Monday, June 17, 2024

On The Painting Desk: Back on the Quest!

As most of you know, I have been working through my Heroquest boxed set I got for Christmas 2023.  I resolved not to get any expansions or even play the game until it was all painted up!  There is a surprising amount of miniatures in that first set, and that does not even include the furniture.  

I got a good start painting up the Heroes, the Dread Warlock, and the Goblins, but there is still a lot of miniatures to go.  I had decided to start with the forces of Dread and the Greenskins first.  Here was my progress so far...

Thankfully, I had a lot of mins still undercoated and ready for paint.  So I dove right in.  The next on my agenda were the Orcs.  I decided to use a lighter tone for the skin on these guys than I normally do on my Games Workshop versions.  I think it was the right choice, as these folks are much less cartoony and a bit more humanoid in proportions.  Otherwise, not much to say about them as I used all Speed Paints.  The biggest challenge was to make the duplicates look unique, but not too unique.  They are just mooks after all.  

Before tackling the Abominations that replaced the Fimir, I decided to tackle the "Dread Warriors" next as they seemed like a relatively quick job to paint the four of them.  I decided to lean back into their heritage as Chaos Warriors.  I decided to paint each one as dedicated to a different "Dread" power.  I painted one themed around each Chaos power to make them distinct.  I used Armypainter Inks for the armor, then speedpaints for the contrasting color.  When the block colors were done, I hit them all with a Dark Tone wash.  Then I based and finished per the rest of the Heroquest figures. 

We have in front left to right; Fate Smasher, The Flayer, Maggot Lord, and Cacophonius

After basing them and giving them a spray, it was time to think abut my Abominations.  These guys look much more Lovecraftian Fishman than the old Fimirs.  That suited me fine, but I didn't think a green like the Orcs was suitable.  I took a peak at my old Hellboy figures to see how I painted them before deciding on these guys.  Thinking about it, those could make a really cool set of baddies for a custom Heroquest adventure!  

I painted there heads and "scales" with a standard Armypainter Paint first.  I think it was Orb Green?  This had a slightly iridescent color to it.  Then, I used the SpeedPaint Absolution Green to paint over the edges and the rest of the flesh to give it that "two-tone" look.  Of course, I finished all up with a Light Tone wash and standard finishing techniques.   

Finally, I went for the Big Bad Evil Guy himself, the Gargoyle.  This was going to be the last guy from this batch to paint, and I went with a fairly simple scheme.  I decided to go with the "Stone skin" style Gargoyle rather than the very common and popular Bloodthirster/Demon look with red skin.  That was pretty easy as the Priming left a pretty good base to build off.  I basically just painted up the weapons, hit a couple spots with Runic Grey and gave it a 50/50 Dark Tone and SpeedPaint Medium mix wash.  I finished it off the same way I finished off the rest of the Heroquest guys.  

Grrr!  Rawr!  I am Evilz!!1!

With the Living Baddies done, it was time for the Undead to get their time on the painting desk.  I painted the Mummies, Zombies, and Skeletons all in little separate groups.  The Mummies were actually the easiest.  I painted the base skin with Malignant Green, and did a few details on the face.  Then I simply gave the whole thing a Dark Wash.  The Dark Wash became a sort of theme for the Undead units.  

The Zombie I painted their flesh with Malignant Green as well, but I also then gave the flesh a Green Tone Wash.  Then, I painted the details from there.  I really wanted the skin to look mottled and rotten, but very different from the Orc skin tones.  The pants also gave me a chance to make them really look different form the living baddies and each other.    

Finally miniatures were the 4 Skeletons.  Of course, Pallid Bone was going to be the "go to" color for these baddies.  I also decided to give them each a different color-theme to their clothing.  However, their armor was going to be all Gravelord Grey, with Runic Grey blades.  That would make them look cohesive, but also with different colors to make them easily identifiable as individuals if needed. 

So, here is what I have so far all painted up.  The Heroes and Baddies are all painted up.  All that is left is the furniture.  I would say about half of the core set is done now. 

Bonus Content

I had four cats, two black ones, a tuxedo, and a cream colored, cross-eyed, 6-toed abomination.  They frequently like to "help" me paint.  My Tuxedo will sit on a chair next to me and watch, sometimes climbing up onto my shoulders.  My older black cat will try to sit in my lap while I paint, but sadly she passed on when I completed this project.  My younger black cat will just try to lay down on the table within arm's reach.  My abomination will want me to play with him and just hinder me.  They can make it really hard to paint sometimes.  

Here are some photos of them "Helping" me.  

 My younger black cat.....

My Tuxedo cat, helping me.....

My older black cat..... now sadly RIP..... I miss you! 

The abomination against God blocking my light! 

Until next time!    

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Monday, June 10, 2024

Review: Five Parsecs from Home: 3rd Edition - Modiphius

 For a site that is about Wargame Design, where the writer talks about having a wide and deep breadth of knowledge about existing games on the market; there sure haven't been a lot of reviews lately!  There are a couple reasons for this: 

  1. I try to get my new games via my FLGS and their distributor has been giving them a bit of a problem getting in the books I want.  Therefore, I am a bit behind.  
  2. I generally only try to grab games I either have minis for, really want to play anyway, or am working in the genre now-a-days.  Honestly, not a lot has been grabbing my attention even though a lot of cool stuff has been coming out.  I have been overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of it all lately!    
  3. I have been working my backlog of Kill Teams, Kadesh, and Heroquest.  Therefore, no time to add new projects right now. 
  4. I have been contemplating what my next Blood and Spectacles Project needs for post-production and been putting money towards that instead of new game rules. 
So, those are my excuses.  Therefore, I did manage to pick-up a set of rules that I have been meaning to get my hands on for a bit.  I know, I know I am very late to the party on this one.  The year 2020, during the Pandemic; the history we are all trying to forget and move on from; saw a huge boom in the solo-wargaming realm.  I think the reasons were pretty obvious.  

One of the "stand-outs' from this period was Ivan Sorenson's Five Parsecs from Home.  This is explicitly designed to be a solo-wargaming experience.  It is a sci-fi, skirmish game where you create a "crew" of folks and go have adventures!  This game (and others similar to it) from Mr. Sorenson pre-dates the Pandemic and definitely pre-dates Modiphius picking it up to publish.  Ivan Sorenson had been very active in the Indie Wargaming world as Nordic Weasel Games for a long time now, and helped blaze the way for Indie Wargame designers and self-publishing games.    

I will gladly admit that I have been slow to get on this bandwagon.  However, I figured it was about time for me to check it out for myself.  Grab your jump bag, gear up, and get ready to dust-off on my mark.  3....2......1....

Things I Liked

This is an Indie wargame and is therefore scale and model agnostic.  You can grab any mini you want form your collection and plug it into this game.  In addition, it is intended for small model-count games.  As a player you can control a 4-6 man crew to go out on adventures.  For adversaries, you probably want 6 aliens, 6 non-military baddies, and 6 military looking foes.  So, to play a campaign you might only need about 24 models?  The rules quickly touch on how to play in different scales as well.    

This is a campaign game by design, so there is a lot of material for the campaign.  However, there are two things that I want to point out.  First, you can select the victory conditions for your own campaign ranging from relatively short to utter slogs.  That means your solo-adventures can have a definitive "end" point to strive for.  That is good as many campaigns seem to be never ending!  

The game is not afraid to break the fourth wall for the player.  For example, there are guidelines for making them easier for a beginner and much harder for very experienced players.  Finally, there was something called "Elite Ranks" which are rewards that you give yourself for completing campaigns, rewards for YOU the solo-player.  In addition, if you own three of the creators games (or more), you also gain in-game benefits!  I liked this idea and it amused me to no end.  

Enemies have different play styles that are randomly generated.  This impacts the actions they are likely to take, the way they deploy, and how they operate on the table.  That allows for a lot of different combat encounters and various enemy actions.  

Things I Did Not Like

The game is based heavily on dice rolls.  Some players will not like this level of randomization and wish to control the flow of the story a bit more.  There are mechanics and mechanisms to off-set this to some degree,  However, some players will just prefer more "decision" making in their campaigns.  

Like a lot of individual, sci-fi skirmished based games there is not a lot of tactical game play.  The game wants to lean into the cinematics, and the focus is more on the adventure storyline, with the actual battle being a component in telling the larger story.  This is pretty common in campaign focused, skirmish games.  Again, the replayability comes from what happens off-the-table as much or more than what happens on-the-table.  That doesn't mean there are not decisions to be made, but there as just as much off-table Strategic Decisions, as there are Tactical Decisions.  This book is 175 pages long, and the combat rules are about 7-10 pages of it.    

There is a lot of work you have to put in prior to and after a battle.  That is half the fun of this game, but there is a lot of homework a player has to do to get table ready.  

Meh and Other Uncertainties

The basic mechanics, rules, and other details are nothing really new to the skirmish, warband , campaign genre.  You get injuries, deaths, recruiting, upgrades to your ship/hideout, etc.  If you have been following the skirmish game evolution in wargaming, none of this is particularly new or innovative; but it has been required.  Where this stands-out is the variety of randomized events that can happen to your crew along the way.  There is a ton of replayability thanks to all the charts and randomization of adventures, enemies, objectives, etc.  This reminds me a lot of Outremer and Rogue Stars both from Osprey Games.  The game is worth picking up just for those parts alone. 

There are several great Appendixes that give guidelines for ways to expand the game in a lot of different ways.  Things like scenario design, making story lines, rivals, etc.  This has a lot of great content for those who really want to dive into the world building of their games.  In many ways, this game really epitomizes the idea of RPG-lite in wargames.  

Final Thoughts

If you want a solo-campaign that fits in with the Firefly ethos of "Keep on Flying".  This game matches that better than any other game I have seen out there, with the caveat that it is ONLY for solo-play.  The closest comparison is Stargrave, but that was intended for Versus play.  The game leans pretty hard on the Strategic element and RPG-liteThere is a ton of opportunity for replayability and making the enemy actions unknown.  This is probably the gold standard of solo-play I have seen in a game BUT the player has to push-a-lot of buttons to make this game work.  That means, the player is operating the game more than they are actually "playing" the game.  However, in a solo-game that is somewhat expected and this one provides a lot of off-table decision making.         

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Monday, June 3, 2024

RPG Design: G.I. Joe Module "Into the Snake Pit"

Role-playing is really my roots in Wargaming. I was a role-player before I was a wargamer.  I often find it easier to get into Role-playing groups than it is to find fellow miniature Wargamers.  Therefore, RPGs have always been close to my heart.  As a designer, I am still pretty fascinated by the overlap between the two genres.

I all ready have a Drive Thru RPG account that I publish on.  Therefore, it made sense that I should finally give RPG Design its own space and header on the blog.  If you search the interwebs you will find a lot of people with a lot of opinions on RPG design.  You will find way more than you will ever find on Wargame Design.  I am just a dabbler in this space, and if you want serious thoughts on RPG Design you should really go elsewhere.  

Today, I am talking a bit about something I put together because I wanted to play a game of Renegade Studios G.I. Joe: Role-Playing GameIf you want to play a game, you first have to be willing to Gamemaster the game, and to do that you really need an adventure to run!  Therefore, I set about creating a simple, introductory campaign so I could play the game with my group.  Hence, Into the Snake Pit was born.  

Of course, the campaign made a few assumptions.  Despite the cover, you don't actually play as named characters like Scarlet or Snake-eyes.  Instead, it is intended to be a campaign that runs from level 1-4 for original, starting characters.  The campaign is designed for 3-6 players and 1 GM.  Each scenario will last between 2-5 hours for about 20 total hours of gameplay; give or take.  Scarlet does plays a part by acting as the "Quest Giver" in this campaign.  

The focus of this campaign is simple.  The players are sent into a dangerous neighborhood that is being destabilized by COBRA weapons.  Their job is to infiltrate the neighborhood, eliminate the weapons, and cut off the source.  This plays out over the course of 4 scenarios as the new recruits infiltrate the area, find leads, and track them down.  There is also a time element to the adventure.    

There is also a semi-sandbox nature to the campaign as it lays out the details of the Snake Pit neighborhood to explore, while having a clear linear path laid-out.  However, players being players you can't always expect them to follow the path and there is enough meat there to go alternate routes with some improv to fill in.  In addition, these details could easily act as springboards to further adventures in the Snake Pit neighborhood.   

The campaign includes up to 7 pre-generated Level 1 characters with just enough backstory and hooks to get them into the game as recruits to the Joe team for this mission.  With these, new players can quickly jump into the game and get into some Role-playing.  They cover a variety of skills and archetypes that are valuable in the campaign, but nothing is stopping gamers from creating and using their own unique characters.  They include: 

  • A front-line officer
  • A commando infiltrator
  • An urban combat specialist
  • A stunt driver
  • A computer hacker
  • A former wrestler and soldier
  • A former mercenary turned Joe 
Concept art for Lady Jaye from G.I. Joe : Renegades
by Jeff Johnson

The module is designed to lean into a few aspects of the G.I. Joe RPG.  

  1. Role-play
  2. Infiltration
  3. "Street" Level threats - limited firepower and weaponry
  4. Vehicle combat 
  5. Small unit combat
  6. Urban setting

This campaign does not feature globe-trotting adventures, exotic gear, bizarre doomsday weapons, absurd plots, and comic-book level villains.  This is a more grounded, low-level, down-and-dirty espionage/crime campaign with sci-fantasy elements and a mix of close quarters combat.  Do not look for Weather Dominators or Pyramids of Darkness-style shenanigan's here.  The most exotic vehicles are a beat-up van and motorcycles.  The most common weapons are pistols, batons, knives and fists.  This is a low-level, low-fantasy campaign where social, exploration, and combat all play a role in defeating COBRA's plans.   


Crimson Guard from the Core Rulebook

Final Thoughts

This is a free module I put together for the best reason possible; because I wanted to!  You can find it free on the Blood and Spectacles Drive-Thru RPG page.  My patrons have had early access to this work and got to see some of it coming together behind the scenes.  That is a great way to get access to content early from Blood and Spectacles Publishing for either RPGs or Wargames.  If you like what I did with this module, you may want to look at a few of the games I have built as well. 

Overall, this took about a year to get from concept to reality.  I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.  

Until next time! 

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Monday, May 27, 2024

On The Painting Desk: Heroquest


For Christmas, I got the new Heroquest boxed set.  One of my big painting projects for the years was to get it all painted up.  I wasn't going to play it or get any expansions until I got it all painted up.  Therefore, I was eager to get it taken care of so I could get it on the table!  With my Kadesh forces all finished, and my Kill Teams as a palette cleanser; now was the time to strike!

I started by pulling out and priming the models I was going to start with.  I actually decided to go with the forces of Dread, the Orcoids, and Heroes.  I started by giving them all a coat of Grey Seer prime.  Then I did my usual thing with a dark grey wash and a white dry brush.  They were ready to start painting!  

Now, it was time for the Speed Paints!  For some inexplicable reason, I decided to start the painting process with.... the Heroes!  I actually painted each hero up individually, one at a time instead of batch painting them all at once.  I wanted each one to be an individual and tried NOT to make them look like a unit.  Since I did them one at a time, it took me a full weekend to get these 4 models painted up.  I was surprised how much fun I had approaching them this way. 

Heroes about to set out on a quest!

They turned out better than a lot of the Reaper or Wizkids models I have painted!  Plus, I think I made each one look unique.  I doubt I will take this approach with the rest of the models, and will probably batch paint the minions.  

Speaking of Minions.  I decided to start off with the little Gobbos in the box.  Why?  Not sure, because I could?  These were all Speed Paints as well, using a combination of browns, orange, yellow, Malignant Green for flesh, and some Magic Blue.  When they were all painted up, I then gave them a quick light wash, finished the bases and sealed them with spray.  Not too much to say about these guys, but I think I made them all unique enough despite the repeated sculpts.  

You can see behind the Goblins that I still have a lot of greenskins and Dread warriors to go! 

For my next bit of painting, I actually went to a painting workshop sponsored by the True Crit Gaming Guild and put on by The Painted Dwarf.  There I brought my Dread Warlock to paint up, and also picked up a Reaper Bones Chronoscope mini to paint up.  This was interesting because there was a wide variety of paints to use besides just my Speed Paints.  I used some Reaper, P3, Contrasts, and some non-miniature paints to finish off these two guys.  I couldn't even tell you what I all used!  

That Reaper Bones Chronoscope line is all over the place in scale.  I have a few others and they range from tiny like this Agatha Fox, to giants like my Professor or Action Jackson models.  Strange that range, but so characterful too.  Agatha here is pulling a pistol out of the purse behind her back!  

So, that seems like a respectable place to stop my initial efforts to paint up my Heroquest boxed set.  This is what I have completed so far!  In addition, my FLGS recently got in a bunch of Heroquest expansions and I told myself that I was not going to buy any of them until the initial boxed set got all painted up.  I still have a long way to go, and that doesn't even include the furniture!  

However, once done I look forward to taking it to the shop and Gaming Guild to play it with some of my peeps. 

Until next time! 

Become a Patron and get access to all the cool stuff, a peak behind the curtain of Blood and Spectacles, and early-access to playtest games!  

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Monday, May 20, 2024

On The Painting Desk: The Levellers- Chaos Guard for Kill Team

Going into the Siege Perilous with the True Crit Gaming Guild I wanted a chaos force.  Ever since the very old Eye of Terror campaign I have wanted a Traitor Guard for the tabletop.  The Vraksian Militia from Forgeworld was eye-opening and super-exciting when that came out.  Despite my desire, I never fully got to a place where I could create the army I had wanted.  Therefore, when the Blooded came out for Kill Team I was excited.  

However, I decided not to go with the standard Games Workshop version.  I had been eyeing up the Only-Games website to pick up some Wargames Atlantic digital figures.  I was interested in checking out their printed Gladiators and a few other odds and ends.  I had never really gotten 3D printed models from a supplier.  I had only printed my own. 

While on the website, I was drawn to a creator called Station Forge who made a wide variety of grimdark models.  One of their sets was called Corrupted Guard, and they were set-up in order to make a Blooded Kill Team.  I went ahead and ordered them and the Gladiators.  The time of shipping did take a bit, but I did not really realize they were coming from the EU when I first ordered them.  They had to come across the pond!     

They came all wrapped up nicely in some bubble wrap in relatively small boxes.  When I unwrapped them, I only had one chainsword that was broken.  However, there was still flash/supports that I had to remove from the printing process.  Perhaps a touch worse than the amount of Flash you have to remove from metal models.  

I took a look at the rules for the Kill Team and started to separate my minis into what was going with what, and what I was going to bring to the party.  For the most part, the set I ordered had everything I needed.  I would have preferred 3 more small bases though so I could have swapped in more Traitors to replace the Orgryn/Enforcers.  I had plenty of parts and bodies to do it, but 4 bases shy.  

The minis glued together fine with Gorilla Glue.  I then got to work priming them.  In retrospect, I should have washed them first just to be sure I got any resin materials off, but the Grey Seer Prime seemed to work just fine.  I then did my standard approach of washing them in a dark grey, and then drybrushed them white. When I was done, they were ready to be speedpainted.


These guys speedpainted relatively fast.  My biggest issue was that I had not planned out their paint scheme before I started so there was a lot of looking at the model, looking at the paint, and then trying to determine what parts were going to be painted.  For the most part, the detail was pretty good, with the Ogryn having the shallowest detail in some areas.  However, it didn't really hinder me on the model.  I used a couple of left-over Vet Guard parts such as the Medical bag for my Chaos Medic, a Vox for my Comms man, and a flamer Tank to make my Brimstone Grenadier look a bit more explosive.  The other downside was that the only support weapons were Plasma Guns, I would have loved a couple of other options, even as a separate purchasable option.  I like Melta-guns in Kill Team to erase annoying Space Marines.  The Trench Cleaner is armed with a shotgun, but the kit only had las-guns but the shield tells you who the guys is.  I also love the shield, so used the second one on the Chaos Thug model who looks much tougher than the stat-line probably warrants with that huge hammer!    

I decided that the primary color of my Levellers was going to be Crusader Skin for the coats.  This gave them a somewhat drab overall look.  I then accented it with Slaughter Red, Palid Bone, and Malignant Green.  Since I used skin tones for the coat, I simple gave their primed faces a skin tone wash which made them look very unhealthy!  This gave them a suitably Chaotic look.  I toyed around with giving them the same colors as my Vet Guard like they had fallen from the same unit, but ultimately decided to make them distinct.  Afterall, the Levellers were most likely former PDF troopers and not Imperial Guard!    

For finishing touches I washed them all with a light tone brown based wash to gribble them up a bit and fill in any gaps.  I painted their bases Hardened Leather and trimmed the bases Citadel Chaos Black.  As usual nothing fancy on the bases.  Finally, I waited until a nice day and gave them a Matte Spray as a final touch.  

So from left to right we have the Brimstone Grenadier, the Flenser, the Butcher, the Trench Sweeper, the Medic, a Specialist with Plasma, another Plasma specialist, the Thug, the Ogryn, the Comms guy, the sniper, the Champion, a traitor, and finally the Enforcer. 

The Levellers are members of the Cult of the Emperor's Hand that have had their simple faith corrupted.  They are mostly farm hands, indentured servants, workers, and traitor PDF troopers from the outskirts of Absaroka.  They are dedicated to tearing down the Imperial society and "levelling" it so that all are equal in the eyes of the Emperor.  They have a special hatred for the Great Houses and their lap-dogs and are eager to swarm into Warzone Epsilon, Delta, and Sigma of Powellington.  Of course, their zeal, violence, and bloodlust against their former rulers has allowed the Levellers to easily be unwittingly turned to the services of the Chaos Gods.    

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am very pleased with how these guys turned out.  I think the "Flesh Coats" makes them look very Chaos-y.  I especially enjoy the Sniper, Flenser, Butcher, and the Brimstone Grenadier.  I was happy with the price and final result, even if it took a bit to get them and finish cleaning them up.  I would consider getting more pre-printed 3D models in the future as they painted up just as easily as Wizkids plastics and better than some formulations of Reaper Bones. 

Never fear, I still have a 8 Gladiators to paint up, a couple Reaper minis for Of Gods and Mortals, and a whole Heroquest box to paint.  I am not close to being dead yet.  However, it did make me consider finishing off my Chaos Kill Team with a box of Chaos Legionaries and/or some Beastmen?     

Until next time! 

Become a Patron and get access to all the cool stuff, a peak behind the curtain of Blood and Spectacles, and early-access to playtest games!  

You can follow Blood and Spectacles Facebook page or Instagram for more fun! 

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Wargame Design: A Glimpse at My Process


The most common question I get, is "How do you become a game designer?"  I have answered it elsewhere, but the key thing is that you need to have a complete game for people to play.  If you don't complete a game, it is really hard to get other people to play it.  In other posts, I have talked about the basics of game design like the 4Ms, Activation Methods, Chrome, etc.  However, the most important part of getting a game completed is having a process and following that process.   

What is a Process?
A process is just a series of activities that transform the inputs into the outputs.  In the case of a game, it is how you transform your idea/concept into an actual game. The inputs are your ideas, mechanics, influences, software, and other things that you need to create a finished game.  The outputs are the rules, templates, scenarios etc. needed to actual play the game.

There is good news and bad news about the Process.  The good news is that there is no single process that works for everyone.  The bad news is that there is no single process that works for everyone.  If you follow or read 10 designers you will find 10 different processes.  

1. Mike Hutchinson likes to put minis down on the table first
2. Jervis Johnson likes to use headers as an outline of what to fill in
3. Joseph McCullough sets aside at least two hours a day to write everyday
4. Ash Barker writes things on legal pads first
5. I like to make a potential cover first

No two designers have the same process.  The important thing is to find a process that works for you.

Inputs - Your Pre-Work
The inputs are the work you do to prepare to design a game.  I have often said a great first step to being a game designer is to play and read a lot of games!  Here is where you will find out a lot of important tools you can put into your tool box of designs.  Nothings springs out of your mind like Athena from the head of Zeus.  You first need a box of tools that you can draw from, and reading, playing, and exposing yourself to a lot of different games gives you the tools you will draw from. 

Second, you need to expose yourself to a lot of media.  What?  A whole lot of wargame design is based on "Vibes" (As the kids say today).  Therefore, exposing yourself to a lot of media helps you tap into the right "vibes" for a game.  You could call it inspiration?  I say Media because it can be movies, music, art, literature, and not always genre or miniature related.  Again, this gives you the tools you will later need to draw from when it is time for you to engage in the process of creation.  

Now, you are ready for you Concept.  I literally have folders full of concepts, and 95% of them will never get further than the concept folder.  Another 4% will get some fleshing out, but not enough to go further, another 0.8% will get some basic rules, 0.1% will get into post-production, and 0.1% of that pool of Concepts will become a finished work.  Knowing that concepts are the easiest part, you are now ready for the Process to begin. 

Getting Started
If you read my blog, you would think that I pick a concept and then write down the design goals for the game.  After all, I harp on the importance of them all the time, and I constantly refer to using them as the guiderails for a project.  I almost never start with the Design Goals.  

My first step is to weed out the Concepts I am going to work with first.  I do this by creating some make-shift covers for the work in PowerPoint and/or Canva using Wikimedia Commons (or similar tools) to get a feel for what is out there for public consumption.  I often also look at my existing miniature collection that I can use for a given concept OR decide which model range I would use to fill in the artwork for a project.  Very practical concerns.  If I can not find a model range I am interested in for the concept, I will often put the Concept straight back into the Concept folder and it will go no further.  Many a game has died thanks to this step.  

If any of you have read Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you may recognize what I am doing here.  This is called Starting with the End in Mind.  The idea is to eventually have a rulebook and game that I can play.  Therefore, I will need miniatures to play it.  Why start a project in which I won't be able to play it by the time it is done?  Therefore, if I can't find inspiring minis for a concept I don't bother pursuing it.  

From there, I imagine what a player will need to play the game.  Again, looking at my intended miniature line is very useful for this phase of the project.  It sets the parameters.  I also look at other sources that are relevant.  Obviously, historical games I need to use reference materials to determine what a fighting force looked like.  This helps me gauge the scale of the game and begin to understand the POV I want to press for in the game.   

For me on a project, I often start with the units that make up the game and then work backwards.  I think about "If I have unit X, and they have Unit Y how do these units interact on the tabletop?  How does X shoot at Y?  How does Y know if they are injured by the shooting?  What happens?  

This helps me start to do two things.  First, I start to flesh out the core stat blocks.  This also helps me quickly fill out the 4Ms.  This is where I lean into the toolbox and start pulling out tools and applying them.  These are still making use of my Inputs.  I now have a basic idea of how things will work in the game.           

Now that I have the concept, a cover, some basic thoughts on stats, some core mechanics, and an idea of the miniatures I will need for the game, I write the Introduction page.  Sometimes these make the final cut, and sometimes they don't.  However, this is where I lay out what got me to think about this concept, my influences, and finally at this stage I am typically ready to write out my Design Goals.  It is important to note, that these Design Goals are not set in stone yet, but they rarely change significantly from here.  

Grinding the Gears Together
I now have an idea of where I am going with the game.  The first thing I do, is I write out the "Core Concepts"  This is typically 2-6 pages that lays out the key ideas or mechanics that the rest of the game hangs on.  I often also have a handful of units or combinations of units.  It is often enough to play A game, but lacks a lot of the things people would expect in a fully-fleshed out game.  

This is where I start grinding the gears of the machine together.  My first go through of Play-testing often happens at this stage.  If you have read about my approach, most of my initial work is all pencil on paper or just blocks moving around on a PowerPoint slide.  No miniatures are on the table, no paper templates are made, and no money has been invested at this stage.  

This is the first stage where I take an axe to my darlings.  Here is where I cut out things that do not work, re-interpret the rules, and sometimes put the project back into the Concept folder bin.  At this stage, I am evaluating the game on several levels: 

1. Is this a game that has something interesting to bring to the table? 
2. Is this a game that I am excited about?
3. Is this a game I would want to play?  
4. Is this a game I can finish the work on? 

The most common reason a game does not proceed is because of #4.  The core game maybe fun, I maybe excited about it, but when I look at what it takes to "finish the game" I decide that it would take more effort and time than I can put into it.  For example, if it would require me to make a lot of tables of results or cards to draw; I often scrap the project as too much work.   Similarly, if a game would require a lot of unique or interesting artwork, miniature lines, or components than I will also often scrap it at this stage.  

My projects all ready take 3-6 years to complete, so adding a lot of additional challenging elements beyond paper, dice, and measurement device can be beyond my scope.  Know your limits and I do not have the expertise, time, or money to invest into games that require a lot of those more challenging elements. 

The Core Writing
Now that I have the Core Concepts of the game, now comes the writing.  If a game manages to get this far, it is pretty easy for me to grind out the 4Ms of the game in 24-72 hours.  I have written enough games now, that I practically have a template and can re-use material from other rulesets about terrain, Line-of-sight, etc.  I also tend to use a Bullet Point fashion of writing and limit the amount of flavor text I put into the rules sections and a lot of the 4Ms can use similar steps even if the specific mechanics may vary.   

Keep in mind, at this point there are no scenarios, campaign rules, terrain placement, deployment rules, etc. that elevate a game beyond the 4Ms.  This is just the Core Concepts expanded out into a usable format.  This point is the second big hurdle for a game to cross.  At this point, I usually make some paper templates and start exposing it to some of my play testers in-person.  I ask the same questions again, but I also get some outside feedback.

1. Is this a game that has something interesting to bring to the table? 
2. Is this a game that I am excited about?
3. Is this a game I would want to play?  
4. Is this a game I can finish the work on? 

At this stage, a game can stagnate if the playtesters do not find the game of interest, or once on the table I realize it doesn't deliver the experience I was hoping for, or I realize that it needs extensive re-writes the game is at risk.  It is not uncommon for a game to die at this stage.  I simply lose interest in it, or there is too much work to get it across the finish line.  These can all lead to the project getting shelved at this point.    

And The Rest
If the game survives the Core Writing, the next step is adding all the things Players need and expect for a game to be a complete game.  This is where I add in the Scenarios, Terrain Placement, Deployment rules, army lists, campaign rules etc.  I actually recycle a lot of this material, and re-fluff it unless there is a very compelling reason NOT to recycle the material.  

I do not really enjoy filling in the blanks on these parts of the game.  One of the hardest things to do is write good scenarios!  Therefore, this part also takes a lot of time as I have to test and re-test it on paper and with paper templates on the table.  If I can do the Core Writing in 24-72 hours, this stage can take me up to a year to finish and I am recycling a surprising amount of it.             

This section I tend to do in spurts.  I tend to write mostly on Friday afternoon or Monday morning, because that is when my schedule allows me to write.  However, my writing isn't always focused on game rules.  I have to write blogs, Patreon posts, and other social media content too.  I may not always focus on rules, but I always write something on those two days.  Sometimes it is even good, but mostly it is bad.  

This is the longest part of my process.  Most of the heavy edits, re-writing, and slaying of darlings has been completed at this point.  I am not a huge fan of post-production.  In my mind, this is composed of the following steps: 

1, Final Play-testing
2. Painting the miniatures
3. Making terrain/tables
4. Taking photos
5. Sourcing art
6. EDITING (Bleh!) 
7. Lay-out

I mostly do all of my writing straight into PowerPoint to save time on lay-out, editing, and re-writing.  This is an easy lay-out tool that I am familiar with and have access too.  

Some of the longest parts of the process is sourcing miniature photos and artwork.  I tend to buy and paint what I need, because then when I am done I can at least play the game myself.  However, there are some projects where I have been able to get photos from a manufacturer, and that is much easier.  Sourcing artwork can also take a long time to commission an artist, get them to finish the project, and then get it into the lay-out.

One of the most troublesome aspects of Post-Production is this is the stage you need to commit resources.  All the other stages primarily just took your time and effort.  No game gets to this stage if there is any doubt that I will be releasing it.  I need to release it to re-coop any money I have put into it for post-production.          

This is also the stage in which I start to consider shopping the game around, or if I am just going to put it up on Wargame Vault.  The main considerations here are if your connections have interest in the genre, if they have similar rules in their stable all ready, if you are offering something of interest to the market, how soon you need the money, and how tired you are of working on this project.  Some people do this much earlier in the process, but when editors ask me to see the rules I prefer to have a complete set to show them, often with placeholder images and lay-out all ready complete.  This gives them confidence you can hit the deadlines they need.        

Congratulations You Have a Game
Normally, this has been a 3-5 year process at this point.  You have probably put in at least $200-$500 (or more) dollars in post-production that you will want to earn that back.  However, you have a game!  

If you are lucky, you have all ready sold it and gotten an advance, but most of the time that is not the case.  Instead, you made it because you wanted to and because you could. 

The last step is getting it to people to play.  This could be giving it away for free, self-publishing, electronic distribution, physical stock, or shopping it around to publishers.  There are benefits and downsides to all of these approaches, but that is a topic for another day.  

Final Thoughts
That is a brief look at my process.  However, there are no two designers who go about this the same way.  Everyone is different and what works for me probably does not work for you.  The key thing is to either know your own process, or be conscious enough to develop one before you start.  The process is what will get you through on days your muse has left the building.  The process is what will take something from concept to final product.  Without a process, it is really tough to complete a game for people to play. 

Bonus Content! 
As you probably know, the True Crit Gaming Guild has been playing through a simple Warzone control campaign for Kill Team.  We are entering the final campaign period, so things are heating up between our Chaos and Imperial factions.  After a Chaos heavy Turn 1, the Imperium roared back in Turn 2.  Going into Turn 3, things are looking pretty tight.  

At this pivotal time, I brought my Chaos and Imperial Kill Team to a couple of planned Guild days.  I managed to play a couple of games, both of them against Chaos Black Legionary lists.  This would be my second and third time playing against the Chaos Marines as my Imperial Sisters of Battle.  The Order of Saint Augustine Martyred was deployed away from the Cathedral and into the city proper as the Siege became more desperate and reinforcements and troops became limited.  

The Order was painted as part of my 5-Day Painting Challenge.  They are a compendium list, and are relatively straight forward to use.  They do not have a lot of special rules, and they are almost all equipped with bolters and power armor.  They struggled with the 3 APL of the Chaos forces, despite having a 10 Sister sized Kill Team.  

Despite killing off half the Chaos forces, it was not enough and they easily beat me on VPs, 6 to 12.  They were able to get to the Objectives much faster than I could, and I couldn't do much to stop them.  Once again, my Melta and Heavy Bolter did yeoman's work.  My Storm Bolter underperformed.  The Relic was worth its weight in gold.  Straight-up Bolters were very underwhelming against Chaos Marines with Mutagenic Flesh and other toys.   On the plus side, I was not tabled and ended the game holding some objectives.  However, if the game would have progressed I am pretty sure the Chaos Marines would have easily killed me off.           

The next battle the Chaos forces had a slightly different make-up on a different board.  Both sides were able to grab their objectives early, and hold onto them.  This time, my Melta-gun and Storm Bolter both disappointed me.  Heavy Bolter did it's job and caused plenty of fear and area denial.  

I got tabled at the very end of Turning Point 3 this time.  However, despite getting tabled, by a unusually powerful Chaos Acolyte Fireball; the game was much closer than the first game.  Even after getting tabled, the Chaos forces were only in a position to grab 1 new objective and win the game by 1 VP.      

I again struggled with the speed of 3 APL Chaos Marines that were tooled up for close combat fighting.  I maybe got 1, regular shot off at them before they were in my base shredding my dudes.  I tried to use Sisters as speed bumps, and it worked but I couldn't kill the baddies fast enough.  I managed to take out 3 of the 6 Marines again.  However, it wasn't enough.  

The Order of St. Augustine Martyred are 0-3 vs. Chaos Space Marines now.  Of course, Compendium lists are under-powered compared to actual Kill Team lists so I am not surprised per se.  I haven't quite figured out how to make better use of my numbers and a good way to negate the 3 APL of the Elite baddies.  I actually like the SoB's relative simplicity as a Kill Team, and I rarely have to look up how they play. 

Ultimately, the Imperium really needed me to win!  However, they will have to make due with my extra points for being fully painted instead!  

Until next time! 

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