31 December 2009

This is the end...

...of the year, that is.  So ends ODGW's first year as a limited liability corporation, and I have no idea what effect that will have on my taxes.  My first and safest guess is that it will be adverse.  The IRS is a cruel master.  ODGW ends the year in better condition than we started, thanks to a gaming public interested in what we have to offer.  Our oldest game is being updated and sprouting an offshoot, Meine Truppen.  Our naval games, GQIII and Fleet Action Imminent, still maintain a solid following, and will have new products added this year.  We have additional products planned for all our titles.  2010 looks to be a promising year.

For those who are interested, stay tuned here and at odgw.com for announcements of our latest products and games.  With all the stuff we have percolating, there will be lots to look at.

I wish everyone a prosperous and safe new year.

28 December 2009

Battle of Lake George

Looks like a fine scenario for American Battlelines.

26 December 2009

Now the real work begins

I have literally a ton of unmade paper terrain buildings and fixtures that need to be constructed.  It is time to dig into these and put them together.  The 10mm are for a friend's playtest and development group for his miniatures game.  The 6mm are for my chosen scale, microarmor in WWII, and 10mm everywhere else, though I may be tempted by 15mm's for the War of the Roses project.  So much to work toward now, what with a group that is willing to try out new systems and help me out with playtesting.  The Battlelines system has to jell relatively quickly, so that I can open up space for the GQIII project final work, and the Meine Truppen rules, which are going off in directions that no one planned for.  It is all keeping me busy.

24 December 2009

The March of the Little Lead Soldiers

Music by Gabriel PiernĂ©.  Merry Christmas.

Unbased figures

There are 10mm armies waiting to fight the ECW and AWI.  All of them crying out for basing.  Somehow I cannot decide on a scheme which will satisfy my allegiance to several rules sets at once.  Despite my ODGW connection, I do play other rules, and currently, but not permanently, we do not have an ECW set. And just yesterday some more English Civil War guys just showed up.  Time to get to work.

23 December 2009

A French Vauban Fortress

Excellent virtual tour of a French Vauban fortress.

16 December 2009

Too much combat?

A recent poster on our playtest site indicated that Mein Panzer and Mein Truppen have excessive dice rolls, and that it takes too much time to resolve combat.  Well now, this is something which occurs when you have a lot of units on the battlefield uncovered and shooting at each other, especially if there are units which have rates of fire of two or more and have Bonus rolls due to being Veteran or Elites.  Our group is as guilty as the next for having too many forces on the battlefield.  When you get up around five or six units per player, you are asking a lot.  It is better to max out around four or five, especially if there are combined arms in action.  For infantry in Mein Panzer, that is two platoons.  In Mein Truppen, it is one.

I am going to start posting some of the very numerous scenarios I have collected over the years to the Download Library for use by MP players.  I hope that some will find them entertaining.  Many of them contain specific rules for incorporating MP.

14 December 2009

No price increase

I spoke too soon.  It looks like there will be no price increase on ODGW products coming with the new year.  So stand down from frantic shopping mode, if you were in that mode to begin with.  ODGW continues to have great value for its games, which are very comprehensive treatments of the eras they cover.

10 December 2009

Price increase

Printing costs have increased, and so will our prices, effective very soon.  Anyone wishing to purchase a game at the old price should do so within the next few weeks, as I expect we will put the new prices into effect on the first of the year.

07 December 2009

San Diego road trip

Travelled south to San Diego to host a Mein Panzer engagement yesterday.  My standard training scenario, "Is That You, Sacha?", has small amounts of artillery (mortars), infantry, and light AFV's, which makes it perfect for novices spooling up on the rules.  It pits an American Armored Cav battlegroup against a German Panzer Recon group.  After playing it, most gamers are ready for more involved units and tactics.  Each time I have run it, there has been a dramatically different outcome.  This time the "Amis" won, using a long range gunnery duel with the AFV's to decide the issue.  The infantry in the centrally located town failed to make contact with each other, and did not factor in the fight.  I believe both sides had a good time, which bodes well for more games in the future.

25 November 2009

Yet another loss

No surprise here.  The German side, with a majority of armor, better armor, better troops, and more infantry, defeated the U.S. in a game of Mein Panzer.  I don't know why I let these guys talk me into playing...
From Tunisia '43

22 November 2009

An Idea that isn't quite working

Meine Truppen may end up as a stand alone game.  Whether it can make it in the very crowded skirmish game field is debatable, but limiting it to just Mein Panzer owners may not work, due to the numerous concepts that are to be changed.  Either way has its pros and cons, and it is a hard call to make.  One thing that has yet to be considered is the Databook conversion.  MT has a current scale of 1"=25yds, which essentially means doubling all ranges.  But it also does not have the telescoping scale, so some close range weapons need adjustment.  Kind of a big deal.  So a decision has to be made, and at least one playtest group has made their vote, very strongly.  I wish others would weigh in, as well.

20 November 2009

I Hate It When This Happens pt.2

You go the trouble of .pdf'ing a very large file and assembling all the components for the beta test package, and you open up the rules right after you have sent out everything that you laboriously put together, to find that you did not update the text with all the changes that had been made and reflected on the charts and tables.  Drat!

I get to do it all over again.

Accessorize well

ODGW used to sell lots of little things — miniatures in 10mm, different sized metal bases, a line of terrain and buildings, etc.  Now we mainly sell rules.  The accessories we carry are very specific to the games we sell, like deviation dice, GQIII turn indicators, and, now, ship bases, of which we are mostly out of stock.  It pays to pick and choose what you bring into your sales line.  Fortunately we have a good distribution system to help us with the details of shipping our products.

Tomorrow I rejoin the MMG (Miracle Mile Gamers) for a Mein Panzer game.  First time in the better part of a year, maybe more.  Hope I remember how to play.  It is, after all, our signature game.  Funny thing about how games are supposedly designed.  It is said that designers design games to fit their vision of reality and so they can win.  Well, I am not going to argue the reality bit, but I lose all the time at Mein Panzer — I mean 100% — so I do not see that part as necessarily true.

There are three separate games in beta test right now, and I am sort of waiting around for what is going to happen next.  As Winnie the Pooh liked to say, "One never knows with bees!"

18 November 2009

Another idea that worked

The clear acrylic etched ship bases are selling.  We may have to re-order soon.  This was a shot in the dark idea that came through.  I am very pleased to have yet another product successful, and helping the hobby, especially the naval end of things.  They are quite good looking, and well worth the money compared to other commercial bases.  It also helps me breathe a little easier, now that my idea has been vindicated.

16 November 2009

Drum Beats on the Battleline pt.9

Dissection of the game last night, by two gamers.  One is an experienced reenactor of the Civil War; the other is a designer and a chart maven.  Between those two Battlelines was fairly well raked over the coals, regarding all its myriad modifiers, of which there are a lot even after substantial trimming.  The Quick Reference Sheet presentation was critiqued, and I had to determine certain parts of the game model as unchangeable, possibly changeable, and something worth fighting for.  All that is part of the design process — what to take out as much as what to leave in.  Much of what is left in is modified considerably, but in each case I endeavored to make it simpler and more consistent with the other rules in place already.  Battlelines relies heavily on the TQ check, and that is used in more places in the rules than previously.  Still, I found myself having to defend each position I took, which is difficult, but is as it should be.

So where do we stand with this game?  No where, actually.  I have yet to receive an independent playtest report.  That bodes ill for the game's success, and confirms my cynical view that most people who volunteer for playtesting really just want a free set of the rules.

13 November 2009

Debuting Mein Panzer

I am scheduled to referee a Mein Panzer game in San Diego for the Gametowne local group on the first weekend in December.  ODGW has a standard scenario which I use for these games, involving light recon forces fighting over a town.  A little armor, a little towed artillery, and a little infantry — just enough to give everyone a taste of how the game is played in combined arms fashion.  These are experienced gamers, so they should pick up the rules quickly.  The scenario is quick and dirty, with no hidden movement or anything else to get in the way of the action.  I suggest it for any game system as a trial run. It is located here for your gaming pleasure.

I worry about doing a good job of presenting the game, so that it is an enjoyable experience for all involved, and that it shows the game in a good light.  It is always good to study up on the rules prior to playing so that there is a high degree of familiarity with the rules when the time for the game comes.  The scenario should be easy, and the level of play required simple.  And mostly, the ref should be ready.

12 November 2009

Introducing Ship bases

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!  One of the best products ODGW has had in recent months has not been available because I have not taken time to put it up on the web.  Well, it is up now, and anyone who wants truly fine bases for their 1:2400 or 1:3000 scale ships would do well to take a look at our bargain priced acrylic etched bases.  This picture shows the bow wakes and the etched stern wakes.  At 25¢, 35¢, 50¢, and $1 for the four sizes, you cannot do better with any other product.  If you have a nicely done custom sea mat, these clear bases make perfect sense.

Drum beats on the Battleline pt.8

At the last business meeting, which I missed because I was under the weather and not near my phone, my changes to the American Battlelines system were discussed.  Seems like the new rules have stirred up some reactions amongst the party faithful.  Well, all to the good.  Healthy discussion is called for, especially when a system has lain moribund for as long as this one has, despite its obvious strengths.  The interactive sequence, brigading, and the disordering method are very useful for depicting the maneuver aspect of the horse and musket era.  Its problems arise in its handling of firepower, where there is room for improvement.  I think I have come up with just that solution, without throwing out the basic rules.  More playtesting is called for, but I think Am Bl has come a long way.

One of the topics about which there will undoubtedly be discussion will be the decision to make the products stand alone games or modules.  I have my own opinion on this subject, but will keep quiet on the issue for the present.

11 November 2009


For a company that is out of business, there still is a lot of the stuff hanging around.  It is very useful and easy to set up, and provides a quite nice looking wargame terrain, especially if you use the flocked mat as the base.  I am in the process of obtaining some, though my cat, who has a taste for styrofoam ate a piece the other night while I was sleeping.  Deposited it on the carpet the next morning.  The usefulness of styrofoam and blue insulating foam keeps gamers working on terrain.  The problem with items under cloths is that it produces unsightly folds that do not lie flat.  I know one gamer who has a sand table, but that is a luxury only a serious gamer with an understanding spouse, or none at all, can have.  So I might purchase a deluxe foam cutter set for making custom pieces soon.  Seems like the way to go.

10 November 2009

Beta testing for new General Quarters game

Beta test packages are the blind test packages sent to playtesters to see their reactions to your product before you send it out to a paying public.  It is always hard to send them, since they are invariably unpolished versions of what you are going to publish.  They have known rough spots that will be criticized, and that is just the beginning.  Stuff you never thought of will turn up, and surprise you in very dramatic ways.  This is as it should be, since when the game is released to the teeming masses, it will be subjected to even closer scrutiny.  Better to get these humiliating moments out of the way before publication than after.

An author I know was once asked if publishing a book was like having a baby.  He replied that publishing was more like having a teenager.  It takes off in unexpected directions, rarely listens, is argumentative, gets into trouble, and frequently embarrasses you.

09 November 2009

Drum beats on the Battleline pt.7

One of the most significant problems with the current game is the ranges for the artillery, which seem to be far off historical norms.  Along with a very kludgy manner of resolving the combat, artillery becomes very problematic on the battlefield.  A lot of work may be needed on this topic.  I am looking at throwing out the current method of resolving artillery combat completely, and am not sure how to replace it.  Yikes!

08 November 2009

USN and Kaigun ship logs

The long-awaited GQIII ship logs for the USN and Japanese are still in production.  They are requiring significant reworking from their original format and order for issuance.  We are hoping for a Cold Wars release of these much-anticipated ship logs.  They should be everything you have been waiting for.

07 November 2009

Drum beats on the Battleline pt.6

One positive thing that came out of our last test was that a new QRS will be formatted and will be simpler than the current one.  This will help the game no matter what changes are made to it.  A good QRS is absolutely essential to any successful game, as it is the text from which the game is actually played.  The rulebook is nothing but backup.  Also, people felt that the game played smoothly and believably.  And they told me the artillery rules are totally screwed up.

25 October 2009

Drum beats on the Battleline pt.5

Last night the Saturday Night Irregulars allowed me the privilege of a playtest of American Battlelines, which went better than I had hoped, despite my predictable number of refereeing mistakes.  The better lead and superior troops carried the day, as expected.  Most of the mechanisms worked well, and seemed to have the proper feel for how they should inter-relate.  The charge sequence still seems to need work — some parts may require tweaking.  Overall, a believable result was obtained, and in a short amount of time, given the unfamiliarity of the players with the game system.  Another aspect of the game in need of fine-tuning is the Command rules, which are the least fleshed out of all the chapters.  I will have to work hard on modeling the C³I part of the game.  Also am considering the five range bands for firing, and the relative lack of a canister range for artillery.

Progress is being made, slowly but surely.

18 October 2009

Drum beats on the Battleline pt.4

The first round of comments from the ODGW staff has been received and answered, and it was not as negative as I expected.  In a post to me, "lively discussion" was the operative term for their first game using the modified rules.  This first staff playtest of the revised American Battlelines generated a predictable wave of questions.  Some were omissions; others were clarifications and explanations.  Overall the game plays cleaner, but this means making changes, which are rarely welcome.  Battlelines had some kludgey rules to it that detracted from its forthright play.  Taking those out meant making the game simpler, and more concentrated on the tactics rather than dealing with special one-off rules.  I have reduced the number of lookup items, to make finding the correct modifiers (of which there are still too many) easier. I have yet to post a Command chapter, so that area is still unresolved.  Otherwise, the comments did seem to be somewhat supportive, rather than wholly dismissive.  Playtests on this set of rules have not been forthcoming, so I will have to wait longer for neutral results.  I am an inpatient man by nature, so that is a hard thing for me to do.

In terms of controversy, wait until they find out I want to change the cover.  Currently a game for the AWI, Mexican-American War, and ACW has a 50-star U.S. flag on the cover.  Bit jarring, that.

14 October 2009


I am currently doing some research on the variety of attack formations used in the horse & musket era, specifically from the ACW back through the Wilderness, or French & Indian (native American) War.  Though few were used in North America until the large formations of our conflagration in 1861-65, they require study for the usage to which they were put for understanding all the conflicts, including the Napoleonic era.  While slogging through Steven Ross's book, From Flintlock to Rifle: Infantry Tactics, 1740-1866, which I can only read in short sections due to its dry-as-dust presentation, I have just about finished my current read on the politics of the secession during the ACW.  Then I will launch into With Zeal & Bayonet Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783, which comes highly recommended as a tactical study of the British army in its war against the rebellious colonists.  The all-important maneuver aspect is requiring a great deal of study, so that we can get its effects fine-tuned, and decide what to include and how to include them.

11 October 2009

Paper troops

One of the best ways to playtest a game is solo, using counters to represent the troops if you do not feel like pulling out the miniatures and terrain.  Junior General has loads of representations of troops from various eras, and these bits of paper can prove very quick and useful for testing.  Printed out on card, they are just the ticket for trying out spur of the moment ideas.  They are available in a number of historical periods, and are fairly easy to cut out and play with.  There is even a design your own section, complete with templates and various representations of equipment.

Meine Truppen playtesting pt 3

We have received very good playtest results from two of our groups.  I have come up with new ideas for some of the basic mechanics of Meine Truppen, and hope they will address some of the concerns of our playtesters.  Notably, they involve cutting down on the die rolls, which have multiplied by two due to the scale of the game.  Those familiar with Mein Panzer will know what a Bonus roll is — an additional chance to-hit for Veteran and Elite stands.  Now I have come up with an alteration of that procedure, which should speed play and help level the playing field a lot.  I think it is a good idea to make the dramatic distinction between the various troop types of the rules less so. 

Overall, response has been positive.  I think this game will prove a winner (he said modestly!).

10 October 2009

Drum beats on the Battleline pt. 3

Entrenched views change slowly.  I have updated two chapters for the American Battlelines project, and I am awaiting the controversy, since I have simplified several of the rules.  The only thing more involved, and still not very complex, is charging, which is to horse & musket games as torpedo attack resolution is to modern naval games.  Am awaiting responses to this latest version of the rules.

09 October 2009

MMG and infantry

Here are pictures of our 6mm infantry, based and ready for play.  With these we fight out both pure infantry actions and combined arms battles.  We also have French, British, and U.S. troops.  The figures on the left are Heroics & Ros, while the Germans are GHQ figures.  The Germans were based better than the H&R, which could use flocking on their bases — something I will rectify some day.

26 September 2009

VASSAL vs Cyberboard

Two different systems for achieving the same thing — play by email (pbem).  Cyberboard has been around longer, but is tied to Windows and PC's.  VASSAL is Java-based, so can run on a Mac and Unix, can be sync'd for real time play with another computer over the web, and currently seems to have a larger number of games available, though not as many of the oldie but goodies that Cyberboard seems to have.  I found SPI's Blitzkrieg Module System Cyberboard on the Yahoo egroup for TAHGC's Blitzkrieg, a game I still like to pull out once in a while.  The Module really makes the game interesting.  It adds background and names to the fictional countries of the board, new units, CRT's, and plenty of chrome to liven up the game. 

In any case, both methods give players the opportunity to communicate at long distances and play games at relatively fast speeds.  With my Intel Mac and a Windows emulator, I can run Cyberboard and VASSAL.  So I have the best of both possible worlds.

A New Product

ODGW now has available a great new product for owners of 1:2400 and 1:3000 scale ships. These are clear acrylic bases with bow waves and stern wakes etched into the surface. The effect of the clear base allows your colored cloth to come through, instead of clashing with the base already on the ship.  Though we have had it for some time, we have yet to put it up for sale on the web site, for lack of attention by yours truly.  That will change soon.

Miracle Mile Gamers

My group of gamers is called the Miracle Mile Gamers (MMG) for its location in Los Angeles.

Despite calling itself a "playtest" group, the players are notoriously resistant to rules changes.  They like the consistency of one set.  We play a full bore version of Mein Panzer exclusively — only WWII, and only 6mm.  The ODGW Lounge on the website has many of our AAR's (after action reports).  Sacha, our host for our battles, is an architect by trade and does a superior job at creating scenery for our tables.  His excellent set-ups create believable villages and terrain for us to fight over.  Fortunately, he has a large amount of Geo-hex 12" terrain that he obtained before the company disappeared and the stuff became terribly overpriced merchandise.

The Meine Truppen rules have been extensively tested by our group, and are literally the only version of the game we play, although we use squads rather than sections.  1" = 25yds is our preferred scale, and lends itself to great infantry actions.  Even without the MT improvements, Mein Panzer is a great infantry game.

Meine Truppen playtesting pt 2

We have a number of playtesters working on these rules, providing me with good questions on the rules and promising to try them out in games.  I have no doubt they will, which will provide me with the necessary feedback needed for refinement of the game.  So far two groups have come to the fore, which is better than none.  Other fellows who have offered to be playtesters will be given time to respond with criticism.  If none is forthcoming, I will make a decision about their continued inclusion in the playtester group.

Right now the major source of confusion is about the spotting rules, which have been simplified from the original, but there is an optional set that is deterministic and, at first blush, more complicated.  Playtesting of the optional set will determine if it is included, though it has been thoroughly tested in my own playtest group.  That does not mean it will be palatable to others.

19 September 2009

business meeting

We had our "monthly" business meeting last weekend, and it is divulging no great secret to announce ODGW is doing well.  We have projects in the works, solid cash flow, work on the web site, and very good hopes of finding a printer to replace our recently departed (bankrupt) one.  So all is looking up.  Almost all the ODGW partners except yours truly will be at Fall In in Gettysburg this coming 6-8 November, so if you are there, stop by and say hello.

Research on the horse and musket era continues, as does design work and playtesting on Meine Truppen and American Battlelines.  Keeping me busy.  Still have that niggling little bit of work to do on our latest naval release before its beta test package goes out to the groups.  I spend as much mental effort on wondering why I am blocked on the final few details as I do on writing those last pieces.  It is proving tough to overcome.  I am hoping for some final burst of creative energy this weekend to push this item over the line and out the figurative door.

And we can only hope that USC beats Washington later today.

09 September 2009

playtesters & playtesting

I have been receiving good response from at least some of the playtesters who have our two rules sets in current revision and new design right now.  Playtesting results are not back yet, but rules suggestions have come in, and they are reasoned and reasonable.  They include suggestions I intended to make, but have not gotten to yet.  Dealing with two or three items at once is a fine juggling act, but I think I can pull it off, given that two of three are not in my hands right now.  I have more work on the GQIII module to do, but that will come together soon, I hope.  Right now I am experiencing a bit of writer's block on that one, but it is mainly because outside events overtook me this summer.  Now that I can feel them moving a bit back from the foreground, I will try for some progress on the naval game.

07 September 2009


I attended Strategicon in Los Angeles this weekend as an official representative of Old Dominion GameWorks.  As publisher of General Quarters III, my presence was requested by the “Special Projects Team.”  They are a good bunch of guys who are literally swimming upstream, trying to inject interest in miniatures into this thrice-annual convention by inveigling gamemasters to run lots of games.  Strategicon had become a miniatures desert for a while, and now it is still pretty arid, but there is a trickle of activity.  They are doing their best.  One of the things the Special Projects people do is run GQIII games in 1:700 scale, on a cordoned off area of the exhibit hall floor, with a measuring cloth ruler about 20-30 feet long.  Very eye-catching and well attended.

Strategicon itself is predominantly a boardgame and role-playing con, with Euro games in abundance in the boardgame rooms.  Historical gaming takes a back seat everywhere, including the miniatures area, yielding much of its space to Star Fleet Battles, Warhammer in its various incarnations, and Battletech.  So there is a challenge in looking for passing folks interested in trying something new.

I refereed two games of the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, a fairly well balanced scenario between the USN and the Kaigun (Imperial Japanese Navy).  In the event, it was a US victory, with the Japanese inflicting almost as much damage to themselves through collisions as were inflicted by the Americans.  Historically, USN cruisers' gunfire quickly disabled one Japanese light cruiser. Then two IJN destroyers collided during one's torpedo attack.  Finally, a Kaigun heavy cruiser sliced off the bow of yet another destroyer.  In my games, the U.S. won once, and in the other they had their head handed to them by successful Japanese torpedo fire.  As usual, there were problems with getting adequate table space for games.  Despite using 1:6000 miniatures, I had problems running a game on a small 6’ x 2½’ riser.  The con can do better in allocating sufficient area to miniatures games.

Some friends from San Diego made a day trip to the con, and played in a car racing game called Speed Rally (I think).  It quickly degenerated into Circus Maximus with automobiles, with only one car moving at the end of six laps.  Much hilarity as they collided with and shot at each other.  A good bit better than the much-revered Car Wars, in my view.

I managed to include playing in one game run by a local gamer of the Battle of Iuka, Mississippi, an ACW historical affair from 1862.  Had my entire Union brigade run off its center position by the successful charge of one somewhat depleted Confederate brigade, so I was done fairly early in the game.  Eventually the Union would win, surprisingly.  The casualties the Confederates were racking up finally caught up with them.  Great fun, and demonstrated another game system and how it handles American Civil War combat.

I traded my first edition of Yaquinto’s game Ironclads.  Glad it went to an appreciative friend, who will make some use of it, since I never will.  As much as I enjoy naval conflict in general, ACW has never appealed to me.  Too much like hitting an anvil with a hammer.  Mais, chacun à son goût!

04 September 2009

That D*** Web Site Part IV

One way to work around the problems with the ODGW web site is to look for flashing "NEW" buttons next to Forum topics, even if it shows that there are zero topics within the category.  Definitely not perfect, but our web guy is working on a new site for us.  I am just frustrated by the problems after dealing with them all these years.  So know that the difficulties are being worked on, and a better web site is in the offing.  Or so I am told.

03 September 2009

That D*** Web Site Part III

The weirdly resizing box in the upper right-hand corner is fixed, and now people can access the ODGW site without any problems, but there is still no way to track when a Forum topic is started and added to.  So it looks like there is absolutely no information about Fleet Action Imminent or The Solomons Campaign.  Trying to use the Support Forum as a base for playtest discussion looks hopeless, because the playtest topics are also affected.  I tried something today to see if emulating the Forum topics that work would perhaps change the way the dysfunctional topics are counted.  No joy.

soCal's burning

Surely you have seen the news about the wildfires in southern California.  White dots covered my car one morning, and it took a few minutes before I realized that the winds had shifted, and it was ash from the fires which are several miles from my apartment.  Griffith Park is part of the area burning again, threatening the landmark Observatory.  The skies are dark, and the sunsets are redder than usual, all due to the massive amounts of smoke.  One can see the horizon at night as a red glow from the top of my hill.  The heat is hindering firefighting efforts — hopefully we will see cooler temperatures soon, which will slow down the advance of the flames.

02 September 2009

miniatures vs boardgames

The classic dilemma.  Usually there will be a strong preference by a gamer for one over the other.  And for good reason.  It costs a lot in time and money to play the games, and you cannot do everything.  I like both, with a slight preference for miniatures, due largely to the appeal of the models and the free form of the movement.  But there is an excellent series of boardgames from GMT called the Great Battles of the American Civil War (GBACW), that have drawn my interest.  Their game on Gettysburg, which battlefield I had the good fortune to visit for the second time this past July, is visually stunning and engrossing to play.  Now I will never turn down a worthwhile miniatures game of the ACW period, but GMT has published some real winners here.  The great thing about boardgames is there is usually no doubt where a unit is, what it can see, how far it can move, and once you buy it, your investment is over.

tabletop terrain

Like a lot of guys, I had model trains when I was young.  And like a lot of guys, I still have them.  One of the legacies of model railroading is an interest in terrain and making it look realistic.  Now a lot of wargamers do this, and more power to them.  They have it all — a beautiful table, with finely painted miniatures marching across it.  But too often the splendid miniatures traipse across a terrible excuse for a landscape.  One of my favorite additions to any table is trees, of which one can never have too many.  You can go out and break your bank buying them ready made, or do-it-yourself using the variety of techniques available just by surfing the web.  Also, there is a dedicated Yahoo egroup just for tree making.

Living in southern California gives me access to sage, which makes a wonderful armature for realistic trees in virtually any scale.  You just have to get out and go hunting in the brush.  Living near Griffith Park makes that very easy for me, and gives me the excuse I need to go hiking and biking on the trails there.  The trees one can make are stunning, and really score points when placed on a table.  It is so much better to play a game when one feels that the ground is worth fighting for, than when you have to pretend it is something that it is clearly not.

01 September 2009

Meine Truppen playtesting

So I have a few responses from my four hundred and one email blast to the Mein Panzer database.  Good to see that some are willing to try out my weird and unusual concepts.  I have one idea that is very radical, involving a wholesale change in the way the game is played.  May introduce this to the playtesters at a later stage as an alternative.

secret pleasures

Dare I say it?  I play other publishers' games.  And enjoy them.  I think that no one has a monopoly on the right approach or answer.  And ODGW does not cover every period in which I have an interest.   Seeing how other designers answer the questions of how to simulate a battle churns my creative juices.  Let's face it, as one of my professors in college once said, you will have one, maybe two, completely original ideas in your lifetime.  It may not be the best place to have them on something as mundane as a wargame.

31 August 2009

Omaha Beach & Meine Truppen

One of my wargame fantasies is to game out the invasion of Omaha Beach. I have done so much research on this assault that I feel I know it backwards and forwards. Sometimes, though, I find books or sites that give me even more information. Such is this site, which goes into the number of troops and even their names at each of the Widerstandsnestern.  Great resource.  Here is another site that gives specific info about each of the German resistance pointsWith this kind of detail, constructing a map of the region should be easy to do.  A real labor of love.
Certainly Omaha Beach would use the Meine Truppen rules currently under development.  With the low number of tanks, the use of armored strong points, suppressive fire and close-in tactics, this would be an obvious choice for an infantry-centered game.  Note that MT will be 1 inch = 25yds, which will allow for a great deal of detail, but not be a skirmish game.  We expect the maneuver unit to be the platoon, with each stand a section or team.

Currently I have a campaign in development for MT, which I will not divulge until we release the game itself.

29 August 2009

Meine Truppen

The third project your humble narrator is working on is the infantry-centric version of Mein Panzer, to be called Meine Truppen. MP itself is actually an excellent infantry game, so much so that my group has had many very enjoyable infantry only battles. Take a look here for some of the AAR's that the Miracle Mile Gamers (MMG) have posted. But the detail we use really makes for a different game at a different scale. Soon I will do a general call for playtesters of this new game, since the folks who currently have the game seem to be sitting on it. Got to make some progress somehow.

Anyone who is interested, leave a note here and let me know a little bit about yourself.

28 August 2009

beta test of a different sort

Time to get up and finish the beta test kit for our next General Quarters offering. We hope for a Christmas release on this one, but I am pretty much convinced that will not happen. It is a big game, and will require quite an outlay of playtesting time to finish properly. Then there is the publishing side of it. With the demise of Quality Print-on-Demand, many game publishers are scrambling to find new printers.  So we are faced with several challenges.  First and foremost is getting the game in the hands of the playtesters.  And that is my job.

27 August 2009

Drum beats on the Battleline pt. 2

I am anxious to see all the posts arriving about the Battlelines playtest rules, for good or ill. Have not come up with a good plan yet for the Command section, though some limitation on the ability of all units to do whatever they want is likely in the works. The original designer of Battlelines absolutely hated morale and command rules, so much so that he never used them when playing his Mein Panzer games. He left it up to me to design those sections. Now I have been doing quite a bit of reading to see how command was administered in the late "Lace Wars" period, just prior to the Napoleonic years. I want the rules to work within the game context, but also to be unique in giving the flavor of late 18th century warfare in the New World.

24 August 2009

Drum beats on the Battleline pt. 1

The first several chapters have made it to the playtesters via the ODGW web site, which, wonder of wonders, seems to be working now, even for yours truly. There have been changes to Battlelines, which will annoy, even outrage, those who are used to the old version, but the proof is in the playing. I want to see how it works first before cutting off the new version at the knees. There were some anomalous things that occurred in the rules, that I struck out, making the rules simpler and cleaner. We will see how they are received in this new, controversial version.

09 August 2009

new place for playtesters

The web site is now accessible. A key feature preventing access to many ISP's has been turned off, allowing almost everyone through. The only requirement for access is that you register. Once you have done so, shoot me an email at gregoryfk@odgw.com, and I will give Battlelines volunteers playtester status.

03 August 2009

Battlelines volunteers

We still hold out hope for the web site, which is undergoing repair as I write this. In the meantime, I have completed the first two chapters, and am willing to send them to you, since they are introductory and do not need the meat and potatoes of the actual rules, which start with Chapter 3.

N.B. My writing style is most definitely different than that of the original designer, so if there are jarring syntactical shifts, you'll know why.

01 August 2009

Playtesters, please

Now the response from TMP has been most heartening, but the possibility of using the ODGW web site as the venue for discussion seems unlikely. What with its mercurial accessibility, I hold out no hope of using it reliably. This blog, however, is stable and perfectly easy to find. So here may be the gathering place for the Battlelines playtest group. I just knew this electronic space would come in handy some day.

31 July 2009

That D*** Web Site, Part II

I wish that the web site would be magically fixed immediately, so that I could have access. But that is just not going to happen. My personal feeling is the software is stable, or at least not the cause, since it is not possible to even get onto the site. That points to a server issue. I would happily jettison the company we use now, for a variety of reasons, some of which are personal. At some point we will get back to having a web presence that is stable and works for everyone.

30 July 2009

and the beat goes on

I wish I could speed up the process of Meine Truppen development, but the rules now reside with the ODGW partners to look over and dissect. So, until life events clear up for my esteemed colleagues to review the initial ideas presented, the game is in stasis. The rules I have written do push the MP envelope quite a bit, so we will see what the response is.

All of the rules will be compatible with Mein Panzer, utilizing the Drop-In system for several sections, not just infantry.

24 July 2009

H-con '09 is history

All done with another Historicon, the last to take place in Lancaster for at least the next two years. As anybody who has been paying attention knows, there is a controversial move to Baltimore for 2010 and 2011. As a former Baltimore resident, and someone who flies in from the west coast for the con, this is a good thing, but most folks I heard discussing the move are four square against it. Now, the number of events that have been run at the largest con in the country has been diminishing; obviously, fewer folks are interested in putting on games. Maybe it is time to allow more vendors into the constricted vendor hall, and to open the con up to a wider audience who may have been put off by the Lancaster Host and its problems.

I am very willing to give the new venue a try, but it seems many in the gaming community have already written it off. Dommage!

09 July 2009

Shots fired

Someone asked about Mein Panzer on TMP, with some specific questions on how it handled a variety of game issues. I posted a comment, which I know to be true, that MP2 is as good a game with tanks as without. Immediately following that was a supposed playtester of the 2nd edition who said "the infantry rules are severely broken." Now, that was not even true of MP 1st edition. But just making the complaint means it takes on a life of its own, like slinging mud, or slinging worse. We have played enough pure infantry fights using the rules to know they work great, and encourage and reward proper tactics, such as suppressive fire, smoke, HE fire, and the like. All perform together beautifully. Too bad one poster can make a very well-developed, good game seem flawed.

27 June 2009


The ODGW crew will be at H-con, running games and available for your compliments or complaints, as the spirit moves you. We always like to hear from our gamers, so stop by our host room, down the hallway on the left. Same location we have had for several years now. I will be running the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay on Friday at 10a with GQIII, not on Thursday as the program says. Hope to see some of you there.

25 June 2009

The Lone Sentry

Here is a great site dedicated to providing contemporary information about WWII subjects. Within it are copies of field manuals, photographs, documents, and research on World War II. A wealth of good information, especially for those investigating infantry and artillery tactics of the war.

14 June 2009

beta testing

We have hammered our latest module for General Quarters III into near beta testing shape. It has come a long way from an idea in someone's head to where it is now, and I am very pleased with the core around which the game has been built. Now it goes out to blind playtesters to try out. This is where the real test of the system happens, when people with absolutely no familiarity with the game try to play it. Are the rules well-written? Is the game playable? Is it balanced?

There is no substitute for this step, and games that do not go through it, or do it inadequately, show it. Glaring errors of syntax, grammar, holes in the rules, etc, point to this step being stinted. It is just poor editing and publishing. Not to say that anything is perfect, but a lot of situations could and should be foreseen by trying to break a rules system in advance of general distribution.

11 June 2009

SoCal gaming

It may always be hard to put together a group and keep it together, no matter where you are, but in southern California, in Los Angeles, it has proven nigh impossible. Despite repeated attempts, and the best gaming terrain around, the Miracle Mile Gamers (MMG) have not been able to maintain a steady group of gamers. Some have moved away, some have drifted away, but it is always a struggle to stock four gamers plus a referee. So when we do, it is an event. I just wish it were more often.

09 June 2009

TMP poll

Well, everybody does it, and being from Los Angeles, I can attest to it being done all the time — "for your consideration." There is a TMP poll here for the best new rules set or supplement of 2008, and our own humble Solomons Campaign is nominated. Take a look, and consider it.

07 June 2009

Battlelines, Anyone?

Is there anyone out there who uses these rules? They are really a fine set, somewhat flawed in their American Battlelines incarnation by one or two errors in the text, but otherwise a very worthwhile and good addition to horse & musket gaming. Within the next two years I hope to have a new version of either a core rules set called Historical Battlelines, or, choosing a different path, begin writing a complete game for each period. All depends on what we choose to do.

04 June 2009

That D*** Web Site

Anyone who has the slightest experience with ODGW has probably at one time or another run afoul of our web site quirks and downright flaws. Now we are redesigning it from the ground up. This is the most effort we have put into it yet, and we are hoping it will pay off. The things we ask our web site to do are fairly complex, but not impossible. We need it to be reliable and easy to use for our customers. Hopefully, this time it will work.

02 June 2009

first view of Meine Truppen

Like pulling the wrapping off the present, the first looks at Meine Truppen have been presented to the various playtesters and to the ODGW staff. There will certainly be some difficulty in overcoming previous notions of the Mein Panzer system. The best I can hope for is that everyone keep an open mind to the changes.

25 May 2009

'Round & 'round

Just when you thought your design was done and ready for beta testing, the staff revolts and wants something completely different, like a throw in from left field that beans you unexpectedly. Being a game designer means having to say no, no way, forget it, etc, and then compromise, 'cause maybe you might be wrong. This is one of those no's, but with reservations just in case.

It comes mainly from me being a game designer, while others are history buffs who want the simulation side covered no matter how difficult that may be. A car analogy is appropriate. Some are willing to slap chrome onto the design until the engine — my bailiwick — cannot even move the car. My job is to keep the engine running and the chassis lean and functional, and the wheels aligned in one direction. That is harder than it first appears, as everyone wants it to run in different directions, at different speeds.

22 May 2009

Libraries & Reading

Unfortunately, these are two different things. My library is very impressive, but my reading is well behind my acquisition rate. There was a time I could keep up, but that time has most definitely passed, due to 1) time pressures of other aspects of my life, and, 2) my tendency to buy in excess of any notion of when I will accomplish reading all these wonderful books. Just like the rules junkie I am, I see great titles that have been reviewed well on topics I am interested in and out comes the wallet. Sad to say, I will have to stop before I am virtually surrounded by groaning bookshelves. But just one more cannot hurt...

17 May 2009

I Hate It When This Happens

You are designing a game, and well into the first playtest you discover a major flaw in the design. It was pointed out to me by an off-the-cuff, sort of throw away remark by one of the playtesters, but it resonated loudly. Now it requires a very thorough change in one of the major elements of the design, which, by the way, is the next campaign for General Quarters. Too early to say what it will be about, because it is not even in beta testing yet. So we have no idea when it will be released. But once we have a MSS, we will be broadcasting, you can be sure.

16 May 2009

AAR's, and why they help

There are a lot of After Action Reports in the ODGW Lounge section, most from the Miracle Mile Gamers (MMG) of Los Angeles. We play MP exclusively, and have been involved in playtesting down through the years. Taking pictures of the game is second nature for us, and our game host, Sacha Schwarzkopf, loves putting together the detailed narrative of the games, which — surprise! — always end with German victories. But anyone can contribute, and we wish others would. It is a great way to help along the hobby, and promote the game. Enlightened self-interest, doncha' know.

15 May 2009

Command Radii and Regulating Battalions

Almost two thousand posts on TMP on these two issues alone, and they were very detailed arguments backed up by plenty of primary research that I managed to get hold of. Just phenomenal. Hope I can put some of it into version two of Battlelines. Pretty overwhelming, though. Lots of reading of documents from the mid-18th to early 19th centuries.

Meine Truppen

Work continues on the infantry module for Mein Panzer 2, titled Meine Truppen. It is going to be a lot more than simply infantry though, and will have drop-ins for about six to seven of the chapters. All of the game has been heavily playtested, but we would certainly welcome more. There is that playtest problem again.

It would be great if we had some dedicated volunteers who loved tinkering with games. Other than us, of course.

12 May 2009

Origins Awards

Two years ago I sent in eight copies of General Quarters III for consideration as Origins Awards. Turns out that was just to get them on the ballot. The actual voting was done by the members at Origins, who had maybe never seen the games they were voting for or against. I will never do that again. Waste of eight perfectly good games.

11 May 2009

That website thing again

Everybody by now knows that ODGW has had recurring problems with its website. Even I have them. But we are working on a new site. Honest. And it will have the latest software we can get hold of, so that no one is frozen out, including me.

10 May 2009


One of the toughest things to get anyone to do is playtest. Everyone volunteers, and once you get rid of the people who just want a free copy of your rules, there still is the problem of people actually sitting down and critiquing the game — its rules, charts, graphics — everything. It is not fun, because you cannot play the game to win, and often have to do the same thing over and over again to see how different outcomes may occur. Right now I am trying to get playtesters for Meine Truppen, our next offering in the 20th century ground era, and a logical offshoot of Mein Panzer. The response to my request for help has been decidedly underwhelming.

Not good, since the more a system is banged on the better the shape it is in when finally released.

05 May 2009

The Latest Stuff

So, the latest stuff happening from the Old Dominion is updating of the Mein Panzer 2 Databook. Bob continues his encyclopaedic work on the massive tome that is the Databook. I cannot imagine the patience in putting the thing together — really beyond me. And we all await the final work on the WWI Supplement for Fleet Action Imminent. This will give us the French, American, Japanese, and the other smaller navies that could have seen action in WWI.

And there is more in the works...