Wargames » General » BGG Wargame Designer of the Month: Eric Lee Smith

Author: Hungadunga
This month's BGG Wargame Designer of the Month is Mr. Eric Lee Smith. Born in Texas, he moved to Brooklyn NY to study photography at the Pratt Institute. Since he had already been bitten by the PanzerBlitz bug, being in New York gave him the opportunity to hang out at Simulations Publications!

After donating time as a play-tester at SPI, Mr. Smith asked to join the company as an intern. His talents were quickly recognized. The first game he worked on as an artist was Jim Dunnnigan's Bulge. He then put together a proposal for a game, The Alamo. This was published in 1981.

Mr. Smith is probably most well-known for the critically acclaimed game, The Civil War. Published in 1983, it is still considered to be the best game on the conflict at that scale.

Mr. Smith moved from SPI to Victory Games, but after 3 years left to pursue a career in software development and art direction. He now lives in Philadelphia, and is designing games for the iPad.



Mr. Smith agreed to sit down and chat with us over some Vietnamese food and a few Yuengling Lagers.

Please join me in giving Mr.Smith a warm, BGG Wargame Subdomain welcome!
Thu May 10, 2012 7:59 pm
Author: ericleesmith
Greetings All,

What a pleasant surprise it is to have this opportunity at the same time we are launching our new game company, Shenandoah Studio, on Kickstarter. I look forward to answering questions and hearing from old friends and playtesters.

Cheers,

Eric
Thu May 10, 2012 8:12 pm
Author: medievalbanquet
ericleesmith wrote:
Greetings All,

What a pleasant surprise it is to have this opportunity at the same time we are launching our new game company, Shenandoah Studio, on Kickstarter. I look forward to answering questions and hearing from old friends and playtesters.

Cheers,

Eric


Eric, tell us about Shenandoah Studio- its plans, its mission, etc.

Thanks.
Thu May 10, 2012 8:17 pm
Author: Cleitus the Black
Congratulations Eric!

I'm looking forward to iPad's Bulge - and yes I backed it. Thanks for helping bring wargames to a platform that will bring them more exposure.
Thu May 10, 2012 8:22 pm
Author: jonnylawless
Thank you for your work on Ambush! I owe you for some of my most satisfying gaming experiences ever.

Do you ever laugh thinking about people trying to pull off a victory in Mission 4?
Thu May 10, 2012 8:30 pm
Author: pelni
Eric,

1. Is Ambush! on the list of games Shenandoah might do? (As I said in some other thread recently that would be the only thing that would convince me to buy an iPad.)

2. Android ports anytime soon?

3. Any plans for making actual non-digital board wargames again?
Thu May 10, 2012 8:34 pm
Author: End User
Congrats. I'm looking forward to the game.
Thu May 10, 2012 8:47 pm
Author: boltar
Congratulations!

It's great to see a designer like yourself take the plunge into making great games for the iPad. The Kickstarter materials for Bulge look fantastic!

Your comments on your KS video seem to me spot on - the iPad seems like a much more natural platform for board wargames than the desktop computer ever was, and we've seen some good examples of Eurogames making the jump to iOS.

Given the potential (and the limitations) of the iPad, what sorts of games and game elements do you see as the best 'fit' for the platform? Tactical, operational, strategic? Tactical combat systems within a larger game? Cards and random events? Turn-based or interactive/action driven systems?

- Joe Studholme
Thu May 10, 2012 8:55 pm
Author: pete belli
Excellent choice.
Thu May 10, 2012 9:12 pm
Author: Warren Bruhn
The Civil War is my lifetime favorite two player strategic cardboard wargame. The initiative system and limited command points combined with leader ratings reflected "friction" at the strategic level and produced tremendous player tension and engagement in a way that I think was unmatched until the release of GMT's Paths of Glory. I cannot recall a more seamless integration of land and naval operations in a boardgame, simple yet beautifully effective. I think the cardboard wargaming world would probably benefit from a new edition with updated graphics and a multi-player option.

Have been playing The Devil's Cauldron lately, and the Panzer Command based tactical system used in TDC is pretty good.
Thu May 10, 2012 9:13 pm
Author: Mallet
Congratulations !

Ambush! = Genius.

Well done !
Thu May 10, 2012 9:18 pm
Author: ericleesmith
Peso Pete wrote:
1) How did the design of Panzer Command come about? Between things like the chit-pull mecahnic and the idea of dispatch points, there was a lot of innovation in this game design.

My two main grips about wargames was always games that had a set number of turns, and thus the edge of the world problem, and games which were just move-shoot/move-shoot. So virtually all my games have variable ending points and many - Panzer Command and The Civil War especially - have highly variable sequences of play. Over time I just got more and more clear about what I wanted to do. The chit picking system came about by my development work on SPI's Antietam game, which published by TSR. I devised the "McClellan" chit pick system and and to test it I used the old Blue and Gray game with the McClellan chits. It made that game much more exciting! I got to thinking about making chit pulls the center of the entire game system and this lead to Panzer Command.
Thu May 10, 2012 9:32 pm
Author: Kingdaddy
Here's a recent podcast interview with Mr. Smith:

http://ivebeendiced.blogspot.com/2012/01/ive-been-diced-epis...
Thu May 10, 2012 9:35 pm
Author: ericleesmith
Peso Pete wrote:
2) What did you learn from working at SPI and being around all of that game design talent? How did they help you become the game designer you would become?

How much time do we have?

My work at SPI was, is, and will forever be the defining experience of my professional career. I've spent most of my career as a software designer, entrepreneur, and development team leader, and only part of that time as a game designer. What I learned at SPI was crucial and to this day I have still never seen a creative shop as productive as Jim and Redmond's SPI. The game talent was there, for sure, but we were kids! Jim and Redmond created systems than enabled the effective teaching of how to development games - first - and then how to design them. A shocking number of us got the opportunity to design our first published game there and believe me, we were not "qualified" when we started.
Thu May 10, 2012 9:36 pm
Author: Patrick Carroll
In case no one else mentions it, I'll give a thumbs-up to Mosby's Raiders. I've owned it since the year it came out, and I've moved several times since then. (Come to think of it, it may be the only game that's still with me from all those years ago. Since it was solitaire and ACW, I figured maybe I'd play it even if I didn't play anything else.) Someone told me there's a trick to it that, once learned, spoils the game. But I didn't play enough to discover it if it's there. If I ever do, I guess I'll house-rule it away.

I've also enjoyed Ambush!, and I've bought The Civil War twice and meant to play it someday, if that counts (I hear it's great, but I haven't gotten fired up to play anything that big in a long time).
Thu May 10, 2012 9:36 pm
Author: wifwendell
Eric, I have played The Civil War so much - such a great game! Why haven't you designed other strategic-level games?
Thu May 10, 2012 9:39 pm
Author: ericleesmith
Peso Pete wrote:
3) What one game design are you most proud of and which game design would you most like to do a second edition of?


There are two, actually:

1) The Civil War, because I loved the subject and the game turned out so well from the very start, and

2) Panzer Command, because it is by far the most influential game I designed. I think of it as being a little bit like The Ramones: they didn't sell many records, but thousands of people who heard them picked up a guitar and started their own band. Panzer Command was like that. It didn't sell all that well, but every game designer who ever saw it seemed to adopt the chit pull system.

As for a second edition, I've been working on Across Five Aprils for some time. We are going to publish it at Shenandoah, but it will have a new name and some new mechanics.

I get requests frequently about The Civil War and I hope to tackle it at some point.
Thu May 10, 2012 9:44 pm
Author: ericleesmith
medievalbanquet wrote:
ericleesmith wrote:
Greetings All,

What a pleasant surprise it is to have this opportunity at the same time we are launching our new game company, Shenandoah Studio, on Kickstarter. I look forward to answering questions and hearing from old friends and playtesters.

Cheers,

Eric


Eric, tell us about Shenandoah Studio- its plans, its mission, etc.

Thanks.

It is our goal to create a software game company, modeled upon the best practices of SPI, that can design, develop, and publish upwards of 12 games per year.

We are game designer centric, meaning we treat game designers as the stars they are to us. It might come as a surprise, but in the software business game designers are usually not central to the process. They are with us.

Lastly, we seek to stay in business. That might sound funny, but I've seen dozens of game companies come and go due to a lack of focus on the business of publishing. To that end, we want each of our games to be profitable and we will not bet the company on any one title (which is what usually sinks most game companies).
Thu May 10, 2012 9:52 pm
Author: billyboy
Great to see you here Eric! I love The Civil War. One of the best games I've ever played. It led me into getting a huge library of Civil War books. Thanks!
Thu May 10, 2012 9:59 pm
Author: ericmwalters
Hi Eric,

Some of us hope that Adam Starkweather or Nick Richardson--the Grand Tactical Series gurus that Panzer Command inspired--will someday redo your original game to the GTS update standard. Panzer Command was just one of those designs that today seems like it was ahead of its time when it got published. I remember playing it and loving it, wondering why it never got any traction back then. "Company-level doesn't excite as much as platoon or squad level," was the wargamer wisdom back then. With No Question of Surrender just coming out, your benchmark foundation work now appears to be a bit more accessible and one hopes will get even greater exposure now than Panzer Command did back then. It wasn't just the variable turn ending the uncertainty caused by the chit pull system that I loved so much about the game; it was the OODA loop modeling with the Dispatch and Command Points. Other games/systems have gone after the same thing (e.g., Tactical Combat Series), but don't use such a lively/fast-moving/exciting system.

You've talked a bit about your inspiration to start Shenandoah Studios and John Butterfield's THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE game for the iPad; we now see Mark Herman's EL ALAMEIN follow-on game in work. These appear to be good adaptations of board wargame look and feel using an area movement system. I have to agree that the tablet "touch" features open up a whole new realm of functionality that never held guys like me to traditional PC-based boardgame adaptations. What aspects of the iPad--especially if networked--do you see as fruitful ground for new wargame concepts that aren't currently well-covered in boardgames? In computer games?
Thu May 10, 2012 10:03 pm
Author: Hungadunga
ericleesmith wrote:
Panzer Command, because it is by far the most influential game I designed. I think of it as being a little bit like The Ramones: they didn't sell many records, but thousands of people who heard them picked up a guitar and started their own band. Panzer Command was like that. It didn't sell all that well, but every game designer who ever saw it seemed to adopt the chit pull system.

For those who are interested...

http://www.ebay.com/itm/PANZER-COMMAND-THE-GATEWAY-TO-STALIN...

Thu May 10, 2012 10:05 pm
Author: ericleesmith
jonnylawless wrote:
Thank you for your work on Ambush! I owe you for some of my most satisfying gaming experiences ever.

Do you ever laugh thinking about people trying to pull off a victory in Mission 4?

I think a substantial portion of the gray hair that I now have got its start working on Ambush! and its sequels!

Remember, that game was designed and developed before we had modern personal computers. The manuscript was about 3 inches thick and the effort to coordinate all the hexes and paragraphs was just maddening without a database. We had Wordstar though! On our crappy CP/M computers with their 8 inch floppy drives.

Ah, Mission 4, the airdrop of death - I designed that one and I'm really proud of it. The problem usually comes when players decide to play the scenarios in historical order, which is a nice idea, but which means you are dropping in with lots of green guys. I get a huge kick out of reading all the session replays on BGG about the Ambush! scenarios. Many of them read like movie screen plays.
Thu May 10, 2012 10:12 pm
Author: ericleesmith
pelni wrote:
Eric,

1. Is Ambush! on the list of games Shenandoah might do? (As I said in some other thread recently that would be the only thing that would convince me to buy an iPad.)

2. Android ports anytime soon?

3. Any plans for making actual non-digital board wargames again?

We are having lots of fun working on the game and its first sequel, El Alamein (by Mark Herman).
Thu May 10, 2012 10:14 pm
Author: ericleesmith
pelni wrote:
Eric,

1. Is Ambush! on the list of games Shenandoah might do? (As I said in some other thread recently that would be the only thing that would convince me to buy an iPad.)

2. Android ports anytime soon?

3. Any plans for making actual non-digital board wargames again?

Ambush! is really a board game in the guise of a computer game, not the other way around. We have no plans to publish it and I'm sure that there are many man-to-man games that will get to the iPad eventually.

We have the rights to take our games to Android, Facebook(!), and Google+, but right now we are focusing 100% on the iPad. Our first platform after that will be the iPhone and beyond that we will probably partner with another firm.

Yes, each of our games will probably be published as a board game by another company. For instance, Jeff Dougherty's submarine game, War Patrol, is being published by Collins Epic Wargames. A number of companies have approached us about our other games.
Thu May 10, 2012 10:19 pm
Author: ericleesmith
boltar wrote:
Congratulations!

It's great to see a designer like yourself take the plunge into making great games for the iPad. The Kickstarter materials for Bulge look fantastic!

Your comments on your KS video seem to me spot on - the iPad seems like a much more natural platform for board wargames than the desktop computer ever was, and we've seen some good examples of Eurogames making the jump to iOS.

Given the potential (and the limitations) of the iPad, what sorts of games and game elements do you see as the best 'fit' for the platform? Tactical, operational, strategic? Tactical combat systems within a larger game? Cards and random events? Turn-based or interactive/action driven systems?

- Joe Studholme

In my opinion, the iPad has a great deal of potential for all levels of games, but there are limitations, the biggest of which is screen size. That said, the rapid scaling and scrolling is what makes the iPad so successful as a game platform (that and the amazing new screen!). There is also plenty of room for interactive games, but turn-based games will be our focus.
Thu May 10, 2012 10:22 pm
Author: ericleesmith
Warren Bruhn wrote:
The Civil War is my lifetime favorite two player strategic cardboard wargame. The initiative system and limited command points combined with leader ratings reflected "friction" at the strategic level and produced tremendous player tension and engagement in a way that I think was unmatched until the release of GMT's Paths of Glory. I cannot recall a more seamless integration of land and naval operations in a boardgame, simple yet beautifully effective. I think the cardboard wargaming world would probably benefit from a new edition with updated graphics and a multi-player option.

Have been playing The Devil's Cauldron lately, and the Panzer Command based tactical system used in TDC is pretty good.

Hi Warren,
Thanks for the kind words. I'm a fan of Devil's Cauldron and consider it one of the most beautiful game maps ever.
Thu May 10, 2012 10:23 pm
Author: ericleesmith
wifwendell wrote:
Eric, I have played The Civil War so much - such a great game! Why haven't you designed other strategic-level games?

That's a good question!

The answer is that I got off the game design path back in 1985 and went full time into software development in a totally unrelated field. That, and I've spent many, many years starting companies and taking them to their logical conclusions (some successes, some failures, all interesting). The Shenandoah Studio is my latest distraction from game design.
Thu May 10, 2012 10:27 pm
Author: pelni
Thanks for answering all my questions, even though I was hoping for more positive news about Ambush!.

Regarding game design, do you expect/hope to do a new design yourself, as part of Shenandoah Studios or as a hobby?
Thu May 10, 2012 10:32 pm
Author: Einroy
Kudos. Looking forward to great things from Shenandoah Studios.

If you had to guess what do you think the ratio of of original games to digital ports of existing games will be for (t)SS.
Thu May 10, 2012 10:32 pm
Author: SimGuy
I'm eagerly anticipating an Across 5 Aprils II, or whatever you'll call it. Since last summer A5A has hit my game table another three times - which is a lot for my gaming schedule. Might there be something like a Kickstarter campaign to support it (or others)?

Just acquired a copy of The Civil War and I'm planning on pulling it out over my 4th of July holiday.

And now all of this talk has got me wanting to pull Panzer Command back down for another look.

{Mmmmmmm, Yeungling}
Thu May 10, 2012 11:14 pm
Author: sherron
I was curious why you picked John S. Mosby for a topic for a wargame? Was it the fact like me did you use to watch The Gray Ghost on TV? I was a big fan of the show and it got me interested in civil war history. Mosby's Raiders was a must by for me when it came out as well as The Alamo by SPI, I grew up in the Davey Crockett days. Thanks for your designs I have enjoyed playing them.

PS I always read your ratings of games, I like the fact to see what an insider thinks of the game.
Fri May 11, 2012 12:23 am
Author: DavisBrasfield
Congratulations Eric, great to see you in the forefront of the industry again. Have seen screen shots of the new Bulge game by John and it is most impressive, wow, can't wait to get this game and Mark Herman's follow on game. I am a backer through Kickstarter. Finally a chance to invest into something directly thus giving you my vote of support. Think I will invest more if I get to play John B directly in his game. Great stuff. I love your Civil War game and hope you can does this on the iPad (with the random leader variant & cavalry).
Davis from San Jose
Fri May 11, 2012 12:24 am
Author: Michael Dorosh
Hungadunga wrote:
Mr. Smith is probably most well-known for the critically acclaimed game, The Civil War. Published in 1983, it is still considered to be the best game on the conflict at that scale.


You should be taken out and shot for thinking that you could introduce him and not mention Ambush!. Words can't describe the genius that is that game.

Congrats on Designer of the Month. Wouldn't know where to begin asking questions, so will just leave it to the others. Have enjoyed the Q&A so far.

Another excellent choice, Hunga. Well done.
Fri May 11, 2012 1:36 am
Author: xmfcnrx
One of the great things about Panzer Command was the rule book, which was not so much about mere 'rules', but rather a seminar on operational armored warfare and it's modelling in a game format. Simply the best rulebook ever! The paragraph explanations of game concepts and mechanics were(and still are) a joy to read and are almost as entertaining as playing the game itself. It really helps the gamer when he/she know how many losses are inflicted with a step loss, for example or detail about the transmission of orders. I just wish more games had as much attention and effort put into their products as Eric did with PzC.

Congrats!
Fri May 11, 2012 1:50 am
Author: oneoldgamer
Glad to hear you're looking to release games on the iPhone. I want an iPad and plan on getting one at some point, but it's hard to get that much cash socked away. I'd love to play some legitimate wargames on the iPhone.
Fri May 11, 2012 2:25 am
Author: ericleesmith
pelni wrote:
Thanks for answering all my questions, even though I was hoping for more positive news about Ambush!.

Regarding game design, do you expect/hope to do a new design yourself, as part of Shenandoah Studios or as a hobby?

Indeed I do - I'm working on a new brigade level Civil War battle series which builds upon Across Five Aprils, but which will be different enough to be a new game. It will be a similar complexity level though.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:36 am
Author: ericleesmith
oneoldgamer wrote:
Glad to hear you're looking to release games on the iPhone. I want an iPad and plan on getting one at some point, but it's hard to get that much cash socked away. I'd love to play some legitimate wargames on the iPhone.

A refurbed iPad 2 can be had for about $300 from Apple, it's a margin at that price.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:37 am
Author: ericleesmith
xmfcnrx wrote:
One of the great things about Panzer Command was the rule book, which was not so much about mere 'rules', but rather a seminar on operational armored warfare and it's modelling in a game format. Simply the best rulebook ever! The paragraph explanations of game concepts and mechanics were(and still are) a joy to read and are almost as entertaining as playing the game itself. It really helps the gamer when he/she know how many losses are inflicted with a step loss, for example or detail about the transmission of orders. I just wish more games had as much attention and effort put into their products as Eric did with PzC.

Congrats!

Thanks for the kind words! I am quite proud of that rulebook too. It is long, but over 1/3rd of it is examples and commentary. I've tried to do the same thing with other games, notably The Civil War. You will our games from Shenandoah will have rich back stories to them also. I always loved designer's note, still do, and am sad when they are too short.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:39 am
Author: ericleesmith
Michael Dorosh wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
Mr. Smith is probably most well-known for the critically acclaimed game, The Civil War. Published in 1983, it is still considered to be the best game on the conflict at that scale.


You should be taken out and shot for thinking that you could introduce him and not mention Ambush!. Words can't describe the genius that is that game.

Congrats on Designer of the Month. Wouldn't know where to begin asking questions, so will just leave it to the others. Have enjoyed the Q&A so far.

Another excellent choice, Hunga. Well done.

Shot! I don't think so. Perhaps you could have him develop scenarios for Ambush!, that would teach him.

:-)

Fri May 11, 2012 4:41 am
Author: ericleesmith
DavisBrasfield wrote:
Congratulations Eric, great to see you in the forefront of the industry again. Have seen screen shots of the new Bulge game by John and it is most impressive, wow, can't wait to get this game and Mark Herman's follow on game. I am a backer through Kickstarter. Finally a chance to invest into something directly thus giving you my vote of support. Think I will invest more if I get to play John B directly in his game. Great stuff. I love your Civil War game and hope you can does this on the iPad (with the random leader variant & cavalry).
Davis from San Jose

Thanks for the kind words!

John Butterfield is one of the best game players I know, so he will definitely give you a great game and will probably thrash you, he does me.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:42 am
Author: ericleesmith
sherron wrote:
I was curious why you picked John S. Mosby for a topic for a wargame? Was it the fact like me did you use to watch The Gray Ghost on TV? I was a big fan of the show and it got me interested in civil war history. Mosby's Raiders was a must by for me when it came out as well as The Alamo by SPI, I grew up in the Davey Crockett days. Thanks for your designs I have enjoyed playing them.

PS I always read your ratings of games, I like the fact to see what an insider thinks of the game.

Hi Steve, thanks for the kind note.

I proposed "Mosby's Raiders" to the Victory Games crew and they all thought it would be a fun solitaire game. Mark Herman and I had both finished Shelby Foote's 'The Civil War' around that time and Mark was especially enthusiastic. I didn't see the TV show as a kid, but I did love the Alamo, what with being a Texan and having a long family history there.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:45 am
Author: ericleesmith
SimGuy wrote:
I'm eagerly anticipating an Across 5 Aprils II, or whatever you'll call it. Since last summer A5A has hit my game table another three times - which is a lot for my gaming schedule. Might there be something like a Kickstarter campaign to support it (or others)?

Just acquired a copy of The Civil War and I'm planning on pulling it out over my 4th of July holiday.

And now all of this talk has got me wanting to pull Panzer Command back down for another look.

{Mmmmmmm, Yeungling}

I'm having fun with the A5A2 game and I have it working as both a board game and as a large hex game with miniature - there are pictures of that here on the Geek.

Rather than Panzer Command, I strongly encourage you to get Where Eagles Dare or Devil's Cauldron, they take the system into a new level of refinement.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:48 am
Author: ioticus
People keep saying the iPad is the ideal platform for board games, but why is that? What real advantages does the iPad have over the PC? I don't get it. The PC is much more powerful (not to mention the larger screen size) and you can do more with it than an iPad.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:48 am
Author: ericleesmith
Einroy wrote:
Kudos. Looking forward to great things from Shenandoah Studios.

If you had to guess what do you think the ratio of of original games to digital ports of existing games will be for (t)SS.

We are going to do both for sure. I suspect that we will end up publishing far more new systems than ports though. But we will see.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:49 am
Author: ericleesmith
ioticus wrote:
People keep saying the iPad is the ideal platform for board games, but why is that? What real advantages does the iPad have over the PC? I don't get it. The PC is much more powerful (not to mention the larger screen size) and you can do more with it than an iPad.

For me there are a number of reason the most important or which are the touch interface which makes it so much easier to play and the portability. Now with the new high resolution screen it has one more reason. That said, there a many, many people out there that love turn-based computer war-games, but I was never one of them. I've bought perhaps a dozen, but only "Civilization" held my interest for long; by the way, the iPad version is really nice, don't miss it.
Fri May 11, 2012 4:52 am
Author: DarrellKH
Eric, just want to throw my two cents in, and personally thank you for all the wonderful hours I have spent with The Civil War. I even had the chance to share a PBM/play-by-phone game of it with my big brother, in the late eighties, just a few years before he passed away. We didn't do a lot together, when we were younger, but that was something we got to share as adults.

I also want to express my gratitude and appreciation to everyone who worked at Victory Games, for doing the best job of creating high-quality, challenging, innovative wargames where good rules-writing in particular (and development in general) clearly had the importance it deserves.
Fri May 11, 2012 12:19 pm
Author: Michael Dorosh
ericleesmith wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:
Hungadunga wrote:
Mr. Smith is probably most well-known for the critically acclaimed game, The Civil War. Published in 1983, it is still considered to be the best game on the conflict at that scale.


You should be taken out and shot for thinking that you could introduce him and not mention Ambush!. Words can't describe the genius that is that game.

Congrats on Designer of the Month. Wouldn't know where to begin asking questions, so will just leave it to the others. Have enjoyed the Q&A so far.

Another excellent choice, Hunga. Well done.

Shot! I don't think so. Perhaps you could have him develop scenarios for Ambush!, that would teach him.

:-)



On a serious note, I was always surprised that Ambush! never got more third party attention. ASL has a host of third party "stalkers" making money off of it. About the only thing I've seen that comes close to what Critical Hit, Bounding Fire, etc. have achieved is Wayne Close's Fallschirmjaeger mod, which basically just turns the rules backwards and lets you play the printed Ambush! scenarios as a German squad.

The VG Insider IIRC had a British variant and one or two scenarios, and I still have a copy of "Block Party" from the short-lived BATTLEPLAN magazine.

Other than that, I wonder if third-party support was - as you perhaps suggest - too much work for too little reward for mere mortals to consider contemplating.

I had always thought about how rewarding it could be to design one or two scenarios for others, but the task always seemed daunting. I've seen others online who have posted similar comments. A fellow at gamesquad posted some maps for a module he wanted to do, with a sample map of Brecourt Manor of his creation that was quite interesting.



His comment?

Quote:
(Need to) decide if I want to pursue this project completely. I'm hesitant because though a few people have responded, there isn't much interest to continue Ambush! into the next phase. Namely a new Campaign that puts you into the shoes of some of the great battles of WWII.


There was some discussion here at BGG also.

I guess my question to you, Eric, would be - would you ever consider writing a "guide to scenario designers"? Or even a designer's notes that described your process for putting together the original Ambush! missions? Was it a lot of trial and error, or did you have some kind of system? I've always thought if I were to do one, I'd probably use a graph of some kind and pencil in the mission sleeve results on a chart first, with chart in lap and moving the counters around the map, but that's without any experience of sitting down and doing the thing. Would be very interested to know some detail of how the missons were put together, if anything has stuck in the mind.

Fri May 11, 2012 1:41 pm
Author: pelni
Michael, I do not want to take this too far off-topic, but did you see my DIY Ambush! Missions thread a few years ago? It contains some discussion on the problems of making an Ambush! mission (including at least one Eric Lee Smith quote) and also links to some free scripts I wrote you can download and use to help automate most difficult things (except writing a good story for the missions).

This post shows some examples of how I type in mission descriptions, that are then used by the scripts to generate all the paragraphs, mission cards, and unit cards for a module. Requires some effort to figure out that format, but the only option as far as I know is to do everything manually.
Fri May 11, 2012 3:49 pm
Author: goatleaf
Eric - I just wanted to take the opportunity to say thanks for two of the greatest game designs ever in CW and PC - the hobby owes you big time. When TDC came out to add beautiful components for the PC system I was like a marionette on speed until I got my hands on it! As others have said, a similar state of the art CW derivation would surely sell by the truck load.
Fri May 11, 2012 5:41 pm
Author: Warren Bruhn
Any thoughts on the "unofficial WGA 3rd edition" rules for The Civil War? Seems like a crowd of guys active on Consimworld went through several years of trying to clarify and modify the rules based on years of pbem experience and variants. It's quite a work, and my impression is that it breaths some new life into the game:

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/52068/unofficial-rules-rev...
Fri May 11, 2012 8:26 pm
Author: perfalbion
Fantastic choice. The Civil War is still among my favorite wargames ever and probably always will be.

Have you ever thought about updating that title to fix the things that many have gone and fixed on their own? For example, leader promotion? Or to add things like "Strategic Will" from FtP to the game? SW seems like such a perfect fit for that game, particularly if you tie VP to the level of SW.

When you game, what types of games hit your table? Are you strictly a war gamer, or do you mix it up with other types of games?

What is your favorite game to play that you didn't design? And similarly, what game did you play that made you wish you could get that time back the most?
Fri May 11, 2012 11:01 pm
Author: Pete Walsh
I've been playing The Civil War since '91. Starting in 2000 I began PBEM and have kept one or more games going almost continuously since that time, usually logging something like a move a day. I think The Civil War remains the best strategic level treatment of the American Civil War though there have been some remarkable efforts to do better. Ambush! is another favorite, though I can't say I've played it non-stop for a decade.

Thanks for a great 20 years.

Fri May 11, 2012 11:25 pm
Author: ericleesmith
ericmwalters wrote:
Hi Eric,

Some of us hope that Adam Starkweather or Nick Richardson--the Grand Tactical Series gurus that Panzer Command inspired--will someday redo your original game to the GTS update standard. Panzer Command was just one of those designs that today seems like it was ahead of its time when it got published. I remember playing it and loving it, wondering why it never got any traction back then. "Company-level doesn't excite as much as platoon or squad level," was the wargamer wisdom back then. With No Question of Surrender just coming out, your benchmark foundation work now appears to be a bit more accessible and one hopes will get even greater exposure now than Panzer Command did back then. It wasn't just the variable turn ending the uncertainty caused by the chit pull system that I loved so much about the game; it was the OODA loop modeling with the Dispatch and Command Points. Other games/systems have gone after the same thing (e.g., Tactical Combat Series), but don't use such a lively/fast-moving/exciting system.

You've talked a bit about your inspiration to start Shenandoah Studios and John Butterfield's THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE game for the iPad; we now see Mark Herman's EL ALAMEIN follow-on game in work. These appear to be good adaptations of board wargame look and feel using an area movement system. I have to agree that the tablet "touch" features open up a whole new realm of functionality that never held guys like me to traditional PC-based boardgame adaptations. What aspects of the iPad--especially if networked--do you see as fruitful ground for new wargame concepts that aren't currently well-covered in boardgames? In computer games?


Nice post and much to comment on.

So "Panzer Command" came to me quickly once I realized that the chit pick system enabled so many elements of the German/Soviet war to be simulated. There are records of 50 Panzer IV's killing 300+ T-34's in an afternoon. How was that possible? It all came down to training, radios, and activity level - which I simulate in the game.

Most game designers picked up on the chit system, some did on the communications system and the advantages it gives. I have lots of love for what MMT is doing with the system.

We chose to go with "Battle of the Bulge" because of its universal appeal. It was not my first choice! In fact, we went pretty far down the road doing "Soviet Dawn" as or first game before we got enough feedback from non-wargamers who convinced us that we needed a more universal first game.

Interestingly, the first game I ever developed was "Bulge" for SPI, but that is a coincidence (I'm told).

Eric

PS. In my opinion, it is only a matter of time until the Panzer Command system sees its full blooming under the deft hand of Adam. I could see it, back in the day, taste it even, but I was just too early, the wrong front, a terrible cover, etc.
Sun May 20, 2012 7:29 am
Author: ericleesmith
pelni wrote:
Thanks for answering all my questions, even though I was hoping for more positive news about Ambush!.

Regarding game design, do you expect/hope to do a new design yourself, as part of Shenandoah Studios or as a hobby?

On Ambush!, the pain of that design is hard to explain to folks who live now with MS Access, FileMaker, GoogleDocs, Excel (! we we pre Excel) and so we survivors (Joe Riser being the true trooper) just can't go back here.

But we can not forget either!

Eric
Sun May 20, 2012 7:33 am
Author: ericleesmith
Yes, I'm working on the definitive brigade level Civil War game system, based a bit on my "Across Five Aprils" game but being a unique design for the iPad and for subsequent publishing as a board game.

That said, I am indeed the CEO of a game company and my primary objective is publishing great games by great game designers, and I am just one of many.
Sun May 20, 2012 7:39 am
Author: ericleesmith
billyboy wrote:
Great to see you here Eric! I love The Civil War. One of the best games I've ever played. It led me into getting a huge library of Civil War books. Thanks!

That game did the same for me!
Sun May 20, 2012 7:41 am
Author: ericleesmith
Pete Walsh wrote:
I've been playing The Civil War since '91. Starting in 2000 I began PBEM and have kept one or more games going almost continuously since that time, usually logging something like a move a day. I think The Civil War remains the best strategic level treatment of the American Civil War though there have been some remarkable efforts to do better. Ambush! is another favorite, though I can't say I've played it non-stop for a decade.

Thanks for a great 20 years.


Greetings,

Your note is humbling and I would like to catch up with you about it. Please drop me a note here or on the Shenandoah site.

Best,

Eric
Sun May 20, 2012 7:43 am
Author: ericleesmith
Warren Bruhn wrote:
Any thoughts on the "unofficial WGA 3rd edition" rules for The Civil War? Seems like a crowd of guys active on Consimworld went through several years of trying to clarify and modify the rules based on years of pbem experience and variants. It's quite a work, and my impression is that it breaths some new life into the game:

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/52068/unofficial-rules-rev...

Greetings,
Over the years I've been approached by various groups re new rules, variations, and so on, and looking to me for guidance. It is a strange position for a person like myself to be be put into. Why? It's simple - you people asking the questions have played the game more than me, by far! You deal with issues that never came up during development! You provide solutions! My only request has always been to not make the game more complicated, because it is on the cusp as it is.

So, I have read various sets of rules over the years and I am always of one mind: proceed!

It is my hope that I will get a chance to do a new edition of the game - I've been approached by publishers over and over - but games of that scope take time. I have ideas...

Sun May 20, 2012 7:51 am
Author: ericleesmith
Kingdaddy wrote:
Here's a recent podcast interview with Mr. Smith:

http://ivebeendiced.blogspot.com/2012/01/ive-been-diced-epis...

Wow, and hardly any Texas accent!
Sun May 20, 2012 7:52 am
Author: ericleesmith
Warren Bruhn wrote:
Any thoughts on the "unofficial WGA 3rd edition" rules for The Civil War? Seems like a crowd of guys active on Consimworld went through several years of trying to clarify and modify the rules based on years of pbem experience and variants. It's quite a work, and my impression is that it breaths some new life into the game:

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/52068/unofficial-rules-rev...


I totally support these efforts. I am humbled by such players and wish I knew my game as well as they do so that I could make a better contribution.

Eric
Sun May 20, 2012 7:55 am
Author: Lawrence Hung
ericleesmith wrote:
pelni wrote:
Thanks for answering all my questions, even though I was hoping for more positive news about Ambush!.

Regarding game design, do you expect/hope to do a new design yourself, as part of Shenandoah Studios or as a hobby?

On Ambush!, the pain of that design is hard to explain to folks who live now with MS Access, FileMaker, GoogleDocs, Excel (! we we pre Excel) and so we survivors (Joe Riser being the true trooper) just can't go back here.

But we can not forget either!

Eric


Since I miss the Ambush! solitaire wargame system back then when I was thinking solitaire wargaming is not a full experience. Now, I regret that missing as I now realize how fun paragraph based solitaire system can be. Is there any plan to program the series in future?
Sun May 20, 2012 8:04 am
Author: ericleesmith
perfalbion wrote:
Fantastic choice. The Civil War is still among my favorite wargames ever and probably always will be.

Have you ever thought about updating that title to fix the things that many have gone and fixed on their own? For example, leader promotion? Or to add things like "Strategic Will" from FtP to the game? SW seems like such a perfect fit for that game, particularly if you tie VP to the level of SW.

When you game, what types of games hit your table? Are you strictly a war gamer, or do you mix it up with other types of games?

What is your favorite game to play that you didn't design? And similarly, what game did you play that made you wish you could get that time back the most?

Hi Ken,

Thanks for this note.

I noticed long ago when I was an Avalon Hill player that house rules were a mark of success. My Civil War game, flawed as it is, has generated fountains of house rules, and they have been codified and blessed over years - not by me! I have no idea! - but by the players themselves. We all fixed "Africa Corps" right? Why should my game be different?

Re my table: I'm a rules addict! I have at least six sets of rules on my iPad at all times and I carry S&T and ATO. I know lots of game designers - 50 or so - but I've never met a game designer that reads more game rules than I do. Game rules are candy to me.

Do I play the games I read? Some, but not most. I can play a game in my mind as I read the rules. I know that sounds odd to some of you, but it is the truth, and you grognards out there know what I mean. It is a rare game that I need to actually play in order to appreciate. I know this might sound academic or pretentious or both, but it is true for me. I am an artist by training and genealogy and such reactions are not usual from my art school peers. A face-to-face game is a treat, but my rules-to-mind game is what I really relish.

On game taste - well, wargames are the only games I have in my DREAMS and have had since adolescence; but I love a good Euro too. I love "Hey, That's my Fish" and "Catan" and lots of the usual Euros. But wargames literally will not leave my head after finishing a good one. Some of you can relate, I'm sure. No matter how you cut it, 'Catan' is no substitute for 'Libety Roads.'

Eric
Sun May 20, 2012 8:24 am
Author: pelni
ericleesmith wrote:
pelni wrote:
Thanks for answering all my questions, even though I was hoping for more positive news about Ambush!.

Regarding game design, do you expect/hope to do a new design yourself, as part of Shenandoah Studios or as a hobby?

On Ambush!, the pain of that design is hard to explain to folks who live now with MS Access, FileMaker, GoogleDocs, Excel (! we we pre Excel) and so we survivors (Joe Riser being the true trooper) just can't go back here.

But we can not forget either!

Eric



I have python scripts that generate paragraph-driven scenarios in LaTeX and render to PDF booklet in one click. The only thing I wish I had that I have not bothered to implement (yet?) is a GUI with a map to click on to place events, instead of having to manually type in coordinates. Everything else pretty much is automatic.

Will make sure to post something on github some day (like after a game is published, or after I know it will not be).
Sun May 20, 2012 5:27 pm
Author: TomW731
Would love to see a Civil War redo however I always wondered if it would make sense to remove and abstract the whole far western theatre and then use the two map sheets to scale up the rest of the main map a bit. Or if not that to simply make the hexes larger. Would love to see this one redone with state of the art map work and counter graphics!
Sun May 20, 2012 11:03 pm
Author: dougadamsau
Congratulations, Eric. I'm not ashamed to say you're one of my designer heroes - thoroughly enjoyed Across Five Aprils, The Civil War, Moseby's Rangers, and others over the years. One thing that always struck me about your games was the truly excellent rulebooks that came with your games. I remember the first time I read the rules to The Civil War, I literally couldn't put them down - the little historical essays at the beginning of each section were a terrific hook.

Enjoy your week month.

Off to back iOS Bulge right now.
Thu May 24, 2012 12:56 am
Author: sikeospi
The Ambush! microbadge that I designed is by far my best seller. I picked up some of the Ambush! expansions a few years ago at convention as I thought those might be hard to find.

You are not the only Eric/k Smith in the database, of course.

The two on the board game side Eric L. Smith and Erik Smith can only seem to design games with the word Pizza in the title. Why have you fallen behind in this requirement?

The other two are an artist, Eric M. Smith, and a Steve Jackson Games writer, Eric Smith.

I guess none of these names are also you.



Fri May 25, 2012 9:08 am