2020 brought us a global pandemic and, along with it, social distancing, masks, financial uncertainty and postponed delivery dates. For our end-of-the-year special we decided to turn to some of our favourite solo and soloable game designers and ask them to share their own experiences, feelings, plans and hopes both for the year we leave behind and the year to come. Every day until December 31 we will publish one of these short interviews (we have no patience for long ones). Our guest today is Hermann Luttmann. Designer of Dawn of the Zeds, In Magnificent Style: Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, Invaders from Dimension X! and Crowbar!: The Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc, among others. He was kind enough to answer our 3+1 questions.
1. Nobody likes being forced to stay at home, but did the quarantine actually help you concentrate on your design work? Or did it instead feel restraining and cause designer's block? Did you miss any face-to-face meetings or conventions?
Strangely enough, at first it allowed me extra time to concentrate on design work and dedicate a good chunk of my day to finishing projects. But then, a bit of design fatigue set in. At some point, I spent so much time designing that I wanted to do something else besides sit at a computer all day - thinking and typing. Aside from that, with all the down time my brain had time to formulate ideas for all other kinds of game designs. So now, I was toiling away all day on established design projects while simultaneously coming up with all sorts of new ideas as well.
Now I’m hitting a point where there is a whirlwind of tasks that need to be tested and finished and a blizzard of projects that need to be started and developed! It’s actually too much input and that has indeed resulted in a kind of designer’s block (or designer’s traffic jam) where I really need to avoid any design work for a day or two and just go do something else. Often, that takes the form of playing other games and enjoying them. After all, designers are all just gamers at heart.
As far as conventions, I do miss them dearly. They are an opportunity to see friends again and actually play some games with them. They allow me to meet other designers and “talk shop” with them. Conventions attract most of the big game publishers and therefore I can meet with them and show them what I’m working on. Also, the cons give me a forum to demonstrate my designs and let gamers enjoy them with me. So yeah – I really miss the face-to-face interactions.
2. Marie Kondo shows up in your dream in the form of a yokai. She is throwing away your entire board game collection and only lets you keep one game: the one that 'sparks the most joy'. Which one is it?
Well, that is a really tough one! I’m going to cheat a bit. If I’m stuck playing solitaire only, I’m probably going to pick Blackstone Fortress. The system is clever, the solo "bot" mechanic is easy and smart, the variety is off the charts and there’s a driving story behind the play, which gives solo play a purpose. If I have just one other opponent, I think I’ll go with Summoner Wars as my two-player game. It has a fantastically unique system, infinite variety with 24 factions that all work differently and will appeal to wargamers as well as non-wargamers. If I’m able to play a game with a group of people, I’d probably choose Defenders of the Realm for its pure fun, variety and simplicity. Though I have to say, the Sadler Brothers’ games are a very close second – I absolutely love Street Masters and Altar Quest.
3. We are a news website, so we will obviously ask you to share your plans for 2021. Anything us solo gamers can look forward to?
Ah! Next year will be a very busy year for me indeed! I don’t know if all of these will make it out next year – odds are they won’t all be published – but as far as solitaire games only, I have quite a few planned:
Beware The Shades! - this is a cooperative/solo horror game and is in the pipeline at GMT Games. A horrible accident has occurred on Plum Island and mutated monsters are let loose on the island. You have to rally various factions and figure out the best way that their diverse talents can be coordinated to stop the tidal wave of terror that is marching down the island toward the main town.
Assault on Zoltar – a cooperative/solo science fiction wargame for Nuts! Publishing. Players each take a unique company of mercenaries and are tasked with seizing the planet of Zoltar from the advanced alien race there.
The King’s Wrath – a solitaire game for Worthington Publishing that uses the In Magnificent Style system in a fantasy setting. The player plays an elite force of knights called "The King’s Wrath" and they must assault a stronghold held by monstrous beings who are threatening the destruction of a village that they have captured.
The Valiant Seven – this is an idea I just came up only with a few days ago! This will basically be a re-skinning of the first edition of Dawn of the Zeds and is an homage to the movie "The Magnificent Seven". So it will have a western theme and contain all the wonderful western tropes and cliches. I’m really looking forward to digging into this one.
The Sacred Way – this design would be the next in the Crowbar! series for Flying Pig Games. It will cover the Battle of Verdun in 1916 and is my first effort in bringing this system up to an operational scale and will also feature merging tracks.
Planet of the Mossmen – the fourth installment in the Invaders series for Tiny Battle Games and will feature plant-like aliens that have consumed a planet. Of course, the "Old Reprobates" are called in to save the day!
Miracle at Dunkerque – this is the long-delayed re-design of A Spoiled Victory and will feature the player as the Allied forces holding off the German Wehrmacht at Dunkerque. The player needs to conduct a fighting withdrawal while also being able to evacuate as many troops as possible.
Bonus question: We see a ZZ Top picture as your BGG avatar, what is your favourite ZZ Top song?
Yes! One of my favorite bands (along with Rammstein and Status Quo). My "claim to fame" is that I have framed photographs of ZZ Top in my game room that were taken in 1975 when we saw them in New York City. This is before they had the beards and sunglasses, so I’ve been a fan for a long time. My all-time favorite song, the one I never get tired of listening to, is La Grange. I love boogie music – which is why I also like Status Quo – and this song has the perfect boogie groove. When you add in Billy Gibbons’ unforgettable and perfectly-toned lead guitar work, the song still gives me chills when certain notes are struck.
I also really like Blue Jean Blues, Sharp Dressed Man, Arrested For Driving While Blind, Tube Snake Boogie, My Heads In Mississippi… oh my, there are a ton of songs I love!
Thank you very much for participating, Hermann! All the best wishes for 2021.