The Tuesday Interview – Wargaming Luminary Alan Emrich
The man behind Victory Point Games, and much more, joins us for this week’s chat ~
Michael Eckenfels, 24 January 2017
What was the first wargame you taught to someone else?
I started with a subscription to S&T, and so taught NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO to my gaming buddies. One of their dad’s had a treasure trove of Avalon Hill games in the garage, and we played those all summer! That was… 1973, I think.
What was the first wargame you ever designed (even if it didn’t see the light of day)?
Really, I’m more of a developer than a designer. I did some very satisfying work on Cosmic Encounter (designing a lot of expansion material) “back in the day,” and have done so much development work on some games I have ended up their “co-designer,” but I’m a rare bird in our industry to is happy developing games for others.
What are your three favorite types/genres of wargames?
Strategic level 20th Century, Napoleonic, and Ancient. I like strategic level games for the Big Picture and neat abstractions that keep everything simple, manageable, and moving.
How are you breaking new ground in the wargaming hobby? Where are you blazing new trails?
Currently, we’re in transition from print-on-demand publishing to print-abroad publishing (used by most other game publishers). So, I spend much of my time, not blazing new trails with risky new print-on-demand games, but widening and paving the roads built by our past successes just to keep them in stock! That is, I’m upgrading many VPG “classics” these days (and, I admit, having a lot of fun revisiting them and getting another bite at the apple).
But we’re preparing to launch our first “monster” size wargame series, Frank Chadwick’s ETO. It’s a real “player’s wargame” (evolved from the introductory classic, BATTLE FOR MOSCOW, which Frank Chadwick designed back in ’86 and I was fortunate enough to help develop and publish in Fire & Movement’s Beginner’s Guide to Strategy Gaming). We’re putting all the hard-core history in it, but keeping everything very, very manageable so that grognards can see and command things with ease and really just enjoy wargaming like they used to!
The first game in this series, Thunder in the East, begins (as so many WWII series games do) by covering the Russian Front. Playtesting is progressing very well and revealing things that we’re busy right now smoothing out (and simplifying! I love it when a more elegant way to simulate in a wargame is found, and Frank Chadwick is a master at that). We should be pulling all the stops for it at ConsimWorld this year, and launching this one on Kickstarter in Autumn.
It’s 5am and you can’t sleep. What are you doing?
That’s every morning for me! 😀 I’m sorting out my work day and what business and game development goals I want to accomplish. I’ll be out of bed in a few minutes and at the office before sunrise (if traffic permits).
What was your favorite subject in school (any level)?
Well, that subscription to S&T back in the 70s changed everything, as history went from my least to most favorite subject in school. Computers were new on campus in the 70s (my High School was very rare in having one that the students could work with), and working with them was intriguing. Speech and Drama were also great subjects.
What’s the last good book you read?
Killing the Rising Sun. It was my first O’Rielly/Dugan book and was a helluva fun read! Lots of great little storylines, well told, and tightly woven together. Games should be that well-crafted!
When you’re not wargaming, what are some other games you enjoy playing?
I love all kinds of games. This Saturday we’re having a big chariot race (playtesting our forthcoming CHARIOTS OF ROME); that game’s a blast. All kinds of card games, fantasy and sci-fi themed strategy games, abstract games (although I’m the worst Chess player on God’s green earth)… Look, life is too short for bad games; when you find a good one, you play it.
How many folks have you converted to wargaming over the years?
Quite a few; I rather lost count! In High School, I taught a girl I was going out with Quatre Bras quadrigame from SPI, and boy did she boot my butt! This was good practice, as my wife (of 20+ years now) also regularly boots my butt – we’re so competitive at the game table, it’s a sight to see!
Thanks for joining us, and we’re looking forward to the new crop of games!