A few months ago, I was cruising Facebook and saw a post from Andy Nunez on an upcoming 2nd Edition copy of a game of his that I have always been interested in but never got around to playing called A Splendid Little War: The Spanish-American War – Santiago Campaign July 1-14, 1898 from Legion Wargames. I reached out to Andy to see if he could update us on the changes in the 2nd Edition and give us a bit about the design. Alexander interviewed Andy several years ago and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2017/04/12/interview-with-andy-nunez-editor-of-against-the-odds-magazine/
Grant: First off Andy please tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies? What’s your day job?
Andy: I am a native of the state of Maryland, USA. I graduated with a degree in art education, but it was during a down economy, so did various other jobs. I have currently been an employee of the State of Maryland for nearly 30 years, most recently as a supervisor in the Department of Human Services. Besides wargames, I am an avid metal detecting enthusiast and president of my local club. I also have written numerous articles about the hobby. In my spare time, I have written six books about local treasure hunting and folklore, two about local history and one book for Osprey about the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania for their campaign series.
Grant: How did you get involved with Against the Odds Magazine and your duties as editor?
Andy: I wrote several articles for various gaming magazines like the fanzine Chain of Command and the Grenadier Magazine. I worked closely with designer Rob Beyma on some of his designs, mostly doing map art, and as part of his team, became involved with Clash of Arms. I was also a playtester for GDW for Fire in the East and Scorched Earth. Steve Rawling, then a partner at Clash of Arms, asked me to do a fantasy scenario pitting Alexander the Great’s army from Gaugemala against Wellington in La Bataille de Mont St. Jean. It took a bit of doing, but I pulled it off and it was published in the Clash of Arms house organ, The Art of War. When Steve left Clash, he decided to start his own magazine and asked me to write a column featuring an elite unit from the issue’s game. Along the way, he asked me to do a couple of filler articles. These were a challenge to me because my previous work had been either fiction or wargaming related articles, not straight history, so I had a learning curve. My ability to work fast and without hesitation over subject matter impressed him enough so that when the original editor fell seriously behind due to real world issues, Steve asked if I thought I could handle it. Editing a magazine was something I had zero experience with, but I agreed and underwent another learning curve dealing with deadlines, people (and their egos) and making decisions about graphics. Once I got my feet under me, it’s been a real joy over the years. I started as editor on issue 5 and before the end of 2021, I will have edited 50 regular issues and all Annuals and Campaign studies, as well as three designs for the magazine and I am ready to go as long as Steve will put up with me.
Grant: What motivated you to break into game design? What have you enjoyed most about the experience thus far?
Andy: That’s a really good question. I played my first wargame in 1975, the old AH Kriegspiel and got hooked. Next was Panzerblitz. The following summer I got a job at a local game store and played a number of classic AH and SPI designs. One of the games was the SPI folio game Dixie, which postulated the South won the Civil War and they had a rematch in the 1930’s. I added some foreign intervention counters just for fun. One of my favorite games was the AH version of John Edward’s War at Sea. When AH came out with Victory in the Pacific and then the Victory at Sea connecting rules, I tried to design a WW3 version using the maps, but I just didn’t know enough about modern warships and their capabilities. I also did a Kursk scenario for Cross of Iron. I had a long layoff due to the down economy in 1980 and had a lot of time on my hands, so I decided to try my hand at a design from scratch. I was always a big Teddy Roosevelt fan, and I hadn’t seen a game of the Spanish American War, so I haunted my local library and the nearby university library for research material. I found a number of books on the subject. They had great US orders of battle but a lot of the Spanish order of battle I had to infer from reading the texts. Instead of the whole war, I chose to just do the Santiago campaign. My favorite part of game design is drawing up the map. Being visually oriented (I illustrate my local books myself), designing a map is like a work of art to me.
Grant: What designers have influenced your style?
Andy: I was influenced by the games I played the most. Early on, a lot of them were by John Edwards, though in Avalon Hill remakes. However, after meeting Rob Beyma, he introduced my friends and I to two games that would change my playing preferences forever. Those two games were by GDW, Drang Nach Osten! and La Bataille de la Moscowa. I became fascinated by the sheer size of the games and their scope and utility for multiplayer games hooked me on monsters for life. You can see the influences of John Edwards and the GDW folks in all my published designs. Rob Beyma’s design mechanisms for his War for the Union game heavily influenced my designs as well.
Grant: What do you find most challenging about the design process? What do you feel you do really well?
Andy: Rules! I find rules writing to be a chore. I like to write in a flowing conversational style and rules writing is like doing a Master’s Thesis. Over the years I have gotten better and now, with every rule, I consider how “rules lawyers” will nitpick them. The two things I pride myself most on with designs are the maps because I love to draw them, and the research. I do as much as humanly possible (since I can’t read much in the way of foreign languages) to get as accurate an order of battle as possible. I try to pick up on the nuances of the subject matter, the “chrome” if you will, that makes each design unique.
Grant: What is your upcoming 2nd edition of A Splendid Little War about?
Andy: The game follows the actual campaign for the city of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War. It starts with the assaults on El Caney and the San Juan Heights and ends at the time of actual garrison surrender. In order to keep the game at the right scale, the landings at Daquiri and the skirmish at Las Guasimas are left out. Also, there is no naval action. The sailors who participated in the defense of the city leave on a variable turn and sail on to their destruction. Again, having to include the waters around Cuba would have lost the focus on the tactical nuances of the land campaign. Besides, it was a turkey shoot and brave men died for nothing.
Grant: Why did you want to design a game on the US assault on the Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba from July 1st to July 14th, 1898?
Andy: I was looking for a subject not already available. When I was small, my mother would pick up volumes of the American Heritage History of the United States as a grocery store premium in the 1960’s. I always liked the war volumes and the one with the Spanish American War was called A World Power. A lot of paintings in the book were of naval actions, particularly Manila Bay, but there was a section with paintings by Charles Johnson Post of the attack on Santiago. I also liked the Classics Illustrated biography of Teddy Roosevelt called The Rough Rider. I considered a strategic Civil War game, but Rob told me he was working on one, so the Spanish American War was my next choice. I knew that I had to whittle down the action to just cover the most contested land battles, those of the Santiago Campaign. In those pre-internet days of 1980 it was off to the public Library, where I found the West Point Atlas of American Wars and Frank Freidel’s 1958 book The Splendid Little War. Those two volumes became the core of my reference and focused me on Santiago.
Grant: What about the Spanish-American War did you need to make sure to model in the game?
Andy: There are a lot of little known things that impacted the campaign. Arsenio Linares, the Spanish commander at Santiago, aside from his reconnaissance in force at Las Guasimas, was content to hold to a defensive strategy, believing that the Yellow Fever would decimate the invading US troops at a lower cost than pitched battles. He was almost successful. The US bet their strategy (being outnumbered by the overall size of the Cuban garrison) on American elan, naval and technological superiority, and help from the Cuban insurgents under Calixto Garcia. Linares prepared for a siege. US General William Shafter believed quick and aggressive action would win the day. He and his army were totally unprepared. Their uniforms consisted of heavy woolen shirts, totally unsuitable for the Equatorial temperatures of Cuba. While they had very modern rifles and machine guns, they also failed to bring any heavy artillery suitable for a siege. They used an observation balloon little changed from the Civil War and it made a dandy target for Spanish guns. Also, the militia units raised hastily to supplement the regular army were armed with black powder weapons, so every time they fired in volley, their position was given away to Spanish gunners. There was also the Yellow Fever to contend with and the uncertain value of the insurgent guerillas.
Grant: What is being updated in the 2nd edition? What was the one thing about the game that you really wanted to “fix”?
Andy: The main things were changing combat, the effects of Yellow Fever and simply speeding up the game to make a more playable experience. Not major changes but change focused on improving the game.
Grant: What different unit types are available for both sides?
Andy: They range up and down the scale. Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, Engineers, local militia, guerillas, naval troops, the Dynamite Gun, along with Gatlings, the Colt Automatic rifle and the observation balloons, going from regiment to company level.
Grant: What sources did you consult to get the OOB correct?
Andy: The US OB was pretty easy to obtain, along with raw numbers of men. The West Point Atlas had about 90% of the US OB on its maps. The Spanish OB initially came from Frank Freidel’s book. Later, I consulted The Rough Riders, Albert Marrin’s The Spanish American War, Graham Cosmas’ An Army for Empire, and Stephen Bonsall’s Fight for Santiago. After a long hiatus, I was inspired to pull the design out after watching the Turner miniseries for the 100th anniversary of the war and tweak it a bit more. Then I consulted Al Nofi’s Spanish American War 1898 and the Osprey campaign series book on the battle for Santiago. Most of the OB tweaking was done on the Spanish side after consulting these sources, plus a few folks chimed in and I found a really good website www.spanamwar.com, which is still active after more than 20 years.
Grant: How did you go about the process of assigning combat and movement factors?
Andy: I assigned movement rates based on how far people could travel in a reasonable amount of time. The terrain in Cuba has some special features like swamps, thick cane breaks and woods, and a series of heights that surround Santiago. Santiago Bay prevents the city from being totally surrounded. We found that shortening the turns per game day did not unduly affect movement rates.
Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters? Can you show us a few of the different unit counters?
Andy: The units are presented in a straightforward fashion. I dislike overly busy counters. The basic unit has a combat and a movement factor along with unit ID info. Units that can perform ranged combat have a range (in hexes) and leaders have a command range. Units with black powder weapons have a red combat factor. Some units have a question mark because their effectiveness is variable.
Grant: How do the Rough Riders get incorporated into the design? How do these units compare to others in the game?
Andy: They are basically an infantry unit since there was no available transport for their horses. All US units were highly motivated, but they are the same size and combat power as the regular US 1st Cavalry regiment. Their advantage is that they are the only regiment with an attached machine gun unit, since they bought a pair of Colt Automatic rifles. Also, they are the only regiment with its own leader and sub-leader (Wood and Roosevelt) so their ability to stay in command range allows them greater latitude.
Grant: How did you model the Cuban and Spanish Guerrillas? How do they act differently than other units?
Andy: The Spanish Guerillas act as any other Spanish unit, but they have variable combat factors, as do Spanish volunteer units. Indications were that they were militia of varying quality. The Cuban Guerrillas have the special ability to “Fire and Retire” if too heavily pressed and even if they fail to do so, General Garcia can still get away. Their main job in the campaign was to block the Cobre Road where Spanish reinforcements under Col. Escario were traveling. They failed rather miserably at the task and unlike their Spanish counterparts, they cannot stack with non-guerilla units due to the deep suspicion (and disdain) the two “allies” felt for each other.
Grant: How did you integrate things like Gatling Guns and the US Observation Balloons? What challenges do these special units provide?
Andy: The Gatling Guns and to a lesser extent the Colt unit provide direct fire support at ranges, so, as in the actual campaign, they were instrumental in fire suppression while US forces advanced. The Observation Balloon was a mixed blessing. It did provide good spotting for artillery, but also made a nice target for Spanish artillery to zoom in on US units underneath it. Both items are modelled in the game.
Grant: How does combat work in the design?
Andy: Well, I liked the ebb and flow of combat in the classic LaBataille de la Moscowa design from GDW (not the original Marshal Enterprises version, which I have never seen), but wanted to simplify things a bit. I went with numbers of men divided by 100 to get the unit strengths and worked out the fire and assault combat from there. Basically, after movement, the non-moving player gets defensive fire, then the moving player fires. After casualties and morale checks, there is an Assault Phase. Two different charts handle these things with lots and lots of modifiers. Retreat and Advance occur after that.
Grant: I see that you are upgrading the CRT. What specifically is changing and why?
Andy: The CRT went from a D6 to a D10. This seems to be a prevailing feature these days in games with a wide range of combat factors. The overall effects are within the limits of the original CRT.
Grant: How do trenches and other fortifications help the Spanish player?
Andy: They get fire modifiers on the defense plus assault modifiers during the assault phase. The US player is cautioned to bring overwhelming fire support when attacking forts and blockhouses.
Grant: How does Yellow fever effect the game?
Andy: Both sides are affected by Yellow Fever, but the US player is particularly aggrieved because he is unprepared and needs every factor to keep up the tempo of the attack. The onset and effects grow with time.
Grant: What role does the Spanish Relief Column play and how do they get on the board?
Andy: They come on to the board down the Cobre Road. I always liken them to the Polish V Corps in Moscowa. They are basically replacements rather than reinforcements. They get to the battlefield just in time to fill gaps in the lines.
Grant: What area does the map cover? What special terrain did you make sure to include?
Andy: The map covers the area from the US bivouacs prior to the assault on El Caney and San Juan Heights to the ring of forts around Santiago. Special terrain was the veritable swamp and jungle that the US has to get through to assault the heights. LOS rules were slightly tweaked for the rolling terrain around the city. You want to have the feel of marching through dense terrain and then charging uphill into the teeth of the Spanish defenses.
Grant: Why are you now including Junior leaders like Teddy Roosevelt? Why were these omitted in the 1st Edition?
Andy: In the original, there were no leaders below division level. This led to Command radius problems and also line of succession issues when leaders are killed. Both sides get more leaders and adding two Rough Rider leaders gives them a lot more flexibility in making deeply penetrating assaults and remain in command, if they get lucky, that is.
Grant: What scenarios are included? What challenges does each offer the players?
Andy: The introductory scenario is just El Caney and it gives you the feel of the basic mechanics of the game. The second scenario adds in the heights and allows players to explore handling a larger set of command spans. The Campaign game lasts from the morning of the initial assaults to the time historically when Spain surrendered. If you don’t cut off the water supply at Cuabitas, though, the Spanish might outlast you.
Grant: When will the 2nd Edition be available?
Andy: Its available now direct from Legion Wargames at www.legionwargames.com
Grant: What other projects are you working on?
Andy: I am working on a game on the battle of Heilsburg for Against the Odds and a 3 map game of what might happen across Europe, the Middle East and the GIUK gap in the mid-1980’s had the balloon gone up during the Cold War. Also, I just finished a book, and have two more in various stages of completion, including my first Space Opera novel. Thanks for the opportunity!
Andy we thank you for your thorough answers to our questions about A Splendid Little War. This is one that I have had on my must play list for a while now and now that it is coming out in an updated 2nd Edition, I have to get this one tabled.