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Design Diary for The Guns of Gettysburg

This section is a public diary for the design of The Guns of Gettysburg.
Newest entries are at the top, oldest at the bottom.

Nov. 16, 2010 to present

Blog From Diary to Blog. After keeping per-product design diaries for games in development, I have decided to move to a centralized designer’s blog, where I can discuss all ongoing development projects, as well as any other company news, or any other subject I care to address. Like the design diary it replaces, newest entries are at the top. Links to archives of old entries can be found at the bottom of the page. In addition to having broader coverage than the design diary, the blog also has shorter, but more frequent entries.

April 20, 2010

Facing and Movement Turning Around. Last entry we started a tutorial on the game, starting by showing how to set up the game. The reader response to it was pretty good, I think, and so we’ll continue it here by showing the first turn of the game. Much of this discussion is about subjects that are not particularly complicated, but for which there are no corresponding concepts in Bonaparte at Marengo or Napoleon’s Triumph, namely the reinforcement tokens, drawing battle tokens, and moving objectives. We also have a rules update (again) and some box art revisions, front and back.

April 6, 2010

Facing and Movement A Little Learning. One request that has come up a lot with regard to my Napoleonic games, and The Guns of Gettysburg as well, is to provide an extended play example. I’ve never done so before, because I think that figuring it out yourself is part of the fun. However, I think perhaps I will try this time, because many people really learn better from example than by any other way. And so, I’m going to use this diary as a vehicle for writing it, with the intent of eventually extracting it from the diary (where it is mixed in with a lot of extraneous material) and putting into its own section of the site.

April 3, 2010

Facing and Movement A Clearly Held Position. I am currently in a rules proofing cycle, and enclosed is the latest iteration. This section is a public diary for the design of The Guns of Gettysburg. Newest entries are at the top, oldest at the bottom. The most interesting set of revisions this go-round were about movement and facing. I had done something with this last revision, but on reflection and reading people’s comments and questions, I thought I should do more. Movement in The Guns of Gettysburg is different even from my previous games, and is quite different from standard wargames. Generally, in wargames, in both the hex and area varieties, pieces occupy the areas. In The Guns of Gettysburg, however, pieces occupy the lines between areas, which even if it simplifies movement in many ways (which it does) it is still unfamiliar and that makes it easy to misunderstand.

March 27, 2010

Rules V50 Rules are Rules. In the last diary entry I attached a copy of the rules and invited feedback. I got some (Thanks to everyone who responded!) and have been making edits in response. Now, I didn’t follow every suggestion, which wouldn’t even be possible since often different people offered contradictory suggestions, but I read everything I was sent. This diary is about the rules revision, with some material about rules writing in general (and an unbelievably long digression into a completely unrrelated subject).

March 24, 2010

Token Sheet Tokens of My Esteem. One physical element that differentiates The Guns of Gettysburg from its Napoleonic predecessors is the use of die-cut cardboard tokens. About half the tokens in the game are for tracking time and reinforcements (the two being very closely related in the game), but I’ve already talked about these. The other half, and the subject of this diary entry, are the battle tokens. There are two kinds of battle tokens: march-field works tokens and artillery tokens.

March 22, 2010

Block Specification 2D or Not 2D? That is the Question. Most of the component design I do when designing games is creating artwork for printing, and I’ve shown you a fair amount of that. The game board, the box, the rules, counters, and stickers all fall into that category and are basically 2-dimensional designs (even if the box is a folded 2D design). However, some of the components I design aren’t like that: they aren’t like that: they aren’t ink on paper and they aren't 2D. Specifically, I’m referring to the wooden blocks I’ve used in both previous designs and the metal command stands used in Napoleon’s Triumph. These can’t be defined as artwork files for a printer to print on paper; they have to be defined in a different way.

March 17, 2010

Box Bottom Tops and Bottoms. Well, it has been a while since the last diary entry. As I look at the dates, I am struck again (as I often am and no doubt you are too) by what an incredibly slow designer I am. So what’s been going on? Well, playtesting mostly. As I’ve been wearing out testers, the pace of testing has slowed, which has caused the design time to drag out as well. All my fault of course: the testers have done fine work in spite of being sent into the salt mines again and again. However, this diary entry isn’t actually about that. It is about the game box.

December 16, 2009

Time A Sticky Subject. I thought I’d use this diary entry to show you what the sticker sheet for the blocks looks like, and to explain something about the opposing armies and how they are represented in the game. While I talked about the sticker design from a graphical perspective, and I’ve posted several articles about the opposing armies from a historical perspective, I thought with this diary entry I’d aim for the middle: how the armies in history are translated into armies in the game.

November 23, 2009

Time The Times, They are A-Changin’. Wow! Long time since the last entry. As it happens, this entry is about time, so at least the delay comes at an appropriate time. One of the problems with doing a Gettysburg game is that it was such a long battle: 3 days, and long summer days at that. If you go with 1 hour turns (let alone the monster games’ time frame of 20 minutes a turn or even less), a Gettysburg game will generally top 50 turns. That’s a lot of turns. Now wargamers are a tough lot and conditioned to accept games with a very long playing time, but I have a strong preference in favor of reasonably short playing times, and this entry is about my efforts to manage playing time.

August 20, 2009

Quiddity Quiddity. In medieval philosophy (My man Thomas Aquinas!) there was a concept called quiddity. The idea of quiddity was that for every thing, there was an essential quality possessed by that thing that made it what it was. In starting a game on Gettysburg, I felt that my first problem was to decide on the quiddity of Gettysburg: What was it about the battle of Gettysburg that made it what it was? It was an important question because that which was central to the battle also had to be central to the game, or it wasn’t a game on the battle. When I worked on Napoleon’s Triumph I had decided early on that the quiddity of Austerlitz was that it was an ambush: if I didn’t have an Allied attack into a French trap, I didn’t have Austerlitz. But what was the quiddity of Gettysburg?

August 8, 2009

Displaced Displays Displaced Displays. This is a light diary entry just to introduce the play aids and to show (for the first time) what the board as a whole looks like with the play aids included. Nothing too challenging, unlike the last entry, which frankly may have explained more than people really wanted to know until they were actually getting ready to play. Still, it was a worthwhile experiment and I can’t say I regret giving it a try to see how it would work. Anyway, read on without fear...

August 4, 2009

Of Rodes Not Taken, An Early Attack Of Rodes Not Taken, An Early Attack. For two diary entries in a row, I’ve ended the entry with a teaser about a future entry that would actually show how attacks work in the game. No more teasing; this is it. My original idea was to use an attack from the actual battle, but none was really suitable for one reason or another as a rules illustration (excessive complexity being the most common reason). However, one of the great might-have-beens of the historical battle was a Confederate attack on Cemetery Hill on the end of 1 July, the first day of the battle. I thought that this hypothetical attack might be good raw material for a more entertaining example than something purely ahistorical, even if it was simplified from the historical model in order to make it a better teaching tool. Anyway, click on the icon to the left and read on…

July 27, 2009

Gettysburg Ratatouille Gettysburg Ratatouille I had two reasons for doing The Guns of Gettysburg: (1) I had some ideas about fields of fire and wanted to try them out, and (2) I wanted to do a game on Gettysburg. The sad fact is, however, that there is rather a gap between the first and the second: To make a Gettysburg game, there were a lot of design problems other than those about fields of fire, and for those I had no particular ideas. This diary entry will review a list of some of the open design issues that came up during the design process, and what happened with them.

July 25, 2009

Anybody Know How to Work This Thing? Anybody Know How to Work This Thing? In this diary entry, we’ll take a look at how the map works, particularly with regard to movement and fields of fire. To make the explanation more interesting, we’ll be showing a common situation in the early turns of the game: Buford’s Union cavalry trying to delay a Confederate advance down the Chambersburg Pike towards Gettysburg.

July 22, 2009

Oh, Say Can You See Oh, Say Can You See. In this diary entry, I discuss one of the most important elements in the game design: the terrain model. (The terrain model is the regulatory representation of the battlefield terrain. It determines what sort of places units can occupy on the map, how they can be oriented, what terrain is associated with what locations, and how and where units can move.) It is focused on how the model was developed, and shows the regulatory layer of the game board in its current form.

July 20, 2009

Blocking and Screening Blocking and Screening. In this diary entry, I take a break from a series of entries that have been research-focused in their content and instead discuss an area of physical and graphical design: the design of the blocks for the game. I’m sure that there was a general expectation that the blocks would be like those of the Napoleonic games, but as you will see that isn’t entirely the case. Lots of pretty pictures in this one!

July 17, 2009

The Tale of the Tape 60 Years & 4000 Miles: The Tale of the Tape. In this, the fourth entry describing the differences between a Napoleonic battle such as Austerlitz and a Civil War battle such as Gettysburg, the discussion topic is the organization of the opposing armies. The analysis is quantitative, and considers not just the paper organizations but the actual strengths of the different armies on the battlefield.

January 30, 2009

 Men, Mobs, and Armies 60 Years & 4000 Miles: Men, Mobs, and Armies. In this, the third entry describing the differences between a Napoleonic battle such as Austerlitz and a Civil War battle such as Gettysburg, the discussion topic is the men who made up the armies at Austerlitz and Gettysburg, and their twin heritage in both the larger societies from which they were drawn and the militaries that they entered. It is a rather wide-ranging entry, attempting a thumbnail sketch of social development in Europe and America as well as a high-level review of the origin of the national army.

January 21, 2009

Arms Across the Water 60 Years & 4000 Miles: Arms Across the Water.. In this, the second entry describing the differences between a Napoleonic battle such as Austerlitz and a Civil War battle such as Gettysburg, the discussion topic is weaponry. The weapons used by artillery, infantry, and cavalry are compared, with an eye towards identifying differences that should make a game about a Civil War battle different from a game about a Napoleonic battle.

January 14, 2009

A New World 60 Years & 4000 Miles: A New World.. It has of course been a while since the last design diary entry. As is an unfortunate habit of mine, I tend to get stuck on some design issue or other and not much happens for an extended period, and so it was here. While I will (eventually) provide some information on this, I really feel the need to finish up some other long planned — but unconsummated — topics first. My last two games were both on Napoleonic subjects, and in doing a game on an American Civil War battle, I am shifting 60 years forward in time and 4000 miles west to a new continent. In doing so, there are of course differences in what is being simulated; Napoleonic and Civil War battles were different. Before going into how these differences were addressed, I thought it appropriate to first summarize what I thought the important differences were, and the battlefield terrain seemed like a good place to start.

May 29, 2008

Open Source Open Source. The previous entries pretty much covered the map-making process from a research and graphical perspective, but not the process by which the map becomes a game board. Before moving on to that subject, I wanted to post the source maps that were used. And so, here is the list. The maps are all online (except of course, for the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg maps, which are protected by copyright) for your viewing pleasure. The maps are, of course, also accessible from the research section of the website.

May 26, 2008

Names In Whose Name? Adding names to the map is an exercise that is at once trivial, vexing, and rewarding. It is trivial because it is hard to really feel like you’re doing anything in the least bit creative while you’re doing it: you read the name on your source, you add it to your map, and repeat, repeat, repeat. It can be vexing because different sources don’t necessarily agree on spelling, and it is hard to feel productive when you’re spending time trying to figure out whether the name of a feature is “Herr Ridge” or “Herr’s Ridge". It can be rewarding because oddly enough, when you’re done, it rather magically converts your work from a picture to a map. Such is the power of words and the such is hold of language on our consciousness.

May 22, 2008

Buildings Two Watches. “A man with one watch always knows what time it is. A man with two is never sure.” – Segal’s Law. This entry is about the research headache introduced by two credible but conflicting maps for the town of Gettysburg and the process that led to the creation of the map for the game board. Also covered are the addition of the various farm buildings on the battlefield and the process by which the buildings on the southern edge of the board (which the primary source map does not cover) were reconstructed.

May 19, 2008

Roads Road Show. To me, the visual signature of maps of the Gettysburg battlefield is the network of roads converging on Gettysburg from all points of the compass. This convergence of roads is in fact why a battle occured at Gettysburg in the first place; with both armies moving around in a relatively small area in southern Pennsylvania, Gettysburg was a hard place for them to avoid. This diary entry is about the creation of the road network for the game board.

May 15, 2008

Boulders A Stone’s Throw. One odd feature of the Gettysburg battlefield were the boulder fields near its southern end (around Little Round Top and Devil’s Den). The 1868 map showed them, but none of the other main source maps I was using did. This was particularly a problem regarding the southern end of the game map, which the 1868 map did not cover. It occured to me that fields of giant boulders weren’t likely to be things that would change very much over time and so a modern source might still be quite good, and this is what led me to pull the satellite imagery I’ve shown bits of in previous diary entry.

May 12, 2008

Vegetation Can’t See the Forest. Where good quality contemporary maps of a battlefield are unavailable, reconstruction of tree cover can be a major challenge. Over time, naturally wooded areas can be cleared for agricultural or other uses, and cleared land can be abandoned and left to return to its natural state. These sorts of changes follow no fixed and general rules. A modern map used as a source may show tree cover that is quite close or quite different from what it was at some earlier time, but without an older map to use for comparison, there is no reliable way to tell which is the case. This diary entry describes the process of reconstruction of tree cover for the game map, and also how it was rendered in the map art.

May 8, 2008

Hydrology Unbottled Water. Having dealt with relief in the last entry, this entry will take up one of the major forces of nature that creates relief: water. From a research point of view, Gettysburg poses no particular challenges, but hydrology can be a problem in map development. While relief generally changes only slowly, hydrology is different; both natural and man-made events can produce very substantial changes in short periods of time, which has the potential to greatly complicate battlefield reconstruction.

May 5, 2008

Relief What a Relief! This design diary entry opens up the topic with a discussion of mapboard development by discussing how the relief layer of the mapboard is researched and represented. This is done in the context of the history of cartography and wargame design. This may be my favorite design diary entry ever; much of it is material that I’ve been wanting to write about for some time but have never been able to pull together into a coherent article before. Oh, and did I mention that it has lots of pretty pictures? Design diary entries are just so much more fun when well-illustrated.

May 1, 2008

Battery D Battery D. As promised, this entry deals with the cover art and box design. The photograph is of Battery D, 2nd U. S. Artillery Regiment, and was taken by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, and developed and published by Alexander Gardner. The diary entry gives some background on the photograph itself, how it was selected for the game box, and how the general design of the game box was built around it. As is sometimes the case with me, the subject has much more to do with graphic design as history than game design per se, which some may of course find more interesting than others. Oh, and also, those who find stories of obsessive behavior enjoyable may also find something here to their taste.

April 30, 2008

Putting Spade to Ground Putting Spade to Ground. In spite of the fact that the design diary for my previous game, Napoleon’s Triumph, revealed how terribly slow and halting the design process was for that game (and how many blind alleys it went down prior to completion), people did seem to enjoy reading it, and so I’ve decided to keep a diary for the new game, The Guns of Gettysburg, as well. Whether it will prove to be a good idea or not remains to be seen, but it will be attempted. As was true last time, the diary could not be published until enough work had been done on the game that confidence that it would be published was reasonably high, which meant that a good deal of design work was actually completed before the diary was begun, and so the diary will mix descriptions of old work with updates on new. The first entry will deal with the question of topic selection.