10K Games

 Wargame Design and Publishing

10K Games

 Wargame Design and Publishing

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The First Playtest

The first alpha playtest of Symphony of Destruction was held in Sandusky Ohio at Winterfest XXVI. Winterfest is our homefield in regard to wargaming conventions. The first volunteers willing to test our game were all friends, and they exercised extreme patience learning a completely new rules set which was essentially a chart driven structure.

Greg, Todd and I more or less worked two jobs in the months in front of Winterfest. I was logging at least 30+ hours a week working the maps, Greg was creating rough in counter sheets manifests from Todd’s unit ratings calculator. As the months ticked down to weeks, and weeks down to days, then finally hours… we simply ran out of time. Once again, counter production was our achilles heel. Back in 2023 when the three of us first laid a map down and a set of counters at Winterfest XXV, we spent the first few days cutting and mounting them, wasting precious collaborative time grinding through counter making. Lessons learned right? Apparently not! :-\

From our quasi-test a year back and the delays in getting the playing pieces readily available, we all wanted to avoid those landmines, but there were many changes made to the game: map changes, charts, core designs and even counters – and everything takes longer than any of us would prefer. Consequently, it’s something we have all become accustomed to. Designing a war game is a job, it’s hard mental work that never ends, and it’s done in a collaborate, democratic way. Until one sits down with a blank sheet of paper and tries to write a World War II Operational rules system from nothing, it’s an endless myriad of decisions, mostly interdependent on one other. The proverbial chicken before the egg cannot be overstated. 

It took us nearly a year of weekly meetings, some lasting up to four hours just trying to hack away at what we thought we ought to include or try to model and which piece needed to come first. The foundation was poured, tore up, poured again, and again and again before we settled on the fundamental stones, from which we could build upon. We possess the luxury of time, time to get it right, time to test things, which ultimately will lead us back to tearing down walls we thought were good and rebuilding them to be better. 

In the end, we sink or swim with one game. It determines whether we continue or fail. If Symphony of Destruction tanks during crowdfunding or in a P500 model, 10K packs its bags and closes shop. If I have to predict now, we will have collectively sunk near 5000 man hours of work into the hole only to end up with nothing to show for it other than a failed KS page or a P500 that languishes into obscurity.

Our iterative process of rules design is the onion, the shoot for the moon concept of getting everything in, only to be pealed back into something playable and marketable. You just need to look at the map to see it. It’s busy yes, but it possesses an organic look that I’ve not seen in wargame maps at our scale, and it works. Just like the map the rules going into to this year’s Winterfest were dense, and encompassed things like morale, efficiency, vehicle fragility, reconnaissance abilities, artillery complexities, and a command-and-control system that ties it all together. Our game isn’t just factor counting to get odds and tossing some dice at 2:1 to get attacker/defender losses, it’s nuanced, but a bit too crunchy. We recognized this by the mental work it took to get through combats at our playtest. 

Greg, Lee H. and Greg H. work through setup – sometime on Sunday at Winterfest.

After nearly a week playing the opening turns of the Barbarossa invasion, inclusive of a few resets, we setup a 1944 scenario where the Soviets attempt to bust through the panther line and drive into the Baltic. The system was put through the rigors of mid-war and late war operational combat and the core of it held up nicely.  The big takeaway was distilling all the things we want to track and account for into rules, into something easy to digest. We had several meetings with our playtester’s: Lee, Greg, Paul, and Troy.  They gave us candid feedback which aligned with our observations of how things appeared to be going. Subsequently we are again on a time crunch to modify, streamline and simplify to get us to Origins 2024 in Columbus, ready to host several four-hour demos during the convention. This is what we strive for in the short term. 

If you are reading this, we invite you to stop by the Armchair Dragoons wargaming area at Origins and sit down and play our game for a few hours and get to know our system, us and most importantly give us your feedback. 

The 10K Designers at the end of Wintefrest XXVI

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