War @ Sea: A History According to Game Designer Richard Baker

Richard Baker, Wizards of the Coast game designer for War at Sea, recently shared a brief history of the making of War at Sea. This is of interest to War at Sea players for obvious reasons. But, it is also pertinent for CCG/CMG gamers to see how a major game company thinks when it approaches collectible games.

The brief history is shared below for your reading pleasure and can be found in its original form at Set II – Any News.

“Just so you guys can understand a little more about what decisions we made, I’ll try to run down the development history of War at Sea as best I can. There’s a lot that I am not really at liberty to elaborate on, but perhaps this will help shed some light on things.”

“1. Back around GenCon 05, R&D and the Avalon Hill business team decided to do an A&A naval miniatures game. I collapsed into a heap of quivering glee.

2. In the fall of ’05 we designed Set I. We’d originally thought that we would be shooting for a GenCon ’06 release.

3. After wrapping up the Set I design, we moved on to putting together the original Set II list (call it Set 2-Alpha), assuming that we had 64 more new models available. We created art specs (basically, sculpting directions) for these and some initial design work, but that’s as far as we got.

4. Late in ’05 we decided to delay War at Sea from ’06 for various business reasons (this is the stuff I can’t say much more about right now).

5. In the fall of ’06 we “reactivated” War at Sea and decided to move forward with War at Sea Set 1. We had modest expectations at this point, but I was delighted that we were going to get the game out. We still had Set 2 in our back pocket, but our business team wanted to see how Set 1 did before committing to Set 2. (This is a pretty expensive game for us to produce, so you can understand that they wanted to make sure before we started sculpting new models and paying for new molds to be made.)

6. War at Sea comes out in March of ’07 and exceeds our expectations.

7. In June, our sales and business teams decide that a Set 2 is warranted, but we’re going to have to economize somewhat on our production costs to make it work within our budget. The upshot is that we can do a set with about 30 new models if we want it in ’08, but we can also go back and “reprint” as many models from Set 1 as we want. We choose about 30 more of the Set 1 pieces that give us the best opportunities for reprint (new paint schemes, different war histories suggesting different special abilities, size of class, etc). This gives us a different Set 2 list than we orginally planned, so you might think of this as Set 2-Bravo.

8. You’ll see Set 2 in the second trimester of ’08. I wish it could be faster, but once our sales team decided to take a “wait and see” approach on Set 1, we had to insert Set 2 in the middle of our ’08 production schedule.

I hope that helps you all to see how we reached the decisions we did. The good news is, I’m pretty optimistic about a Set 3 now.”