Friday, February 20, 2009

Max's Rock

Let’s talk about designing a game. In fact, we’ll start with the design of Field Commander Napoleon, the third in our Field Commander series. The first game was Rommel. The second game is Alexander the Great.

Which reminds me, we just received the printer samples for Alexander and they look fabulous! People have been saying how nice our newly released Down In Flames card game looks, and Alexander lives up to this new high level of expectation. The maps are mounted and linen covered. The counters are thick and look amazing. The box is thick and weighty. You could easily smack down a few zombies with one of these game boxes. People are going to be very happy with Alexander!

Anyway, enough about zombies, let’s talk Napoleonics…

Things I knew about Napoleon as of a couple weeks ago: He was a French leader from a couple hundred years ago. He fought wars across Europe and Russia. Unlike Alexander, I wasn’t sure if Napoleon had a favorite horse, or what its name was.

The cores of our Field Commander (FC) games are the game maps. Rommel had 3 maps, Alexander has 4 maps, and Napoleon will probably have 5. All the game counters are placed on the maps and you move them around as you try and capture enemy territories and accomplish your victory condition.

So I started looking for strategic level maps of Napoleon’s campaigns. Nothing complicated. I’m just trying to see where his forces started, where the big battles took place, and where he was trying to capture to declare victory. Finding such maps has proven to be very difficult. I’m still looking. I’ve looked online and at the bookstore. Next stop will be the library.

My research has taken some interesting turns however. I received a phone call early one morning from Nick, someone I’d never met before. The first words he said were “Hey Dan! Great to talk with you. I see you’re doing a game on Napoleon. I’ve been researching him for years…” Nick and I then talked for an hour on Napoleon, which was great, because I was starting at zero. Everything he had to say was news to me.

Last week we had an exhibitor’s booth at a game convention by Los Angeles International Airport. I got to talk with the gentleman in the next booth. It turns out he is a big Napoleon fan. He’s very much into the battles and tactics, which was something Nick and I never talked about. After a few minutes, I dashed off, grabbed a notepad and started writing. I now have a notepad full of notes on infantry, cavalry, guards, leaders, cannons, tactics, and forts.

The lesson I learned here is to talk with people. You never know what people know.

I also traded a few games with the gentleman at the convention. He now has a shiny new copy of Rommel and I have a cool new naval miniatures game.

In researching Napoleon, I have so far divided his career into 5 maps:

#1 - Italy 1796, 1800
#2 - Egypt 1798
#3 - Central Europe 1805, 1806-1807, 1809
#4 - Russia 1812
#5 - Central Europe 1813, France and Belgium 1814, 1815

This may or may not change as the design advances, but it seems to work for now to cover all his campaigns and keep them on 5 maps.

I have also talked with Wan Chui and Clara Cheang, the amazing artists who created the art for Alexander. They have agreed to create the artwork for Napoleon. I’m sure it will be stunning! A funny story… The first time Wan came by to talk about an art project, our dog Max, a large German Shepard, started batting a rock around the living room floor with his front paws. The rock is the size of a softball and weighs a couple pounds. As Wan looked at Max playing with his rock, I explained that it was Max’s favorite toy and he’d been playing with it for years. Wan shook his head and said, “Wow, you guys are cheap!”

As we speak, Wan and Clara are working on the Napoleon box cover.

Holly found a great book on Napoleon and has been filling me in on details of his early life. One fact I liked was from an early age Napoleon started creating detailed plans to overthrow the French government. Now, you would think that he would have kept such plans written in a secret code, and then buried them under a rock deep in the forest. Not Napoleon. He carried the plans around in 29 notebooks.

1 comment:

  1. Napoleon had a horse named Nickel. At one time he was offered some bread made from dark rye, which he refused saying it was "pain pour Nickel," meaning "bread for Nickel." And that is where we get the name for Pumpernickel bread.

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