We have a special treat here on the Tannhauser Blog tonight, an exclusive interview with former FFG Game Designer Andrew Meredith, who has worked on several Tannhauser expansions including the new Operation: Hinansho.
Read everything Andrew had to say after the jump…
The Tannhauser Blog:
Tell us a little about yourself, how long did you work on Tannhauser?
I moved out to Minnesota with my wife to work for FFG in a separate department from the Board Game Design back in March of 2010. In November I was moved into the design department as a Creative Content Coordinator where I was given the chance of a lifetime: working on Tannhauser, namely, working on the Shogunate, their map expansion, and the other models that came out sooner after, (Natalya and the Matriarchy Trooper.) The artwork and preliminary work had already been started on the characters (including their art, the artwork for the tokens and such.) From December 2010 through May I worked on the characters, testing them, tweaking them, and then presenting them. Adam Sadler had started all of the characters, and when I was done working on them I handed them back to Adam, who finished them and submitted them to the printers so they could arrive in your hands.
Not only did I write the character's stories, I also painted the master miniatures for the factory to copy off of. (I have close on 13 years of miniature painting experience.) My time at FFG came to an end in June, and I'm now working as a freelance Game Designer in Colorado while working at a Camp that ministers to Military Families.
Can you tell us a little about the process - When designing new characters does the art come first or do the artists work based on the stats and backstory created for the character?
As I mentioned before, I came into the project after it was all underway. My understanding was that character concepts were sent off to Didier Poli who drew the characters. Once approved, the characters were named, and the sculpture process was started. Once I came onto the project, a base stat line had already been started on each character. I already had a story idea in my head, so I wrote up back story for each of the characters. Once the story was in place, I made some tweaks to the stats. (This was important, as ensuring not only that the stats were balanced, but that they also matched the story and historical research.) In order to ensure I had balanced the characters correctly, I programmed a spreadsheet that gave a value to all characters in Tannhauser (including Union, Reich, Matriarchy) so I could see the value comparison by stat. By doing that I could ensure that the Ashigaru's were solid, and represented the best training in any military. Once the base story was build, and stats were built, I worked to ensure that the weapons and objects worked, which of course, required extensive play testing, both from myself, and with outside play testers. Once most of the play testing was completed, I laid out the booklets, and continued to make tweaks from play testing notes until the process was finished.
Can you tell us a little about map development? What goes into designing and testing a map? How different is it then designing a character?
The map was a different sort of beast. The art work is done first, and soon after the Pathfinder circles were placed. There were no icons or action circles (except for a few obvious ones) in place when I took over the map. I needed to invent special icons for each map, as well as make sure that the map was a good investment for players. (By that, I mean I wanted there to be some goodies that can be used on other maps too.) I really wanted to amp up the game, and so I came up with the Volatile Action circles. With the Covert circles, I wanted to take the Sniper Circles (found in Daedalus) to the next level, as I felt there was some room for growth there. In the Kitamon Research Base, I knew I had to invent some solid door rules. The art dictated that I make them solid rules, and once I had invented them, I knew I could translate the same rules onto the Castle Ksaiz map, thus adding a new rule for older players to use. Once I had all the rules written, our graphic designers fixed the circles to match the map better, and we also decided this was a good time to fix the issues with circle adjacency right here on this new map. It was an easy fix, and a no-brainer. Once this was done, I wrote the scenarios, and play tested them to ensure they worked well.
Having the game open to 2-4 players with each having their own faction is a great development. Have you played much 4 player Tannhauser? If so, how does that play?
4 player is REALLY fun. I love doing so. In my local group in Minnesota, we played several different ways (including 4 player before the Shogunate came out.) There are several good ways of doing it. First, you can play full faction vs faction vs faction vs faction using Hinansho rules. If you don't have Shogunate characters available it is still possible. My favorite form of four player is this: (Keep in mind this requires more maps than most people have.)
Set up two copies of Castle Ksaiz next to each other, and then a copy of the Catacombs. These three maps represent the basement (catacombs) the main floor (Ksaiz) and second floor (Ksaiz 2.) Decide on some additional entry points on the second floor (representing characters crawling through the window) and also designate the stairs as connection (taking players from level to level.) Pre-choose four entry points, including the front door, at least one in the catacombs, and some window entries on the 2nd floor.
Set out all characters you have access to. Players roll for first choice. Once a player has chosen a character, they may not choose anything from a different faction, (Mercs excluded.) Each player may choose 2 Heroes and 1 Trooper. These small three man teams ensure that the game continues to move along quickly. It's still a good long game, but very satisfying.
Thanks so much Andrew for giving us this great look inside the development of the latest Tannhauser expansion, and some great ideas for 4 player game play.
Special Thanks to: Doc Savage with help developing the questions.
If I’m lucky maybe I can get some more interviews with some of the other great folks who have worked on Tannhauser, (fingers crossed).
One last disclaimer: Andrew is no longer affiliated in any way with FFG or the continued development of Tannhauser.