Interviews with the Masters: Huib Versloot

Foreword by Scott Cole

I have been playing CS ever since the original East Front was released. At times, I would take a break from the game, mostly due to time commitments elsewhere, and have played other games but I have always returned to CS. I attribute my continued enjoyment of this long running game franchise to our community of gamers, the friendships among us that have developed over the years and the incredible number of scenarios covering everything from the Spanish Civil War, the Italians fighting in Ethiopia, the Pacific Theater and, of course, the carnage on the Russian Front.

Full credit must be given to all the scenario designers and I will embark on a series of Q&As with the designers I have derived countless hours of enjoyment by playing their games. I won’t be able to interview everyone and while I was absent from CS there has been a few designers such as Tanker Tony and Dan Caviness creating ambitious games. If designing scenarios were easy, I would have created a ton of them by now, so even if this Q&A series misses a few of your favorite scenario designers I would like to extend my appreciation to everyone that has spent the many hours creating scenarios, thereby strengthening our gaming community.

Interviews with the Masters: Huib Versloot

Campaign Series West Front | Scenario Designer Huib Versloot

Huib Versloot (right)

1:  How long have you been playing CS?

I have been playing CS since EF I came out somewhere in the nineties. Before that I used to play a game called Close Combat or something. I think it was a Microsoft game at that time but I’m not sure. Shortly thereafter I started playing Steel Panthers. In the beginning of CS I merely played without much thinking. I used to play by email against a Danish guy and lost all the time. Only later at the same time when I started designing scenarios my gameplay became much better and more serious.

2:  What prompted you to start designing scenarios?

I did a few fictional things in the scenario editor for fun in the beginning, but a few years later I started to combine it with my other hobbies: WWII history and battlefield archaeology in particular. For years I would make annual trips with my elder brother to the Ardennes and explore what still could be seen and found on those former battlefields. We would usually prepare those trips by reading a particular book on a certain part of the battle in advance. In 2002 or 2003 we read the book The Battle of The Bulge in Luxembourg by Roland Gaul. After the battlefield visit to this southern flank of the Bulge, I tried to replicate the events I read in the book and the battlefield and landscape I had seen in the scenario and map editor of CS WF.  At that time the first version of the later “Southern Shoulder” scenarios was born. I posted the scenario on “wargamer.com” and after a while I received some positive feedback from 2 gentlemen by the names of Jim Puff and Don Fox. They invited me to join a wargaming community called The Blitz and from there on the scenario designing became serious fun. Sadly, within one or two years Jim Puff suddenly passed away after a heart attack while at his work place I think it was.

Scenario Designer Huib Versloot | The Ardennes

Huib taking a walk in the Ardennes

3: What is the scenario(s) are you proudest of.

I don’t remember how many scenarios for CS I made anymore, quite a few I think and some in cooperation with other designers.  Probably the best scenario I made as far as I’m concerned is “A Pivotal Day for the 82nd”. It deals with the 82nd Airborne Division combat around Nijmegen during Market Garden. For the Allied side of that history I used a book called “All American All the Way” by Phil Nordyke which is an excellent unit history. About the Germans in these events much less was known. Even if you have a book like “It Never Snows In September” it doesn’t give you all the detail needed about the German counterattack towards Nijmegen. Fortunately, I managed to get a hold of a very rare book by Heinz Bliss and Bernd Bosshammer called “Das Fallschirmjäger Lehr-Regiment” that is very detailed on what happened there from the German perspective.

While this scenario was my highlight I guess, after that I made some interesting scenarios and scenario plans. Unfortunately, they were never released or finished since after that at the CS legion we needed to concentrate on Middle East and the same time my spare time was dwindling as I moved to a more demanding position in my working life. So eventually I dropped out of the CS legion and transferred the things I had done for CS ME and Vietnam to Jason. CS WF stuff remained on the shelf and I might even have lost the files over time.

CS West Front Scenario by Huib Versloot | 82nd Airborne at Nijmegen

CS West Front Scenario by Huib Versloot

4: What is your process for scenario design? It must be difficult to try and recreate a historical event but also create an enjoyable scenario.   How do you go about addressing this?

I don’t remember the precise process anymore as it has been a while. In the previous interview you had with Don, I think he described it well. You start by designing the map and you determine the scope. In the past I wrote a few documents about scenario designing and map making. I don’t know if they still exist somewhere but I would guess they still apply.

Making a good scenario is almost like writing a book to me. You have to make sure to get all the details right (at least I’m quite purist when it comes to the OOB etc.). I would always like to have both sides of the story. So normally I would want to have both Allied and German documentation. I read and write German as well so that makes it easier.

In most cases I would also combine with my other hobby, which is visiting the battlefield, but that is only nice and not necessary to deliver a good scenario. For enjoyability and balance some “feeling” is involved I think. For balance you can do a lot with victory conditions and points vs unit losses etc. I think I described that somewhere in one of those documents. I had a “system” that worked very well, but by now I have forgotten that “system” lol.

5: You mentioned that visiting a battlefield in not necessary to deliver a good scenario? Is this because of the nature of the period you are designing a scenario for (larger battlefields over wide areas as opposed to, for example, Waterloo) or the terrain has changed over time (urbanisation or regrowth of forests) or maybe personal inclination?

Indeed, it is not necessary, it is fun though. What is necessary is a good period topographical map, or knowledge of the terrain changes since the events in case you would use google earth to map for example. I used to use both; the topographical map to know what human structures and terrain type existed and google earth to know the terrain heights. I would then make a transparent hex overlay in google earth and by hovering the mouse over each hex I would know the height value of that hex.

6: Please tell me more about battlefield archaeology.

Every year I used to go to the Ardennes with my elder brother for a mid-week, to investigate a subject, (mostly a unit that participated in the battle of the Bulge or Hürtgen) that we had studied beforehand. The last years we were also joined by a friend of ours who has been a staff sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was very skilled in using the metal detector and could identify almost any rusty object we dug up.  On the last trip we dug up a piece of metal and it wasn’t even completely out of the soil and he said “It’s a Garand”, before I could even see it was a rifle.

As I said we would read /study and from what we read we would try to find evidence. For example, we read the book “Victory was beyond their grasp” about the German 272nd VG division and they had been in very close combat with the Americans on a slope just east of Kommerscheidt. We found cartridges of both sides mixed and hand grenades etc. It was evidence that had really been a fight of man to man as described in the source.

7: When I visited Holland a few years back and we were driving to the Airborne Museum Hartenstein you were telling me about another hobby. It is not game related but I think interesting in how you catalogue bird activity in a certain area over time. I’m not sure how but I think the same attention to detail and aspect of discovery and documentation required for bird watching would come in useful for game scenario design?

My other hobby is something that I actually already started when I was a child. It is bird watching. This hobby ended basically at the age when you get interested in “other birds” lol. When my dad gave him his camera with zoom lens a few years ago, it just started from there again. You never forgot what you learn at a young age so I could still identify a lot of bird species. The good thing is that just like battlefield archeology it is outdoors. In Holland quite a bit of statistical data is collected of birds and nature. So each year I count all the breeding birds in a patch of nature near Amsterdam, that has bit of forest, swamp and a lake so has many different species of birds.  Very early in the morning is the best time walk your round to count the birds, as they are singing and you can identify them by their song, as that is much easier than by visual recognition. You enter the species in the app (with GPS coordinates) on your smartphone and send it over to SOVON (which is the institute that collects the data). Over the months that the birds are breeding (from March to July) you walk several rounds and software (each species has certain parameters) calculates how many individual territoria of each species are present. Modern technology is very helpful in this.

The sad thing is that since I was young there are now 50% less birds in Europe. Like in many areas, the rise of industrial agriculture has wiped out many wild plants, insects and ultimately the animals that eat insects: birds.

 

 

Hack’s Hardcore Hints #6: Initial Battlefield Craters

Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

In Hack’s Hardcore Hints series, David Galster shares some of his scenario design toolkits for Campaign Series: Vietnam, a work-in-progress tactical platoon-scale wargame.

It’s a pleasure, Campaign Series Wargamers,

Have you ever played a scenario, starting with a pristine battlefield, yet knowing that there had been previous combat at the location? Not realistic right? Well, there is a way to put artillery craters on the game map – right from the start. So now you can see, (in 3D mode,) shellholes on the very first turn. This is like the Campaign Series Vietnam scenario editor option to rubble cities. However, the craters must be added by manipulating the *.scn file itself, and not with the scenario editor.

Crater Code Basics

In the game engine, all crater codes start with 13, then have the X coordinate, Y coordinate, and a firing points number. (12, 16, 30, 48, are a few.) There are single spaces in between. The code line for a hex with craters looks like:

13 2 10 48

So to “pre-crater” a scenario, first open the scenario file, (*.scn) using Notepad ++ or jEdit that has the ability to add or modify text. Then add the code lines in the “Unit Data” section.

Generating with EXCEL

These can be generated by an EXCEL spreadsheet if you have a pattern that you want, and can define by coordinates. The variation numbers can be picked from a column file using a random number generator.  Be careful not to put craters over trench hexes, or it will negate the trench. Since they are there for visual effect only, be careful not to put them on top of other functional scenario elements like trenches, mines, etc.

A set of crater codes in a scenario file looks like this:

13 2 12 16

13 2 14 48

13 2 16 30

13 2 18 36

13 2 20 30

The spreadsheet will generate codes in a group of cells. These can be pasted into Notepad++, using unformatted text, but they will be tab delimited. They will look like this:

13              2          10        48

13              2          12        48

13              2          14        16

13              2          16        36

13              2          18        68

 

To replace the tabs with spaces, (you can see the tabs by toggling the “paragraph” key, ¶,) perform a “find” on “→” and replace with a single space. Use the “replace all” option in Notepad++. Then, they will be in a form that can be copied an pasted into the *.scn file. These need to be located in the “Unit Data” section, and can be placed just before the “data footer” part of the scenario file.

Crater Density

You may wonder about the significance of the fourth number, like 48, 16, 36, etc. That number is the cumulative number of points fired on that hex. From 1 to 23, there is a smaller pattern of five craters. From 24 to 47 the pattern has 11 craters, and for 48 and above it has 14.

In CS Vietnam, they look like this:

Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

Trio of Possible Crater Patterns

Sample Scenario File with Craters

Here is an example of a scenario file and what it looks like with the crater codes added. See the boldface codes near bottom, just above the data footer.

[——————————– data header —————————]

26

Laos Test Map

0 0 0 1-30[d]

0 0 0 0 1-30[20]

9 0 2 5 80 80 80 80

0

0 0 0 0 0 0 0

100 100 0 -1

0 0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0 0

Testmap.map

Testmap.org

Testmap.ai

Testmap.lua

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3

0 0

0 0 0 0 20

1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1

[——————————— unit data —————————-]

0 0 0 P136508 87 1 1 4 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 0 1 P132101 44 1 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 0 1 P131004 35 1 32 3 0 0 100 5 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 0 10 P103014 29 1 1 2 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 1 0 P106523 28 1 1 2 0 0 100 5 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 1 0 P131013 88 1 32 4 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 1 1 P138015 74 1 1 1 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 1 8 P132109 32 1 2 6 0 0 100 5 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 1 8 P136802 43 1 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 1 11 P106564 30 1 1 1 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 2 0 P106504 24 1 1 2 0 0 100 5 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 2 1 P132104 77 1 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 2 3 P212090 84 1 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 2 11 P104001 73 1 32 1 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 2 11 P132109 33 1 1 6 0 0 100 5 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

2 2 17 524288

2 2 18 1

0 3 1 P102091 41 1 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

2 3 5 65536

2 3 9 524288

0 3 18 P212002 79 1 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

 

 

0 5 3 P138809 75 1 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 5 4 P211033 40 1 1 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 5 5 P217025 2 1 1 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 5 5 P211029 1 1 32 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 5 5 P212021 37 1 2 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 7 8 P212004 6 16 8 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 7 8 P211013 7 16 32 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 7 8 P212009 8 16 4 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 7 8 P212004 5 16 1 6 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

2 7 8 128

2 7 9 1

0 8 8 P218012 45 1 1 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

0 8 8 P218011 46 1 32 3 0 0 100 6 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

2 8 9 8192

7 5 0 1 0 100 1 1 0

P132096 36 8 8 2 0 0 100 5 0 0 0 3 3 3 3 0 0 -1 -1

19 P105037

19 P105037

19 P105037

19 P105037

19 P105037

19 P105037

19 P105037

19 P135001

19 P105044

13 2 10 48

13 2 12 16

13 2 14 48                       Crater Codes

13 2 16 30

13 2 18 36

13 2 20 30

 

[——————————– data footer —————————]

0 -1

1

David Galster

05 September, 1970

Admiring Your Work

So after you modified the scenario file, go ahead and start a new game, and in the 3D mode, look at the area where you wanted craters. There should be artillery crater holes of various patterns, making the battlefield look like the random, tattered mess that any should look like after only a few hours combat.

Campaign Series Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

Hack’s Hardcore Hints #5: Locating Hexes on Master Maps

Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore HintsIn Hack’s Hardcore Hints series, David Galster shares some of his scenario design toolkits for Campaign Series: Vietnam, a work-in-progress tactical platoon-scale wargame.

It’s a pleasure, Campaign Series Wargamers,

If you read the article about the Master Map Concept, you may have wondered what method can be used to accurately place overlays in separate, unconnected parts of the map. Here is an explanation of the method I’ve been using.

Map Coordinate Systems

A Master Map must first be set up in either a geographic coordinate system, or Military Grid Reference System, MGRS. Since the Vietnam topo maps all have MGRS grids, I’ll show how it is done that way. The MGRS grids use in rectangular, (x, y) coordinates, while geographic coordinates use degrees latitude and longitude. A method for geographic coordinates exists, but the calculations are more complex.

A reference point for the entire Master Map must first be established. This defines an MGRS reference coordinate, and a corresponding hex coordinate for the CS Map.

With a set of reference coordinates, the process to find a hex coordinate for another MGRS coordinate can be accomplished.  The MGRS coordinates usually used are the two digit number shown on topographical maps. These represent the easting, or x coordinate, and northing, or y coordinate, and the units are kilometers.

Example

For example, a reference MGRS coordinate might be 6960 or x= 69 km and y= 60 km, and the reference hex number (118, 29). If another point is given, where another overlay is to be positioned, then the differences in x and y can be easily found. Let’s say that we want to locate a hex number for MGRS  7262. Then we find the differencs such that Δx = 72 – 69 = 3 and Δy  = 62- 60 = 2. These can be converted to hex differences because a hex = 250 m. In the vertical direction there are 4 hexes to the kilometer and in the horizontal, 4.619. The reason for this difference is the interlocking of hexes when going from hex to hex in the horizontal direction. (Divide 4 by cosine 30° = 4.619.)

So the hex deltas are Δx = 3*4.619 = 13.856 and the Δy = 2*4 = 8. So the new hex coordinate is reference plus deltas: nx = 118+13.856 = 131.856, and ny = 29 – 8 = 21.

The new hex coordinate is (132, 21). The subtraction is because vertical hexes are numbered increasing downward, while MGRS are increasing upward. If you were trying to accurately place an overlay, you would not go directly in the center of hex (132, 21) but slightly to left of center, since the computed coordinate is a little less than 132.

EXCEL Spreadsheet

This can be more conveniently done with an EXCEL spreadsheet and here is an example:

Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

The values are all in column D and labels, symbols, and units to the left. The upper portion is for inputs and the lower for calculations. Once the reference hex and MGRS coordinates are entered, then the target MGRS values are entered in the yellow field.

The calculation section determines the delta distances in kilometers, and then determines the targe hex coordinates, in the blue highlighted fields. Because of the zig-zag of hexagon positions, the vertical values are different depending on whether the horizontal hex coordinate is even or odd. But regardless the center is where the decimals are all zero.

The EXCEL spreadsheet for this may be downloaded here.

Here is a screenshot of the overlay that was positioned based on this calculation:

Overlay Positioned by new Hex Coordinate (132, 21)

Conclusion

I hope this gives you a method you can use for making accurate Master Maps.

Well, CS Wargamers, until next time . . .

Campaign Series Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

Hack’s Hardcore Hints #4: Map Making Sequence

 Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

In Hack’s Hardcore Hints series, David Galster shares some of his scenario design toolkits for Campaign Series: Vietnam, a work-in-progress tactical platoon-scale wargame.

It’s a pleasure, Campaign Series Wargamers,

Have you ever wanted to get into scenario design, but hesitated because of the daunting amount of work in map making? With all the roads, various terrain features, elevations, streams, and labels, it can seem overwhelming. Those were the things that kept me from doing scenario design for a couple of years. But, with a good plan of attack, you can simplify the whole operation, and do it in a systematic way that will make the job more manageable.

Grid Overlay

The most important concept that helped me overcome my fears was the hex grid overlay. I began by making a screenshot of a blank map (with coordinates showing of course,) and then pasted this onto a topographical map using the transparency feature. You need a graphics software to make the transparency. PaintShop Pro, Gimp, and formerly the Microsoft Picture-It software are needed to make the grid semi-transparent. (40-50%) Currently I use a software called Photo Pad Image Editor. But, there are many software out there that can make an image semi-transparent to paste over a topographical map.

Best Topo Maps

And the best topographical maps to use for Campaign Series are the 1:50000 scale. That best fits the 250-meter hexes, and the level of detail available in the map editor. Preferably, the topographical map will have elevation contour lines. These are the best tool for putting on elevations.

Sequence of Adding Elements

Once you have a suitable topographical map and have the overlay, what is next? What is the best approach for making the map overall? It is still quite an undertaking. The best way is to use this sequence:

  1. Roads, streams, and towns
  2. Elevations
  3. Foliage and terrain
  4. Labels

Roads, streams, and towns

By placing the roads, trails, streams, and towns first, this sets up a structure that aids in doing the elevations. The waterways are particularly important, and indicate how the contours should go. If there are areas of swamps or lakes, these should also be placed in the beginning along with roads and streams. Make sure that all villages and towns are identified as well. This will help with elevation work later.

Elevations

Then tackle the elevations. Do this prior to adding terrain features like jungle, because these tend to obscure the contours, and color differences when viewing in both 2D and 3D. With elevations, it is best to work on small areas of the map at a time, using streams as boundaries.  Use the topo map contour lines, and trace out a line of hexes with that particular elevation on the map. Change the elevations along streams, one hex on each side. And then, look for high points or ridges between streams. The hexes in between are filled in last.

One important rule: A stream should never run uphill and then downhill again in the same direction. This may sound overly simple, but I have played several scenarios in the past that had “supernatural” streams that could flow uphill. Pay close attention to this, as it will help with elevations in general. Lakes and swamps covering several hexes should all have the same elevation. Keep this in mind with rice paddies also, although terraces can allow elevation changes in a group of rice paddy hexes.

Once the streams and contours are finished, then fill in between the contour lines. Using this systematic approach you can get the elevations reasonably good. There is a three-level limitation, so that if two adjacent hexes are more than three levels apart, the 3D transition will not look good. Try to avoid this if possible.

After finishing elevations, it is best to look over the whole map in 3D. This will reveal any inadvertent “holes” or areas missed. Also, it provides an opportunity to spot hexsides with more than three elevation levels difference. As mentioned earlier, it is easier to spot elevation errors before adding all the jungles and other foliage features.

Foliage and terrain

The terrain features, like jungle, scrub, or tall grass, etc. can be handled systematically by referring to the hex coordinates. Simply start from left to right, and concentrate on one vertical column at a time, selecting and changing each hex from top to bottom. If your screen is too small to cover the whole map, then just do smaller rectangular areas at a time. If there are large areas with the same terrain, like light jungle, then a whole column of hexes can be changed at once. Click on the upper hex to change its elevation, and then hold down the control key (Ctrl) and click on a hex somewhere below it. The in-between hexes will immediately be converted to the selected elevation. This speeds up the process.

Labels

Finally, make the labels. I like to put a geographic coordinate somewhere on my map, using degrees and minutes, preferably with rounded minutes. Like 15°20’N, 105°35’E. This serves as a reference for players, and others who may want to find additional maps of that area. I use the left justification that puts a little plus sign (+) on the left side of the label. I use plain size 1 font for this. For small towns or villages, the font size is 0 and center justified, with plain black color. Streams are labeled using the “water” or blue color and mountains and forests that are named use the “Forest” or green color. I also label roads if they have a Route Number. Airports or other military facilities use “Special” or a red color. For the CS Vietnam map editor, I use the “Transparent Enhanced” option. That puts a thin white background around the text, and makes it stand out better if placed over dark green terrain. The term “transparent” means that the map background shows between the letters. This is more evident when viewing in the 3D mode.

Conclusion

Well I hope that you are encouraged to design scenarios, and not get discouraged because of map making. If you have a plan of attack, like all other things in war, it will make the job easier and less stressful.

I’m fairly certain that Col. Hackworth appreciated the value of good maps, and used them to plan his attacks on the VC.

 

Hack’s Hardcore Hints #3: Flavor Text

Campaign Series Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

In Hack’s Hardcore Hints series, David Galster shares some of his scenario design toolkits for Campaign Series: Vietnam, a work-in-progress tactical platoon-scale wargame.

It’s a pleasure, Campaign Series Wargamers,

You might wonder, “What in the world is ‘Flavor Text’?” And, this is understandable. But, have you ever started reading a long-winded scenario description only to find yourself nodding off to sleep? All those detailed organizational phrases, passive tone sentences, and non-descriptive bureaucratese adjectives? Did it read like an Army FM manual?

Well, writing can be exciting and interesting, as well as informative. Flavor text can add some “spice” and intrigue to any scenario description. The most familiar example of flavor text I can give you was the advertising description on the old Avalon Hill Panzer Leader box:

“The sound of sporadic fire break over the ridge line.  Back in the distance, the deep rumble of the American heavy artillery echoes up and down the valley. The Allied offensive is now about to begin!

 Spread out behind the lead German tank is a motley column of Panzers and tired, but experienced, German infantry.  This is all that remains, to plug the breach on the front. .

 Outnumbered and outgunned, the chances are slim for German Kampfgruppe. . .

And they would be, except for the lone, solitary figure atop the front Tiger . . .

 This man is the Kampfgruppe commander. He has seen all the important battles in the war: France, 1940; Russia, 1941; Tunisia, 1942; Sicily and Italy, 1943; and now in the year 1944, he defends fortress Europe from the Allied invasion. 

He is the “Panzer Leader.”

This alone may have sold many a game to excited wargamers. The flavor text paints a picture in words of the battlefield scene, and somehow stirs emotions. This helps to maintain reader attention, and add enjoyment. Novel authors use this approach.

How to write flavor text, but without being too corny?

The key is to use adjectives and nouns that convey visual imagery and also describe sounds. In this example, these phrases provide visual imagery: “motley column of panzers,”   “solitary figure atop the front Tiger,”  and “fortress Europe.”

As for sound: “sound of sporadic fire,” and “deep rumble of American heavy artillery echoes up and down the valley.”

Writing flavor text is mostly an art. The writer has to use some imagination, and perhaps do a little brainstorming, and not be afraid to use a Thesaurus.

Here are some useful flavor text keywords:

  • Thunder
  • Cold Steel
  • glint of dawn
  • Clank
  • Scream
  • Roar
  • Smoke, haze rising from the ruins of hapless tanks…
  • rat-a-tat-tat
  • infantry (riflemen, grunts, soldiers, etc) hug (grasp, cling, grip) the earth, (sod, ground, dirt, mud, ect)
  • gun crews load their weapons
  • commanders bark orders and shouts of encouragement
  • wave upon wave
  • ominous minefields ringed with razor-sharp barbed wire…
  • fiery inferno
  • onrush
  • deadly hell
  • hailstorm of fire
  • grayclad landsers
  • battleworn veterans
  • trembling in fear

To write flavor text paragraphs, keep these points in mind, and use this general structure:

  1. Describe environmental sounds and sights- “Clanking thunder”
  2. Portend the imminent attack or enemy action (from defender POV) through imagery. Metaphor, hyperbole, simile, etc. “Heralding the arrival of an onrushing wave…”
  3. Describe emotions or actions of combatants in poetic terms- “Riflemen hugged the earth…”
  4. Use some visible or audible sign that symbolizes the opening fight. ‘Topping the rise, a glint of dawn reflects off the muzzle of a German Panther…
  5. Announce the opening of the attack- “The attack of the 116. Panzer is about to begin!”

How to incorporate this into a scenario description? Here is a possible structure:

  1. Background situation. Calmly gives history of the units and situation.
  2. Describe the attacker’s goals and forces
  3. Describe defenders’ forces.
  4. End with flavor text. Dramatic effect to put player right into the battle.

With the new CS Event Engine, scenario designers can provide side specific briefings to be shown on the first turn of the game. These can give information that is intelligence and not intended for the other side to see. (Remember, scenario descriptions are seen by both players.) These can also be tailored to the kind of lingo used by the country. Communist propaganda lingo is particularly unique, but colorful, and adds interest and enjoyment. For example, if the first side is North Vietnamese, the briefing might be like so:

“Comrade Quang Tuyen: troops of the Vietnam People’s Army  face fierce engagements with enemy resistance, and must capture Pleiku, by storm, and liberate it from the yoke of the American Imperialist Invaders.

 The latest Cuc Nghien Cuu intelligence indicates massive bombing attacks are planned by American reactionaries. Keep our air defence forces alert!

 Long live our victorious Resistance war!”

Communist propaganda lingo is always politically charged with ideological terminology. The purpose is to excite proletarian emotions against whoever the non-communist enemy is. Communists always refer to each other in a friendly fashion as “comrade.”

The enemy is always portrayed in evil, but ideological, terms. The Soviets referred to the Germans as: always either fascists, Hitlerite, Nazi, reactionary, invaders, or bourgeois.

However the communists always refer to themselves in noble terms such as revolutionary, anti-fascist, proletarian, Bolshevik, the people’s . . . etc.

For the Vietnam War, there were variations used by the North Vietnamese to describe the French and later, the Americans: They were always  colonialist, imperialist, capitalist, invaders, occupiers, landlords, or reactionary.

And the North Vietnamese referred to themselves as anti-colonialist, proletarian, communist, resistance, socialist, liberation workers, radicals, comrades, the people’s . . .

And then there are various closings used by communists. Closings from Stalin’s Orders:

  • Long live the Red Army and Navy!
  • Long live the green and women guerrillas!
  • Long live our glorious native land, its freedom and its independence!
  • Long live the great party of the Bolsheviks which is leading us to Victory!
  • Long live the invincible banner of the great Lenin!
  • Under the banner of Lenin onward to the defeat of the German—fascist invaders!

Closings used by Ho Chi Minh:

  • Workers, peasants, soldiers, youth, school students! Long live the revolutionary war!
  • Oppressed and exploited fellow-countrymen! Long live the Resistance War!
  • Long live independent Viet Nam!
  • Long live the unity of the entire people!
  • Long live the Viet Nam National United Front!
  • Long live the Vietnamese-Cambodian-Laotian great unity!
  • The resistance will certainly be victorious!
  • The camp of peace and democracy will certainly be victorious!

 You can use these examples, and without overdoing it, or making it too corny, these can add some interest, enjoyment, and perhaps a little humor into scenario descriptions and side specific briefings.

I imagine Col. Hackworth was not impressed with journalists’ flavor text regarding the American Army problems in Vietnam . . .

Campaign Series Vietnam | Hacks Hardcore Hints

Interviews with the Masters: Don M. Fox

Foreword by Scott Cole

I have been playing CS ever since the original East Front was released. At times, I would take a break from the game, mostly due to time commitments elsewhere, and have played other games but I have always returned to CS. I attribute my continued enjoyment of this long running game franchise to our community of gamers, the friendships among us that have developed over the years and the incredible number of scenarios covering everything from the Spanish Civil War, the Italians fighting in Ethiopia, the Pacific Theater and, of course, the carnage on the Russian Front.

Full credit must be given to all the scenario designers and I will embark on a series of Q&As with the designers I have derived countless hours of enjoyment by playing their games. I won’t be able to interview everyone and while I was absent from CS there has been a few designers such as Tanker Tony and Dan Caviness creating ambitious games. If designing scenarios were easy, I would have created a ton of them by now, so even if this Q&A series misses a few of your favorite scenario designers I would like to extend my appreciation to everyone that has spent the many hours creating scenarios, thereby strengthening our gaming community.

Interviews with the Masters: Don M. Fox

Don M. Fox

Leading this series off with Don Fox. I’ve enjoyed a few games with Don over the years and have always noticed the attention to detail he puts into scenario design, especially the fact that many of the leaders appearing in his games are actual soldiers he has communicated with.  I don’t know where he gets the time, between his day job and writing an excellent book on the 4th Armored Division. You’ll find out all about it below.

1:  How long have you been playing CS?

I believe that my first games were in 1998. At that time, I reconnected via email with an old high school friend, Tom DeHoff. We had spent many years in band together, which is where our friendship really started. But it turned out we both had an interest in wargaming. Tom’s interest was heavily centered on the Civil War, and he compelled me to purchase my first PBEM turn-based computer wargame (a civil war simulation).  My main interest was always WWII history (with an emphasis on the campaign on the 1944/45 campaign on NW Europe), and it wasn’t long after that when we started playing Talon Soft’s West Front. I believe I joined the Blitz in 1999 or 2000 (as did Tom), and the rest is history. While I don’t play nearly as often as I did during those early years, I still retain a little bit of pride in remaining in the top 10 after all this time. But I sure wish I had been able to stay above a .500 win percentage! LOL

2:  What prompted you to start designing scenarios?

I have always had an affinity for the US 4th Armored Division. There were few stock scenarios that featured the 4th (two that come to mind are “Melee at Moncourt” and ‘Old Friends”), and I had a yearning to play some scenarios that dealt with the 4th AD.  My goal from the start was to create some scenarios that were as authentic as possible, specifically in regard to the Order of Battle (down to the strength of the platoons if I could uncover those facts) and the accuracy of the maps.  In total, I have designed 21 scenarios (one of which was done in tandem with Huib Versloot). Many of those scenarios feature the 4th Armored (not only at the Bulge, but also a couple of scenarios centered on Arracourt, and one simulating the attack on Troyes). But eventually I turned my attention to other units and battlefields. I designed a series of scenarios based upon action along the 6th SS Panzer Army front during the early days of the Bulge, the 5th Panzer Armies assault on Bastogne, and the US XX Corps attack toward the Moselle during September.

3: What is the scenario(s) you feel most proud of?

That is like asking who your favorite child is!  Every one of them has a special place in my designer’s heart; I never short-changed my research on any of them, and when complete, felt confident that they would stand up to scrutiny by the most hard core gamers interested in accuracy (to some, accuracy is of no concern…but I always strive to appeal to that subset of players who really are interested in replicating history to the greatest degree possible). Through the research, I learned a tremendous amount more about the battle than I did before I began the project.  I guess if I had to pick one, however, it would be “Drive to Bastogne.”  It is a big scene, with the entire 4th AD and most of the 101st Airborne and supporting units in play.  This map and OB was used to spin off a number of other scenarios based upon the fighting around Bastogne. With the work done on the OB and map, the other scenes become relatively easy by comparison. This is really where it all started.  And most importantly, it was the work on this scenario that eventually led to my writing “Patton’s Vanguard”, which was truly a life-changing experience.

4: What is your process for scenario design? It must be difficult to try and recreate a historical event but also create an enjoyable scenario. How do you go about addressing this?

It begins with an interest in the battle, and a belief that the engagement will be compelling in some way for the players.

The very first requirement before getting started, however, is accessing a topographic map of the area that can be use to prepare a map to proper scale using the CS scenario design tool.  I went so far as to purchase 1:50,000 scale maps, and then worked meticulously to translate them. Along the line, Huib [Versloot] did me the HUGE favor of sending me a hex grid template for that scale that I printed on a transparency. Oh my goodness, had I had that a the start, life would have been SO much easier! Creating the map requires a great amount of judgment on the part of the designed. Not all terrain features, road, and population centers line up neatly within the context of the hexagon grid. You have to make a constant series of compromises, and if you are really taking your time with it, doing so in an attempt to preserve as much as you can of the real line of sight obstructions (or more importantly, where there SHOULD be critical lanes of observation and direct fire that were important on the real battlefield.  Trust me, to get it as close to right as possible is no small task.

Once the map is complete, I turn my attention to develop the OoB. It begins with basic research on the unit designations, but then the real challenge is making adjustments to platoon strengths to best represent the historic strengths. Admittedly, this involves some educated guesses from time to time (particularly for the German side, since the historical information pales compared to what you can find for the American forces.

Once you have the OoB, the next step in your research is to establish the starting positions as accurately as you can from your research.  The lastly, establishing the victory hexes, their values, and the overall victory point levels.  Setting the victory levels is really where the playtesting comes in.  There are basically two different philosophies among designers when it comes to the assignment of VPs for objective hexes, and frankly, I can see the merits of both (though I have always used just one).

A common feature in my designs has been the assignment of very large point values for key objectives. Attrition can certainly play an important role in determining victory or defeat in my scenes, but the design is usually such that the players cannot focus solely on the attrition differential to determine the outcome. Since the primary goal of a military force is almost always incapacitating the enemy (while limiting one’s own losses) I can understand the merits of designs that lean more in that direction.  But I have always opted to replicate the act of seizing key objectives (or the defense of those objectives) that are usually critical to any action.

5: I believe a few of your scenarios contain leaders of actual participants you interviewed?

Without exception, I place as many historical figures into the scenes as I can. I have never used a fictional personality for any American figures. I try to avoid it for the German side, but if my research can’t come up with enough names that played a key role in the battle, I might have used some fictional characters in order to achieve some play balance (but frankly, I would have to even double check that, because I am such a stickler about it!).  I place historical figures of all ranks, and generally place as many as I can find in the record. This is as much to honor the memories of these men as it is anything else.

Campaign Series Scenario Design

It was during my research for “Drive to Bastogne” that I came across emails for the company commanders for A/37 (John Whitehill) and B/37 (Jimmie Leach). This led to correspondence with them to better determine the composition of the 37th Tank Battalion. And it wasn’t long after my correspondence with them that they introduced me to Albin F. Irzyk, who commanded the 8th Tank Battalion (a 27-year-old Major during the Bulge).  My many months of corresponding with these veterans for the purposes of war game design led to my decision to broaden my research in order to write the unit history of the 4th Armored.

Unfortunately, both John and Jimmie have passed away (as have most of the other veteran I interviewed). However, “Al” Irzyk, who retired as a Brigadier General after Vietnam, recently celebrated his 101st birthday! I wrote the book for the veterans and their families, and I was fortunate to find a traditional publisher (and better yet, the book is still in print).

To this day, families of 4th AD veterans will reach out to me for additional insight about their loved ones, and it is a honor for me to be able to help many of them find more information about what role their father or grandfather had during the war. It is the gift that keeps on giving. And it would have never happened without a strong interest in wargaming, and the Campaign Series in particular!

6:  I believe the interviews I mentioned previously were conducted as research for your book Pattons Vanguard?  Do you have a couple of example where your work designing scenarios helped you with book research (and vice versa)?

The work on the master scenario “Drive to Bastogne” was basically the catalyst for the book. I had spent well over a year doing the research and refining the scenario. After completing the project, I realized what a shame it would be to not make better use of all of the research and interview notes (only a portion of which made its way functionally into the scenario.

Campaign Series Scenario Design | Patton's Vanguard

During my research, I became aware that a definitive history of the division had never been written (despite its magnificent accomplishments), and I somewhat impulsively promised General Irzyk that I would take on the project.  I thought at the time that perhaps I had the lion’s share of the research already done. But man, oh man, did that turn out to be far from the truth! It took a tremendous amount of work to pull together the history in the manner and level of detail I desired.  I opted to cove the time period from the activation of the division up until the end of the Battle of the Bulge (had I written the full history until the end of the war, and maintained the level of detail in the narrative, the book would have run well over 800 pages, and it is very unlikely that I would have found a publisher for a work of that size.

Now, in contrast to Drive to Bastogne, the other 4th AD scenarios came about BECAUSE of the book. It was through my book research that I was able to construct the Troyes and Arracourt scenarios (plus the Bulge scenario “Hitler’s Last Gamble” which depicts the German attack against the relief corridor at the end of the year).

7:  I’m wondering where you got the time for Campaign Series as I have it on good authority that you have a demanding full-time job?

When I began playing CS, I was a franchise field consultant for Burger King Corporation (I have worked in the restaurant industry for 44 years now).  I am sure some of you can relate to how addictive the game can be, and I must say, during those years, I racked up more time at the PC than was probably wise!  The scenario design work was more intense and deliberate than the gaming, and during that time, it was my primary hobby.

When I began working on the book, it went to an entirely different level. Talk about burning the candle at both ends! I would often leave my home office at 7 or 8 AM, heading off for my BK duties for the day.  Upon arriving home, I’d spend time with the family (I had two young boys at the time), and at some point, hunker down for the night.  One many occasion, I might be up researching and writing until 2 or 3 AM. I’d grab about three or four hours of sleep and be back at it again.  I think it is fair to say that, for most people, when you tell your spouse you are going to write a book, the eyeroll and chant of “riiiigghhttt” is the typical and expected response.  Despite her skepticism, my wife was tolerant of my endeavor. Had she not been supportive, I doubt I could have done it (either that, or it would have been the end of our marriage!).

I left Burger King in early 2003 (or more accurately, Burger King left me!), and I had at that point completed the first draft of the book and had secured the publishing contract. I joined Firehouse Subs shortly thereafter as the Director of Franchise Compliance (the brand had only 65 restaurants at the time). I had some final work to do on the book to prepare it for publication, but the intensity was nowhere near what it had been prior to completing the initial draft.

A tremendous highlight at that time was, upon the recommendation of General Irzyk, contacting the famed historian Martin Blumenson to see if he might contribute a Foreword for the book. To my delight, he agreed, and the rest is history (no pun intended).

During the years that followed, I went on to help grow the Firehouse Subs brand, becoming the COO in 2005, and CEO in 2009. Today, we have 1116 restaurants in 44 states, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.  While the vast amount of my success has been driven by virtue of 44 years in the business and the constant learning along the way, my military studies added immeasurably. The lessons in leadership are many, and all transferable to business.

I have been rewarded in way I could have never predicted. I speak at many industry events around the country, but the most memorable speaking engagements occurred when I have been invited to speak to a military audience. The most humbling was delivering the keynote address in 2014 for the 70th anniversary for the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. It is hard to even describe the feeling of standing before veterans of the battle and their families, thinking that they might find anything I might say to be of value. It really brings you down to earth.

In the end, I must say that my success in business is what allowed me the luxury of pursuing an endeavor like this. Had I not worked as hard as I did for so many years to advance in my field, I could have never marshaled the resources of both time and money to make Patton’s Vanguard a reality.