Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Updates and news

Several updates to Five Klicks have come out, so make sure you have the most up to date version downloaded.
If you are wondering about what changed, check the changelog on the final page.
At the moment, since page numbers often change from version to version, it's not really practical to list what pages things were changed on, I apologize.

If you didn't pick up the new rules yet, make sure you do so at : 

Renegade Scout players can rejoice in the Fighting Vehicles expansion, offering 13 pre-built vehicles (complete with profiles, weapon load-outs, variations and points costs compatible with the Elite Pack values), as well as a few new gadgets and background information.

It is available here:

Friday, 26 July 2019

A few questions I get sometimes

There's a couple questions that crop up occasionally, so I thought I'd take a moment to answer them.

* Is Nordic Weasel a one-man operation?

Mostly yes.
I get help from assorted people particularly with testing, feedback, photos etc. and games with "fluff" text often feature some writing from friends or my wife.

All the grunt work and I'd say 90% of the design work is all me though.

* Is Nordic Weasel Games your day-job?

Yes, it is.
People get surprised at that but yes, NWG makes enough to pay our rent and car bill each month, though it's hardly a luxurious existence.
It does mean everyday is "casual Friday" in the office though.

* Do you pay artists?

I do pay for artwork yes.
Photos of miniatures is typically not something I pay for, though I am happy including links to blogs, websites, painting services etc.

* What programs do you use?

I started out using Gimp and LibreOffice.
Currently I use the default stuff on the Mac: Pages, Keynote and Photos.

* Have you ever written for someone else?

I have never written a game as a freelancer, though I'd consider it in the right circumstances.

* Have you ever been involved with games other people have written?

A few times yeah, usually through feedback and helping the rules be clearer and sharper.
If you want to contract me for such services, email me.

* Are the music lists in your games real?

Yeah, it's generally the albums I listened to while doing most of the writing.
I might add an extra album if it's something that really fits the topic.

* Why do you write so many games?

I have a lot of ideas.
For marketing purposes, it might make more sense to write one game for a topic and then just sell that but I can't work like that.
I know that sometimes put people off, because it can be confusing trying to keep up on all that but if I am still selling it, it's because I think it's a good game.

You can make a tidy sum producing one core engine and then just churning out variations of that, but that's not the Weasel way :)

* How do your games typically start out?

Most just start with a very rough mechanical idea.
FiveCore literally rests on "what if you just rolled and saw if it was a 1 or a 6",
No End in Sight started with the "roll to cross contested space" rule and so forth.

* Are you ever going to do a full blown RPG?

Not impossible. I have thoughts.

* What do you think about [insert hot button issue here] ?

Probably nothing I'm interested in discussing.
I'm a "leftist SJW beta" or whatever the current terminology is, so if you must know what I think in order to decide what games to play, there you go.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

So you want to be a designer?

You want to write games? Gaming stuff? Scenarios? Army lists?

Cool. You can.
You can literally sit down right now and do it.

It's like anything else in life: Maybe you'll have a knack for it and it just comes naturally. Maybe it turns out you don't quite have the mindset and you gotta work harder.
Ultimately, it's usually a question of hours put in. Work more at it, the results will improve.
Try to do new things. Challenge yourself. Do things you're told are impossible.

Here's the thing though:

Along the way, you may find all manner of short-cuts to success (here defined as "making some sales).
They're appealing exactly because they're easy.

You can hitch yourself to a marketing fad.
"Old school dungeon crawling fantasy RPG" will earn you 50 sales even if you have literally nothing new to say on the topic.
Solo miniatures gaming seems to be blowing up right now and there's room for plenty more there.
Just make sure you're on the train when it's going up hill, not when it's coming back down.

You can tie yourself to a brand or product identity.
Plenty of companies have options out there to make stuff with their name on it.
If what you burn for is [system X] then that's an easy path.
They'll ultimately control your fate of course. What's the thing Darth Vader said about deals changing?

You can cash in on internet culture wars.
Find something that you know will make someone somewhere mad. Write that.
Wait for someone to write a blog post saying your game is garbage.
Rally the people who dislike that person and you can roll in protest-purchases.
"Pay me 9.99 to fight SJW's" is a deal you can easily make a car payment or two on.

* * * * *

Ultimately though there's another solution:

Write stuff you actually care about and feel strongly about.

I strongly believe that good design and passion will always be recognizable.
More importantly, it'll give you an identity as a creator that people can connect to.

More importantly while you may get a few less sales, you'll be getting sales from people who are interested in what you have to say.

And that's why you're here right?
Because you have something to say about gaming?

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Why do you charge for beta versions?

Over the years, I've tried more or less everything I can think of.
Sometimes it's just to see how something works, sometimes it's to satisfy my own curiosity.

We've done Pay What You Want products, given things away, charged up front, a few crowd-funds etc.

A potentially controversial stance is that I've increasingly opted to charge for beta versions of games: From a dollar or two to 5 bucks or so.

"What is this outrage? Why should I pay to test your broken-ass game?" I hear you say.

Sure. I hear you back.

I have mostly settled on this for a couple of reasons:

First, to me a beta version is something substantial enough that it could be a game.
If it's a full game with the sort of content you'd get from the competition but lacking testing, I don't feel bad charging a couple of bucks for it.

You know what you are getting (it says beta right there!) and you can decide based on previous products if it's worth the risk.

If the draft is so rough I am not sure it's even functional, it never sees the light of day outside my personal circle of critical eyes.

Second, I find that the level and quality of feedback is simply better if I charge.
Pay what you want or freebies are great but it seems people also don't feel invested in it.
If people had to put in their paypal account, there's more of a sense of investment (even if its just the price of a cup of coffee).

When I've charged more than "coffee money" for an early version, I try to do a discount code or something later on, so you can view the early version as a buy-in to the full one.
That also has the advantage that if something falls through, you still have the initial version.

I'm sure we'll continue different options and ideas in the future, but ultimately that's why I prefer charging for the beta version of a game.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

So what is involved in changing a rule?

Since I've been tinkering with Five Leagues lately and running my mouth on social media about publishers not updating their games, I thought I'd be fair and give a run-down of what is actually involved in updating a game rule.

First, you gotta write and test the new rule of course.
If we're updating an existing game, that probably isn't too bad since you know what was wrong or missing and you may have already tried the new option.

Second, we gotta replace the old rule with the new one.
Copy paste right?

Third, we gotta check to see if the old rule is referenced anywhere else in the rules. If so, we gotta go back and fix those.

Fourth, we gotta check any game examples and update those.

Fifth, we gotta make sure we didn't break anything. After all, some game rules feed into each other. So back and check every related feature.

Sixth, does your game have points values? Purchase costs? Other balancing shenanigans? Did you just change the effectiveness of something in the game? Time to evaluate that again.
Don't forget that changing one thing can cause a cascade effect in the system.
Does the new rule make troop transports weaker? Well, now all transport vehicles AND the grunts they carry might be over-valued.

Seventh, is the new rule longer? If so, you might just have screwed up the page it's on.
Know how games always have like 2 lines of a paragraph awkwardly hanging off the next page?
Yeah, that looks wretched so let's avoid that.

Lastly... did you push every thing out one page? Your table of contents is now messed up and needs fixing.
Did you write one of the 3 games ever released in the history of nerds that has a table of contents? That's also broken now.

So yeah, updating or replacing a rule can be a ton of work.
But it's still better than keeping known errors around for years in my opinion.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

A few quick notes

A couple people emailed and were worried about the sale ending before they got paid.

I've opted to extend the sale until the 3rd of June, so if you want hot bundle deals, go get them.
Once this is over, it'll be a long time before we do another mega-sale.

Right now, almost everything we've done is on sale

A few of you leave comments on Blogger. For some reason, I have a bastard of a time actually responding to comments on here.
I do read your comments but if you need a reply from me, please email me instead.
Sorry about the trouble.

The best email for Nordic Weasel stuff is

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

NWG anniversary: Titles that never were or only were a little bit.

As I look back at the past 5 years, here are a few titles that didn't get used, things that started out differently etc:

One of approximately 50 billion titles me and my wife came up with for what eventually became Clash on the Fringe.
If I remember right, it's also the title of an RPG supplement, so we had to change it.

Only the dead
The working title for the very original 4 page draft of No End in Sight.
A reference to "Only the dead have seen the end of war".
I think I changed it because I was worried people would think it was a zombie game.

Afghan Soda can
An odd experiment in modern day squad warfare, based around very stylized battle commands.
Not sure it was playable at all.
Never released in any format I think.

This one ended up being released, but it originally started life as a skirmish game where squads would consist of individually based figures.
A lot of the basic principles were the same though.

A power-driven dungeon duel game with a lot of different classes and whatnot.
Was pretty fun, but I ended up not being able to figure out how to make monsters work well and at the time I didn't want to write a strictly competitive game.

A solo fantasy game somewhat inspired by the Demon Souls video game.
Could be thought of as a proto-prototype of what became Five Leagues years later.
Had more detail but lacked gameplay.

Monday, 20 May 2019

What happened to ....

Over the years some games have come and gone from the Nordic Weasel line up.
I get questions about it, so I thought I'd share a few glimpses from the past as well as some insight into the process of writing games.

Basically, I try to do things a bit more public than some designers and companies do.
That means you often get more insight, we do a lot of public beta tests and so forth, which I think fans appreciate.
The downside is that if something does not seem like it's going to work out, or I don't think it's viable as a game or as a commercial product, you can feel a bit left out.

I still think on balance it's a better system, but there's always room to improve of course.

So what happened to that game?

In no particular order:

Fast and Dirty (FAD)
A game that still gets recommended in forum discussions when people ask about hard scifi rules.

I sold off the rights to the game and if you look online, you can find their take on the rules, which includes some changes, streamlining and detailing. It is, to my knowledge, also free.

I have not ruled out revisiting some of the base concepts again in the future, but it'd have to be done right and without feeling like it was too close to the original.

Trench Storm
Originally published by The Tin Dictator, the rights reverted to me for a while before being sold off.
I am unaware of the current status of the game right now.

I don't foresee having any projects in that vein. Trench Hammer has mostly taken that role.

Blast Pistol etc.
These "mini systems" were reasonably popular so they will return but things keep getting in the way.
I wanted to turn the disparate systems into a single, low-involvement skirmish system.

An orc too far
Response to this was very limited but the people who got into it really liked it.
I still hope to finish it some day.

Acrid smell of powder
Similar in that only a handful of people ever communicated any interest (though they did like it).
I think the presentation was too dull, so I will sit on this one for a while and then try to re-do it.

I worry that the game was too abstract for what it was trying to accomplish (and may have tried to tread the same ground as the black powder version of Blast Pistol, while doing it less well)

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Anniversary and a thank you to all of you

Greetings friends and gamers.

This month is something rather special.
It’s the 5 year anniversary of starting Nordic Weasel Games.

It’s been a big, crazy ride.
Together, we’ve explored WW2, black powder warfare, scifi gang squabbles and mass hovertank warfare. Pulp adventure and cold war campaigns. 
We’ve campaigned, we’ve solo’ed and hopefully we’ve had a dang good time in the process.

I don’t know what I expected when I quit my job to write games.
I knew I had ideas that I thought people would enjoy. I knew I loathed working for an unethical company that demanded I treat the people below me like dirt.

I was uncertain whether you could make “real money” off writing games. 
I certainly didn’t fully anticipate the multitudes of things that I’d have to learn: 
How to talk to customers who had demands. How to react to reviews. How to improve my layout skills.
How to make a book be presentable and more importantly how to make it easy to use.

You could pick up a book and learn many of those things of course. I just rushed into it and figured it out as we went.

What nobody could prepare me for was the emails.
People writing me telling me how a game had gotten them back into miniatures.
Or how they just spent an afternoon playing a battle with their children and had a blast.
How someone went out and bought a brand new army just to play a game I’d written.
Someone telling me something was the best game of its kind that they’d ever played.

And it’s easy to bask in flattery. I’m only human after all and I wouldn’t write if I didn’t think I had something sort-of-important to say.

But it also reminds me of something different:
That gaming is about being human.
They’re only toy soldiers, but we all know that isn’t really true. 
They can be stories. They can be connections to our family or our friends. They can be a learning experience.
They can be moments and memories.

If I stopped tomorrow (not that I intend to) I think all you crazy people out there would have given me enough moments and memories to warm my heart for a life-time.

To celebrate the last five years and the next five, we’re doing some big bundle sales.

The bundles are all 55% off, except the Mega Bundle.

If you own some of the products in the Bundles, it should remove those from the price, so these are a fantastic way to finish out a collection. 
If you’ve been pondering something new to get into or just want a bunch of cool ideas to borrow for your own table, why not a grab a bundle for something brand new?

We have a FiveCore bundle, offering all the core systems for the FiveCore family of games: Literally where it all started for Nordic Weasel.

A bundle for the In Sight series of harshly realistic platoon warfare

Five Parsecs for scifi solo gaming fun. Should include all supplements.

Five Leagues for solo fantasy gaming. Should include all supplements.

An Assorted bundle with a collection of games that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Our famous Starport Scum and Dungeon Scum pseudo-RPG rules and supplements.

Renegade Scout and all expansions for your retro scifi fix.

All our Hammer games, for rules-light play across the ages.

Greatest Hits. This is a collection of what I consider the crowning achievements of Nordic Weasel design.
If you want the best, this is it.

Mega bundle.
This mad bundle is ALL of the core rulebooks we sell currently.
You want the entire thing? You want more games than you’ll play this year?
This is it. This is all of it.

Once again. Thank you. I literally couldn’t have done it alone.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Five Leagues rules updates

1.01 is available from the Wargame Vault.
It offers the following tweaks:

The post-game injury table has been made slightly friendlier.
The results have shifted up 5-10 points and injury durations are generally a turn shorter.

If you have multiple saves, they should now get combined into one save.
So instead of rolling twice at 6+, you generally roll once at 5+ instead.

The dice rolls to reduce threat after a battle are easier now (4+ for holding the field, 3+ for camps) and threat only increases if you did not hold the field (on a roll of 1).

These tweaks should make the game just a little bit smoother and more fun to play.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The weasel and the miniatures page

I was alerted to the fact that some people were wondering why my account was locked out on The Miniatures Page a while back, despite my games generally being well regarded over there.

I'd let this lie but people who are interested deserve to know and the truth has a habit of being distorted by the management of the site.
So if you care about internet drama, here you go. If you do not, well, good on you.

To clarify a long time ago, in a discussion about US policy in Afghanistan, a gentleman suggested that we should adopt the methods of the Germans in handling the issue due to their brutality.

As I'm not a particularly great fan of genocide, I posted a picture of German soldiers executing Russian civilians and asked if that's what he meant.

The gentleman, who prides himself on being a straight shooter who disdains people being too easily offended reported my post, which got me locked for a few days.
The charge was that I'd called him a Nazi.
While my account was locked, the gentleman in question repeatedly slandered me on the forums.

When I got unlocked, I posted that I was going to take a few days off the forum.

Bill, the editor and owner of the site, took that as an opportunity to personally attack and insult me, while several posters pointed out that the initial charge was absurd and that I shouldn't have been sanctioned at all.

So I resolved to not return as anyone would have done.

However, I believe in forgiving and forgetting, so I will extend this offer:

Should Bill provide a written apology including the words "I am sorry I am such a massive tool" then I would consider returning to his site.

That is all.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

As we're in the final stages of the current project, here's a few great deals to get your weekend full of gaming.

Renegade Scout - our premier Rogue Trader revival game is available for only 9.99

That's 150 pages of hardcore gaming content, extensively illustrated and well regarded by oldhammer reviewers.

If you like to do things yourself, or want to play together with your friends instead of against them, you can grab either Five Parsecs From Home or Five Leagues from the Borderlands for 5 bucks a pop.

Build a crew, go adventuring, fight bad guys, level up, get loot, all the stuff we like to do and written to be as solo-friendly as possible.

Don't forget we have several bundle deals as well.

Did you know you can buy a bundle if you own some of the products already and you will just pay the discounted price for what you don't own?

If you already got into some of our Five Parsecs titles, you could for example grab our Solo Games bundle

and round out your collection.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Playtesting. What you think you need vs what you actually need

We've all bought books that boasted of YEARS of playtesting on the back of the book.

I'm going to contend that playtesting is not a linear progression or a progress bar in an RPG. More isn't better. Better is better.

Let's dive in.

This goes for board games, card games, miniatures games, roleplaying games, probably all manner of other stuff too.

There's a few different things you can do that I would fit under "testing" all of which has varying amounts of value.

* Casual reading

This is the most basic level: Have other people read your game and tell you what they think.

This is good for providing a basic gut-level "does this look cool?" impression.
However, it rarely provides substantial feedback.
If you are soliciting feedback from random strangers, you have no idea if they are crazy and most will be incapable of providing the kind of mechanical insights you need.

Get a little bit of this, but don't rely on it.

* Critical reading

A line by line reading of the text with an eye towards rules that aren't explained well, references that aren't repeated, etc.

This requires a person with attention to detail and an understanding of game mechanics.

You need at least one person doing this.

* Proof reading

A thorough read aimed at catching typos, wrong words, grammatical problems etc.
This is best done by someone with experience in editing, but reasonable results can be obtained if you have a few people go through the text.

You need at least one person doing this.

* Math testing

Sitting down with dice and a calculator and crunching the numbers.
How likely is an attack to hit? How many attacks will destroy their target? If X amount of troops fire, what is the expected outcome? What are the best and worst case scenarios?

This often leaves out the "soft" factors that happen on a gaming table (for example a unit is often not able to fire in every turn of a battle) but can be invaluable in establishing the base lines for how the system is going to function.

Just remember that theoretical effectiveness is always higher than actual effectiveness (miniatures units have blocked lines of sight or are forced to redeploy, RPG characters take non-combat actions etc.)

This will save you a ton of time and ensure you have a sound basis for your game.

* Personal play test

Play testing done personally by the writer.
This is often solo or with personal friends.

This is the initial "Crash test" to figure out if the game works at all.
Beyond one or two games, this is a diminishing return because you already know how everything is /supposed/ to work.

* Directed play test

Play testing set up by the creator (or a close associate) but with people who aren't inherently in your play group. A club or store game f.x.

Pay close attention to what rules the group internalizes quickly vs what rules they keep struggling with or flat out forgetting.
What rules do they get excited about? What parts do they protest?

Try to let the game "run itself" as much as possible.
Is your reference sheet enough to let them play through a few turns?

* Blind play test

The gold standard:

A group plays the game without you being there to tell them what to do.

This is where the real play testing happens: Your future customer will not have you present to explain exactly what that rule means. Your text needs to stand on its own feet.

To be of value of course you need a group that is willing to provide feedback in detail, isn't afraid to interpret how they think things should work if the rules aren't clear and explain that to you.

This also means you need to take it in stride. They might hate your game. They might do it wrong. They might love it BECAUSE they did it wrong.
You want to write games for people, you gotta play in the big boy/girl/robot/non-binary leagues and take your lumps.

* * * * *
So now that we know the ways you can put your design through the paces, what should you focus on?

First and foremost get feedback. Any feedback.
If you are an unknown, that can be hard. The gaming hobby is full of "idea guys" and you have to convince them that your idea is better than the 100 other guys who just re-invented D&D but with different hats.

It can help to put out a beta version. Make it clear it's a work in progress. Make it substantial enough to be a game in its own right and put it up for download.
People love the idea of a game they can help influence.

If nobody bites when you put it on a forum, put it on rpgnow and charge a dollar or make it PWYW:
The capitalist priesthood teaches us that only things that cost money have value.

Once you have people's attention, look at the feedback you get.
Some will be people who just casually read through it and will give you the equivalent of "this sucks" or "this is cool". Those are a handy barometer but aren't really that useful to go anywhere.

Look for and listen for the people who put in the effort to read it in detail. Who asks questions about that optional rule on page 34, who says "we tried this over the weekend and had some questions".
There's a lot of nerds out there who love doing this stuff and play testing is a skill just as well as writing is.

Some of the people will be crazy.
Some will convince themselves that your game would be PERFECT for [insert concept here that you have no interest in].
Don't argue, just politely thank them and move on.

Ultimately, what you want is the blind play test:
Each game played by a decent group that you are NOT a part of is worth 10 games you put on yourself.

* * * * *
So why does the book say "playtested for a decade" and you found 5 mistakes and a rule thats outright broken?

Because what they mean is usually "the author and his group played this twice a month for years and they already knew how everything is supposed to work".
The authors copy has "+2 for cover" pencilled in the margins but it never made it to the final version you just paid 50 dollars for.

Even blind playtesters can't always catch everything.
Some options don't get tested.
A particular character weapon+ability combo may simply never have come up.
RPG playtesting is notoriously difficult, because 90% of an RPG session tends to have nothing to do with the game system at all.

A group may have playtested your RPG for months and provided good feedback, but their campaign didn't involve [thing] that the problem exists with, so it never came up.

Playtesting seriously often means ensuring that situations happen that won't do so in a conventional game.
Launch a charge, just so you can see the close combat system.
Try to persuade the orc villain.
Level up in a strange way.
Try having both sides dig in their forces and shoot it out, instead of marching on the objective.

You have to be willing to push the boundaries of the system to find out if the boundaries even work at all.

* * * * *

I hope this helps a little bit with getting better testing for your games.

Let me know what you think and what your own experiences offer.

Good luck out there.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Can you make money from writing games?

Occasionally when I talk to people, they express surprise that I write games as my primary job or that you can make money from writing gaming material.

Now, nobody would doubt that the likes of Games Workshop or Wizards of the Coast are making money, but in the indie trenches?
Surely it's all enthusiast works for beer money?

No, not in the slightest.

You can make legitimate money.
Not great money. Probably can't pay all of your living expenses through it.
But rent? Certainly.

I've had a few people mention that they'd like to hear me talk about that, so I figure I'll make a few blog posts doing just that over the next few days.

Here's a few caveats up front:

* I am going to be talking about writing war games and miniatures games.
I only dabble in the RPG field a tiny bit.

Now, I think a lot of this is very applicable to the RPG field as well, but just keep in the back of your mind that some parts might differ.

RPG stuff makes bigger money, but it's also a far more crowded field.

* I am going to be talking from the experience of doing everything yourself indie-style.
If you are looking to get published through a company, I can't help you directly but I'm sure some of the advice will still be relevant.

* Nobody says you have to make gaming your job and many people would prefer not to do so.
I still love gaming, but many people prefer having a separation between what they do for fun and what they do for money.
Think about what you want to do and stick to that.

* Even if you don't want to make money, there's a lot of pride in actually finishing a project and putting it out there.
Even if it's just once and it only ever sells 10 copies.

* I like to think I'm good at what I do, but maybe I also got lucky.
So it's not a recipe. It's just my take on it.

I am not sure how many posts there'll be. I have 12ish topics on my notepad, though a couple of them might be too short to put up individually.

If you want to send me any questions you have, I'll try to work those in as well.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Squad Hammer and licensing

So one of the offers I made was that if we hit 500 dollars of sales for the Pay What You Want edition of Squad Hammer, I'll make an open gaming license available.

We're about a third of the way there.
Statistically, it looks like a little bit over a third of people paid and a bit under two thirds got it for free.

I had absolutely zero expectations on what that ratio would look like, but that looks about fair to me.
I have no idea if anyone went back to pay after downloading it for free or if people even know you can do that.

So what would an open license look like?

It would cover most or all of what is in the Core booklet, making it available for use to build your own spin-off games with, with a few basic requirements (no Nazi Porno games or whatever).
The idea would be that if you want to publish a scenario or your own little game, you could use any of that frame-work and a "Powered by Squad Hammer" note on the front cover, to help both of us get more eyes (and sales).

I have big plans for Squad Hammer as a system and enabling third party work would be a huge step forward for the system and creating an eco-system of sorts.

There's three more steps to the plan for Hammer-based world domination, but I'll talk about those when we are ready.

In the meantime, if you are excited about this:

* Leave a rating or review on Wargame Vault. Don't fluff it up, be honest and genuine.

* Talk to your friends. Recommend Squad Hammer on forums.

* If you got it for free and love it, please consider going back and throwing in a few bucks.

* If you have suggestions for rules, ideas, things that could be clarified etc., get in touch.