An Interview with Franklin Game Designer Rich Walker:
Back to ACW Campaign Games
Rich Walker, the game designer for HPS' Campaign Franklin, graciously took the time to answer the following questions concerning his game and the effort needed to finish it. There are some very interesting comments from Rich in here. I helped Rich later in the playtesting process, and this was my first playtesting gig with HPS. Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Richard Walker, originally from Santa Monica, California, but now I reside in Baxter, Tennessee. Baxter is conveniently located less then 2 hours away from the Franklin battleground. I'm 39 years old with a wife and 2 children. I have taught social studies in the public schools, but now my family owns and operates a restaurant in Baxter.
How and when did you get into wargaming? Who were some big influences in your life that led you into the hobby?
I have always been interested in military history, since before I was 10 years old. My dad taught me how to play chess and a friend introduced me to wargaming in the 7th grade. Does anybody remember a board game called "Victory in the Pacific?" This same friend had a teacher/friend that we played all kinds of games with, including ACW games.
Why did you decide to do Franklin as your first game? Is it your personal favorite?
Actually, my first game was BG9 Chickamauga. I was only a playtester, but I also did a lot of research and A/I scripting for the game (similar to your efforts with Franklin). After that project finished, John Tiller offered me a chance to design my own game. It was already a work in progress, but he thought that I would enjoy doing it because the subject matter was so close to my home.
What, in your opinion, is the hardest part about designing a game such as Franklin? Likewise, was anything easier than expected?
By far, the most difficult aspect of this game was coming up with an historically accurate Order of Battle. Every book on the subject will give you a good organizational description, but none will give you the other important information needed for these types of games (i.e. strengths, weapons, quality, etc...)
If there were no detailed regimental strengths for certain brigades, what were some of the methods you used to estimate those strengths?
The best source of any historian to first consult is the Official Records series. Fortunately, the entire 128 volumes has been put onto a CD. Without this info, I couldn't have attempted the OOB. I have a full description of this process located in my campaign notes found on the Game CD.
How hard was it to find period maps of the areas you recreated in Franklin?
These maps aren't hard to find, if you look in the right place. I once worked for the State of Tennessee's Division of Archeology and these quad maps can be found there. But as I mentioned, this was a project already in progress, and much of the map work had already been done.
Which side do you prefer to play? In other words, Yankee or Confederate?
I've always been a southern sympathizer, and even married a southern belle!
How long did it take from the time you first started work on the game until it was released in November of 2003?
Nearly 4 years. There were many aspects of this project that I was clueless about. So in fits of frustration, I would tend to take long leaves, perhaps 6 months would go by without even a mention of Franklin. But at other moments, I would busily get to work and spend all my spare time working on it. Over these years, I have learned a lot, and could most likely finish this type of project in less than a year. Experience is a great asset!
Do you have any regrets about having to take certain things you wanted out of the game due to time or playability concerns, or were you pretty well satisfied when it was released?
There were several things that I wanted to include as new features, but due to other concerns, they were not possible. Also, I would like to have had the OOB to be 100 percent accurate, but because of playability concerns, I had to consolidate a few regiments that were historically unconsolidated.
How much work goes into making a game of this size, time wise?
As I mentioned, this game took over 4 years to complete, and though I didn't count the exact number of hours I'm sure it surpassed 1,000-2,000 hours. Much of this was my having to redo many completed aspects of the game that needed corrections.
Did you own most of the source material you mention in your game bibliography, or did you end up getting most of it as a result of this game?
It was about 50-50. I did buy some new stuff to add to my informational library, including the "Official Records" on CD.
What was the one single source you relied on most in making Franklin?
As I mention in my "Campaign notes" included on the game CD, the single most important source any researcher can have is a complete copy of the "Official Records of the War of Rebellion."
How do you determine which hexes become objective hexes, and how do you refine the victory level of a scenario and the amount of points each objective hex is worth?
This is a complicated subject. First, I try to
determine what the two protagonists felt were important to them during the battle.
Second, I use logical objectives. Third, I try to determine what may be difficult,
but not impossible to achieve. This means I can direct the armies to a certain
location and plan for the attack. This is especially useful for the many "what
if" scenarios. As for points, the easier the objective, the fewer the points.