Do You Choose Games or Do They Choose You?

It may seem obvious, but as life changes, your games probably should change as well. Income fluctuates, children come, grow up, and leave (then come back!). For me, all those things happened and my disability intersects in various ways with the changing circumstances. However, we can't escape some games; they have a hold on us, they have become part of who we are, so we are left with some choices.

Choose your games to fit your life and limitations. When I stopped being able to drive 15 years ago, I tended to play big games with big models, from tanks to Carnifexes, and I kept playing those games for a number of years. As time went on, I noticed I was spending more time, and money, on ways to get all that stuff into bags that were possible to manhandle onto the bus, as I had stopped being able to drive. I slowly shifted to skirmish games or variants, and now 15mm; I can head down to the store with a couple tactical options, dice, tape, rules, and templates in a backpack or shoulder bag. I still have several of the big armies, but they are reserved for when I can get a rides, larger events, etc.

The other route, definitely not mutually exclusive(!), is to let that mindworm of a game sit inside, ferment, for years, until another opportunity comes along. For example, I hardly have the time to sustain GM-ing a Role Playing Campaign, but every summer I run a week long camp for middle school students where my homebrew RuneQuest based world and system can see the light of day. While I started it over 35 years ago, and it lay dormant at times, every year I make progress on one small corner of the world, deliberately choosing areas of the landscape that I have not attended to previously, and the world grows and deepens just a little bit more.


Game Changers

When I started to think about games that changed the way I think, the list making became interesting. Then it became complex.

We played Capture the Flag at night in the woods as a teen. Bruce and Mark's family had a house near a lake in New Hampshire (See right for view from their barn), and the excitement built over the days preceding the event. With flashlights and flags, two dozen or so of us divided into two teams and spread out over acres of woods, old granite walls, and overgrown fields and pastures. Running, chasing, skulking, hiding, sneaking, shouts in the dark, chains of jailed players, and the end of night swim in the lake all combined in a swirl of nostalgia. This is everything a game could or should evoke, 40 years later: breathless excitement, anticipation, planning, and strong friendships.

As a game, it had a loose rules structure, no real boundaries except the center line, very low stakes, and a high level of repeat satisfaction/replayability, even though the basics did not change much at all. It was the interplay with the ephemeral qualities, I think, that propelled it into my head first. Would any other game capture all of this? Do they need to? Do they refract parts of it?


Operation Slapstick for Chain of Command

One game I am enjoying a great deal is Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command, a platoon+ tabletop miniature game geared towards simulating small actions in the 1930s and 40s. It has been adapted and expanded to operate well in other time periods. One really nice aspect to the game and the company is the willingness to accept, even encourage, fan and enthusiasts' efforts.

While reading through source material and histories, I found Operation Slapstick, a brief operation at a turning point in the war. It was small enough to be researched, mapped, and turned into a series of scenarios. It easily could be made into a short campaign, with the defending side trying to delay the attacker as long as possible, but that was not our intent.

This project is not an effort at an exacting historical recreation, nor does it contain specific force breakdowns or lists. I adapted and adjusted, approximated, and took some artistic license. I attempted to make the series fun and reasonably balanced.

Please follow the link below for a .pdf of a series of scenarios based on Operation Slapstick, a British Airborne operation in S. Italy, September 1943.

Let me know what you think! Suggestions and corrections appreciated.

Size Matters

One aspect of gaming and creation that has been a HUGE boon is making terrain. With low vision, the scale of pieces gets much more manageable and the level of detail starts to matter less and less. Not that there isn't detail, but getting the dot in the eye or the blending on the cloak is not the level I am shooting at.

In making terrain I am going for feel, effect, or an overall look that speaks to the scale, game, setting, and the players. Terrain involves color, mass, shape, and how the pieces look as a group on the tabletop. How will the figures interact with the terrain? Can the players access everything? Is it stable? These are all questions where diminishing vision is not so much of an issue, where touch and feel matter.

On top of that, the tools are bigger! Saws, rasps, craft knives, big paint brushes, pots of paint instead of vials, pints of sand instead of pinches, and so on. Any mistakes are more easily covered up, incorporated into the design, or remedied.



Keeping track of stuff on the table can be a major challenge. The following work for me. 

Buy bright accessories. 
With the option of fluorescent plastics, orange is the new black. I can see the templates and markers, and they are all glowy around the edges. If they don't come bright, paint them, mark them, or otherwise make them stand out.

Count things. 
I brought 10 figures in this box, 8 dice, etc. it may seem neurotic, but I have left Farseers, Swamp Gobbers, snipers, and servo-skulls to the hands of the fates, so I can't help it. I try to label my boxes and containers so I know I have everything, then sweep the table clean of scenery. This often shakes loose the odd figure. Also, check with the folks you are playing with, asking them if you have everything 

Put things down in one place. 
Not a good color scheme for the visually impaired...
Then put them there again after you use them. I am not so good at this, especially with my tape measure, which contrary to the bright accessory advice above, is still matte black, and which I put down in the oddest of places, like right in front of me, and then I can't find it. I also have been known to look for something which is in my hand, though this is probably not due to vision...


I am not sure how many others are out there, but I know there are a few, and definitely more as time goes on and we begin to inhabit gaming themed nursing homes. Over the past 40 years I defined myself as a gamer; over the past 15, I became a blind gamer. Not totally, completely blind, but rather no driving, walking into obstacles, talking to mannequins, cane using blind. I have about 4% of my vision remaining, and it ticks away steadily.

I can no longer see the tips of my brushes most of the time, except the really large, terrain painting ones, nor all the details on the amazing new figures, nor the fine points of the gaming table (where did I put that tape measure?).The transition has been slow, but inexorable, and I thought I would share a few changes in my own gaming that others in similar positions might find helpful:

The first centers on shifting perspective. If painting figures is as big a part of your hobby as playing, as it is with me, try to make the transition in your painting goals from realism to metaphor. I can no longer make figures look real (Some would say I never could), so I now am playing with tints, dry brushing, and shading, and learning to ignore the finer details I can barely discern. The figures hang together as units in terms of palette, and they are bright enough so I can spot them on the tabletop. They are slowly looking more like the game pieces others would say they really are, a perspective I am grudgingly accepting.


Welcome to Ozymandias Games!

Ozymandias Games, at this point, is a site for thinking about games, gaming, and gaming culture, and for posting versions of my own game design efforts. Let me know what you think!