An Interview with Peninsula Game Designer Drew Wagenhoffer:

New 03/25/05

Back to ACW Campaign Games

Drew Wagenhoffer, the game designer for HPS' Campaign Corinth, Campaign Ozark, and now Campaign Peninsula,which covers Seven Pines and the Seven Days, has yet again consented to a little interview about the new game. Drew explains some of the facets of game design and goes into some of the ideas behind Peninsula as a game.


You are now the designer for three of the first five HPS ACW games. As I've asked in our other interviews, why did you choose the Peninsula Campaign this time around?

Initially, I wanted to just do western campaigns, but I've always liked First Bull Run and the Seven Days battles. Reading Brian Burton's book on the Seven Days kind of pushed me over the edge in terms of motivation. I am glad I did it and now I've done one from each of the three theaters of war.


Did you own most of the source material you mention in your game bibliography, or did you end up getting some or most of it as a result of this game?

I was thinking of the campaign on and off for the last few years and in that time I built up a decent library of books on the campaign. I mentioned Burton's book already for the Seven Days and Steven Newton wrote a pretty good history of Seven Pines. Though not terribly detailed, Sears' "To the Gates of Richmond" is still the best overview of the entire Peninsula campaign. There are many others that I've included in the bibliography inside the game.


How did finding maps and OOBs for this game go? Since this is your first Eastern Campaign game, I would imagine sources had to be more abundant than those for Corinth and Ozark.

Yes, very much so. There were many highly detailed and beautifully colored maps of the Richmond area in the atlas to accompany the Official Records of the war. Also, many more sources exist that allow you to find and compare unit strengths and battery information.


Aside from the Official Records, what was the most important source (or sources) you used in making Campaign Peninsula?

I would say it was a tie between the atlas and the Seven Days book by Burton. They kind of formed a backbone and the other sources confirmed them or filled in the gaps when they were found to be wanting.


Since you already had Corinth and Ozark under your belt, was this game easier to design than either of your previous efforts? Also, did you try anything new design-wise that you learned from the making of Corinth and Ozark?

By this time almost every time saving trick has been exhausted. You still have to make the maps one hex at a time. Though I must say, making the huge Richmond area map was a great learning experience. Nothing can teach you more about the ground than having to reconstruct it one pebble at a time. The main time savings is the knowledge of what design choices (ex. victory conditions, campaign tree, etc.) work better than others and that is gained by experience.


The Seven Days and Seven Pines make Campaign Peninsula unique in this series since all of the battles were fought in a small area east of Richmond. How did this affect your campaign tree, and will players have the ability to play the entire Seven Days at once on a gigantic map?

That's a good question. It was one of the most difficult aspects of designing the campaign and scenarios. You have to break the action down into discrete situations that don't become redundant. So Oak Grove is one situation and the next is Mechanicsville and Gaines's Mill (which naturally flow together) and so on. If you restrict the action to submaps just for the campaign, it allows you to create a campaign without fighting over the same ground in each scenario. I had my doubts at times but I thought it turned out very well.

Yes, I did create "campaign scenarios" that allow you to play the entire Seven Days on a big map. You can also begin at any of the Seven Days and go on from there.


I noticed you did not include the earlier battles of the Peninsula Campaign which occurred farther east such as Williamsburg, Eltham's Landing, and the Siege of Yorktown. Was this a conscious design decision or was there some other reason for not including those fights?

I knew you were going to ask about that. It is a matter of opinion, but, to me, Williamsburg and the Warwick line are just not interesting gaming situations for our system. Both have very narrow fortified fronts with dense obstructions in front and swamps or deep water on each flank. The game system as it currently exists doesn't model amphibious warfare well enough to create situations that would give the Union player the option to outflank these defenses by sea and the Confederate player to properly fear such moves. The Confederate player would just pack their men into the front lines and all the Union troops in the world would not be able to break through.


It looks like there are going to be some interesting what-ifs in this one, including the presence of McDowell's Union I Corps, and the ability to start a Siege of Richmond. Could you make a few comments on these?

There are what-if options for the large multi-day scenarios that allow the arrival of the rest of McDowell's Corps as reinforcements. Also, at certain points during the campaign, I Corps can arrive to help out. The Union player can elect to delay an attack on Richmond during the campaign and bring up his siege train, which consists of many batteries of siege mortars and huge 100 lb Parrott rifles among other things.


Is there any naval action on the James River?

Yes, Union naval forces are available to aid the Army of the Potomac if forced to relocate its supply base to the James River. The Federal ships can alternatively elect to steam up the river and attack Richmond but they will have to contend with the defenses at Chaffin's Bluff and the heavy guns, fortifications, and river obstructions at Drewry's Bluff. The Confederates also have a gunboat.