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Triptych 17 - Three Subjects in One Blog Post

• Presentation

• Leadership

• Avalon Hill and Hasbro

I'm the sort of person who goes to Metacritic and reads some reviews of a movie to decide whether to go see it, rather than rely on trailers. I don't turn on the TV just to see what's one, at most I might look at TitanTV for movies that I'd like to see. Atmosphere appeals to people who buy things on impulse, who buy a book because of its cover, who buy a cell phone or car because it's pretty. (I once asked the salesperson, while buying new cell phones, how many people bought based on appearance rather than features. She said people say they don't care about appearance, but often she'd show someone a phone that suited their needs and they'd say "I don't like how that one looks, show me another one.")

The trend for at least the past 50 years is that presentation has become relatively more important, and substance less important. Of course, it has become easier and easier to make something look good, regardless of whether it's actually worth bothering with in its substance. I'm reminded of a decades-old rule of thumb, that a poor novel with a good cover will sell well, while a good novel with a poor cover will not. Whether this still applies, when so many buy books without browsing in a bookstore, I don't know, but online sellers are careful to show the covers . . .

"Those who have too little, value quantity; those who have enough, value quality; and those who have too much, value presentation." Originated with Will, aka the Class Guy (twitter)



I educated myself, and was formally educated as, an historian. The key to history is understanding the state of reality. If you don’t know what was happening, how can you explain why it was happening? Historians must be ultimate realists.

Similarly, leaders must be ultimate realists. This is not to say that they ignore emotion and irrationality, because a great deal of life is about emotion and irrationality. But they still need to know what is, “the facts”.

I’ve specialized in military and diplomatic history, where we see again and again and again that leaders must understand what’s actually happening in order to be able to achieve their goals. A military leader has to first know where his units are and what their capabilities are, and where the opposing units are and what their capabilities are. Or tends to be a vast chaos of uncertainty, and those leaders who can make the most sense out of it are the ones who succeed.

Political leaders also need to know what reality is, even if they then choose to ignore it, or to convince their followers that the truth is something else.

In the modern world we see many politicians relying heavily on wishful thinking and promoting wishful thinking in their followers. The most obvious example is Donald Trump, whose entire life is about persuading people of what the truth is rather than paying attention to the reality. Trump will make up anything he thinks sounds good to his followers, while anyone who is devoted to discovering what reality is wonders where he gets these stories. If Trump doesn’t like reality he tries to ignore it, as in the pandemic, where even now he says we’re turning the corner, that the pandemic will just go away, despite all the evidence in deaths and hospitalizations to the contrary. It’s inconvenient for him, so he ignores the 250,000 deaths and all that goes along with it.

Conspiracy theories are one of the heights of wishful thinking, fueled by ignorance and often by stupidity.

The older I get, the more I recognize how important leadership is to nations and other political and business entities.


According to former Avalon Hill (AH) employees, among them Don Greenwood, talking about the demise of AH at a get-together at WBC a few years ago, Hasbro asked to buy Diplomacy, and was told they'd have to buy the entire company.

Rex Martin, formerly of the General magazine, wrote a doctoral dissertation showing that wargames are a Baby Boomer hobby that didn't translate, by and large, to later generations.

Hasbro had no idea what they had. One of the games was my Britannia. They sent that on to Multiman Publishing. Fortunately, MMP didn't republish it, because the rights had reverted to me when it went out of print - but Hasbro had no clue. I was unaware of all this because I spent 20 years away from the hobby (except for playing D&D). When I came back, in 2003-4, I sorted this out and did a new edition for Fantasy Flight. (And now there’s a new edition (same rules, plastic pieces) from PSC Games (UK).)


Hmm... I understand what you mean


I used to think that with "nicer" presentation, your odds of succeeding are GREATER. And while I may still think this is TRUE. It comes at a rather HIGH price. Not to mention that it also takes time to produce quality artwork too!

But recently with one design in particular... I was going to TRY to release a game with NO ART. Focus solely on the cards and their abilities. How would this game be received??? IDK TBH. But I have seen a TON of mediocre games with mediocre art and ... still... people are playing these games! Are they more FUN??? Not from the videos I have seen... I can't actually believe people PLAY such "boring" games.

So my question to you Dr. Lew would be: "Would you TRY a game with no art?" I don't mean art on the box or card templates (Graphic Design) ... But a game where the focus is NOT 50% art.


As someone who decided about 15 years ago to start running his own company, I can firmly say that "Leadership" can be very finicky. First of all it's hard to assume all roles and be a "Leader", a "Salesperson", "a Creative", "an Accountant", etc. Finding someone to HELP can be a challenge unless you've established yourself as a BRAND. Let me explain.

Let's say you have a game, call it "Britannia" and you KS-ed and made $80,000 USD. Good for you, you've succeeded. But in truth you HAVEN'T. Having ONE (1) Game doesn't make for a BRAND. The amount of re-occurring revenue is negligible. I compare this to the $85 CAD cheque my artist Geof Isherwood showed me for "royalties" from Marvel Comics.

Sure it may be good for REPUTATION. But you're NOT A BRAND. Because to HIRE someone to do Graphic Design full-time is about $50 - $60k CAD, an artist will set you back another $50 - $60k CAD and then you need a CFO aside from being the CEO. Your $80k is nothing... It's a one-time payment. To go beyond that ... is the CHALLENGE to create a Brand.

Basically you'll probably need about $500k CAD worthwhile of resources to RUN a REAL company. That's $500k CAD of ANNUAL earnings. You're very far from that with a one-time campaign. That's why there are publishers ... Because "designers" are the "little people". Sure without us there would NOT be anything to SELL. But without Publishers (those $500k CAD and above companies), there wouldn't be any opportunities to "combine" products and manufacture all kinds of different GAMES and bring them to MARKET!

So while I think there is a reason to have "Game Designers", I also see that there is a need for REAL COMPANIES that are Publishers. Not one-off producers, I'm talking about people who put together a CATALOG of games, produce them AND sell them through distribution. I'm in this business to TRY to squeak out some income and make ends-meet. So while I may have SOME "Leadership" qualities, I don't have them all. Does that make me LESS of a "Leader"??? Hmm... I think most of the "Leaders" today focus on their SALEMANSHIP abilities or the capability to convince and win people over. That doesn't mean they know or understand HOW to bring new and innovative products to market. Perhaps this means that there are DIFFERENT "types" of leaders. And your style of "Leadership" can vary too... I wonder???

Note #1: They should teach people that in order to BE A "LEADER", you need to FIRST be a STRONG SALESPERSON. If you can't sell, odds are you will have a difficult making your company a success! Even IF you have great PRODUCTS and very innovative IDEAS... That's my lesson of the day! Everything points to the capability to SELL... sell more, sell often, and/or re-occurring sales. My whole explanation behind the BRAND theory.

Congratulations on getting signed by Fantasy Flight Games

Dr. Lew... Are you still a part of the FFG family??? When I visited the FFG website, I found a post from you about a NEWER version ... But when I look into FFG's "other games" ... Britannia doesn't appear. While other games that are also known like "X-Com" do appear.

Perhaps I was unclear about the relationship. You were with FFG and now you are not!? Is this correct or am I just confused...?

Did FFG pull the product from their catalog or did you?!

As far as Hasbro is concerned, they are only focused on BIG BRANDS. Even if Britannia may have a following, I'm not sure Hasbro handles so many products. Yes, they do have the more known household BRANDS... But that's what they stick to: things that people KNOW and recognize.

Like Transformers and My Little Pony and such (it says 7 brands). From Google: "Franchise Brands account for about 50% of Hasbro's revenue."

So I don't think it's a "mistake" ... It's them recognizing that they didn't want to be "pulled in all kinds of direction" with a bunch of other products that did not fit the part of THEIR BRAND strategy. (I talked above about Branding and so this should make more sense to most people...)

Note #1: This kind of explains Hasbro acquisition of WOTC and purchase of both the Magic and D&D BRANDS. Both are MEGA-BRANDS. Most people if you ask them if they've HEARD of Dungeons & Dragons, they would say they've heard of the brand. Same goes for Magic but perhaps less in the older crowd. Whereas D&D is generally more well-known...

Owning WOTC makes a lot of sense because of the MEGA-BRANDING. It's what Hasbro does... produce brands that are mostly household brands recognized by children AND their parents.

Me and FFG

I was never a part of FFG. They made me (as a freelance designer) an offer I couldn't refuse in 2006, but it was a one-off, because the owner and president (CP) liked Britannia. They reprinted it with foreign language as well as in ENglish in 2008 and it went out of print in 2012.

The rights then reverted to me. I designed a third edition, but haven't finished it (long story)!

The new print (same rules, different interface including plastic figures) is from PSC Games in the UK, not from FFG. It's combined with *Duel Britannia*, a two-player 90 minute version using a new board but many of the same rules.

Your question: A game not 50%

Your question: A game not 50% art? If you need art to carry 50% of your game, you've designed poorly.

My prototypes typically have no art (no box or cover, either), yet people like to play them. I do try for plastic/3d pieces, since that helps attract players. And I try to make boards look halfway decent, but not artistic.

Designers who contract with publishers don't control the look of their games. Not at all. Which can occasionally be frustrating, when the publisher screws up (as in the colors of the plastic Britannia pieces being insufficiently differentiated).

I've made a video "Gameplay, Graphics, Features: Importance in Design" that hasn't been released yet. You *might* be able to watch it here:

Sorry Dr. Lew ...

It says that the Video is "Private". I don't want to rush you until it is ready to be released to the public.

I'm sorry to hear that FFG was not a "forever" home for Britannia. However you did get a printing of some sorts so that is very positive.

As far as 50% art, I'm mostly talking about CARD Art. If your game has cards, in most cases those cards have ART. And I say 50% because most of the art occupies a GOOD 50% of the cards as well. A game board and player pads also account for more art. I would tend to say the cost of making the game and the art are about 50/50 when it comes down to it. It costs just as much to do art as it should cost to design the rules and write the rulebook.

I have never been able to SELL a "concept" or "game idea". Most of my projects go through to final art ... and then someone wakes up and says: "Hmm... This looks pretty decent!" And either they like the ART or think that the game is FUN. But never unless the product is DONE (from A to Z).

I guess that's why I feel like I need to publish all my own stuff ... Because nobody cares UNLESS I release it first. Then it's like: "Good job or this game is very interesting... etc."

But never sold on concept alone. Different strokes, different folks. I guess... I chuck it up to experience.


Leadership can sometimes be a nebulous term. My Masters Degree is in Strategic Leadership, and it was a great academic experience, but a degree and $10 buys a Starbucks coffee. So I consider my 24 years in the army, retiring as Lieutenant Colonel as more applicable. (Just to establish credibility typing here)
One of my favorite topics to study is the capturing and burning of Washington DC by the British military during the War of 1812. (My unpublished game is a military historical game on that operation)

US leadership made mistakes every step of the way, that led directly to the end result. President Madison had next to zero military experience (a few months in his father's militia regiment in 1775, resigning to serve in the VA legislature before ever mobilizing) His predecessor Thomas Jefferson had zero experience. Their party, The Democratic-Republican Party had neglected the US military for a decade, yet arrogantly stumbled into a war with the greatest power in the world.

Briefly, the Democratic-Republican Party was the precursor of the modern Democratic Party of today. They dropped Republican from their name in the 1830s.

James Madison was a career politician, who made a like minded D-R Captain Winder a Brigadier General and appointed him commander of the DC/Baltimore area. Skipping ahead 4 ranks because of political party affiliation, did not make General Winder a competent commander. As the British force marched toward DC, he proceeded to fail to prepare defensive positions, block roads or train the raw militia. Madison's Sec of War refused to issue rifled muskets available from the DC armory. Madison's Sec of State James Monroe, "ordered" militia regiments from their positions near the Anacostia River back 500 yards. (The Sec of State is NOT in the military chain of command) This blunder allowed the British Light Brigade of 1100 men, to cross the river challenged only by 8 cannons and 180 infantry.

All these blunders, and several others I didn't mention, led to a decisive British victory and the burning of the US capital.

James Madison was no doubt a great political mind and primary driver of our great Constitution. But he blundered into a war which he and his political party were totally unprepared for. Unprepared because of their own decisions to neglect the US military, and place people in positions of power based on their political loyalties.

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blog | by Dr. Radut