Category Archives: Game Design

A Map of Waterloo Created by an Eyewitness

Screen shot of the Map of Waterloo painted by an Eyewitness from Antiques Roadshow. This image has been brightened and the contrast increased for legibility. Click to Enlarge.

I happened to be watching Antiques Roadshow from Exeter on BBC America last night when this extraordinary map of the battle of Waterloo was presented. Though it bears no date or signature, it clearly was painted, “by an Eyewitness” shortly after the battle itself. I was immediately struck by the lettering  and how similar it was to our efforts in General Staff to recreate the look and feel of 19th century maps for our wargames.

Below is the link to the entire segment hosted on the BBC web site:

Link to Antiques Roadshow BBC clip, “Map of Waterloo A beautifully detailed map of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo drawn by an unnamed eyewitness.”

A Tale of Two Wargames

I first conceived of General Staff as a very simple, introductory wargame that might be the first real wargame to be released for the Xbox (clearly, an under-served market). However, two things stopped this plan dead in its tracks: first Microsoft closed down the independent online games channel for Xbox and then, after being approached by a major wargame publisher, I was told that there was, “no market for wargames on the Xbox,” however a new version of my UMS series, could, “sell 25,000 units in its first year.”

So, I went back to the proverbial drawing board but I also asked you, the Grognards, what kind of a game you wanted. And here are the results:

Clearly, almost as many people want a simple, Kriegsspiel type game as want a complex military simulation.

After pondering this conundrum I had an epiphany: ‘simple’ wargames and ‘complex simulations’ actually share about 80% of the same code and data. Why not make a wargame that the user can decide which he wants to play? Sometimes people aren’t up for hours long complex simulations; other times people are.

Screen capture from General Staff showing the set up for ‘Simulation’ mode (note the button in the upper-left hand corner). Click to enlarge.

In the above screen capture the user has selected ‘Simulation’ mode. Note that there are headquarters units displayed. Headquarters play an important role in General Staff in simulation mode. All orders are given through the commanding general to the subordinate commander (via courier) and then (again via courier) to the actual unit. For example:

In this screen capture an order from Marshal Beresford will take 8 minutes of game time to be delivered to ths subordinate commander. (Click to enlarge)

It will take 8 minutes for the courier to ride from Marshal Beresford headquarters to the subordinate’s headquarters.

It will take an additional 6 minutes for a courier to deliver the order to the subordinate infantry unit. Click to enlarge.

Additional time (based on the headquarter’s Leadership value) will be added before the next courier is dispatched to deliver the order to the infantry unit. So for a command to go from Marshal Beresford, to Major General Stewart to Colborne’s Brigade will take a minimum of 14 minutes of game time plus additional time penalties based on the leadership abilities of Beresford and Stewart.

Detailed information about a unit in Simulation mode. Even the number of volleys remaining are tracked. Click to enlarge.

Lastly, the leadership of Colborne’s Brigade is used to calculate how quickly the unit will act upon the received orders. This is an example of the detailed Simulation mode for General Staff.

However, in Kreigsspiel mode,  all headquarters units are removed and the user issues orders directly to the units that immediately respond to the commands.

General Staff in Kreigsspiel mode. Note the button in the upper left-hand corner, headquarters units have been removed and unit strength is either 1,2,3 or 4.

Also, all unit information except a simple value (1-4) is ignored. Kriegsspiel mode is the simple, introductory wargame that I originally envisioned.

 

Announcing the Scenario Editor!

The Scenario Editor Module for General Staff allows the user to combine any two armies created in the Army Design Module with any map created in the Map Design Module and create a scenario or battle. In the screen capture before we’ve combined the Allied Anglo-Portuguese Army from the Battle of Albuera (May 16, 1811) as the Blue Army with Napoleon’s Imperial Guard as the Red Army and placed them on a map of our own design.

Screen shot of the General Staff Scenario Editor. Note that the time to deliver orders via courier between units is displayed. Click to enlarge.

Also, note that when you slick on a headquarters unit the route, distance and time that a courier will take to deliver orders to the next subordinate unite are displayed. This is just the beginning because General Staff is actually two wargames in one.

We will be posting a video showing off some of the new features shortly.

 

 

Victorian Typography

Last week we ran a quick survey to get your opinion on the legibility of two Victorian typefaces (see here). The clear favorite was the font ‘Monastic’ garnering 73% of the votes. However, we also received numerous personal emails and comments from grognards that were also very fond of the Phectic font. The decision was made to go with Monastic but to use Phectic in a larger point size when appropriate.

Below is a screen shot of how we will be using Phectic:

Screen shot of the Unit Types information display. The ornate Victorian font at the top is Phectic.

Your comments were greatly appreciated (it was especially enjoyable to hear from a letterpress operator who fondly remembered metal type). The interactive Army Design Module is almost completed and we will be posting a video of it shortly.

We Need Your Feedback on the Legibility of These Fonts:

We need your feedback about the typography used for editing units in the Order of Battle (OOB) table. In the first example (below) we would like to ask if the typeface for ‘Edit Commander Data’ and ‘Leadership Value’ is legible for you. This font is called ‘Phectic’.

Screen shot from the General Staff Army Design Module Order of Battle table. Do you think the type for ‘Edit Commander Data’ is legible or not? Click to enlarge.

Below is the alternate typography which is currently being displayed for editing the subordinate commander data. This font is called “Monastic”;

Screen shot from the General Staff Army Design Module Order of Battle table. Do you think the type for ‘Edit Subordinate Commander and ‘Leadership Value’ typeface is more legible than the above display? This font is called ‘Monastic’ Click to enlarge.

Our overarching design goal has been to create a wargame with an ‘authentic Kriegsspiel‘ look. If they had computers in the 19th century what would the design look like? Phectic by the way, is from Walden Font Company’s, “The New Victorian Printshop, Volume One.” Walden has done a fantastic job in finding, scanning and digitizing old typefaces (including a series of the American Civil War that I used on a previous project). A link to their site is here.

Please take a few seconds and answer the survey question below: