Although my blog has been eerily quiet during the month of August, I haven’t gone away. Rather, I’ve just been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t had the focus-time to sit down and blog about anything.
Getting Social Again
On a personal level, my wife and I have had events (concerts, winery outings, and dinners) non-stop every Saturday since July 31. Throw in some other events on Fridays, mid-week hobby painting, going to restaurants more often, etc., and life has been full. It almost feels like we’re back to a pre-pandemic social life. We’re not there yet, but it’s definitely getting better, especially for us vaccinated folks. Now, if I could just start getting some face-to-face gaming happening in my game-loft, that would be a welcome addition to the social calendar.
Game Design Inspiration
I’ve also been heads down in wargame-development during August. Since the back-half of July through mid-August, I worked on enhancements to my Sword of Severnia fantasy battle game. Although this game is nearly complete and I really wasn’t expecting to touch it, sometimes surprise inspiration hits you and you discover an idea that makes your creation a little better. Rulebook updates have been made and I can’t wait to get this game to the table soon.
I also made tremendous progress in August with my rules-light, fast-play fantasy wargame, Warlords of Hexenstein. I’ve finally got something playable, now I just need to carve out some time to create a set of Unit stat-profiles so that my friend Wally and I can get together for an initial playtest game. I’m really looking forward to that.
I was also struck by sudden inspiration on the development of one of my back-burner games, a pulp skirmish game currently titled PulpLand Adventure. I spent much of last weekend working on the game design and rules. Most of the core mechanics have fallen into place, and I feel like I’ve finally found my “hook” which gives the game its own unique feel. At least I hope so. I won’t really know that for sure until I get it to the point of a playable game and start playtesting it. Nothing shows you what works and what doesn’t like live playtesting.
A quick aside. Once you’ve spent several years designing games, you realize that the difficulty in developing an interesting game isn’t really in creating mechanics that work. There are loads of ways to do things mechanically. What’s especially hard is finding those elements that make your game feel different & unique from the majority of other games of its type. You ideally want something that provides a different feel and different game experience from other games. Because what’s the point of creating another slight variation of a popular game? I’m a big proponent of game designers going their own way and taking chances with their designs. Innovation is hard. Some people will hate your ideas and approach. But, I always appreciate new approaches and designers who take chances (folks like Joe McCullough, Andrea Sfiligoi, Dan Mersey, Alex Buchel, and Arty Conliffe immediately spring to mind).
Mustering Campaign Mojo
I’ve reached a real point of frustration with my current wargaming campaign. Things have petered out. Life has gotten in the way for several of the participants, me included, and we just haven’t been able to maintain the momentum and progress that I was hoping for.
I’m trying to put my finger on the problem. It’s in my nature to immediately look at myself and figure out what I’m doing wrong, since I’m the Campaign Secretary and organizer. I’m also the person who designed and wrote the rules. I realize that we’re playtesting this game, and some things will inevitably change as we go through the process of playing it. But, the feedback I’m getting from the guys participating in the campaign has been mostly positive. Really, nobody is complaining about the rules. I’m not receiving any new rule suggestions from the guys. Aside from some self-proposed refinements to the rules based on my observations to-date, I can’t say the rules are the cause of our campaign stagnation. Players seem to be enjoying themselves when we get together online and play.
The WHEN is probably the crux of our problem. We can’t collectively agree upon the WHEN. Participant schedules are either not aligning, or I’m not even hearing back from people on what dates work for them so I’m hamstrung in picking feasible dates.
I’m coming to several conclusions. First, if I don’t lay down some official schedule that we must all adhere to in order to keep things moving along, then this campaign will eventually peter out and die on the vine. That has happened to two earlier wargame campaigns that I’ve started. Look, I’ve run several successful & fun fantasy sports leagues, one for 23 straight years, and they’ve all been played to a conclusion. And they all had a set schedule that the 10-12 players stuck to. There’s definitely something to that.
Secondly, I think my current campaign rules are not as flexible as they need to be to support a group of adults who will never be available to make every single play-date. While the rules work fine for a group of players who are 100% committed to playing as regularly as possible, they fail to work well for a more casual group, where players are all-in sometimes, but missing at other times when their lives become complicated. So, I’m taking a closer look at my rules, with an eye towards finding ways to better handle casual & absent players, while still enabling the campaign to move forward with the players who play more often. Wish me luck!