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

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.

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.

44824224_1902590076702591_8511107399359135744_n.jpg

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.

44821262_2017566798304016_4805624296015659008_n.jpg

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

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

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

Mildly Bad News and Good/Great news.

Hello all,

As of out last post, we were planning on 1987 being our 3rd game out of 5 to be available at launch, but fate has intervened because I am a moron and misunderstood various map negotiations. Thankfully my incompetence hasn’t sank this venture before it has started and we are still on track to launch in a week or so, but with 3 games at launch instead of 5, the three being 1916, 1950 and 1812. I felt this gives a good range of eras and in terms of playtesting, these are the most solid so far so we decided to go with these three for the release.

As of this morning, we are nearly finished with the playtesting process for 1916. Admittedly, our process is recklessly expedited given my plan to launch so quickly, but we only have myself to blame for that. That said, I feel pretty confident in how 1916 is turning out given it has created the same historical ebb/flow of the frontline during the campaign. The focus on Administrative points is key as there is little other way to tie in the combined effects of attrition on both planning, and operations.

Oh and I nearly forgot the good news, We have secured a contract for 4 maps with one of wargaming’s hardest working and reliably solid artists in the industry, and we will reveal them along with some of their work for us next week, but they will be doing the map art for releases 2-5.

Our focus for this coming week is getting the 2 remaining games ready for launch. If you send us any proposals, it is likely I will not be able to review them until November, as of now this will soon be my only means of income and I will need to be focused on getting things up and running, until they are doing so.

In closing, apologies for the delay in posting but a lot has been going on behind the scenes. I haven’t taken a day off in over a month and I don’t care given I am so excited about being able to produce these games. If I can figure it out this week, I will start allowing people to pre-order items at an even better discount than our launch prices.

With Love

Ray Weiss - Owner/Operator @ CSL

Game 004: 1987

Immediately after designing 1950, I realized that a slightly modified system using the same mechanics would be perfect for other modern engagements. The reason for this being the fast moving back and forth turns, plus the generalized confusion from not knowing what strength your units will end up with until the last minute. I decided on doing a hypothetical situation in order to test the limits of this system

 Playtest copy of 1987

Playtest copy of 1987

The game adds in several new mechanics to the same generalized flow of 1950. The situation itself is based on the original intent of the Russian invasion of East Prussia in 1914. Two Russian armies moved west and were supposed to meet outside what was the Konigsberg, the seat of Prussian power in Germany. Tactically, the situation resembles what the Russian army had intended in 1914, though admittedly the situation itself is a-historical.

This game is simply meant to be a good time, most people enjoy the eastern front and WW3, so it made sense to combine the two. In addition, the absence of NATO heavyweights such as the US, UK, FR etc, it gives the players an interesting opportunity to maneuver with an interesting, historically accurate order of battle. Note that the above are playtest components, thanks for reading :)

Game 002: 1950

1950 is the very first original game I’ve designed that takes place after WW1. I specifically wanted to design a Korea game that did not feel like it was scripted to recreate the campaign, but rather one that encouraged those tactics and maneuvers. Additionally, I didn’t want a game that accountants could abuse or break with strength factor counting, this felt totally antithetical to the nature of the Korean war in which everything seems confused and unknown.

41758077_891564297705046_7816723372141707264_o (1).jpg

After originally considering a more traditional approach to the war with attack and defense factors, exploitation phases and an IGOUGO sequencing, I then decided on trashing all of those ideas and starting fresh. I had recently played Starkweather’s OSS KOREA game and felt inspired enough by it to try to come up with similar ideas and approaches. I finally felt satisfied settling on the random combat chit resolution to stop players from what I saw as the wrong kind of gamey planning (not that I have anything against games that promote that type of thinking, like The Russian Campaign , Africa Korps etc, but they have already been done and done well.)

The combat chits create a more accurate experience by removing some of the domain battlespace knowledge inherent in most games, you only know the type, quality of a unit, and how far it can move. The exception to this is airpower as in order to accurately represent the strategic situation, players must be able to figure out how best to use air assets to support their units through the various options. Anyway, I ended up really liking this game of mine in terms of how I think it plays, no other korea game plays like it and it can get very interesting solo. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed designing it :)

Game 001: 1916

1916 is our first game of the 2140 series covering the Verdun campaign at an operational scale. Many of the available games on Verdun are solely focused on the tactical situation at Verdun, which really pays little to no justice as to the actual objective of the Verdun campaign: attrition. Falkenhayn had wanted to both physically and emotionally drain the French by forcing them to defend a large flank attack against France’s most iconic fortress.

  Northern sector of Verdun, playtest kit shown above

Northern sector of Verdun, playtest kit shown above

1916 uses Administrative Points to represent logistical, political and strategic capabilities available to each side. The campaign was a massive resource drain on both sides given the number of shells, men, and guns being gone through on a daily basis. No simulation would be comprehensive without placing this burden on the player. Players receive a finite number of Administrative Points making it impossible to possibly do everything a player wants, only what is absolutely necessary. The game also features tactical chrome such as hurricane barrages, flamethrowers, French Elan, and stripping fortress guns.

Ultimately, the French won at Verdun due to their innovations in defensive tactics. The French defended Verdun in the field in depth as opposed to from the fortresses. By the end of the Verdun campaign, it was clear to Falkenhayn that the effort was no longer worth the returns when French and German manpower evened out at a similar level. The French had figured out the solution to the Bruchmiller artillery tactics that had so dominated the war up to this point through their defensive tactics, though a decisive end to the war would not come until years later.

Playtest kits have been sent out as of last week and we are in the final playtest/development phase for the game. We have a great stable of playtesters at CSL but given the number of releases we plan on doing, we can always use more! As a playtesters, you receive a free demo copy of the game along with thanks and credit in the rules. That said, we expect our playtesters to quickly and thoroughly playtest given the games are designed to be playable in 2 hours, and we run on a fairly tight schedule for the sake of my continued survival and ability to keep this website up :)