GrogHeads Interviews Richard Bodley Scott of Pike & Shot
Richard Bodley Scott talks to Grogheads ~
Interview by Boggit, 12 December 2015
Click images to enlarge
Richard, thank you for talking to Grogheads about yourself and your work. Pike and Shot Campaigns is your latest release, but you are no newcomer to either computer or tabletop wargames.
- Tell us about yourself. How did you get into wargaming, and why are you passionate about it?
When I was a kid, my father took us to see all sorts of ancient and medieval monuments in Britain and on holiday abroad. When I discovered in 1971 that there was such a thing as ancient wargaming, I never looked back. I have been playing table-top ancient and medieval figure games for 44 years, and Pike and Shot on and off for 25.
- You have been influential in the wargaming market for many years. I recall that for many years you were co-writer with Phil Barker of the Wargames Research Group for the ancient rules De Bellis Antiquitatis, and De Bellis Multitudinis. Tell us about the time you worked on these rules, and how it influenced your involvement with the Field of Glory series of rules.
Phil Barker is a genius, and DBA was a highly innovative set of rules. My main contribution to it, other than as tester, was the campaign system. However, DBA only uses 12 elements a side, and I wanted to get all my figures out of the box, so I persuaded Phil to collaborate on a full-sized set of rules based on the same mechanisms. DBM was the result, and dominated the ancient/medieval wargaming scene for over a decade. However, eventually the number of people playing the game, particularly in the tournament circuit, began to wane, partly because of ennui, and partly because of intractable issues in the rules regarding the micro-management of element positions. J.D. McNeil (of Slitherine and BHGS fame) saw the writing on the wall, and the need for a new set of ancient/medieval rules to revive the ancient/medieval wargaming scene. He brought together the triumvirate of Simon Hall, Terry Shaw and myself to devise a new set of rules, which we called Field of Glory: Ancient and Medieval. We decided that we wanted to move away from the abstraction underlying the DBx system, so returned to a unit-based system, with cavalry and light horse allowed to shoot (in DBx their shooting is subsumed into close combat) and evade, so that the various types of distant and close combat that we read about in historical accounts could be seen to occur, rather than being assumed to occur as part of the close combat roll. After FOG:AM had been out for a couple of years, I collaborated with Charles Masefield and Nik Gaukroger to bring the system to pike and shot wargaming with Field of Glory: Renaissance.
- What was your first venture into the world of computer wargaming, and what did you think of it?
I actually wrote (and had published) a couple of games on the TRS-80 in 1980 when home computers were in their infancy and had 16k of RAM. One allowed you to manage (in a highly simplified way) the Roman Empire, and another covered the 2nd Punic War. Over the following years, of course, I also played a lot of games on ZX Spectrum and Atari ST. Later I wrote a DOS-based play-by-mail wargames campaign management system which allowed you to set up any campaign prior to the development of railways and play it with up to 30 players, the program adjudicating the results of the players’ orders and printing out extensive reports. This was released as shareware, and enjoyed some success. The day job prevented much further computer games development until I retired from it in 2013.
- You led the development of the Pike and Shot game for Slitherine, and it has been a very popular game in the Wargaming community. Why do you think it has been so successful?
I think the main reason for the success of the game, apart from the fact that it is set in a period that has been rather neglected by computer game developers, is that it has the feel of a table-top game. Table-top rules are very different from the usual systems seen in computer games, making Pike and Shot stand out as very different from the crowd. However, we should not ignore the fact that the pike and shot era is very interesting from a tactical point of view, as a period during which tactical systems evolved far more rapidly than in the succeeding horse and musket era. Battles between competing tactical systems present much more interesting tactical challenges than battles between armies using exactly the same tactical system. The other reason for the game’s success is the AI, which has been generally praised, and Slitherine’s asynchronous multiplayer system.
- Pike and Shot has now evolved into Pike and Shot Campaigns. Tell us about your decision to expand the game to include the campaign dimension. Has Pike and Shot now reached the limit for innovation, or do you have further plans for it?
My greatest wargaming love has always been campaigns. Pike and Shot was based on the STUB engine used in Battle Academy, Battle Academy 2, Pike and Shot and Hell. This is primarily a tactical engine.
Adding a simple strategic layer to the game seemed worthwhile to give context and consequences to the battles. Pike and Shot: Campaigns was the result.
Pike and Shot now covers European conflict from 1494-1698. There are already several fine user-created scenarios and mods taking it further back into the 15th century without breaking the system. Also there is great scope for covering Middle-Eastern and Far-Eastern warfare. We don’t want to stretch the rules too far, however, so taking the system further back or forward in history will require rules tailored to the period covered, and hence full new games.
- Pike and Shot was a computer wargame inspired by your table-top Field of Glory Renaissance rules, so what are your thoughts about using the ideas behind your other Field of Glory rules to create more historical wargames, for example, the Napoleonic Wars?
I was not involved in the development of Field of Glory: Napoleonic. The smart money might look in the other historical direction, or outside Europe entirely.
- Do you have any personal favourite games? What motivates you about them?
I played Civilisation: 2 for many years, long after the later versions came out. I spent more time than I care to mention in Everquest, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. I enjoyed Total War: Medieval 2, and Europa Universalis IV. I have played hundreds of hours in Skyrim. I have really enjoyed the various Magic the Gathering Games on iPad, and also Hearthstone on iPad and PC. Currently I am enjoying Endless Legend and Witcher 3.
As you can see from that list, I am mainly interested in pre-18th century historical strategy and fantasy.
- You have been writing wargame rules for many years now. What has been the rule set that you most enjoyed writing, and the reasons for why it means that to you?
Writing wargame rules is always hard work, the pleasure being derived mainly from the end result. I actually prefer coding computer games. Table-top rules have to be as tightly worded as a computer program, but players still manage to argue over interpretations!
Hopefully, all the rules I have been involved with have given pleasure to many people. Sometimes, however, some magic occurs and you end up with a real peach. The table-top rules I am most proud of are Hordes of the Things (a fantasy DBA variant) and Field of Glory: Renaissance. And, of course, I am equally proud of Pike & Shot, which is a faithful rendition of Field of Glory: Renaissance as a computer game, with various improvements taking advantage of the computer’s ability to make more complex calculations.
- It is evident from your wargame rules and the Pike and Shot game, that you have a keen interest in history. Do you have a favourite period, and why is it of special interest to you?
My original main periods of interest were the ancient and medieval periods, for which my father’s enthusiasm when I was a child probably accounts. Later I developed an interest in the English Civil War, and from there the whole of the pike and shot era. I always say that for me anything after about 1700 is current affairs, not history.
- If you could make any game you liked – free of any commercial considerations – what would it be?
I would like to make a multiplayer historical campaign game for perhaps up to 50 players.
- I know that in the past you have been a keen table-top gamer at the Usk Wargame Club. Are you still active playing table top games and what are your favourite armies?
I still play table-top games and take part in the FOG: Renaissance tournament circuit. My favourite armies depend on the period, and I play all sorts as the mood takes me, but my all-time favourites are horse archers.
- I’ve tried to cover everything, but is there anything else you’d like to tell us that we might have forgotten about?
I would like to praise the backup I have had from Slitherine throughout the process. I would recommend working with Slitherine to any independent computer strategy games developer. Special thanks to Phil Veale, the chief STUB engine programmer, and the artists, Rob Graat and Pat Ward.
I really appreciate you taking the time and trouble to answer my questions, and for sharing your thoughts with Grogheads.com.