Tuesday, July 26, 2016

WEG Memoirs: The Schedule Boards

Back when I first started working at West End Games the company maintained a schedule board listing all the products set for publication in the coming months. The board displayed an impressive array of products, often two or three each month. The board was sacrosanct. Moving or, gasp, dropping a product plunged everything into chaos. Yet it enabled the company to efficiently produce and publish product to a distribution system and retailer network – and ultimately to customers – whose revenues enabled the company to persist. The schedule board demonstrates to me one of the differences between today’s throng of small-press, independent, and often single-creator publishers and the few remaining, well-established, corporate game publishers; one creates for love, the other for money.

West End’s offices occupied the second floor of an unobtrusive warehouse on Route 191 north of Honesdale, PA; the infamous Bucci Imports shoe business used the downstairs offices. Owner Scott Palter maintained his office on the first floor, but it is here where the schedule board first resided when I started working there as an editor in the summer of 1993. The oversized bulletin board contained an index card for every project in production, arranged beneath the upcoming 18 months. After a while – I don’t recall how long – something happened that necessitated the board migrating upstairs into the West End conference room, where everyone could check it when needed and passionately debate what titles needed to move for various reasons that seemed important at the time. No doubt it made more sense to put it in the meeting room to accommodate the growing ranks of West End’s editors instead of constantly cramming into the owner’s office. Staffers hastily covered it up with a sheet when visitors came to the offices, an extremely rare occurrence.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wargaming with Stars & Crosses

I’ve discussed traditional chit-and-board wargames before – how they still have a following and occasionally infuse the market with new material – and lament they don’t enjoy greater popularity among gamers who often revel in complex rules. Doug Anderson recently released Stars & Crosses, a game covering company-level engagements in northwest Europe during World War II. It’s available in PDF from Wargame Vault (with a print-on-demand rulebook if you prefer) that can range from a print-and-play, hex-based board wargame to a full-fledged, 6mm micro-scale miniatures wargame with gorgeously crafted terrain. However you play it, Stars & Crosses provides an easy-to-learn wargame experience with basic and expert rules, modular board, and rich possibilities for extended and advanced play. At $2.99 for the PDF rulebook and printable component file, Stars & Crosses is a fantastic way to dive into the board or miniature wargame hobby.

(Note: I know Doug Anderson from various online community interactions focusing on gaming; he provided me a comp download of Stars & Crosses, though I bought a print-on-demand rulebook as physical reference at the game table.)