Archive for the 'General' Category

Pocket Campaigns in a Can(nes)

SSG is not at The International Games Festival in Cannes in person, unfortunately. However, thanks to 2Tomatoes, our new games The March of Progress and The Ming Voyages are being advertised, so we’re there in spirit!

The Ming Voyages and The March of Progress at The International Games Festival at Cannes. Thanks to 2Tomatoes for being there. And to Bez for the picture.

Our Kickstarter for the games starts on Monday 24 February 2020 at 17:00 UK time.


(War)games as models

I’ve been having some game-as-model thoughts over the last few years of a more philosophical than perhaps practical nature. As a way of at least getting them out of my brain, and hopefully as a way of stimulating some discussion, I’ve started to post them here. Tell me what you think!

A played ‘game-as-model’ is an instance or instantiation of a model rather than the model itself. This echoes comments by Volko Ruhnke, who, like me only better, applies systems thinking to games design.

It’s useful to realise this when thinking about game-as-model. It means that there are variables specific to a particular instance of the game. You could think of this as a specific ‘run’ of a process. Individual players have their own unique understanding of their particular role in that game. They also have their own psychological states while playing, and these are likely to vary between different plays of the game. There might be specific scenario details, for example, relationships between terrain components, peculiarities of actual combat elements, and unique mechanisms for the scenario.

Each play of a miniatures game is a unique experience, with fewer similarities between plays than most board games, I think. There are (nearly) always variations in troop composition, and in layout – precisely where terrain is placed will be different – even if the same scenario is being played. In contrast, successive plays of a board game have greater commonalities through perhaps gridded layouts for movement and stricter rules interpretations – firmer rules if you will – especially when compared with an umpired figure game.

However, there may be some general lessons to draw in terms of the interaction of players with instances of the model. One of these lessons may be not to draw too many conclusions from one instance!

I hope to return to this topic in a later post.

Helion & Co – a quick plus plus on customer service

Many thanks to Helion & Co for their great customer service!

Helion & Co Ltd is a military history book publisher here in the UK. I approached them on Friday about whether I could reproduce a map from their book “The Combat History of the 21. Panzer Division” for one of our Mission Command scenarios. Not only did I receive permission on the Saturday morning, but also today I received high quality images to use. So within 1 working day of the request, I have all the material I need!

A huge thank you to Helion (!

The relevant image now forms part of the “21 into 6 won’t go?” scenario at

Game play stages

In my view, the trajectory of game play goes through four principal stages:

1. Learning
2. Competence
3. Expert
4. Moving on

The Learning stage is typified by players fathoming out the game rules and basic strategies.  In most gaming groups only one or two players will read the rulebook, so the Learning stage will usually involve a combination of trial and error and teaching.  Depending on the complexity of the game, this stage will take from one to as many as a dozen plays.  In groups in which players rotate a lot, teaching the game may last months, and some players may never move out of the Learning stage, because they are consistently teaching new players.

At some point most players will become competent with the game mechanics and basic strategies.  During this stage, a proportion of players will improve their technique and develop more successful strategies that take into account the strategies used by other players.  Many players will go from the Competence stage to Moving on, as new games take their fancy.

A small proportion of players become Expert, with an advanced knowledge and deep understanding of the game (if it is the type of game that permits this level of play).  Typically Expert players will be able to tailor their strategies to those of other players and will have a range of optimum plays easily at their disposal that mean they can readily win against competent players and can only be seriously challenged by other experts.

Moving on occurs, as you might expect, when the game has been played so much that it has grown relatively stale, and new games have more appeal.  The game might still get occasional nostalgic play, but not the concentration of previous stages.

These four stages are likely to be run through by different players at different rates and times, but there is likely to be some polarisation within playing groups, simply because the players play together.

My First Post

Just to make sure that anyone reading this blog has no illusions:

  • I’m not yet a good blogger.
  • I don’t post enough material.
  • I don’t post regularly.
  • Whether it’s interesting or not is very much a matter for the readers.

However, as I’m intending to make this a public blog about my gaming – mainly game design and development, I expect – I’ll try to put interesting material in here.

To paraphrase my friends in the recently defunct podcast Into The Gamescape – this blog will be “one English bloke blathering on about games”.