested in the Nationals. Additionally, though I don't follow it too closely, I rarely turn down a chance to go see the Capitols. I would rather read a new Harry Potter book than watch the Redskins.
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Jason Matthews
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puck4604 wrote:
Congrats, Jason!

My wife picked up Twilight Struggle for me as an early Valentine's Day present, then turned around and beat the heck out of me as the Soviets. Great game! Really! We both had an immensely good time playing, and I'm already working on a strategy as the United States for my next outing . . .

Are you working on another project, and if so, can you give any details out?

Thanks!


Hilary, thanks for the kind words about the game. The other day I encouraged all members of our local gaming group to pick up Twilight Struggle as a Valentine's Day gift. Not only is it a double entendre, what says I love you like global thermonuclear war?

I've got a couple of new projects in mind. However, I've agreed to collaborate with one of the other DC Gamers to do something we hope will be clever on the War of 1812. Not ready to discuss any details yet, but it will be card driven, and relatively short (I am aiming for 90 to 120 minutes).

Jason
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Helenoftroy wrote:
Jason,
What I like most about the game is that it was a real eye opener to history of the Cold War, which I really didn't know much about, and it showed another side of war, the political power struggles.

So here is my question, do you know a good book that gives an over view of the history of the Cold War?

Thanks and congrats on Geek of the Week!


Robin, thank you so much. I guess I am a little surprised by the general reception to the history in the game. Its very gratifying that the game is sparking people's interest, but I kinda thought it would be old hat. However, since it is so recent, it probably falls between people's recollection of recent events and what they are taught in school. Kinda reminds me of another Simpsons episode. The kids are sweating out the last few minutes of history class before summer break. The bell rings and they all go rushing out of the class. The teacher screams out "Wait, you don't know how WWII ended yet." The kids turn around and he screams "We WON!" Then the kids march down the street chanting USA! USA! USA!

Anyway, as for your question, my favorite one volume overview is Martin Walker's Cold War. From my point of view, the Cold War is still a little too raw in this country for good analysis. A lot of partisans have a hard time grappling with Reagan's role vs. Gorbachev's. Walker is a Brit, and I think brings a little perspective to the whole thing.

Jason
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fbranham wrote:
1. When you play a 2 player game with your wife...who wins?

Moo,
Frank


Frank, what's the game?

Honestly, we have kind of a moratia on playing games ourselves. If we went down that road, I am not sure we would get anything accomplished. Of course, that does not stop me from corrupting the children. The current favorite is Carnium's Bumper Arena.

Hope all is well with the Atlanta crew and Sandi btw.

Jason
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TedTorgerson wrote:
Congratulations on the success of your game Jason.

What project are you contemplating next? Is there a conflict you think has not been covered that you want to tackle?


Ted, thank you. As mentioned above, I am going to try and put together an 1812 prototype for GMT and WBC this summer. There are several conflicts I'd love to cover if they weren't so damn obscure. I've got ideas on the Crimean War, a kind of update for Pax Brittanica and a host of others. I have actually come some way on a design about the wars of South American Independence. Its really kind of a Euro. I should finnish it and see if anyone is interested. I put together a card game on the Versailles Conference that worked OK, but still need to do rules.

For my next serious project though, I will probably focus on something with a high political/diplomatic content, as I'd like to see more games in this area -- not necessarily an election game, just a higher political emphasis. We will definitely be incorporating more of that into the 1812 game than has been the usual hobby standard.

Jason
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medievalbanquet wrote:
Jason,

Where do you think Battlestar Galactica is going? I can't get ENOUGH of this show. I blew it off when it came out a few years ago. I shouldn't have- started watching it on my iPod and now I'm hooked (and caught up to the present!). So many shows "Jump the Shark" for me so quickly. BG hasn't at all.

Also, I'd like to second Brian's question about The Simpsons. Such a brilliant show. But, as mentioned, it jumped the shark for me a few years ago.

Oh, I'm playing TS tonight again as the US. Can't wait!


Andy


Battlestar Galactica is inspired. I get irritated about the length of time between episodes. If it were the only thing on TV, it would still be worth owning a TV. Of course, TIVO has changed my life in this regard. With serialized television, and an erratic work schedule, you really need to catch every episode, and that is what my friend TIVO has allowed. It seems to me that as long as President Bush pursues his desired foreign policy, the script writing jobs at Battlestar Galactica will be pretty easy.

As a name dropping aside, both my wife and I went to school with the show's executive producer, David Eich. In fact, he was my editor for the school newspaper, and I think he had a crush on my wife. But you'll have to confirm that with him.

To be sure, the Simpson's is not as sharp as it used to be, but still, you occasionally encounter moments of the old brilliance.
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Can you tell us something about your miniatures gaming past? Do you still play?

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I work for the government and sometimes brief Hill staff. If I ran into you and told you in a loud voice that I adore your "Twilight Struggle," would the rest of your office look at me like I had lost my mind? Or are they aware of your "other life"?
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sumo wrote:
Can you tell us something about your miniatures gaming past? Do you still play?



Mike,

Miniatures in many ways lured me into the hobby. My first exposure to gaming was a Christmas gift of Axis and Allies. In my quest to find more of the same, I actually bumped into Origins the year it was in Los Angeles (this was back when Origins was dominated by historical boardgames and miniatures). I walked into the miniatures room and it was like walking into nirvana. I love toy soldiers and still do.

Like you, if I recall your interview correctly, I was first drawn to Napoleonics. I've got a rather large Russian army at home. I also have some Poles. My gaming buddy bought and painted the French.

At that same Origins, I also played a game of Sword and Flame. I loved it then and I love it now. It actually inspired my interest in Victorian history, and I have a goodly number of figures for the 2nd Boer War.

I also dabbled in Seven Years War skirmish, Ironclads (some great figs put out by Thoroughbread that I couldn't resist) and DBA. I've got a lot of unpainted Revolutionary War figs that I may ship to Sri Lanka for painting someday.

Following the fashion of the day, I started out in 15mm's but if I had it to do all over again, would definitely go with 25mm's. I'd really like to get into DBR as I've grown to appreciate the interplay of units during the English Civil War and Wars of the Renaissance.

I also must admit to liking Warhammer Fantasy Battle. As a competitive enterprise, it is a failure, but with a GM picking armies it can be really fun. I also think that Man O' War was a terrific game, and I have two fleets for that.

I've tried just about everything that has ever been popular in the miniatures field, but tend to be attracted to lower complexity here, as in wargames. So, that's why Sword and the Flame ranks as my favorite ruleset.

Its been some time since I've played. Young children are a big inhibitor. I can only attend so many conventions and something had to give. But, I'd much sooner play any tactical game with miniatures than with counters. Eventually, I will return to this hobby.

Jason









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Kolumel wrote:
I work for the government and sometimes brief Hill staff. If I ran into you and told you in a loud voice that I adore your "Twilight Struggle," would the rest of your office look at me like I had lost my mind? Or are they aware of your "other life"?


Nah, they know. Even the boss has seen a copy of the game. Two "gaming in government" stories. Volko Rhunke, the designer of Wilderness War, is a local, and we've played and corresponded over the years. I don't think we ever discussed our respective occupations. So, I was a little taken aback to bump into him in a scif briefing my boss and me a couple of years ago. It certainly gave us something to talk about afterwards.

Also, a couple of years ago, I went to Uganda on a codel trip looking at African Orphans. We got an invite to the Ambassador's residence, and what do I see sitting prominently on his shelf -- Rail Baron. He is a fanatic, and appearantly uses it as an ice breaker at informal dinners. I left him with a copy of 10 Days in Africa that I had brought along for the trip. I also introduced him to the free ware electronic version. It may be the reason that our relations with Uganda have slipped recently.

Jason
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Congratulations to my good friend Jason -- first, on being named "Geek of the Week" (which in many circles would be considered a tremendous insult!), and second for the publication of his EXCELLENT game Twilight Struggle. I really enjoyed playtesting it, and am thrilled it finally made it to publication.

Jason and I are living proof that Democrats and Republicans can get along and actually be good friends! Someone ought to tell that to Congress!

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gschloesser wrote:

Jason and I are living proof that Democrats and Republicans can get along and actually be good friends! Someone ought to tell that to Congress!


Well, truth be told, I am relieved to have one less Republican in Louisiana. Now if those 500,000 Democrats from New Orleans can only find their way home, my life will be easy! Hey is it too early to lobby you to vote for Harold Ford in the Senate elections. I need to be in the majority to get a bigger desk

Jason
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Yes or no, Jason...

Have you stopped beating your wife?

{grin}

Seriously,

How hard was it to convince the guys at GMT that you had a publishable and potentially profitable game in Twilight Struggle?

David "the preacher" Wilson




"Perhaps I should have said DiMaggio?" - Talking Dog after being kicked out of talent scout's office when answering the question regarding the greatest baseball player of all time with "Ruth! Ruth!"
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abimilech wrote:
Yes or no, Jason...

Have you stopped beating your wife?

{grin}

Seriously,

How hard was it to convince the guys at GMT that you had a publishable and potentially profitable game in Twilight Struggle?


David, all the beatings in my household are administered the other way around. cry

The convincing was easy. Though we didn't really know it, Gene is a big booster for games on modern topics. Andy seemed to like the idea that it was relatively short. We definitely had something that was playable even then. So, it did not take long for them to agree to do it. Every step after that was a chore. Getting a developer, getting playtesters, going on the P500, getting a publication date. Of course, GMT hit a rough patch during our development process, and it looked like things might get really bad. Fortunately, that didn't happen, but I do think it slowed the process somewhat.

Ed Beach's excellent new game, HERE I STAND, seems to be sailing through these steps by comparison.

Jason
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I wanna know how you can call yourself a man when your lovely wife routinely beats you at every game you play...

I've still got the score sheet from the game where Vonda beat me in Die Macher and signed it afterward. EEEeeeeeevil woman. You're such a lucky man.
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Hi Jason,

Picked up your game at the FLGS last night and read the rules. Looks very good! Clear rules, and I really appreciated the historical notes for all of the cards. I think you are correct in thinking that there is a demand for wargames that last 2-3 hours.

Will your next game be similar to Twilight Struggle mechanics-wise? Are you adverse to making a hex and counter game?

This might be a weird comment, but it occurred to me that this sort of fast political system would lend itself to a setting like Dune, or some galactic empire struggle game, etc. Ever thought about working on a design that was not historical?

Steve
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Frank Branham
United States
Duluth
Georgia
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New Dia die Los Muertos. Lighter, sillier, and Stickers.
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derk wrote:
I wanna know how you can call yourself a man when your lovely wife routinely beats you at every game you play...

I've still got the score sheet from the game where Vonda beat me in Die Macher and signed it afterward. EEEeeeeeevil woman. You're such a lucky man.


Yah...one of my most memorable encounters with the pair was at Origins. Vonda was cruising around a few stalls picking up games and oohing and aahing excitedly. Jason was kind of dragging along many steps behind, pushing the baby buggy and looking exhausted.

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Jason Matthews
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
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derk wrote:
I wanna know how you can call yourself a man when your lovely wife routinely beats you at every game you play...

I've still got the score sheet from the game where Vonda beat me in Die Macher and signed it afterward. EEEeeeeeevil woman. You're such a lucky man.


Ahh, the devil himself rears his ugly head. It is good to see your strange yin and yang avatar if nothing else. My wife's reputation for evil in an endearing package has begun to rival Disney's. Nevertheless, luck has nothing to do with it. I bought her fair and square. We were married in Wyoming after all.

Jason
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Jason Matthews
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Alexandria
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wargamer66 wrote:
Hi Jason,

Picked up your game at the FLGS last night and read the rules. Looks very good! Clear rules, and I really appreciated the historical notes for all of the cards. I think you are correct in thinking that there is a demand for wargames that last 2-3 hours.

Will your next game be similar to Twilight Struggle mechanics-wise? Are you adverse to making a hex and counter game?

This might be a weird comment, but it occurred to me that this sort of fast political system would lend itself to a setting like Dune, or some galactic empire struggle game, etc. Ever thought about working on a design that was not historical?

Steve


Hey Steve, glad you enjoyed the rules, and hope you enjoy your first play. There is some good content on the Geek about the game, and an excellent Cyberboard and Vassal module if you are looking for opponents. Be sure to grab the errata. There is one important bit in there about Australia setup.

Interesting that you asked about non-historical designs. We had a couple of ideas for alt. history and a sci fi proposal. We were advised that sales for both of those genre's are not too great, at least not without a licensed property, so we are going with something a little more mundane.

I am not adverse to making a hex and counter game, but I do believe it has been done so well by so many others, the hobby does not need me to get involved there. The next game will be Card Driven but will be very different from Twilight Struggle. Still, if all goes as planned, it will bring a number of new twists to the CDG genre.

Jason

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