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Here, Ray Weiss opines and makes probably incorrect assumptions about wargame design.

Antigonos Monophthalmos

Please note that the source of much of the content of this post is within Richard A. Billows excellent biography Antigonos the One-Eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State.

                Until relatively recently, little was known about one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted and competent generals and later, ruler of the greater part of what was then (5th-2nd century BC) Asia, Antigonos Monophthalmos, satrap of Phrygia under Alexander. While Antigonos Monophthalmos is mentioned constantly throughout various ancient sources, one major reason we new relatively little about him and his exploits during the reign of Alexander because his rival and contemporary Ptolemy (another one of Alexander’s Diadochi, satrap of Egypt), who was the main source for all thing military regarding Arrian’s account of Alexander’s campaign essentially failed to mention him in any positive light whatsoever. What little did survive from Antigonos’s time that was arguably, Ptolemaic propaganda stating that Antigonos was power hungry, ruthless, bloodthirsty, and an insatiable desire to reconquer the entire empire of Alexander.

Tentative pre-order image.

Tentative pre-order image.

Nonetheless, recent scholarship has shown that much of these notions were inaccurate and/or exaggerated, other than what was the politically acceptable/required level of brutality and ruthlessness for the time. To make things worse for Antigonos’s legacy, a grandson of his of the same name (Antigonos Gonatas) was named during some unflattering/controversial events of the time incorrectly being attributed to his grandfather. Rather than what has been portrayed about the ruler, he was tactful, less brutal than all of his contemporaries, faithful to his wife/a real family man also unlike all of his contemporaries, a talented administrator and expert campaigner. This is not to say that in the last years of his life, Antigonos went on the offensive and aggressively tried to eliminate all of his rivals, though one could reasonably argue that given the fact that the rest of the Diadochi had allied against him during the final war given he was the most powerful, he had little choice to strike out offensively.

                Most considerable among his achievements outside of the military sphere have to do with administration, diplomacy and bureaucratic structures that kept a diverse group of ethnicities and nationalities united for a considerable period, and would go on to form the basis of the Seleucid’s empires method of administration among other nations in perpetuity throughout Asia Minor. The area over which Antigonos ruled was massive and he instituted a number of essential reforms, initiatives, and directives that drastically improved the lives of his subjects in regard to health & wellness, infrastructure, commerce, civil institutions and culture. Unique among other Diadochi, we was aware of how all of these things were holistically interconnected to his ability to wage war, maintain interior lines of logistics, and project power an authority throughout a massive kingdom which stretched from Palestine to the edge of Babylonia and all the way to Greece.

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There are a bunch of other interesting things I can go on about in regards to Antigonos but you’re probably interested in games and what the hell Antigonos has to do with games, well this is because I am currently working on my first solo game which will cover the reign of this Diadochi king. Normally I will put the games I am working on up for pre-order once I am fairly familiar with what the game will end up looking/playing like at the end, with that said I haven’t put this game up for pre-order yet because I am still in the process of deciding what it will end up as. I don’t have any experience with designing solo games and have only played a few, so recently I have been trying to read about and play as many as possible in order to get a feel for the genre. I have yet to decide on the core mechanics of the game, but I have a rough generalized idea for the game, described here:

                Antigonos Monophthalmos is a sandbox-solitaire game which focuses on domain administration, logistics, conquest, and prestige. Players will take the role of the most powerful of all the Diadochi and attempt to conquer several objectives, humble your enemies, keep your empire under control, and raise your prestige in the process.

                I haven’t really decided yet how I am going to go about this, either with cards, an AI for the other Diadochi, actions/operations and events etc. The only thing I have decided on so far is a point to point movement system with a year to years long scale. I want to kind of do something like the old Romance of the Three Kingdoms PC games (very old for MS DOS) where you could put various officers in charge of various jobs, they would be more proficient at one thing than the other etc, but basically you would be moving forces around, putting down rebellions, building fort, taking objectives, some army building and advanced planning. I have yet to decide if I am going to end up using bits or counters as well, I am leaning towards bits if it is affordable.

                Anyway, I have ideas for the game that I haven’t mentioned as I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds, but I’ll post another update on this title in another 2 weeks. I am looking forward to a number of solo games on their way to my place so I can experiment with playing several and get some better instincts before I go and charge ahead with defined mechanics. I do know that I want an unscripted difficult game that would be designed to be played alone so with that said, ill keep at it the coming weeks.

With love-

Ray

Ray WeissComment
The Minimalist Beauty of SPI
Friday night playtesting at SPI sometime in the 70s, I can identify Al Nofi to the left with the stache’ and the late John Young with the cigarette in mouth.

Friday night playtesting at SPI sometime in the 70s, I can identify Al Nofi to the left with the stache’ and the late John Young with the cigarette in mouth.

The following article was originally written for Espinete Wargamero in Spain, the original article in English is included here.

     It is likely that as of 2019, we likely now live in the very best time to be a wargamer. There are multiple publications dedicated to the hobby servicing specific eras or operations. Multiple companies stepping in to reprint old favorites with modern updates. Websites dedicated to reprinting out of print components or collecting those for other players looking to complete a purchase. Let alone the impact of VASSAL making it possible for thousands of wargamers to play opposed games whereas for decades, many wargamers were relegated to playing solo or at a snail’s pace through the mail.

     Amid all of these innovations in wargaming, why should so many find themselves pulled back toward, playing most often, and enjoying games from a company that hasn’t existed in about 40 years? I insist that it cannot just be nostalgia, as I was born in 1987, I vastly prefer SPI games to those of modern publishers (even Dixie!) and the thousands of fans that continue to post AARs and other content from SPI games showcase their lasting appeal.

     That said, one could be forgiven for thinking that most of the modern-day love for SPI games was rooted in nostalgia. Compared to some of the beautiful maps, counters, play aids and other components, the SPI components are comparatively archaic with little more than the bare minimum of information, centered on the important information about a unit. In some of the more technical games, counters could just end up being a cryptic series of letters and modifiers that only someone familiar with the game could comprehend. Maps from SPI tended to be functional above all else, more often functional and clear as opposed to a work of art. Above all else SPI components were usually easy to look at, not straining one’s eyes or brain (with the exception of Sorcerer).

     These issues are related. The simple reason that people love SPI games and keep coming back to them, is because they constantly did so much with so little and doing so, I would argue is the most effective way of creating immersion in a simulation, allowing for entertaining, meaningful games. Wargames are complicated endeavors on top of our normal everyday lives, they command critical thinking, analysis, and some capacity for foresight and that is before even dealing with the rules of a given simulation; most adults can only handle so much complexity or information before immersion loses it’s effect as the brain tries to corollate all the available information. That’s not to say people are too stupid for complicated games or that complicated games are unplayable, quite the opposite in actuality, but the point is that those more or less become games and less so simulations.

     A perfect example of this is ASL (a game I deeply love and admire) when dealing with combined operations, meaning infantry, armor, support weapons, artillery, cavalry, airpower etc. While playing an infantry engagement can be fairly straightforward, the more layers of complexity add on additional considerations and time spent by both players analyzing a situation deciding what mechanics will give them the best chance for successes. This isn’t to say that this kind of min/max/gamey behavior is always a bad thing, but my point is that it takes away from the potential level of immersion on the part of the player by forcing them to think about mechanics.

     Maybe I am repeating myself at this point, but wargaming to me is at it’s best when I forget that I am playing a game and my imagination takes over. It isn’t dissimilar to playing an old computer game with ASCII graphics or a Pen and Paper RPG in that your imagination fills in most of the abstract/ephemeral gaps, only wargaming is special because it is actually tethered to reality through history and research.

     Anyway, I guess that my main point is this, the reason you still play those old SPI game is not because of pure nostalgia, if that were the case, a 31-year-old millennial like myself would find likely nothing to gravitate towards in these now 50-year old games. The real reason you play them is because they did a gargantuan amount with a minimalist approach, and as human beings we can only handle so much granularity until our brain changes how we perceive the world around us. The approach in my view is the correct way to approach simulations-gaming in that the experience should feel like what the simulation is portraying.

     In closing, this is only my view, and I suppose the argument is as old as the “Rigid” vs “Free” Kriegspiel in the Prussian army. The former tries to achieve realism through probability and sequences of logic, while the latter seeks instead to place those participating in the same position as the historic or hypothetical subject of the simulation. As a designer myself, I have always felt that the “Free” approach is what SPI game managed to emulate so well, and all publishers should rethink their assumptions about why some 50-year old games see more play than recent ones.


With love-
Ray Weiss

Ray WeissComment
Inside the Design Studio: Production/Design Philosophy and Incentives

Conflict Simulations LLC is considerably different than other wargame publishers for a number of reasons, the main difference being that I am doing this to make a living. Most people in the games industry (not all) are doing it as a boutique hobby or have a bunch of money already to start with. Unfortunately, the wargaming industry isn’t the most profitable endeavor, however noble it may be 😊. That said, this requires me to work in ways different to other publishers, and I thought I would pull back the curtain a little bit and talk about how I go about designing and releasing a game.

 The first thing I’d like you to keep in mind is that I do not have the same luxury of time as other publishers do. We strive to have games coming out every month, but it’s more like every other month given common delays in editing or playtesting. For one thing, most of the production work is done by volunteers who are only able to do so in their limited free time.

Everything starts with a thesis, or at the very least a strongly held conviction/big idea. Nothing can begin until I’ve come up with an argument I want to prove. In that way, some of the preparation for a design is not unlike the preparation involved in writing a large paper at college. Before I start writing rules, I will go over sources taking notes of the things that stick out to me, or things that seem important. Once I have created a collection of all this data either in a notebook or on my PC, I will usually sketch out some abstract ideas about mechanics related to the thesis kicking around in my head.

Nine times out of ten, the most fundamental mechanics will have to deal with movement, because I would argue that movement is the most important aspect of any wargame. This is because 80% of a wargame is centered around movement. Unless doing a very realistic tactical simulation, combat is almost always much easier to simulate than the realistic movement of forces within the time scale of a simulation. This is because most abstractions of combat are nothing more than the designer’s opinion (based on experience, research bias etc), whereas doing so with movement (with the exception of research) can result in deeply flawed simulations that fail to reproduce historical outcomes, no matter how detailed the logistics and combat mechanics are.

Apart from coming up with movement allowances for units, there are several critical mechanical decisions related to movement that designers make that can effectively change the whole feeling and character of a game. From deciding on movement penalties for stacking, movement allowance charts based on the size of a stack or nationality, let alone the effects of entering enemy Zones of Control are all integral to the heart of any simulation. As a result, after reviewing my collection of notes from research, I apply these notes to mechanical concepts related to movement. A simple example for this is the decision to add a movement cost to stacking in 1864: On to Jutland, literally represents the time spent setting up a chain of command and the figuring out of logistics related to the force. One can think of units in the stacks actually occupying multiple spread out hexes radiating out from the hex occupied by a stack. Gamers tend to think very literally when it comes to hexes and counters simulating history, but more often than not history is better reflected in a nuanced effect on movement or stacking than several pages of chrome.

Once I have my big idea figured out mechanically, I go about designing the rest of the game keeping in mind that I only want complexity in regard to my big idea. Most people, myself included, can really only handle 1-2 complex ideas in any simulation. While there are plenty of other games with loads of complex mechanics, many of them only get played by people truly devoted to the time period or game itself. ASL being a perfect example given most people need a copy of the rules open to play at all with armor or artillery. I do not intend to knock these games as I have enjoyed many in my own right, but in terms of design philosophy, a deductive approach to complexity and complication will produce the most playable, marketable, and enjoyable simulations in my honest opinion. Creating a detailed tactical game there doesn’t make much fiscal sense for us in terms of the amount of time I would need to spend doing research relative to my rent check.

The decisions outside of movement are much easier to make in general. Wargames are essentially known for the fact that nearly all of them use the same concepts of hexes, zones of control, stacking etc, and unless your name is Mark Hermann, you probably aren’t going to reinvent the wheel with each simulation you design. My decision-making process in terms of what ideas and concepts to use in terms of combat, supply, and other mechanics, solely relies on what feels good. This is fairly vague I am aware, but what I mean by feel is how well the mechanics reflect the history being portrayed. One quick example being I’ve always thought tactical games that resolve combat with 1d6 feel totally limiting, given that tactical encounters can have way more than 6 possible outcomes given the small amount of space being depicted. So as much as I may like an idea I have for combat resolution, I always temper the idea against the complexity of the other mechanics. Unless doing a game heavily focused on logistics, supply and attrition are fairly straightforward to abstract as well without needing to go into a detailed explanation.

This part of the process should produce varying results for different people. What may feel acceptable or realistic to one player may easily be blasphemy to another, so in some ways, you will never win no matter what you ultimately decide. That said, seek the opinion of others well versed in the subject to validate and check your own ideas. Failing to check your own creative mechanics against actual history can easily result in a broken game. It’s imperative of CSL to do what would not only play well but sell. Sometimes this part is also impossible though, no matter what you do. I remember one publisher who I was trying to shop a game to telling me “I hate all games with facing”, so much for the tactical system I spent a year working on.

After ruminating on and synthesizing the factors described above, I will then go on a manic writing spree usually writing stuff non-stop for a few days until I have a rough draft. This is more or less just force of habit left over from when I was a musician, most of the creative work I do, I end up doing best when ignoring everything else in my life sometimes to the detriment of my health but it’s worth it given I am almost always satisfied with the work I end up producing as a result. Then my ideas will get looked at by my developer Matt who will send it back to me, and we’ll do that once or twice before it goes to our editor Nick. Nick is a saint who takes my often times rambling mechanics and makes readable and understandable. After I make all of Nick’s changes, it then goes to Trevor who does all of our formatting for our rules.

Simultaneously during this period, I will attempt to do as much playtesting as I can between myself and my developer. Admittedly, for the time crunch under which I am under, it is almost impossible to find playtesters that can reliably and promptly test things between life and other obligations. That said, Matt and I go the extra mile to test these things as much as we can. Once I feel comfortable that the game is finished, Matt says it’s fun and Nick says it’s readable, it will then go to Trevor who puts it all together. Finally, all these files get sent to Steve at Blue Panther who then prints each game that you guys order and sends it over to you. Oh and of course, our usual map artist Ilya along with our usual counter artist Ivan will work with me closely to create the components.

Ray WeissComment
April Update

Hello everyone, hope all is well

Forgive me for not saying more sooner, but I’ve been hard at work getting DAMOS ready to go for a hopeful release later this month. The rules right now are with the editor and I am working on reinforcements to the Russian OOB that I overlooked. working hard to keep the games under 140 counters each so some units which would have been fleshed out in more detail may get consolidated into larger formations for the sake of simplicity. Ivan Caceres is doing the counter work again and it’s great looking, you’ll have to wait to see everything though as we’re still working out details.

The following is a tentative release schedule that I have in my bullet journal:

April

1995, AGN, AGC, AGS

May

Tet, AKI, AKII, AKIII

June

Imperial Bayonets: Sedan 1870

July

Imperial Bayonets: Solferino 1859

August

Guns of the Americas: 1914-1919

There will likely be some other games too, I am in talks with a few designers about bringing their designs to us, as well as several projects I have started to keep busy while I wait for edits. As of now you can find our games worldwide as a store in Japan just bought 20 copies of games (need to get the name).

I think the next DAMOS game is likely to be something from the western or pacific front, would love to do Sealion/Overlord too. One of the games I’m working on is a point-point army level sim of the Franco Prussian war, don’t want to use cards as I don’t really like cards personally, once people know how to count them a game isn’t fun for me anymore, which is sadly what has happened to me with paths of glory, an amazing game in it’s own right.

Anyway, we are hard at work, as always you can reach me through the contact us link here. Everyone who ordered 1864 should also get shortly a replacement map and counters (unless they said they did not need them) on us. Also looking into the idea of hosting a small 1-3 day convention in Manhattan. I have a lead on a great space near union square that while not as gigantic as most conventions, we could set up 4-6 really big tables filled with our games or others you bring in. I would buy pizza for everyone, t-shirts, and try to get a hotel deal somewhere for people coming in from out of town. If this is something you have experience with doing, shoot me an email, I could use some help.

With love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Guns of the Americas Design Journal

Note: Right after my last post I found out one of my longtime best friends died unexpectedly which is why I was quiet for about a month, sorry about the delay and I appreciate your understanding patience during this difficult time. Some releases may be pushed back a bit (Slogball was pushed back longer) in order to account for the missed time.

Guns of the Americas was my first attempt at deliberately designing a AAA game with lots of chrome and innovation. This is what is now probably the antithesis of my current design philosophy but a year and a half ago, I was desperately trying to find a home for the pile of games I had finished. It has a bit of a humorous history.

My first choice of publisher to release the game initially refused to even consider it given the subject matter. This probably wasn’t too long after Charlottesville and anything where the CSA was somewhat successful was going to be difficult to sell in the current climate. Indignant, I sent some choice words to the publisher in classic NYC jerk musician style eventually apologizing later after realizing I was being an idiot. Graciously, and to their credit, they accepted and actually came back a month later interested in the game. In Between that time, I had showed the game to a smaller publisher who had loved it, but lamented that it was too big with too many components for them to publish.

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So eventually, the company that eventually expressed interest in the game gave me a contract for it and we were set to go. Not much later though I started CSL and the company graciously gave me back the rights to the game without me having to even ask, very good guys. I say all of this to get it out there, publishing this game is a big risk for me as a small publisher. It’s going to cost me a fortune to produce each copy given we do print on demand and GotA has a lot of components. The subject matter is both taboo right now, and requires somewhat of a willful suspension of disbelief in order to appreciate. Finally, what-if games (unless nato/wp) and ww1 games to some extent, are notoriously low-selling subjects.

    All of that said, I am undeterred. First off, while many 2nd US Civil War games have been done, only 1 has done so (Mason-Dixon by XTR) during the first world war, and it's only one year most of which is bogged down in trench warfare. So it's a fairly unexplored idea in terms of wargaming, which is something I’m always into. Secondly, North America is gigantic. Its easily bigger than the Eastern Front in WW2 and even most US Civil War games leave out large portions of just America by itself. Finally, I had an idea about making the main thrust of the game the difficulty of commanding large groups of troops. Large formations during both the US Civil War and WW1 sometimes performed poorly mostly because they were administrative nightmares. All of this came together with me wanting to work all of these ideas into a massive game that would be immersive and dense.

    In order to tie all these themes together, I wanted to explore what a conflict in the US would have most likely looked like during WW1, if it were to ever happen at all. I began the outline of the game with one thing in mind, the difficulty of coordinating large groups of forces during wartime. Now with a game with a shit ton of chrome, this would be difficult because the idea would be competing for the player’s attention with the chrome itself. The solution to this problem was 2 fold, 1 was to build the chrome around my thesis, so that the two were conceptually inseparable. 2 was to tie the thesis to movement mechanics. The reason for this is because movement is ubiquitous in wargames. It is hard to imagine a wargame without movement, as all wargames are in their most abstract sense is a game of positioning men, guns and horses (or tanks, planes etc.).


The result of the gestalting was this March Table:

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Now you can maybe see where I am starting to go with this, or not. This table determines the number of movement points a stack (also called a force) receives based on the number of infantry SP present. The more you have in a stack, the harder it is to move. This is a constant tension with the game, you will need numbers in order to overcome enemy obstacles, but the more numbers you start to add the less reliable and maneuverable your forces become.

This goes hand in hand with the combat system. The defender is automatically assumed to have what i term Tactical Advantage which forces the attacker to add another die to their combat roll, the higher your result in combat the worse result you generate. Other situations on the CRT will add or subtract dice to the roll, along with DRM to further make combat more unpredictable, but predictable enough with a more than occasional bell-curve with 2-3d6.

The game is further broken down into a variable number of pulses within a set number of seasons each year for 5 years, 1914-1919. Twice a year, both sides get a production phase where they must manage their resources in a way that still leaves them with resources to use during the turn along with producing enough materials to win the war effort. Each player receives a variable number of build points each turn influenced by the number of enemy cities they have captured. The North starts off with an obvious bonus here but the South isn’t all that far behind as they were in the first ACW. Plus the addition of Mexican, Canadian and possibly French + Japanese forces make victory well within the scope of the CSA.

The game features a fully developed, but not overly complex air/naval system. Air support in combat will reduce the number of dice thrown in combat and can be assigned to individual forces or based in cities. Naval combat is a major feature as any war in the states during this period would have likely included a fierce naval clash over blockades and trade. Naval units can be positioned around the map to support ground combat, provide supply, or to engage on raiding/bombardment missions on their own. All naval units have an Interception Range which allows players the chance to disrupt their opponent and initiate a naval combat, which essentially uses the classic “War at Sea” style mechanics to resolve combat quickly and realistically.

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Finally, I’d like to discuss some of the changes I think are necessary in order to improve and streamline the game. First being right now, units (see first photo) display an Attack Strength, Defense Strength, and Maneuver Rating. The first 2 being fairly obvious, the latter being a Movement Allowance for exploitation after combat, along with unit designations loosely based on American Army and National Guard recruitment records from 1914-1919. I propose changing this to a simple Strength Point (SP) system with the same unit types. Other than Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery, you’d also include Tanks and Stormtroopers. Each of these unit types would have their own attributes that would be listed separately, but this will cut down on the amount of information a player needs to process outright and simplify combat calculations. Naval units will retain their 3 ratings which are firepower, defense threshold, and interception range.

Next, I’d like to add an economy of resources to the game. Infantry units would require some number of Grain hexes / points whereas cavalry/tank units would require Oil hexes etc. This creates a new layer of depth in terms of player strategy without adding to the complexity of the game. Decisions to move or reinforce certain areas over others will become more important than they are right now, especially given however a player wants to develop their strategy in terms of winning the war.

Another thing would be reducing, if not eliminating the ability of land units to react to enemy movement. As of now, there is a Zone of Influence (like in DAMOS) mechanic that allows stacks to react to one-another. I think this is ultimately too distracting and fatiguing for the bulk of the game. In testing with/without reactions the gameplay time went down dramatically so I am currently debating how to either limit or eliminate this mechanic in the interest of play-ability. I don’t really think it added enough to the game to warrant its inclusion overall.

    The last thing I’m at least willing to discuss here is how supply/logistics currently work. I believe as of now there is a generous range of 3-4 hexes to a depot or railway to a supply source, I think this should maybe be drastically reduced to up to 2 hexes to either a depot or friendly controlled rail network (which would in turn lead to a supply source). First reason being that the scale of the game is gigantic, the way I had it before was frankly unrealistic in terms of what could have been possible. While US infrastructure was at this point as good if not better than that of in Europe, Americans were just as incompetent with organization as anyone else (minus the Germans). Unless a source of supply would have been close by, it easily could have gotten misdirected or end up somewhere where it shouldn’t be.

    So now you probably have a better idea of what the game will look like. If you’d like a copy of the original rules and vassal module just ask, I’d rather not post it with so many ideas I want to change. Hope you are all doing well and healthy.

With Love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Feb Update

I am finally free of shingles, or at least it doesn’t hurt anymore and is healing, so I can concentrate on work again. That said, my doctor advised me if I don’t want to keep getting shingles in my 30s I need to chill-out, apparently they are triggered by stress. As much as I love doing CSL, I’m not going to lie and say that it isn’t stressful at times. Especially given we have tons of people waiting on quality games that they paid for to arrive to their door within a reasonable time frame, the initial loan I used to start the business is gone and I rely on pre-orders to both pay for rent, game-components, and producing the actual games themselves.

This reasonably puts me under a good deal of pressure. For one thing, I am pretty sure I am the only 1-man publisher that does everything other than art and its a s*it ton of work for one person to take on. What work I am able to get done is mostly in thanks to volunteers who go through the writings I generate deductively editing the noise out, but given they are volunteers I can’t impress upon them in a pinch (without being a huge jerk). Every other wargame publisher has other people that are at least part of the company, the smallest example being a husband and wife shop like Hollandspiele.

Not to sound like I am listing a group of grievances, it's more or less to remind and reassure myself that I’m doing a shit ton of work and even if not everything is perfect, I’m doing alright. In fact, I think that at this point, I can argue that I am among the hardest working designers/publishers currently in wargaming. Most other CEOs of wargame companies, most likely do something else for a living. You don’t really hear of many people making enough money to survive in the wargaming business (except to the inflation adjusted average SPI wage of 30 something grand in the 1970s,) and there are maybe only 2-3 people I know who are able to do so now, by account mostly that they work as hard as I do if not harder.

Not sure what the point of all of this is except maybe as a therapeutic exercise to remind myself that I’m not totally fu*king everything up. In fact, CSL is doing better than average in terms of how our games have been received so far. The thing I’ve prepared myself most for was negative reactions to the games, being a new designer and not having the resources to playtest or refine as deeply as bigger companies, I wanted to be extra cognizant of that and try to make sure all of our games are indeed playable, historical and enjoyable. I think I am at a point now where I can objectively say none of our games as of yet (saving how 1987 is ultimately received,) are broken, unplayable, or all that bad so far. In fact, I am willing to wager they are probably more enjoyable and playable than many less affordable AAA titles available given my own experience as a wargamer.

All of this said, I don’t intend on slowing down the number of titles I’m working on, rather just force myself to stop worrying about them and have faith in the process I have come up with. By next week, all of the art assets for pre-orders will be paid for and I hope to share tons of new content with you as it gets done. The one part where I have failed is that the games have not come out as quickly as I had hoped, but I ultimately think most customers understand and accept this as its for the best. No one wants a game before its done either way, and it's not like I’m taking years to deliver on pre-orders like many other publishers. Most of my release estimates are optimistic in terms of timing, so as a general rule, knock a month or two off any planned release date for the actual release date :)

With Love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
DAMOS Design Journal Update

Matt and I have spent the last week doing some heavy development on DAMOS, and I can now say that this may be my best game yet, and an innovative take on WW2 operational scale games. We’ve nailed down concepts that in playtesting have turned out to be very quick-playing and fun. Some of the choices we have made made it more interesting for play against an opponent, but the game still remains completely solo-able.

The coolest innovation we have is what is called the Combat Matrix. Depending on the belligerents, the defender in any given combat has a choice of how to posture their defense. A lot of games ignore posturing (except at a tactical-level) when dealing with an operational or strategic scale as its assumed the piece representing the unit will make the right choice, but what happens if the player is given that instead of the cardboard commanders we imagine collectively? Check the bottom of the post.

This is where the Combat Matrix comes in, once a force has been declared the target of an attack, before identifying the attacking force, time freezes as we zoom in on the defending force. That commander has an immediate choice to make as to what posture they were in prior to the approach to the attack. This is because non-phasing units may react and attempt to prevent other units from reinforcing a combat or even retreating from one.

Whatever choice the defender makes, if the combat occurs, that defender has locked himself into a course of action without knowing who is attacking or from where (though they may have an idea). I value immersion in wargames and this method brings about a level of uncertainty I’ve usually only seen in block wargames. All of this sounds like it would take a lot of time to play out, but it really only takes as long as the defender chooses to take his time. Reactions take place against enemy movement or retreat by rolling +9 on 2d6. It's pretty damn hard, but when it happens it rules.

Putting the cart ahead of the horse here as all of this is resting upon a foundation of both Zones of Influence. The number of SP in a stack relates directly to the range of hexes eligible units may project a ZOI into. ZOIs are important for attacks beyond Meeting Engagement and Standard Attacks, and for Reactions. You read that correctly, non-phasing units have a chance to influence the action, and force moving units into unintended meeting engagements. ZOIs otherwise have no effect on the game other than the above and usually only some units will project one depending on the game being played. Zones of Control are still there for purposes of supply and retreat.

    Gone is Advance after Combat and instead we introduce Exploitation. Each unit type has an inherent Exploitation Rating which is added to the number of MP a force spent on an attack, giving you the Exploitation Movement Allowance (penetration attacks, which require all mp spent in order to attack, use a different calculation for exploitation movement, subtracting the cost of the hex terrain from their normal movement allowance, plus their Exploitation Rating giving them their Exploitation Movement Allowance. Exploitation combat is permitted just like regular combat, except the supply trace for the second combat isn’t required (the unit is considered to be insupply throughout exploitation if they were in supply at the beginning of the attack). Reactions are not allowed during Exploitation Movement and Combat.

    Best of all, the series rules clock in right now at 11 pages which I’m sure will get smaller as development moves through its final stages. I am extremely excited for this series and we will probably open up playtesting as well as place the series rules online as soon as we get vassal modules made up. Different exclusive rules will account for changes in theater, terrain, and other factors necessary to fiddle with when making a system that covers stuff from the eastern front through the west and Africa. Really excited about this one, it’s a unique, yet familiar approach to operational ww2 gaming, that I think you are all really going to love.

With love

Ray

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Ray WeissComment
New Year Update
Use discount code SLOGITTOME to save 20% till Monday night!

Use discount code SLOGITTOME to save 20% till Monday night!

Hello everyone! Happy new year and all, I hope you all had a great holiday.

The past few weeks have been extremely busy for me. While I have finally moved, I also adopted two kittens to help with the generalized loneliness of working from home all day, granted now it’s 2 tiny mouths I need to feed so that of course means, more games!

1987: Glad to report that this game is almost finally ready to ship out. I had hoped to get this out quicker along with 1864 but put simply, the game was not ready and needed more work. We’ve done about 3-4 drafts of the rules and I think they are really solid now. As soon as I get all the final components and OK the final draft, I will likely start shipping these out as playtesting has proved fruitful.

1864: We are in the thick of development on 1864 now. The game was initially way more complicated than it is now, with enlarged ‘Battle Hexes’ to resolve combat, but this proved way too granular for the limitations of the 2140 series. It would have brought the playing time way up along for no real return on fun. I have reworked this game to play more like a traditional wargame. 1864 wont be doing anything that new or revolutionary, but I hope it provides an intuitive, quick playing simulation on a conflict people have often overlooked.

1995: In the process of rewriting the rules for this one now. They are essentially done, but I have been going over everything with all the fixes from 1987 as to cut down on development time. 1995 will probably be the PCS game with the least bells and whistles, but will be the most focused on operations and management with the introduction of Support Points, points that can be spent on additional DRM during combat. We have also sorted out Foot, Motorized and Mechanized movement having them interact with the Terrain chart in their own way.

DAMOS (AGN, AGC, AGS): Some updates on the upcoming WW2 series. Testing proved that ultimately 2 things had to be changed. Combat is now instantaneous as opposed to during it’s own phase. While this is less like Russian Front, one of my favorite wargames, it proved untenable mechanics wise. It would have required more counters to keep track of how many MP were spent on each combat to be referenced during a combat phase. We also got rid of Reserve mode/counters. With the step loss markers (should you decide to use them, or the unit tallies), there will be enough density on the board already. This lowers the playing time a bunch though and will facilitate adding all the games together, you could even have teams playing each map at the same time. Some have expressed concern to me privately about using step loss markers with stacking limits as high as 3-4 units, while that is a fair point, only SP losses can elegantly represent losses and the overall loss of quality over time. Ultimately, this is for the best given the Operational/Strategic scope of the game, and the limitations of the 2140 series materials. We will be offering additional SP Loss counters for around 6 bucks a pop.

Slogball: Cricket In The 19th Century: Fairly excited about this one. I have always been mystified by Cricket as what seemed to me, as an American, as an avant-garde version of baseball with no strikes. My crude attempt at oversimplification aside, as someone who generally is not very interested in sports, Cricket is a fairly fascinating game. It’s origins hark back to the 16th century, which makes sense if you think (even more crudely) of the wickets as little castles you are trying to take down with a ball and paddle. Strategy in cricket being more nuanced, as when to declare or retire and switch to the defensive/offensive, but similar in its basic performative structure makes it a great choice for a simulations game. Inspired by the best selling Deadball and Deadball 1909 by W.M Akers, I am really excited about this one.

Further down the line…

I am considering the possibility of using CSL to publish some of my earlier games, though because of their size, that of a normal wargame, will end up being more expensive than the 2140 series due to costs of POD materials and NYC rent. These will range depending on the amount of content included with the games.

Anyway, thanks for reading, as always you can get at me here, CSW, BGG, or Facebook

With Love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Destroy All Monsters!

Introducing the Destroy All Monsters Operational Series of Games

A Sub-Series of Conflict Simulations LLC’s 2140 Series.

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The Destroy All Monsters Operational Series (DAMOS) is a rules-engine for simulating WW2 at either an operational or strategic level. Each game by itself covers a theater, or period of WW2. Nearly all of the games will be stand-alone except for some of the campaign specific games that will tie disparate parts of the series together. The first in this sub-series of games is on Operation Barbarossa, Army Groups North, Center and South. When combined together, it simulates the entire 1941 campaign on the Eastern Front. A later expansion will cover years 1942-1944. Eventually, we would like to cover the entire war on both sides of the globe.

The main goal of this series is to create an intuitive, quick playing series that would appeal to the vast diaspora of WW2 wargamers that is neither too large a footprint nor a fortune. Players would be able to purchase games on the theaters they are interested in and pass on others. The following is a discussion of the combat mechanics which simulate engagements between forces (note, that a force is defined as a unit or a stack, most wargamers can follow what I’m talking about, sorry if you can’t.)

Combat in DAMOS is a straightforward process that involves both players totaling the number of opposing Strength Points (SP) in a single hex (all combat is in-hex at a scale of around 25 miles per hex) and then both rolling on a Combat Result Table (CRT). Those of you familiar with the combat procedure in 1812 will find this system to be similar but nevertheless different in several key ways. Both players roll 1-3 six-sided dice depending on the number of SP present in a hex modifying the roll in 2 different ways.

The attacker modifies dependent on the Movement Points (MP) spent on attack planning, during the movement phase, a step loss marker is temporarily used to mark either 1 or 2 mp spent on an individual combat. The defender modifies his die roll dependent on the terrain they are occupying and any hexside terrain the attacker is crossing. Attacking across a bridge generates positive CRT shifts for the defender possibly allowing them to roll more dice on the attack. Air Support grants a CRT shift for either side along with allowing the player to reroll a single d6 during combat. Individual games may also grant additional combat shifts or DRM for various aspects of support and auxiliary attachments.

    Design wise, this is done to introduce a full spectrum of probabilities to combat. Lower numbers of units will grant a more unpredictable result (1d6) whereas higher numbers of units generate bell curves (2-3d6). CRT results are given in Loss Points (suffered by the highest SP unit in a force) which players mark with Step Loss markers (each SP is the equivalent of 1 step). A winner/loser is determined by comparing losses (defender winning ties unless a ♥ or ♦ card suit symbol indicates otherwise). The loser is forced to retreat 2-3 hexes, but if defending across a bridge or in a major city, they may absorb those retreat results through further step losses.

Working CRT

Working CRT

This approach allows for the game to accurately and quickly simulate maneuvers at an operational level by using strategic pacing. In-hex combat also cancels an Enemy Zone of Control (EZOCs) allowing units to run buckwild passed engaged units. Using otherwise established movement and supply rules allows players the freedom of operational games while encouraging players to follow similar strategies that were used historically. As with most of my games, I strive for an immersion in-game that allows players to forget they are playing a game and presented with the same choices, problems and considerations as their historical counterpart (army level commanders).

Once I figure out how, I will be putting up a poll to determine the next games in the DAMOS series. So far, we are still on track for a late Jan release, at worst early Feb. A special thank you to all of you who have pre-ordered the game so far and I hope this gets you excited about what is to come.

With love

Ray Weiss - CEO of Conflict Simulations LLC

Ray WeissComment
The Barbarossa Trio

I’ve gotten many requests to detail some of my ideas and systems for AGN, AGC, and AGS and this blog post is here to help. I love Barbarossa games, what purveyor of the hobby doesn’t? There are for arguments sake, a billion of them already done, why bother doing another game on Barbarossa? Let me detail my reasons/grudges.

  1. Size Kind of Matters

    • With the exception of AH and other classic publishers, many operational games on Barbarossa are gigantic. That’s all well and good unless you’re like me and live in an apartment, maybe with cats, or a significant other who will get mad at you for having a sprawling game out on the dining room table.

  2. Scale Kind of Matters

    • Many Barbarossa games are at a Strategic scale, nothing wrong with that other than games can kind of devolve into a glorified chess match given the mass of the historical OOBs. Given the size of the theater and cost considerations, this ultimately makes ‘fiscal’ sense for most big budget companies.

  3. History Really Fucking Matters

    • When was the last time you played a Barbarossa game that produced a historical result? I mean maybe some people have seen a very close German win but unless you have a relatively brain-dead Russian player, its fairly standard to figure out a way through ZOCs and terrain to slow down any panzers chugging along. This, at least to me, is something lacking in every single Barbarossa game, Stalin’s orders were not to retreat anywhere, any the Russians need victory conditions early on that they can win for blunting the German advance enough to prevent a historical result.

  4. Options Matter

    • Every good Barbarossa game has a number of what-if options that allow for further historical uncertainty. A stronger Italian contingent fresh of a successful Balkan campaign, Turkish intervention, Early Finnish/Romanian intervention etc. This isn’t so much a gripe as it is something I think some games do well, with topics done over and over again such as these it's a necessity.

So with all of that said, let's talk about the design thesis for these games. The Barbarossa Trio of AGN, AGC and AGS seeks to fulfill a need in the industry for small-footprint yet granular simulations of every wargamer’s favorite subject. The fact that WW2 games sell better doesn’t hurt either, but in all seriousness, I want these games to be so intuitive that you can pull them out the box and after reading a quick summary of the rules, be ready to set-up and play.


Some of the more in the weeds discussion about the design ideas. I am a huge fan of AH’s Russian Front in terms of how it handles ZOCs, and have thought that with a historical setup or some incentive to replicate Stalin’s orders, the game quite elegantly allows the German player to truly achieve the massive and satisfying encirclements that historically occurred. Some changes would need to be made though for the operational scale of the game and I am currently working those out in experiments. I am so far leaning towards a simple move, fight, exploit sequence, but I am also experimenting with counter move/attack phases. Motorized/Mechanized units are likely to have some special characteristics in relation to movement, but I am currently working out the exact effects of ZOCs so I need to figure these out first. Likely, ZOCs will add +1 MP to leg units, but not motor/mech units who will have more freedom operating around enemy units. Turns are likely to be around 2 weeks, and hexes about 24 miles per hex.

    Anyway, hopefully that satisfies your interest in the series, I will post more from my experiments as I plan on a deep dive on this next weekend, have been dealing with a number of household things distracting me from business, but im getting back on the work train. Hoping to have 1987 and 1864 finished this month, though with the holiday it could be that they don’t get shipped till after, either way I will post rules and Vassal modules as usual.

With love

Ray


Ray WeissComment
Mid November Notes & Update

Hello all!

Past few weeks have been fairly stressful with friends/family health issues but things are finally starting to calm down a bit. 1950 is now shipping and we are hoping to start shipping 1812 this or next week. Hoping we can get 1864 out by the end of the month.

We have 4 (maybe 5) games planned for late DEC early JAN:

1995: Milosevic’s Last Gamble (PCS # 3)

Army Group North

Army Group Center

Army Group South

1968: Tet (PCS #4)

Hauberk: 900-1100 AD (game by Ryan Kirk, designer of Battle of Donetsk Airport)

Otherwise, you can now also download the rules + vassal module for 1916 and 1950 without buying anything, allowing you to try out the games. As soon as 1812 is shipping, I will be posting the rules and module as well.

Another exciting project, we may be getting into a limited Old School Role-Playing (OSR) game release. OSR has been growing in popularity in past years, but the most popular clones started with the “1st” edition of AD&D. For years, I played the shit out of the 1974 Original Edition version, the white box with 3 booklets. The game is fairly silly and unbalanced but it is the weirdest most fun iteration of the genre. So we will be working on a new old school clone meant to not only recreate the old school experience of the mid 70s, but include rules that cover settings like Gamma World or Metamorphosis Alpha. I can’t imagine this will sell all that well, but its more of a vanity project for me I suppose.

Anyway, keep in mind if you ordered multiple games, you will be getting them once all are printed. Shoot me a message if you want to get your games earlier.

With Love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Early November Notes and Happenings

I’ve been working myself into oblivion lately, but I have no time to bitch so have been plowing through getting things all ready to ship this month. 1916 is now shipping and I’m super thankful to those who pre-ordered the game, you’re the best <3

Apart from chain-smoking and staring at the screen, I’ve forced myself to take periodic breaks for the first time in a while. I feel a little less stressed so that’s a net positive. I got to play some gamma world over my birthday and it reminded me how much I love and miss playing RPGs, my first game to get published was an RPG as well. CSL may do a release of a tribute to the 1974 edition of D&D and all of the sister games like Metamorphosis Alpha and others. Been talking to a friend of mine who is well better versed in RPG publishing and we may team up for this, so stay tuned (also, I have a hilarious pdf of a cyberpunk RPG I never released written a decade ago, if you want it, shoot me an email through the contact form and I’ll oblige.)

I am somewhat nervous about how 1916 will be received. It is my first wargame to actually get published, even if on my own, and most of everything outside of the art, editing and formatting was done by Matt and I, me being new to nearly all of this along with Matt to a lesser extent. I’ve been worried like a terrified professor in a Lovecraft novel but that probably has more to do with my generalized anxiety. In all seriousness though, I hope you guys like the game, if you don’t and you hate it, I’m really sorry, I would love to hear from you as to why you disliked the game or felt that something was poorly done or represented. I’ve stated from the beginning that mistakes would probably be made, errata might happen, but I can assure you that I’m working my ass off non stop to make sure they don’t suck lol.

Anyway, we could use some more dedicated playtesters, people who can communicate and commit to play within a quick time frame as the amount I am having to test my games is frustratingly burning me out. To be honest I don’t even enjoy playing games nearly as much as I do designing them anymore. I can’t remember the last time I played a game other than my own at this point and that kind of sucks lol. Anyway, I’ll keep testing etc and roll with punches but if you want to help out with that, shoot me a note.

That said, we are actively planning new games for November-December. 1995 will be the 3rd PCS game covering a what if situation in Yugoslavia, and that may be followed by the October war and/or Tet. One of these days I will do a deep dive on the PCS system an why I believe it really works well for modern conflict simulation with a low level of overhead. Until then, I will keep my head down and keep working. I need a vacation or something lol. Anyway, thanks and goodnight.

With love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Prussian Space-Time Theory & The OODA Loop

The following is from a short guide I am writing on contemporary, amateur wargame design that I plan on working on for the next few years:

2.2.1 Prussian Space-Time Theory & The OODA Loop

    OODA stands for observe, orient, decide, act, and in military terms is usually referred to how quickly a force can act upon receiving new information. One of the most severe historical examples of this concept in action is the first few months of the Franco Prussian War in 1870. The French army, who was highly regarded by most of Europe at this point, was utterly destroyed and conquered in less than 2-3 months by a united Germany. While the armies looked somewhat even on paper, the French army was constantly paralyzed by an inability to act. A commander would get shot and the unit would wait for hours until receiving orders to act. Troops would fail to follow the sound of guns without direct orders to do so, and the French army structure was simply incapable of this kind of flexibility given the French tradition of having the Emperor (Napoleon III at that time) command the whole army. While this worked for his uncle Bonaparte, Napoleon III was no tactical genius and suffering from gout for most of the war, he eventually was surrounded and gave up his empire on September 1st at the Battle of Sedan.

    The Prussian army on the other hand, was in a perfect position to exploit this inflexibility because wargaming had come up with a new warfighting concept loosely translated as Mission Command. Mission Command meant empowering officers at a tactical level make decisions based on their own their own initiative and experience. The main result of these ideas being the Prussians were able to do several things in the time it took the French to do one thing. This breakthrough was simply too decisive for the French to make use of their superior technology or numbers in instances where they had the edge, like at Mars La Tour how the whole of the French army basically froze unable to retreat because of the harassment from a few Prussian corps.

    There is a solid reason I went into this tangent, it’s because this phenomenon in military history is something that would be relatively easy to abstract and replicate in game form, it's also necessary to do for a wargame. Let's say you are designing a card game on this conflict, and each card in your hand represented various maneuvers your forces could make. Germany could, for example, have 5 cards in their hand as opposed to 4 for the French. That example is fairly quaint but the same concept applies on a number of  levels. In a chit pull wargame, where units would be activated by drawing markers randomly out of a cup, we could put several activation chits for the Prussian units and only several for the French, meaning the Prussian side can act more times during a turn. A final example i’ll use is the idea of initiative, say units have a rating, 2-5 that represent their ability to think on their feet. We could give Prussian infantry brigades an infantry of 3 compared to a two for the french. Initiative would then be checked during a turn if units were, for example, outside of the command range of a leader.

    Your ability to synthesize your research into concrete ideas for game design will ultimately depend on your knowledge of the topic and experience. In the most crude sense, you are simply applying abstractions and probabilities to your research, but depending on the scale, it can become more complicated. What I’d like you to take from this tangent is that a wargame must reflect actual history and not just simply in theme, if you are going to design mechanics around history, you need players to feel as though they are taking part in history, and the best way to do so is immerse them into the subject through relevant mechanics that require them to focus on the bigger picture.

Ray WeissComment
Meanwhile, at CSL HQ...

BOY the past week has been an absolute shitshow for me. First off, I want to apologize for not getting the games out faster, but at the same time I kind of don’t apologize because I’ve been taking the extra time to double check and fine tune everything so what you get is the best possible thing I can produce.

You may have noticed, but I have commissioned all new covers for all the games. My art is fairly terrible and I wanted to create something that looked professional. Now thanks to Ivan Caceres, we have some amazing looking covers coming up. He has also done all the counters for 1916 and 1864. 1916 I got fairly lucky to have a play-tester point out to me that my OOB was a month off. After pulling my hair out for an hour or two I reworked the OOB to include everything that was actually there at start, and reconfigure a bunch of variables regarding Admin Points due to the new units. There are now approximately double the number of combat units than when I started.

Memories of Squad Leader… Granted the game plays nothing like SL.

Memories of Squad Leader… Granted the game plays nothing like SL.

After the emergency with 1916, I then continued with working on play-testing and development changes for 1950. As of all the games I’ve created, I may be the most proud of 1950. Inspired by Adam Starkweather’s game on the same subject, OSS KOREA by Compass Games, 1950 plays kind of like a bastardized, miniaturized homage. One unique aspect I manged to develop was the use of Randomized Combat Chits, though clearly not groundbreaking, I think it especially resonates well when it comes to modern combat. 1950 will reward the player for historical tactics but there is no promise that they will lead to victory. 1950 will also be the first game of my new Procedural Combat Series, which will focus on post WW2 wars and large scale battles.

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The next game for the PCS series will be 1987, and then we are thinking about some others like what-if Yugoslavia in the 90s, Arab Israeli wars, and the Tet offensive. Anyway the next crisis I had to defuse was the formatting for all of this great new art and some of our rules was not to the publisher’s specifications. Everything had to be redone, this was a nightmare to get right but I have two people competent at these things in charge of getting everything ready for the printer now, as I know little to nothing about formatting and don’t have the patience for it.

Apart from dealing with that crisis, we began to rework 1812 because our illustrious map artist, Ilya Kudriashov, pointed out to me that the way I had fortresses and cities setup was completely a-historical, along with some of my assumptions about the war in general. What is now resulting is what I can say is an extremely unique set of rules where both cities and fortresses only exist in hexsides and they have no effect on combat, only morale and VP. This radically changes how most wargames work and I am working furiously on incorporating those changes and getting them to playtesters.

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So again, I apologize for not getting the games out sooner, but there have been good reasons and you would have hated me more if everything came out shitty. I can guarantee that wont be a problem now. I may have underestimated how frustrating this process would be but I remain steadfast in the amount of work I pour into these every day.

With love,

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Release Schedule for the first 5 games

Hello friends!

We are hard at work getting 1916 up to snuff for release. We got word right at the last minute that our OOB was off by a month, so we hired an artist to add the correct OOB and add the old OOB as reinforcements. I and developer Matt are expecting to get proof copies for the final that we will be checking for final changes by this weekend.


New counters for 1916: double the units! By Ivan Caceres

New counters for 1916: double the units! By Ivan Caceres

1916: Hopefully shipping by early next week.

1950: Hopefully shipping by late next week, early the week after.

1812 & 1987: First week or 2 of November.

1864: Middle to end of October

Keep in mind that these only apply if you have ordered games individually, if you ordered a group of games, we will send your order once all games are ready. If you wish to get any of your games earlier or wish for some other arrangement, or want to complain or ask any questions, please feel free to contact us here.

Finally, we will have several copies of our games to buy at a discount at FaTDoG this year, come say hi if you plan on attending! Oh and I almost forgot, once we have everything finalized for 1916, we will email out modules and rules to all customers.

With love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Game 005: 1864
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In the Americas where I grew up (NYC), the Second Schleswig war is unheard of. I would not be surprised of less than .0001% of people were aware of it’s occurrence. This makes a bit of sense taking into account the American Civil War and the enormous impact it would have on industrial warfare to come. The Danish war of 1864 on the other hand had more implications for the balance of power in Europe, implications that Napoleon III of France blatantly ignored directly leading to the rapid fall of the Second French Empire in 1870. As recently as a year or so ago, a major Danish TV series on the war won international acclaim as it chronicled the demise of Denmark as a regional European power. Prussia and Austria would shortly be at each others throat in 1866 during the Austro-Prussian War over supremacy in Germany after which Prussia reigned supreme. After Bismarck had masterfully goaded Napoleon III into giving into French public pressure to advance into Germany on the offensive, the German world united and bypassed the French army on it’s flanks, threatening the French rear right at the outset of the war.

First draft of the front box cover.

First draft of the front box cover.

At the outset of the design process for this game, I had decided that I wanted the game to straddle 2 scales, operational and tactical. The reason for this being is that at either scale by themselves, the war as a simulation struggles as a game. For one thing, the theater of war is relatively tiny, the only other game I know of to cover the war, Blood & Iron by Mike Benninghoff/Pacific Rim, does so as a tiny scenario that only uses a small portion of the map. Hence it becomes limiting to attempt at an operational scale as there is little opportunity for maneuver. Tactically, the battles themselves were in many ways very straightforward. The Danish would entrench, rely on fortresses, and attempt to use their Naval supremacy to transport men in order to threaten the German rear isolating both German armies as in the First Schleswig war. The German armies on the other hand would seek out the Danish flank and press them continuously, along with using heavy artillery to decimate Danish fortresses and entrenched positions. This pattern repeated itself throughout the entire war.

Danish Troops in 1864

Danish Troops in 1864

My solution design-wise to the challenges inherent to the conflict in regards to simulation was two-fold. My two objectives were to 1, allow players to gain some insight as to the challenges and tactics used during 1864 and 2 to provide enough player choice and variation that players weren’t railroaded into a predetermined narrative. In order to do this, I drew inspiration from an old and quirky Chadwick game, Crimea which deals with the Crimean war during a similar period and using a similar scale. In that game, whenever units end up adjacent after a strategic movement phase, it scales down to a separate action phase in which goes on as long as units remain next to each-other. This seemed like the most complementary approach as it gives both sides plenty of opportunities at a scale of 2.5 miles per hex. The second part of my design drew inspiration from Eric Lee Smith’s recent Battle Hymn from Compass Games, given that it presents a very interesting way to represent tactical combat at a brigade level, splitting Strength Points into adjacent hexes depending on enemy Zones of Control. This led to me creating separate battle maps to resolve combat with a scale of about 700 yards per hex. On the battle maps, players engage in a sequence of steps called an action phase, and resolve the effects of each battle on the map, ending once no enemies remain adjacent.

Part of playtest map, battle maps to the left, marked with a counter on the map.

Part of playtest map, battle maps to the left, marked with a counter on the map.

Counters by Ivan Caceres

Counters by Ivan Caceres

What results is probably my most complicated game yet, not so much because the processes themselves are complex, but they are unique to a few games that are unique in themselves and possibly counter-intuitive to some gamers. Those who stick it out though will be rewarded with an original, quick playing, enjoyable and accurate simulation of one of military history’s most neglected conflicts.

I’ll be putting this up for pre-order hopefully around this weekend.

With Love

Ray

Ray WeissComment
Game 003: 1812
1812 is our strategic game on Napoleon’s attempted conquest of Russia.

1812 is our strategic game on Napoleon’s attempted conquest of Russia.

1812 is a subject I’ve always been fascinated with, while simultaneously wondering why there weren’t more games on the subject. Apart from the conflict in the Americas, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was one of the more ambitious gambits in all of history other than the Swedish attempted conquest of Russia in the early 18th century. Both efforts would ultimately fail in part to similar factors. Both Karl and Napoleon’s armies were extremely far from their sources of supply, their lines of communication being extended far beyond the limits of what was possible in either century. While Napoleon had reached Moscow, the Russians rendered this massive achievement meaningless by burning down Moscow and retreating further into Russia to regroup.

French Retreat in 1812 by Pryanishnikov

French Retreat in 1812 by Pryanishnikov

The end result of the domestically unpopular strategy of scorched earth and fighting withdraws was decisively devastating for the French and the repercussions were far too grave for the French to ever recover, directly leading to the capture of Paris in 1814. Scorched earth tactics meant that the French could not draw any supplies from cities they had just captured. While this may seem like a relatively minor concern in more modern conflict, this tactic forced an army to be increasingly reliant on a supply train, something that was never really reliable until the dawn of the 20th century. Armies during the Napoleonic era, much like armies before, helped to sustain the good morale of their men and their basic needs by plundering anywhere they captured for supplies. This was a more nuanced issue for the French as some peoples would prefer the French to their own rulers, but the further the French pushed into Russia, the more hostile the country came surrounding the French army, dangerously overextended.

Playtest setup for 1812

Playtest setup for 1812

Accordingly, 1812 focuses on the nature of what is truly decisive in war. Clausewitz famously posits that war is an extension of politics, which boils down to basically say it is impossible to win a war without clear political objectives. Without clear political objectives, there can be no decisive result in war. The French player must decide on 1 of several ways to win the game, by either eliminating as many Russian units as possible, taking cities before Russia burns them down, and/or winning “decisive” battles defined as when players have enough SP involved that they both throw 3d6 during combat. The Russian player must finesse his forces to nudge the French into trying to do too much at once, so they can appropriately bring in reinforcements to counterattack the French army when weakens. Supply and Command points play roles in how effective units can be, or what units may activate.

ANYWAY I am fairly excited about 1812, it’s been a lot of fun to playtest and getting good feedback from one or two players, so we look forward to getting this title shipped out at the end of a week or two.

With Love

Ray

Owner/Operator at CSL

Ray WeissComment
Thesis Driven Design - A short non-academic essay
It looks much friendlier this way

It looks much friendlier this way

One of the better pieces of wargame design advice I’ve ever received, I think it came from Kevin Zucker’s game design dispatches, was that (and I am loosely paraphrasing here,) the best wargames tend to focus on one idea that the designer wants to showcase above all others. One old S&T game I am forgetting the name of (by Joe Miranda, maybe Wars of the Imperial Age?) had players rolling on a march chart every time they wanted to move to represent commanders not being able to accomplish everything they want in a given time. An example of this in action in one of Zucker’s games is where player’s roll dice in order to see if their headquarter units can exert full control over subordinate units within its command range, if not within range of a higher level headquarters.

It has taken me a while to get to a point where I realized how true this concept was, at least when it came to doing simulations as opposed to straight up games. Simulations can easily get bogged down when they attempt to simulate too many things at once. This can easily be seen in a number of later game that try to do a million things at once. That’s not to say those games aren’t fun, or that they don’t simulate something accurately, but it can get cumbersome and fatiguing to play.

One thing that works congruently with the format of the 2140 series is that given counter and package limitations, it forces me to concentrate on a point I want to get through to the player. One thing that consistently bugged me about games on Verdun was that while all of them feature attrition as a backdrop to tactical maneuvers, there were little to no games focused on the campaign at an operational scale which can better represent the combined effects of attrition. So the main focus of 1916 is Administration Points, which function as an abstraction of national morale, politics, bureaucracy and production. Players can burn these points in combat, attrition, or planning operations but must do so intelligently or they risk completely overstretching their forces and then unable to effectively react and maneuver to an opponent.

Most games on Korea (with most notably the exception of Starkweather’s magnificent OSS Korea) players know the makeup and relative competency of their forces. In reality, nearly all the forces were untested and green and there were wild variations in how units performed. Occasionally a green US task force would hold up an entire North Korean division, all while tanks menacingly rolled onto the Pusan Perimeter.In 1950, units are only given a unit quality rating, and movement allowance. Their combat strength is determined randomly, and then resets at the end of each half-month, two of those in a game turn. 1950 also uses a back and forth activation sequence that forces advance planning on both sides without knowing how those units perform beforehand, to a combat factor accountant’s dismay.

I am merely a manic amateur wargame designer but I’ve often told friends that I believe wargame design is not dissimilar to academia or creating and supporting an argument as in writing a paper in school. One must be able to support their ideas with clear sources and evidence. The art of wargame design at least to me then becomes how well one is able to transfer that argument into what essentially is a repeating set of instructions, much like an analog computer program. In my view, a game succeeds when it is able to allow the player to immerse themselves within the constraints of the command decisions made by those with the insight or initiative to do so successfully.

In closing, I propose that some of the most successful simulations hammer down on a single point they want to make, and then build the game around that point. I’ve already made some examples of games that do so but a total classic which represents this idea fully is PanzerGruppe Guderian, with it’s untested Russian units having both players with little to no idea where the majority of the Russian forces are located. Most of, if not all of the 2140 series games are being designed with this in mind. Each game has it’s own thesis from which the rest of the game is built around.

With Love

Ray Weiss

Ray WeissComment
We are live!

Hello all. I’m thrilled to let you all know that today we have started accepting pre-orders for our first 3 games, 1916, 1950 and 1812. Verdun will likely be finished first, followed by the others later this month. I am doing everything I can do to make sure these games are quality, fun, and worth your hard earned money. This company is my dayjob, and I plan on being as active as possible to focus on little else.

2 more games are currently in development which were meant to be released with the first 3, but because of a mixup they got pushed back a little bit. Those two games are 1987 (ww3) and 1864 (second schleswig war). After those I am planning on a few different ideas, possibly branching out into other strategic games outside of wargaming. We are also considering the possibility of printing larger footprint games for sale.

Thank you to all of those who bought games today, and I will be sending out Vassal modules and rules shortly. Please feel to reach out about your orders, any questions or concerns.

With Love

Ray Weiss - CSL Owner & Operator

Ray Weiss Comment