Sunday, December 27, 2015

Final Primary Plans for Command Combat: Civil War

Now that the 1864 expansion is released, I have completed the bulk of what I had planned for Command Combat: Civil War.  But there are a few other major elements yet to finish.

First, I need to put together the hardcover compilation of everything from the 1861 core rulebook through the three main expansions, ’62, ’63, and ’64.  Plus there will be a few added elements from 1865.  There was supposed to be an entire expansion just for that year, but as I got to researching it, I learned that there really wasn’t enough from that year to make an entire expansion.  I had somewhat known this and intended to make it a what if expansion, including things like European troops and the Gatling gun, but it still just wasn’t enough.  So I decided to make it added content to the compilation book.  Thus, 1865.  I had intended on coming out with this expansion on the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant, but will have to settle for the 151st anniversary of it, (or near that time.)

I also wanted to release a battle pack of the Battle of the Wilderness, which will include Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg.  This would make it so there was at least one battle pack for each year of the war.  I could just skip this and let Gettysburg be the last one, but it just feels odd to leave 1864 out arbitrarily.  So I’ll be coming out with that next year as well.  The one thing that will be missing from this is the unit pieces.  They take a tremendous amount of time, and if I wait to finish these, it may never end.  Plus, the sizes of the armies in these expansions are so huge that they would make the books way too large.

Finally, as I’ve taken this journey through all these expansions, I’ve found better ways for the game to be played, and even some elements of the game that aren’t very strong.  I’ve been altering them through house rules as I’ve been playing with people more recently, but it would be best to provide these rules to the public so they can have the best experience possible playing.  So I need to create a version 2 of the game.  However, I always hate when a game company requires their players to go out and buy a whole new game after they’ve been loyal, purchasing all the games in the past.  So I’ll be posting all the changes on the website so those people who already had version 1 can simply use these altered rules without having to spend more money.

I also have found a number of typos throughout the other expansions, so I need to go fix those as well.  And once those are all finished, I’ve completed the major elements of Command Combat: Civil War.  I’ll have more things to make over time, including a regimental version, a navy game and individual battles to release.  Plus I want to expand into other periods.  But these elements are the main parts of the game that I had envisioned when I created Command Combat: Civil War.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Command Combat… Other Periods

I placed the colon between Command Combat and Civil War for a specific reason, because the Command Combat system is intended to reach beyond the Civil War.  The idea of orders having to be sent out from generals to their subordinates is one that can work in any period, especially ones before radio contact.  It makes battles represent their time periods more accurately as there is a lag time between making a decision and implementing it.  It also makes the player feel more like one person trying to herd a large army rather than micromanaging every aspect.

Also, I intentionally made the rules as simple as I could because I believe war gaming begs to be simplified.  With computer games making it easier than ever to play with ease, the best way to compete is to have simplified and fun rules.  Plus, even if computer games didn’t exist, those of us who grew up with war games now have responsibilities, and we can’t play 12 hour epic games like we once did.  So it’s best to have games that are quick and easy to play.

Therefore, I see this system expanding into other periods, particularly those with muskets.  It would transfer simply enough to those periods because the strategies and maneuvers are all the same with only a few exceptions.  The big difference would be the ranges and the special rules granted to specific commanders based on their styles of leadership.  There would also be some minor alterations based on their countries.  For instance, Napoleonic era infantry could form square, though Austrian infantry would have a separate, special maneuver that they did instead of square.  Also, cavalry would be more useful in battles rather than before and after the combat.

Eventually, my plan is to make two or three expanded rules systems.  One would be pre-American Civil War, and one would be post-American Civil War.  I would possibly have a separate book just for the Napoleonic era since that was so iconic, but I’m not sure.

The reason I have it all hinge on the Civil War is because that’s when everything changed.  The advent of the rifled musket made everything different from ranges to strategies, so I would put those in separate books.  However, I would like to make the point values such that one could mix and match armies from every book to go against one another, creating “what if” scenarios.  I’m also considering ways to let a player choose between rifled and smoothbore muskets just so everyone’s on an even playing field.  That way you could build a French army under Napoleon to take on an army of the Satsuma rebellion, or have armies of the Mexican war go up against George Washington and his rebel band.

One day this will happen; but I must finish what I have planned for Command Combat: Civil War first.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Command Combat: Civil War - 1863 Battle (Hooker v. Johnston)

Today we see a battle between General Hooker and General Johnston in 1863.

My Conversation with Shelby Foote

In the mid ‘90s I had the great pleasure of meeting Shelby Foote.  Actually, it’s more accurate to say I imposed upon him as I just looked up his phone number in the phone book and cold called him.  But when he died a few years later, I’m glad I did.

At the time I was wanting to make a big, epic film about Lee and Grant.  I thought it would help it get made to have someone of his stature attached as a consultant.  (Little did I know at the time that Hollywood doesn’t care about accuracy.)  So I sent a letter to Mr. Foote.  I never got a response, which should have sufficed.  But I was bound and determined to get hold of him, so I called him out of the blue.

I had half hoped to get his answering machine so I could leave a message because I knew this was a rather rude intrusion.  But I caught my breath as his old, familiar, relaxed voice answered, “Hello?”  I nervously asked if it was Mr. Foote, to which he simply said “Yes.  Who’s this?”  I introduced myself and told him what I was doing.  I even apologized for calling, but I just really wanted him to be a part of this.  He was extremely polite and apologized for not getting back to my letter.  Then he said, “It’s like what Grant said after he became a celebrity.  He was afraid that if he responded to one letter, he’d get too many more.”  He went on to explain that he had already consulted on Gettysburg, and he didn’t want to do anything more than once.  He wanted to have the time to do each thing he wanted to do once with what time he had left in life.

I didn’t push him, even though I wanted to.  I have to admit, I understood.  But to my surprise, he was interested in continuing our current conversation.  I forget exactly what he said, but he initiated the continuation of our talk.  He said that Grant was his favorite general of the entire Civil War.  He felt that he was the most interesting in the way he changed his tactics based on the situation.  He believed that the flack Grant got for being a butcher at the end of the war wasn’t justified.  Mr. Foote said that Grant did what he had to do to beat Lee’s army into submission.  But Foote believed the campaign of Grant’s to really study was the Vicksburg campaign, the way he so elegantly maneuvered his army even while in the enemy’s territory.

I tried to tell him how I wanted to show the way Grant used what he had learned early in his career during his time as a general.  It was hard to get out.  I ran out of breath a couple times and finally said to him, “Forgive me.  I’m a bit in awe here.”  And then I continued.

We ended the conversation with a question I asked him.  I asked “If I could go to one battlefield, which one should I visit?”  He told me to get lost…

Well, that’s the simple way of saying it.  Actually, what he said was that I should go to Shiloh, go deep into the woods, then leave the path.  He said “when you are lost, you’re exactly where you should be.  It’s just beautiful there.”

A poetic answer from a poetic man.  I will always value that one short conversation with one of my all-time favorite authors.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Command Combat: Civil War - 1864 Released! Video

Command Combat: Civil War - 1864 Now Available!

Command Combat: Civil War - 1864 is now available on Wargame Vault, Amazon, and through the Command Combat website.  The links are provided below.

The 1864 expansion provides the generals and units most notable during that year of the war.  The Confederates were getting desperate for troops and the Union was growing stronger with more powerful units.  However, the veterans are beginning to tire of war and are less likely to go on foolhardy charges.

The expansion also comes with rules for playing campaigns, and includes the historic campaigns Red River, Atlanta, and Overland.

You can find the PDF version here:

You can find the book copy here:

And you can find it on Createspace here:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Source of Information

When looking up information, I always start with Wikipedia.  Some people criticize that for some reason.  I don’t understand why.  First, they provide a great overview to get you started, and they have everything in one convenient location.  You add to that the fact that not only does it list the various connections, (what battles the unit or general was in, etc.) but they have links!  These links become enormously helpful.

But here’s what’s specifically great about Wikipedia: They list their sources, with links, at the bottom of the page.  That’s right, if I want to learn more about what I’m reading, I can click on those links and find out more, or learn where to buy a book I need, etc.

I also have a small library of Civil War books.  The most useful one, of course, is Shelby Foote’s The Civil War.  Nothing is more complete, and easy to navigate.  As I was making each book, I read through the years of which I was writing in Foote’s book, occasionally picking up something to use I hadn’t gotten out of Wikipedia.  I also had Ken Burn’s documentary running almost on a continuous loop on the specific year of which I was writing.  This provided inspiration and, again, small ideas I hadn’t considered before.

And, as I said, I have a few other books that I went through to find a bit more to put in.  For instance, I knew there was something interesting Forrest had done in ’64 that I wasn’t seeing in my regular sources, so I picked up his biography again and found it, placing it in as one of his special rules.

A more specific example of something that came out of Foote’s book was Longstreet’s special ability to create a flank attack.  I knew he had played an important role in the Battle of the Wilderness, coming in at just the right time to hit the Federals and taking them by surprise; but what I had forgotten was that he split up a brigade, creating a separate one under a temporarily promoted officer.  This way the Federals thought they knew where every Confederate brigade was, and was therefore surprised when a new one appeared on their flank.  As such, his rule allows him to break up a brigade and have a new one appear within a certain distance and attack.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Campaign Games vs. Individual Battles

The biggest addition to 1864, which was just released last week, was the campaign game, so I thought I’d say a couple words about my thought process on creating them and playing campaigns as opposed to individual battles.  This is the difference between strategy (campaigns) and tactics (individual battles.)

First, there’s a rule of thumb to any game.  You only go up and down 3 ranks.  So if you’re playing a corps level game (where your top general is a corps commander) your smallest unit should be a brigade.  (Corps, division, brigade.)  If you’re playing a game where your smallest unit is a regiment, your largest commander should be a division general.  (Division, brigade, regiment.)  Anything more or less than that bogs the game down.  However, it can be done, and indeed I did do it in the 1863 expansion where the top general is an army general.  However, these games are intended to be epic in size, and should be played with full days in mind.

So when creating a campaign game where you have a huge army versus a huge army, your smallest unit is going to be a division.  (Army, corps, division.)  That was the first place I started.  This immediately created the largest dilemma in creating a campaign game; every stand will have multiple types of units in it.  While a brigade will typically be just infantry or cavalry, a division is going to have both, and batteries of artillery.  This means that record sheets are unavoidable.  I had tried to keep Command Combat: Civil War such that players never needed to take their eyes off the table, but once you get to this size, you don’t have a choice.

There is the exception of when you have an entire division of just cavalry, but even then you’ll typically have horse artillery.  And you’ll need a way to know how much cavalry is in the unit.  Plus there are commanders and possibly other features, so you need record sheets.

Fog of war needs to play a part, but without a game master, you’re going to need to place all the pieces on the table.  So the elements that can be added are the fact that division sheets are hidden from the enemy, and decoy units can be placed on the board.  Information on each unit can only be seen when in line of sight and with a certain distance.

This last element becomes important as, when you’re used to tactical battles, you tend to think of things in line of sight.  But on a strategic level, each inch can be a mile or more.  You start have the issue of the curvature of the earth, and the land itself is never fully flat.  You’ll have hills and occasional trees that eventually add up to only seeing a short distance.

I played a strategic game where the host tried to use tactical rules, and it just didn’t work.  You don’t line up the way you do in a tactical fight.  At that distance, units mash together and the specifics are laid out on the table.  In my own system, I determined that the table would be laid out based on the immediate area and units will come into the tactical battlefield based on where they’re placed on the strategic one.  But if players were going to just roll off the results, I needed to come up with a system that reflected what everyone had, where they were coming into the battlefield in relation to the enemy, and what the terrain was like.

This, by the way, was what took 1864 so long to get done.  Well, that and my personal priorities shifted.  But that’s another story.

My answer was to make it all center around the infantry, the backbone of any battle at the time, and to let cavalry and artillery support it.  Then, that final number was to be altered by the general, whose abilities will shape how those elements are used.  Did it work?  Only the players can tell you.  I’m a little biased.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

1864 Generals Preview

Since Command Combat: Civil War - 1864 comes out next week, I'm posting previews of the generals with their stats and abilities below.  These are from the next to last draft of the book, so there are some typos.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Command Combat WILL be finished

As anyone who has followed Command Combat: Civil War will know, I am WAY behind on releasing elements to the game.  First the 1864 expansion was supposed to come out during its 150th anniversary; that would be last year.  I also intended on having the battle pack for that year, The Wilderness, come out during its anniversary.  Then the 1865 compilation of all the expansions was supposed to come out on the anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant.

None of these things have happened… yet.  The main reason for this is because I’m wanting 1864 to have campaign rules in it, but I want those rules to have an option to find the results of battles and skirmishes without having to play them out.  That is supposed to be the intention of the game, to tie miniature battles together, but I want people to be able to skip the small and unimportant ones.  This means creating almost an entirely new game.

When you mix this with what was already happening in my professional life, it meant the game had to take a major backseat.  What was happening was that I was discovering how little money is made in miniature gaming, especially when it’s a niche market like the Civil War.  It’s not like I’m trying to be greedy or anything, but I’m trying to build a business, and what I was making from 1861, ’62, and ’63 wasn’t even enough to buy food let alone pay rent; and the amount of time put into them took away from endeavors that do.  And so I had to become realistic fast.

This didn’t mean I gave up on the project, it just meant I had to put it on the backburner and work on it while I had time.  I’m now ashamed at how much time that has taken, especially since some fans have held on for so long.  So I’m making certain it will come out soon.  So here is the schedule of release:

1864 expansion – November, 2015
1865 compilation – Second quarter, 2016
Battle of the Wilderness battle pack – Third quarter, 2016

I will be trying to get a navy game out as well, and perhaps another battle pack, but no more promises from now on.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Overland Campaign between Lee & Grant to Play at Orccon This Weekend

This Sunday I'll be hosting a game of Command Combat: Civil War at Orccon, which is held at the Hilton Los Angeles Hotel.  The game will run from 10 am to 4 pm.  We'll be playing the Overland campaign between Lee and Grant.  This is a scenario taken from the 1864 expansion, which is still being worked on.  It's so expansive that it's delayed the release.  This will be the first trial run of one of the campaign scenarios.