Hollandazed: Thoughts, Ideas, and Miscellany — Shields & Swords Ancients

ELEPHANTRY MY DEAR WATSON (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Tags game design, Shields & Swords Ancients, The Grass Crown

ELEPHANTRY MY DEAR WATSON (by Tom Russell)

Early on during the design of With It Or On It, the first game in our Shields & Swords Ancients line, I decided that this series, unlike its medieval predecessor, would not have a single be-all end-all rulebook. This makes sense of course because the new series would be covering a much longer period of time, and feature more diverse fighting styles and technologies. I wish I could say that in my infinite wargame designer wisdom that I looked at the scope of the thing and that this approach was immediately self-evident. But, no, I only really decided on this...


FROM THE ARCHIVES: LAZINESS AS MOTIVATOR (by Tom Russell)

FROM THE ARCHIVES: LAZINESS AS MOTIVATOR (by Tom Russell)

The Shot & Shell Battle Series originated because I had designed three previous games that had somewhat similar rulesets but at different scales, with different combat procedures and different ZOC rules and different activation mechanisms (an I-go-U-go for this one, chit pull for that one, activation roll for this guy over here). I couldn't really call those three previous games a "series", because for me as a gamer the appeal of a series is that you only need to learn the rules once, then you're off to the races. Having to learn each game separately, and if you happen to...


FIRST LOOK AT THE GRASS CROWN (by Tom Russell)

FIRST LOOK AT THE GRASS CROWN (by Tom Russell)

The core idea of With It Or On It, the first game in our Shields & Swords Ancients line, was to create a simplified model that could capture the essential nature of hoplite warfare - the advantages, the disadvantages, and most importantly, the feel. Each individual counter is only as strong and as resilient as the counters adjacent to it, leading one gamer to dub the game's model "the hoplite buddy system". Winning a battle is a matter of putting pressure on the line, pushing at it, until you force it to weaken, to crack, and to collapse. I knew...


COUNTERFACTUAL: WITH IT OR ON IT (by Tom Russell)

COUNTERFACTUAL: WITH IT OR ON IT (by Tom Russell)

I usually handle the counter layout for our games - I can count the exceptions on one hand - but, NATO symbols aside, it's usually someone else doing the hard stuff, drawing the soldier or the horsey or the cannons. Each of those illustrations naturally increases the art budget and pushes our break-even point further down the line. One of the appeals of doing a series like Shields & Swords II is that we could pay for unit illustrations one time and then reuse them in subsequent volumes. In fact, even though the first release, The Grunwald Swords, only used...


PACING (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

Comments 2 Tags game design, pacing, Shields & Swords Ancients

PACING (by Tom Russell)

Many of my games are short. Probably the quickest is Northern Pacific, published in 2012 by Winsome and reprinted in 2018 by Rio Grande, a single round of which takes maybe five minutes. Most of my other games top out at about an hour or so, and a key part of the development process is making the thing faster, simpler, and more streamlined. Partially this is a function of the kinds of games I'm interested in making. A lot of my games are comically fragile - one mistake and you're done for. If the game keeps going for another couple...

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