Three Moves Ahead 27: Mark Walker and Lock N Load

I can’t see the thread for this topic, isn’t it usually stickied here? I felt sorry for your ‘guest’ and I felt like jumping to his defense.

I love manuals and rules. When I buy a turn based computer game I spend the first night just reading the manual before I even install the game. But I can’t tolerate the steep learning curve involved in playing a complex board game for the first time. You spend 2 hours playing the first couple of turns, then realise you’ve been playing it wrong anyway, everyone gets tired and gives up.

Its fantastic to have the computer smooth that initial learning curve. You’ve read the manual so you know the basics, but you don’t have to spend hours paging through a manual trying to locate a particular rule. Its a computer game, so if your tank gets blown up you can just reload a savegame and try again with a better understanding of the modifiers. By the time you’ve played 4-5 battles you’ll understand all the modifiers and you can have fun min/maxing each decision.

I’d much rather learn a strategy game that way. There are plenty of other people between the two extremes of “ASL grognards” and “Call of Duty thrillseekers”. I can’t wait to try out Lock N Load.

I also strongly agree with Mark about the way story is ignored in strategy games (especially turn based). Part of the reason I love Alpha Centauri so much is because the faction leaders have personality and the game tells and story. Its no Planescape Torment, but its alot more compelling than most turn based strategy games where its just “Generic Elves” versus “Generic Orcs”. Most Turn Based Strategy game designers seem to be interested only in balance and game mechanics, but not in giving the game personality.

I really enjoy your podcast BTW. I’m sure you didn’t intend to ambush Mark like that.


Tom probably forgot about this one, what with the five words or so he spoke during the podcast. :-)

It did come across as if Julian and Bruce were reviewing the game rather then treating it like the work in progress that it is. I understand the point they were making, but it did seem to get a bit more “spirited” then it should have for a beta.

One thing I’ve noticed in recent podcasts is that the discussion suffers when only some of the panel have played a particular game. In this case Tom and Troy were practically absent. The same has been true in some other cases. Given that the format is usually based around a more general discussion this is less of a problem most of the time, but when a particular game gets most of the time, it really stands out.

I’ve recently been listening to the entire back-catalogue of Three Moves Ahead. So I recognise Bruce and Julians discussion as enthusiasm for debating game design, rather than an attack. I just wanted to contribute to the debate which I felt was a bit one sided, and a little unfair to the guest.

I’ve really enjoyed the podcast series as a whole. This is just the kind of stuff I am interested in. Troys got a good radio voice. Tom always has interesting, well expressed points to make. Bruce and Julian have a clear passion for the genre. You’ve got a nice mix of strategy gamer types represented. Heres some (hopefully) constructive criticism:

  1. The discussion can get a bit derailed in this case: A panel member makes a point, receives a response, and then feels compelled to make the same point again in different words.

  2. Sometimes one panel member will use an example of a game mechanic in a particular game. Another panel member will respond by saying “thats a bad game” or “thats a good game”. Its not a very useful response. I think you should either a) stay quiet, or b) respond in the context of the mechanic the original speaker was debating.

I’ve never listened to the entire back-catalogue of a podcast before, so thats a high recommendation on it own. Keep up the good work.


Great comments, Tony! Seriously, those are some helpful observations.

Sometimes we have such disparate tastes it’s hard to get all of us in there. I did sort of opt out of this last one since I didn’t get a chance to look at Mark’s game. Similarly, since Bruce has so little gaming time these days, it sucks when we go off on a jag about more recent games and he gets shut out. But, yes, point taken.


There is no link the world is ending, argh!

Gee that Julian guy can be a dick.

My passion on this issue is driven from my love for the format and the genre. Mark was nice enough to give us a build to play, and while it may have sounded like “Julian is an idiot and if he had a manual everything would be fine” I still contend, even if I was inarticulate, that he has made some design decisions that are problematic.

It may come down to randomness, as much as anything. I’ve been thinking through that, and the nature of the LnL system is that it can be extraordinarily luck-driven. On the tabletop, that feels very, very different than in a PC strategy game. I haven’t really wrapped my head around it completely, but that may be a bit of it.

It certainly would have helped if we had explained the game system to people, and that was what I was getting on when I asked Mark to explain what made LnL different. He didn’t really go into a lot of detail there but scattered through the show you could make out it was a impulse system with variable initiative and events.

I played the game, but Bruce and Julian were having so much fun and I think it was a useful conversation. Mark is a very good sport.

Also, the recording - for some reason - teleported my voice three seconds into the future so it overlapped a lot of other people talking. A real mess that meant a lot of my contribution was lost. I was there, I talked a lot at the end and then I had to edit it out.


I had to stop listening halfway through because of the quality of the recording and the quality of the discussion. I certainly prefer a more varied discussion with everyone participating rather than simple dog piles or excuse driven opinion pieces.

The satisfaction of playing a board game is how much you know about the rules? What?

Whiny, peevish, and painful to listen to. Increasingly difficult to imagine actual gameplay in LnL as the bickering progresses. Not the podcast’s finest hour.

I think one problem is that the often occurring clarification of people’s positions on a issue eats up a lot of time and the discussion does not proceed much. Maybe you could let some of that stuff slide during the talk and post a clarifying comment in the official podcast thread later if you feel it’s important. I understand it’s difficult to think like that in the middle of a conversation but maybe that would be a useful adjustment for the benefit of the listeners.

An interesting show once again, thank you all!

It was a fun listen this week, even if would rather change diapers non-stop for 24 hours than spend several evenings reading a games manual and looking at the pieces. I enjoy TMA a lot, but sometimes I’m struck by how nuts you guys are. :)

Mark was a good sport through it all though, it’s obvious how passionate about minutiae Julian and Bruce are, but (in principle at least) I will have to side with Mark that I would prefer a game that didn’t require me to study like I’m taking the SAT to play it…guess I’ll go work on my 8th prestige in CoD4. :)

I’ll agree with this. I’ve been listening to Three Moves Ahead since the beginning and felt that this podcast was a real wreck.

I play a lot of board wargames. More so than PC games nowadays. I do so because PC wargames are , with rare exception, horrifically rudimentary in design and execution to modern board wargames. If AGEOD and Panther weren’t around it would be like comparing the board game selection of a mid-80s Toys’R’Us to a well-stocked Euro game store now.

I own a couple of the Lock’n’Load titles and find that they are some of the easiest games to introduce new players to wargaming without going into a more compromising, less wargamey segment of the market (Tide of Iron, Memoir '44). Tens of thousands of people routinely grok PC games like Neverwinter Nights 2 and turn-based strategy games with far lengthier manuals/rulesets and that require equal amounts of “noggin time” to think out and adjust your plan and moves. You came away making it sound like L’n’L was some kind of bearded-man monstrosity, which it is definitely not.

I play a few squad based series-it’s not really my favorite of genres, but I own some L’n’L games, have GMT’s excellent Combat Commander games, have an ASL starter kit that totally didn’t do it for me, and have played a good deal of Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear. These games are have many things in common, and the best part is not slogging through and applying the rules of the game, instead it is seeing how the combination of scenario design, decisions that are made by the players, and the chance (or the friction of war, if we wanna go there) all come together to form a strong game play narrative. The rules only exist to form a sequence of play to glue everything together to fit the detail and range of the narrative you want to be able to emerge-they are a means to an end, but not the end itself.

That’s why I thought the dismissal of some of the ideas (like the Russian girl) was so misguided-the designer is intentionally harnessing what is already a strong point of the game (the emergent narrative) and spicing it up with “scripted” scenario events to add even more flavor and make it a more memorable experience.

Don’t get me wrong about rules-I LOVE a good set of wargame rules and that’s why I’m a huge fan of guys like Dean Essig and Ted Raicer-but I felt the talk about conflict simulation games in this podcast never really hit the strong narrative aspect of squad/team level games and did both L’n’L and the genre a disservice by not doing so.

Mark was a great sport!

I do think that many developers can’t wait to be on the show after listening to this one :D

Still got me interested in the game where I wasn’t before, so some good comes of it at least :)

Enjoyed the episode. (audio was a bit low quality on this one, but sometimes that can’t be helped) Listening from the beginning and grabbing each new show when it comes out!