Confessions of a P500 Virgin

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The P500 Program is a core aspect of how we run our business, allowing you guys – our customers – to tell us what you want us to produce. P500 also helps us fund that production upfront, so that cash flow, a notorious killer of companies, is almost never an issue for us. When a new game is added to our P500 list, if it is a series game or a game that was designed by a designer who has a track record of doing successful games for us, that game tends to rise up the list fairly rapidly. But a game that is not part of  a current popular series by a designer who is new to you guys, well THAT game may have some trouble gaining traction on P500.

Andy Lewis and I have been working with Hermann Luttmann for about a year now, planning a couple of game lines from him that we think are going to be really well-liked by our customers. Although Hermann is not a rookie designer (One of his designs is what is so far my favorite of all the State of Siege games for VPG) he was mostly an unknown quantity to GMT customers when we added two of his games – At Any Cost: Metz 1870 and Hammerin’ Sickles: Longstreet Attacks at Gettysburg – to the P500 list in May. Since then, Hermann has been very active in creating interest and supporting his games among online gaming communities, especially Consimworld and BGG. And his games ARE getting  notice and orders, with orders at 350 and 320 for At Any Cost and Hammerin’ Sickles, respectively. But like virtually all designers with games new to the P500 list, Hermann has learned that the process is not automatic and that getting one’s game noticed amidst of sea of well-known and popular designs in a fundamentally difficult undertaking. So when we talked about Hermann’s first contribution to our InsideGMT blog, we thought an article about his insights into the process might be interesting.

One of our goals with InsideGMT is to provide a vehicle where you guys can, over time, really get to know our designers and the process. I’m really looking forward to you guys getting to know Hermann, as he is what Andy calls “one of our kind of guys” –  talented and interesting, committed to his craft and to making his games both historically accurate and accessible to gamers. He is also a guy who has that winning mix of a designer who pays immense attention to detail yet is very easy to work with, a real positive addition to any team. So I’m thrilled that Hermann is creating designs for us, and can’t wait  for the day when we  produce his first two GMT games. Here’s Hermann. Enjoy! – Gene


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August 4-10, 2014

A bunch of our designers,developers, and dedicated volunteers will be attending the World Boardgaming Championships next week. Here are a few of their plans:

Volko Ruhnke plans to:

Mark Herman will be there to:

  • Demo his newest version of Churchill
  • Demo, along with Volko, the production version of Fire in the Lake
  • Help the GMs, as needed, with their tournaments for his various CDGs

Kevin McPartland will be running the Conquest of Paradise Tournament:

  • First Heat: Wednesday, August 6th at noon.
  • Second Heat: Thursday, August 7th at 9:00 pm.
  • Demonstration: Friday, August 8th at 2:00 pm; Third Heat at 3:00 pm.
  • Fourth Heat: Saturday, August 9th at 9:00 am; Semifinals at noon; Finals at 3:00 pm.

Mark McLaughlin and Fred Schachter will be running the Rebel Raiders tournament and demoing  Hitler’s Reich, their next P500 game.

Bryan Collars will be:

Sal Vasta will be attending Thursday through Sunday to demo the production version of Unconditional Surrender.

Joel Tamburo will be GMing the COIN Series event.  Events and times:

  • DEMO: Monday 8pm
  • First Heat: Tuesday 6pm
  • Second Heat: Friday 1pm
  • Semifinal: Saturday at 9am
  • Final: Saturday at 3pm
  • All heats and semifinal in Contestoga 2. Final in Lampeter.

Dave Stiffler and Gilbert Collins will be running a tournament and a demo for Mr. Madison’s War. Details:

  • GM: Dave Stiffler (Developer)
  • Demo: Wed, 6 Aug (Run by Gilbert Collins, Designer)
  • Rounds 1-4 Begin at 1000
  • Thurs, 7 Aug: Semi-Finals and Final begin at 0900

Hermann Luttman and Fred Manzo will be demoing both At Any Cost and Hammerin’ Sickles starting on Friday morning.

William Terdoslavich and Scott Muldoon will be at WBC on the 8th and 9th to demo Cataclysm, a game they are getting ready for our P500 list. They plan on running a big demo Saturday afternoon, and may possibly be available at other times on Friday/Saturday as well.

 

For a complete list of all the WBC Events, go the WBC Schedule and Event Descriptions Page

 

Date: August 4, 2014—August 10, 2014
Event: World Boardgaming Championships
Venue: Lancaster Host
Location: Lancaster, PA

Falling Sky: Anatomy of a P500 Addition

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On  a day when we added three new games to our P500 list, I wanted to post something here on our blog to advertise the additions. But the more I thought about it, adding a “We just added three new games to the P500 list!” post here, after we’ve already posted information on all three games across all of our social media and in today’s Customer E-Mail Update, seemed a little redundant and not really in keeping with our “InsideGMT” theme for this blog. So I thought I’d try something a little different – a post about our process, and how one of these three games came to the P500 list.  So here goes. I hope you guys find this interesting.

By way of background, all of our designers and design teams know that I routinely add games to our P500 list near the end of each month, to coincide with the release of our Customer E-Mail Update. So as games get close to “ready” for the P500 list, there’s a lot of preparatory conversation back and forth with those designers and teams about whether their game is going to be ready for the list this month. For the games that are going to be ready, the designer or team sends me text for the P500 writeup and an exact component list. I then send the component list to Tony Curtis, who figures out the retail and P500 price points for those components, and the text  to Rodger MacGowan or my daughter Rachel Billingsley, who use it to make cool banners for each of the new P500 games. Meanwhile, I create the P500 page itself on our website. This all usually happens about a week before we launch the new P500s near month-end, but there have been times when a writeup came in at the 11th hour and we decided to go with it, when Rodger and Tony did REALLY quick turns to help get the game ready for launch. (It’s always nice to work with professionals – guys who stay cool when things get hectic.)

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So let’s talk about how we came to add  Falling Sky to the list today. Usually, I know about games in development for months, sometimes years, before they go on our P500 list. But Volko REALLY surprised me with this one. About a month ago, as I was on a long drive home from Stanford Medical Center (fun with shoulders and back!), Volko called and told me, rather casually, that he had a new game in the COIN series, and that it was almost ready for P500!! What?!?! That was stunning but awesome news to me, as Volko and I had just a couple months back laid out an overall strategic plan for the next couple years of COIN P500 additions, and I thought I had a good handle on what was coming. But an ANCIENTS COIN series game!?! Oh, MAN!!!!  (Given that about half of our customer base loves ancient games, the “sales guy” part of me was drooling at  the potential appeal of COIN doing Ancients.) Wow! It was a bonus that Volko said it was a co-design with his son Andrew, a young man I think very highly of, and one of the savviest COIN series players I’ve met. I think this father-son design team approach is just really cool. And I love seeing younger designers cutting their teeth in the hobby, especially with games that say “GMT” on the box.

So, after discussing all the details and weighing pros and cons (ok, there weren’t that many cons!), we decided to move Falling Sky to the front of the COIN series line and move back a couple other games that we thought we’d be adding later this summer (At least one of those you’ll probably still see on the list later this year.)  The rest of the process went smoothly, and the rest of our team was as excited as I was to see this evolution in the COIN series.

Why do I want this game on our P500 list? OK, beyond the “doh! Volko!” aspect, I think this period is PERFECT for COIN! Also, I think that this is going to open up some potential COIN co-designers’ minds to other non-modern possibilities for the COIN series and that we may see some applications of this system to periods and situations that Volko and I never envisioned when we first discussed the possibility of this series several years ago.

If you’d like to read more information about Falling Sky  or place a P500 order, please visit our Falling Sky P500 page. Thanks!

Enjoy the games!

Gene

 

Wing Leader: Content Creation

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Lee has done a bunch of cool air games for us since 2004, when we published Downtown, Lee’s outstanding game on the operational air war in Vietnam. Ten years and several games later, he’s working on a series that has captured my imagination more than any of the rest – Wing Leader. The initial design work we’ve seen to date looks amazing, so we’re really anxious to see this one progress, both design-wise and on our P500 list (451 orders in just a few months on the list). Lee has also created a terrific video promo for Wing Leader. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here for more info on the series and a good laugh!  – Gene

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Today I start a vacation. Or it should more properly be called a staycation, as I’m locked to my desk at home, working on content for my Wing Leader game.

Like a certain game about squads and leaders, much of what makes Wing Leader great is in the scenario creation. There’s latitude for riffing on a number of simple themes and I’m looking to build a suite of scenarios that are fun, touch upon a lot of different moments in history, and deliver a variety of experience.

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In my day job, building content for video games, you go through the early stages of a project trying to nail the basic stuff. You explore what the game is about and construct game worlds that support the core gameplay. Only once you understand the basics can you begin to stretch the content in different directions.

So it is with Wing Leader. Early scenarios focussed on basic building blocks. They attempted to define what a scenario looked like on the page, what the basic grammar of a scenario was. Now we have learned the basics we can start to play about, do some more sophisticated stuff. And we are almost at the place where we have a first draft of all the content.

It’s an important time. Knowing the scenario content allows me to lock down what the asset requirements are for the game. How many counters of each aircraft type do I need? How many aircraft data cards are required? I have estimates of all of these, but I now need to nail down precise numbers.

However, having a first draft, and having developed a working knowledge of the game and scenario creation, we can begin to tweak the stuff we have. We can take those early basic scenarios and buff them up, adding the spice and playful stuff we learned along the way.

I’ve tentatively pencilled in the autumn for the start of beta testing, which will permit some of you to take a look at the game and the content for the first time. It’ll be good to get fresh eyes on this. I’m not taking any newcomers just yet, so keep your eyes peeled for the bat-signal!

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Triumph and Tragedy: The Clausewitz Game

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I played my old AH Anzio game until I could barely read the counters, so Tom Oleson was an industry icon to me long before I ever started thinking about starting GMT Games. When I designed those first three games back in 1990, Rodger suggested I send free copies to a long list of industry personalities. These were people who Rodger knew, but who to me were just the amazing designers whose games had brought me such enjoyment over the years. A bunch of those people responded to me with thanks and well-wishes and many became long-time friends (thank you, Rodger!). But Tom Oleson stood out to me, because he sent me a really nice note of congratulations and encouragement, and also included payment for the three games because he didn’t want to cost a start-up wargame company money. “Wow,” I thought at the time, “This guy has class.” And over the years, that opinion has only been reinforced, as I have observed his continuing contributions to the hobby, as well as the many ways he has shown kindness to us at GMT. 

So I was thrilled to learn recently that Tom had a chance to playtest Craig Besinque’s design, Triumph & Tragedy, multiple times, and that he wanted to create a report to give us his impressions. Thanks so much, Tom, for taking the time to test the game and give us your thoughts. I appreciate your kindness. – Gene

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TriumphTragedyP500TabIn 1832 Clausewitz said “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. Craig Besinque’s new area movement card-driven block game “Triumph & Tragedy” focuses on the ETO but also includes the Western hemisphere and the East as far as Afghanistan and India.

It is not a traditional war game, but a Great Power Rivalry game. War is possible – and very cleverly modeled given the relatively small size of the game. But just as much attention is paid to what comes before the “continuation” – building alliances through diplomacy, and gaining strength through industrial mobilization. There are also many options for technological development, including going for the atomic bomb!

Games are all about choices, and here the players have very many. Do you play that card for diplomacy, or save it for deploying units? And if you do save it, might your opponent have a card permitting him to snatch it from you (all the cards have multiple options). If anyone violates a neutral, opponents get bonus cards!P1030663

As we play-tested it multiple times during a week, AHIKsers Walt Garman and Mark McCandless and I marveled at how many clever concepts have been subtly incorporated. Just one of so many – each year that a great power is at peace, it earns a secret Peace Dividend with a VP value of zero, 1, or 2. This could make the difference in deciding who wins. NOT going to war has value, as indeed it should.

 

Walt and I played the 2-player game with enjoyment, but the 3-player version is more fun. As the Axis I won narrowly the first time with a late-game war after dominating the Balkans through diplomacy. The second time as Axis I was doing well with an early war which gave me transitory naval supremacy enabling a blockade of Britain. But in the end, the Soviets were attacking Berlin and the West the Ruhr (both held).

Although this game is in the final stages of preparation, rules, play-balance, all the factors making for a finished product, were at least as good as many games already on the  market. So many games these days, however well done, are repetitious, familiar themes reworked. It was a pleasure to try something new to my experience. Map, counters, and cards, will be handled by Mark Simonitch. Need I say more?

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On the Design Table: Mark Herman

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Over the past several years, my regular phone conversations with Mark Herman have usually included me – or sometimes Mark – referring to how great it would be when Mark finally could  retire from his day job and get to design all those games he’s been wanting to create, essentially full-time. Well, those phone pipe dreams have become reality this year (!), as Mark got to retire and is (at least for now) pretty much a full-time game designer.  When you read Mark’s Guest blog, below,  you’ll see that he is not letting any grass grow under his feet – he is off and running on several designs that he’s been wanting to finish for some time now. (And there are more, but we don’t want to cause you guys to weep with joy all at once :-), so we’ll save info on those for another day ! ) So, get ready for a treat – Mark is one of the best, if not the best,  pure systems designer I know, and he’s running at full-throttle now. Hang on! It’s going to be a fun ride!  Here’s Mark. – Gene

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Hi everyone! I’m happy to accept Gene’s invitation to write a Guest blog on the new InsideGMT blog. I’m also posting this information on my personal design blog, which I invite you all to visit any time.

I want to catch everyone up on where I have been over the last couple of months and where I am going.

 

Empire of the Sun:

Since my last blog post, the Empire of the Sun reprint has been on the front burner. One of the perennial WBC champions, Antero Kuusi, stepped up to re-write the rules to make them more accessible. I want to say he has done a fabulous job in reorganizing and rewriting many of the trickier sections. While EotS is still a very intricate design I believe that he has lowered the barrier to entry for those who want to get involved. Backing him up is a crack team of editors drawn from the elite staff players on Consimworld who have been playing the game continuously since its publication almost a decade ago. Besides the rules rewrite I have incorporated a few of the more important c3i variants into the core rules, so there is a lot to like about the reprint rules.

On the card front, about 60 of the 160 cards have had a rewrite to incorporate FAQ questions and I took the opportunity to insert a bit more history into the game with new bonuses on many cards that were not in the original. A good example is the small naval force that was under MacArthur’s command is now incorporated without any extra rules. MacArthur’s navy allows an Army activation of one non-carrier naval unit while under ISR. The rest of the new bonuses I will leave as a surprise.

eotscoverThe counters are almost unchanged except we added many of the c3i mnemonic counters that the team have found useful plus I renamed a few counters to give each counter a unique name so instead of BB Kongo 1 and BB Kongo 2, we now have BB Hiei and BB Kongo.

Probably the most interesting dimension of the reprint is the incorporation of the Card Driven Solo System that is based on my experience designing the US ‘Bot for Fire in the Lake. Essentially I am writing a Japanese and Allied ‘Bot for EotS. When I told Mark Simonitch what I was doing he wrote, “you’re crazy”. While that may be true, it works. I learned a long time ago that if you tackle the hardest problem last, you end up solving lots of small issues that do not add up. To avoid this pitfall I started by building the logic for a non-player Japanese opening. My current version captured Malaya, the Philippines and the DEI plus set up a defense perimeter in 9 cards. Not too bad… The way I see this working out is you will have the option to play the Japanese, play the Allies, or what I like best is start as the Japanese with a non-player Allied side. When the Japanese have reached their apogee switch sides and become the Allied player against the Japanese ‘Bot. This way you are always on the attack. So, far I have finished the version 1.0 Japanese opening logic, with much more to do before this is fully up an running.

Now what you will get in the reprint is the version 1.0. It will not be perfect but I am looking at this as a work in progress. I will do the first cut, put it up on line with a template and the EotS tribe can continue to improve and develop it.  That’s about all I have on the EotS reprint other than a few minor map improvements to handle the revised India surrender procedure and a couple of nits.  All that is left is to proof the revised rules layout, which I should see shortly.

THUNDER ALLEY Gets a Great Review from No High Scores

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About a month ago, we released a new Euro-type racing game, THUNDER ALLEY, designed by Jeff and Carla Horger. We’ve been thrilled to see how many players and game groups are LOVING this game, one that I really believe will be recognized, over time, as one of the best games in the GMT line.  So it’s really cool now to see that the Review sites are starting to get their hands on THUNDER ALLEY, and from what we’re seeing so far, they really like it. I like this part of the No High Scores review:

…  in the blink of an eye this 250 MPH masterpiece has become one of the best racing games that I’ve ever played. It’s a brilliant piece of design that nails down the most important elements drivers at Talledega or Daytona experience while also creating compelling spaces for tactical movement decisions and coordinated, team-focused gameplay.”

Congratulations to Jeff and Carla on their terrific design! I’m clearly a bit biased, but I believe they deserve every bit of the praise they are afforded in this review. Great job!

Here’s a link to the full review on the No High Scores site:  No High Scores Thunder Alley review

 
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Welcome to the InsideGMT blog!

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Hello Everyone!

Welcome to our new InsideGMT blog! The purpose of this blog is to get you guys more current information on the projects our designers are working on, and to give you more peeks “behind the curtain” at the people and products that make up GMT Games.

So, several times a week, you’ll see a mix of posts from me about various happenings InsideGMT, Guest blogs from our designers on various projects, interviews with GMT team members, and general news. We’ll also utilize this blog’s “Upcoming Events” feature to keep you guys informed about which shows and game conventions our team members will be attending. And we’re going to do our best to give you more frequent updates on progress with our P500 designs from designer and developer updates as well.

I want to invite you guys to get involved with this blog. Feel free to leave comments about things  you’d like to see in future blog posts as well as your general feedback to what we post. If there’s a feature you’d like to see us add to the blog, feel free to suggest it. And if some of you would like to send me Guest blogs to post with your perspective on GMT or one of our games or any aspect of our operations, feel free, and I’ll work them into the general posting plan.

I hope that you find this InsideGMT blog will enhance your enjoyment of GMT Games and draw you closer to the “Circle of Friends” who create and produce them. I look forward to reading your feedback. Until next time….

Enjoy the games!

Gene

On the Design Table: Mitchell Land

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Welcome to our first Inside GMT Guest blog! Designer Mitchell Land is going to discuss the Next War Series. This is a series that I have some personal ties to, design-wise, and I’m really thankful to Mitch and his team of developers and testers for continuing and expanding the series. Enjoy! – Gene

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I’m flattered that Gene has granted me the opportunity to pen this guest post on the Inside GMT Blog and pleased to share with y’all some of the inside workings of the design and development going on with the Next War MitchSeries. Thanks, Gene!

In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to discuss the history of the series, some of the inner workings of Next War: Taiwan (NWT), make some comments on our proofing process, talk a little about Next War: India-Pakistan, and wrap up with some thoughts on future directions.

Right off the bat I think it’s important to share the history of the Next War series. Next War: Korea (NWK) is based on Gene’s design, Crisis: Korea 1995 (CK:95), which GMT Games released in 1992. In late 1998/early 1999 Gene started talking about upgrading the game and providing updated Orders of Battle, a new map, and rules revisions. That sort of languished for a few years moving in fits and starts as Gene found time to work on it with periodic updates. In early 2009, I pulled CK:95 off the shelf and played it a few times. I quickly fell in love with the overall system, and, once I really started to pay attention to the Consimworld folder, I grew excited about the pending update. So much so that I started sending Gene all sorts of suggestions about what I thought needed fixing or updating. He must’ve gotten tired of reading it all because, at some point, he just emailed me back and said, more or less, “why don’t you do it.” And that, as they say, was that. My work on the system began mid-to-late 2009 and came to fruition when it was finally released in 2012, twenty years after the original.

While we were waiting for NWK to be published, talk naturally turned to “what’s next.” My preference led me to the idea of creating a “ring” of games with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the pivot point. That is, the next few games in the series would concentrate on potential conflicts between the PRC and its neighbors. The two primary contenders were Taiwan, due to its unusual situation vis á vis the PRC, and an intervention game with India and Pakistan as the primary players. This created the opportunity to potentially provide a massive ubergame which combined all of the individual games into one large scenario. Next War: Taiwan (NWT) and Next War: India-Pakistan (NWIP) will fulfill the partial realization of that idea. NWT is at the head of the queue primarily because the map was already well along and the Orders of Battle had already been created. It was just a matter of writing the Game Specific Rules. That, it quickly became apparent, was an understatement.

Due to the obvious form which any conflict between the PRC and the Republic of China (ROC) would take, I realized that the current state of the highly abstracted naval sub-game in the Next War series simply wasn’t going to cut it. The “Anti-Shipping Strike Rules” existed in a protean form for players to try out with NWK, but that wasn’t going to be enough. Over several iterations, the necessity for providing an expanded naval map became obvious.

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This led to changes in Sea Control and Contested Sea Movement and the addition of naval mines which, in turn, meant that aerial mining missions needed to be provided for as a new Air Strike Mission. The vast majority of my time has been spent working over the newly updated naval aspects including the interaction between various other sub-systems such as the air system and theater weapons (cruise missiles). The overall naval system is still abstracted in that submarines and ASW capabilities are handled via tracks and there still aren’t any individual ship counters, but the appropriate nuances exist to reflect each side’s concerns surrounding the main event: the invasion of Taiwan.