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Subject: BGG Wargame Designer of the Month: Hermann Luttmann rss

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This month's BGG Wargame Designer of the Month is Herr Hermann Luttmann. He has designed over a dozen games, the most popular so far is Dawn of the Zeds (Second edition). He got his Bachelor of Science (in beer tasting) from Lehigh University in 1978.

Mr. Luttmann grew up on Long Island, NY and currently lives in Bellport. The first wargame he ever purchased was Avalon Hill's Stalingrad.

His first official credits in a published wargame was for L'Armée du Nord from Clash of Arms, and Barbarians from 3W. When he is not designing games, he works as a Financial Reporting Accountant/Manager in the Freight Forwarding Industry.

Mr. Luttmann's first rejected game design was Fairways in Flames: The Game of Combat Golf, which he submitted to Avalon Hill. He is still hopeful that it can be published one day!

His first published game design was Gettysburg: The Wheatfield.



His favorite hobbies (besides wargaming) – Watching baseball (Let’s Go Mets!) and picking up all the second “n’s” that people keep dropping from his first and last names.

Mr. Luttmann has agreed to join us over a couple of Rusty Nails to talk about wargaming. Please give him a warm, BGG Wargame Sub-domain welcome!
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Gareth G
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Amazing! A worthy recipient for sure!
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Great! I just played the Dunkirk game by Hermann and Paul Fish, A Spoiled Victory, now in development for a deluxe revision into Miracle at Dunkerque. I'd ask some questions about that topic...except that I'm saving them for a podcast interview with Hermann.


So I'll ask about something else. Hermann, I see you've got At Any Cost: Metz 1870 on GMT's P500 list, and it made the cut. GMT's page says it's now in "art & final development." You've got some games on very popular topics, like Gettysburg and Zombies(!), but also some titles on less-explored battles such as those of the FP War, or Pea Ridge. Are you drawn to those? What's different about designing a game on a topic where everyone can second-guess you (Gettysburg), compared with one where you may be exposing gamers to the subject in more detail than they've ever seen before?
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Andreas Lundin
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Hi, I tink Hermann's a great choice. I regard Stonewall's Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain as the best game - all categories - of 2015!

Stonwall's Sword is in the Blind Sword System along with other designs on 19th century topics.

My question is - can you port the system to early 20th century or to 18th century battlefields also, or is the system made specifically for 19th century battles?
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Mike Oberly
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Good choice for DotM.

I would ask Hermann if there are any designs (wargames or more general games) that were especially impactful on him while growing up, or in his early years playing consims?
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brant G
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Looking back over your design history, what's the one game you revisit and think "wow, I really nailed that exactly how I wanted it"?

And what's the one you look back on (even unpublished) and think "man, I really screwed that up!"
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Hi and congratulations!

You've been very supportive of my recent efforts to contribute to the wargame hobby with my videos. As a female reviewer, I've especially appreciated the encouragement and welcome.

You're certainly a great ambassador for the hobby. So here's my question:

Should designers be concerned about actively reaching out to "non-wargamers" to try to bring in new blood through their designs? Or is that not an area of concern--wargamers will be wargamers--and the niche will continue along just fine without anyone trying consciously to expand it?
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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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Hey all and thank you very much for this honor and for all your support!

This is such a great community of boardgamers and it's a joy to be part of it. Having such a great network of support and encouragement certainly makes this "job" easier and more rewarding. Of course, I wouldn't do it if it wasn't fun - my fellow designers will attest to the fact that most of us might make enough money in commissions to have a nice dinner or buy a few new games (that we alas don't have time to play because we're always designing, a true Catch-22!). But the real reward is being able to produce something that people enjoy playing or that inspires them to research a period of history further or compels them to take a shot at designing their own game.

Like most wargamers, I've been toying around with designing for years and never quite getting over the hump. Piles of paper that were relegated to boxes in a closet, scrawled notes in a binder - you know the drill. But when I got back with Nancy a number of years ago, who was my high school sweetheart and who I first met when she was 15 years old, she became my muse. She encouraged me to try and fulfill my dream of finally getting a game published and stood by when I was spending weekends drawing maps and every spare moment reading history books. Without her presence and love, this part of my life would never have happened.

And then a great guy named Alan Emrich at Victory Point Games finally gave me a chance to see all that work come to fruition and helped me get my first game actually published. I have to thank him for that opportunity. Also a special thanks to some of the great publishers who I've worked with and who are especially keen to help new designers - Roger Miller (Revolution Games), Mark Walker (Flying Pig Games and Tiny Battle Publishing), Randy Lein (Legion Wargames), John Krantz (Consimpress), Bill Thomas and Ken Dingley (Compass Games), Tom Russell (Hollandspiele), Mike Kennedy (White Dog Games) and Gene Billingsley (GMT).

So now - on to the questions!
Hermann
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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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MarkEJohnson wrote:
Great! I just played the Dunkirk game by Hermann and Paul Fish, A Spoiled Victory, now in development for a deluxe revision into Miracle at Dunkerque. I'd ask some questions about that topic...except that I'm saving them for a podcast interview with Hermann.


So I'll ask about something else. Hermann, I see you've got At Any Cost: Metz 1870 on GMT's P500 list, and it made the cut. GMT's page says it's now in "art & final development." You've got some games on very popular topics, like Gettysburg and Zombies(!), but also some titles on less-explored battles such as those of the FP War, or Pea Ridge. Are you drawn to those? What's different about designing a game on a topic where everyone can second-guess you (Gettysburg), compared with one where you may be exposing gamers to the subject in more detail than they've ever seen before?


Thanks Mark! I look forward to our interview. I am indeed especially drawn to unusual and obscure topics for designs. My main goal is to cover battles and campaigns that have not gotten enough (or in some cases, any) attention in a game design. You might note that even when I cover a popular battle like Gettysburg (on which I have four games either already published or in the works), I always take a unique angle or aspect to the battle - focusing on a portion of the battle rather than covering the whole engagement as has been done a dozen times before. So my Gettysburg games cover just .... Pickett's Charge, the Wheatfield battle, Longstreet's attack on the second day and Culp's Hill. All areas that have not often been subjects in and of themselves in a game.

So yes - I love taking the road less traveled. I think this is where the creative spark comes from, exploring subjects that require some extra work. For example, I have a game coming out for the next Yaah! magazine called Kindermord: The Race to the Sea 1914. As far as I know, this fascinating campaign (sandwiched between the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of Ypres) has not yet been covered as a separate subject. So I'm really excited about this particular venture into uncharted territory and so far the game is playing really well.

And I'm always open to suggestions!

Thanks!
Herm
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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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lundinandreas wrote:
Hi, I tink Hermann's a great choice. I regard Stonewall's Sword: The Battle of Cedar Mountain as the best game - all categories - of 2015!

Stonwall's Sword is in the Blind Sword System along with other designs on 19th century topics.

My question is - can you port the system to early 20th century or to 18th century battlefields also, or is the system made specifically for 19th century battles?


Thanks Andreas!
I absolutely love the fact that this community extends the reach of people like myself to other gamers all around the world. I am always thrilled to death when I can talk gaming to a fellow geek from Sweden and other corners of the globe.

The Blind Swords system is one that I am particulary proud of. It is the system what I have always wanted to play and could never quite find in other games through the years. For me, it is the culmination of my "historical chaos" theory of game design which tries to move wargame gameplay as step closer to the true chaotic nature of the battlefield. Of course, no one can make a wargame truly "realistic", but I feel that the game system does get you nearer the on-the-spot decision making and ever-evolving nature of a battle. These battles were not chess matches with one side able to calmly make a perfectly executed move without interference from the opponent or from the Gods of War. The Blind Sword system does try to reflect the "no plan survives contact" nature of warfare.

As far as the periods of history covered by Blind Swords, so far we've done the Franco-Prussian War (with Duel of Eagles/Position Magnifique and At Any Cost) and the ACW (Stonewall's Sword, Thunder in the Ozarks and Hammerin' Sickles). I do think this is the "sweet spot" for this system - late 19th Century and early 20th Century. My buddy Stephen Oliver is contemplating a Balkans War application and I think that's an awesome idea - the system can handle early WWI-era conflicts very nicely. Some have asked about the Napoleonic Wars for the system, and that would take some tinkering. But it is a possibility. Earlier than that - the Seven Years War, etc. - and you're talking a far more linear and restrictive form of warfare. I would really need to tinker even more to get the system there and I'm not sure I'm up for that. But others are more than welcome to try!

Thanks!
Herm
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Paul
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Congratulations! Well deserved.

You've helped me out a lot and acted as my mentor. That and your contributions to the hobby are much appreciated.

Do you have history or military author who inspires you?
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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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MikeOberly wrote:
Good choice for DotM.

I would ask Hermann if there are any designs (wargames or more general games) that were especially impactful on him while growing up, or in his early years playing consims?


Hey Mike!
Thanks for asking .... I have the same history of playing wargames that everyone else has. Avalon Hill and SPI titles provided the basis of my wargaming background. As far as particular titles that influenced me ....

Napoleon's Last Battles provided a vehicle where I could get other guys (and gals) playing a wargame together as a group function because it was easy to play, accessible and handled multiple players. So I used it a lot in college to get people interested in gaming.

Awful Green Things from Outer Space showed me that it is OK to have fun while gaming and that chaos is REALLY fun. It is my model for my current interest in designing fun sci-fi games (Invaders from Dimension X! and Fred Manzo's wonderful Space Vermin From Beyond!).

Frederick the Great (SPI/AH) proved to me that a game does not have to be 50-pages long and contain 3000 counters and 12 charts to be an accurate simulation of a military campaign or war. That game shows that with subtle, clever mechanics you can almost perfectly simulate the dire situation of Frederick and Prussia in the Seven Years War.

Paths of Glory opened up the area of WWI gaming and designing for me. Ted Raicer's great game showed me that my historical interest in the First World War could actually be manifested in an entertaining wargame.

Rob Markham's games were a beacon of clever design work and another indicator that you can design a relatively small footprint wargame about some really obscure subjects and still have a challenging, fun and smart gaming experience. I love Rob's game design philosophy and he influenced me more than anyone else.

Thanks!
Herm

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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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bayonetbrant wrote:
Looking back over your design history, what's the one game you revisit and think "wow, I really nailed that exactly how I wanted it"?

And what's the one you look back on (even unpublished) and think "man, I really screwed that up!"


Hey Brant!
I look forward to finally meeting you at Origins next year.
The game that I think I really nailed is .... hmmmm ...... wow, that's a tough one. I'll say for fictional games that would be Dawn of the Zeds and for historical probably Stonewall's Sword. DotZ was a shot in the dark and actually was designed before Gettysburg the Wheatfield (but published afterwards). Darin Leviloff's ingeniously simple but engrossing States of Siege system just screamed out for a zombie application (and here's a dirty little secret - I wasn't really that big a zombie fan before designing DotZ). When I designed that game, it just all fell into place perfectly and the end result is exactly what I wanted to wring out of that system framework. Stonewall's Sword, as I said before, was just the culmination of everything I believed that a historical chaos wargame should be. It just felt right and played great. But here's the thing - I actually think Thunder in the Ozarks will be even an better game as the battle and situation are far more interesting and open. The system really shines in that more fluid setting.

My biggest screwup and disappointment was High & Tight. I am a baseball fanatic and will watch almost any game with interest. I tried so hard to follow my credo of "do something different" and H&T was my attempt to do something really different with a baseball game. It was not going to be a Strat-O-Matic clone. Well, it was apparently TOO different. I'll give myself a pat on the back for effort and someday I will try a different type baseball game again.

Thanks!
Herm
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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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adm1 wrote:
Hi and congratulations!

You've been very supportive of my recent efforts to contribute to the wargame hobby with my videos. As a female reviewer, I've especially appreciated the encouragement and welcome.

You're certainly a great ambassador for the hobby. So here's my question:

Should designers be concerned about actively reaching out to "non-wargamers" to try to bring in new blood through their designs? Or is that not an area of concern--wargamers will be wargamers--and the niche will continue along just fine without anyone trying consciously to expand it?


Thanks Deborah and thanks for your wonderful video reviews! You are doing a great service to the hobby.

I think wargame designers need to reach out, if for no other reason than for our own survival. I'm glad you brought this up because this is something I have really tried to focus on lately. The gaming market is out there and gameplayers (i.e., customers) are there to be had. But getting our wargames to be more palatable to non-wargamers is key - the new gamer doesn't want to buy monster games (yes, games on monsters but not monster-sized games!). The gaming industry is exploding - just look at the attendance numbers at Essen. So our ageing historical wargame crowd needs to be more flexible and attract all those gamers somehow. My contribution to that effort is to blend traditional wargames with more popular themes, easier-playing mechanics, draped in a more attractive wrapping - but still keep the core game design amenable to hard-core grognards who want their conflict and strategy. To that end, I have designed Invaders from Dimension X! which is supposed to be a fun, purely chaotic science fiction game, but at its heart is a wargame. I also have coming out very soon from Tiny Battle Publishing a game called Dead Reckoning. It is the first (I think) zombie wargame - it is two-player, looks like a wargame, quacks like a wargame but has no dice, no CRT's, no combat factors and not even any hex numbers. It is so accessible and easy to play that any non-wargamer can play it. But it also maintains the heart of a wargame and requires some strategy and tactics to play well. And of course, it has a Chaos Table!

So yes - wargame designers need to "up their game" (literally) and start marketing to the great horde of non-grognards out there.

Thanks!
Herm
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tim allen
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Congratulations Hermann, on being named Wargame Designer of the Month!

Now for a question your game designing expertise should be able to answer- how many zombies does it take to screw in a light-bulb?
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Ok, but seriously- I think its interesting that you say you werent that into the whole zombie thing before designing Dawn of the Zeds. Since presumably you are now, which would you say is your favorite zombie movie?
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Hermann is one of the most enthusiastic gamers and game designers I know. He puts a lot of effort into his designs, and always seems to be looking for ways to make the game more fun, not just more historical.

Hermann has created games on subjects ranging from the US Civil War, Franco-Prussian War, and the Battle for Farmingdale. All of his games show his love of game design and the effort he expends on them.

Most of his games are very good, with the exception of those using Rick Barber maps, especially hex maps. I know there are those that love that style, but I am not one of them. If there is a way to obscure the actual game information on a map, Barber finds it. 10,000 hand drawn trees with the apparent intent of making sure that nobody can tell where the elevation lines are. Someone should also buy him some crayons that aren't green. If Hermann's games were paired with a competent map maker, they'd be awesome.
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I don't really have a question for Hermann, but I wanted to jump in and just say what a swell guy he is, and to give an example of the same.

Years ago, when I was designing my own game on the Battle of the Alma, I decided to do a little "opposition research" and see how the great Frank Chadwick approached the same topic. I found a copy of the game for sale here on BGG-- sold, of course, by Hermann. So I bought it.

When Hermann went to ship the game, he discovered that we had paid too much for shipping. So he put the difference, a couple bills and a few coins, in an envelope that was shipped along with the game.

He's a swell guy, and is great to work with.
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Hermann is not just a great designer but a great and very personable guy!
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Quote:
If Hermann's games were paired with a competent map maker, they'd be awesome.


Hey!
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William Ramsay
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Sorry, Tim - I meant only those that were done by Barber.
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Alan Emrich
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Well begun is halfway done. It was great being there for you as you got started, Hermann!

More Zeds to come!

Alan Emrich
Victory Point Games
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hedererp wrote:
Congratulations! Well deserved.

You've helped me out a lot and acted as my mentor. That and your contributions to the hobby are much appreciated.

Do you have history or military author who inspires you?


Thanks so much, Paul! That's very kind of you.
And speaking of obscure wargame designs, Paul is working on a game on the 1916 campaign in Romania. A very interesting and mostly ignored part of World War I. I hope gamers will support him when it comes out.

Authors and books .... let's see. In random order -

Tannenberg: Clash of Empires by Dennis Showalter

Anything by Paddy Griffith - unique insights into ACW tactics and the "real" battlefield.

Catastrophe: 1914 by Max Hastings

Anything by Christopher Duffy pertaining to warfare in the Age of Reason.

Mike Embree, who has a great series of books on really obscure chapters of military history occurring in 1848, 1849, 1864 and 1866.

For detailed analysis of any period, anything by Brent Nosworthy

My most read and re-read and dog-eared book is probably David Ascoli's Day of Battle, a detailed study not only of Mars-la-Tour, but also the opening engagements of the FPW and a pretty detailed telling of the Battle of Gravelotte-St. Privat as well. Wonderfully written book.

Thanks!
Herm





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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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TimAllen wrote:
Ok, but seriously- I think its interesting that you say you werent that into the whole zombie thing before designing Dawn of the Zeds. Since presumably you are now, which would you say is your favorite zombie movie?


Thanks Tim!
If there's anyone who can equally share in my success with zombie and sci-fi games, it's Tim. His "vision thing" for all graphics, but especially these gendres, has brought these designs to life (or to undead, actually). I'm a huge proponent of "immersion value" in my designs and Tim nails it perfectly every time.

OK - so my favorite zombie movies are probably these four .....

The original Night of the Living Dead (a true classic); the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead (and the obvious inspiration for the Zeds game title); 28 Days Later (best of the new breed of zombie movies) and for a comedy take, I'd go with Shaun of the Dead.

Thanks!
Herm
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Bryan Armor
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Hermann! Congrats on the honor this month.

Hermann is without a doubt one of the nicest guys in the hobby, as I'm sure many others can attest. Without even addressing his own considerable success as a designer, his generosity with his time and collegial spirit towards other developers and designers routinely leaves me in awe. It's a mindset I can only try to match in my own touchpoints with the wargame community.

Anyway, on to the most important question: who is your favorite Met?;)
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