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Posted on Jul 11, 2005 in Stuff We Like

Game Convention Report: Tiller Con I

By Mark Adams

From 0800 to 1000 hours on Saturday it was business time for John Tiller Software. It was also the first time we all gathered together face to face. Of those present, Bill Peters was one of the original four scenario designers and had been with John the longest. It was because of Bill that this writer was asked to join with John back in 1999. Jesse Cheng and John Rushing are the newest members of the team. Jesse worked on a number of games with one of his most notable being Steel Panthers World at War. John Rushing is responsible for the AI for The First Blitzkrieg in the Total War in Europe series. John Tiller thanked us all for coming and then the team discussed briefly our past and then got into what the future holds for John Tiller Software. Basically, there are still a lot of Battles to be done, so the series’ will all continue, as well as a few new things on the horizon. 😉


Throughout the day discussion groups were held to give players a chance to voice their opinions, ideas, and concerns. First up was Squad Battles. One of the concerns was about weapons. Particularly those of the German squad. In WWII a German squad was basically a machine gun and the rest of the troops to assist and protect that MG. Why is it that in some battles the machine gunner gets hit and drops the MG no one immediately picks it up? There are times it has been left right there for anyone else to pick up. A German soldier would not leave the largest part of his squad laying on the ground for the enemy. Also discussed was the effectiveness of weapons. Rich Hamilton also brought up that many players on various forums are asking about Modern Squad Battles. While no definitive names can be given, it may be said, that some people will be happy in the future. John Tiller then asked what players would like to see in future Squad Battles and the answers were: Modern / WWI / Africa / Dien Bien Phu / Medieval / French Foreign Legion.

The second discussion was facilitated by Bill Peters and Rich Hamilton while John Tiller went to pick up the evening’s entertainment. One thing that stood out for this author was the talk of Battlefield Smoke.

Next up was a presentation by Glenn Saunders and David "Blackie" Blackburn. They discussed the steps of making a game. When they designed Smolensk ’41, Normandy ’44, and Kharkov ’42 there was no input from the players. Then with feedback streaming in, the team started listening to what the players thought and what they wanted. Of course, they can’t do EVERYTHING that is asked for, but they try. As for references we try to get as many as we can, but obviously, they won’t always agree…so one has to choose the one that best works as THE REFERENCE. The team tries to use Period maps if they are available. The internet is always a helpful resource as well as existing war games. Probably the most important aspect is to make sure that both sides actually DO have a chance to win.

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There were a few requests after the presentation concerning some graphic issues and some game play issues. One thing asked for is better Railroad graphics to make it easier to tell them apart from the roads. Mark Mazer brought up a very good point about the capabilities of Anti-Tank Guns. "Currently" Mark said, "many players that I know of send their Anti-Tank Guns to the rear areas to start digging lines of trenches." In a sense this is giving an army extra engineers. This item was talked about, fined tuned over a couple pops back at the hotel room and then presented to John resulting in a new Exe being created and released to the test team with a number of new rules variations. For more details see the bottom of this article. Each and Every game of the Panzer Campaigns series has improved over the previous one. And then those improvements are put out in free updates for the previous games in the series.

The last discussion group was for the Civil War series. This group had a lot of ideas concerning the series. I will list them here. Bridge Repair: in some scenarios, one side can blow all the bridges and effectively end the game as his opponent can not get across the river. Some felt that encryption for the Campaign game would be a good idea as well. Shiloh, the latest ACW release incorporates better fire at close range for melee. This is one of those things that have been asked for by the players for a while now. Re-crewing and capturing guns and ammo, voluntary spiking of guns so the attacking side can’t gain the points or use of the guns, cavalry recon and the use of videttes and pickets was brought up as well. It was also brought up that perhaps line of sight or rather the "reliability" sight should be looked at. It was at this time that John Tiller, who was back from picking up the entertainment asked "What battles would you like to see in the future?" Answers: Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, Perryville, Overland Campaign, the Valley Campaign among others.

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At 1800 hours John Tiller took his entire team out to dinner. We went to Anna’s Italian Restaurant, Mechanicsville, Va. What a fantastic meal and fantastic service Anna’s provided.

At 2000 hours the entertainment showed up. The entertainment was flown in by John Tiller. The entertainment was Tom Hook. Tom is responsible for ALL the music used in John Tiller’s games. He played a number of songs that we were familiar with. "Home Spun Dress" "God Bless Caleb Leedy" and my personal favorite, "Sultana’s Bones." among others. Tom was given the opportunity to put his talents to use on our games right from the very start. He never ceases to amaze when putting the music together for whatever game he’s asked to work on.

After Tom played for us, Rich Hamilton brought out a roll of tickets for a drawing. Every person that was present got two tickets for the drawing. On a table in the middle of the convention center were placed copies of John Tiller’s games. If your ticket was drawn, you could go to the table and pick up one of the games. Every person present actually got to go up and pick twice. This was just John & Rich’s way of thanking each and every person who took the time to come to the convention because it was those very same people who made it such a success.

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