An Interview with Shiloh Game Designer Rich Walker:
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Rich Walker, the game designer for HPS' Campaign Shiloh, graciously took the time to answer the following questions concerning Shiloh 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.
You join Drew Wagenhoffer as the second designer of multiple HPS ACW games. As I asked Drew, why did you choose the Shiloh Campaign this time around?
I didn't know you asked Drew about the Shiloh Campaign? Just kidding! Actually, Shiloh is my favorite Civil War battle to study. But before I could get to Shiloh, I had to map out the historical events that led to that bloody encounter. I decided to start with Grant's first battle as the man in charge, Belmont. This battle proved that Grant was a man of action, and willing to take risks. But the main thing that intrigues me about Shiloh, was the fact that in illustrates that rare occasion during the ACW, that a surprise attack was possible on a large scale. The possibilities were endless.
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?
Though I owned much of the material, I like to use these games as an excuse to my wife to justify more purchases.
Despite the title, this game is far from just the Battle of Shiloh. Describe how the Campaign might flow and how you decided which early western battles to include in the game.
As I mentioned, I start with Grant's first major test as a commander, Belmont. That led to Fort Henry, and Fort Donelson. And for good measure, I've incorporated Mills Springs and New Madrid. But as everyone knows, there is always the "what if" situations. Imagine Fort Donelson as a Confederate victory. As such, Grant is forced to retreat and Joe Johnston comes up with the rest of his army to finish the job. They meet at (get this) Frankfort Kentucky. A Southern victory could mean that Kentucky joins the Confederacy!! Or, imagine the Feb 15th breakout attempt at Fort Donelson was a great success, thus saving the army. With the garrison saved, Johnston decides to defend Nashville. There are so many possibilities, I could go on and on! I love it.
How did finding maps and OOBs for this game go? I would assume that the maps and OOBs for Shiloh would be pretty easy, but that some of the smaller and more obscure battles like Belmont and Mill Springs might be more difficult.
Actually, Belmont and Mill Springs was much easier than you might think. And even the maps were not too hard to find. Both were smaller battles and well documented. The internet has become a great way to research Civil War battles. But I still prefer printed material. There is a great book I found at the Fort Donelson gift shop called Mill Springs, by Kenneth Hafendorfer. It documents every twenty minutes of the battle. A great find!
Aside from the Official Records, what was the most important source (or sources) you used in making Campaign Shiloh?
Each battle has its important sources. For example, the two most important books I found covering Shiloh were Shiloh, by Larry Daniels, and Shiloh: Bloody April, by Wiley Sword. Also, I like to look at past gaming efforts. For The Battle of Shiloh, I consulted with Dave Powell, author of the boardgame: A Fearful Slaughter. But in general terms, the best resource outside the Official Records is the internet. The information that can be found is indeed vast.
Since you already had Franklin 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 Franklin?
I learned so much from Franklin, that I feel Shiloh is a vast improvement. For example, I learned from Franklin users, that I needed larger maps, and more meeting engagements. Also, from a techincal point of view, I learned tons. And yes, I tried many new designing features. That's why there are so many parameter data files, or pdt's. They can be used to manipulate almost every aspect of a game. For example, I can simulate bad weather by decreasing visibility and movement.
Unlike Campaign Peninsula, which can be fought on only one map, this Campaign recreates the sprawling Western Theater, and the battles in this campaign cover quite a wide area. This allowed you to choose several other sites for the possible climactic battle in the Campaign. Describe the process involved in choosing these other sites.
I tried to create alternatives to Shiloh by means of logic. It seemed logical that Shiloh would not have taken place had Fort Donelson ended in a Confederate victory. Therefore, I created battles around Cairo, Illinois, and Frankfort, Kentucky. I also created a defense of Nashville and meeting engagements near Jackson Tennessee and even Franklin.
The debut of Shiloh marked the introduction of some new features, such as new rules for gunboats. Feel free to introduce Civil War gamers to these new features.
I introduced the Confederate river fleet and Union mortor boats in Shiloh, and asked Mark Adams to design the 3D icons for each. I also asked him to design a Church building. They're were (and are) so many churches in the South, that special attention was needed for this type of structure. In addition to these, Shiloh introduces many other features, including amphibious landings, shorter nights, supply VPs, gunboat VPs, gunboat battles, sieges, full power defensive fire before a melee, additional weapons, additional unit pictures, urban warfare, and much more.
Since the action in this Campaign is so widespread and involves elements of many different Armies, did this make it more difficult to create an overall OOB for the game than in a more typical ACW Campaign game?
Well, there is no overall OOB. I have designed many OOBs and have mapped them to the org files so loses can be carried over to the next battle. The was no practical way to create a single functional OOB.
Thank you Brett, taking your time to create such an excellent website and for your hours and hours of playtesting and research.
You are very welcome Rich. Thank you for taking the thousands of hours out of your life required to make games of this historical accuracy.