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    Otto Schmidt

    Dear List

    I used to be more of  a board gamer in my younger days, but while that became less and less an actual activity  for me, I nevertheless keep an eye out for them as I have amassed a rather reasonable collection of them which I find unique from the standpoint of game design and theory of play. I keep these for general reference when I’m working on a new set of rules or even a table top scenario and want to look at how others have handled “the problem” (whatever the problem of the moment is ) or just what proven methodologies have been found. “Proven methodology” here means generally a game that works.  Overwhelmingly this is in the “how they have chosen to frame the game” rather than specific rules and modifiers and the like.

    Of the 200 plus boardgames I have on my archive shelves the leading examples are

    Cosmic Encounters-  This is the ultimate “Mad Scientist” rules which is really a bunch of procedures and methodologies, and depending what specific alien races you toss into the sausage grinder, determines the game you will come out with.  “Talisman” is anther cornucopia of rules in all it’s expansion kits and extensions.


    Avalon Hill’s “History of the World” and “Civilization and Advanced Civilization.”  Two games on the same subject with radically different means of resolving the issue of the game. The allure of both is the possibilities apparent in the strategies, especially when you set out to break the rules.

    “Divine Right”  A game with some similarities to the above, but if you look past the fantasy element deals with a very complex subject (the IWG) in a truly elegant way. It can be problematic at times, but.

    ” Freedom in the Galaxy” and “Paranoia”  How to turn a movie into a game on the one hand and how to turn work into a game on the other. Few ever realized that was exactly what “Paranoia” was, a very thinly disguised black-humor satire of work and management office politics, where the joke was on everyone, whether your security clearance was U or R, and for the other, it was revealing that we all wanted to take Zina Adare to the Prom, but we really wanted to go on a hot date with Thysa Kymbo.

    “Serenissima” and “Condottieri” are two games that provide truly addictive structures that are so simple and yield so many evocative strategies and present a good picture of real life, and offer many more direct means of incorporating these games into historical mini rules, especially as a usefull back story creator for a game.

    “Ra” and “Pharo’s Quest” and even “Senat” and “Ur” which are more general have ideas useable in games.


    Of course there are the classic AH games of “Bismark,” “Bulge,” “Blitzkrieg” “Waterloo”  and six variation of “Gettysburg” showing all the hex based genre, but “UBoat” and “Midway” besides both of which offer easy mechanics to solve tricky problems.  “War at Sea” and “Victory in the Pacific” are also two notable and different systems.

    Classic “family” boardgames are also there. I once created a whole background to a Colonial game as a tool for an umpire to use by simply ripping off “Monopoly.”  (Boardwalk and Park Place were India, German East Africa and Cameroons were Baltic and Mediterranean) . “Buccanner” (later called Trade Winds) I feel is the best way to do sailing ships by elaborating on the simple combat system within, and even “The Barbie Game” has a strategy and a set of conventions useable elsewhere.  Simply rename the characters, redo some of the artifacts and — there you go, a great way to handle some aspect of miniature gaming.  “Outdoor Survival” is an excellent bed on which to cook up a campaign, or back story device for war games, and so is Wizzard’s quest. I once did a whole game on the Wizzard’s quest board for representing factions and families in Renaissance Italy using Tarot Cards as a decision making device, and this led to my own FRP game I use called “Chiroscuro.”

    I’m always on the hunt for board games of all types and will usually buy one if I think it all has a new or different strategy. This is of course highly personal and reflects what the player wants.  Sometimes you get a good one but often you will get a dud. “Settelers of Caitan” is in my opinion an awful game, completely boring, with no real sizzle, pazazz, or excitement, and perhaps the WORST game I ever  bought with high hopes was “Age of Mythology” which I found so awful as to be as attractive as Napoleonic gaming.  Too much accounting and not enough “mythology.” I don’t want a game where I have to tell my farmers to farm, or  tradesmen to tend to their benches, that’s like being at work where I had people so stupid you had to tell them to pull down their pants before they took a dump. I want the game where the three goddess’ come down from Olympus and give me the lap dance plus benefits if I give them the golden apple for being the fairest.

    As I said, it’s highly personal, but  there’s always great stuff to be mined from Board Games.  There’s dozens more I haven’t named, but  they are wonderful idea generators.


    Norm S

    I do a lot of my figure gaming on Kallistra hexes, so my background in boardgames comes in handy for making that work smoothly and intuitively.

    There is a huge selection of games to choose from now, but some of the low counter and small map sized games are interesting me most at the moment, as they fit better with time and play area restrictions.


    It is kind of fascinating how different our approaches can be to the same (or probably more accurately, similar) hobby.  I approach writing game rules in the same way that I approach work projects.   What do we need to do, what are the limiting parameters, how can we do it?  My approach to rules is to create few simple mechanics, in which a wealth of details can be used, and endless choices can be permitted and accommodated.  A very dispassionate approach to rules really, and I think somewhat the opposite of you.  A curious contrast as I completely share many of your thoughts (that you have shared in other posts) about the passion for the game, the art of the game, etc.

    Long ago I started with board games, but quickly moved away from them and almost exclusively toward miniatures.  Most of my board games are just “fact witnesses”, bits of research data.  I almost never consider board game rules, when creating miniatures.  Obviously, the experience and knowledge gained from board games is there, but the conscious focus is on what real world (or fictional) process needs to be modeled, and how can it efficiently be modeled.   I probably re-invent the wheel a lot, but as long as I enjoy it, I guess maybe it doesn’t matter.

    Otto Schmidt

    Dear IrishSerb

    You are correct as far as miniatures and the requirements of modeling, but I find a lot of miniature games are largely derivative (Umpires, Ego’s and Liars does it this way and so does Farts of Whores _ ….)  but that doesn’t mean we have to also.  If you abstract rules you realize they are merely ways of deciding competing narratives. Side A has this outcome they wish, side B a different one, which one is decided upon is the important question but the mechanism by which it is decided is largely irrelevant. Huge charts and tables or “dip-dip-little- ship..” is all one. The question is the process by which it is done satisfactory and pleasing to the players. If it is, the methodology as I said is irrelevant.

    But again this is not a solitary agency. War games is a social activity in which the wishes and desires of the other gamers must be considered and that is where consensus comes in.


    For me I developed a set of rules for table top actions I like about twenty years ago and haven’t changed. What I have found over time is that most players in my group when I have games at my house like them, or at least are not furiously angered by them.  So far so good! However what I also find is that what players like most is the table top game, and all attempts to lasso them into a serious campaign are pretty much like trying to herd kittens. What I find highly useful from board games are two thongs. 1) A ready made format or maps that can be easily used for a mini-campaign, and one in which the only effective player is myself as umpire, who can manipulate the game privately to come up with backgrounds for the battle about to be fought, and how we got there. The players only give me their intentions after the battle of what they want to do NOW, and I compare these intentions and match it to the strategic situation (very often using elements of board games) and hen carry it forward.  As this is more or less invisible to the players I can make the ‘super-game” move along quite rapidly rather than forcing the players to “play a game to play a game.” That is, they must play say “Divine Right” or  Stalingrad to set up a battle.  Thus we have a battle, the results of that battle form the parameters in which the various participants of importance  tell me their intentions from then on, and I carry the narrative forward  to that battle.

    The benefit to this, for the Umpire or GM is that you get to play even if on the table top game you have to be a disinterested player and cannot push troops. By  managing the “upper game’ or the “campaign” or war you can have a whale of a good time!


    To do this all you need is a simple system and there’s so much ready-made stuff around that can easily be adapted and since you are the umpire and the only one governing this phase, few dilemmas, glitches, or loopholes can ruin the game.



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