An Interview with David Ensteness of the Wargaming Company –
Ten months and five publications later…
1. Wow. Last time we posted an update from you was December 2015 and at that time you said that The Wargaming Company had a lot of “big stuff” going on but wow, OK, tell us what all TWC has released this year.
Yes, we’ve been… busy.
In the last ten months…
We released ESR Second Edition in two forms: The Essential Player’s Guide which is the rulebook and The Complete Player’s Guide which is the rulebook plus two supplements. ESR Second Edition massive overhaul to Et sans résultat!, a lot faster, it is pretty easy for new players to play a small to medium scenario in faster-than-real-time, and experienced players can do that with *big* scenarios.
The two supplements that are included in The Complete Player’s Guide cover what you need to build your own armies and scenarios. Raising an Army offers extensive examples of building Napoleonic Armies, commander and unit ratings, recommendations on using characteristics at the Commander, Formation, and Unit levels. Then the second supplement is Designing for War which is an overview of the concerns you should consider when designing scenarios, the types of scenarios to be designed and where to put emphasis. It also includes a fictional starter scenario to get into the game.
2. Now I’m going to interrupt you because I think a lot of people who see a company put out two versions of a rulebook ask: which one do they expect me to buy?
Yes, indeed. The Complete Player’s Guide is just as the title indicates, it is all the parts, if you are going to organize your group’s or club’s games, you are going to draft up orders of battle, design scenarios, organize the figures, etc… This is what you want.
Which begs the question: “Who buys the Essentials?” And the answer is, everyone else. If you’re playing the game but not organizing the game, this is for you. All the knowledge you need to play the game is there, summaries of ratings, examples of mechanics, if you know The Essentials then you’re covered.
Or… if you already have some companion scenario material that doesn’t require any adaptation to use, The Essentials would be the way to go.
3. Funny you should mention “companion material” because that’s the other thing you guys have really dug into.
Indeed we have. Getting back to your earlier question about what all we’ve released this year, we launched a new product line that compliments ESR called the ESR Campaign Guides. Each Campaign Guide covers one or more historical Napoleonic campaigns and is organized around a basic formula:
• Campaign Framework
• Historical Scenarios
• Uniform Guide
And these Campaign Guides are *compatible with nearly any Napoleonic wargame*. And I mean this very literally. The maps are marked off in scale miles, there is a table in the front of the book that tells you what table size is required for each scenario for a variety of ground scales, so if you play at 1″=75 yards or 1″=200 yards, you can see how big a table the battles need. The orders of battle are given down to the battalion level so you can have a good sense of the troops required, and on our website we provide a Conversion page (http://thewargamingcompany.com/esr/conversion.html) that shows you what the likely equivalent ratings are for other popular Napoleonic systems.
4. That’s not a common business plan, designing scenario sets for the competition when you have your own rules on the market. Why are you doing that?
Honestly? Directly? Because not everyone will fall in love with ESR. You should, it’s the best, there’s nothing better… but if you disagree… and with published Napoleonic wargames numbering in the hundreds, it is possible you prefer something else – then we don’t think that all the development and research and work that we’ve put into these Campaign Guides should be lost for you, you should still be able to benefit from it. Besides, there are only a few reasons a scenario should ever be “system specific”.
5. So you want to sell a lot of Campaign Guides?
Well of course we do, but mostly the reason we are making our Campaign Guides generally compatible with other systems is out of frustration: there are too few scenario products available. If I go to a local gaming store – and we are very fortunate in the Twin Cities Minnesota that we have a very healthy gaming community and a large store that carries a lot of historicals – I can find easily, two dozen Napoleonic wargames. I can find like… maybe six scenario books. That is ridiculous. People don’t need 50 rule sets and 10 scenarios, we need to reverse that trend, we need to offer gamers some products with broad appeal.
6. And what have you released so far?
In spring we released Master of the World, 1812 in Russia. It is our first Campaign Guide and it has been a big success. Nine scenarios covering nine battles for the invasion of Russia by Napoleon. The scenarios range in size from small two player actions that you can play out very quickly, all the way to Borodino. The Uniform Guide included with it covers the uniforms of every Unit featured in every scenario. The book itself is about ~180 pages, maybe 190 pages, and the Uniform Guide is like 25-30% of that. MoW has over 800 uniforms in it, all original artwork, sourced from a ridiculously broad list of material.
Then in summer, we released Roll up that Map, 1805 in Germany. It covers the Ulm and Austerlitz campaigns in nine battles. And this is a great book for beginners, there are a *lot* of two player and four player scenarios in it, and of course, it has Austerlitz which is just a must have. And then its Uniform Guide – same arrangement as that from MoW, with 650+ uniform images.
And the impending release is, We shall meet in Vienna, 1813 in Germany. And it is huge. Around 250 pages, with over 1500 uniform images, nine scenarios for eight battles, twelve fold out maps for four of the scenarios, it is a heck of a book. And it is all big battles, there are… two? smaller ones… I think. But Lützen, Bautzen, Großbeeren, Dresden, Katzbach, Kulm… all there.
7. You lost me with the uniforms, 800? 650? 1500+? Explain.
Yes. There are literally hundreds of individual uniform images, drawn especially for our books. So for instance, the French 8th and 18th Ligne Infantry Regiments in 1813 had variations from the regulation uniforms, we provide an image for the officers, the drummers, the sappers, grenadiers, fusiliers, voltigeurs, cornets. And we do the same for all the unit specific variations we can find documentation on, and we provide sets for the regulation uniforms as well.
The idea is that right now, if you want to paint a regiment up, you go into your library, you pull out maybe 2-4 books, then you go online and search for plates that someone scanned, because you can’t find all the pieces anywhere, not in one place. I was sick of that. So we’re trying to fixing it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice scenario books out there, just not enough.
8. Wow, OK. But why are you including them in scenario books?
We want to give people all the things they need in one place. There is a campaign framework that allows you to play the scenarios one-after-another and earn points for victories, that let’s a group refight the campaign without the massive work of bookkeeping and map movement – which are really cool, but often the reason groups don’t run campaigns.
Then we provide the scenarios, with maps, orders of battle, some historical context, victory conditions, special rules as applicable.
And lastly, what do you need? You need to know how to paint your units. So we include that too.
9. A real one-stop shop. Now you must have people saying, “I have all the scenarios I need or I have all the uniform plates I need, why can’t I just buy the one half of the book?”
Yeah, we get that on occasion, though, surprisingly it is pretty rare. I thought we’d get that question a lot but so far this year, maybe three or four people have asked that question. Anyways, couple reasons:
The first guy who said this played in one of our games at Little Wars, it was the Vitebsk scenario from Master of the World. Before the game he says, I don’t need scenario books and I’ve got all the uniform plates I could want. Then he plays in our game. And while he plays, he looks through the book more. Then he buys one. He was really excited, he says, “I don’t have to do anything to this, it isn’t a base to start from, it is everything I need in one place!” And that’s our plan.
The second reason is that no one wants to buy just part of something, people want to buy complete stuff. We could tell you, “Oh yeah, just buy the scenarios, and the rules, and the uniform guides, and the this, and the that…” but you’d be frustrated. This is all you need for the thing you want to do, it is a self-contained add-on to almost any rule set you want to use.
Lastly, there is a real value in over providing. You go out and buy a uniform book from… some publisher… it may cost you ~$20 USD, and it has maybe 35 color images in it. Then it has text descriptions, which are sometimes excellent and sometimes practically unreadable. And the books are commonly divided up by troop type or even by unit, so you have to buy several of them. By contrast, we’ve debuted our Campaign Guides in the neighborhood of $60 USD and we’re offering hundreds of uniforms for everyone present in the campaign. So, when someone says, “Well, I don’t need the scenarios” we still have a lot of offer them at a good value. If you don’t need the uniforms, the scenarios are excellent. And in both cases, you are getting a good value.
10. So when does this new 1813 book ship? Can people order it now? If it ends with Kulm then is there another one coming, I mean, it doesn’t include Leipzig…
There are more coming, we’re looking at 1809 for next year… as well as some… Spanish intrigue. We shall meet in Vienna can be pre-ordered right now, today, and we plan to be shipping it “just in time for the holidays”. You can buy it directly from The Wargaming Company in the US via thewargamingcompany.com and Magister Militum has signed on to carry it for the UK and European markets.
11. And to wrap this up? What’s next you said you’re trying to offer a one-stop-shop, but you don’t offer a Napoleonic miniatures line, what do you say when people ask that question?
We tell them we’re looking into it.
12. And… have you got plans to offer a Napoleonic miniatures line?
We’re looking into it 😉
Here is a link to The Wargaming Company’s website – link.