Malaysia Scenario Design: 01 Intro

Party Platoon draws a map

Ed and I…right, this isn’t Ed. Some of you know me as “Ed’s Wife” but I think I’d like to be known here as Ratso.

So anyway. Ed and I have been collaborating and butting heads over scenario and table design for longer than there’s been an “Ed and I”. Let’s say 12 years. We started out running a Flames of War league and tournaments. In those days the focus was on playable terrain that we tried our best to make look realistic despite a ground scale that warped everything out of proportion and a need to make the table work with a diverse array of scenarios. We got rather good at it actually but it was still limiting. Nothing felt like a particular place or moment. Everything felt game-ified and divorced from the history that inspired it. In this period anyone who complained within my hearing of playing “Axis vs. Axis” or not “Red vs. Blue” was likely to get an earful because, to me, it was already so ahistorical.

Eventually Ed quit tournaments and started getting serious about Chain of Command and a few other Lardy productions. Halleluiah! He moved up to 28mm and started running convention scenarios. And given our mutual competitive streaks it wasn’t long before we were out to dominate the competition and send them home crying to their mommas…I mean, trying to craft games that gave everyone involved a balanced and interesting experience…that was the best. And finally, we were working on projects where terrain and scenario where designed to go together.

Our first try was Corinth Canal. We built the terrain in 2015, then ran and tinkered with the scenario till 2017. It was gorgeous to look at, if I do say so myself, but the scenario was…okay. Over repeated plays we saw the same lines of attack and strategies, and often the same outcome. It was pretty historical in place and scenario but not balanced as a game. It didn’t offer players enough “choices”. That’s Ed’s favorite word in these situations: “choices”. And as a designer I agree.

Next we built Defense of Khatisino and that one was good on all fronts. It looks good and plays a little differently each time without Ed tinkering the force composition. The forces feel like what was on the ground in that time and place, and the Germans win about 2 out of 3 games…which is also historical for the place and time. Hate those guys.

We’ve talked many times, so many times, about writing up our process but it’s just too complicated for one article. But it is about the right scale for the blog…which Ed has abandoned despite all his promises of fidelity…so as we begin our next project I’m going to attempt to document as we go. This will be part terrain design where I take lead and part scenario design where Ed takes lead. But because we’re making a game where scenario and terrain are meant to go together, the two areas influence each other at all stages.

I’m not sure there will always be much to look at because this isn’t purely visual but as I’m a designer at heart I will try to make this visually interesting even when it’s a rough taped together mess. But that’s where my training helps and one of the first bits of advice I want to pass on: it doesn’t start out perfect. Some of the steps I’m going to lead you though will feel unexciting and slow but they will improve results and in some cases, save materials.

So technically we’ve been working on this for a while but nothing has gone beyond the napkin phase. Yep, seems we actually end up drawing on napkins at the start. I will get into that more next time.

For now, hang in there as we build a Chain of Command convention scenario and terrain board set in 1942, Bukit Bakri, Johore, Malaysia. Looks like we’ll have another roadblock in this one but this time it will be Japanese vs. Aussies.

One Comment

  1. Looking forward to seeing how this shapes out (I’m signed up for a round of it at Historicon). Ed seemed pretty excited about it this weekend.

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