With the huge popularity of our upcoming wargame Stargrave,we reached out to the internet to find the most burning fan questions for the award-winning creator Joseph A. McCullough. Specially created for Aw Shux 2021, we asked Joe your queastions in this rare Ask Me Anything.
What is, in your opinion, the greatest miniature wargame ever designed (other than your own games)? - Florian Buhr
Probably Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. I love the game for its weird blend of wargaming and roleplaying elements. More importantly, I think it basically serves as the base for most of the industry as it exists today. Without, I’m not sure I’d have become a wargame designer or that such a job could even exist. While it shows its age mechanically, it still has to sit at the top of the Wargaming Hall of Fame.
How would you complete the following statement: “The Wargaming community needs...”? - Florian Buhr
More pencils! Forget tokens and fancy apps. Making scratches on paper is superior to them all, and means you always have a tool of creativity right beside you.
Do players from different parts of the world respond differently to the games you have created, and what differences have you noticed? - Matt Titulaer
To be honest, I’ve not noticed any regional trends, but the fact that Frostgrave has found a home amongst so many gamer worldwide is a great joy – it has been translated into multiple languages, and the Frostgrave tour to Talinn included American, Australian, Canadian, British, Japanese, and German players!
What's been the most fun part of developing Frostgrave and Stargrave for you? - Michael Mersey
I love writing scenarios. I love creating weird death-trap situations or strange plot lines, and then dumping players into them and letting them sort it out!
Are there any plans for optional yet official rules for improving henchmen? - Odysseus Dallas
Rangers of Shadow Deep has a system for improving companions that could easily be ported over to Frostgrave or Stargrave. That said, I generally think that these games are better without it. While I understand the desire to improve all of the members of the gang, it becomes unwieldy to balance and difficult for your opponent to keep track of what each soldier is and what they can do – which can be frustrating.
Have you got any plans to develop a sci-fi version of Rangers of Shadow Deep? - Adam James Price
Not at the moment. In the future… who knows?
With the benefit of hindsight, if you could change any one thing in any one of your games, what would it be? – James Taylor
Well, thankfully, I got to make a lot of those changes when I wrote the second edition of Frostgrave, and then got to use those changes is Stargrave. That said, I’m still not completely happy with the survival and injury tables in any of them, and I’m still trying to figure out how to improve them.
What game do you wish you had created? – Michael Griffon
Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the game that launched it all, and the one that has the greatest freedom of creativity.
What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of being a game designer? – Benjamin Corless
Being a rules arbiter. I know that sounds odd, since I write rules, but I’m such a big believer in house rules, that I think often game groups are better off talking through a rules questions and coming up with an answer that they are happy with than me supplying an answer about the way the game ‘must’ be played. Some questions have pretty clear-cut answers, but it often doesn’t make a huge difference to game balance, so the ‘correct’ answer is whatever people like more.
Are there any genres you would love to tackle in the future? – Simon Jones
All of them! I’d love to write a Superhero game and a Mech game and maybe a Weird West game. I’ve given some thought to all of them, but never quite found what I was looking for. So, who knows?
When creating creatures or monsters, do you start with a concept or a mechanic? – Toni Goodman
It depends. Sometimes I like to just think up cool monsters, and then I stat them out. A lot of the time though, I’m building scenarios and need a monster that does ‘X’ to make the scenario work the way I want it to – so I’ll go away and create a creature that does that.
When playing games for pleasure (rather than ‘work’) do you prefer to play your own or others? – Michael Potts
My own. It sounds a bit vain to write it, but the truth is that I created these games because they are what I like to play. They are tuned to my play style, so it would be a bit worrisome if I didn’t want to play them!
What’s your favourite piece of art from your games? – Laura Marlings
That’s tough. There’s been so many good pieces. I think it’s probably in Ghost Archipelago. There’s a piece where one of the Heritors is holding up the mouth of a dinosaur, while a Warden uses magic to tie it up in vines. I just love the story it tells. That said, I also really like the cover of The Frostgrave Folio – just a lot of drama in that piece.
What new concepts that differ from the core game of Stargrave we can expect to see in upcoming supplements? - Joe Pimentel
With most supplements I like to focus less on mechanical difference, and more on how you go about playing the game. So, the different situations you can set up on the table, different ways you can structure a campaign, different methods of play such as solo or semi-cooperative.
What genres/tropes are inspiring/being reflected in the Stargrave expansions, and how do you choose them? For example, what films/stories inspired the initial content for first expansion book, Quarantine 37? - Benjamin Honey
Quarantine 37 is inspired by sci-fi horror, especially the ‘trapped somewhere surrounded by X’ stories. After that, Last Prospector draws more from westerns, industrial actions, and local politics. After that, I’m thinking of going for a more explosive, straight-forward adventure.
There are now (according to Amazon) two supplements coming out. What plans are there to continue with the support of the game? - Jimmy Gee
And there is a third in planning beyond that. I hope to continue to support the game in a similar fashion to Frostgrave, and Osprey Games seems keen to do so as well.
With ranged combat being more prevalent in Stargrave than it is in its fantasy precursors, what design challenges and changes came with the shift in combat dynamic? - James Westwood
The biggest thing was finding a way to force figures to still move around the table, instead of just taking up fire positions in cover and rolling dice for the rest of the game. Thankfully, some tweaks to the way loot collection and encounters work went a long way to accomplishing that.
Were there any elements that were deceptively difficult to balance and/or design in Stargrave? - James Westwood
The Powers – not the specific ones – but just making them worth using in a game where everyone has the option to fire a big gun instead.
Will light vehicles ever make an appearance in Stargrave? - Walter Urbanczyk
I don’t know. If I think of a good way to work them in that I think enhances the game, I’ll put them in there. It’s not a specific design goal at the moment.
Do you have plans for vehicles and 'power armour' more akin to the suits in Aliens? - Myles Howard
Yes. It’s something I’m working on.
Any plans to expand the single-player options? - Paul Gayner
Yes. It’s something I’m working on!
Sooooo... There's going to be bounty hunter characters, right? - Jeremy Olsen
If you want your guys to be bounty hunters, there is nothing stopping you. In fact, there is a whole free mini-supplement (Dead or Alive releasing at the same time as the game) devoted to it.
Are there any White Gorillas in Stargrave? Have they learned how to climb very well in the far-flung future? - Scott Radom
No, but there is a crazy monkey…
Star Trek or Star Wars? - Philip Smith
Both. Why choose? I grew up watching and loving both and that continues to this day.
Thank you to Joe for his time and to everyone who submitted questions!
In a galaxy torn apart by the Last War, vast pirate fleets roam from system to system, robbing, extorting, and enslaving. Amidst this chaos, thousands of independent operators – smugglers, relic hunters, freedom fighters, and mercenaries – roam the dead stars in small ships, scratching out a living any way they can.
In Stargrave, players take on the role of one of these independent operators, choosing from a range of backgrounds each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and associated powers. Next, players must hire a crew for their ship, recruiting a lieutenant with a unique skill-set and a handful of soldiers, mechanics, hackers, and other specialists. Some captains may even recruit strange alien lifeforms with abilities no humanoid could ever possess.
Once the players’ crews are assembled, they are ready to dive into a campaign. Over a series of games, their crews will have the chance to carry out a variety of missions – recovering lost technology, stealing data, freeing slaves, and fighting back against the pirate fleets. In time, as the crews gain experience, they will become more powerful and hire more talented specialists. The more they grow, however, the more likely it is that a pirate fleet will take note of their activities and come after them!
Preorder your copy from your Friendly Local Gaming Store or preferred retailer.