Opponents Wanted

Find Gaming Opponents!

Another new feature for Grognard.com, "Opponents Wanted" provides a quick and easy way to locate gaming opponents with similar gaming preferences. Requires site registration. Grognard.com Opponents Wanted

Spotlight Articles

Outstanding articles that are not necessarily linked to one particular game, but may have broad appeal to gamers.

Part 3. The History of The Avalon Hill Game Company 1971-1977

Spotlight Article Graphic

Another installment by Legendary Tactics covering the history of The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC). Several classic and enduring titles were published during this period.

Poster: Robert Holifield
Post Date: 5/21/2024

Part 2. The History of The Avalon Hill Game Company 1964-1970

Spotlight Article Graphic

Legendary Tactics YouTube Channel continues to chronicle the history of Avalon Hill. In Part 2, he looks at the early years of the company, and the growing pains that came along with it.

Poster: Robert Holifield
Post Date: 5/4/2024

Part 1. The Origins of The Avalon Hill Game Company 1952-1963

Spotlight Article Graphic

The Avalon Hill Game Company is 72 years old this year and time to chronicle the history of Avalon Hill. In Part 1, Origins, we will look at the story of not only the establishment of a game company, but an industry and a hobby. Thanks to Legendary Tactics YouTube Channel for this great series.

Poster: Robert Holifield
Post Date: 4/18/2024

Tributes pour in after death of award-winning veteran wargame designer Dean Essig

Spotlight Article Graphic

Mike Didymus-True, in BoardGameWire, brings us the sad news of the passing of designer Dean Essig.

Poster: Doug Holt
Post Date: 4/1/2024

More Spotlight articles...

Gaming Conventions

Gaming Conventions

Another new feature for Grognard.com, the Gaming Convention calendar will make it a snap to keep up with all the latest gaming conventions in your area. But we need your gaming convention information, so please contribute.

Grognard News

Grognard Challenge - Expanded Room for Comments! (6/25/2023)

The Comments entry area has been resized to 512 characters.

Grognard Opponents Wanted (9/14/2022)

New Opponents Wanted function. You can now set your ad expiration date, up to one year. Requires site registration.

Gaming Conventions

New Gaming Conventions calendar. You can see all upcoming gaming conventions worldwide.

If you are sponsoring a board gaming convention of some type, or know of one that is not listed on Grognard.com, then please contact us and let us know!

Gaming Clubs/Organziations

New Gaming Clubs/Organizations listing. You can search for existing gaming clubs worldwide.

If you belong to a gaming club, or know of one, please drop us a line and let us know so we can get it listed on Grognard.com!

New Search Features

Now you can search for specific games (or games by publisher) using the new Game Search feature, located at the top right corner of the this page. In addition you can now harness the power of Google to search the entire Grognard.com site for any specific information you'd like. Just enter a search word or phrase into the Google box labeled "Search All of Grognard.com" and click magnifying glass button. Search features will continue to be improved and enhanced going forward so check back often to see the latest stuff.

Grognard Originals

In addition to our links to great content all around the internet, expect to see more Grognard.com "originals" in the future.

Fast, simple, not expensive, little errata, but only reasonably fun. (War game Review)

In his review on BoardGameGeek, Brendan Whyte first turns a critical eye towards the components and rules and lists their shortcomings. Game play fares better: “…the game is fast and quite fun”. Whyte then goes into comprehensive details covering game mechanics and spares no criticism for the game opponent (AI). His discussion concerning solitaire board games vs solitaire computer games is very interesting.

PE TANG 1900 Q&A with Marco Campari

Some Q & A between myself and Marco Campari, designer of Pe Tang 1900 from Lumaca Games.

PE TANG 1900 Strategy Tips

This is the strategy I developed after playing Pe Tang 1900 from Lumaca Games.

PE TANG 1900 Optional Line of Sight Table

Here is an optional table to make it a little more difficult to eliminate the Boxer artillery.

More Grognard Originals...

Grognard Challenge

Latest Challenge

Have a look at the graphics for the latest Challenge and see past solutions and contest winners.

Recommended (archives)

Wargaming - General Info

Board Wargames

Miniatures Wargames

Computer Wargames

Academic Gaming

Board Games

Internet Based/PBEM Games

Individual Wargamer Blogs

Wargaming Magazines

Asst Software/Player Aides

In Memoriam

Grognards Lost

Please support Grognard.com by supporting our site sponsor, VentoNuovo Games


S T U V W X Y Z '-9
Frank Chadwick: Thunder in the East Designer
Grognard.com exclusive interview with Frank Chadwick, designer of Thunder in the East

Grognard.com: After Game Designer’s Workshop went dark, the board wargaming hobby sort of lost track of you. Now you're back! And the man who brought us the first “monster” wargames (the Europa series) is now, 40+ years later, doing it again with your new ETO series. First, what brought you back into our hobby after the GDW hiatus? Did you miss us?

Frank Chadwick: I was never completely out of the hobby, although I spent the bulk of my time in miniatures gaming, and still do. However, and this will sound strange given the current project, my tastes now generally run to the smaller and less complicated games. That's why I began doing games for Victory Point Games, and I did a half dozen or so for them before we embarked upon this monster-game project. Although, to be fair, even as a monster game, ETO is just a very simple, straightforward system writ large, with the necessary logistical support added.

Frank Chadwick and Ken Keller

Grognard.com: Straight up, what are you thinking, making another monster-size WWII game after all this time? How will this be different from your previous opus, the Europa series? Inquiring wargamers want to know!

Frank Chadwick: What am I thinking? I'll resist the urge to say "do it right," for two reasons. First, lots of gamers still love Europa, and I do as well. ETO is not an attempt to "fix" Europa. Second, this is a different approach, and I like to think it's different because I've learned a few things in the forty-some years since we started Drang Nach Osten.

So how is ETO different? Most obviously, it's one level higher in unit representation (corps are the most common unit level, as opposed to divisions) and the hexes represent about twice the landscape (side-to-side) as in Europa. Interestingly, the turns represent only half the time (about a week in ETO as opposed to two weeks in Europa). However, a big difference is that hardly anything below the nominal scale of the game is represented at all. All of that is subsumed into the "main sequence" of game units.

When we say it is a corps/army level game, that means that in the main theaters you are dealing almost exclusively with corps and armies. The effect is visually striking, and I really like it. ETO doesn’t look like how most wargamers envision a "monster game" looking because the unit density is very low. You will not see continuous "walls" of counters opposing each other. Instead, there are gaps in the front line and most hexes which have units have only a single one. ETO is a game of maneuver, it presents times of open field running and only rarely of battering down a position by brute attrition.

Grognard.com: Wargame designers must love historical research. How much better are the information sources you’re using to make Frank Chadwick’s ETO series than you had available back in the Game Designer’s Workshop days? Is that impacting the game’s orders of battle, map, and scenarios noticeably from the wargames of yesteryear?

Frank Chadwick: Good question! The internet has made a huge difference in terms of convenience of access, but the sorts of information readily available online are surprisingly spotty, they are also skewed toward popular subjects rather than what might be needed. For the most part, wargame designers still need to crack books.

The real revolution has come from increased access to the former Soviet archives. That started back in the 70s with John Erickson's pioneering work and David Glantz (foremost among others) has continued that work. From a game designer's perspective, I find the single most useful source on the Red Army is Charles Sharpe's twelve-volume series on the Red Army Order of Battle. It's an amazing piece of work and the level of detail in the game's Soviet ground forces, at both the overall level and the scenario level, just wouldn't have been possible without it.

The German stuff has been out there a long time, and although there's a lot of good new scholarship, the corps-level order of battle document which is the game's "Bible" for the German Army is a giant three-page chart showing every German corps and its assignment (including whether it is in existence, forming, destroyed) for every month of the war. That's a document I assembled years ago, mostly from Georg Tessin's Verbände und Truppen der Deutschen Wehmacht und SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg, 1939-1945, back at GDW when John Astell and I were working on a never-published game also to be called, interestingly enough, ETO.

As to the armies of the many lesser nations, the information is there somewhere, but when you're doing one game covering all of them you don't really have time to do the research for a doctoral dissertation on each one of them. That's where internet sites like Dr. Leo Niehorster's World War II Armed Forces become particularly valuable. He doesn't have everything you need about, say, the Bulgarian Army, but at corps-level he's awfully close. There are still gaps, still digging that you have to do, but those sorts of online resources save months of research.

The main problem remains that information needed for a particular wargame design is often not exactly what authors are interested in talking about. Even something as simple as the total authorized and operational strength of the Red Air Force at key points in the war remains surprisingly elusive, as do things like resource and industrial output of the entire range of belligerent nations and on a constant system. If you are trying to find out how many million tons of oil the various nations pumped per year during the war, it’s amazing how many different numbers you can come up with.

Frank Chadwick - Game Designer

Grognard.com: Frank, you have a legendary reputation among wargamers as a smart “systems and mechanics” guy. I understand that ETO is a big evolutionary advance from 1986’s Battle for Moscow that this particular move-fight-move system evolved from. What new systems and mechanics that you created for Thunder in the East (TITE) are the playtesters excited about?

Frank Chadwick: The air system, for starters. It's really slick and really fun. Since it uses counters identified as particular aircraft models, it has lots of historical feel and color. And since it uses a theater basing and readiness approach (owing a lot to the Third World War series), it is mechanically very easy without a lot of on-map fussing around. The playtesters love the air system.

The supply system is, in some ways, the heart of the game, but it's a very rules-light and effect-heavy system. There is very little in the way of mechanics to worry about, but the decisions you make have very powerful effects and give the ground game a lot of its sense of historical verisimilitude. That feature has gotten very high marks as well.

At playtester suggestion, we've added a corps cadre system (on on-map remnants of destroyed corps) which, for Soviet armies, is an untried corps unit. Those additions have added more resilience to the armies and some additional game uncertainty. Since those suggestions came from playtesters, I'm pretty sure they like them.

Grognard.com: Following up that last question, the other games in the ETO series will feature naval operations and, when connected, there will need to be some sort of strategic warfare systems. Are those on the drawing board? How will they play?

Northern Fire - Norway Playtest with Lance McMillan

Frank Chadwick: They're more than on the drawing boards. The strategic resource and production system will be there to see in Thunder in the East as the Soviet Union's entire economic base is in play (there is really no reason to leave it out). The Axis resource generation system simplifies down to an appropriate allotment of resources on a fixed schedule from off-map, but the production system (how they use those resources) is there as it would be in the Campaign Game.

tg The strategic bombing rules will be there in TITE as well, as they aren’t that complicated – it is just that nobody has enough of a strategic bombing force in this game to exploit them fully. There were some pin-prick raids on Moscow, Bucharest, and Ploesti, and in the game those make sense. However, once you can blacken the skies with Liberators and Fortresses, the cumulative impact of those raids starts changing.

We have abstracted the naval system for TITE, mostly because since it is such a small part of the game (a big set of naval rules would just be a distraction). That said, you will see the naval system in all (or at least most) of its glory in The Middle Sea, the next big installment. The only part you probably won't see until the last installment is the oceanic convoy system, which already exists (people played with it a bit back at ConSimWorld Expo 2015).

Grognard.com: The name of the game (series) is Frank Chadwick’s ETO. Please take a step back, wave your arm at the distant horizon, and give us “the big picture” for this series. How many titles will there be in it? What will they cover? And when it’s all said and done, how do you see it playing in the lives of wargamers?

Frank Chadwick: Originally we were going to do a bunch of smallish games, but I think we started realizing it would take more years than any of us felt we could invest. It is also hard to sustain gamer interest in a series which, like as not, will take over a decade to complete. Therefore, the current plan is four games and then a strategic wrap-up module. The four games are:

1. Thunder in the East (TITE): The entire Eastern Front from 1941-45.

2. The Middle Sea (TMS): The Mediterranean and North Africa, including the Balkans and Italy, 1940-45.

3. Fall of the West (FOTW): Northwest Europe in 1940 and again in 1944-45, with the possibility of a 1943 invasion as a what-if.

4. Northern Fire (NF): Scandinavia and Finland, covering the 1939 Winter War, the 1940 Norway Campaign, the 1941-44 Continuation War, and a couple hypothetical invasions of Sweden.

The strategic wrap-up adds the convoy system and the Battle of the Atlantic. Of course, it also shows how to put it all together and link the four games, but by that time it will be fairly obvious how that will happen if you've played along with the ETO series the whole time.

After that, we will almost certainly add the prequel game, Dark Beginnings, which presents myriad run-up scenarios to war in the 1930s, and all the different ways that WWII in Europe could have started. If we are really crazy, we might include the information necessary to start ETO from any of those starting points (but no promises).

Dark Beginnings Playtest Game Map

I don't know that one-size-fits-all makes much sense in gaming anymore, so we're trying to make it as easy as possible for players to decide how they want to configure this for themselves. We have multiple scenarios in each game, and each scenario is also a possible start date for the entire game, either in that particular game or the whole ETO campaign. So, if you want to start the who thing off with Kursk (July of 1943), you can do that in the east, or you can add The Middle Sea and also set up for Operation Huskey (the invasion of Sicily), or also add in Fall of the West and see if you want throw the dice on an early landing in France instead of Sicily/Italy, or add Northern Fire and … well, you get the idea.

Grognard.com: You’ve designed a lot of WWII games, Frank. Do you have a favorite theater or campaign and game scale? What kind of WWII games did you most enjoy making? And what kind of WWII games do you most enjoy playing?

Frank Chadwick: My sentimental favorite is North Africa. In part because the old Avalon Hill Afrika Korps was the first wargame I played, and it's still my favorite of those older AH games. I think Tom Shaw did as good a job capturing the flavor of that campaign (at least as we understood it back then, viewed through the lenses of Desmond Young and Paul Carell) as anyone ever has. John Edwards came close in African Campaign.

I don't think you can beat the Eastern Front for variety of situations and drama, but I am more interested in the US Army than any other, more so as I've learned more about the war. So all those different interests pull me in different directions, and I guess keep me from falling into a rut.

As to scale, I don’t have a clear preference, although I like to have a sense of operational maneuver and the sweep of a campaign. Division level and corps level can pull that off, provided the designer has that in mind. I like simple mechanics, but I don’t care for particularly abstract ones. I like to have a sense that the mechanics of what I'm doing has a strong relation to the actual decision-making, what Alan Emrich calls “a strong game narrative.”

Grognard.com: You have a strong, longstanding wargamer fan base. When they play Frank Chadwick’s ETO, what aspects of it will feel very familiar and comfortable, and what might be a real departure for them, based on your corpus of published wargame designs?

Frank Chadwick: I suppose that depends on which of my games they prefer. My preference for mechanics which reflect process—as opposed to abstract mechanics which produce a result but without as much feel for how you got there—remain the same as always, and I think everyone who's played my games over the years will recognize that. Sure, I design for effect, but getting to the effect is half the fun.

As to the rest, I'd say that more players liked my designs which tended to be less cluttered with detailed mechanics and more tightly focused on the strategic decision-making of the player—games like A House Divided, Bloody Kasserine, Race For Tunis, The Sands of War series, all the games I've done for Victory Point Games, and of course Battle For Moscow, will find this pretty familiar going.

If a player is expecting Operation Crusader writ even larger (much as I love that design), they will be disappointed.