Like most wargame designers, Louis Coatney once created games and then sold them to game publishers who subsequently did unspeakable things to his designs. His Dark Crusade nightmare, chronicled in Fire & Movement 81, finally convinced him to lose the companies and do it himself. He now offers a variety of gamekits and naval models for sale directly from him.
All companies need advertising, and Coatney relied on his web site at Western Illinois University for this. However, his association with WIU eventually ended. According to his CONSIM-L posting, he thought his site brought WIU good publicity (true), and would thus survive anyway (untrue). The college computer types eventually noticed and evicted him electronically. Coatney’s mistake was assuming that academic bureaucrats could be dealt with on a reasonable basis.
Hence, over to Tripod. Tripod, a subsidiary of Lycos, is one of several companies that offers free web pages to anyone. In return for hosting your web site, they advertise on your page. In addition, you cannot engage in overly offensive or illegal behavior, and Coatney does neither at his.
The page has information on Coatney’s wargames, links to his articles, and a naval modeling section. The boardgame part features the downloadable 1st Alamein. This is a fast playing game which was reprinted recently in the Strategist. Coatney also describes his past commercial efforts (all on the World War II Russian Front), and his currently available gamekits on Russia, Alamein, and Guadacanal. He includes errata for Sturm Nach Osten and Dark Crusade (now for sale by him after he rescued it from 3W’s clutches), and links to some of his wargame writings. These include his famous rant against Avalon Hill’s Stalingrad.
Another Coatney interest is cardstock naval modeling, and he sells World War II ship construction kits through the mail. The site has photos of some of his work, downloadable plans for a U.S. destroyer and the Civil War’s Monitor, general information about naval modeling, and a freeware naval gamescale PASCAL subprogram. He promises more Civil War materials in the future.
Overall, the gamekit approach to wargame manufacture, combined with using the Internet for advertising and sales, offers one practical solution to the problem of declining historical boardgame audiences. It costs little and the designer controls the product’s final form. It is especially appropriate for topics which have a very narrow appeal, or for designers who dislike dealing with commercial publishers. Wargamers get games at reasonable prices. The downside is that good designs will probably not get the distribution or exposure that they deserve. Still, Coatney is just one of several who have gone this route and it seems to work for him. Potential designers take note.
Peter L. de Rosa
Note: The original version of this review appeared in Strategist 28 (June 1998):1, 5. The Strategist is the newsletter of the Strategy Gaming Society.
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