THE ROUND TOPS – Hammerin’ Sickles in Action (Part 1)

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HS Image 1PART 1: – Introduction and First Game Turn

Hammerin’ Sickles: Longstreet Attacks at Gettysburg recently “made the cut” on the GMT P500 and Fred and I are very thankful for the support from the gaming community. We thought it would be a good time to give a brief run-through of the game and show how a typical game flows. The tutorial scenario – “The Round Tops” – depicting the fight for both Big and Little Round Tops is a compact, quick-playing vehicle to help demonstrate the Blind Swords system in general and Hammerin’ Sickles in particular.

First, let’s do a brief overview of how the system works. Blind Swords is a chit-pull mechanic system with some interesting twists. Before each turn, players will “load” the chit-pull cup with Division Activation Chits (one for each Division involved in the game), some Event Chits (more on those later), a Fog-of-War Chit (which will generate forced random moves and leader casualties), a Fortunes-of-War Chit (which will cancel the next chit drawn from the cup) and the CIC Chits (which allow the player to select any Brigade to activate in his army, even for a second time). In the longer scenarios, there is also a Lull in the Battle Chit which will speed play and simulates the forces becoming tired and hesitant as the battlefield has evolved into a chaotic, smoky and unmanageably-tangled landscape. All these chits are placed into the same cup and drawn by either player.

And Now For Something Completely Different ……

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HS Article 1 - Cover

…. Hammerin’ Sickles, a regimental-scale Gettysburg game!

What? You say you already own a dozen Gettysburg games? And you currently have a multitude of games with all sorts of different tactical American Civil War systems? I suspect that a lot of gamers think this idea is ridiculous – why would a designer waste his time spitting out another game on probably the most-gamed battle ever? But in all honesty, we feel Hammerin’ Sickles is a truly different breed of Gettysburg game and a different species of wargaming animal.

I’m well aware that almost all designers claim they have a unique take on things, and for the most part I think they are all absolutely right. There are many fine Gettysburg designs out there – most unique in their own right and darn fun to play. But what makes Hammerin’ Sickles a singular experience is its focused subject matter (Longstreet’s attack on the second day of the battle) and the way we’ve incorporated tactical ACW combat, command control issues and “fog-of-war” into one fairly easy system. How did we do all that? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Interview with Developer Fred Manzo

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One of the highlights of my trip to WBC this year was meeting Fred Manzo.  Fred introduced himself to me on my first day in the GMT demo area.  He was sitting with the maps and promotional material for the two games he is developing (both designed by Hermann Luttmann), Hammerin’ Sickles– Longstreet Attacks at Gettysburg and At Any Cost: Metz 1870 from the Franco-Prussian War.

Hermann, himself, came by a day later.  In the meantime Fred was a great neighbor, stepping into a play-test when we needed a fourth for GMT’s upcoming Liberty or Death COIN game and grabbing me a bottle of water when I was busy teaching the game.  He told me about how he met Hermann Luttmann and the two began their working relationship.

It seems a few years ago Fred was at ConsimWorld Expo in Tempe Arizona when his friend, Dr. Harvey Mossman, introduced him to Hermann saying “Hermann is from long Island too!”  It turns out they live only 30 minutes apart. Fred and Harvey then invite Hermann to their Wednesday Night gaming group and the rest is history.

Fred Manzo

Fred Manzo

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