Saturday, March 3, 2012

An Interesting Conversation with Ed "THW" Teixeira

Okay, so it wasn't the next blog entry that was going to discuss Fire in Korea; it got preempted by an interesting discussion with Ed from Two Hour Wargames about solo gaming. I thought I would share it while I continue to work through Fire in Korea.

Dale: I agree with your statement [on the THW forum on Yahoo] that "solo gaming" has a different meaning for each person. I see the "classic" definition (e.g. Featherstone, Asquith, Grant, Lone Warrior, etc.) as one that includes campaign diaries, mucking about with the rules, trying to program and personalize the Non-Player General, etc. You see a lot of email traffic, and clearly address solo gaming and co-operative gaming which most rules authors do not, so I was wondering whether you find many that take this classic view.

Ed: I do see a lot of solo gaming as the last poll I did had 45% doing solo to one degree or another and TMP had this solo gaming poll. Their numbers seem to reflect the ones I came up with.

Dale: Many people, when asked "how do you play game X solo" simply respond "I play both sides to the best of my ability". When I raised the discussion of solo gaming on the THW forum, the first response was that there are really very few decisions to make, and in most cases the decisions are self-evident.

Ed: I have never understood that reply myself. I would think that you would end up being more of an observer instead of a participant. One reason the Star Power rule (where you can roll to reduce damage to your personal figure) is so popular makes me think that they are impartial to a point.
Interesting side note is that the Star rule is the one I throw out when I play NUTS!. Go figure!
Dale: Do you think most solo gamers you have discussed this with think that the statements "there are really few decisions to make [with THW games]" and "in most cases the decisions are self-evident anyway" are true?

Ed: I think gamers are like everyone else. Those that avoid details or try not to analyze feel that there's not a lot of decisions. Others analyze everything. But my feeling is that they don't want to have to make too many choices so they probably do see it that way.

Dale: Do you think a significant number of solo gamers are looking for something more than you provide? ("Significant" is defined as a large enough number to warrant the effort in developing an additional level of detail.)

Ed: Mechanics wise I don't think so. It seems that the THW gamer trades off the crunchy bits and details in their games for the chance to do easy campaigns where they have less control.

Dale: Please note that I am not trying to say what you have done is not enough. Hell, it is a LOT more than the vast majority of other authors. Many solo gamers salute you.

Ed: No worries. It's a fine line between what the general gaming public wants and what the detail oriented gamers want. THW gamers seem to want more in their campaigns and less in their game mechanics. A good example is when you add more to the game than the REP stat. Not a lot of people like the addition and many do not even use the additional stats. Now in 5150 New Beginnings (NB) they like the multiple stats. The difference is they like the fact that each stat affects a Challenge instead of having multiple stats to resolve one mechanic. In 6GS you went to shoot and checked Cool to see if you could, then REP to see if you hit, then Toughness to see the damage. Some people see that as three stats for one procedure, but with NB you do all of those with REP. Let's say you want to interact with a NPC in NB, you use their People stat. NB is more of an RPG. THW attracts both wargamers and RPGers as well but those that want a more combat oriented game.

Dale: Do you think you've pushed the envelope where you are at the point of diminishing return (more effort will satisfy an ever decreasing number of players)? Do you think if you push too much more detail, you might even lose people (them saying it is too tedious, complex, etc.)?

Ed: I think more detail may lose some people. In fact I've went back to slimming things down in CR 3.0 just for that reason. But one thing I know for sure is you cannot please everyone which is why I have so many titles. Sci Fi, Zombies, and WW2 are the big sellers but there's still a 30% share of sales based on the other periods. So yes, there will be some that want what you are talking about and some that do not. One reason THW has such a large following is it's like a tool box where they can add or subtract as they like and I encourage that.

Dale: There has always been those who are creative with writing, get into the detail, and want to develop a narrative. I am just curious how small you think that "market" is and whether you think that it is not commercially viable to warrant the effort in developing a detailed programmed opponent.

Ed: It depends on what you are looking for. Sales are tougher with less products and everyone says "how can I give CR away free", well that's because it's generic. Generics usually don't sell very well and I like giving the players a free look with a complete game instead of making them pay to see THW mechanics or a chopped up game. There will always be a market. I'm not sure if you're talking about a pre-programmed opponent adaptable to any rules set, but if you are that would be a strong selling point. One thing I do know is that gamers in general do not want to do any work. Ran a poll about scenarios. 602 votes, 2 said they would do their own, 600 said they wanted them. They’te like me, rather just sit down and play a pre-generated scenario.

Dale: Me, I often play solo with "programmed" opponents on both sides.

Ed: That's how I play as well. Yep, when people say they don't like THW 98% of the time it's because they don’t want to lose control. They say that the troops don’t do what they want them to do but there's no way I'll tell them it's usually because they have bad plans. Hope some of this makes sense and maybe even helps.

I thought this discussion was interesting because Ed does have a sizable market (such as it is, for a niche like wargaming) and is currently the largest wargaming forum on Yahoo (at 5,201 members, at the time of this writing), so he has a pretty good demographic to tap for information like this.

I hope you found the conversation as interesting as I did. And for those that aren't as fond of THW rules, maybe you like your games "crunchier" than you suspect. (I do.)


  1. great stuff! Ed's a great dude to talk to and manage his forums well. Personally, I like narrative more than crunchy details and enjoy having my opponent and even my soldiers make some of their own decisions under fire. I was using Chain Reaction 3.0 for Star Wars and blogged two games. While it did have a choppy feel in that each decision was spliced into a mechanic with an action, reaction, re-reaction, re-re-reaction, etc, they usually terminated at a certain point when everyone was OOF, OD or DB.

    I then got Nuts! to play with Star Wars figs [since Star wars doesn't really add much to ground combat over WWII] but didn't get past reading the rules.

    Probably the hardest thing for me to get my head around was "when do all the reactions end" and where do I pick up my turn sequence again! I've heard from several people that they think THW would be more manageable if there was a limit to reactions. I am not proficient enough with them to say that is true or not.

    Both my fights with Star Wars ended in ways that made sense to me. However, I did out-think my AI opponent in that they stupidly wandered into the woods where I ambushed them and cleaned their clocks. That wouldn't have happend perhaps if they were either armed better or I rolled for larger patrols for them, say of equal size.

    Anyway, this is interesting stuff!