Running a Game Development Marathon
By Alan Emrich
“Where have you been?”
“What is the project status?” “When can I get my hands on some new ETO material?”
Allow me to address those questions briefly and in order.
Where Have You Been?
We never left. We are still developing Frank Chadwick’s ETO. The project has been continuously developing despite our radio silence here on Watchword. You can always find us on Facebook, Boardgame Geek, and Consimworld. Players have continuously taken the project’s pulse with forum questions which we answer promptly. Answering your posts online is like explaining the ETO hive of activity bee-by-bee; here on Watchword, we reveal the buzz more from a queen bee’s perspective with these articles.
Two of our major goals have been to 1) avoid the disappointment of other “Big Series” games that have not reached completion, and 2) have the latest game’s system improvements cause errata to roll backward on previous releases (requiring new rules, update counters, etc.). To make everything in the ETO series hang together properly when released, we are developing the entire project simultaneously, and we have focused this Big Picture planning on how best to achieve that. The answer is a project development “Hub and Spokes” system. That is, determine what the heart of the ETO series is and, when ready, develop each spoke attached to it. That is the development play we have been following.
What is The Project Status?
Many future articles will delve into more specific aspects of the project status. Still, we should begin with the beating heart of ETO, the hub from which the spokes radiate, and that is the historical OOB (Order of Battle) research done by designer Frank Chadwick. This is not a small, manageable OOB you are used to seeing in a single traditional boxed wargame. Oh, no!
Imagine an OOB that spans multiple “monster-size” wargames. Now have the OOBs account for which units each boxed set requires. For example, the 14th Panzer Corps appeared in Poland in ’39, France in ’40, the Balkans in ’41, Barbarossa in ’41, was destroyed at Stalingrad in ‘42-43, and rebuilt in the West in April of ’43. Then its component Divisions went to Italy after the Allies invaded Europe at Sicily. So that specific counter must appear in many volumes of the series.
And then, there are all the scenarios for each volume and listing the starting situations for each. In the ETO series, we should have approximately 30 stand-alone scenarios spanning all the volumes of games. Many are linked (chronologically and geographically) with other volumes’ scenarios for combined gameplay spanning multiple theaters and offering a larger scope.
Next, determine what unit withdrawals occur historically in this volume that arrive as reinforcements in another volume (hint: the Luftwaffe does this a lot).
Oh, did some units come from or go to the Pacific? Those must be accounted for separately also.
And, in every specific scenario, was each unit at full or reduced strength? Does that Air unit begin that scenario as Ready? Flown? Damaged? Suppressed? Destroyed? What is each Naval unit’s starting location and damage/depletion status at sea or harbor?
What about the Force Pools/Change Box for all those units across all those game volumes?
Even after all that, there are more things to consider (economic costs of projection and repair, transportation, etc.), but we can now say this central hub of the entire ETO project is complete and addresses all the above questions and concerns. It is the hub from which the various spokes (counters, OOB mats, cards, Event mats, maps, scenarios, rules, other documentation, marketing, etc.) all radiate. Some of those spokes are also done, some are in progress in various stages of completion, and future articles will examine each in more detail as the ETO development train rolls on. There is a lot to tell and a lot to show. As time permits, your humble guide will post updates – composing these articles around my working gig in the gaming industry and staying head-down, helping to develop (move forward) this vast project.
What Can I Get My Hands On Soon?
Preparing something special for you motivates me to emerge from the development hole and look for my shadow. Although it is not February 2nd (Groundhog’s Day) and Punxsutawney Phil (the famous groundhog) is not even a distant relation, I did see my metaphorical shadow. For Phil, that means six more weeks of winter; for ETO players, it means a few more weeks of development as we near the completion of something special.
When you open the box and play Thunder in The East, the first volume in the ETO series, we want to get you as much of the new ETO material as possible to play with the original TITE map and counters. We have been synthesizing an interim update which we are calling TITE 1A. It will be available as a free download with print-and-play components (OOB mats, rules, and cards). Tabletop players will find their Thunder in The East game well-refreshed, and we assure you that the enjoyment of discovering it anew awaits.
There is only one new feature in it, the Rasputitsa weather system, bringing those two long stretches of soupy mud to the Russian Front each year. What remains in TITE 1A are mostly refinements to the game evolved from playtesting experience.
And that is where you come in. You can enjoy the updated materials and give us feedback. We cherish your updates, photos, gameplay narratives, question, and comments. All you provide is valuable feedback for us as the refinements continue and the spokes of this vast project mature in development. So, have fun, share, and know you positively influence this project’s completion quality.
That’s All, Folks!
There will be more updates as my time permits. Look for another announcement later this summer that TITE 1A is “officially released” as a free download for tabletop play.