A Peek Inside Mark H. Walker's Brain

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A Peek Inside Mark H. Walker's Brain

Postby Whiterook » Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:07 pm

There are many things I admire about Mark H. Walker, and his wargaming-product company, Lock 'n Load Publishing. He to me, is among the A-list of wargame designers in the business today. I was lucky enough to meet him at a time when I had JUST come to the realization that modern-day wargames are a new-breed all their own, which in many ways elevated the hobby far beyond those limits I previously thought insurmountable.

He has a genius for the business. Not perfect...none of us are...but he is a genius in wargaming design as far as I see it. The sell for me came immediately, in recognizing his taking many of the wargaming values and intents of the 'old systems' and turned them on their head to even higher potential and heights.

He has just started to post his thoughts on the design of his popular conflict simulation series, World at War (WaW), on the LNLP Facebook page. I had noted in the past few days, so questions as to 'where did the numbers come from' on certain pieces...and as we all know, Wargamers can be highly critical and they seemed to really be throwing down on mark. But in classy fashion, he responded with the following excerpts, which I quote directly in italics, colored:

The Abrams platoon rolled out of my brain and into World at War land sometime in 1985. The game system had been perking for at least a couple of weeks. Interestingly enough, the Abrams wasn't the first counter designed for WaW. That distinction belongs to the Israeli's Super Sherman. When the game system idea popped into my head, I originally envisioned it for 1973, and made a set of play test counters using the art from the Valley of Tears game that I designed for Armchair General. These counters never saw the light of day, or the ink of printing. After designing them, I decided I wanted to go all out, design the game that I really wanted to play, so I jumped into the Abrams.

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Let's look at the counter and the logic behind the values, but one thing first; there are no formula's. I understand that some people design with equations. Those people aren't me. I love math, but I'm just not a design by equation guy.

I LOVE THAT!!! '...I'm just not a design by equation guy'. If nothing else can inspire a burgeoning wargame designer, this statement should be posted on your wall!!! One of the most used excuses I hear from people who want to design wargames but are afraid to even attempt it is, they equate the process with some super-complex-equation-filled-method that only a sheldon Cooper-like mind could process. Not true. If you have a good concept and a very good understanding of basic wargaming principles and concepts, you can design a game, and even produce a mocked-up version to play.

Movement: I guess I did some calculations, divided the 150 hexes into kilometers, and the projected time of the turns into an hour, or something. Honestly, I don't remember. 6 MPs seemed about right, and gave me the baseline for other unit's movement factors.

AP Range: The range seems about right to me. M1A1s (with a 120mm gun) routinely knocked out Iraqi T72s at a range of 2,500 meters during Desert Storm, and several claimed kills in excess of four kilometers. But these are just M1s, with the 105mm cannon. I didn't want to make the range any longer for a simple reason. The longer the range, the more time-consuming checking line of sight becomes.

AP Firepower and To Hit Numbers: Easy Peasy. I wanted a platoon of Abrams to dominate a platoon of T72s (the baseline Soviet tank in Eisenbach Gap, the series seminal game). At 4@4 every Abrams attack should average two hits. Combine that statistic with the likelihood of firing twice in a turn (two activation chits), occasionally three times when on defense, and you have a very powerful counter.

HE Firepower and Range: Okay, I admit it, there is a large fudge factor here. Theoretically, an Abrams can throw an HE shell as fall as its AP counterpart. Tankers tell me that never happens. Tanks use machine guns to engage infantry, and save the HE shells for really tough targets. Hence the HE Firepower is a combination of how many machine guns a tank has, combined with the caliber/range of it's main gun.

Armor: The Abram's 3@5 gives it a baseline probability of deflecting one hit each time you roll the dice. Because a T-72 (4@6) will average less than one hit per attack, it makes the Abrams a very tough opponent. As it should be.

Close Assault: This is a bit of a throw away. Tanks with a main gun, and at least one machine gun get a 2@4. Keep in mind that this reflects fighting within a 150-meter hex. At that range a T-72 is about as effective as an Abrams. Give or take.

I find this fascinating stuff. I wish more established wargame designers of popular and successful games out there on the market would take the time to share their thoughts and processes like this. I encourage you to send a thank you to Mark and let him know *he done good!*
If you can't be a good example, be a horrible warning

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Re: A Peek Inside Mark H. Walker's Brain

Postby Frank » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:42 am

There are so many games out there with rules that just don`t seem to make much sense that you are right, it is good to hear some of the thought process behind different decisions. You still might not agree with them but at least you know he made them.
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Re: A Peek Inside Mark H. Walker's Brain

Postby Double Deuce » Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:35 am

I've run into the same dilemma myself when trying to design. There is a tendency I believe to over analyze and over think the little things.

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