Monday, September 21, 2015


Map of Antarctica with Neuschwabenland

I was looking for a new wargame to play, and I had a very precise idea of what I was looking for. I wanted streamlined, simple rules-- nothing too complex-- low counter density and a small map, solitaire friendly, easy quick combat resolution, and, finally, an awesome and unusual theme. Just a small game to have fun with, maybe in the vein of the old Micro-games from Metagaming Concepts, like OGRE or Chitin.

My search wasn't prosperous. When the theme was attractive and cool, the rules were too complex. When the rules were streamlined, the theme was uncool. Or the game wasn't in print. And so on.

Then I thought, why not design the game myself? And so here we are.

From the start, my theme was clear. I'm a fan of old sci-fi classics like The Thing from Another World and War of the Worlds, and I love weird conspiracy theories, like "the Nazis built a secret base in Antarctica". I combined the two interests, and thus the idea of the third Reich fighting Aliens in Antarctica was born.

Lobby card for The Thing From Another World

The next step was to research the arctic environment and arctic warfare. The book Mythos Neuschwabenland (Myth New Swabia) was very evocative in its descriptions of this fascinating landscape. I watched old training films and read books about Mountain Troops to learn more about warfare under severe climatic conditions.

I tried a few different dice-based combat systems for the game, but found the perfect one quickly. I drew inspiration from the heavy and light combat dice system in Space Crusade, a game from my childhood.

The real challenge was giving each of the two factions a different play style. I decided that the hive-minded Aliens should be built for close combat, while the Reich should rely more on ranged combat and special equipment. I solved my problem by using different activation systems: the Aliens activate all units, but have variable movement points, while the Reich can activate only some of their units, with fixed movement points. A side effect of these differences is that it made the game very suitable for solitaire play, which was one of my goals.

I know it's unusual for a designer to do his own art. I had done graphics for other games previously-- nothing professional-- but the past experience was helpful, and doing the art wasn't any kind of hindrance. I went with a light-hearted comic book look; I think I was playing a lot of Borderlands at that time. :-)

Sample counters for Sperling's Neuschwabenland

I had a lot of "interpretational freedom" in designing the game, as there is no "real world data" to consider for fictional units like the Tripods, Worms, and Haunebu. I drew inspiration from movies and books, but generally let my imagination run free. I had to be careful not to go overboard so as to keep everything balanced. Fun trumped realism every time.

After playtesting and writing the rulebook, the game was good to go. I had proofread professionally published rulebooks before, but writing a book was a different matter altogether. This was especially true with the English version of the rules, since English isn't my first language. Tiny Battle's Mary Russell, and her husband Tom, helped refine the English version of the rules, so this wasn't a problem. I have to thank them for their help and support. I also need to thank Mark H. Walker for the same. Without their professionalism and experience, a professionally published, physical copy of my game would not have been possible.

Hope you enjoy it!

Check out Christian's game at Tiny Battle Publishing

Neuschwabenland comes with six unique scenarios played on a single map, along with a Campaign Game that links the scenarios. Play time for each scenario varies from 30 minutes to an hour. The game's beautiful map, crisp rules layout, and gorgeous counters were all created by designer Christian Sperling, resulting in a uniquely cohesive experience. Ski over here.

1 comment:

  1. My hat is off to you, sir, for being the first designer to write "chrome" rules acknowledging the tactical value of methamphetamines.
    Good job!