Design Background – Panzer and MBT

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Jim Day has been a respected designer in our hobby going back to the 1970s. When Andy told me a few years back that we had an opportunity to work with Jim on completely retooled versions of his terrific tactical wargames, I was thrilled, as I knew his systems were first-rate and was impressed at the major effort he was making to simplify those tactical systems while retaining the immersive game play that was their hallmark. What I didn’t know at the time is that Jim is a dream to work with. He’s a perfectionist when it comes to his systems, lavishing great time and much attention to detail on his creations, but he works well with others and shows great appreciation for the efforts of his team members. Those traits fit in really well with the way we approach things here at GMT, and they represent more than just the “Standard Designer Skill Set,” in my experience.

So I’m very thankful for the opportunity to work with Jim, and am really pleased that our first print run of his new Panzer was so well received that it quickly sold out. (Please go order the P500 reprint so we can print MORE! ) His next game, MBT, just passed 500 on the P500 list, so we’ll be prepping to give it a production slot over the coming months. 

The design background piece that Jim presents below is the kind of insight into the design process that I enjoy, and I very much appreciate Jim creating it for InsideGMT. By the way, my two cents on the new GMT versions, as a player, is that Jim “nailed it.” Less complexity, less time to play, but I get bigger battles, same historicity, and lots of scenarios for high “bang for my gaming buck.” But I have admit, I am just ever-so-slightly biased. 🙂 I hope you guys enjoy Jim’s article, and the games! – Gene


Panzer CoverWhat is the relationship between the new GMT Games versions of Panzer and MBT and earlier versions of those designs? What follows is some historical perspective on the designs, as well as my VERY subjective arguments on the reasons for the new “GMT” version of the game system.

In its day, the original Yaquinto Panzer’s, and its successors, detail was quite in-depth while supporting a high degree of playability. Although certainly not the first game on the topic of tactical combat, it was probably one of the first to translate miniatures style play to a board game format. Because the game system was originally designed as a miniatures game, that wasn’t too much of a leap.

Although it is often a struggle to determine what represents a reasonable balance between realism, complexity and play balance, the game elements and level of complexity of the Yaquinto version were right in step with the games of its day. The use of simultaneous movement (written orders) was not common in all games, but on the other hand was not an oddity either. As in the current game, each vehicle, gun, aircraft, leg unit, and others had their own specific data card that summarized all of the necessary information to play the game. panzer data card yaquintoThe system worked very well on a small force basis and was better for modeling vehicles than infantry. The morale rules were a little simplistic, but worked well enough as most players did not want that level of complexity.


The Great Leap from Wargame Design….

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…. or what the heck got into Rick Young’s head,  designing Leaping Lemmings?

Hey guys, I have often been asked, what’s a fine upstanding Wargame Designer like myself doing making a game like Leaping Lemmings? With LL coming out for iPad soon, I thought I’d fill you all in on what went on with that fateful decision.

Title Screen of Upcoming iPad version of Leaping Lemmings

Title Screen of Upcoming iPad version of Leaping Lemmings

It all happened at WBC several years ago, when my annual roommate, John Poniske, and myself were staying about 20 minutes away to save a few bucks.  It was a bad decision, as we were sleeping in the attic, and it was the year of the stifling 100+ degree heat wave, and there was no a/c in the attic.  That was the last year we didn’t splurge on a Hotel.

MBT Prologue + Free Sample Scenario

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27 September 1987, 1400 Zulu
GDR Western Border

Man’s vision of hell manifests itself in many guises. Whether terror, despair, or utter hopelessness, its definition remains very personal in nature. For 2nd battalion commander Major Petr Nikolayevich Yakolev, the descent into his personal abyss coincided with his posting to the 79th Guards Tank Division.

Yakolev restlessly shifts his position, narrowly avoiding the sharp protrusions in his T-80’s copula. Wiping the sweat from the back of his neck, a quick smile plays across his ruddy face as he glimpses the striking cobalt sky. Jarred by the uneven road, Yakolev’s momentary escape quickly evaporates in the starkness of this reality.MBT_T-80BV_counter

A lifelong military career supporting the Soviet Union has done nothing to temper his foreboding. After much posturing and many recriminations the Soviet high command has ordered the GSFG into action. As part of the 8th Guards Army, his division is now swiftly moving forward. Tasked with penetrating through the Fulda Gap, they are going to strike and strike hard against the Americans.

Closed Circuit: Thunder Alley, Grand Prix, and New Tracks

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Well, I am a dyed-in-the-wool wargamer, but I have to admit, with Thunder Alley, Jeff and Carla have hooked me (and my whole family!). I’ve now played a dozen or so games, with a mix of wargamers and eurogamers and never-before gamers, and all of them have been really fun. We have a group of twenty-somethings at our church now who aren’t big gamers but who ask us almost every time we see them “When can we come over again to play Thunder Alley?” So that’s been really cool, to have a game with GMT on the box that we can teach our non-gamer friends and have a great time with a group of 4-7. 

This is Jeff’s first article for InsideGMT, although many of you are familiar with him as the designer of Manoeuvre and as a very active online poster and promoter of games. If you’d like to hear more from Jeff, please check out his online presence, in the following venues:

Thunder Alley Facebook Page

Grand Prix Facebook Page

Jeff’s Twitter Feed

Enjoy the article! – Gene


thunder-alley-2-640x349Auto racing and GMT (known as a wargame company) are somewhat strange bedfellows, although to be fair sometimes the carnage invoked by a race can look pretty devastating. Races are also made up of hundreds of fights for position over the course of four or five hundred miles by numerous cars. They are quick and vicious skirmishes where a winner and a loser are clearly defined.

The design of Thunder Alley started many years ago and looked very different than it does today, except in one regard, the tracks. From the very beginning we selected four representative tracks that players could use to simulate a season of racing if they desired. There was the super speedway, the short track, the triangle track and a road course. All of these were modeled on existing known commodities that people were familiar with. We also assumed that the knowledge went further than the hardcore fan. There were shapes left out but we were pretty comfortable with our four tracks being all anyone would need.

We were wrong.

What Do You Want to Know About Falling Sky?

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NoRetreatItaly-TabVolko and Andrew Ruhnke, the designers of Falling Sky our newest COIN Series game to hit the P500 list, are preparing an article for you guys that gives you a look inside the design. Gallic Wars COIN AvailForces (Rome)In what is a first for InsideGMT, they’ve asked me to involve you guys in the process of article creation.

Volko and Andrew want to tailor their article to give you the information you’re most interested in. To facilitate that, we are requesting that you guys give us your questions, input, and comments in advance.

So here’s your chance to help shape the Falling Sky article. Please leave us a comment with your questions, suggestions, and curiosities about the game.

Thanks much for helping Volko and Andrew craft a Falling Sky article that will give you the information that most interests you!


What Does it Take to Have Your Game Accepted by GMT? (Part II)

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As I noted last time, I asked Andy Lewis for his input after he got home from WBC, and he sent me enough good information that I wanted to just devote a whole section to Andy’s view and process. I’ll add a part III later with some more specifics, especially about designing games for existing GMT systems. – Gene


Andy Lewis, VP of Acquisitions & Development

Andy Lewis, VP of Acquisitions & Development

Sorry for being away during the first part. I do want to give you guys some information about how I look at design submissions, because. as Gene noted in Part I,  my process is a little different than his.

Regarding where I can best evaluate your submissions: Yes, I would like to see your game at a convention, but my useful time at them is limited. You see, WBC is my main vacation for the year – yes it is a working vacation – so you need to arrange something for Monday or Tuesday otherwise I’ll look if I have free time. Just please be aware the zombie stare doesn’t mean I’m uninterested; I’m just exhausted from gaming all week. Prezcon in February is another option, but I run the booth there 10-6 so again zombie stares will come with the review. The best opportunity is at GMT East in March in White Plains. I am the host and run the “store” there, but have more free time and less zombie stares.

Next War Series: Reality Show

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NWKorea(2)Cover(RBM)Those of you who have taken Next War: Korea (NWK) for a spin have probably noticed by now that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and Air Force (KPAF) are fairly formidable in the game (the latter for only a little while, of course). One of the underlying assumptions of the game is that somehow, either through relaxation or negligence on the part of the international community and its enforcement of sanctions combined with the willingness of the PRC to surreptitiously defy those sanctions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has managed to overcome several of its economic and military challenges in terms of food, spare parts, new equipment, etc. It’s not a completely unreasonable assumption if you consider that a tip regarding possible drug shipments was the only reason a recent load of weapons and spare parts bound for North Korea was found and seized by the Panamanians1. That indicates that there are active elements of a strategy to circumvent the sanctions. Stopping one shipment should make one wonder how many others got through.

The fact is, though, while the KPA and KPAF are dangerous looking forces on paper, the reality lies somewhere below the capability as depicted in Next War: Korea. Although there is no denying that the KPA is a large, relatively well-armed force composed for the most part of troops who have been brought up within the philosophy of Juche (basically, extreme self-reliance), that force is also largely underfed and under-trained. However, as Stalin is reputed to have stated, “quantity has a quality all its own.”

That sentiment can also be applied to the KPAF, which maintains a large inventory of aircraft ranging from relatively capable aircraft such as the MiG-29 to Korean War vintage MiG-15s. Although numbers can matter in terms of controlling a particular patch of sky, as is represented in the Air Superiority calculation within the game, it only applies if you can actually get the planes in the air. Within the game, the KPAF is generously assumed to have parts, pilots, and fuel for the vast majority of its airframes to fly. The Pilot Skill modifiers portray fairly well the fact that KPAF pilots only fly around 25 training hours per year (more for the MiG-29 pilots)2, but the reality is that it is highly unlikely the North could sortie many of their older airframes at all in a combat situation. In 2014 alone, they’ve had three MiG-19s crash after take-off or during training3.

We’ll have a booth at Strategicon’s Gateway 14 over Labor Day Weekend with all of our latest releases, run by Mark Kaczmarek and at least a couple of our GMT Office ladies. A few of our designers will also be there demoing games. We’ll add details for them as we have them.

  • Kurt Keckley will be running a formal demo of Fields of Despair on Friday, August 29th from 1-4 pm in the Wargame Room. He’ll also have the game set up and available for play all weekend.
  • Harold Buchanan will be demoing Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection on Friday, August 29th from 1:00 to 5:00 PM in the Wargame Room. The game will also be available for Demo and playtesting throughout the weekend.
Date: August 29, 2014—September 1, 2004
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Event: Strategicon's Gateway 14
Public: Public

My first trip to WBC with Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection

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I think you guys are going to really like Harold Buchanan. I’ve only met him that one time in Tempe (see below), but I came away very impressed. Harold is clearly a very smart, very accomplished guy. But I think what’s going serve him best in this industry is that he is a humble, eager learner. In my experience, smart, accomplished people who are also humble committed learners quickly assimilate the information and tools that any new task or trade requires, then rapidly become a dominant force in their space. Time, of course, will tell, but my sense is that Harold has all the tools needed to do amazing things in this business. We’re going to do our best to give him plenty of help as he learns his craft.  With Volko and Mike and all the COIN series development team to assist him, I know that Liberty or Death is going to be a gem. But my sense is you’re probably going to be seeing more than one game from Harold over time, and that this won’t be the only time you see his name and “gem” together in print. 

I hope you enjoy Harold’s first article for InsideGMT! And be sure to keep an eye out  for Liberty or Death, coming soon to the P500 list. – Gene


Busy with family and work, I left the hobby for 25 years.  As my kids moved out to college, I jumped back in and felt like a kid in a candy store.  The number and variety of games had exploded!  I worked my way into a gaming group here in San Diego and Andean Abyss became a fast favorite.  Coincidently, over the last three years, I had been feeding my voracious reading habit with everything I could find on the American Revolution.  In the middle of a game of Andean Abyss I looked up at my buddy Richard McKenzie and said “This COIN system would be perfect for the American Revolution!  The American Revolution is an Insurgency!” The term “Insurgency” wasn’t used in the eighteenth century, but it was still the same – “The American Insurrection” if you will.  I put together a set of cards and a simple map (and I do mean simple) for Richard and I to play.  Patriots, British, Indians, and French were the factions and fit together nicely.  Indians got war parties.  The Patriots got Continentals.  The British got Tories.  The French got the ability to mess with the British, either by funding the Patriots through a shell Spanish trading company or facilitating Patriot Letters of Marque.  It was a lot of fun and intellectually stimulating as well.

Richard MacKenzie with an early prototype of Liberty or Death.

Richard McKenzie with an early prototype of Liberty or Death.

Mass Shipping Day at GMT HQ

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Deb and Letitia

Deb and Letitia

At last, today is the day we ship 2,100+ copies of Fire in the Lake and 1,200+ copies of Won by the Sword to our P500 customers. Oh, and mounted maps for four different games, as well! So I thought I’d give you guys a brief glimpse at the mix of organization and chaos that is our warehouse on “mass ship day.”

Elizabeth and Savannah

Elizabeth and Savannah

Everything starts with the office ladies, who have prepared and organized orders and shipping labels in advance of the big day. Without the hard work of these ladies, ship day would be a disaster.