Who are we?
A&A Game Engineering was started up by Andrew Finch ("A") and Alan Butler ("the other A") in 1995. Both are long term wargamers and, having failed to find rules that provided a good game that could be played to a conclusion in the time available, set themselves the task of providing these to the wargaming world.
We are both long standing members of Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society.
Since we started our business publishing rules we have seen a big change in the style of rules available to the wargaming community. Most sets of rules were the product of a small number of players who had come together at various events and had formed groups who set about publishing rules, which became what could be termed standard sets. These were used for many years at annual competitions, so all players who were participating knew how the games were played. These products were usually in booklet form with little or no illustration.
More recently the hobby expanded with a number of companies producing much larger glossy hardback books, which set a new standard. What used to be a hobby that was centred on historical battles has expanded into one where fantasy and science fiction also have their place. Over time these sets of rules have become the new standard at competitions.
When we started our business, our rules were developed for use between a small group of players at our local wargame society. After a while a suggestion was made that we could market our products, albeit in a small way, selling them at wargame shows that we were attending as a society, often demonstrating the use of the rules in the games we presented. The aim has always been to have a set of rules which played to a conclusion within around 2-3 hours of actual gaming during an afternoon at a meeting. While the actual meetings in those days lasted about 5 hours, you have to allow for the coffee breaks and chats with other members.
From the outset we seem to have concentrated our efforts on areas where there was and still is not really a great choice of easily playable sets of rules: in the air and on the sea. There are quite a few offerings in both these categories, but these all seem to be either hideously complex and/or require the use of an umpire. Our view of this hobby of ours is that we want a game which is fun, feels right and gives the right result in the end. Games played using our rules should not be regarded as simulations. Leave that to the computer.
The most significant change for us was transferring our range into electronic format in the form of PDFs, which can be downloaded and cuts the cost both for us and for the customer. To enable us to do this, we work together with WargameVault, part of the US-based OneBookShelf organisation. Distribution of our products could now be global, rather than limited to just the United Kingdom. Having moved away from carrying a stock of printed copies, the next step was to embrace the concept of Print on Demand. This allows you to have a nice shiny copy of the rules to use in a game, but also allows us to provide stock to wargames traders who sell our products at shows or by mail order.
There are a number of such sites now in operation and many classic wargame producers have stopped printing their rules and placed them as downloads, some free where they are supporting a specific metal product and some where payment is required.
When we started out, research was largely based on available technical books, such as most wargamers had in their collections if they were starting in the hobby in the late 1960's, as we were. Many of those books are now long out of print, but thankfully we either kept our copies, or tracked them down thanks to the Internet. Of course in recent years, the Internet itself has become a valuable resource. You can now track down all manner of research which delves into quite interesting and complicated analyses of weapons, armour, battles, and other factors which have had an effect on the outcome of conflicts in history.
When carrying out research, it is interesting to make use of resources such as Wikipedia. While this can in some areas be regarded as less than reliable, in the area of technical information, it can be invaluable. There is now so much more information being shared via this resource that was unavailable as recently as 10 years ago. It can also be amusing to find, as we have done many times, mistakes made in recording information decades ago still being presented as facts. It is therefore necessary to cross check through several data sources to establish whether some little piece of data can be believed. These hidden mistakes usually come to light when you have carried out a series of calculations and a figure appears in the results which is completely off the scale, when compared with the rest.
As we have developed sets of rules over the years we have collated several large databases, which are useful to use when we set about reviewing some of our earlier products. As new data comes to light, we also take care to make sure that we correct game data where required, or add new game data to widen the scope of the rules.
Publishing for other authors
When we started out, the rules were devised by the two of us. Through our wargames society we played other games with home-grown rules, and developed these, with the agreement of the authors, adding them to our product range. As time went on, other authors contacted us, asking if we would be interested in publishing their work, further expanding the range.
When we work with other authors, we support them in the development of their rules, making suggestions in areas where we feel that the flow of the game could be improved, and seeking clarification about rule mechanisms. It is often our experience that games will play very easily if the author is present at the time, because he may contribute some information about how the game works. If the author is not present then it can be that some vital aspect of the rules is absent, because it has not been "committed to paper".
What happens to the final product is a decision that must be made when we start work on such projects. If the final result is going to be marketed by the author, then we would charge a one-off project development fee. If the final product is going to be added to our product range, then a contract will be drawn up between us and the author, which defines the annual royalties that will be paid on each item sold.