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Designing Questions for HPS Civil War Games

The first question to answer is: What is my interest level for any particular battle? It canít be understated that to design a good game, the interest MUST be very high. In fact, itís best to be able to visit the battlefield, but not essential. Though Iím originally from California, I now reside in Tennessee. This is a great location for creating Civil War games. So far Iíve completed two; Campaign Franklin and more recently, Campaign Shiloh. I was able to visit all the major battlefields included in those two publications.

The next question to answer is scope. How much do I want to include in this game? With Franklin, I concentrated on just the historic battles, with Shiloh I traveled nearly 500 miles of Confederate and Union territory. I decided to throw in everything I could conceivably think of, and included several maps that my thoughtful playtesters considered important to include. I enjoyed sending the rebels to Cairo Illinois!

Now, what about the parameter data file. This is the one place that a designer must really give a lot of thought. Do I just maintain the status quo, or does my game require special needs? Nearly always, the answer is the latter. With so many gunboats and large rivers used in Campaign Shiloh, special consideration was required to make the game feasible. In general, gunboats were not effective weapons, nor were shore batteries capable of sinking a gunboat (still not an easy task). And land units had no way to cross a major river. So a difference approach was needed to accomplish these two tasks. One included some parameter data changes, and also, some additional programming was required.

Another difficult question to answer concerns the campaign feature of the HPS Civil War series. Where to begin and end a campaign? Should it start out small and develop into larger battles? How should a campaign end? For example, historically, Grant forced the surrender of the Fort Donelson garrison and won a major victory that many believe greatly contributed to the Southís defeat. Should the campaign end if Grant fails to capture Fort Donelson? NO, is the answer. True, Grant will have a difficult time recovery, but he will. Also, the South must prove it can capitalize on such a victory. So what about forcing them to take the war north and giving Grant, or his successor, a chance to recover from his early defeat.

Also, what kind or and how many maps will be need? How big should they be? HPS maps, though not a beautiful work of art, are very functional and historically accurate. Plus, they are much larger in scope than almost any other game system on the market.

Research, Research, and more Research is used in designing HPS Civil War games. Many sources are used to complete a game. Usually the most important are the many volumes of the ďOfficial Records.Ē They are a must have for any designer. Also, they must include the atlas developed to be used along side the written volumes.

In short, there are many decisions that must be answered to create a worthy addition of the HPS Civil War series.

Rich Walker 9-19-2005