Welcome to PulsipherGames.com/Pulsipher.net, a web site for supplementary material and playtesting of games designed by Lewis Pulsipher (Britannia, Dragon Rage, Valley of the Four Winds, Diplomacy variants, RPG material, etc.), and for teaching about games.
I started playing games more than 50 years ago. I started designing games more than 45 years ago. My first published (non-commercial) games appeared in the early 1970s, and my first commercial game over 30 years ago, in 1978 (Diplomacy Games & Variants), followed in 1980 by Swords and Wizardry.
After publication of several commercial games, and after I earned my Ph.D., I took 20 years off from designing games, though I played and made up adventures (which is level design) and refereed lots of Dungeons and Dragons while learning computing, programming, networking, and making a living. In 2004 I decided to get back into game design rather than write computer textbooks, though my primary profession is college teaching. I taught my first course in game design in fall 2004, though I did not teach games full time until fall 2007.
I do not run a public Web discussion board on this site, as Boardgamegeek.com serves the purpose very well. The Eurobrit Yahoo Group is the main location for Britannia discussions. Fantasy Flight Games also has a discussion board (generally inactive) at their Britannia site. Most of my new writing about games is posted on my blog, http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/ or at http://teachgamedesign.blogspot.com/, or on GameCareerGuide.Com.
I am lewpuls on twitter; I see twitter as of use only for publicity, so I hardly ever use it, but decided I ought to be on it.
Dr. P's personal recommendation for those who want to get into the game industry and live in this area (central-eastern North Carolina).
Disclaimer: occasionally people send me unsolicited ideas or concepts for games. Be aware that when you do this you acknowledge that I may use your ideas in any way I wish without legal obligation. (I'm unlikely to do this, but I may have the same idea already, and I have no desire to be sued by someone who doesn't realize that ideas are not protected by copyright law in any case.)
Click here for Recent Changes
Conventions. I enjoyed GenCon, my first time there. The next two years it is at the same time as WBC, so I'm not sure which I will attend.
I'm putting some comments engendered by the conventions on my blog.
I am a contributor to Family Games: the 100 Best, which will be published later this year. I've been asked to contribute to another anthology, a book about non-electronic game design, to be published next year by ETC Press.
My book "Get it Done: Designing Games from Start to Finish" is at 115K words. I'm trying to cut it down because the original aim was 100K.
I have posted the Britannia rules which accompany the 2008 edition, incorporating errata from the 2006 edition, and one small change in how Romans can withdraw when a nation submits. These come from my contact at Fantasy-Flight, and should be posted on FFG's site soon to replace the 2006 rules.
More articles on Gamasutra/GameCareerGuide:
"All I needed to know about games I learned from Dungeons and Dragons" 18 Aug 09
"Game Curricula: Differences in Focus" 4 Aug 09
"Industry Hopefuls: Prepare Intelligently" 7 July 09
"Student Illusions About Being a Game Designer" 7 May 09
"Expert Blogs": Triangle Game Conference, Law of Gaming, Effect of Reviews on Video Game Development, What Games Amount To. A modified version of the first is now on Gamedev.net.
"Twenty Essential Design Questions" 14 April 09
"The Nine Structural Sub-Systems of Any Game" 17 Mar 09
The Nature of Games in the 21st Century 5 Mar '09
"Opinion: What Does 'Game Developer' Mean?" 2 March '09
Why Design Games 13 January '09
I am teaching curriculum game creation classes at Fayetteville Technical Community College (NC). "Simulation and Game Development" is a new Associates Degree program at FTCC. This is a program for artists and designers as well as programmers. More. Link to FTCC game development Web site.
I have updated my list of Britannia-like games. I have posted mp3s of my talks at Origins 2008, Powerpoint slides are already posted. I've also posted a talk by Ian Schreiner. All here. I'll not be posting mp3s of the 2009 talks, I think.
Most of my present gaming activity is in revising games and trying to write a game design book (the articles on Gamasutra/GameCareerGuide are sometimes excerpts).
I am a contributor to Hobby Games: The 100 Best, an anthology book that came out at GenCon this year. Press release. Britannia is one of the "100 Best", I'm glad to say. I wrote about Stalingrad. Update: this book won the "Origins Award" in its category, as well as an "Ennie" award.
The initial print run of Britannia sold out in 2007. It was reprinted in November 2008. International editions (German, French, Spanish, Hungarian [sic]) were printed at the same time.
I have developed a 6 turn version of Britannia, using the current set, that actually works, and takes me about two hours to play (first time play by others takes a lot longer, of course). This is being tested; I intend to distribute it as widely as possible to help those who dislike the 4-5 hour playing time of full Britannia.
Just for the heck of it, I developed a "broad market" version of Brit (the kind of thing that would sell with Risk and similar games). History may be too serious for a broad market, especially medieval British history, but it's an interesting exercise. I already have "Brit Lite" version, and that can be played by casual gamers, but I'm aiming at the sort of folks who might play Risk and Monopoly and a few other games, but not much else. I have liked the result so much that I am developing a series of games using the same rules (with exceptions), beginning with a new version of Barbaria that has turned out very well.
I've added a podcast (11 minutes) "Quick Guide How to Play Britannia."
I have started an announcement-only newsletter for new information about Britannia. This will include new editions, new variants, new articles, new reviews, new FAQ, anything that may be noteworthy for fans. Hence there probably won't be more than ten or so messages a year. To subscribe, go to http://pulsipher.net/newsletter/?p=subscribe. The information gathered will never be used for any other purpose.
I received a certificate awarded November 2006 to Britannia by the Viennese Games Academy: "Vienna Selection of Games, 2006" 99 games are selected each year. According to the accompanying letter, this certificate has been awarded annually since 1996. Their Web site: www.spielen.at (mostly in Austrian).
My article "Uncertainty in Wargames" appeared in "Against the Odds" magazine, #18, late in 2006.
Tom Vasel reviews dozens upon dozens of games, but he is not a wargamer, rather he's a Euro gamer. I have wondered whether he would review Britannia at all, but he has, very positively in the circumstances. See http://www.thedicetower.com/thedicetower/index.php?page=britannia.
This only reinforces my intention to make shorter versions of Britannia (and other games) that don't use the old combat system. I have played both "Britannia Brevis" (10 turns, no dice used) and "Britannia Minimus" (6 turns, much less luck in the dice system). Unfortunately, FFG has no interest in expansions, as the numbers just aren't there. But I have finally devised a version of Britannia using the same pieces, sides, colors, that lasts just six turns, yet seems to reflect everything that happens in the longer Britannia, just much faster (and with more attacking). When finished this will be posted (free) in as many places as possible. For now you can find the draft at the Eurobrit Yahoo Group.
There is a Wikipedia entry for Britannia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britannia_%28board_game%29
Boardgamegeek has the following entry for Britannia: "Nominee for the 1987 Charles S. Roberts awards for Best Pre-World War II Boardgame (Charles S. Roberts Awards)." I had not known this, as by that time I had "left the hobby".
Published Games describes my published games . Games in Process describes my unpublished games and playtesting opportunities. (Both of these load slowly via modem owing to map miniatures and photos.) I briefly describe my design philosophy here. Britannia includes the original rules, appearance, victory points, and map for Britannia (interesting to show how the original developer changed some things).
I am looking for gaming groups in Fayetteville, North Carolina, who are interested in playtesting boardgames and non-collectible card games.
At some point I may be selling items in .PDF form, but not at present. I do, however, sell copies of the lithographed "Science Fiction and Fantasy Diplomacy Variant Package", originally published in 1975. Go here for details.
My games are generally representations, not simulations. That is, the game represents some historical (or imaginary) situation, but does not attempt to simulate the factors that were important in resolving that situation. E.g., Britannia encourages players to act "historically" through a point system, not through modeling the factors that caused nations to move as they did. (And that often amounts to chance, anyway....)
On the other hand, my games generally are not abstract: the game is affected by the requirements of the scenario, and could not be "re-themed" to represent something quite different with virtually the same mechanics.
In other words, I enjoy games as games rather than as simulations, but do want a correspondence between actions in the game and (some kind of) reality.
Unlike most video games and many Euro games, in my games there may not be a "role assumption". That is, you won't represent some castle builder or some adventurer, or even a general. You'll represent an omniscient presence that controls what goes on (as in Brit or in most abstract games).
I feel about the same way about games I design that Sir Winston felt about books:
Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public. --Sir Winston Churchill
Useful links for boardgamers and designers:
August 2009: Added Jim account of the 2009 Britannia tournament at WBC.
June 09: Posted 2008 Britannia rules. Added (above) articles this year on Gamasutra/ GameCareerGuide.
January 09: Added autobiography (see sidebar).
June 08: updated list of Britannia-like games, posted Origins talks
May 08: Updated Games in Progress again.
Mar 08: Updated the "Games in Process" page after a long interval.
Dec 07: Added review of Understanding Comics.
Sept 07: Added Twin Earths III Diplomacy variant rules.
August 07: Added WBC 2007 report. Added Normannia (TM) board to games in progress.
July 07: added slides and large podcasts for two talks about game design at Origins (see Teaching about games)
May 07: Podcast Quick Guide How to Play Britannia.
Apr 07: added reprints of two Diplomacy strategy articles of 1982. News about my talks at Origins.
Mar 07: added Britannia News newsletter links.
November 06. Sweep of History Games Magazine Issue 3 is available. Added What's important when playing green in Britannia. Added David Yoon's article Judging Who's Winning (Brit 1). (Was in Sweep Magazine #1.)
October 06. Revised the layout of the Britannia page and this page. Added What's important (in one page) when playing to win Britannia 2.
September 06. Added an article about the short 3-player version of Brit2 by Stephen Braund. Added an article about choosing up sides in Brit. This has proved to be very interesting to experienced players. Updated list of Brit-like games.
Late May. Added Sweep of History Games Magazine #2. Enlarged the statement regarding rights to Britannia-like games.
Local (North Carolina) game links (video and otherwise)
Note about video games:
I have never designed a published "computer game", largely because I have not known anyone able and willing to do the necessary programming and artwork. Nowadays, of course, computer games are the products of large teams, not of individuals. Back when one individual could write a game, I was a database programmer, which doesn't help much with computer games, nor do I have a hint of an artist in me.
Why would I want to design electronic games? I'm better off as is:
The "AAA list" electronic games are really designed by committee. When I design a game, it is almost all MINE. (The rest is playtesters and publisher.)
For most of the age of video games, you had to work full time in the industry, yet the pay was poor (and per hour worked, still is). I'd rather help young people as a teacher, get paid at least as well, and have lots of time to design games.
The working hours can be bad. "Crunch time" (unpaid overtime) is common, though designers are not involved in that quite as much as programmers and artists.
Fighting with the electronics obscures the purity of design. You worry about what the computer can do instead of what the players can do. At worst, you "hide behind the computer".
People become computer game designers after working on computer games for a company in other capacities, especially level designer. Practically no one is hired directly as a computer game designer, though level designers (a subset of game design) may be hired directly from school. The production costs for "big" off-the-shelf games ($5-25 million) make a person without a track record too much of a risk.
Dr. P's personal recommendation for those who want to get into the game industry and live in this area (central-eastern North Carolina).
Hits since August 07: