6 Questions with Designer Sean Chick
Sean Chick, designer of 28 games and expansions according to BoardGameGeek has just released the fourth installment of the Horse & Musket series with Hollandspiele games. Entitled “Tides of Revolution,” this module takes the series into the tail end of the 18th century with the American War for Independence and the Wars of the First Coalition in Europe. Sean was willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to participate in our “Six Questions” format about “Tides of Revolution.”
What are some of the things you love about designing and playing the Horse & Musket series?
I love being able to simulate battles from across the era. It means obscure battles and wars can get some coverage. Designing for more obscure battles also made me broaden my knowledge of the era. Also, one can see the progression of the armies and the tactics. H&M for me is both a game series but also a lesson in the evolution of armies and tactics.
The Horse & Musket series has, I think, 144 scenarios at this point. When you’re considering a scenario for inclusion in a boxed release, compared to say an annual, what are the key elements that make it a good fit for the Horses & Musket system?
I like a scenario list to mix famous and obscure battles, and to cover the widest breath possible in terms of the famous commanders, wars, armies, theaters, and participants. For instance, every volume save III has at least one battle with the Turks. Many of the battles are also ones that fascinate me or I think will just be fun. A few, such as Bunker Hill, are a design challenge, although I am very interested in that battle in particular. So I had to make that one, and it was a pain.
For the annuals, some are scenarios that did not make the cut for various reasons, in particular if the battle called for more wooded terrain than the base game provides. Most though were simply made after publication. They tend to favor the more obscure battles of the era, although not entirely. And of course we have the fan scenarios, which is always a lot of fun to look over. A variety of battles I know little about have been simulated by contributors. I am also happy to have a community of such intelligent and engaged people.
With Tides of Revolution, how did you balance picking scenarios that met size restrictions for the map and components while still providing a fantastic survey of the critical moments of both conflicts included? Were there any scenarios that we can expect to see in an annual that couldn’t fit into the box?
Volume IV provided the most headaches in this regard. We do not have as much wooded terrain, which limits you a bit when you get to America. My first thinking was to make sure all the big names had at least one battle, that we cover both Rebel and British victories, and that the various theaters get covered. I would not neglect the war in the South, indeed I find it more intriguing. I love that I got Pensacola in there. Sadly, I had to hold off both Savannah battles for the annual. Also, there are a bit fewer Rebel victories than I would have liked, but to be fair they lost more battles than they won in the conflict.
For Annual 4 there will at least be King’s Mountain. My brother made a scenario for it but I decided to hold off on it, preferring Hobkirk’s Hill for Annual 3. King’s Mountain though is among the best I have seen considering how hard t is to simulate.
The French Revolution was tricky in so far as the French really did win most of the battles. For that conflict I tried to stick to the highlights, while avoiding it being merely Bonaparte: The Wonder Years. For that reason I held off on Lodi until Annual 3. As for more French Revolutionary battles, I hope to get more of Archduke Charles’ 1796 victories in Annual 4 and 5, but nothing is set.
What do you think the biggest challenge in covering the American Revolutionary War with the Horse & Musket System? Similarly with the First War of the First Coalition?
Honestly, the bigger challenges were in Volumes I and II. The game was designed with the Seven Years’ War in mind, and Volume I had to reflect a period of transition. Volume II was hard in so far as while the tactics were generally the same as those in Volume III, the armies were not in terms of quality. France was much worse in Volume III and Austria much better than they are Volume II. It forced us to split them. Thankfully the Seven Years’ War is so vast and geographically sprawling it provided more than enough for Volume III and future annuals. My one rule is every annual will contain at least one scenario from a previous volume’s time frame. So over time Volume I, II, and III will have less representation, but they will never be ignored.
The one big challenge in Volume IV is the French. Their army made a major leap forward in the 1790s, and it can be hard to balance that. Obviously their foes could win battles, particularly if properly led, but the French army is that much better. In fact, I think the Austrians from 1750-1800 had one of the best armies of the era, but they were facing France and Prussia at their peak, but also allied to each nation when they were at their lowest point in the same time frame. To balance things, the best thing to do is make the French work harder for their win in terms of the VP needed.
What’s next in the Horse & Musket series? I know that Sunset of an Era was announced, but what’s included in that and what, if any, additional plans might be in the works you can let us know about at this point?
Currently the last of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and War of 1812 will be in Volume V, dubbed Age of Napoleon. Sunset of an Era will be Volume VI. We considered separating VI into two volumes, one for the American Civil War, but I want to show that the American Civil War was not a revolutionary conflict or “modern,” but rather one very much part of its era. The real revolution happens in 1866. That said a separate scenario collection of Civil War battles is in the works, with special counters. How many scenario is not yet determined.
When someone plays a game of yours, whether it’s Horse & Musket – or one of your other designs – what do you hope (beyond having a good time) that they walk away appreciating?
That they feel they are able to change history and explore reasonable alternatives, but also understand why things happened as they happened. For Horse & Musket it is above all a way to see how the tactics and armies changed over time, and illustrate the importance of generalship.
We would like to thank Sean for taking time away to respond to a brief interview and for his thoughtful responses to the questions posed. If you’ve not already picked up your copy of Horse & Musket Volume IV, please head over to Hollandspiele and do so now. Remember that it’s not a stand-alone game and will require ownership of Volume I which..incidentally…has been repackaged with the same great details already revealed in our upgrade article right here on WargameHQ!